Three late round Arizona Diamondbacks draft picks to watch in 2024

The Diamondbacks have some intriuging former late round draft picks who will be interesting to watch during the 2024 minor league season.
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Zane Russell

Every so often, you’ll see a relief prospect fly through the minor leagues and make the bigs within a year. That happened last year with Phillies’ right-handed reliever Orion Kerkering. If the Diamondbacks have anyone who could do what Kerkering did, it would be Zane Russell. Russell was drafted in the 10th round of the 2023 draft. While he might have command issues, he definitely has the stuff to be a good reliever.

Russell tossed 79.1 innings out of Dallas Baptist’s bullpen throughout his college career, working to a strong 2.03 ERA and 1.28 WHIP. Russell struck out over 100 batters and had a K% of 32.1%. He was also great at limiting home runs with a 0.45 HR/9 rate. But walks gave him some issues as he had a 14.3% BB%.

The right-hander then went on to toss 17.2 more innings spread across the D-Backs’ Arizona Fall League, A-Ball, and High-A teams. In that short window, he only allowed two earned runs, struck out 27 batters, and didn’t allow a single home run. The most impressive part about this stretch is that he only handed out five free passes, leading to a solid 8.2% walk rate. His 44.3% K-rate was one of the best among 2023 draftees as well.

Russell throws his four-seamer in the mid-90s. But his change-up and breaking pitch are his swing-and-miss offerings. They generated a whiff rate of over 50%, according to Baseball America. The right-hander throws from an overhead arm slot. His delivery is quick but has a hitch to it. This could have been some of the cause of his control issues in college.

If the small sample size in 2023 wasn’t a complete fluke and Russell can cut his BB% down below 10%, he could become the D-Backs’ best relief pitching prospect. Russell debuted at High-A Hillsboro by the end of the year, so don’t completely rule out a late-season debut if he continues to make improvements.