Diamondbacks weighing options for top pick in draft
PHOENIX (AP) The Arizona Diamondbacks have the first pick in the draft after finishing with baseball's worst record last season.
As the clock winds toward the start of Monday's draft, they're still trying to figure out which player to take.
In a draft that has some talent up top, but bereft of a sure-fire No. 1, it's not an easy decision.
''It's not the prototypical draft where you're picking 1-and-1 and there's an anointed one, so to speak,'' Diamondbacks director of scouting Deric Ladnier said. ''But I do think that the players at the top are very desirable players that can help our organization.''
The Diamondbacks last had the No. 1 pick in 2005. They used it to take high school shortstop Justin Upton, who went on to become an All-Star outfielder in the desert before being traded to Atlanta in 2013.
The top end of the 40-round draft is filled with talented players who will likely have a long-term impact on the team that drafts them, but no consensus No. 1 like Bryce Harper, Alex Rodriguez or Ken Griffey Jr.
That leaves the Diamondbacks will a lot of options and what figures to be plenty of debate - before and after the draft.
Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson appears to be the front-runner for the No. 1 pick. He plays a premium position and is a strong hitter, finishing with a .348 average, 14 homers and 61 RBIs as a junior.
But two other shortstops could be worth a look at No. 1: Brendan Rodgers, a high school shortstop from Lake Mary, Florida, and LSU's Alex Bregman.
If the Diamondbacks want an arm instead, they could go with Vanderbilt right-hander Carson Fulmer, UC Santa Barbara righty Dillon Tate or Illinois left-hander Tyler Jay.
They could go a completely different route, too, and take Tyler Stephenson, a high school catcher out of Kennesaw, Georgia.
Arizona started with a list of five players, whittled it to three and will likely have some deep discussions Monday morning before finally making their selection.
''I don't think there's ever a situation where everyone is always going to agree philosophically, but I think everyone will agree at the end that we're taking the best player for the organization,'' Ladnier said.
Though signability is not a top priority for the Diamondbacks - they want to get the best player that fits their organization - it does have to be a consideration, particularly after what happened with the Houston Astros last year.
They had the top pick for a record third-straight year and used it on Brady Aiken, a San Diego high school left-hander. Houston reportedly offered Aiken a hefty signing bonus, but lowered the offer when concerns about a ligament arose. The two sides never could come to an agreement.
Aiken went on to have Tommy John surgery and the Astros were given a compensatory pick in this year's draft, second overall to go with the No. 5 pick.
''We looked at our internal processes and figured out where there might be opportunities to tighten things up, (but) there are some things that are inevitable that you can't really control,'' Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow said. ''But as much as the things we could control we've taken a look at it and we feel better. You can't prevent things from happening that are outside your control.''
Whether a player will sign is not the only consideration. Teams with the No. 1 overall pick also have to consider whether the player they want can handle the spotlight of being the first player taken.
Players such as Harper and Stephen Strasburg were able to handle. Because of injuries and/or off-field issues, players such as Matt Bush in 2004, Brien Taylor in 1991 and Steve Chilcott in 1966 - the only No. 1 picks to never play in the majors - never lived up to the billing.
''There's debate of who can handle being No. 1 in the draft; unfortunately, that's a debate that goes into it,'' Ladnier said. ''I'm not saying we're going to sacrifice ability for that, but there's a lot of pressure put on that individual to go out and perform as the No. 1 pick in the draft. But I think the players we are considering with the No. 1 pick, all of them can handle that.''
AP Sports Writer Kristie Rieken in Houston contributed to this report.
This story has been corrected to show that Matt Bush was drafted in 2004, and adds Steve Chilcott to the names of No. 1 picks to never make it to the majors.