D-backs make pitching priority in Draft

June 6th, 2018

PHOENIX -- The D-backs used their first three picks in the 2018 Draft on position players, but a trend formed soon after.
Of the 40 players Arizona selected over three days, 23 were pitchers. It started on Tuesday when the club used seven of its eight selections on pitchers. It continued on Wednesday.
Draft Tracker: Every D-backs pick
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"We took a lot of pitching, just to try to get some guys that we felt like had some upside, and good scouting evaluation," said D-backs director of scouting Deric Ladnier. "A lot of guys, [we used] a combination of the analytics that we have in place now combined with our scouting reports."
It seems there was a clear organizational focus for drafting those pitchers, especially on the second day of the Draft. Of the seven arms the D-backs selected on Tuesday, six were righties.
In fact, Arizona didn't draft a lefty until the ninth round.
"These are all guys that have plus velocity, they have leverage, they have strength, they've got size, they've got the secondary pitches," Ladnier said.
Right-hander Jackson Goddard, the club's third-round pick, is listed at 6-foot-3 and has a fastball that sits 92-94 mph and has reached 97 mph.
"He's literally a throwback to that big, strong, physical guy that can maintain his velo through the whole outing," Kansas coach Ritch Price said. "I think that's one of the most interesting aspects of his game is how strong he is physically."
D-backs fourth-round selection Ryan Weiss, listed at 6-foot-4, has a 91-93 mph fastball and can reach 95 mph. The most intriguing part about him may be that he could just be getting started.
He's only been a full-time pitcher for three years. When he arrived at Wright State, he only threw 83-85 mph. He just started throwing a curveball last year and it has improved drastically, according to Jeff Mercer, his college coach.

"If you can project at all, how good is this dude going to be in three years?" Mercer said. "Good God almighty. That's the crazy part for me. Not to be dramatic, it's just the truth."
When the ninth round hit, the D-backs selected their first left-hander of the Draft in Tyler Holton of Florida State. He could be a steal.
D-backs lean right on Day 2 of Draft
Here's why: Holton was an All-American in 2017 as he led the Seminoles to the College World Series. But on opening day this season, he tore is ulnar collateral ligament and had season-ending Tommy John surgery shortly after.
Conventional thinking says this pick comes with a risk, but Ladnier said the D-backs vetted it thoroughly with their medical team.
"He's not going to be able to pitch until probably April of next year," Ladnier said. "We knew that going in. He's somebody we've seen for a long time and was a very, very good pitcher in the ACC. We feel like he's got upside as a starter and we felt fortunate to be able to get him in the ninth round."
The D-backs' 2018 Draft ensures that, in the future, they will have more options to consider for situations like this.
Pitching may have been a large focus of this Draft for the organization, but there were no arms selected on the first day for one reason.
"I just believe hitters fly off the board a lot faster than the pitchers do, and there's way more pitchers to draft than there are position players that you feel can actually hit," Ladnier said on Monday.
That's why, on Monday, the club nabbed the position players it wanted with its first three picks.

Arizona selected shortstop Matt McLain out of Beckman (Calif.) High School with the 25th overall pick. Though listed at 5-foot-10, McLain can hit for both average and power.
D-backs take shortstop, two OFs on Day 1
McLain, 18, is also versatile. He has the arm to play third base and has played in the outfield. The D-backs, who attended a few of McLain's high school practices, did a deep dive on him and want to continue playing him at short.
In 26 games for his school this past season, McLain slashed .369/.461/.595. He earned First-Team All-Pacific Coast League honors in each of his four years, and won conference Player of the Year in 2015 and 2018.
"First and foremost, the bat," Ladnier said when asked what they liked about McLain. "We felt like it was a very advanced high school bat. He has a short compact swing. He'll end up having some power. Everyone in our organization from top to bottom felt like this young man was going to hit."

The D-backs took a pair of outfielders with their next two picks. They selected the University of Virginia's Jake McCarthy with their selection in the Competitive Balance Round A (39th overall). Then they nabbed Alek Thomas, a high school player, in the second round (63rd overall).
McCarthy is a speedster who stole 27 bases in 29 attempts as a sophomore. The D-backs knew him from when they scouted Pavin Smith, their first-round pick last year.
"We saw him early and when he got back and he was almost in spring training mode, but this is a guy that we've known for a very long time and we've watched his career, and is a guy we targeted for a long time, we felt comfortable being able to take him where we did," Ladnier said.
Thomas' father is a strength and conditioning coach with the Chicago White Sox. Ladnier said the organization liked how he's grown up in a Major League environment.
Thomas runs well and has been compared to Boston's .
"He's a plus runner, he can play center field," Ladnier said of Thomas. "I do think he's going to come into some power, because he's very strong, he has a compact swing. Obviously skill-wise is going to be behind a Jake McCarthy, which I think is a good fit because one will be ahead of the other and they can push each other."