2017 MLB Draft Grades: Arizona Diamondbacks
Best Pure Hitter: The Diamondbacks loved 1B Pavin Smith's (1) ability to handle the bat at Virginia, and took him with the seventh overall pick of the draft. He showed them what they expected in the short-season Northwest League, where he hit .318/.401/.415 with more walks (27) than strikeouts (24).
Best Power Hitter: Both 3B Drew Ellis (2) and C Daulton Varsho (2s) qualify. Ellis likely has more raw power than Varsho, but Varsho has gotten to his power more regularly thanks to a higher average and speed that allows him to hit for extra bases as well. He led the Northwest League with a .534 slugging percentage in his debut.
Fastest Runner: OF Tra'Mayne Holmes (11) is a 70 runner. He went 59-for-69 (85.5 percent) in stolen base attempts with Faulkner (Ala.) this spring. He'll need to make some adjustments at the pro level, but still went 12-for-17 (70.6 percent) in his pro debut.
Best Defensive Player: Scouts had some doubts about Ellis as an amateur, but he impressed the Diamondbacks after signing with plus hands, instincts and arm strength. Club officials say he's slowed the game down since signing, avoiding rushing on challenging plays.
Best Fastball: The biggest arm in Arizona's class is RHP Matt Brill (12), who has touched 99 regularly. The pitch is explosive out of a quick arm, and helped Brill strike out 25 batters in 20.1 relief innings in the short-season Northwest League. Other notable fastballs include RHP Matt Tabor (3), who touches 97, and RHP Brian Shaffer (6), whose low 90s fastball is a contact-oriented pitch but has the best life of the class.
Best Secondary Pitch:, Tabor is in the conversation here with a plus changeup, but RHP Harrison Francis (4) tops him with a changeup of his own that is a plus-plus offering according to the D-backs.
Best Pro Debut: Varsho showed more power than Smith to earn the nod while hitting .311/.368/.534, ranking fifth in the NWL in batting and first in slugging. Brill posted a 0.89 ERA for short-season Hillsboro.
Best Athlete: The Diamondbacks are excited about the overall toolset that Holmes offers, but he'll have to figure out some of the intricacies of the game before he's able to make the most of them. The speed is obvious and gives him a chance to be an impact defender in center.
Most Intriguing Background: Varsho is the son of former big leaguer Gary Varsho, who played for the Cubs, Pirates, Reds and Phillies over an eight-year career. Ellis starred in the 2008 Little League World Series, primarily as a pitcher. Unsigned RHP Cole Percival (31) will play at UC Riverside for his father, ex-big league reliever Troy Percival.
Tarik Skubal Adds Another Weapon
The 24-year-old lefthander spent time at Driveline Baseball, where he picked up a new pitch to round out his arsenal.
Closest To The Majors: Even though the Diamondbacks are set in the big leagues with Paul Goldschmidt at first, Smith has the offensive polish to make short work of the minor leagues.
Best Late Round Pick: The Diamondbacks were going to take C Dominic Miroglio (20) in the 2016 draft, but the Rays popped him in the 16th round. Fortunately for Arizona, he didn't sign, and the club was able to land him a year later. He hit .317/.384/.430 with 14 walks and eight strikeouts in his professional debut, though he was old for the Rookie-level Pioneer League. The Diamondbacks see him as a leader with plus defensive skills who can catch and throw (he caught 40 percent of basestealers in rookie ball) and potentially turn into an everyday player at a premium position.
The One Who Got Away: The Diamondbacks liked Seattle lefthander Tarik Skubal (29), but didn't have the cap room to keep him from returning to Seattle for his redshirt junior year as he bounces back from Tommy John surgery. Prior to his injury, Skubal had posted a 2.86 ERA in 126 innings for Seattle, with 118 strikeouts and 44 walks.