Even though the 2021 MLB Draft just concluded, the Arizona Diamondbacks have all but secured a Top 2 selection for the 2022 MLB Draft. The only team that’s within 10 losses of Arizona’s 26-66 record is the Baltimore Orioles at 28-61. Both teams play in a division that will likely send three teams to the playoffs this season, so there will be plenty of losses to be had between the two teams. Given how poorly the Diamondbacks have played and how bad the current roster is constructed, it’s pretty clear this team will win no more than 50 games this year.
One of the rewards for such a historically bad season is they will have the top pick in each numbered round in the draft. In addtion, the team should be receiving a draft pick between the first and second round from the Competitive Balance Lottery. However we’ll focus on the team’s top selection, which should be no worse than #2 overall. Even though the Orioles are known for making deals with their first round pick in the previous two drafts, they will take the best player if it’s obvious who the best player is. So should the team finish with the 2nd worst record, we can’t assume Baltimore will punt the pick or seek deals.
The 2022 Draft class took a major hit this year when Alabama sophomore LHP Connor Prielipp underwent Tommy John surgery. That ultimately shrunk the list of potential names down to three potential guys to look at with the top two selections. Obviously things can happen in the summer, fall, and/or spring that could change the rankings. One such example is the team’s first round selection in 2021, Jordan Lawlar, who crushed the summer and fall circuit showcase before a slow start in the Spring caused him to slip a bit down the draft board.
I don’t expect the team to get cute with the #1 overall pick. Under Amateur Scouting Director Deric Ladnier, the team has gone under-slot with three of their six first round picks, but each situation was different. In 2015, they signed Dansby Swanson out of Vanderbilt for just $6.5MM. In that draft, there was no player that ranked in the elite tier of talent so we knew Swanson was going to sign significantly under the $7.9MM slot value. In 2019 and 2020, the team signed Blake Walston and Bryce Jarvis for under-slot, but both players were selected 26th and 18th. The team offered slot value to Pavin Smith, Matt McLain, and Corbin Carroll, with McLain being the only player that did not sign.
This year has a different situation than the three times, with two prospects that have higher ceilings than Swanson worth taking. The team will also have a Competitive Balance Round A pick as well as the first two picks of the second round, so there is a temptation to take a deal at #1 and use the savings to take a couple guys who fell out of the first later on. However given the organization’s past behavior, I think they will go for the best player on their board over making a deal.
Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (FL)
Right now, Green seems to be the #1 overall pick by default a year out from the draft. Last year, that player was Kumar Rocker with his top competition being Jack Leiter. Green is a physically imposing athlete with a 6’3” 215-lb. frame that can easily add another 5-10 pounds and has the best overall tool set in the draft from the prep ranks. He has the potential for 60 grade power, arm strength, and speed in the future with the potential to be a good center field defender or an elite defender at a corner position.
Green will be heavily scrutinized during the showcase circuit this summer and teams will put him under the microscope, especially Arizona. In Arizona, Green would likely end up in right field at the MLB level with Alek Thomas’ debut only months away and Corbin Carroll only a year behind him. This wouldn’t be the first time the team took a high school bat #1 overall, with the selection of Justin Upton in the 2005 draft. Like Green, Upton ended up playing right field in Arizona and was a 2x All-Star and 4th in the 2011 MVP voting. Green has superior tools than Upton in the outfield, so that will be an interesting comparison should Arizona take him 1st overall next year.
Green probably will come with the highest signing bonus demands from this year’s class if he’s in the mix for the first overall pick. In order to sign him away from his commitment from the University of Miami, we’re likely talking around $8MM. The only player in the current era of the draft who has gotten that big a signing bonus is Spencer Torkelson, who received $8.4316M from Detroit after going 1st overall in the 2020 draft.
Kevin Parada, C, Georgia Tech University
I see Parada as the biggest threat to knock Green off the top spot. Parada projects to be an impact right-handed bat in the middle of the order and a top defender behind the plate, with the chance to possibly call his own pitches his draft year. At Georgia Tech, only Matt Wieters and Joey Bart earned that privilege before. When I watched him in the Perfect Game National Showcase just two years ago, he absolutely smoked three balls in the left-center gaps (413 area) against other top high school arms.
Parada projects to have plus hit, power, and defensive tools in the draft with the chance to be a franchise cornerstone behind the plate. Compared to Green, he is a much safer selection due to the easier projection to a tougher defensive position and you’re not losing much with the bat. The big difference comes down to speed where Parada will be below average vs. Green being a plus runner. At the same time, Parada could be able to quickly fly through the Minors if he stays healthy, with an ETA possibly as early as 2024. That would be Carson Kelly’s final year of control with Arizona, so their respective timelines do match up here.
Signing bonuses may ultimately decide if the D-backs choose Parada over Green. While I believe neither player will be a difficult sign, Parada might not command as hefty a bonus as an older player. My guess is we’re talking somewhere around $7.5MM to get Parada to say goodbye to Georgia Tech and not re-enter for the 2023 Draft.
Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford High School (GA)
Lesko isn’t a player I can discount, but since the institution of the draft in 1965 no right-handed high school arm has gone first overall in the history of the draft and I don’t think that changes any time soon. Lesko offers a projectable 6’3” 190-lb. frame and could add 30 pounds and add more velocity projection. His current velocity sits 93-96 and tops out at 97, so any velocity gains turns his fastball from above-average to plus. He also capable of throwing a two-seamer, cutter, change-up, and slider. The slider is his best secondary pitch where he can command it to the glove side of the plate.
If the Diamondbacks are picking at #2, I think Lesko is more or less in play if they are able to get significant savings vs. a slot value of around $7.8-7.9MM depending on if the values rise in 2022. Given the volatility of Lesko’s demographic in the draft, I think the team turns their attention to someone else.
Carter Young, SS, Vanderbilt
Young would present an interesting dilemma for the Diamondbacks. Of the four players I will mention, Young likely comes with the lowest price tag. Young is a pretty easy projection at the shortstop position with plus range and an above-average arm that plays up thanks to a quick release. He is a switch hitter, with more power from the left side of the plate. He’s a guy who could easily push 20+ home runs, perhaps as many as 25 if the power develops on the right side of the plate as well. His well-rounded game at shortstop makes him an overall safe projection to stick there and push Lawlar to 3B.
His ceiling isn’t as high as Lawlar, who the D-backs took this week in the 2021 Draft but he is a quick to the majors and a relatively safe projection. Without the Lawlar selection, Young would have made a lot more sense. It’s possible the team could sign Young for less than $7MM, but I feel like I’d rather see them taking a shot at higher ceiling talent or addressing a more difficult position like catcher with equally as impactful a ceiling.
Overall, the Diamondbacks seem to be in pretty good shape towards rebuilding their farm system next year as I believe there are two franchise cornerstone talents between Green and Parada. It’s way too early to make any definitive predictions over who the D-backs may take in the draft because of a year’s worth of performances to consider. It could be something as simple as Green and/or Parada having a down year in 2022 and guys like Carter Young having a monster season that could change the entire calculus with the draft.