The first day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft is in the books. In a year in which two strange things occurred – the Diamondbacks having the first overall pick and the draft being incredibly weak – Arizona was in a prime spot to capitalize as best as possible. The Diamondbacks were able to select two players through two full rounds, including the compensation and competitive balance picks. Out of the 75 players selected yesterday, the D-backs were able to select first and 43rd overall. Let’s take a look at who they drafted and, with 38 rounds left, where Arizona goes from here.
First round, 1st pick overall: Dansby Swanson, SS, Vanderbilt
The pros and cons on Swanson are very simple.
Pros: He can hit for average (probably a .280-ish guy), he has potentially plus power for a shortstop (in the 10-15 home run range), he’s a plus runner (will steal 15-20 bases) and he’s projected to stay at shortstop for the bulk of his career (maybe he slides to second as he ages) where his value is escalated.
Cons: He’s a safe pick, not an impact talent, and he does have some swing-and-miss to his game.
Dansby Swanson doesn’t profile as a guy who will be an impact star at the major league level. You’re not getting Carlos Correa or Addison Russell here, you’re not getting Troy Tulowitzki. Instead, you’re getting a guy that you’re fairly certain will be a big leaguer, just maybe a guy who’s an All-Star a few times, not a likely Hall of Famer. With the first overall pick, you’d love to get a Ken Griffey, Jr., an Alex Rodriguez or a Bryce Harper, but that’s just not how the stars aligned for the D-backs as this draft, the one in which they own the first pick, is thin on impact, generational talent. Oh well. Swanson will be a very productive major leaguer for a very long time, provided he remains healthy.
Second round, 43rd pick overall: Alex Young, LHP, Texas Christian
The Diamondbacks went back to the college-pitching well with the 43rd pick, taking the lefty Young. Most publications had Young rated in the low to mid-30’s on their prospect boards and Arizona nabbed him at 43, signaling the possibility that the team got good value for their pick. A starter thought his collegiate career, Young features a low 90’s fastball that grades out as average, an average changeup and a plus curveball. The Diamondbacks still appear to be avoiding sliders like the plague, but with average command, Young looks like the kind of guy who can move somewhat quickly with a number four starter upside. He also provides some balance as Aaron Blair, Braden Shipley, Yoan Lopez and Touki Toussaint are all right-handers. He also, like Swanson, fits the 2017 and beyond timeline as one would expect to see Young in 2018, maybe even late 2017.
The Diamondbacks are still under bonus-pool restraints through the tenth round, meaning they can’t just spend whatever money they want. Instead, they have to manage the bonus allotment that is set to cover their first ten picks. The D-backs have just under $13 million for those selections, but it’ll be intriguing to see what Swanson and Young will sign for. The team may have a feel for how much it’ll take to get those two on-board, helping them budget for the next eight rounds. Within that span, look for them to take two types of players: upside high school players who will be expensive, and safe but less-exciting college guys who should sign for under-slot prices. The college guys, in essence, subsidize the costs that will be incurred if the team is able to buy the prep kids out of their college commitments. There’s no way they can afford eight upside high schoolers given their bonus demands, so the college guys are necessary.
But the emphasis should be on who they get from the high school ranks. Right now the organization has two major waves of talent in the minors. One is in AA, with a number of guys two or fewer years from the majors. As we’ve discussed here on the site and on The Pool Shot, these guys are part of the 2017 window of contention, either as guys who will help the major league team or as guys who can be flipped for a missing piece. With guys like Goldschmidt, Pollock, Owings, Tomas, Lamb, Inciarte, Peralta, Corbin, Bradley, Anderson and a boatload of relievers already in the fold, adding guys like Aaron Blair, Braden Shipley, Brandon Drury, Yoan Lopez and another boatload of relievers will help fill the holes in the major league roster and keep costs down so the team can afford raises for current players and/or allow them to buy the missing pieces on the free agent market. Not all of these guys will stay healthy or successfully transition to the majors, but you get the idea, this wave will be ready to contribute in the near future.
The second wave is at full season A-ball or below, many still in Extended Spring Training. These guys, for the most part, are four to six years away from seeing the majors, should they survive the brutal climb to the highest level of baseball. This level includes guys like Touki Toussaint, Sergio Alcantara, Marcus Wilson, Matt Railey, Isan Diaz, Francis Martinez, Cody Reed, Jose Herrera, Luis Madero, Jose Martinez and others. This is a deep and toolsy bunch, many of whom came from either the 2013 international signing period or the 2014 draft. Mostly teenagers, there is going to be a lot of attrition here but there are some bright futures. This wave may reach the majors in the 2019-2020 range and it’s important that the organization continues to build up this wave of talent, for it’s this wave that will replace the current young players on the current MLB roster who, by then, will be getting more and more expensive.
And, adding to this wave helps build a winner for the future, at least insofar as building a winner five or six or seven years out is even a possibility. That’s surely a challenge and one that can’t easily be managed, but the organization has a vested interest in not just building a winner in 2017, which looks very promising, but keeping the team competitive for a decade. The last few years have had a very real financial impact on the Diamondbacks and I would think that they’ll want to avoid slipping back into the bottom of the major league standings. Building more young depth can seriously aide that effort. Since the team won’t be adding impact depth via the international market thanks to the signing of Yoan Lopez, the draft is the only most-viable way to add teenage talent.
That’s why I believe they’ll focus on high school players in rounds 3-7, then again immediately when they get out of the top ten rounds and pick in the 11th and 12th rounds, where they’re outside of the bonus restrictions and can try to throw a bunch of money at a prep kid who fell out of the top ten rounds for signability concerns. These are the kinds of guys that will define this draft’s success, even more so than how good Dansby Swanson becomes, though that will be what most fans remember. Depth, however, can’t be ignored and if they can sign a gem or two in the middle rounds of day two, this draft could quickly change for the better. We won’t know immediately, but in trying to build a long-term winner, taking Swanson and Young at the top of the draft and gathering as much prep talent as the organization can afford makes a ton of sense, and that’s what I’m looking for heading into today’s selections.
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