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The Arizona Diamondbacks and the 2023 Draft: Day 1 wrap-up

Arizona may have had one of the most surprising nights for the first round of the MLB Rule 4 Draft.

COLLEGE BASEBALL: MAY 08 Cal at Stanford Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Names

Tommy Troy - SS, Stanford
Gino Groover - 3B, NC State
Caden Grice - LHP*, Clemson

The Diamondbacks seem to have mostly “held to form” in this draft, further cementing their reputation as an organization with a propensity to seek out toolsy, under-sized talent early. This year, that under-sized player was Tommy Troy. While Troy wasn’t on many radars for Arizona after the first month of mocks started coming out, he probably should have been. Arizona has been high on Troy and has scouted him extensively over the last five years, including checking him out at zip code games and regional talent showcases, as well as while he played in school. With five years of amassed data, they probably have a much better idea of Troy’s future than the pundits and grade-giving evaluators. This is reflected in their current stance that they see zero issue with him becoming a regular, impact starter at short. While some were claiming immediately after the pick that this felt like Arizona trying to get funny with the money with an underslot pick, interviews after the selection indicate that this is not the case. Troy was one of the top targets for Arizona.

Arizona’s second pick in the draft is very similar in approach to last season’s second round selection, a corner infielder, high ceiling hit/power combination bat. Last year it was Ivan Melendez. This year it is Groover. While Groover is not so much of a reach at #48, one is left to wonder how many of those types of bats the system can accommodate. It is Groover’s lack of defensive home as much as anything else that pushed him as far down the boards as he ended up. His bat is his carrying tool and it is one of the better all-around bats in the college ranks. However, unlike other premium college bats, Groover lacks the eye-popping raw power, instead demonstrating impressive in-game pop without muscling up.

Arizona’s third and final selection on the first night occurred in the Competitive Balance B round and they took two-way star Caden Grice, out of Clemson University. Not only was he announced at drafting as solely a left-handed pitcher, but Ian Rebhan doubled down in a post-evening interview that Grice was drafted to be a big-bodied left-handed starter. That is the development plan for him. On one hand, taking Grice at #64 was quite a deep reach in this draft. On the other hand, if the team wanted to add a college arm, especially a left-handed one, then this was probably the right place to make the selection, as there simply aren’t many in this draft.

What’s Next?

The first order of business is to get the names signed. By all accounts coming out after Arizona announced their pick, Troy already knew that Arizona was his floor and he expected to be headed to Arizona, a team he is more than happy to be playing for. While Rebhan was unwilling to get into financial discussions after the evening was over, general comments made during the interviews seemed to indicate that Arizona anticipates little in the way of difficulty in signing the players selected. It helps Arizona’s case that the three names taken are all third-year college players already, so it isn’t like they can play hardball by threatening to go back to school and re-enter the draft. As fourth-year college players, they will not have any bargaining leverage.

After that, the players need to be assigned. The team is waiting on the completion of the draft to finalize plans for where to assign the various drafted talents. As Rebhan phrased it, “Player (assignment) plans are not yet settled.” Given Groover’s need to spend time learning a relatively new position, it seems likely he will be headed to Visalia, where he may spend all of next season as well, before he is then allowed to have his bat elevate him as fast as it can. With Grice transitioning to being a pitcher full-time, Visalia seems a proper first home for Grice as well. If he bullies hitters as well as some clearly think he can, it should be a very short stretch of time before he winds up in Amarillo, where he will really be tested and could take as much as two years to fully develop and refine his pitching enough to continue moving up. Tommy Troy is the harder one to predict. Troy himself, anticipates a quick signing and is looking forward to immediate assignment to short-season ball. Given Troy’s advanced bat and given that he already is defensively sound, Arizona could go with a semi-aggressive placement and send him directly to Visalia. If Troy is able to hit the ground running, he could rise through the system relatively quickly, making his debut as early as late 2025, but more likely early-2026.

The Bard’s Take|

I am somewhat underwhelmed by the first night of the draft. At the time of the selection, I looked as Troy as someone with a modest floor and a modest ceiling - a safe pick. Given the fact that Arizona has only two high ceiling impact players on the farm and the acknowledged high ceiling names left on the board at #12, the Troy pick felt underwhelming to be sure. However, and this is a very big HOWEVER, Troy has been on the team’s radar for five years now. He was on their board in the shortened 2020 draft. He wound up making it to campus and only got better. In fact, all accounts seem to agree, he has improved year-over-year for the last five years, and not in small, incremental ways. Listening to Rebhan talk, the organization is very impressed with his makeup and athleticism. They like both his bat and his glove. If he is the player that the front office seems to think he could be, then he is actually a third high ceiling impact player now in the system. This would simply make him yet another under-sized star drafted by a Hazen draft room, joining the likes of Mookie Betts, Daulton Varsho, and Corbin Carroll.

The team’s second selection was an at-slot/at-draft ranking sort of pick. The hit/power potential there is very real, especially with the lightning fast bat speed that Groover demonstrates. While I would have liked to see Arizona take aim at a slightly more rounded player, the boom potential here is very real. I think the biggest questions regarding Groover will come regarding how long Arizona spends helping to develop him defensively before allowing his bat to propel him through the minor league ranks. While he will need to dial it down some in terms of aggressiveness, his approach is one that will be hard to contain until he reaches the upper levels. He’s going to need to learn to take walks again. As of right now, it is difficult to tell just how keen his eye can be in that regard as, his elite bat-to-ball skills have him swinging at plenty of pitches, so long as they are in the hitting zone. He’s going to have to learn to be more selective, something easier said than done. He currently feels like a high boom/bust sort of prospect.

Caden Grice needs to pitch for another year before it is going to be possible to properly peg what sort of future he has for Arizona. Having made it as far as the NCAA tournament, his 2023 pitching days may already be over. However, since Clemson was bounced in the opening stages, Arizona may allow him to get his feet wet this year. Even if that happens though, it will likely be closely monitored and kept to a bare minimum. The system is getting thin on left-handed pitching, so it makes sense to pick up a college arm to help address that need. It still fells like this was a big reach at #64.

Overall, I would say the first night grades somewhere between a B and a C. It truly depends on which Tommy Troy is the real one. Is Troy the savvy but unspectacular Stanford infielder? Or, is Troy the solid shortstop with an advanced bat and burgeoning speed that Arizona’s five years of scouting has revealed? While it might have felt better to draft a consensus high ceiling pick at #12, it isn’t like Troy was ranked in the 20s and 30s overall as it is. Unlike past years, this is not going to be a draft that is going to come with an easy grade. It is going to take about two years to see if Arizona added actual talent for their MLB future, or if Arizona simply drafted a bunch of future mid-tier trade chips. I hate drafting trade chips. I love drafting under-appreciated talents.