As I logged in this morning I found an email waiting for me from Evan Brunell at Most Valuable Network (MVN). In the email was a plea for help. My mind immediately thought of the scene from Star Wars when R2D2 replayed the holographic image of Princess Leia to a young Luke Skywalker asking for assistance in delivering the plans of the Death Star to the rebel alliance. I have to be honest; the thoughts of Evan Brunell in a dress with a bun hair-do were extremely frightening and something I am sure I will end up telling to a therapist at some point in my life. Evan and the gang at MVN are running a mock draft and have asked bloggers around the country to weigh in on who their team would select on June 9. In the case of the Arizona Diamondbacks selections they asked our good friends over at AZ Snakepit. Unfortunately schedules could not be aligned. The selections were made but no write-ups were given about the players. Evan was therefore asking if I could step in and give details and information on the two selections at numbers 16 and 17.
Let me start off by saying that these are not my selections. I merely evaluated the two choices from a perspective as to why the Diamondbacks may be interested in these athletes. You can see my responses here and here. While I believe both LaVon Washington and Jonathan Singleton are great athletes and will no doubt be drafted at some point in the June 9 draft I think both are stretches for the first round and it is doubtful the Diamondbacks at that point in the draft will select either.
The Arizona Diamondbacks draft philosophy has been relatively consistent over the past several years. Unless they are completely blown away by a high school athlete they will tend to lean towards drafting college players especially in the early rounds. There are several reasons for this. The most likely is that college players have 2-4 years more development than high school players and there is less risk involved in developing younger players. With the Diamondbacks farm system relatively depleted due to call ups and trades such as the one that brought Dan Haren to Arizona, the Diamondbacks need to restock their upper levels of their minor league system and it is faster and easier to do that with college players.
Looking over the draft order and selections in the MVN Mock Draft, the more likely choices for selection by the Arizona Diamondbacks with the number 16 pick would be LHP James Paxton from the University of Kentucky. The number 17 pick is a little more interesting. The Diamondbacks may jump at the opportunity to select LHP Mike Minor from Vanderbilt who they have been high on all year or they might opt to select OF Tim Wheeler from Sacramento State. Arizona has a tendency to draft pitchers higher but it might be questionable to take 2 left handed pitchers back-to-back. For Wheeler to fall to them might be too much for them to pass up especially given the struggles that center fielder Chris Young is having this year. Having someone come up through the minors might just push Young in righting his swing. Let’s take a look at each of these selections.
James Paxton has made a somewhat circuitous path to the draft. He began his college career as a reliever and worked his way into the rotation in 2008. That move to a starter has been extremely beneficial for him and the Kentucky Wildcats. As a 6’4″ starter he is has one of the highest upsides of any of the left-handed pitchers in the draft. He has a plus fastball that has been clocked at 92-98 miles per hour. His second pitch is a hard breaking slider that complements his fastball very well. He also possesses a change-up but has not used it much in his college career; something he will have to work on in the minor leagues. From a health perspective Paxton has been fairly durable although he has had back and knee problems in the past none of these are a concern going forward. With each outing James Paxton seems to be impressing more and more. If he happens to fall to the sixteenth pick look for the Diamondbacks to jump at the opportunity to pick up a powerful lefty that could end up a top of the rotation kind of pitcher.
Left-handed pitcher Mike Minor has been at the top of most teams draft boards nearly all season. As the ace at Vanderbilt he has shown the ability to carry a team. Originally a 13th round draft pick by the Tampa Bay Rays out of high school; Minor instead opted to go to college which has paid huge dividends both in terms of development and draft status. Besides his college career; Mike Minor was also invited to be a part of USA Collegiate National team that finished the 2008 season undefeated with a 24-0 record. Minor was a big part of that success including defeating the Cuban Olympic team twice. He finished with a 3-0 record with an ERA of 0.75. Mike Minor has four pitches that he throws although he only uses three of them with regularity. His fastball has been clocked at 92 MPH but typically falls in the 89-91 range. It has late life especially at the bottom of the strike zone. He also throws a quality slider that has a hard break making it a good pitch that he throws for strikeouts. He has an above average change-up but does not throw it often enough in college; something that will change when he gets to the minor leagues. His fourth pitch is a curve which still needs work but could become a weapon as he develops. From a medical perspective he has been very durable and Vanderbilt has managed his workload very well although there is some question about his elbow it is nothing that would warrant concern. Overall Mike Minor is the most polished left-handed pitcher in the draft and is probably the closest to the major leagues of any prospect.
Tim Wheeler is one of those players that Arizona Diamondbacks scouts and front office staff love. He has above average speed and has shown an ability to get on base and hit for high average. He tracks balls very well in the outfield and his average to above average arm will keep opposing base runners in check. The book on Tim Wheeler has been that he will be a top of the order hitter able to make contact and spray line drives. Once on base he has the ability to steal bases and disrupt a game. While he is not a typical slugger, Wheeler has shown signs of power including a 3 home run game earlier this year with Sacramento State University. At 6’4″ 205lbs he has a long lanky stride that covers ground very quickly in the outfield. He has the ability to play all 3 outfield positions although his arm strength may be too light for right field. As a left-handed hitter Wheeler might be the type of spark plug the Diamondbacks could use to get on base in front of their more powerful hitters. With his plus speed he has the ability to make opposing pitchers adjust their delivery to keep him at first perhaps giving the other hitters more fastballs to hit. Should the Diamondbacks decide not to take two LHP with back-to-back picks in the first round; look to see Tim Wheeler’s name called with pick number 17.
So there you have it. A couple of write-ups for someone’s picks along with my two choices in the mock draft along with a third pick just in case the Diamondbacks want to go a different direction. Now it’s just a matter of time to find out exactly how things turn out in the First Year Player Draft scheduled for June 9. The draft will be covered by the MLB Network and I know I’ll be watching to see what the future holds for the Arizona Diamondbacks.