The first ten rounds of the MLB first-year player draft is in the books. There are more guys that will get drafted, but the focus is at the top of the draft and that’s for good reason. The value of picks drops off dramatically after round three and even more significantly after round ten. That’s not to say that guys that picked on Day Three can’t make it, but it’s highly unlikely they ever will. History tells us this is so, and therefore, I’ll just focus on the the eleven players picked on Days One and Two.
Round 1, Pick 25: SS Matt McLain, California HS
The D-backs were linked to McLain before the draft but many, myself included, thought they’d grab him with their compensatory round pick at 39. Instead, they popped him with their first round pick. There was talk about how there was a lack of high school bats projected to go in the first round, but there were seven high school hitters drafted in the first round before McLain was drafted. I can’t help but wonder if the team got a big nervous after the run on young hitters and decided they needed to make the pick earlier than anticipated.
The team clearly had a deal in place to get McLain aboard, but if they were planning on taking him 39th overall, it’ll be interesting to see if McLain and his “adviser” demand more money now that he was picked in the first round. The slot difference between the two slots (#25 and #39) is $800k. If McLain demands the $2.6 million allotted to the #25 slot, it’ll be interesting to see if the team negotiates and/or the signing of McLain gets drug out a bit. That’s just a thought to consider in the coming days. Perhaps they already had a plan in place and he’ll sign right away. Who knows, but keep an eye out on that front to see if the D-backs can save a little money on him.
As for his performance on the field, scouts haven’t been completely sure he’ll stick at shortstop but the D-backs must think there’s a good chance for him to remain there if they were willing to go that high on him. He’ll have every chance to as his pro career gets underway. There’s some feel to hit but the power projection lacks somewhat. It may be more gap-to-gap down the road, but the UCLA commit is a good runner and can likely hold down second base, third base or play an outfield spot if he doesn’t last at shortstop. It’s an upside pick on a toolsy high schooler with a bit of polish to his game. He’d probably rank as the team’s 5th-8th best prospect right now.
Comp Round A, Pick 39: OF Jake McCarthy, Virginia
McCarthy is an easy center fielder who should stay at the position. He was pegged to go at about this spot in the draft, so it wasn’t a reach by any means and he should sign for slot ($1.8 million). There are some that have talked critically about the University of Virginia’s work with their hitters, noting a flat swing plane reminiscent of “the Stanford swing.” While that might play in hitting for average, it may come at the expense of power. That hasn’t bothered the D-backs as they drafted Pavin Smith last year and went back to UVA in snagging McCarthy. A swing adjustment could be made for both, so it’ll be intriguing to see he develops. Smith has hit a ton of ground balls in the minors, limiting his power output, but McCarthy is a good runner and that profile probably fits him better if the swing isn’t radically overhauled.
Second Round, Pick 63: OF Alek Thomas, Illinois HS
Thomas is committed to TCU and slated to play football and baseball, so he’s no lock to sign. The slot bonus assigned to the 63rd overall pick is a cool $1 million, but it might take a bit more to get Thomas signed and any money potentially saved on McLain could be allocated here (though that’s just my thinking — I have not insight into his signing demands).
On the field, Thomas has the range to play center field but his arm projects as a tick below average. His fielding ability should cover up for it, however, so that’s a positive. He makes plenty of contact at the plate and there’s some thought that the lefty-swinger can grow into enough power to help the bat play up. There has been some inconsistency in his performance at the plate and he’ll need help to become more consistent in making quality contact. His athleticism is undeniable, however, and there’s a good baseline of performance and tools here, so while Thomas might take some time to develop, there’s plenty of upside here.
Third Round, Pick 99: RHP Jackson Goddard, University of Kansas
The run on college right-handers for the D-backs starts with Goddard. He has the ideal pitcher’s frame at 6’4″ and 220-pounds. The stuff is of relatively high quality — his fastball sits in the low 90’s and can flash in the upper 90’s while he has a swing-and-miss offering in his slider and an effective changeup. Unfortunately, his performance has often been underwhelming, not living up to the profile of his raw stuff. He’ll have every chance to start early on as the D-backs work to maximize his raw stuff. It’s a #4 profile if it all breaks right, and if not, there’s a chance for an effective reliever here.
Fourth Round, Pick 129: RHP Ryan Weiss, Wright State University
Weiss is another 6’4″ college right-hander with two average pitches in his low 90’s fastball and his changeup. He throws with an overhand delivery and he gets good plane on his fastball thanks to his height and arm slot. His curveball lags behind his other two offerings, but there’s chance for it to become average. Weiss doesn’t profile as a strikeout pitcher but due to the plane on the heater and the strength of his change, he may have a chance to be a ground ball and/or weak contact guy that survives by virtue of his batted-ball profile. It’s a back-end profile here if he lasts as a starter and a 6th/7th inning relief profile if he shifts to the bullpen.
Fifth Round, Pick 159: RHP Matt Mercer, University of Oregon
Mercer can showcase a strong heater, but his stock dropped a bit in his junior year as his breaking ball wasn’t nearly as sharp this season. He was projected by many to go earlier in the draft and if the D-backs can get him back on track, they may have snagged some good value here in the fifth. His command needs work, but there’s relief utility as a backup option should he not be able to throw enough strikes to start. Things are bit up in the air with Mercer, so it’ll take some time to see how he develops. If he gets back on track, he could move quickly. If he doesn’t, it’ll be interesting to see how quickly he’s shifted to the bullpen and allowed to throw upper 90’s heaters.
Sixth Round, Pick 189: RHP Ryan Miller, Clemson University
There’s not much out there on Miller. He only stuck out 62 batters in 71.2 innings as a junior reliever. He’s likely a underslot opportunity for the D-backs in an attempt to save some cash (keep reading on that matter). As a senior, he doesn’t have any leverage in regards to bonus demands, so this is a developmental/org-depth pick to save cash.
Seventh Round, Pick 219: RHP Travis Moths, Tennessee Tech University
Another college righty, Moths has been in the news recently as his Tennessee Tech team upset Ole Miss to advance to the Austin Super Regional later this week. Moths had a heavy role in his team’s success as he started the first game of the Oxford Regional, throwing 90 pitches. Two days later, he appeared in relief in BOTH games of a double header.
Moths is another senior signing that should begin his career as a starting pitcher. Like Miller, there’s not a lot out there in terms of a scouting report, but his selection is primarily motivated by finances as he should be a relatively cheap signing.
Eighth Round, Pick 249: RHP Levi Kelley, Florida HS
Kelley is a product of the IMG Academy, one of the premier high school sports factories in the country. Of note, IMG has Trackman data installed and teams should have had access to PITCHf/x-type data on the young righty. He sits in the low 90’s with his heater right now, and while there’s not a ton of projection left, the 6’2″ 205-pound hurler could still add a tick or two and has been clocked up to 95 already. His slider can flash average and while he does have a changeup, it lags behind his other two offerings. Some have wondered if he’ll stick as a starter, but that conversation is perhaps a bit premature.
Kelley is committed to play baseball at LSU and he was projected by some to go sooner than this, so signing him will likely require more than the $158,500 allotted to his draft slot. He’s not a lock to sign, so that’s something to watch for. If he does, there’s upside as a back end starter if he can iron out the command issues or a 7th/8th inning arm if he can’t. This is an intriguing pick that’ll be fun to watch if the D-backs can lure him away from his college commitment.
Ninth Round, Pick 279: LHP Tyler Holton, Florida State University
Holton is a junior with some signing leverage, so it’s unclear if he’ll sign or not. His draft slot value ($144,800) might not be enough to keep him from finishing up college. He missed most of the season with a torn UCL and a following date with Tommy John surgery, so one has to wonder if he’ll want another shot at improving his stock. Holton’s the first left-handed starter selected by the D-backs in this draft and while he doesn’t throw hard, he features a strong changeup. There’s a chance for him to start as a crafty lefty, and if his curve improves, he may make for a middle relief option. Getting him signed may prove the biggest hurdle.
Tenth Round, Pick 309: C Nick Delasandro, Purdue University
A junior, Delasandro is a lightly-known catcher from the college ranks. There’s a lack of scouting reports available, but he’ll likely serve as an organizational piece. Catchers are always needed and Delasandro can fill that role. How he transitions to pro ball will be intriguing as we seek to learn more on him.
The Diamondbacks added some intriguing positional prospects with their first three picks. I was surprised to see them jump on McLain so early, so they’re clearly all-in on him. He’s the guy that this draft will hinge on, at least early on. There were plenty of intriguing players still on the board, but the D-backs believe in McLain and took their shot. McCarthy is a good athlete with a good track record of performance and tools that you can build around. Thomas might be a longer burn, but he’s got similar tools and there’s a big league profile there. You can’t be upset with the direction here as the team did a good job of adding younger prospects (i.e. high school guys) while netting a high-floor college guy in between.
It’s interesting that the team then went on a massive run on college righties. They took five straight in rounds three through seven. Miller and Moths were likely popped to save money, but Goddard, Weiss and Mercer all offer intriguing potential. Goddard and Mercer can flash plus stuff but have adjustments to make. Weiss could be a ground ball machine. It should be fun to watch the organization develop these three and see if they can find some extra value here.
Kelley and Holton aren’t locks to sign in my eyes, thought the team probably has some idea of what it will take to bring them aboard and were confident enough to pull the trigger. Kelley is an upside pick and Holton will need additional time recovering from TJ before he can take the mound. These are two lottery tickets, essentially, but that’s exactly what you’d like to see this late in the first ten rounds… if they can sign them. Delasandro is likely an organization piece that will fill an important need.
All in all, they did a good job of adding athletes at premium positions while bolstering the pitching depth. Given the fickle nature of pitchers and their position in the draft, it’s hard to argue with their strategy. This isn’t the most exciting crop of players ever drafted, but that’s what happens when you pick so late in the first round. And hey, last October was pretty fun, so there’s that, too.
**Note: this was written in an airport with little time for editing, so I apologize for any errors and/or omissions. Updates may be made as more become available.
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Previously on The Pool Shot, the guys explained some of their favorite advanced stats. Hitting, including wRC+, HHAV and batted ball; pitching (38:00), including FIP, xFIP and SIERA; and baserunning and defense, including UBR, UZR and DRS (58:00).