The Diamondbacks opened up the 2019 MLB Draft with 7 of the first 75 selections and the largest bonus pool with a total north of $16M that would allow them to do almost what they want in the draft. Hall of Famer Randy Johnson was the Diamondbacks representative in the draft and even he himself had a busy day, going to the podium to announce 5 of the 7 picks. The Diamondbacks opened up with 3 straight high school selections, two arms and an outfielder, before going with 4 college players. With those four college picks they took two power arms that project as late inning relievers more than starters, a tall lefty with durability issues that otherwise has a solid three-pitch mix, and a college outfielder who seems to play above his otherwise average toolset.
Prep Prospects Early
The Diamondbacks took advantage of their financial muscle in this draft, opting to go with three prep talents that project to be major contributors in the majors. With that big signing bonus pool, the team went for upside with a middle of the field player and two tall and projectable pitchers.
Opening up with Lakeside HS outfielder Corbin Carroll. Carroll was a consensus mock pick by the time the draft rolled around, as the Diamondbacks were all over him in the pre-draft process. Carroll got docked due being smaller than ideal at 5’10” 165, but had very few weaknesses from a tool standpoint. I gave Carroll the same grade as Alek Thomas coming out in the draft as undersized center fielders with plus speed, quality bat control, and sneaky pop in the bat. The Diamondbacks will have to sign him away from UCLA, but I think the full slot value of $3.745M will get it done.
The second prospect was projectable lefty Blake Walston from New Hanover HS, North Carolina. Walston was another consensus mock pick for the Dbacks, curiously at 33 and 34 than 26. He is a two-sport athlete, also playing QB in high school which helps save some wear and tear on that arm. He offers a 3-pitch mix: fastball, curveball, change-up. Today he currently sits at 6’4” 175, so he’ll need to add about 40 pounds to fill out his frame before getting to the majors. That should also help him on fastball velocity, bumping it up from 88-91 with a top velocity of 94 to possibly sitting in low 90s with a top speed of 95. Walston will take time to develop, so patience will be key in his development assuming there aren’t any injuries to derail the process. The Diamondbacks shouldn’t have too many issues to sign Walston away from NC State, as I believe the slot value of $2.653M should get the job done.
The third and final prep prospect was IMG Academy’s Brennan Malone. The Diamondbacks previously took two prospects from IMG and hired one of their staff members as part of the mental skills department, so they have familiarity with the program. Malone is a high upside arm with top of the rotation potential, something the Dbacks have not had a realistic shot at in five seasons, already standing in at 6’4” 210 with a mid 90s heater that can reach 98. He features a slider that flashes plus now, with his other two secondaries lagging. As he gets more pro instructions, he should be able to spin the curveball and slider better. Malone is committed to North Carolina and could potentially be the toughest sign of the three as he’s going to command a signing bonus in the $3M+ range, but the Dbacks probably know that and made their next picks accordingly.
Power College Righties Next
The next two selections were of the same mold: slender and short righties that can heat it up. While both pitchers have serious question marks about sticking in the rotation, there is always a use for power arms with a plus secondary pitch that can throw enough strikes. The Diamondbacks bullpen prospects aren’t necessarily great themselves: Yoan Lopez is a solid but unspectacular reliever, Jimmie Sherfy still sprays the ball around from time to time, and Kevin Ginkel hasn’t arrived yet.
Drey Jameson set the MAC record for strikeouts in a single season with 146 between regular season and NCAA tournament play thanks to upper 90s heat. Command is very much an issue, as Jameson has considerable effort in his delivery and has trouble getting downhill with a 6’0” 165 build. Those limitations could end up resulting in him being a reliever long term, where the fastball, slider, change-up combination would obviously play up when hitters see him only once as opposed to 2-3 times. Jameson presents a string of college arms who the Dbacks can sign for underslot to cover for Malone as well as make one more splash pick with a HS talent that dropped due to signability that would have been a 2nd rounder otherwise (think Blaze Alexander last year).
Ryne Nelson is fairly new to pitching, transitioning from the shortstop position to the mound. Nelson throws mid to upper 90s with the fastball and a slider that flashes plus at times and a below average change-up. Walks are very much an issue for Nelson, who issued 39 free passes his junior year although he punched out 102 in 63 innings. The lack of command is what prompted Oregon to pull the plug on him as a starter after 4 starts and used them as their closer down the stretch. He’ll also have to add some weight to his 6’3” 184 frame and develop that change-up in order to stick as a starter. Otherwise, I see him as a late inning reliever with 2 plus pitches (FB, SL). Nelson should be at or just below the slot value with the pick.
Closing Up with College Value Picks
The next two picks come in the form of college guys with otherwise low ceilings, but project fairly well as prospects down the road with some potential upside to unlock later. They tapped two programs that made the NCAA tournament this year in Michigan and Arkansas, the latter still playing in the College World Series.
They started with lefty Tommy Henry. After sitting upper 80s in the summer, Henry showcased potential low 90s heat with plus spin making the pitch play faster than it’s measured velocity. However as the season wore on, that velocity dipped for a month before ticking back up in the Big 10 conference tournament and NCAA regionals. Henry’s secondaries are otherwise average and require the fastball sitting in the low 90s for them to be more successful. Depending on how the slider and change develop, we may be looking at an Anthony Banda type profile as a pitcher with Henry.
They closed out Day 1 with Arkansas center fielder Dominic Fletcher, brother of Angels infielder David Fletcher. Fletcher doesn’t have a tool that grades as above average, but had consistent production at the plate in 3 seasons at Arkansas and takes very good routes in the outfield. The lack of an above average tool suggests a potential 4th outfielder projection long term with good enough defense in CF with plus defense at the corners due to his ability to read the ball off the bat well. The Dbacks believe there is more pop that can be unlocked in his swing, which would potentially raise his profile to a potential everyday outfielder.