Diamondbacks land three big bats on Day 1 of 2017 MLB Draft

Jun 12, 2017, 11:00 PM | Updated: Jun 13, 2017, 11:16 am
Duke infielder Jack Labosky (6) makes it back to first ahead of the pickoff throw to Virginia first...

Duke infielder Jack Labosky (6) makes it back to first ahead of the pickoff throw to Virginia first baseman Pavin Smith (10) during the Atlantic Coast Conference baseball tournament in Louisville, Ky., Thursday, May, 25, 2017. (Timothy D. Easley/the via AP)

(Timothy D. Easley/the via AP)

PHOENIX — The Arizona Diamondbacks targeted and selected three accomplished college batters in the 2017 MLB First-Year Player Draft Monday.

The D-backs selected infielder Pavin Smith from Virginia with their seventh pick in the first round, infielder Drew Ellis out of Louisville with pick No. 44 in round two and catcher Daulton Varsho from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with their 68th competitive balance B selection.

Deric Ladnier, the Diamondbacks’ director of scouting, said in a teleconference that Arizona’s decision to select three big bats wasn’t based as much on need as it was based on drafting the best talent available.

“Our plan was strategically to take who we felt like was the best player when we selected them, and that’s exactly what we did,” he said. “We weren’t looking at positions.”

Ladnier emphasized that the Diamondbacks did target offensive players that could control the zone in their at-bats.

“College bats, they fly off the board, and today was a perfect example of that happening,” he added. “In our opinion, to get three accomplished college bats with our first three selections, we were very pleased.”

Smith is a 6-foot-2, 210-pound junior who led Virginia to the Super Regionals in 2016.

The first baseman hit .342 with 13 home runs and 77 RBI in 2017. He has 28 career home runs, which is tied for sixth in UVA’s program history, and 178 career RBI, second in school history.

The most impressive stat was his rate of contact — he tallied more home runs (13) than strikeouts (12) in 2017.

“He’s a very accomplished college hitter. He has been his entire career — and a very good first baseman, “ Ladnier said. “He was a guy that we had targeted coming into the year as someone we felt like we might have a chance to get.

“You’re just hoping that this type of offensive ability is available with the seventh pick and it was and we were ecstatic to get him there.”

Smith was Baseball America’s seventh-best prospect.

There was speculation that if he was drafted by Arizona, Smith could be moved to the outfield based on the D-backs having Paul Goldschmidt in place at first base, but Ladnier said that was not the case.

“We don’t have any plans at this point in time to make a transition to him to another position,” he said. “He has played some outfield before. We had a conference call with him a couple of days ago and he even alluded to the fact that he had played in the outfield before, but our plan is to send him out as a first baseman.”

Smith has the pedigree to back up being the D-backs’ first baseman of the future. His 77 RBI in 2017 was a single-season UVA record, and for the year was second-best in the ACC and fourth-best in college baseball.

With the D-backs’ second pick, they again went with a slugging infielder. Ellis, who is currently playing in the College World Series with his fellow Louisville teammates, is hitting .367 with 18 doubles, 20 home runs, and 61 RBI.

And with the competitive balance pick later on, Arizona selected Varsho, who led the Horizon League in 2017 with a .362 average, a .643 slugging percentage and a .490 on-base percentage.

Smith and Ellis expressed their gratitude for the opportunity to the organization on social media, despite Ellis’ self-imposed Twitter blackout during the CWS.

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