The MLB Draft has finally come and gone with the Diamondbacks adding some elite talent and some not so elite talent to their farm in the draft. The Diamondbacks held five selections in the shortened draft this year with their first selection being at #18 overall. They did not have a second-round pick as they signed Madison Bumgarner in the offseason but they had an extra selection in the competitive balance round A along with a pick in each of the other rounds. In this article we will go over every player the Padres selected and I’ll give my thoughts on all of the picks. This will not include overall team or pick grades or say if these are good picks as I can not see the future, I’m just evaluating who the players they got are as prospects and what their upside might be.
1.18 RHP Bryce Jarvis, Duke
22 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: R – 6’2″ 195lbs – ETA: 2021
Bryce Jarvis was the Diamondbacks’ first selection in this year’s draft and is one of the most interesting players in the draft. He was having a truly incredible season before it’s premature ending in the wake of the pandemic. In four starts he threw 27 innings where he posted a 0.67 ERA and a 1.39 FIP. Had the season played out in full and his stuff held up over a full season, then Jarvis would have likely been a top 10 pick and I’m not ruling out the possibility that he could have gone #2 overall to the Orioles with a strong season. Alas, that never happened so he fell to the Diamondbacks at #18 who gladly snatched him up.
Bryce Jarvis prior to this season had a terrible fastball that would sit 86-91 MPH and did not miss any bats. After an offseason of work at Driveline, his fastball now sits 93-96 MPH and misses a lot of bats. His horizontal movement on the pitch is elite as he’ll ride it hard to the armside and he is capable of throwing it with both rising action or sink. He can elevate the pitch with carry at the top of the strike zone when he needs whiffs and he can throw it with sink down at the bottom when he’s fishing for groundballs. The spin rate on the pitch is entirely average and it holds it back from likely winding up as a plus pitch but he utilizes his spin extremely well and the movement profile is elite. There are some questions on how his velocity will hold up over a full season’s workload as last year his stuff tailed off late in the season and he’s only shown the improved velocity for a few months but even if the velocity does wind up regressing the movement, deception, and command of the pitch should lead to it playing as an above-average offering.
The changeup is in my opinion, the best one in the draft and one of four changeups in the entire minors that earn double plus grades from me. The pitch is one of the ultra-rare changeups that has a higher spin rate than the fastball, and as such, it fools the batters senses in spite of the 10 MPH of velo separation between the two pitches as the high spin relatively makes it look faster than it is, and at times even faster than the fastball. His changeup has monster fading action to the armside and good sink as well. It’s a bugs-bunny esque movement profile. The pitch looks completely identical to the sinker variant of his fastball out of his hand with nearly identical arm speed, release point, and movement profiles for most of the balls flight path before the changeup doubles the already elite horizontal movement of the heater. High spin changeups tend to get hit harder when contact is made against them but his ability to pronate instead leads to more weak contact than hard-hit balls. He can use the changeup against hitters of both handednesses to great effect and it’s a big-league ready out-pitch right now.
Well, his changeup has always been above average, a large part of what’s propelled Jarvis’s breakout season has been the development of the slider into a true plus pitch. The slider is primarily a vertically oriented breaking ball with a low spin efficiency that results in a drastic drop but he can hook it to his gloveside as well. The pitch recorded a whiff rate of over 50% last year after he made some adjustments to the spin axis of the pitch. The spin rate is above average as well and he throws the pitch in the mid to upper eighties. His spin efficiency can be a bit inconsistent on the pitch and he does hang them more frequently then you’d like. Those things probably what holds it back from being truly elite yet but he can throw the pitch for a strike and has the feel to manipulate a pitch with an elite movement profile. That will absolutely play as a plus pitch at the games highest level.
His curveball is probably his worst pitch but it’s still above average if only due to his command but also the movement profile on the pitch is promising. The spin rate is only around 2400 RPMs on average and his spin efficiency generally tends to be a bit low but his spin axis leads to incredible vertical breaking action all the same and there is some sweeping action as well. The pitch is lacking is thrown in the 79-83 MPH range and the hard curve often blends into a slider. He also has a slightly higher release point on the curve than his other pitches which can make it readable out of the hand, especially to left-handed bats. Although that hardly matters with how devastating the changeup is against lefties. He’ll dot the corners with the pitch and the command really plays. He’s one of the players I think could thrive most with electronic strike zones calling breaking balls that clip the edge of the plate as strikes. I think if he were to improve his spin efficiency than he could get this up to a plus pitch but right now I’ll remain cautious and only grade it as above-average.
Bryce Jarvis might have my favorite mechanics in this entire draft. His body just moves so well. Sure he has some recoil and “effort” in his motion by conventional judging of mechanics but this is the year 2020, not 2000 and he does everything a pitcher should in the year 2020. His stride is long coming from a high leg kick and his arm action mirrors the movement of his foot so as he lands the lead leg, his body is already in position for the next phase of his delivery so he wastes none of the kinetic energy he’s already generated. He opens his pelvis earlier than most pitchers do and coils back with his torso creating good hip, torso separation that lets him generate the maximum force from his upper body. Old fashioned scouts call that kind of torso twist bad and recoil which creates relief risk but as we learn more about how pitching truly works we find that the recoil isn’t typically the issue but the ability to stop the motion on release so you don’t overthrow is what most guys with extreme torso movement tend to do that really leads to command issues. Jarvis does an incredible job stopping his movement and thus expanding less effort which in turn leads to him being able to pitch deeper into games and higher inning counts. Despite how it might visually appear in high-speed video, when you put him in slow motion, his delivery is incredibly synchronized and he checks just about all of the boxes you want him to.
Some people might question just how high Bryce Jarvis’s upside is as he’ll already be 23 at the start of the next season as a redshirt Junior and his frame leaves little room to project growth. It’s a fair question to be sure, to refer to his age but until he enters a decline phase, his advanced age is not enough of a reason to think he is worse than the stuff would suggest. Upside is not just body projection in today’s game but the ability to develop what you already have and Jarvis has already shown that he can do that and by tinkering with his spin efficiencies, Jarvis can do even more potentially. His mechanics are very crisp and clean and his feel for command makes it very possible he could wind up as a bonafide #1 starter at the top of the rotation with electronic strike zones but I do think the more likely outcome is probably that he winds up as a #2/3 type starter which at pick #18 is still a great value.
1.33 RHP Slade Cecconi, Miami
20 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – 6’4″ 219lbs – ETA: 2023
With their second pick of the draft, in Competitive Balance Round A, the Diamondbacks selected Slade Cecconi, a draft-eligible sophomore out of Miami. Slade is universally ranked higher than the spot he was selected at on all the major publications Draft Boards along with mine so presuming his price isn’t unreasonable this is solid value for the pick according to just about everyone. Slade has significant upside but his lack of consistency and repertoire depth has created relief question marks.
Slade Cecconi’s mechanics are both very raw and very advanced in some ways. He starts off really well with a long stride and keeps his body in line but once the lead leg lands, things quickly start going downhill. His arm is in a perfect position when the lead leg lands but he continues to stretch his arm back as his hips began to turn, his front arm folds down, and he doesn’t arch his back enough to keep his torso attached to his hips by even a thread, so just about all the kinetic energy generated by his hips is wasted. His arm action is very long and once it is complete and he’s ready to throw, his hips are already completely open and the torso is already starting to uncoil. This means that instead of throwing around his spin like you are supposed to do, he throws from a slightly flexed elbow position which leads to more wasted kinetic energy. He has struggles stopping and his arm kind of flops after release. His open front struggles to block his flailing drive leg and it leaves him off balance which skews his command. There are two easy ways that don’t work together to clean up a lot of his issues as his entire delivery is seemingly tied to the terrible arm actions. The first and more obvious solution is to drastically shorten his arm action in the back which is easier said than done. Alternatively, I could see how extending his front arm fully and delaying the retraction to delay his hips opening and keep both sides in sync could be helpful- albeit less so. Equal and opposite is an outdated mechanical concept but for him, it could still be a relevant one. He does quite a few things well, he’s just a few steps off from engineering a much more effective kinetic chain. Neither of those ideas is extremely complex things to fix so there is a real chance he makes one of those adjustments and taps into his very considerable upside.
His fastball is his premier pitch and one of the highest upside fastballs in the entire draft. If he were to completely clean up his mechanics then I honestly think he could average 97 MPH instead of topping out there. Right now he sits 92-95 MPH and his frame is lacking in projection but his mechanics as I already mentioned are not at all lacking in upside. He threw the highest spin fastball of all draft-eligible college pitchers in the truncated 2020 campaign as he topped out at 2871 RPMs and his average of over 2500 RPMs is no slouch either. He gets great rising action at the top of the zone on the pitch and will miss bats consistently. His horizontal movement is inconsistent and at times non-existent but vertical movement is more important anyways. If his velo jumps like I expect that it will with pro coaching then this could be a double-plus pitch but for now, I’ll err on the side of caution and leave it a tick lower.
Slade’s slider is another plus pitch and once again one of the better pitches in the draft. He gets great topspin on it that leads to a hard drop out of the bottom of the strike zone with some sweep to his glove side. He does a good job throwing the pitch in the strike zone although he doesn’t dot the edges, just get’s it in there. The horizontal movement on the pitch is a bit inconsistent but the drop is so deadly and will get lots of whiffs over the top of the pitch. Like with the fastball and his mechanics, consistency is a major issue that holds him back from being a complete monster. He will hang the pitch and the amount of sweep is highly variable. Still, a mid-eighties slider with his vertical movement is an attractive package.
Slade Cecconi also throws a changeup that will flash plus with insane horizontal movement to the armside and some good sinking action. The pitch is extremely inconsistent due in parts to his mechanics and tendency to overthrow, causing the pitch to get firm and play as a slower fastball. He’ll also slow his arm speed on the pitch at times which leads to it being noticeably recognizable out of the hand. There is upside here but very raw. Cutter is much the same way, as it too will flash plus upside, coming out of the same tunnel as the slider but a few ticks quicker and much more horizontally oriented. He can miss some bats with the cutter but not with the consistency I’d need to see to put the pitch as above average.
I do have concerns about if he can make his mechanics work over a full season or if a relief fit makes more sense for him so he can not have to try to repeat his complex mechanics over a large workload. Yet at the same time, his frame is that of a workhorse starter who can give you two-hundred innings every season so perhaps I’m underestimating the stamina and his durability. If he moves to the bullpen, I have no doubt that the fastball/slider combo would play in a big way but there’s a real chance he can start. He just needs a third good pitch and/or much cleaner mechanics. There is a real scenario where Slade Cecconi winds up the best pitcher in the class at the end of the day, and it’s not all that unlikely of one. Slade is a top 20 player in the draft from my evaluations and another good value pick here by the Diamondbacks at the tail end of round one.
3.90 LHP Liam Norris, Green Hope High School
18 Years Old – Bat: L – Throw: L – 6’4″ 215lbs – ETA: 2026
The Diamondbacks snagged Liam Norris is the third round and I’m not entirely certain there is a bigger boom or bust prospect that was drafted at all this year. His stuff is certainly first-round caliber but his command is a 20 right now and with his mechanics, it’s hard to see it even getting to a 35, let alone average. He is a massive project but one that could potentially have a huge reward.
Liam Norris has some very unorthodox mechanics. His stride is possibly the shortest I’ve ever seen as he only steps forward a foot or so. He then arches his back and points his glove skyward like he’s Fernando Rodney pretending to shoot an arrow into the night’s sky, except this unlike with Rodney is actually part of his windup and not a celebration. From there, things somehow manage to actually get worse as his arm action is excessively long and his torso is uncoiling while he stretches back. His shoulder continues to range back and he winds up with his elbow behind his neck. He throws from an over the top arm slot that results in massive stress on his shoulder which is the primary proponent of the velocity of his throws as his torso and hips have both ceased their movement by that time with most of their kinetic energy being wasted on nothing. After release, he literally hops on one foot. His body moves on three separate rotation planes during his delivery and as such it causes an absurd amount of issues repeating his release points. Unlike Slade Cecconi he is not one tweak away from having respectable command but a dozen. You might need to completely overhaul his mechanics for him to approach average command. Alternatively, you could see if pitching exclusively from the stretch would alleviate most of his problems as it would be fewer steps for him to repeat. His athleticism is good so there’s a chance at something but the delivery needs lots of tweaks.
After describing how complex his delivery is, it should come as no surprise that his fastball velocity is extremely inconsistent. In some starts, he’ll top out at 89 MPH and other he’ll top out at 97 MPH. This year in the shortened season he was supposedly sitting 92-96 MPH with some regularity but I don’t have the resources to assess why that was or if the gains are likely to hold up over a full workload. Regardless of where the velocity is sitting, the pitch has a serious amount of upside. His heater has very promising traits with great vertical movement on the pitch and a vertically oriented approach angel. He gets decent armside run on the pitch as well. He’ll miss bats at the top of the zone, even with the slower version and when the velocity is present then he’ll miss a lot of them. The upside he has is that of a plus or better pitch without even factoring in his lean projectable frame but command, extension, and velocity inconsistency hold him back considerably.
His slider outside of the massively sliding velocity scale is actually pretty consistent. He gets really good two-plane break on the pitch but it’s primarily a horizontally oriented pitch. He gets it out to his gloveside somewhat consistently and will show some vertical action as well on his good days. It’s more of a fringy plus then one that flashes double plus but even if all of his pitches have plus upside, it’s probably the most likely pitch to reach that threshold. He’ll miss bats at a good clip with it and it’s set up really well by his fastball when it’s actually good.
His curveball flashes plus and even double plus shape but is wildly inconsistent. He’ll show great depth on the pitch with massive drop and a shade of glove side movement at times that misses bats with incredible consistency. The break is late and the over the top arm slot hides the pitch well. The pitch has elite potential. Unfortunately, he currently hangs over half of the curves he throws and a hung curve is a bad and ineffective one. Again I think a lot of his issues come from his inability to repeat his mechanics and varying release points and rotation synchronization. If his curve was consistent it’s a premier out pitch at the big league level but it’s just not and will it ever be?
His changeup is somehow even more inconsistent from the curve and lacks the same elite upside but it’ll still flash plus occasionally. By occasionally I, of course, mean ten percent of the time, on a pitch he uses probably less than that. He’ll flash good sink and elite armside run but his arm speed is slowed somewhat so it can be picked up on by the more perceptive hitters. His changeup has elite bat missing potential but more often than not it is just a slower fastball that is easy to pick up on and is hit hard. Again, a lot of the issues are likely derived from his imprecise mechanics that lead to him overthrowing on the changeup so with a mechanical overhaul it could be a plus pitch but the likelihood is it winds up below average.
Liam Norris in a few years might look like an absolute steal at this spot and be a consensus top 50 prospect in baseball if he can figure out how to simplify his mechanics. He more likely, however, will be loitering around in the lower minors with his command problems to big of an issue for him to ever make the majors. I normally wouldn’t recommend pitching exclusively out of the stretch this early in a pitchers development but it would seriously simplify things in his delivery and could maybe let him get to that first-round stuff more consistently. I have no idea what to expect from Liam Norris moving forward and neither should you. He’s a complete wildcard.
4.119 1B AJ Vukovich, East Troy High School
18 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – 6’5″ 210lbs – ETA: 2024
AJ Vukovich is the only position player the Diamondbacks drafted as they snagged him in the fourth round at #119 overall. With a strong spring, the power-hitting first baseman could have gone much higher in the draft but with COVID ending the season prematurely, the bat first Vukovich is still very raw. He’s expected to be a tough sign out of his Louisville commitment to play both baseball and basketball where he is also a very good prospect.
His defensive skills certainly leave a bit to be desired as he struggles to make even the most basic of plays at third although he can probably play first at an average level of excellence. His actions are sluggish and despite plus arm strength, his arm plays down due to how long it takes him to set his feet. There is some present athleticism right now but I expect as he grows into his lean frame, he’ll move past that and into a hard-hitting offense only first baseman/designated hitter role.
AJ Vukovich swings a big bat that with some adjustments could take another step forward. His swing is simple and compact with an upright stance. His bat path is direct to the ball and his hands are surprisingly quick and simple to the ball. He gets the barrel down early and it leads to a long window of opportunity for him to make quality contact. He is rather poor at adjusting his swing based on pitch height and I worry somewhat about his inability to pick up on breaking balls. Still, the clean simple swing and his bat control skills should lead to at least an average hit tool.
The power is a curious tool. He shows average power in games right now with a swing that gets plenty of natural loft. He gets some hip-torso separation and rotates well. He’s got a super projectable body measuring in at only 6’5” and 200lbs. His power will play decently despite him having no load at present as his leg kick lacks any force and fails to do anything at all to utilize his lower half. He has a strong upper half that will get him close to average power without a load so it’s not difficult to see him getting to at least a plus if he can make the needed adjustments. This is potentially an impact bat but he does need to make changes and as a bat only prospect there is a sizeable amount of risk in the profile.
5.149 RHP Brandon Pfaadt, Bellarmine University
21 Years Old – Bat: R – Throw: R – 6’4″ 220lbs – ETA: 2023
Brandon Pfaadt was the Diamondbacks final pick of the draft, likely as a cash saving pick so they could overslot on their last two selections. I’m not sure what to think of this pick as I have been unable to find any video of him that actually lets me see his pitches and not just mechanics.
From the little I can actually see, he has a great frame that should let him start but he lacks the repertoire depth to do so. His velocity was reportedly sitting 92-95 MPH with sink out of the bullpen in the Cape Cod League. As a starter he was more sitting 88-90 MPH. I’ve heard people claim that he also throws an above average curve but I haven’t gotten the chance to evaluate it, unfortunately. Everyone agrees that the changeup is below average. I’m not wild about his leniency on the sinker but if it works then it works.
Command wise, I can actually evaluate and Pfaadt will probably likely only ever be average in that department. He struggles to stop his motion at releasing, overthrowing somewhat frequently and it leaves him off balance. His body does a good job of keeping in sync and staying on the same rotational plane with a clean polished arm action. The inability to stop and limited athleticism just have me somewhat pessimistic on the long term command projection.
Based on what I’ve seen and heard I would guess Pfaadt is a low upside AAAA swingman/low leverage reliever type but until we actually get to see him in-game time action, it’s hard to know for certain. If he’s underslot then it’s a solid 5th round pick but I don’t love the profile and his numbers are underwhelming for a DII guy.