PHOENIX — True to form, the Diamondbacks continued stocking their system with athletes on the second day of the MLB First-Year Player Draft, adding eight players from both the high school and college ranks.
“Today, we continued to target position-specific athletic players, and I think we definitely accomplished that,” D-backs scouting directory Ray Montgomery said.
The D-backs nabbed ultra-athletic pitchers Braden Shipley (RHP, Nevada) and Aaron Blair (RHP, Marshall) on the first day of the draft, along with power-hitting high school outfielder Justin Williams. They went for power and athleticism again with their third-round pick, taking Georgia Tech first baseman Daniel Palka.
Palka, a 6-foot-3, 225-pound lefty, hit .342 with 13 doubles and 17 home runs last season on his way to first-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors. His athleticism is evident in his positional versatility over the past three years. Palka has played first base and outfield and also pitched in relief.
Scouting reports say he could project as a corner outfielder — in fact, he was rated by Baseball America as the ninth-best college outfielder in this year’s draft class — but the Diamondbacks see him as a first baseman despite having Paul Goldschmidt entrenched at the position in the majors.
The D-backs took another outfielder in the fourth round, selecting Riverdale Baptist (Md.) High School prospect Matt McPhearson, a Miami (Fla.) recruit ranked by Baseball America as the No. 13 center fielder in the draft.
Scouting reports say McPhearson has game-changing speed and the athletic build to make up for his size — he’s 5-foot-8 and 164 pounds. He’s also said to have impressive bat speed but isn’t likely to be much of a power hitter.
“He might be the fastest guy in the draft,” Montgomery said of McPhearson. “If he’s not the fastest guy, he’s one of them.”
The D-backs went local in the in fifth round, taking Chandler Basha shortstop Jamie Westbrook, who was committed to Pepperdine but is expected to sign a contract.
“I think everything will be good there,” Montgomery said of signing Westbrook. “I don’t envision there being too many problems with that.”
Westbrook is small at 5-foot-9 and 170 pounds, but scouting reports say
he has enough bat speed to hit for average power. He projects as a
second baseman in the majors.
All in all, the D-backs have selected one catcher, two infielders, three outfielders, four right-handed pitchers and one left-handed pitcher. Seven of the D-backs’ first 11 picks have come from the college ranks, including one from junior college.
“We worked to bring in good-character guys and players we know will take their work seriously,” Montgomery said. “We were able to select a mix of high school players who are ready to start their careers and college players who are ready for the next level.”