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D-backs add ‘a young Bob Gibson’ with selection of first-round Touki Toussaint

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Major League teams can never have enough pitching. So for the second straight year, and fourth time in five years, the Arizona Diamondbacks added an arm to their minor league system with their first-round pick.

But not just any arm.

High school right-hander Touki Toussaint, selected 16th overall in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft, owns one of the better power arms in the 2014 class.

“We had him ranked one of the top five pitchers in the draft,” D-backs GM Kevin Towers said Thursday. “Kind of reminds me, when you watch him on video is kind of a young Bob Gibson. I mean the ball comes out of his hand real easy. He’s got power breaking ball, fastball that’s in the mid 90s.”

Added Ray Montgomery, the D-backs director of scouting, “He has a pretty electric arm. He’s been up to 95. He’s got a plus curveball for us and a combination of two or three pitches that we think are definitely starter quality. As we talk about so often you can never have enough good arms and good pitching and this just adds another starter.”

Toussaint, 17, completed his senior season going 6-2 with a 0.82 ERA. He walked 33 and struck out 86 in 45 innings over 12 games for Coral Springs Christian Academy in Florida.

“I just attack hitters. I mean I’m not afraid of anybody so I’m going first pitch baseball no matter what,” he said on a conference call with reporters.

Toussaint, the son of Haitian parents, including a father who is a former presidential candidate, was a soccer player growing up and wasn’t introduced to baseball until he was 10.

“And then I quit at 11 and picked it back up at 12,” he said.

Why did he quit?

“I mean I struck out 22 times out of 24 at-bats,” he responded. “It was just not my game.”

Montgomery called Toussaint an athlete who played shortstop when he didn’t pitch and can handle the bat.

“I do like the overall athleticism,” said Montgomery, working his fourth Diamondbacks draft. “I like the fact that he played other sports. And I really like the fact that he wasn’t just solely involved in one sport his whole life.”

The Diamondbacks, according to Towers, project Toussaint “to be a one or two type starter in the future. With Archie (Bradley) and (Jose) Martinez and (Braden) Shipley and (Aaron) Blair and this kid coming, you know at the lower levels we’ve got some guys that hopefully will be ready here in the next three to four years; and hopefully the start of a pretty good rotation.”

Toussaint, who turns 18 later this month, is committed to Vanderbilt, though the Diamondbacks don’t believe that will affect his signability.

“I just want to play baseball,” he said.