Diamondbacks lean college arms with upside on Day 2 of MLB Draft

Jul 10, 2023, 8:00 PM | Updated: 8:22 pm

Philip Abner...

Philip Abner #55 of the Florida Gators celebrates after defeating the Florida State Seminoles in a game at 121 Financial Ballpark on May 02, 2023 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

(Photo by James Gilbert/Getty Images)

The Arizona Diamondbacks took eight players on Day 2 of the 2023 MLB Draft on Monday, all of whom were college players with five pitchers.

Of the five arms, four were relief pitchers. Arizona has not drafted and developed any of its current relievers except Kevin Ginkel and Drey Jameson (60-day injured list), while Justin Martinez was an international free agent signing.

D-backs director of amateur scouting Ian Rebhan said the number of relievers taken on Monday was not a premeditated objective but how the draft unfolded.

“There were a lot of high school players on our board,” Rebhan said on a Zoom call. “When it came our turn to pick, these were the top guys on our board. There’s nothing much else to it. That’s kind of how it went.”

In Rounds 3-10, Arizona picked OF Jack Hurley, LHP Grayson Hitt, 3B Kevin Sim, LHP Philip Abner, LHP Ryan Bruno, 1B Jackson Feltner, RHP Kyle Amendt and RHP Zane Russell.

Russell and Amendt were teammates at Dallas Baptist, while Hitt from Alabama is the only starter of the group after Arizona took Clemson starting LHP Caden Grice on Day 1.

Hitt had Tommy John surgery this past season, so the D-backs will learn more about his timetable to pitch, but Rebhan said the organization was excited by his size at 6-foot-3, stuff and ability to throw strikes.

“We see him as a rotation piece,” Rebhan said. “Left-handed starter with four pitches and strike variability … is as a really good athlete but also really good pitcher with multiple ways to get you out.”

As for the relievers, all four pitched for teams that made deep postseason runs.

Abner’s Florida Gators made the College World Series final against LSU. He threw 31.1 innings with a 3.16 ERA and 51 punch outs in 2023.

“Really intrigued by the fastball here, he got a ton of swing and miss at Florida and struck out a lot of guys,” Rebhan said. “A player that we actually watched in high school, just built a lot of history with him when he was in the Charlotte area at high school and then went and had a really nice two-year career at Florida.”

Bruno was teammates with Arizona’s first-round pick Tommy Troy at Stanford, where he struck out 15.3 batters per nine innings with a 4.52 ERA.

He has a 100 mph fastball, and Rebhan said he has a plus slider and changeup.

Bruno walked more than a batter per inning, which the scouting director said the organization feels is correctable and worth the risk due to his upside.

The two Dallas Baptist righties dominated in the bullpen this past year with Amndt leading the team with a 1.75 ERA and Russell right behind at 2.35. Amendt, who is 6-foot-5, saved 12 games and allowed runs in three out of 23 appearances.

Rebhan pointed to the potential of both being able to miss bats with multiple pitches coming out of the ‘pen.

“I think maybe it’s unusual, but it’s not like it was a plan or anything going on,” Rebhan said. “It’s just how how they fell, and we’re happy about the guys we’ve got.”

The D-backs added veteran relievers with some better stuff this past offseason to give the big league club more firepower like Scott McGough and Miguel Castro.

But 21-year-old Martinez’s MLB debut this past weekend, in which he threw the fastest pitches by a Diamondback this season, was new. Even the crowd at Chase Field perked up when “102 mph” flashed on the scoreboard.

Monday’s picks deliver the potential for more of that fire down the road as the club continues to build for long term competitiveness.

Jack Hurley steal

The D-backs used the No. 80 overall pick on Hurley from Virginia Tech, someone MLB Pipeline ranked No. 36 and The Athletic’s Keith Law had No. 58 on his board.

Rebhan said the organization was fortunate to land him where it did.

“We love the player,” Rebhan said. “I think he’s got a way to impact the game on both sides of the ball. Super athletic, he can really run, really play defense and we think he’s got impact power. Getting a player like that in the third round, we’re thrilled about it.”

Murphy was All-ACC first team in 2023 with a 1.128 OPS and 17 homers in 45 games.

Rebhan said the D-backs like him in center field and have seen him a bunch in college and with Team USA over the summer.

The D-backs have also found success scouting athletic, left-handed outfielders recently.

The final 10 rounds of the draft begin at 11 a.m. on Tuesday.

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