D-Backs follow Upton with big arms
College pitchers rule the day after taking shortstop No. 1
PHOENIX -- The Diamondbacks took high school shortstop Justin Upton with their first-round pick Tuesday in the First-Year Player Draft, but spent the better part of the two days focused on the pitcher's mound.
Of Arizona's 52 picks -- 50 rounds and two sandwich selections -- 34 were used on pitchers, especially college pitchers.
"We felt this was a year for college arms and we took really good advantage of it," Arizona scouting director Mike Rizzo said. "We really did pound the college pitching board, as you can see. We feel like we've got a lot of big, physical college pitchers from good schools in good leagues that we think are going to be quick-moving, effective pitchers in the Major Leagues."
Thanks to the two picks they received for the loss of free agent Richie Sexson, the D-Backs had five of the first 83 picks.
"We felt that if there was a deficiency in our organization, it is pitching," Rizzo said. "And of course, you can never get too much pitching because of the breakdown factor, and you can never have too many good arms, and we felt because this was a college-pitching-heavy year, we felt that we would really attack the college pitching ranks."
The Diamondbacks drafted some polished college pitchers, but they also took a chance on some high-ceiling hurlers.
First, they chose Jason Neighborgall, a junior at Georgia Tech. The club almost drafted the 21-year-old out of high school. His fastball has touched 100 mph and he has a good slider. The problem is his control -- he has more career walks than innings pitched. But Rizzo said he could be the steal of the draft if Arizona is able to fix his mechanics and get him to throw strikes.
Along those same lines, the D-Backs nabbed Stanford right-hander Peter Duda in the 20th round. Duda has had control problems, but he's a big physical guy who throws hard and if the organization can help him find his control, he could prove to be a real find.
Arizona also took a flier on Mailse Rodriguez. The right-hander was the closer at one point for the Cuban National team and touched 100 mph on the radar gun. More recently, his fastball was clocked at 87, but the D-Backs felt he was worth taking in the 22nd round.
In the later rounds, the Diamondbacks focused on draft-and-follow players, hoping to find another Eddie Baeza -- a right-hander they took in the 47th round last year and who they were able to sign just before this year's draft after watching his fastball hit 95 mph this past year.
"That's kind of what you're looking for, some upsided guys that you can project," Rizzo said of the late-round picks. "And if they come fast like they're supposed to, then you make a run at them and try to sign them next year."
Here's a look at the players the Diamondbacks selected after Upton with Rizzo's thoughts on some of them:
31. Matthew Torra, RHP, Univesity of Massachusetts: "A big, physical right-handed pitcher. Reminds me of Matt Morris. Has a power fastball, downhill plane and he's got a plus-plus power curve. Very good pitchability. He's a Northern kid with a fresh arm and he's really on the rise."
49. Matthew Green, RHP, University of Louisiana-Monroe: "Big, physical, durable body. More of a sinker-slider guy. He's got plus-sink on his fastball and commands both sides of the plate. He's got a really good breaking pitch and a plus changeup. He's got a real good three-pitch mix to him. Heavy fastball-type guy like Brandon Webb."
81. Jason Neighborgall, RHP, Georgia Tech: "We've been high on him since high school. He's a big, physical right-hander. He's probably got the biggest arm in the draft and I say that comfortably. He hit 100 mph in the Cape [Cod summer league] last year. He's got a plus curveball. He needs to clean up his delivery and throw more strikes. He's not a strike thrower right now."
83. Micah Owings, RHP, Tulane University: "He's a tremendous athlete. He's a big-time two-way player at Tulane. Just going to focus on pitching here. He was their No. 3 hitter and Friday-night starter for the No. 1 team in the country. He's a big, physical presence, great athlete and he's got a great arm."
111. Mark Romanczuk, LHP, Stanford University: "A left-handed finesse pitcher. He's got a plus curveball and plus changeup. He reminds me a lot of [Michael] Gosling and a lot of those finesse lefties."
141. Christopher Rahl, RF, College of William & Mary: "Big tools college outfielder. Last year he hit 20 homers and had 46 stolen bases. This year hit 12 and 30. Big, powerful right-handed hitter that can really run and really throw. Also plays second base, too, so he's a versatile guy."
171. Gregory Smith, LHP, Louisiana State University: "A very polished left-handed pitcher. All SEC-type of pitcher. A really good breaking pitch and a good fastball."
201. Anthony Cupps, RHP, Ole Miss: "Another SEC pitcher. A big guy, 6-foot-4, 225 pounds. Fastball is 90-94 with a good breaking pitch, with a chance to be a middle-of-the-rotation starter."
231. Ryan Schreppel, LHP, Fullerton: "Another polished left-handed pitcher from a major school. He's got two good breaking pitches and really knows how to pitch. He's been a big winner."
261. Joshua Ford, C, Baylor: "He's an offensive catcher. Good catch-and-throw skills, but big power and an offensive guy."
291. Cody Evans, RHP, Long Beach State: "Another big, 6-foot-5, 200-pound college right-handed pitcher. Has a good arm, throws hard and has the chance to have three solid pitches."
321. Brett Jacobson, RHP, Cactus Shadows (AZ) High School: "A local guy that was the high school player of the year. Big, 6-foot-5 kid, great basketball here at Cactus Shadows. He's signed to go to Vanderbilt, but we're going to follow him during the summer and see what develops. His ability is through the roof."
351. Bryan Byrne, 1B, St. Mary's (CA) College: "He's a left-handed bat who can really, really hit. He played out of position this year at second base, but we've seen him play first base and we're going to move him immediately to first because we have a need there in the low minors. He's got a beautiful left-handed stroke."
381. Daniel Roberts, LHP, Chipola JC: "He's a projection left-handed pitcher. He throws 90-92 mph with a good curveball. Chipola is one of the really fine junior colleges in North Florida. He's a kid we foresee as a starter in the future."
411. Rusty Ryal, 3B, Oklahoma State: "He's a big, gritty third baseman who plays the game the right way. He plays hard and really gets after it. He gets his uniform dirty. He's a college player that's had a heck of a year for them."
441. Greg Thomson, OF, St. John's: "A 6-foot-1, 205-pound outfielder. He's a left-handed hitter out of St. John's that we liked."
471. Craig Pfautz, LHP, Darton College (GA): "One of our real good scouts, Howard McCullough, recommended him highly. He was a guy that we got down in the draft because he's from a small school and Howard did a nice job of finding him and staying on him. We think we have a real good pick there in the 16th round."
501. Jason Urquidez, RHP, Arizona State University: "He's a bulldog. He's a winner. He's beat everybody. He's beaten Stanford and all the big boys and he's not afraid on the mound. We like those guys that are good makeup guys and good character guys and we figure we'll take care of our own backyard and see what we got."
531. Jake Elder, C, University of Minnesota: "He's one of the finalists for the Johnny Bench Award. He's a left-handed bat we think can really, really hit with solid catch-and-throw skills coming from a major university."
561. Kyle Wright, RHP Lewis & Clark St. College:
591. Peter Duda, RHP Stanford: "He throws up to 96 mph. He was seldom used at Stanford because of lack of control, but he's a big physical guy."
621. Matthew Krohe, LHP Webber International Univ.:
651. Maels Rodriguez, RHP No School: "He was the closer on the Cuban Olympic team in 2000 and was up to 100 mph at that time. He defected to the U.S. and was forced to go through the draft. He had a 100 mph arm at one time."
681. Travis Tully, OF Univ. of Houston
711. Vincent Bongiovanni, RHP Univeristy of Miami: "He's a 6-5 right-hander, a Chicago kid that I've known for a long time. He's got a good arm and his pitchability is good."
741. David Williams, RF Rutgers Univ: "He's a big right fielder from Rutgers. He's a good bat-power guy. He runs pretty good and he's got some good tools and he's a big physical outfielder."
771. Brian Chavez, SS Col Canyons
801. Matthew Fowles, RHP Illinois St. Univ.
831. Norman Melendez, OF Southeastern CC
861. Trevor Pippin, 1B McIntosh HS
891. Reinaldo Alicano, OF Seminole CC
921. Craig Heyer, RHP Southern Nevada CC
951. Alvaro Garcia, RHP South Mountain CC: "He's a kid we've liked in the past and we're going to draft and follow him and see how he does at South Mountain next year.
981. Joseph Paxson, C Center Grove HS
1011. Kevin Hammons, LHP Clev. State CC
1041. Raymond Kruml, LF Indian Hills CC
1071. Jonathan Runnels, LHP San Jacinto Col. North
1101. Scott Mueller, RHP South Mountain CC
1131. Thomas Calahan, LHP Saddleback CC
1161. Dustin Renfrow, RHP Jefferson College
1190. Eric Lawrence, RHP Grand Rapids CC
1219. Cheyne Hann, RHP San Jose CC
1248. Forrest Beverly, LHP South Carolina
1277. Eric Butler, RHP Tusculum College
1306. Thomas Peabody, RHP Rancho Bernardo HS
1335. Drew Thomas, C Neville HS
1364. Brandon Thomson, LHP Chandler/Gilbert CC
1393. Houston Summers, C Northeast Guilford HS
1421. Aaron Gamboa, LHP No School
1448. Joseph Campbell, RHP Wabash Valley College
1475. Ritchie Franklin, SS Thompson HS
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.