The Arizona Diamondbacks have the first pick in this year’s draft, but they sure don’t seem to excited about it. Scouting director Deric Ladnier went so far as to say ” …there’s not a guy you would say is special,” when referring to this year’s draft class.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then, that the word on the street is the team is looking to cut a deal with a player they would select first overall, and then use the money they save to spend later in the draft.
If this is the case, then count out top projected picks like Dillon Tate, Brendan Rodgers and Dansby Swanson, each of whom will likely warrant the full portion of their allotted slot bonus.
So who could Arizona select first overall in this scenario? We have a few names.
Newman, who is hitting .367 this season for the Wildcats, is widely regarded as one of the best pure hitters in this draft class, and he’s seen his name rocket up draft boards the past month and a half. The closer we get to draft day, the more likely it seems that he’ll go inside the top-15. Not bad, considering Newman isn’t rated as one of the top-ten defensive shortstops in this class. Furthermore, he offers absolutely no power whatsoever, making him a true one-trick pony. Make no mistake though, the Diamondbacks could certainly get Newman to shave a healthy portion off of his allotted bonus as the number one pick.
Whitley seems like an odd choice, considering he’s been widely considered a late first-round talent, but he too has been rocketing up draft boards. Baseball Prospectus even slotted him to the Diamondbacks with the first overall pick in their most recent mock draft. The D-Backs haven’t been shy about their love for the toolsy outfielder, sending scouts to watch the majority of his recent outings. His ceiling doesn’t seem as high as some of the other names being bandied about, but Whitley is plenty talented. He has great speed and covers a lot of ground in the outfield. He projects as an above-average defender and he should be able to man centerfield long term. At the plate, he offers more power than the ability to hit for average.
Tucker’s older brother Preston is a rising star in the Houston organization, but all indications are that Kyle will be the superior prospect. For starters, the younger Tucker offers much more defensive value. Despite checking in at 6-4 and 175 pounds and with plenty of room to grow, Tucker profiles as a slightly-above-average defender in the outfield. He’ll likely move to a corner spot, but his bat will profile just fine there. He should be able to hit for average and power, with the latter tool a really exciting part of his game. Some of his batting practice shots have become the thing of legend.
We’ve been high on Harris for a while, and it seems that everyone else is finally catching on. Tabbed as a player to watch before the season, Harris now figures to slot somewhere in the 5-10 range, with an outside shot at going first overall to Arizona. Through 12 starts in 2015, he’s 6-1 with a 2.08 ERA. He’s racked up 99 strikeouts in just 82.1 innings. At 6-4, 185 pounds, Harris has good size and he offers four solid pitches, including a fastball that sits in the 90-95 mph range. His curveball and changeup have both flashed plus and he’s mixed in a slider this year as well. Harris has had his struggled with command this year, but he’s shown the kind of consistency you want out of a guy projected to go this high.
Kaprielian is another college arm that would naturally slot behind guys like Tate, Funkhouser, Fulmer, Buehler and Harris. He’s a solid prospect though, with a ceiling as a #2 starter. He has great size (6-4, 200) and a low-to-mid-90s fastball. He complements his fastball with a slider and changeup, both of which have flashed plus. Kaprielian has been incredibly consistent during his three years at UCLA, and he’s never finished with an ERA higher than 2.29. Through 13 starts this season, he’s 9-4 with a 2.15 ERA and 94 strikeouts in 83.2 innings.