It’s already late May and the 2014 MLB Rule 4 Draft is right around the corner, being held June 5th – 7th. This is obviously an important time for the Diamondbacks given their new-found sense of direction and the fact that the organization as a whole has been relatively depleted in terms of talent, thanks to a number of trades over the last few seasons. Prior to the 2014 season, most prospect services listed the Diamondbacks towards the bottom third of the league in minor league talent. This makes sense, given that there are only a handful of strong prospects and a lot question marks behind them. In fact, Archie Bradley is really the only guy who you can say will be an impactful big league player.
The draft order reveals that the Diamondbacks have a four picks in the first two rounds. They have the 16th overall selection in the first-round, the 55th overall pick in the second round and have two competitive balance picks after the second round concludes, the 70th and 71st overall picks. While it may sound frivolous given the expansive nature of the MLB Draft (there are 40 rounds), these draft picks do contain value. We also know that the likelihood of finding impact players with the 55th, 70th and 71st picks is relatively slim given that the future production of draft picks tends to drop off sharply once teams are selecting outside the top 20th overall pick, or roughly thereabouts. With these things in mind, we can safely say that the first selection for the team has the highest probability of actually being important.
So what should the team do with 16th overall pick? There are obviously a couple strategies at play, namely drafting for need vs. drafting for the best overall player available. If the team were drafting for need, they might select one of two positions: either a college pitcher who is advanced and relatively close to contributing or a college outfielder who is in a similar position. College players are, of course, older and develop more quickly, thus being close to big league ready. Their ceilings are generally not as high, but they are safer picks than high schoolers (at least once you get past the handful of elite college players). If the team were drafting for the best player available at the 16th spot in the draft, they could conceivably go in any direction, which may or may not coincide with their needs. Given the depletion of the farm system in recent years, it’s not a bad idea for them to simply choose the most talented player available and figure the rest out later.
Before we look at the options for the Diamondbacks in the first round, let’s first take a peek at what the team has done within the first 75 picks of the last five drafts to get a sense of competency, sans LaRussa. Of course, we’re looking at multiple regimes here (Byrnes 2009, DiPoto 2010, Towers 2011-2013), but there are obviously some hold overs from each group and this should at least give us an idea of what’s happened in the past.
You can take that for what it’s worth, but we can see that the organization has traded some good talent and has also developed two guys who are driving the Diamondbacks’ offense right now. There are a number of strong prospects on the list, too, but the book is still wide open on them so it’s tough to judge. If yo’d like a deeper look, you can find the entire organization’s draft history right here.
Back to the 16th pick in this year’s draft, we can’t say for sure who the team will take, but we have a number of mock drafts that are starting shed some light on the direction that the team may go. ESPN, Baseball America and MLB.com have all released first round mock drafts in the last week and we can look there for some hints.
Zimmer is the brother of the Royals’ top prospect Kyle Zimmer. At 6’5″ and 205-pounds, Zimmer has plenty of room to add strength and runs well enough to play center field. Given his height, his swing can get long and there’s some strikeout potential, but the length can also result in added power, so it’s all about what the scouts see from a development standpoint. Law says:
Bradley has one of the more intriguing offensive skill sets in this draft. However it remains to be seen if those skills can be translated to the diamond. Zimmer has plus bat speed and will show plus power to right field from the left side during batting practice, but during games his swing can get linear and his bat speed is negated by a late transfer of weight. He has shown the ability to take pitches and draw walks, but there is some swing and miss in his game as well.
Finnegan is a power arm, with upper 90’s heat from the left side, but he’s not physically imposing at just 5’11” and 190-pounds. His secondary stuff needs work, as does his command, but he could be relatively close to contributing to the major league team. The problem lies in his size and projection, which suggests that he may be reliever long term depending on what scouts see. Matt Garrioch of minorleagueball.com says:
He’s short, has an electric arm and good secondaries. His command needs to improve and his delivery is a bit more complex than I like to see but it adds to his deception. He’s kind of a bulldog on the mound and that always makes me like the player a little bit more. There is a good chance he’s a starter but he could be a reliever if his command doesn’t improve. Overall he looks like a solid #3 or even a #2 starter with a good K rate and mediocre walk rate in the mold of Francisco Liriano.
You can see the notes on Finnegan above, but Jonathan Mayo touched on his recent injury and how it’s put pressure on his upcoming starts:
Finnegan has been outstanding in his junior season, going 7-2 with a 1.50 ERA in his 11 starts. Over 72 innings, he’s allowed just 48 hits (.191 batting average against) and 18 walks while striking out 96. Finnegan has raised his Draft stock to the point where one scout thought it possible for the lefty to go somewhere in the top 10 picks of the first round on June 5.
To do that, Finnegan will have to show he’s healthy and have no ill effects from this shoulder issue. The next step will be to throw his normal Wednesday bullpen session. If Finnegan clears that hurdle, as he did following his long toss on Monday, then there’s a chance he could be allowed to take the mound on Friday against Kansas State.
For what it’s worth, Finnegan made his scheduled start on Friday, May 15th, but was removed after 3.1 innings after surrendering five hits and six runs. Reports are that he is healthy but that he was rusty coming coming off the injury. Any team interested in drafting Finnegan will obviously have a lot of home work to do before selecting him. The fact that there are multiple mock drafts with Finnegan listed as the Diamondbacks’ choice doe not mean that that the team has some kind of preference for this kid in particular. This draft is loaded with pitching and the Diamondbacks as an organization seems to have a preference for college arms early in the draft, so Finnegan makes sense in type more than he necessarily makes sense by name.
There are plenty of other options that should be available and intriguing in the middle of the first round. Here are five other options worthy of your exploration:
Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway HS (SC) – a mature, polished high school arm, Holmes has big time pitchability for someone his age. He possesses both a power heater and sharp, power curve that’s his best pitch. His change up is a work in progress, but it’s rare to find high school arms with this level of polish. The ceiling isn’t as high as some of the more prominent high school pitchers, but he’s a relatively safe bet to reach his potential as a #2/3 pitcher.
Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina University – Hoffman was slated as a legit 1.1 option heading into last month before tearing his UCL and having to undergo Tommy John surgery. This obviously takes him out of the running for the first pick in the draft, but the talent is there and he should go somewhere between the 12th and 20th overall pick. If a team is willing to be patient, he could be steal as Lucas Giolito was for the Nationals a few years back. Hoffman is a power arm with excellent stuff who should pitch #2 spot in a rotation for a lot of years.
Monte Harrison, OF, Lee’s Summit HS (MO) – Harrison is a physical outfielder in that he runs well and has a cannon for an arm, being clocked as high as 97 mph. He may be a tough sign, however, as he’s committed to play football for the University of Nebraska, so he’ll likely command a big bonus. Still, he has an All-Star ceiling with a above average power bat and excellent defense in right field. This is the kind of athlete you want in your system and on your team.
Tyler Beede, RHP, Vanderbilt University – the value for Beeded is hard to gauge. Some mocks have him coming off the board with the 6th overall pick while other having him falling to 24th. Why? While his raw stuff is excellent, his command hasn’t developed since he was drafted with the 21st overall pick by the Blue Jays back in the 2011 as a high schooler. His value has to be judged by a team’s confidence in being able to help him with his command. Should he figure it out, he’s a #2 starter. Should he not, he’s probably a bullpen arm.
Kyle Schwarber, C/OF, Indiana University – with the most raw power in the draft, Kyle Schwarber may be an option for the Diamondbacks. His ability to stick behind the plate is universally questioned, meaning he may end up in left field. If that’s the case, his value isn’t nearly as high and he already a lot of swing-and-miss to his game. This one is all about projection: can a team help him improve the hit tool and/or his defense behind the plate? If a team feels they can, then they won’t pass on the power.
Stay tuned to Inside the ‘Zona for more draft coverage as June 5th approaches. We’ll keep our eyes and ears open to the latest rumors and trends as the draft nears.
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