SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In 2005, the Arizona Diamondbacks drafted a young, talented high school shortstop by the name of Justin Upton with the No. 1 overall pick in the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft.
Now, 10 years later, the D-backs once again turned to a young, talented — though this time out of college –shortstop with the number-one pick in the first round with the selection of Vanderbilt junior Dansby Swanson.
“Talk about a premium middle-of-the-diamond player that has a chance to impact our organization here in the future,” senior vice president of baseball operations De Jon Watson said, speaking from the team’s spring training facility, Salt River Fields.
Swanson, 21, is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, given to the nation’s top collegiate player.
He hit his 15th home run and drove in his 62nd RBI earlier Monday to help lead Vanderbilt past Illinois and return to the College World Series, where he was named Most Outstanding Player a year ago when the Commodores won their first-ever national championship.
“Some of you today had a chance to witness this player which was kind of unique for when you’re selecting one and he’s playing and he finishes the game, gets a chance to go to the World Series, kind of like a storybook finish for him,” scouting director Deric Ladnier said.
“He has been one of the players that has always risen to the occasion and you saw that in action today. We fully expect him to be able to do that, march his way through our minor league system and be doing the same thing for the Arizona Diamondbacks in a timely fashion.”
The decision to draft the 6-foot-1, 190-pound Swanson, who is hitting .350 with 16 stolen bases and 74 runs scored, was made in the last week, according to Watson.
With no clear-cut favorite for the No. 1 choice, the D-backs were seeking both quality ability and quality character, and Swanson checked both boxes.
“Major League shortstops are very difficult to find,” Ladnier said, “and the other part of it is the intangibles that this player brings to the field every day. He’s got the character, he’s got the makeup, he’s a winner; all the things that you want to build an organization with.
“We just thought it was a perfect fit for this organization, where we are, where we’re headed and we fully expect him to continue his journey and be a Diamondback soon.”
But how soon?
“That’s always tough to say,” Watson said. “These guys get here when they’re ready. They will let us know when they’re ready to come up to this level. But again, he’s an advanced player. We don’t foresee him starting in the Arizona Rookie League by any stretch of the imagination. He’ll need a little down time post-College World Series and then we’ll sit down and we’ll map out a plan. I’ll get with (director of player development) Mike Bell and lay out what our plans are for him as we move forward and get him prepared for the upcoming season.”