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Blaze Alexander Helps Redeem D-backs' Draft

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The Diamondbacks viewed shortstop Blaze Alexander as their sort of surrogate first-round pick, and his performance in his pro debut made it easier to forget about Matt McLain.

Alexander slipped to the 11th round in this year’s draft, but Arizona managed to sign him for an over-slot bonus of $500,000. The 19-year-old proceeded to make the predraft concerns about his feel to hit seem overblown. He hit .329/.417/.538 in 55 games at two Rookie-level affiliates, compiling 28 extra-base hits and 10 stolen bases.

With McLain, a high school shortstop whom the D-backs drafted 25th overall, opting to attend UCLA rather than sign, the club came away feeling good about its draft haul, in no small part because of Alexander’s debut.

Alexander is best known for having a cannon for an arm—he had probably the strongest arm in the draft—but concerns about his ability to hit might have caused him to slip. Some scouts said there were questions about how often he swung and missed as a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.

Alexander said he might have been pressing, chasing too many offspeed pitches as he tried to hit for power and impress scouts. But he credited time spent with the D-backs' Rookie-level Arizona League hitting coach Jonny Gomes with helping him develop a foundation.

"The first couple of games I was out with a groin injury, so just sitting next to (Gomes) and taking his knowledge helped me to start out my career,” Alexander said. "I started hitting right away.”

While he said he uses where he was taken in the draft as motivation, he doesn’t hold it against teams or take it personal.

"A lot of question marks were the bat, so to come out here and put up the numbers I did was awesome,” he said. "Not to prove people wrong, but to prove myself right. I knew I was a hitter. That’s what I can do.”

He hit well enough to earn an in-season promotion to the Pioneer League.

Scouts who saw Alexander's debut came away impressed, with most seeing a projectable player with good athleticism and a feel to hit. Some wondered about his ultimate position, and comparisons ranged from Chris Taylor to J.J. Hardy.

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