D-backs glad to grab Shipley with 15th pick
With ace potential, Nevada righty had been projected to go higher in Draft
PHOENIX -- As the early picks started being made Thursday night, D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery turned to special assistant Bob Gebhard with a question.
"Geez, do you think this guy is going to get to us?" Montgomery asked.
This guy was Braden Shipley, a right-handed junior at the University of Nevada, who had been projected to be gone by the time the D-backs pick at No. 15 rolled around.
When he was still on the board, the D-backs wasted little time nabbing him.
"We were pleasantly surprised he was still available at our pick," Montgomery said. "If you would have asked me in February or March if I thought he would be there at 15, I probably would have told you no. In that regard, I'm happy that we had the opportunity to select him."
With a fastball that touches 98 mph but generally sits about 92-94, Shipley could have the pure stuff of a No. 1 starter.
In addition, he also throws a changeup and curveball, with the change clearly ahead of the breaking ball at this stage.
"When I got picked, I was very excited," Shipley said. "There's no greater feeling than seeing your hard work pay off. I wasn't really expecting the Diamondbacks, but I'm super happy that they picked me."
The D-backs were looking to add athleticism to their system, and Shipley fits that mold.
The 21-year-old was mainly a shortstop as a freshman at Nevada, spending just 10 1/3 innings on the mound that year. Shipley played short well enough to be named second-team All-Western Athletic Conference.
Following that season, Shipley went into the coach's office and told him he thought he could best help out the team on the mound.
"I've always loved pitching, and I'm a guy that loves to compete and wants the ball," Shipley said. "So I just looked at him and said I need to be on the mound, and he agreed. So I just worked hard my sophomore year and continued that hard work into my junior year, and it paid off and I'm thrilled. The transition for me was very easy, because it was something I wanted to do. I had to put in the work and the time because I was coming off a year of not doing it very much."
Shipley went to the Alaska League last summer and was named its No. 1 prospect, which helped him shoot up the draft boards of teams.
Shipley was 7-3 with a 2.77 ERA with 102 strikeouts and 34 walks this past year for Nevada, and was named Mountain West Pitcher of the Year for the second straight season.
"The secondary stuff is probably where it's been the biggest [improvement]," Montgomery said. "His command and the ability to spin the breaking ball. I think it's just a matter of him harnessing the natural gifts that he has and making that transition during his college career from player to pitcher. I think he's still on that path, so there's a little ceiling to go, but all signs pointing to a good place."
Because he's only been pitching full time for a couple of years, the D-backs think that Shipley has more room for growth than most college pitchers who get drafted.
"I'm going to get stronger and hopefully the velocity gets higher and all three of my pitches become above-average pitches for me," Shipley said. "I feel like I have two pitches right now that are really above average and plus pitches, and that third, that curveball, is really coming along for me, so it shouldn't take long to where I have three plus pitches for me."
Montgomery said the plan would be for Shipley to pitch a little bit this year either in short season ball or at Class A South Bend.
The D-backs have a short-season team in Hillsborough, Ore., which would give Shipley a chance to make his professional debut close to his home in Medford.
"That would be pretty exciting," Shipley said. "I can't remember the last time I actually pitched a game in Oregon, so I think that would be fun and I know my family would enjoy it, because it would be a quick drive up to see me."
Day 2 of the Draft continues with Rounds 3-10, streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 9:30 a.m. MST. And Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 10 a.m.
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