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Arizona Diamondbacks and the 2023 Draft: Final Pre-Draft Musings

Some final names and other musings to consider before the start of MLB’s Rule 4 draft this evening.

Mock Draft Predictions

Jim Callis: Hurston Waldrep
Jonathan Mayo: Colin Houck
Fangraphs (Eric Longenhagen): Aidan Miller
The Sporting News: Colin Houck
CBS Sports: Colin Houck
ESPN (Kiley McDaniel): Hurston Waldrep
Keith Law: Chase Dollander
Just Baseball: Hurston Waldrep
Bleacher Report: Colin Houck
My MLB Draft: Brayden Taylor
Fox Sports: Brayden Taylor
Baseball America: Kyle Teel (updated to Colin Houck about the same time as this article was originally published)
Perfect Game: Enrique Bradfield*
Baseball Prospects Journal: Chase Dollander
*indicates mock selection is greater than 36 hours old

Colin Houck still holds out as the most common name mocked to Arizona, holding off a surging Hurston Waldrep. Some will continue to refine their selections throughout the day, but the above is about as close to a final pre-draft prediction as we are likely to get.

Additional Names for Consideration

There are plenty of other prospects the Diamondbacks could choose to select when the time comes. Even the mock drafts above have slipped in a few names not already covered. Here are some of the most likely, with brief recaps courtesy of Baseball America.

#10 Kyle Teel
Ht: 6’1” | Wt: 190 | B-T: L-R
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.4
BA Grade: 55/High
Tools| Hit: 55 Power: 45 Run: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 60

Teel was a standout high school prospect who would have ranked among the top 100 players in the class had he not withdrawn from the draft at the time. Teel split time as a catcher and outfielder with Virginia in 2021, but moved into an everyday catching role in 2022 and 2023 and also served as Team USA’s catcher during the 2022 summer. Teel was named ACC player of the year in 2023 and he hit .407/.475/.655, with 13 home runs and 25 doubles. A 6-foot-1, 190-pound lefthanded hitter, Teel has plenty of bat speed and takes extremely aggressive, violent hacks with plenty of moving parts in his setup. He has a large leg kick with a significant hand hitch in his load, but has also developed a solid track record of both contact and on-base skills. Teel has homered to all fields in college, but he has more fringe-average power projections in pro ball. Teel’s standout athleticism should give him every opportunity to stick behind the plate, and he has easy plus arm strength that should be an asset at the position as well. He’s thrown out 33.3% of base stealers for his career and turns in pop times around 1.90 seconds at his best, though his footwork and accuracy could be improved. He folds up well behind the plate and is a quick lateral mover on dirt balls, and he’s improved significantly as a receiver since his freshman year. He’s a good runner for a catcher and is the consensus top college catcher in the class.

#13 Matt Shaw
Ht: 5’11” | Wt: 185 | B-T: R-R
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.7
BA Grade: 55/High
Tools| Hit: 55 Power: 55 Run: 55 Field: 45 Arm: 45

A highly-competitive middle infielder, Shaw started his career as the everyday second baseman for Maryland as a freshman in 2021, before assuming the starting shortstop role in his sophomore year. Shaw has been a powerful hitter throughout his collegiate career and broke Maryland’s program home run record in 2023, while also blitzing through the Cape Cod League in 2022, where he ranked as the No. 1 prospect. He is listed at 5-foot-11, 185 pounds, but has significantly more strength than you’d expect from that frame thanks to snap-quick hands and immense wrist and forearm strength. He hit .344/.447/.695 in 61 games in 2023, with 23 home runs and 20 doubles, a 13.8% walk rate and 13.5% strikeout rate. Shaw has a closed stance and large leg kick but his bat speed and strength allow him to drive the ball to all fields with authority and he wore out the right-center gap with home run power as a junior, with a 90th percentile exit velocity around 107 mph. After struggling with contact against secondaries as a freshman and sophomore, Shaw improved significantly in that area in 2023, though he does still expand the strike zone a bit too much. He’s an above-average runner with standout baserunning instincts and went 18-for-19 (94.7%) on the bases in 2023. Shaw should have the defensive ability to stick on the infield, but there’s skepticism that shortstop is his long-term home. He should be fine as a serviceable second baseman with fringe-average arm strength.

#14 Brayden Taylor
Ht: 6’1” | Wt: 180 | B-T: L-R
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.1
BA Grade: 55/High

Tools| Hit: 60 Power: 50 Run: 50 Field: 50 Arm: 50

Taylor possesses one of the most keen batting eyes in the 2023 draft class, and is a savvy hitter with plenty of contact ability and on-base skill. He’s been one of the most productive hitters in the Big 12 throughout his three-year career with Texas Christian and after a slow start in 2023, finished hot offensively and slashed .308/.430/.631 with a career-best 23 home runs in his junior draft season. The carrying tool with Taylor is his approach and swing decisions. He has a career 18.6% walk rate and 16.4% strikeout rate, and in 2023 chased out of the zone just 20% of the time, but he’s also not just a passive hitter who’s looking to draw walks. Taylor knows which pitches he can do damage on, knows the strike zone better than most umpires and he’s comfortable hitting behind in the count—which allows him to be selective and also optimize the power he has. Taylor is a skinny third baseman with a 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame and he has just solid-average raw power and modest exit velocities, but he creates excellent angles off the bat, consistently backspins the ball and has plenty of pull-side pop. Taylor has just average secondary tools, and should be a fine defender at either third base or second base at the next level, with reliable hands and average arm strength. He’s a solid runner but has plus baserunning instincts with a 97.4% (38-for-39) stolen base success rate.

#16 Enrique Bradfield
Ht: 6’1” | Wt: 170 | B-T: L-L
Commit/Drafted: Never Drafted
Age At Draft: 21.6
BA Grade: 50/High
Tools: Hit: 55 Power: 30 Run: 80 Field: 80 Arm: 40

Bradfield has tormented batteries with his blazing speed since his prep days with American Heritage High in Plantation, Fla., where he ranked as the No. 66 player in the 2020 class. Since getting to campus at Vanderbilt, he’s lived up to his reputation as a dynamic, disruptive speedster and lockdown center fielder who has hit .313/.427/.450 in 190 games with 130 stolen bases at a 90.9% success rate. Bradfield is a lean and skinny, 6-foot-1, 170-pound lefthanded hitter who has a level bat path that’s conducive to line drives and ground balls. He has a strong understanding of the strike zone and has walked at a 14.7% rate, struck out at a 13.5% rate and in 2023 made contact at an 87% rate. Bradfield projects as a 30-grade power hitter in pro ball, but has sneaky exit velocities—an 87 mph average exit velocity in 2023—considering his size and overall home run production. Bradfield is an 80-grade runner who should pepper ground balls, line drives and drop bunts for infield singles, with consistently high BABIP numbers and elite baserunning. His speed translates to center field, where he’s also a top-of-the-scale defender who covers massive swaths of ground, with great instincts albeit a below-average arm. Bradfield has a polarizing profile and has much less power than the average first round college outfielder, but he’s also a potential Gold Glove winner and stolen base champion who earns Juan Pierre comps.

#19 Thomas White
Ht: 6’5” | Wt: 210 | B-T: L-L
Commit/Drafted: Vanderbilt
Age At Draft: 18.8
BA Grade: 55/Extreme
Tools| Fastball: 60 Curveball: 55 Changeup: 60 Control: 50

From the time he started high school, White separated himself as one of the elite prep pitchers in the country for the 2023 class. He has remained in that tier during his draft year and ranks as the best lefthander available in the draft. At 6-foot-5, 220 pounds, White has a smooth, fluid delivery with minimal effort. His fastball typically sits at 92-96 mph and reaches 97 with late arm-side run from his three-quarter slot and a chance there’s a tick of extra velocity still to come. He maintains his arm speed on an 82-86 mph changeup that flashes plus, looking like a fastball out of his hand before falling underneath barrels with good sink and fade. When his changeup is on, White has the confidence to double and triple up on that pitch. White’s changeup is advanced, but the secondary pitch he leans on the most is his curveball. It’s hard and sharp at times at 78-81 mph, with one late-season outing in which he threw 20 of 24 curveballs for strikes with five swinging strikes and six total strikeouts on that pitch. It has three-quarter shape, often getting wide on him and breaking like a slider. With White’s arm slot and the way his curveball bends laterally, some scouts think he will eventually add a true slider to his mix. One of the biggest areas for White’s development will be his fastball command. It’s an easy delivery, but he’s still a long-limbed teenager with lengthy arm action that isn’t always synced up. That has led to times where his control escapes him, especially up and to his arm side, though aside from one rocky outing it was generally better this year. If White can dial in his fastball command, he has the upside to be a front-end starter.

Draft Strategy

There really is not much to consider in terms of draft strategy this year. Frankly, selecting at #12, the team’s draft pool simply is not robust enough to try and get funny with the money. If Arizona selects with the expectation that the talent selected will want at or close to full slot, then the odds remain high that they will select from the names already covered in this series.

Despite the common narrative, Mike Hazen does not have a particular type. Yes, he seems to like toolsy, up-the-middle types. He also has taken a number of under-sized players over the years. The most notable names, both of whom fit that draft profile quite nicely, are Daulton Varsho from the 2017 (2nd Round) and Corbin Carroll from the 2019 (1st Round) drafts. Mostly, it seems that Hazen’s team has taken their measure of the draft and then leaned towards taking the best player available while heavily discounting player size, allowing the team to acquire some players with elite tools who were overlooked early because teams still look for size when it comes to projectability and injury prevention. Basically, they seem ready to select from a market inefficiency. However, they also selected Jordan Lawlar and Druw Jones, both selected in the early portions of the draft. Neither one is an undersized player. Both were considered the best player available. With Jones, there were strong arguments made he was the best prospect in the draft.

Hazen’s biggest misstep in the draft came in 2018 when the team selected Matt McLain, despite a strong commitment to UCLA. McLain failed to sign and the Diamondbacks used the 2019 draft and the additional pick to bolster their farm system. Given the state of the team’s farm system and the fact that they are forcing their competitive window open a season early, it would be shocking if Hazen & Co. decided to try that strategy, taking a top-10 pick, knowing they are almost certain not to sign, happy to take the extra pick (and associated pool money) next season. This season’s draft is one of the deepest in a decade or more. This is not the year to throw away the first round pick.

The Bard’s Take|

With as deep as this draft is and with as late as Arizona is selecting, the team should be focused on best player available, potentially making a splash in the second round or possibly in the 12th round, taking a stab at a top talent that fell. There will, of course, be differences of opinion on who the best player available is. However, the defensible list of likely candidates is a short one. Picking 12th, it is difficult to predict who will still be available. There are no fewer than three teams ahead of Arizona who have made noise that they may get funny with the money this year. Those teams could select from Arizona’s short list, or drop even deeper, putting extra top-10 talents into play for Arizona to consider.

The Bard’s Board
Chase Dollander
Hurston Waldrep
Aidan Miller
Noble Meyer
Jacob Wilson
Arjun Nimmala
Enrique Bradfield
Kyle Teel
Thomas White
Colin Houck
Brayden Taylor

Best Overall Arm: Chase Dollander
Best College Bat: Jacob Wilson
Best Prep Bat: Aidan Miller*
Best LHP: Thomas White*
Best OF: Enrique Bradfield Jr.
Best IF: Arjun Nimmala (barely edging out Aidan Miller)
Best C: Kyle Teel*
*Best in entire draft, not just from the options most likely to be available to Arizona

I fully expect at least half the names in that list to be off the board before Arizona finally gets to make their selection. There is a non-zero chance that as many as seven of those 11 names could be off the board, especially if teams like Oakland, Kansas City, and Minnesota decide to get funny with the money, as “reaching down” to under-slot would mean selecting from Arizona’s pool instead of the top-10 pool.

Arizona has been mocked heavily to prep shortstops, mostly Houck. While I agree that there is a ton of prep talent to be had there, this draft is so deep in prep shortstops that I wouldn’t mind seeing Arizona float that target profile to their second pick at #48. While I am not usually a proponent of taking pitching in the first round, my exception to that rule is when selecting among arms with very real TOR potential. Dollander and Waldrep fit that bill. Beyond that, I look for a combination of security and upside. This is why Houck falls so far down my board for Arizona. He is a safe pick. He’s a pick that there is little to poke at. His ceiling, however, is not what I would consider flattering. If 2021 Jordan Lawlar were in this draft, he’d be the top prep shortstop in the draft.

If Arizona were to go off-script a bit and select a player that only marginally fits the best player bill, Enrique Bradfield makes a great deal of sense as he should come in a tad under-slot, under enough that the team could then potentially try to reach up a bit at #48 and take someone still remaining on the board from the top-25. This would, in the strictest sense, be Arizona being funny with the money, but it is more a matter of maximizing the potential of the combined picks than anything else as, outside of Bradfield and Taylor, anyone else on the list is almost certain to command full-slot.

Up next: Arizona’s First Pick