The Rule 4 draft is right around the corner and Major League Baseball is buzzing about who’s going where. Arizona has the 15th pick in this year’s draft, which is somewhat unfortunate. The 2013 crop is considered top-heavy, with the top three prospects all being considered elite followed by a pretty sizeable drop-off. RHP Mark Appel (Stanford), RHP Jonathan Gray (Oklahoma) and 3B Chris Bryant (San Diego) make up that three-headed monster at the top of the draft. After that, it’s really anybody’s guess where the chips may fall. While some teams have been linked to a few players, this is one of the hardest drafts to predict in years, especially with the new CBA in play.
Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers. IMAGE: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
So where does this leave the Diamondbacks? Well, picking 15th is real crap-shoot because a number of guys who are projected to go in the top ten or twelve picks could fall to them. Unfortunately, those players could also all be gone by the time Arizona gets to make its selection. Kevin Towers and Company have to be prepared for anything.
To catch you up to speed, I’ve scanned the web and talked to a view draft experts to get their opinion on where they see the Diamondbacks going with their selection. Below is a brief primer on the players that I have seen most linked to the team.
Dominic Smith, 1B/OF, California HS
Smith is considered to have perhaps the purest swing of any high school hitter. He has fluid movements at the plate that showcase an ability to make contact and provide some pop. He should carry a good average while hitting for above average power. At this point, the power tool isn’t overwhelming, but it will develop. Defensively, he’s smooth, has good hands and an excellent arm having been clocked in the low 90’s on the mound. His actions in the field suggest that he’s a first baseman down the road but may be able to play some left field while he’s still young as long as he gets a lot of coaching and works hard at it. Smith reminds me of Jonathan Singleton (Astros) with slightly less raw power. He’s been mocked to Arizona by Jim Callis of Baseball America and Matt Garrioch of Minor League Ball.
Perfect Game Profile: Dominic Smith
Bullpen Banter Highlights: Dominic Smith
JP Crawford, SS, California HS
Crawford has all of the defensive tools to play short for a very long time. He’s an elite defender with a strong arm, quickness and good range. It’s not easy to find players who can project as a career shortstop but Crawford does exactly that. He has upside with the bat because of a smooth swing. At 6’2, his swing is a little longer than one might expect from a shortstop and he doesn’t generate a ton of bat speed, but that’s what hitting coaches are for. Crawford is a tremendous athlete with a good feel for the game and should be able grow into his frame and become an above average defender while being at least an average hitter with upside for more. He has been mocked to the Diamondbacks by Jonathon Mayo of mlb.com.
Perfect Game Profile: JP Crawford
Bullpen Banter Highlights: JP Crawford
Braden Shipley, RHP, Nevada
Shipley is considered a bit of a “pop-up” prospect given that he was good but not great in his time in college prior to the spring of 2013. He had a big junior year that has seen him climb the ladder into first round consideration, potentially going in the first 10 picks. He has a fastball that sits in the mid 90’s and can touch 98. It’s paired with a plus changeup and a curveball that has the potential to be at least average. He’s a good athlete who hides the ball well and has some deception in his delivery, making his stuff even harder to hit. While he’s shown significant growth with each year, one has to wonder if his 2013 performance is the real deal. He has the stuff, but can he continue to improve as he has throughout college. If so, he could be a front-end starter for a long time. He is mocked to Arizona by Jim Perkin of Sports Illustrated but he may not make it to pick 15.
Aaron Judge, OF, Fresno State
Judge is a player that is very intriguing. He looks more like an NFL tight end than a baseball player as he’s listed at 6’7” and 230lbs. With a frame like that, you won’t be surprised that power is his calling card. He can hit the ball a mile when he make solid contact with his elite raw power. Fortunately, his others tools won’t drag him down, as he’s a good athlete for his size, has a strong arm and controls the bat reasonably well. As a pro, he’ll likely have to shorten his swing in order to make more contact but with his athleticism, that is a realistic possibility. Judge has the potential to be a pure masher in right field and while he hasn’t been projected to go in the first half of the first round very often, power is a tool that has the potential to play up on draft day. Should Smith, Crawford and Shipley all be off the board when the Diamondbacks’ pick rolls around, they could roll the dice on Judge.
These are four names you should be familiar with heading into the draft. With that said, there is so much room for error in this process that neither you or I should be surprised if the Diamondbacks go in a completely different direction when it’s their turn to pick. Look for an update as we approach draft day should any solid information about the team’s process and intentions surface.
FYI, the draft is admittedly not the most exciting this to watch (unless you are really into these kinds of things) but it will be broadcast on MLBNetwork on Thursday, June 6th at 4:00pm PST. You can also follow mlb.com’s draft tracker online that updates in real time to stay current with the draft.