Star college pitcher, first baseman round out Day 1 picks

July 18th, 2022

After taking a high-upside high school player in outfielder Druw Jones with their first-round pick, the D-backs nabbed a pair of college players with their final two picks on Day 1 of the 2022 MLB Draft on Sunday in Los Angeles.

Arizona selected right-hander Landon Sims out of Mississippi State University with its Competitive Balance Round A pick (34th overall) and then grabbed University of Texas first baseman Ivan Melendez in the second round (43rd overall).

The Draft will continue on Monday beginning at 11 a.m. MST, with Rounds 3-10, and it will conclude on Tuesday with Rounds 11-20.

Sims pitched in relief in his first two years, compiling a 1.44 ERA and 13 saves over 56 1/3 innings and helping the Bulldogs win the National Championship in 2021.

This past season, Sims transitioned to being a starter and had a 1.15 ERA over 15 innings before injuring his elbow and undergoing Tommy John surgery in March.

"He's a player that's had a ton of success in college and won a National Championship there at Mississippi State," D-backs scouting director Ian Rebhan said. "It's a big fastball that can miss bats and a plus slider. We think he has a chance to be a starter."

The first priority is getting Sims back healthy, but after that a key for him to transition to a starter is the development of a third pitch, his changeup, to go along with the dominant fastball-slider combination he features.

"I think he was doing it already at the beginning of this year," Rebhan said of Sims improving his changeup. “He's a really good striker thrower. He's a really good athlete and he's already got two plus pitches."

Melendez comes to the organization with a big bat and some impressive hardware.

The slugger slashed .387/.508/.863 last year for the Longhorns and captured the Golden Spikes Award, which is college baseball's version of the Heisman Trophy. Melendez also won the Dick Howser Trophy and he was named National Player of the Year by Baseball America, D1 Baseball, Collegiate Baseball, ABCA and Perfect Game.

Melendez, who has embraced the nickname "The Hispanic Titanic", led all NCAA Division I hitters with 32 homers and 94 RBIs last season. The home run total was the highest in Division I since 2003.

"He was the Golden Spikes winner this year in college baseball, hit 32 homers. Anytime you got a chance to add that type of right-handed power to your organization, I think it's super valuable," Rebhan said. "So [to get] a college performer like him super excited."

Melendez played first base at Texas, but Rebhan said the D-backs think he has the footwork and arm strength to possibly play third base.

"I've been dreaming about this ever since I was a little kid," Melendez said on MLB Network. "And you know, it's just a dream come true. I'm just speechless at this moment. I'm just very fortunate and blessed to be in this situation."