Major League Drafts are perhaps the most difficult of all drafts to gauge. Think about it: a prep pick can take four or five years to mature and arrive to the majors right on time, then take two or three more years of major league growth to become the player everyone thought he’d be. In case you’re not counting, that’s five to seven years before a team may know just what it has in a prized high school player. For collegiate draftees, that timeline is a little shorter, but you get the idea – these drafts are really hard to evaluate, especially right after they’ve happened. So, with the aforementioned context in mind, let’s try to evaluate this draft anyways.
Before getting to the picks themselves, I think it’s important to take into account the opinions of the experts who are tasked with evaluating this stuff for a living. By and large, the experts love what the Diamondbacks have done in this draft. I was enamored with their selections on day one and wasn’t overly disappointed with anything they did on day two, but to hear confirmation from the true experts was encouraging. In the words of ESPN’s Keith Law:
A lot of teams went crazy for upside, but I think the Arizona Diamondbacks did the best job of that group, landing three Vanderbilt commits. Touki Toussaint, their first-round pick, was among the highest-ceiling prep pitchers in the class, with a very loose, quick arm, fastball in the low to mid-90s, and above-average curveball already. Isan Diaz is a polished middle infielder from western Massachusetts who boasts a high baseball IQ and good feel to hit, and who probably will move to second base in pro ball. Lefty Cody Reed might have gone higher except that he’s 6-foot-3 and overweight at uncomfortably north of 250 pounds. But he’s been 92-96 this spring and shows a chance for three pitches… They also took non-Vandy commit Marcus Wilson, a speedy Southern California prep outfielder who has bat speed and a very projectable body; he got a little first-round buzz earlier in the spring.
Their first four picks, all on day one, were essentially home runs. Although Arizona was picking in the middle of the draft order with their first pick (17th) and had to be patient before their second pick (49th), they got impact potential at both spots. They were able to double-up on picks in the second competitive balance round (69th and 70th) and landed two more impact high schoolers, one polished and one more raw, but both with above average big league ceilings. The trend continued with their first pick on day two, another upside selection in a toolsy high school outfielder. In a farm system that lacked impact potential, the Diamondbacks did a great job of landing impact guys to immediately improve the stock of their future.
Now, let’s get on to the picks themselves.
Touki Toussaint, RHP, Florida HS (1st Round, 16th overall)
The headliner of this draft class is undoubtably Toussaint, the high ceiling high school pitcher out of Florida. In my previous Draft Primers, I did not foresee Toussaint falling down to Arizona with the 16th pick. Several mock drafts had Touki coming off the board in the top 10, but like the D-backs did last year with rising star Braden Shipley, they pounced on a value pick. Many saw Toussaint as the third best high school arm in the draft, behind Brady Aiken and Tyler Koleck, who were selected with the first two picks in the draft, respectively. The Brewers passed on him in favor of Hawaiian lefty Kodi Medieros, allowing Toussaint to fall right into the Diamondbacks’ lap. They did the right thing and went with the biggest upside available, popping the Vanderbilt commit.
He boasts some excellent raw stuff, mixing a low to mid 90’s heater with the draft’s best curveball. He can mix in a changeup and the pitch has shown considerable progress this year. Toussaint is still learning to command his pitches, which isn’t unusual for kids that are 17-years old. at 6’3″ and 185 pounds, has room to fill out his frame and reminds some of Mariners ace-in-the-making Taijuan Walker. He’s athletic and received good mechanics grades from Baseball Prospectus’ pitching guru Doug Thorburn with all signs pointing to him having all for he perquisites to become a solid, if not dominant starting pitcher. Toussaint should slot into the system as the Diamondbacks’ third-best prospect, behind Archie Bradley and Braden Shipley, giving the team plenty to envision in coming years.
Cody Reed, LHP, Alabama HS (2nd Round, 54th overall)
After waiting for 38 names to be called before selecting again, the Diamondbacks went with another prep arm in Reed, this time from the left side. The southpaw has easy velocity due to a big frame, touching the mid to high 90’s with his sinking fastball. The frame, however, is what gave some teams pause as he ballooned to 260 pounds during his senior year of high school. The weight, needless to say, wasn’t necessarily good and the team will have to work with him to improve his overall fitness. Still, the overall stuff can’t be ignored as he pairs a sharp slider to go along with a change up that he already has a feel for. He’s advanced for a prep arm and as his mlb.com scouting report states, scouts have to wonder just how much better he can be when he does get his fitness under control. Power from the left side is hard to come by and if the Diamondbacks can help Reed iron out his physical issues, including his balance on the mound, he should become a durable starter with at least two plus offerings.
Marcus Wilson, OF, California HS (Comp Round B, 69th overall)
Wilson is a raw but toolsy outfielder with both speed, some power and an ability to stick in centerfield. He had received some first round buzz earlier in the year and many, including ESPN’s Chris Crawford, were surprised that he fell to the second competitive balance round. He’s tall and wiry now, but scouts dream on his ability to add good weight and strength to his athletic frame. He was the MVP of the Southern California Invitational back in February where he really started to gain major attention. Wilson can absolutely fly on the base paths right now, but the rest of his game will take time to mature. The kind of high-risk, high-reward selection that player development staff will love to work with, Wilson has an opportunity to become something special.
Isan Diaz, 2B, Massachusetts HS (Comp Round B, 70th overall)
Although he played his prep days at shortstop, Diaz profiles best as a left-handed second baseman. He was selected right after Wilson in the second competitive balance round and is, in a way, the opposite of Wilson in that he has a higher floor but a lower ceiling. His smooth stroke from the left side shows an ability to make consistent hard contact with some power to boot. Baseball America rated him as the 55th best draft prospect heading into the draft and he was yet another bargain for Arizona. The tools aren’t incredible, but the complete package looks like something that can work at higher levels. Hailing from a cold weather state, we have to wonder what will happen to his game once he can play year-around.
Matt Railey, OF, Florida HS (3rd Round, 89th overall)
Railey was the fifth consecutive high school selection for Arizona, something we haven’t seen in recent years. The lefty swinger will likely move off of center field as a pro and could play in a corner. He has a easy swing, quick hands already possesses the kind of power that leaves scouts wanting more. He’s already 19-years old, which makes him older than most other prep selections, but there’s no reason to think he can’t still grow. Instead, his quick, short, compact swing looks like something that will pay dividends immediately at the next level. He’ll have to work on controlling the zone more, but professional coaching should help him to refine his approach. Railey is another good athlete to add to a system in desperate need of them.
Where this gets tricky, however, is signing all of these guys. The Diamondbacks selected 12 players in the first ten rounds, where the draft cap applies. This means that the team has a pre-determined amount of money to spend to sign it’s players drafted in the top ten rounds (Arizona has the 11th most money this year at $7,228,300). This cap is determined by Major League Baseball and is based off slot value for each pick. Essentially, MLB assigns a dollar amount to each pick (ie. third round, pick #89 is worth X amount of money) and it’s up to the team to negotiate a bonus with the selected player’s agent with that money in mind. They can give the full slot amount or negotiate a price over or under the slot amount. At the end of the day, they have to keep the total used to sign each of the players drafted in the top 10 rounds at or under the total cap allotment or face a monetary penalty from MLB.
The Diamondbacks selected five high school players with high-profile college commitments with their first five picks. These kids will test the organization’s ability to wheel and deal since they will have to be bought away from their college commitments. As Law mentioned above, three of the players are committed to Vanderbilt with the two others commited to Arizona State and Florida State. They will not come cheap and the organization will have to be creative with how they get these guys signed. As scout.com’s Kiley McDaniel noted, however, 95% of all players drafted in the first ten rounds end up signing, so there’s no reason panic just yet.
Part of that creativity was selecting college players with the team’s next seven selections, several of which should sign under-slot and save the organization money that can be applied to their first five picks. Three of their last seven picks were college seniors who have no real draft leverage and should save the organization some cash. These picks also included two JUCO guys and two college juniors. None will get over-slot money and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the organization give the players a low figure and roll the dice on signing them, not being upset if they don’t get the player signed at all.
None of Arizona’s next seven picks were guys who would be considered organization changers, at least not at this point in time. 4th round choice Brent Jones, a fringy starter out of Cornell University has a power arsenal that can work in the bullpen if he can’t stick as a starter. Arizona’s 5th rounder, Mason McCullough was comically compared to Eastbound and Down’s Kenny Powers by mlb.com for his high velocity heater and off-the-field troubles. He’s a reliever all the way and if the team can teach him to hit the strike zone, he could turn into something useful. Lefty strikeout artist Zac Curtis was the team’s 6th round selection and if he can’t make it as a starter, he could move quickly out of the bullpen. Tyler Humphreys was chosen in the 7th round and oozes power potential but needs to refine his swing to make it play, although he’s noted as having a very good glove at third. In the 8th round, Arizona took outfielder Grant Heyman who played his first college season at Miami before transferring to Southern Nevada Community College, the same school that Bryce Harper attended, a perennial junior college powerhouse. He’s raw but has plus power and some speed to pair with it. 9th round choice Justin Gonzalez is coming off of a hip injury sustained in his fifth year at Florida State. He’s a glove-first shortstop that has struggled some at the plate. Rounding out the top ten rounds was senior right-hander Scott Schultz out of the author’s alma matter, Oregon State University. He bounced between the bullpen and the rotation for the two-time Pac 12 champs, including some excellent postseasons performances. He profiles as a fringy starter and may move to the bullpen full time sooner rather than later.
The rest of the draft is littered with lottery tickets. 10 of the final 30 picks came from the high school ranks, 15 from college and 5 from junior college. 16 are pitchers and 14 are position players, including five catchers. Arizona is in desperate need of help in the catching department, so it’s no surprise to see them select a handful of them in hopes that one or two can pan out for the organization.
Overall, there’s plenty of risk in this draft class, perhaps more than we’ve seen in recent years. As previously noted, the organization is short on athletic, toolsy types and they certainly made an effort to acquire players in this mold. Early indications from the experts suggest that the Diamondbacks did well in acquiring value with their picks. Although it will several years before this draft can be properly analyzed, fans should be pleased with this haul, provided they can ink all five of their top picks, which appears likely. We’ll be tracking their progress through our regular Minor League Updates, so stay with us these guys grow into impact players for the organization.
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