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Arizona Diamondbacks likely to target power bats, college arms in MLB First-Year Player draft

LISTEN: Kevin Towers, D-backs GM

With an emphasis on character, the Arizona Diamondbacks will head into the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on Thursday looking to address organizational needs in the outfield, behind the plate and on the mound, their general manager said.

A guest of Doug and Wolf on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Wednesday, Kevin Towers reiterated the platitude he’s long put forth as a tenet of his drafting and roster building philosophy: character matters.

“It’s something we don’t take lightly,” he told the show.

“People keep wanting to throw the word ‘grit’ out there. But it’s just, we like good people.”

Towers believes the players who currently comprise his organizational rosters reflect that sentiment.

“The one thing I think that we have here in the Diamondbacks organization — and I think the fans would attest to — is a real good group of good guys that people genuinely like. Yes, we all want to win. But you can’t say that we have too many bad guys on our ballclub that represent not only our city, but also this organization.”

For those who have followed the general manager’s near 20-year front office career — and specifically his time at the helm of the Diamondbacks organization — this is a given for Thursday.

Beyond that, Towers’ approach on Thursday — at least in the early rounds — isn’t all that different from those of organizations across the professional sports landscape.

When asked by the show if he’d look to address need or simply take the best talent available, Towers didn’t hesitate.

“Best player,” he said.

As for who, exactly, that player may be at No. 16 overall for the Diamondbacks, three of the top publications covering the draft all have published different guesses in their respective first-round mock drafts:

Baseball America: OF Bradley Zimmer

Zimmer is a big-bodied (6-foot-5, 210 pounds) junior out of the University of San Francisco. He’s athletic — able to play all three outfield positions — and is renowned for his powerful left-handed bat. The La Jolla, Calif. native saw his brother go in the first round of the 2012 draft to the Kansas City Royals.

ESPN: OF Monte Harrison

Harrison is a freakishly athletic preps outfielder who has committed to play wide receiver at the University of Nebraska. He runs a 6.5 60-yard dash time — and a 4.3 40-yard dash — and is seen as a high-ceiling hitter, with “excellent” bat speed, according to ESPN, which went on to write, “With some mechanical refinements, though, he’s a got a chance to hit for well above-average power.”

Three seasons ago, the Kansas City Royals took Bubba Starling — another Nebraska football commit at quarterback — with the No. 6 overall pick. Diamondbacks pitcher Archie Bradley had committed to playing football at the University of Oklahoma before signing with the organization. C Max Pentecost

The Diamondbacks’ organizational need for catching depth is glaring and Pentecost is regarded by most to be one of the top backstops in the draft class. Pentecost, a Kennesaw State University junior, was drafted in the seventh round by the Texas Rangers out of high school, in the 2011 draft. ESPN says he has improved since then, while an Owl:

He’s an above-average athlete who runs well for the position, and has shown an ability to block pitches in the dirt. His overall arm strength is only average, but he uses his athleticism and quick release to get rid of the ball quickly and he should do a decent job of keeping base-runners from running.

There isn’t one skill that jumps out when you watch Pentecost, and if you look at the 20-80 grades you might think he looks very mundane; but those can be a bit misleading. An everyday catcher who can get on base and produce average power totals and won’t kill you with the glove is something that every club covets and it’s why Pentecost has a chance to go very early come draft day.

Last year, the Diamondbacks took Nevada pitcher Braden Shipley with the 15th overall pick in the draft. He now finds himself at High-A Visalia, having passed through the Low-A and Single-A levels over the last year.

In 2012, the Diamondbacks drafted catcher Stryker Trahan with the 26th overall pick. He has since been converted to an outfielder with Single-A South Bend.

The Diamondbacks are also due to draft 13th in the second round and then twice thereafter, in Competitive Balance Round B. One of those picks — No. 69 overall — comes courtesy of the San Diego Padres, who dealt the pick as a chip to get starting pitcher Ian Kennedy. Relief pitcher Matt Stites was also traded to the Diamondbacks in the transaction.

If the Diamondbacks are going to address that third need Towers mentioned — pitching — they’ll probably do that after the first round, according to the GM.

“Just looking at the board, it’s really, really, I would say, pitching heavy,” he explained. “So with the lottery picks and the multiple picks we have, you’ve probably got a better chance at 69, 70 and 54 to get arms. You probably have less opportunity to get a bat there.

“So, you know, the first pick — if the right hitter’s there, you’re probably going to have to take him, because he’s not going to be there at 54.”

The draft begins at 4:00 p.m. Thursday, with the Diamondbacks expected to draft at approximately 5:27 p.m. Approximate times between draft selections is four and a half minutes.