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Arizona Diamondbacks Post-Draft Wrap-up

2023 turned out to be one of the more interesting and intricate of the team’s drafts under Mike Hazen.

Miami v Clemson Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Now that the draft is over, the pundits have had their say, the picks have been scrutinized, and various outlets have prematurely anointed winners and losers, it’s time to take one last look at how and what Arizona did with their three days worth of selections.

The Picks|

Round 1 (12th overall)— SS Tommy Troy, Stanford
Round 2 (48th)— 3B Gino Groover, NC State
Competitive balance B (64th) — LHP Caden Grice, Clemson
Round 3 (80th)— OF Jack Hurley, Virginia Tech
Round 4 (112th) — LHP Grayson Hitt, Alabama
Round 5 (148th) — 3B Kevin Sim, University of San Diego
Round 6 (175th) — LHP Philip Abner, Florida
Round 7 (205th) –LHP Ryan Bruno, Stanford
Round 8 (235th) — 1B Jackson Feltner, Morehead State
Round 9 (265th) — RHP Kyle Amendt, Dallas Baptist
Round 10 (295th) — RHP Zane Russell, Dallas Baptist
Round 11 (325th) — RHP Casey Anderson, Utah Valley
Round 12 (355th) — RHP Sam Knowlton, South Alabama
Round 13 (385th) — RHP Hayden Durke, Rice
Round 14 (415th) — LHP Jake Fitzgibbons, Tennessee
Round 15 (445th) — LHP Rio Britton, NC State
Round 16 (475th) — RHP Matthew Linskey, Rice
Round 17 (505th) — LHP Carlos Rey, Nova Southeastern
Round 18 (535th) — RHP Alec Baker, Dallas Baptist
Round 19 (565th) — 2B Wyatt Crenshaw, Arizona State
Round 20 (595th) — RHP Dominic Voegele, Columbia High School (Illinois)

The Rundown|

Day 1: The Diamondbacks taking Tommy Troy at #12 was likely the biggest surprise of at least the first half of the round. The only bigger surprises came from some late first round selections that feel like they carry some high signability risk. As surprising as it was to hear Tommy Troy’s name called at #12, the sober reality is that Troy ranked between #10 - 15 on most draft talent boards, meaning that being selected #12 overall was not really any sort of stretch, even if the match was unexpected at the time.

The Diamondbacks have been scouting Troy for the better part of five years. He was on Arizona’s radar for being selected in 2020 when the pandemic changed the draft, pushing a number of extra talents to college that, in normal years, would not likely have made it to campus. Troy and a number of other college bats in this draft were all part of that shifting of talent. Notably, Arizona’s extensive scouting of Troy has the organization convinced that Troy has the defensive chops to stick at short, that there is no concern that he will need to move off to second or third down the road, short of being pushed there but an even higher ceiling future talent. That alone changes Troy’s draft stock. What’s more, Troy’s bat is one of the better college bats in the draft when it comes to how advanced it is. Elite speed does not bother Troy, as he might be one of the best fastball hitters to come out of the draft in years. Finally, his year-over-year performances show a very positive trend, with Troy showing marked improvement across the board for each year, this includes his defense, speed on the bases, and the ability to hit for power in-game. While initial knee-jerk reactions were that Arizona was taking a money-savings pick by selecting Troy at #12, it has since become quite apparent that the selection was made more because Troy was their target all along, for his tools and make-up, not for his signing ask.

The team’s next selection of Gino Groover at #48 is reminiscent of the team taking Ivan Melendez last year. Groover also has an advanced bat with plenty of thump in it. He has some of the fastest hands in the college ranks and has hit consistently for three years. There are questions about his defensive future, but the team seems to think he can stick at third. While he may move a bit slower through the system while he gets comfortable in his new defensive home, once the team is happy with how his glove is developing, his bat should let him fly through the system once he is let off his leash. Of course, like all such prospects, there is plenty of bust risk here. Groover is a medium risk/high reward sort, but he adds significant power at the plate to Arizona’s farm.

The last pick of the night is another one that seemed like a massive reach at the time. Grice, a two-way player in college, was selected as a left-handed starter. Grice was not ranked among the top-100 talents on any prospect evaluation lists. Thus, taking him at #64 seemed rather suspect at the time. However, this draft featured a paucity of left-handed starters. Grice was likely the third or fourth best left-handed starter in the draft. With the clear-cut best left-handed starting prospect, Thomas White, going at #35, if Arizona wanted the opportunity to add left-handed pitching with the potential to start, taking Grice at #64 was almost certainly their last shot. There is some argument to be made that they could have elected to take Grice at #80 instead, but if they really wanted a left-handed starter, the risk that Grice would be gone by then, due largely to the lack of other left-handed starter options, was very real. It does seem a bit of a waste of talent to not continue developing Grice as a two-way player until such time as performance dictates otherwise, especially with the 70-grade power he features. However, the team seems convinced that the way to get the best out of him is to get him to focus entirely on pitching, which should help his chances of remaining a mid-rotation left-handed starter. Frankly, if he pans out, that’s a great outcome for a player taken at #64, regardless of whether or not the selection was a reach.

Day 2: Day two of the draft brought some clarity to this year’s draft strategy, as well as a handful of picks that elevated Arizona’s perceived day two success. Picking up Jack Hurley at #80 felt like a very Arizona pick, a speedy, left-hand hitting, defensively capable outfielder with gap-to-gap hitting ability. In essence, they found themselves another Jake McCarthy or Dominic Fletcher. He may well only be a fourth or fifth outfielder, but he has enough untapped talent that there is still the possibility for more. He should be a relatively fast riser and has a player profile the organization has shown themselves to have a good deal of success in developing.

Arizona’s fourth round selection has the potential to transform this year’s Arizona draft class into one of the best classes the team has ever had, putting it on par with the 2009 draft that gave the team A.J. Pollock, Paul Goldschmidt, Andrew Chafin, Chris Owings, and others. Grayson Hitt is another left-handed starting pitcher prospect, arguably the second-best in the draft. The reason Hitt did not go in the first round is simple, he is recovering from having only recently undergone Tommy John surgery. His numbers from the fall of 2022 were wonderful, showcasing the sort of talent that could develop into a #2/3 left-handed starter. This last spring, right before he succumbed to injury and went under the knife, his numbers fell to pieces. This drop off a cliff, combined with such a recent surgery resulted in Hitt tumbling down draft boards, despite his obvious potential ceiling. This is a pick that will take an extra year to develop. However, if Hitt is able to remain a left-handed starter, arriving in late 2026 instead of late 2025 is not the wort outcome. A team can never have too many high ceiling starting pitcher prospects and Hitt is one, one with a very high likelihood of sticking.

The rest of the day played out with one overarching theme, power. Arizona looked for power pitchers and power bats the rest of the way. Targeting power arms and power bats, combined with how late in the drat the selections now were, pushed college players to the top of the selection process the rest of the way. Arizona ended the night by making their last two selections from Dallas Baptist, using one of the better college bullpens to potentially fill Arizona’s bullpens with right-handed reliever Kyle Amendt being the sort of pitcher who should expect to fly through the system, perhaps being one of the very first from this draft to reach the Majors for Arizona, or even in general.

Day 3: Day three was more of the same as day two. The team selected power arms, which led to the team electing not to target a high school splurge target in rounds 11 or 12 as often happens in the MLB draft. In fact, the only prep player selected by Arizona in 2023 was their final selection of the draft, right-handed hurler Dominic Voegele. The other notable selection of the day was second baseman Wyatt Crenshaw out of Arizona State, a legacy selection.

The Bard’s Take|

Sometimes the relative strength of a draft class is immediately appreciable by teams and their fans. Then sometimes, there is a draft like Arizona’s 2023 draft. On the surface, it appears to be lacking in high-upside at the top and lacking in diversity throughout. A deeper dive shows something slightly different. That adjusted narrative relies on the talent evaluators earning their keep. If Tommy Troy is who Ian Rebhan and the talent scouts think he is, then Troy is on par with Jordan Lawlar as a prospect. Only time (probably 18-24 months) will tell. The rest of the draft is focused on power and upside. Power at the plate is found in the bats, especially Groover (and potentially Grice as well if the organization ever changes its mind about him hitting). Power arms for the mound, especially in the reliever ranks make up the lion’s share of the rest of the draft. With the number of power relievers selected, the overall pitching profile of the Arizona farm system has been changed over the three-day period.

Arizona has taken steps to select talents from highly successful programs, leaning into the success breeds success philosophy. This philosophy, added to the desire for power arms shows, up and down the entire selection roster. The large influx of arms with this profile should significantly alter the expectations of the Arizona pitching pipeline. Teams with long-term, sustained success are capable of reliably developing their own relief corps. It is one place where teams can find high levels of overall impact while paying very low wages. Furthermore, those arms, as they become expensive, retain value on the trade market, to help extend the sustained window of success.

Some drafts are success or failures from the outset. Some drafts are slow burns and take as long as four or five years to evaluate. For Arizona, this one falls somewhere in-between. Chances are though, that Arizona will know how skillful Mike Hazen & Co. were with this year’s draft within the next 24 months. One of the biggest takeaways from this year’s draft is that Arizona’s pitching pipeline should be feeling the impact of this draft in the near future and the pipeline has a very new feel, a new identity if you will.

Overall Grade: B+