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Athleticism is high priority for D-backs in Draft

Starting with 15th pick, Towers hopes to strengthen team up the middle

Athleticism is high priority for D-backs in Draft

D-backs general manager Kevin Towers returned to his scouting roots the last few weeks, crisscrossing the country to see about 20 amateur players in preparation for this week's First-Year Player Draft.

Towers saw a group of players selected by D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery as possible picks for the team in the first round (15th overall) and the Competitive Balance Round A (36th overall).

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While Towers will share his opinion, he made it clear that the final decision will rest with Montgomery.

"I leave that up to the people who have done this for the last five months," Towers said. "I do think it's good to kind of lay your eyes on them. It helps as a general manager when you're asked about particular players -- at least you've laid eyes on them, and in the future even if they end up with different organizations I've had a chance to see them in high school or college and then when I look at pro ball reports I have a better idea of how they've developed and where they're at since I've seen them as amateurs."

The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

After the first two picks, the D-backs' second-round pick will be No. 52 overall, the third-round pick will be No. 88 and the D-backs will pick 14th in rounds 4-40.

The Competitive Balance A pick was won by the D-backs in a lottery.

"That wasn't one we were anticipating getting," Towers said. "Our odds of getting that were very low, so to be able to get a comp pick was pretty nice."

Some organizations may lean toward college players, other toward high schoolers, but for Towers and Montgomery it's not an either/or choice.

"We're going to take the best player available," Towers said. "I think our focus is still on the middle -- catching, middle infield and center-field athletes [or] if there are starters that you can project to be top-end-of-the-rotation starters or a late-inning power arm that we think is close. That's not to say we shy away from corner guys, but probably more focused on up-the-middle guys and starting pitching. You can't have enough of that."

This will be Montgomery's third Draft as scouting director, and his first two have drawn praise from those in the industry. Two years ago he had two of the first seven overall picks to work with, while last year the club selected 26th overall.

"It's a good crop of guys we think," Montgomery said of this year's Draft class. "It might not be as deep, but we think we'll end up with a good player at 15."

Here's a glance at what the D-backs have in store as the Draft approaches:

In about 50 words
The D-backs will have to wait and see what the teams in front of them do, but rather than draft for need they will take the best player available to them at No. 15. Money has not been an issue for the D-backs of late when it comes to their selections.

The scoop
The D-backs will likely focus on up-the-middle, athletic players at shortstop, second base, center field and catcher, while also looking to add pitching. They won't ignore the corner spots, but Towers is a big believer in having a surplus of athletic middle-of-the-diamond players and quality pitching because those areas always seem to be in demand throughout the game and can be dealt for corner players if need be.

"If you've got depth in those areas people are going to come knocking on your door," Towers said. "If you have those players, especially middle infielders, you're in a real position of strength."

First-round buzz
The D-backs have been linked to a variety of players for the first pick, including Mississippi State outfielder Hunter Renfroe, high school shortstop J.P. Crawford, Fresno State outfielder Aaron Judge and Oral Roberts University right-hander Alex Gonzalez.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

The D-backs have a total bonus pool of $7,229,600 for their picks, an average of $657,236, which ranks ninth.

The No. 15 pick has a $2,434,500 value attached to it, while the No. 36 pick has a $1,547,700 value and the No. 52 pick has a $1,049,200 value.

Shopping list
The D-backs are stacked with pitching in the organization, but Montgomery and Towers both operate under the philosophy that you can't have too many arms, so they will likely once again nab some hurlers.

Other than that, look for them to prioritize up-the-middle type players rather than lumbering corner guys.

"We're looking to get as athletic as we can," Montgomery said.

Trend watch
The D-backs stocked their system with pitchers in the 2011 Draft and that remains the strength of the system. Last season they switched gears and drafted only one pitcher in their first eight picks, Arizona State right-hander Jake Barrett in the third round. Since Towers has taken over as GM he has emphasized adding more athleticism to the organization.

Recent Draft History

Rising fast
When he was selected with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2011 Draft, right-hander Archie Bradley was viewed as one of the most polished high school arms available. Bradley certainly has lived up to that label.

After spending the whole 2012 season at Class A South Bend, Bradley began the 2013 season at Class A Visalia, but he quickly earned a promotion to Double-A Mobile, and the jump in level has not slowed the organization's No. 2 prospect down.

The D-backs say it's unlikely he will be in the big leagues this year, but if he continues to pitch as he has, his big league debut will come sooner than was projected back on the day he was drafted.

Cinderella story
Paul Goldschmidt has established himself as one of the top first basemen in the National League, but in 2009 he was overlooked until the eighth round, when the D-backs nabbed him with the 246th overall selection.

Goldschmidt had played at Texas State University and he moved quickly through the Arizona system, making his Major League debut on Aug. 1, 2011.

In The Show
On the current 25-man roster, players drafted and developed by the D-backs include Josh Collmenter (15th round, 2007), Wade Miley (supplemental 1st round, 2008), Goldschmidt (8th round, 2009) and A.J. Pollock (1st round, 2009).

D-backs' recent top picks

2012: Stryker Trahan, C, extended spring training
2011: Trevor Bauer, RHP, Indians Triple-A (traded)
2011: Archie Bradley, RHP, Double-A Mobile
2010: Barret Loux, RHP, Cubs Triple-A (did not sign)
2009: Bobby Borchering, OF, Astros Double-A (traded)
2009: A.J. Pollock, OF, D-backs
2008: Daniel Schlereth, LHP, Orioles Triple-A (traded)

Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Inside the D-backs, and follow him on Twitter @SteveGilbertMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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