In the 2022 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks had an unique opportunity to really add some high impact talent on the first night of the draft. They had the 2nd, 34th, and 43rd overall selections in a very deep draft class thanks to a confluence of events that shaped this class. They walked away from the first night with an impressive haul that includes the top consensus prospect, a National Champion closer, and the most recent Golden Spikes Award winner
This draft also marked the first for the team’s now Director of Amateur Scouting Ian Rebhan. Rebhan was promoted to the position after the previous scouting director, Deric Ladnier, was promoted to a special assistant to the GM role. His first year, the draft could not have lined up better for him. After the first night of the draft, I feel confident the team walked away with potentially two middle of the order bats and a power arm that will either start or close. As an outside observer, all three players selected have excellent makeup and it shows in their games.
1st Round (No. 2 Overall): Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (GA)
Despite the Baltimore Orioles holding their first pick very close to the vest, their decision could not have worked out better for the D-backs. With the first overall pick, the Orioles selected Jackson Holliday. This was not a cost-savings pick for the Orioles, as they clearly valued Holliday over Druw Jones since both players are reportedly receiving more than $8MM signing bonuses according to Jon Heyman. My biggest worry before the draft was the D-backs taking defeat from the jaws of victory and passing on Jones. With Jones falling into their laps, the D-backs wasted no time in snatching him up.
Jones, in my opinion, is the best player in the draft when accounting for ceiling and likelihood he gets there. He has the potential to be a superstar player with multiple All-Star selections in an Arizona uniform, which is something the organization hasn’t had since trading away Paul Goldschmidt after the 2018 season. For better or worse, stars puts fans in the seats or have them tune into the games. With Jones making all the way to Arizona, I’m glad they did not hesitate to make a high ceiling gamble with the second overall selection.
Jones has a chance to develop all five main tools to at least plus quality, although how he adds weight to a 6’4” 180-lb. frame will be interesting. The hit tool is the most questionable and probably his weakest present-day tool, but fixing it is more about tweaks than hoping he develops a skill. Defensively, he projects to play any of the three outfield positions at a very high level. If he shares an outfield with both Corbin Carroll and Alek Thomas, which I consider to be unlikely but still possible, he best projects for right. In the meantime, I’ll say he’s the team’s other center fielder of the future.
Should he stick in the majors, I could see Jones having an impact comparable to Ronald Acuña Jr. Jones has the ability to not only be an impact middle of the order hitter that can hit for a solid average, but also provide 25-30 home run power at his peak and potentially also 30 stolen bases. In his zoom call with the media, Rebhan raved about how the different ways Jones can potentially impact baseball games.
Competitive Balance Round A (No. 34 Overall): Landon Sims, RHP Mississippi State
Sims was a guy I liked at 34 or 43 as an injured arm that had impressive upside at the range he was expected to go. He comes from a Mississippi State program that has become one of the best at developing high ceiling arms into pitchers. Sims comes from that same pipeline, so it will be exciting how he develops in the D-backs system.
After a successful run as the Bulldogs closer in 2021, Sims opened the 2022 season as their Friday night starter and last three starts before blowing out his arm. In those starts, he still showcased impressive swing and miss stuff between a fastball and a slider that both flash plus-plus ability. Sims will not throw a pitch for the D-backs organization in the 2022 Minor League season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but there is enough upside that the wait is worth it. Had he not gotten injured, the total package of stuff and junkyard-dog level competitiveness on the mound would have easily made him a Top 10 draft pick.
Sims is a big dude with a 6’2” 227-lb. frame with the typical stuff and attitude of a power pitcher. Hit fastball sits mid to upper 90s and visually looks like it explodes out of his hand. He fits the D-backs mold of a high spin, high vertical movement 4-seam fastball coming from an overhand arm slot. With that combination, the pitch is unhittable when located at the top of the zone and should generate plenty of whiffs.
His other great pitch is a slider, which is doubly effective considering hitters have to respect the heat. The slider has 2-plane movement, showing a lot of horizontal sweep that gives right-handed hitters fits. The present shape of the pitch makes it a bit more easy for lefties to read, but he can overcome it if he can hit the backfoot or backdoor with the pitch.
You can see how well it tunnels with the fastball:
Landon Sims, Slider (called strike) and Fastball (foul tip/K), Individual Pitches + Overlay pic.twitter.com/fqG2fAahZp— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) February 19, 2022
His long term role with the team is the question, although the question is starter vs. closer. Given his successful run as closer on a National Champion squad, I can see him excelling in that role in the D-backs bullpen. I consider that as the floor of my projected outcomes if he stays healthy. There is future starter upside, but it will depend on his ability to develop a consistent 3rd pitch. Whether that pitch is the one he already uses in the change-up or he develops a curveball to pair up with the slider, it may determine his ceiling with Arizona. Even if he ultimately ends up as a reliever, I still love the value of the pick considering the lack of power arms in the system after the D-backs Top 5 pitching prospects.
2nd Round (No. 43 Overall): Ivan Melendez, 1B, Texas
It’s never a bad strategy to draft the current year’s Golden Spikes Award winner, as that already shows the player can perform at an elite level against collegiate competition. Melendez was a key middle of the order bat to back-to-back College World Series runs for Texas, with his 2022 performances being one of the best seasons in recent memory. After his 2021 season as a redshirt sophomore, Melendez was drafted in the 16th round returned for his RS-Junior year. That decision paid off as he catapulted to the top of the second round and should get a 7-figure signing bonus.
The big carrying tool for Melendez is the raw power. In 315 PA for Texas, Melendez cranked out an impressive NCAA-leading 32 home runs. Also notable in his 2022 statistic is he showed not only potentially 80-grade raw power, but also had impressive walk totals to go with it. Melendez drew 52 walks compared to 51 strikeouts, so there may be enough juice in that hit tool to make use of his one elite tool when he finds himself in an MLB lineup. I like him as a potential #3 hitter in the order where there will be a lot of situations where he’s batting with runners in scoring position or none on and two out, in which a home run is nice either way.
His long term defensive home is first base, which he capable of playing at a solid level. He has a similar body type to Paul Goldschmidt, with both players listed at 6’3” 225. I can’t say for sure if Melendez has the same mobility on the dirt or the same level of makeup as the former D-back star, but if it’s anywhere close to Goldy I like Melendez’s chance of developing into a fine first baseman. He’ll have the opportunity to learn from two of the best infielders to play the game in the 2000s with Troy Tulowitzki as his infield instructor in followed up by Orlando Hudson in the D-backs system.
If you look at Melendez’s prospect ranking, you’d think this is a reach pick since Melendez is ranked 99th according to MLB Pipeline. I don’t consider it a reach as the talent drop-off from 2 to 34 is steeper than 34 to 82. A player with Melendez’s resume is typically a late first round pick for a team hoping to gamble on a player’s one elite tool and has the makeup to make the other tools playable.
If you are wondering how he’d look in a D-backs uniform, we already have proof that he looks great.
So where do all three of these guys fit? Jones slots in at the #2 spot in my rankings, with considerably more upside than the two players he’s sandwiched between. Jones has the best ceiling in the farm system as maybe the only true five-tool player in the system, unless Jordan Lawlar can clean up his defense at short. While I have the same FV grade for him as Carroll (60), the lack of track record in pro baseball is the only reason Jones is the top prospect in the system although he’ll get it when Carroll graduates next year.
Landon Sims would be my #5 pitcher after Blake Walston, Brandon Pfaadt, Slade Cecconi, and Drey Jameson. On upside alone, only Walston ranks higher for me and that’s barely edging him out since Walston has more years of development and a more balanced repertoire. Overall that puts him at the #8 spot in my Top 10.
Melendez doesn’t have the same upside as the three bats mentioned above, but I feel confident in putting him ahead of other big time power bats in the system such as A.J. Vukovich and Deyvison De Los Santos. I equate the NCAA tournament to be the same level of competition as A ball when evaluating prospects, so the strong collegiate track record has him at the #11 overall spot and just behind Tommy Henry for the Top 10 with the latter shoving for Reno.
Here’s my new Top 10 with the first half results and now adding the draft class to the mix:
- Corbin Carroll, OF, AAA, ETA: OD 2023
- Druw Jones, OF, R, ETA: OD 2026
- Jordan Lawlar, SS, A+, ETA: Mid 2024
- Blake Walston, LHP, AA, ETA: OD 2024
- Brandon Pfaadt, RHP, AA, ETA: Mid 2023
- Slade Cecconi, RHP, AA, ETA: Late 2023
- Ryne Nelson, RHP, AAA, ETA: Mid 2023
- Drey Jameson, RHP, AAA, ETA: Mid 2023
- Landon Sims, RHP, R, ETA: Mid 2025
- Tommy Henry, LHP, AAA, ETA: Late 2022
How would you grade the Diamondbacks 2022 draft class?
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