As a result of the COVID-19 outbreak this year there isn’t going to be much of a Minor League season, if at all. However, that’s not going to stop Major League Baseball from hosting a remote draft on it’s original schedule as they agreed with the players union over the framework of the draft over a month ago. The two sides will eventually hammer out some agreement, as it’s in both parties interest to have a draft.
Going into the draft, the D-backs have a pair of Top-35 picks and can use them to add two potential impact prospects to the farm system if they can maneuver the draft. The strength of the farm system comes from the high-upside youngsters the team has added in the past two drafts and past three July 2nd signing periods. Right now, they’re a Top 10 system that will eventually grow into a Top 5 system as those youngsters approach the majors and if the team can continue to add to the talent pipeline through the draft.
Here’s how I view the priorities of what the team needs to address in this year’s draft. The strength of the farm comes from the outfield, with 3 high-ceiling prospects at or under the age of 20. From a position player standpoint, in addition to the outfield there are some at or near-MLB ready players at up the middle positions. They have some intriguing arms littered throughout the system, although they’re full of arms that profile as high-risk with a high variance of potential outcomes in the upper minors. The one position that doesn’t offer much is the 3B position, as the team’s only significant selection at the position has failed to stand out as a potential prospect.
Starting PItching: 7/10
Starting pitching is always a need in the draft because team will burn through plenty of arms to finish a season. The team has two MLB ready arms in Jon Duplantier and Taylor Widener, but both come with red flags with the former having health issues and the latter having problems avoiding loud contact. Next year, the team should also get Corbin Martin back to full strength after recovering from Tommy John surgery. Martin is the team’s top acquisition piece in the Zack Greinke deadline deal with Houston last July. After those two, the next pitchers with rotation upside are Matt Tabor and Levi Kelly. Both are coming off big years in Low A Kane County and would have started the year in High A Visalia.
Looking at the lower minors, the team has a few intriguing arms from last year’s draft. Blake Walston, the team’s second first round pick, has already exceeded expectations and would have spent most of the year in full season ball (Low A). Another lefty, Tommy Henry, projects as a fast-moving #4 starter who just needs to season up a bit in the minors before joining the MLB rotation in ‘22 (now ‘23). Drey Jameson and Luis Frias are wildcards in the team’s farm, with #2 starter upside if things click but could easily end up in a late-inning reliever role as well. This is an area that can quickly turn into a strength for the farm if the players develop the right way.
The team doesn’t have to worry too much about their immediate future at the catcher position, with Carson Kelly under control for five more seasons and an MLB-ready prospect in Daulton Varsho. Behind those two, there isn’t a lot of depth in the organization.
Corner Infield: 2/10
This is the one position where the team lacks high-upside talent. Their top two picks from the 2017 Draft, Pavin Smith and Drew Ellis, have not been able to distinguish themselves as prospects in two years and project as below-average regulars or platoon bats. The team also has a pair of position-less bats at the top of the system in Kevin Cron and Seth Beer. The likelihood of a potential universal designated hitter in the next CBA could allow the team to carry an extra player at this position at the MLB level. Overall the team doesn’t have a clear-cut option to overtake incumbent starter Christian Walker over the next five years.
At the 3B position, the team doesn’t have a great long term solution. One option would be to move Ketel Marte to 3B and Nick Ahmed to 2B once Geraldo Perdomo hits the majors.
Middle Infield: 6/10
This used to be another position of strength, perhaps on par with the outfield, until the team traded Liover Peguero as part of a package used to acquire Starling Marte. Geraldo Perdomo is still growing at the plate, but is the team’s future at the shortstop position. Behind him is the toolsy Blaze Alexander, a player who profiles as a utility infielder capable of playing 2B, SS, and 3B potentially. Perdomo and Alexander would have likely spent the year with AA Jackson and High A Visalia had the season resumed.
At the keystone, the organization has an MLB-ready prospect in Andy Young. Young had a big year after coming to Arizona as part of the Paul Goldschmidt trade and a very productive camp before it was halted by the virus. Domingo Leyba and Glenallen Hill Jr. are both interesting prospects, the former being an MLB-ready depth option at both positions before an 80-game suspension that will likely end his availability for a potential abbreviated season and the latter being a toolsy prospect who stumbled in his first taste of pro ball.
The team has a trio of high-upside outfield bats in Kristian Robinson, Alek Thomas, and Corbin Carroll. There’s some solid depth in the minors behind them with Varsho splitting time between catcher and the outfield and Comp B. Pick Dominic Fletcher. This year’s draft has plenty of solid outfielder prospects who project to go around the D-backs first pick in the draft, so they may go that route if necessary.
The Diamondbacks will need to continue to bolster their farm system through the use of the draft, international signing periods, and making smart trades in order to keep up with the Dodgers in the division. They don’t have the same resource advantage that their rivals from the west, so these decisions are more far-reaching in terms of consequences. For the D-backs to once again be in a position to compete for the division, they’ll need to hope their top prospects pan out and reach their ceilings at the MLB level.
In this year’s draft, the team should try to look to add an impact bat with one of their top two picks, bonus points if they can project well for 3B. Given the sheer amount of high-octane arms at the top of the draft, it’s possible they can find that bat at 33 or take advantage of a potential run on pitchers to select a possible impact bat at 18. Since the player is unlikely to contribute to the MLB club for at least 3 years, they should not force the pick at a position unless the goal is to save up for a high-profile player who falls later on.