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D-backs prioritize athleticism, speed on first day of 2018 MLB Draft

Arizona Diamondbacks first-round pick Matt McLain. (Twitter photo/@mattmclain_)

The Arizona Diamondbacks prioritized two certain attributes on the first day of the 2018 MLB Draft.

“We wanted to focus on some extra athleticism, extra speed,” D-backs amateur scouting director Deric Ladnier said Monday following the first two rounds of the draft.

After the D-backs drafted first baseman Pavin Smith and third baseman Drew Ellis with their first two selections last year, Ladnier emphasized Arizona looking elsewhere to strengthen the team’s system.

“We talked about it and last year we felt like we went after thumpers on the corner,” he said. “We did want to increase the speed within our system and the athletic ability within our system because I think this draft really balances out last year’s draft.

“I think it was very balanced for our philosophy over the last couple of years.”

In the first round, Arizona selected infielder Matt McLain with the 25th overall selection.

An 18-year-old out of Beckman High School in Irvine, Calif., McLain is a switch-hitting middle infielder listed at 5-foot-10 and 175 pounds. Ladnier said the team wants him to play shortstop despite his positional versatility.

McLain was ranked the No. 53 prospect in the draft by ESPN’s Keith Law.

McLain can hit, which may be enough for some team to take him in the top 40 picks despite the lack of other tools. He’s very undersized, almost certainly moves off shortstop, and isn’t a plus runner. His advocates think he might be the next Dustin Pedroia or Alex Bregman.

McLain is committed to UCLA and was ranked in a similar spot by MLB Pipeline at 54th.

McLain gets high marks for his plus instincts and work ethic, having worked very hard to get his body into premium condition. Some compare him to Astros third baseman Alex Bregman, with more speed, and some think the UCLA commit could go as early as the second round.

“We felt like it was a very advanced high school bat,” Ladnier said of McLain. “It’s a short, compact swing. He’ll end up having some power.”

The D-backs’ top 20 prospects on MLB Pipeline includes two middle infielders: shortstop Jasrado Chisholm and middle infielder Domingo Leyba.

McLain wasn’t the only pick made by Arizona on Monday.

With the 39th selection, a compensatory selection, the D-backs picked outfielder Jake McCarthy out of Virginia. The 20-year-old was previously drafted in the 23rd round of the 2015 MLB Draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.

“He’s been a consistent performer from a very good program,” Ladnier said regarding McCarthy. “This is a guy we’ve known for a very long time.”

Arizona also picked in the second round, selecting outfielder Alek Thomas with the No. 63 pick. Thomas is 5-foot-11 and 175 pounds out of Mount Carmel High School in Chicago.

“He’s a plus runner, he can play center field,” Ladnier said of Thomas’ skills. “I do think he’s going to come into some power because he’s very strong.”

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