Last Thursday, the Arizona Diamondbacks dipped into the high school ranks when they selected 17-year-old Touki Toussaint, a right-handed pitcher from Coral Springs, Fla. with their first-round pick in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.
Toussaint, who has been compared by some to a young Bob Gibson, has committed to play college baseball at Vanderbilt University.
So now the question becomes signability. Can the D-backs convince a youngster who has publicly stated that he’s not chasing money to eschew his collegiate experience and play pro ball?
Arizona Diamondbacks director of scouting Ray Montgomery says Toussaint has a tough decision ahead of him.
“If your worst choice is choosing between Vanderbilt University and signing a professional contract, I think as parents, we’d all be happy with that,” Montgomery told Doug and Wolf Monday on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM.
Ultimately, Montgomery believes the D-backs and the professional baseball route have more to offer the youngster.
“The guys at Vanderbilt do a great job,” Montgomery said. “(Head coach) Tim Corbin and his staff have a great university to offer, but they don’t have the future of what Touki Toussaint dreamed about as a kid — to grow up and pitch in the big leagues, to pitch at Chase Field, to win a world championship. That part of it, they don’t have to offer.
“They also don’t have the best of the best teaching that. We’re going to turn Touki Toussaint over to Doug Drabek and other guys in our player development staff, guys that have walked his walk and understand.”
As hard as it may be to believe, the D-backs have been doing their due diligence on Toussaint since he was 15.
“In Touki’s case, probably going on two years. Building history, building relationships, following the player on the field, but more importantly getting to know who Touki is, know his family, know his background,” Montgomery said. “Will he be comfortable in our game at 17 years old, and that’s critical nowadays with as much pressure as these guys are put under at a young age.”
Montgomery admitted that projecting success with high school prospects can be a challenge, but Toussaint’s raw skills made the D-backs’ choice a simple one.
“In Touki’s case, he made it a little easier because he throws 92 to 95 with a plus curveball right now,” he said. “To see it in present day certainly helps the projection. What he needs is our player development people to wrap their arms around him and kind of harness what is really explosive stuff at times.”
Toussaint went 8-2 with a 1.22 ERA and 104 strikeouts in 63.1 innings for Coral Springs Christian Academy during his senior season.
He is just the fifth high school pitcher they’ve selected with a first-round pick, joining Archie Bradley (2011), Jarrod Parker (2007), Casey Daigle (1999) and Nick Bierbrodt (1996).