Arizona Diamondbacks executive vice president and general manager Kevin Towers and manager Kirk Gibson. IMAGE: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

D'Backs Draft Review: Day One

When the 2013 MLB Draft began on Thursday afternoon, there was more uncertainty than any time in recent memory about who would go where. One reason for this unpredictability was due to this year’s draft class. It was top heavy but after the first three names were off the board, the talent seemed to level out resulting any kind of defined pecking order. Another reason for the uncertainty had to do with the new CBA agreement that is in it’s second year or use. Given the firmer slotting and allocation of funds available, teams were thought to be less conventional at times and look to sign players in the first round for under-slot dollars so that they could save money to be spent on later picks.

These two factors made it hard to know who the Diamondbacks would end up with when they selected 15th overall. In my Draft Preview and Draft Update pieces earlier in the week, I aimed to give you several names that were possibilities but refrained from making any kind of bold prediction. That was intentional. I felt there was no way to know how the draft would shake out and just who the Diamondbacks would end up selecting with their first round pick.

Fortunately, a player fell into their laps on draft day that I had previously mentioned: Braden Shipley. The right-hander out of Nevada was someone that I listed as a potential target for Arizona, but I, like most others, did not see him falling to the 15th pick. In fact, many mock drafts had him going sixth overall to the Miami Marlins. Once Miami passed and Toronto failed to select him, I knew the Diamondbacks would have a chance to get him. I was pumped when they called his name with their first round selection as he was definitely a steal for Kevin Towers and Company in the middle or round one.

Shipley is a hard-throwing righty who is projectable, has a durable frame and is a fantastic athlete. Originally a college shortstop for the Wolfpack, he transitioned to the mound full time his sophomore year and was outstanding this year as a junior. Given that he has only been a pitcher full time for just two seasons, he’s a bit raw and command can be a problem for him at times. His ceiling is outrageous, though, and that’s why the Diamondbacks picked him. With professional coaching and a solid plan in place, he can improve rapidly and could move through the minors quickly. If I had to guess his ceiling, I’d put him as a solid number two and rank him somewhere between Archie Bradley and Tyler Skaggs.

As excited as I was about Arizona getting Shipley, the night wasn’t over. The team was awarded one of the new

competitive balance picks and chose again with the 36th overall selection. They used the pick on another college right-hander, this time choosing Aaron Blair out of Marshall University. A productive college pitcher, Blair is big and strong with a solid repertoire. He’s not on the same level as the top pitchers but fits firmly in the second tier. While his ceiling isn’t thought to be all that high, he is a safe pick to become a productive pitcher in the majors.

I wasn’t all that thrilled with this pick, personally. Given that the minor league system lacks impact position players, I felt that the Diamondbacks should have gone for the gusto and used the pick to take a higher upside player, preferably a high school bat. Yes, you can never have too much pitching but this pick was kind of a freebie and I was hoping for something a little sexier. Turns out I would just have to wait a little longer to see my wish come true.

With the team’s second round pick and the 52nd pick overall, Arizona chose shortstop Justin Williams from a Louisiana high school. While he’s officially listed as a shortstop, it’s hard to envision him staying at the position give that he’s 6’2” and 215 as a 17-year old. It looks like he’ll have to shift over to third but that won’t be a problem given his massive raw power from the left side. He’s an excellent athlete who is still learning the game and was one of the youngest players in the draft, meaning he has a long time to develop and will likely be handled with caution. His tools are outstanding and it’s now up to the organization to turn those tools into production.

Day two of the draft begins later today and the organization will continue to try and build quality depth through acquiring upside players. The mantra will still remain “best player available” and there are plenty of good ones who didn’t have their name called on day one. Expect to see many high school picks today as the Diamondbacks search for high ceiling players who have the potential to pay off down the road. I’d like to see them stock up on hard-throwing high school pitchers and athletic high school position players at every chance. Rounds three through five are all about upside and the safer college picks can take place between rounds five and ten.

 

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Tags: Aaron Blair Arizona Diamondbacks Braden Shipley Justin Williams MLB Draft

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