Baseball in AZ: Five Things to Know Before The 2015 MLB Draft

In some years, there would be great fanfare over the fact that the Diamondbacks have the number one overall pick in the upcoming Major League Baseball Draft. Imagine if a Bryce Harper were among the potential draftees this year. But alas, there are no “can’t miss” guys like Harper or Stephen Strasburg (pre-injury) or A-Rod (pre-roids) or Daryl Strawberry (pre-drugs) or Ken Griffey Jr. Nevertheless, there are some interesting notes that could add to the interest in and excitement of this year’s draft.

ALL STARS– The First-Year Player Draft (which is also referred to as the Rule 4 Draft), began in 1965. Since then, 19 of those picked number one overall have eventually made it to the All-Star game at some time during their careers. Statistically, that gives the D-Backs about a 40% chance of picking a future all-star when they name their pick on June 8, 2015. As a side note, not one of the first overall picks have made it yet to the Hall of Fame but that will change in 2016 when Ken Griffey Jr will certainly be a first-ballot inductee. Chipper Jones will likely be next in line in 2018.

BRING ON THE SHORTSTOP– All indications are that the D-Backs will select a shortstop with the top pick. The question is which one? Some predict that it will be Dansby Swanson of Vanderbilt University. Vandy is becoming a prospect factory and this year is no different. Swanson was the Most Outstanding Player in last year’s College World Series and has put up great umbers this season for the Commodores. He has some speed and line drive power and could be a stalwart up the middle for the D-Backs for years to come. Others favor Brendan Rodgers out of Lake Mary High School in Florida. He has a cannon of an arm and is a more natural shortstop than Swanson. Like Swanson, he has line-drive power and some pretty good speed. A third option is LSU standout Alex Bregman. Of the three, he is likely the best natural hitter and has excellent base stealing abilities (tallying 32 thus far this season). Some have compared him favorably with former Sun Devil, Dustin Pedroia.

FIRST OVERALL PICKS WHO PLAYED IN PHOENIX– The only other time the D-Backs had the number one overall pick (2005), they chose Justin Upton. Not a bad selection, eh? But other number one overall picks played here as well. On opening day of the inaugural season for the D-Backs, the starting pitcher was Andy Benes. In 1988, he was drafted with the first overall pick by the San Diego Padres. Also, former pitcher Kris Benson was selected number one in 1996 by the Pirates and had a brief tenure with the D-Backs in 2010 before he reinjured his shoulder and later retired.

ASU PROMINENCE– Other than ASU, no college has had more than one player picked at the overall #1 spot in the draft. The Sun Devils have tallied three: Rick Monday (1965), a centerfielder through most of his career who played most effectively for the Cubs and Dodgers; Floyd Bannister (1976), a left handed pitcher for whom the “buzz” exceeded the production but still had a serviceable 15 year career; and Bob Horner (1978), a monstrous homerun hitter who starred for the Atlanta Braves and tallied 218 homeruns over a ten year career. While Horner was in college playing against the U of A, he hit one of the longest homeruns I ever witnessed in person. As for this year’s draft, there are no “can’t-miss” stars from ASU. The most likely top prospect from this year’s class is Ryan Burr, who has had success as a reliever for the Devils but is not predicted to have his name called at least until late second or early third round.

WILDCAT PROSPECTS– For the fans of the Cats, there are two names that will be called early in the draft. First, expect to hear the name Kevin Newman sometime during the middle of the first round. He has been the starting shortstop for the Cats but is projected more as a second baseman when he plays in the big leagues. Newman can hit and is the first player ever to win consecutive batting titles in the famed Cape Cod summer leagues when he did so in 2013 and again last year. By the middle of the second round, it is likely that fellow Cat Scott Kingery will hear his name called. He has played second base for the Cats but can also be seen as a possible centerfielder for the team that selects him. He has good speed and is known for his hustle, grit and baseball IQ.

Tune in to the MLB Network on June 8-10, 2015 for this year’s draft.