With MLB Draft taking place tomorrow, all sights are set on a bunch of kids expected to change the forecast of every major league franchise. No pressure, kids, no pressure. The Diamondbacks have the 16th overall pick and in the first draft primer released two weeks ago, I identified some potential targets. Rather, I should say, I collected a smattering of expert opinions of who the D-backs would likely target. A few things have changed since that time and it’s appropriate to get one last look at where things stand.
Zach Buchanan of AZ Central sat down with the Diamondbacks’ brass to discuss draft strategy. Kevin Towers made it clear that the team would pursue the best player available in the draft when their turn comes up, but identified what we already knew: the team is in need of pitching and corner outfielders. Luckily for the Diamondbacks, there are a couple of strong candidates at each position for the team to consider. While we don’t often give our opinions at this site, I’m going to list five guys for the Diamondbacks in the order that I have them ranked.
1) Grant Holmes, RHP, South Carolina HS
I’m a big fan of Holmes, but he may not make it to the 16th pick. Projected as more of a number three type, he’s the rare breed of high schooler who really knows how to pitch. Jim Callis of mlb.com, says he’s the third best high school pitcher in the draft behind the highly coveted Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, both of whom should get popped in the top five. He’s a fierce competitor and not just a “thrower.” His stuff is excellent, topping out in the mid-90’s with both a good curve and change. He’s not as projectable as the others above him given that he’s just 6’1” and has already filled out his frame, but he could move quickly for a high schooler and be a solid mid-rotation arm for a long, long time. With front-end arms like Bradley and Shipley already in the system, the D-backs shouldn’t hesitate to draft a guy who’s projected as an excellent number three.
2) Bradley Zimmer, OF, University of San Francisco
In a draft that light on bats, Zimmer stands out. As Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus recently stated, Zimmer has the best hit tool of any college outfielder. This draft is lacking guys with the natural bat-to-ball abilities that Parks and others covet, but Bradley Zimmer is the rare 2014 draft prospect that has the ability to make excellent, consistent contact. At the highest level, Parks notes that the hit tool is what makes a hitter excel and keep his big league job. Zimmer’s tool in question is the power, although he is highly projectable at a wiry 6’5” and 205-pounds. There’s a lot of room to add strength to the frame and he already runs and throws well. He’s a prototypical right-fielder in that regard, with the power to come down the road. Zimmer has a chance to be a .300 hitter due to a fluid, artful swing. He may or may not be available when the Diamondbacks get to make a selecetion as he’s projected to go anywhere from 12th – 18th.
3) Jeff Hoffman, RHP, East Carolina University
Jeff Hoffman was cruising along this spring and was considered by many to have a shot to be the first overall selection in the draft before he, like seemingly every pitcher before him, tore his UCL and had Tommy John surgery. This can viewed in two ways: he’s either a) injury prone or, b) he’s already had the perquisite elbow surgery and is unlikely to need it again. Hoffman has a smooth, easy delivery and the injury seemingly had little to do with his mechanics. He was routinely sitting in the mid 90’s and was able to touch higher before he was shut down. With a slider and change that he has the ability to command, he’s advanced for a draft-eligible pitcher. Hoffman has a projectable frame at a lanky 6’4” and should fill out, adding strength and an ability to keep his velocity. His development will be delayed by a year by coming off the injury, but he was advanced to begin with, so that shouldn’t be a huge concern. This is the rare opportunity for the Diamondbacks to select a front of the rotation arm with their mid round pick, but it does come with some risk.
4) Brandon Finnegan, LHP, Texas Christian University
In my mind, there’s a pretty big drop off to Finnegan, the fourth player on my list. Finnegan is a small-in-stature lefty with plus-plus velocity. There’s always some concern when a small guy generates this kind of velo, but Finnegan has a relatively smooth delivery. With that said, he’s had shoulder troubles this year and teams have to be concerned about his present and future health. At this stage, Finnegan has a decent slider, but really hasn’t learned to use his changeup, keeping his profile more as a thrower than as a pitcher. He’s going to have work to do if he is to remain the starting rotation and many scouts and analysts have remarked that they project him to end up in the bullpen long term. I’m not a big fan of Arizona selecting a guy with this kind of risk with their first pick, but if they think they can make him a starter, then it could pay dividends. This really all comes down to their confidence to develop Finnegan, but given their track record with failing to make it work with Bauer and Skaggs, this seems a little uncertain.
5) Michael Chavis, 3B, Georgia HS
If Zimmer is off the board, the Diamondbacks could look at one of the top prep bats in Chavis. He showcases a simple swing with excellent mechanics that should generate plus power. Scouts have commented on his quick wrists, which allow him to make lots of contact and allow the ball to travel before having to swing. He’s a kid with true impact potential, but some have wondered whether that will be at third base or eventually in right field. He has the arm to play the outfield and seeming the athleticism, while his instincts and reactions at the hot corner may not develop to a major league level. This should be of no concern to the Diamondbacks as they’d likely benefit more from a position change to right or left. There will be some work to do with Chavis either way, but he’s a guy that could be the sort of impact player that the D-backs need down the road.
Other Names We’re Hearing
Kyler Schwarber, C/1B, Indiana University
A lot of analysts have mocked Schwarber to the Diamondbacks and he has the most raw power in the draft. With that said, there’s seemingly little chance he sticks behind the plate and Kiley McDaniel of scout.com has stated that he doesn’t think Schwarber even has the athleticism to play left field. Usually I wouldn’t be concerned about a draft prospect being blocked at the major league level, but there’s no chance Goldy is leaving and that might leave the team with nowhere to play Schwarber. I’d rather see them grab someone more athletic, but this guy is clearly a possibility.
Luis Ortiz, RHP, California HS
If the D-backs are looking to go under-slot and save money for later parts of the draft, Ortiz could be their guy. He’s a complete pitcher who has a feel for the craft well above what one would expect for someone his age. The knock would be projectability as he’s already filled out his 6’3” 220-pound frame. He doesn’t have overwhelming raw stuff, but it’s still very good for his age. He projects as a mid-rotation arm down the road.
Kodi Medieros, LHP, Hawaii HS
The smooth lefty falls into the same category as Ortiz in that he may be available below-slot. He throws from a low three-quarters arm slot with excellent sink and fade on his fastball. He’s touched the mid 90’s with the heater, but has a nasty slider that can play well right now. The change is a ways off at present, but with the feel that Medieros shows for his other pitches, there’s a strong likelihood that it becomes at least average. At 6’0” 180-pounds, there’s some projection left, but not a ton.
More than anything, the Diamondbacks need to add impact on draft day. They can do that by nabbing a guy like Holmes, Zimmer, Hoffman or Chavis, or they can play the strategy game and try to go under-slot on Ortiz or Medieros, saving cash for later picks in the draft. You can follow the draft live online at the MLB.com Draft Homepage, with the Draft Tracker available on draft days. I’ll be breaking down their top selections a week from now, so stay tuned.
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