Arizona’s first 3 picks of the 2018 draft focused on premium athletes with upside bats that play up the middle of the field. The next five picks were college arms. The 2018 draft was in some ways the inverse of the 2017 draft. That draft featured early picks on proven college bats followed by prep arms with upside. This was GM Mike Hazen’s second draft since taking over as the Diamondbacks GM after the 2016 season. The consensus of the 2017 draft was that it was very successful. While it’s way too early to judge the 2018 draft it can be said it does get the team more athletic, and and addresses some needs and positions not met in the 2017 draft.
1.25 Matt McLain, SS – Beckman HS, Irvine (CA)
A bit of a surprise to be taken this early, McLain was a late riser in prospect circles. Most sites had him in the mid 50s to low 60s in their pre-draft rankings, but the Dbacks were high on his bat and his make-up. He’s a solid if not spectacular defender, might move to 2B, but plays good defense. He remains unsigned as of this post, committed to UCLA, maybe the Dbacks drafted him higher to try to sign him under slot. His height and lower ceiling scream utility infielder to me. Of course you’ll see a few standard Dustin Pedroia comps out there with his profile…but for every 200 Dustin Pedroia-comped players, there are maybe a handful you hear about 18 months after they’re drafted.
#Diamondbacks pick Matt McLain (SS, Beckham HS (CA)). Here’s some video from the USA Baseball Tournament of Stars. #MLBDraft. Bat and speed are the carrying tools. Quick hands at SS, potential that he’ll slide to 2B. https://t.co/toLegLIW2I
— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) June 5, 2018
1s.39 Jake McCarthy, OF – University of Virginia
McCarthy battled injuries this past season, but has compiled a solid resume in the ACC, for USA Baseball, and on the Cape. He has the higher floor you’d expect from a successful college hitter, but there’s still some room for a high ceiling. His hit and potential power combination is intriguing, and he has plus speed. While his arm is the only big knock on him, he should be able to stick in CF. There was talk of being a first round selection had he not gotten hurt, and the Diamondbacks see room to unlock more potential out of his bat.
— MLB Draft Tracker (@MLBDraftTracker) June 5, 2018
2.63 Alek Thomas, OF – Mount Carmel HS, Chicago (ILL)
This is a pick I’m excited about. Thomas is the son of White Sox strength coach Allen Thomas. As you’d expect he’s an elite athlete, with a strong frame and plus speed. He grew up around the pro game and has a compact left handed swing, good bat speed and a smart approach at the plate. I could see him developing into a smart lead-off type hitter, with premium speed and defense, a good hit tool, and sneaky power. I’ll be targeting Thomas in fantasy drafts and probably won’t have to pay a premium to get him. Since I’m a fan I’ll point out he has only two strikeouts in his professional career in the Rookie Arizona League. 🙂
— The Welsh (@IsItTheWelsh) June 19, 2018
3.99 Jackson Goddard, RHP – University of Kansas
Goddard is a big right hander with a plus fastball and plus slider. There are some control issues due to inconsistencies in his mechanics that some big league coaching can hopefully correct. But when he’s on his game, there is a lot to like. Some injury concerns hurt his draft stock. He’s shown a penchant for pitching his best in big games. The Diamondbacks had some luck drafting a big right hander with injury concerns in the 3rd round in 2016 with Jon Duplantier. Maybe history repeats itself.
— Missoula Osprey (@ospreybaseball) June 5, 2018
4.129 Ryan Weiss, RHP – Wright State University
Weiss’s pre-draft rankings were all over the map. The Diamondbacks liked what they saw in his aggressive approach, and fastball. He started out as an unheralded walk-on at Wright State and turned into an ace. He profiles now as a 4th/5th starter type and will have to prove himself at every level. He’s done it so far, and will need to show that his stuff gets professional hitters out.
— Robert Frey (@RobertFrey40) June 5, 2018
5.159 Matt Mercer, RHP – University of Oregon
Mercer gets the most out his smaller frame to get premium velocity. There is some effort in his funky delivery but it leads to a plus fastball and plus changeup. His size and inconsistent delivery is the classic “inevitable move to the bullpen” profile, but he got hitters out as a starter in college and in the Cape Cod League. He’ll get every chance to prove he can start games if he stays healthy. I like his upside, he’s an arm to keep tabs on.
New @Dbacks RHP draft pick Matt Mercer faded a bit at the end of the @OregonBaseball season, but he was 93-96 when I saw him in May. Had an 82 SL and CH at 85 also, but issue wasn’t the stuff, was the location. https://t.co/1wKUNkYtqO
— Shotgun Spratling (@ShotgunSprD1) June 5, 2018
For the most part after the 5th round the Diamondback’s 2018 draft was pretty abysmal. A lot of money saving far under slot signings. Two signings of note however come from the IMG academy in 8th round RHP Levi Kelly and 11th round SS Blaze Anderson. Kelly was an LSU commit, and is a big kid with a big fastball and good slider. Anderson is a slick fielder with a rocket arm. Said by some to have the best arm in the entire draft including pitchers, he’s been clocked at 99 mph from SS. The bat has potential to develop, and he should be an exciting prospect going forward.
An intriguing draft, I think it’s a good compliment to the 2017 draft, we’ll see how this draft class fairs in the midseason top 50 update!
Featured image of Jackson Goddard – via Holland Hall Alumni on Twitter
Matt Hammerling covers the Arizona Diamondbacks prospects for Prospects1500. Hailing from Southeastern Wisconsin, he plays in 20-30 fantasy baseball leagues a year including multiple dynasty leagues. Besides fantasy baseball, he enjoys tailgating, growing his beard, getting into bands 8 years after they're cool, and hanging out with his dog Monk. Follow him on Twitter at @AZdbProspector.