Image credit: Alek Thomas (Photo by Bill Mitchell)
BEST PURE HITTER: Arizona targeted several high-level hit tools early in the draft, but OF Alek Thomas (2) is a potential plus hitter with excellent bat speed. He has a knack for making in-game adjustments and has plenty of history squaring up some of the top pitchers in the 2018 draft class. He crushed his first stint of pro ball, hitting .325/.394/.431 in 28 games in the Arizona League and then got promoted to the Pioneer League for 28 more games and improved to .341/.396/.496.
BEST POWER HITTER: 1B Zack Shannon (15) led all Division II hitters in home runs as a senior at Delta State (Miss.) and continued his long ball barrage with a wood bat this summer, hitting 14 homers in 54 games in the Pioneer League. He managed a .354/.439/.677 line with 17 doubles and was third in the league in slugging.
FASTEST RUNNER: Thomas was one of the safer bets among the 2018 prep class to stay in center field, in large part because of his running ability. He’s a plus runner who gets out of the box well and knows how to utilize his legs on the bases and in the outfield. He stole 12 bags in 17 attempts (70.6 percent) between two leagues this year.
BEST DEFENSIVE PLAYER: OF Jake McCarthy (1s) handled center field well in his three years at Virginia and most scouts believe he’ll be a fine defender at the position moving forward. He spent most of his time there in the Northwest League, but also got innings in both left and right field. McCarthy is an above-average runner and has solid defensive instincts and route-running ability.
BEST FASTBALL: RHP Matt Mercer (5) is a Driveline Baseball protege and built up his velocity over his career with Oregon, touching as high as 98 mph this spring, though he more routinely sits in the low to mid-90s, with a violent, high-effort delivery. He started all 13 of his games in the Arizona and Northwest Leagues with a 3.10 ERA and a 5.43 K/BB ratio.
BEST SECONDARY PITCH: LHP Tyler Holton (9) threw just 4.2 innings this year after tearing his UCL in his first game with Florida State and undergoing Tommy John surgery. A plus changeup is the best pitch in a repertoire that also includes a well below-average fastball, and he has excellent control of that and his other secondary offerings.
BEST PRO DEBUT: The Diamondbacks popped SS Blaze Alexander (11), signed him for $500,000 and watched as he went out and hit .329/.417/.538 in the Arizona and Pioneer Leagues with five home runs, five triples and 19 doubles. Known primarily for his defensive ability and 70-grade arm, Alexander always possessed bat speed, though amateur scouts did wonder how much offensive value he would provide in the pro game. He’s off to a strong start.
BEST ATHLETE: Thomas is a solid candidate for this category and was a talented football player in high school as well, though McCarthy’s athleticism is also apparent in the field, on the bases and in the batter’s box, where the lefthanded hitter has a repeatable swing and impressive body control.
MOST INTRIGUING BACKGROUND: C Nick Dalesandro (10) is the son of Mark Dalesandro, who had a five year major league career as a catcher and third baseman with the Angels, Blue Jays and White Sox. The younger Dalesandro is an athletic backstop with a well above-average arm who has pitched some in the past as well. He hit .304/.380/.373 playing mostly in the Pioneer League this summer.
CLOSEST TO THE MAJORS: McCarthy put together one of the most complete collegiate resumes in the 2018 class, hitting .337/.423/.476 in parts of three seasons in the ACC as well as a strong track record in the Cape Cod League with a wood bat in 2017—with solid strikeout-to-walk numbers as well. After starting his pro career with a .288/.375/.443 line in Rookie Ball and low Class A, McCarthy is a good bet to move quickly through the system thanks to an advanced hit tool, college pedigree and defensive value in the middle of the outfield.
BEST LATE-ROUND PICK: It’s tough to go with anyone other than Alexander, who could have easily been a Day One pick after ranking No. 85 on the BA 500 with elite defensive potential and an intriguing bat as well. Given the start to his career, the Diamondbacks can feel a little bit better about missing out on…
The One Who Got Away: SS Matt McLain (1), who popped up during the spring in a down year in Southern California, impressed enough with his bat and ability to handle shortstop that the Diamondbacks took him with their first overall pick. However, McLain and Arizona couldn’t agree on a deal and the undersized middle infielder will head to UCLA.