A year later, D-backs’ 2011 draft looking good

PHOENIX — The knee-jerk way to gauge the quality of a draft is to look at the first-round picks, and there, the Diamondbacks’ 2011 draft shines. Trevor Bauer (No. 3 overall) and Archie Bradley (No. 7) have dominated where they have been planted this season, and Bauer seems nearly major league-ready.

Another way is to look at overall depth a draft supplies, and in that regard, the 2011 group also grades highly.

The D-backs were 30-10 in the extended spring training program that concluded last weekend, an indication of the talent that remained in camp after the four full-season minor teams were dispatched in early April.

Scouting director Ray Montgomery deflects the credit for his first draft class, but the early success is a solid indicator, director of player development Mike Bell said.

“That says a ton about last year’s draft. There are guys there right now that we would like to move (to a higher classification), that deserve to move, but the minor league system is pretty healthy right now. There are some pretty good players there.” Bell said.

The D-backs were the first team in major league history with two picks in the top seven when they chose Bauer and Bradley last year.

At the anniversary of the 2011 draft, there are several other players who have made an immediate impact without the attendant publicity. A glimpse at a couple of them:

ANDREW CHAFIN, LHP, SANDWICH ROUND

Chafin has shown dominant stuff at Class A Visalia at times in his second season removed from Tommy John surgery, which sidelined him for the 2010 college season at Kent State. Longtime talent evaluator Bob Gebhard, now a D-backs special assistant, was particularly pleased when Chafin’s name was called at No. 43 last year. Chafin is 3-2 with a 3.78 ERA in 12 starts, and the number that stands out is his 90 strikeouts in 69 innings, an average of 11.7 per nine innings. He has had some tough luck — he’s had no-decisions three times after allowing only one run and one time after allowing two. His fastball has been clocked at 94 mph, and he has shown a hard slider that has the action of a hard curve at times. His breaking ball is a swing-and-miss pitch, but at times he seems to use it too much. Chafin, 21, was on the tail end of his recovery from Tommy John last summer, so the D-backs did not push him. “He showed up ready to go this year,” Bell said. The D-backs also love his attitude on the mound. “He’s a tough, tough kid. He’s in attack mode all the time,” Bell said. “When his command is there, in that league, it is pretty overpowering.”

EVAN MARSHALL, RHP, FOURTH ROUND

Marshall has continued the success that enabled him to jump three levels after he signed last June, culminating when he recorded a save in Class AA Mobile’s Southern League title-clinching win last September. A setup man at Kansas State, Marshall has blossomed in the ninth-inning role utilizing a hard, heavy sinker that he throws in the low 90s. Some sinkerballers believe they get more sink when their velocity is a little lower, but Marshall’s sink is not affected by his  higher velocity. He also features a 12-to-6 curveball, and while mix is a little unusual in a closer, it works for him — he is 2-1 with a 2.11 ERA and 12 saves at Mobile, tied for the league lead in the latter category. He has limited left-handers to a .117 batting average in 21 games. “Each level he jumped last year, he never flinched. He wasn’t spooked. He wasn’t nervous. He just went out and stayed as confident as he was in Yakima and he was in college,” Bell said. “He was the same guy in Double-A pitching in the championship game as he was in rookie ball. You don’t see it that often.”

JON GRIFFIN, 1B, 21ST ROUND

Griffin is a big, strong first baseman who showed immense power in college. Remind you of anyone? The D-backs see a lot of Paul Goldschmit in Griffin, who is 6-foot-6 and 245 pounds, and it starts with the work ethic and the commitment to improve in other phases of his game. To say Griffin will be able accomplish what Goldschmidt has in his short career would be unfair, “but he’s got pop like that,” Bell said. “The makeup is similar.” Griffin is hitting .291 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs at Class A Visalia. He showed his prodigious power in a pinch-hit appearance in a D-backs spring training game, homering high up on the batter’s eye in center field, past the second ledge at Salt River Fields.

THE OTHERS

Among those in the 2011 draft class who showed well in extended spring training were high school outfielder Justin Bianco (third round), high school catcher Michael Perez (fifth round) and college outfielder Kerry Jenkins (38th round). Right-hander Cody Geyer (14th round) touched 98 mph with his fastball, although he pitches more comfortably in the mid-90s. Undrafted free agent Kaleb Fleck, signed in September, has touched 97 mph.

“We have a lot of big arms,” Bell said.