Pitching and defense.
That’s the essential criteria to winning and success at any level.
Perhaps more so at the major league level and that was the critical reasoning why the Diamondbacks selected another pitcher as their first round pick Thursday night.
In choosing 17-year-old Touki Toussaint out of Coral Springs (Fla.) Christian Academy with their initial 2014 pick, Arizona selected the eighth pitcher in their last 11 first round picks. At this point, none of the previous seven are taking a turn in the Diamondbacks’ rotation and only Trevor Bauer (number three overall in 2011) is in the majors. Bauer is currently on the Cleveland roster.
In selecting Toussaint, Ray Montgomery, the Diamondbacks’ director of scouting, told reporters that the selection was based on talent and not need. Given the desire to get as many quality arms under contract, the Diamondbacks’ philosophy of general manager Kevin Towers is the emphasis on pitching and that continued on the first round Thursday.
While the current draft was considered top-heavy with high school and college arms, the Diamondbacks made themselves comfortable with the notion that pitching dominated this year‘s crop. By selecting Toussaint, the Diamondbacks envision the 6-2,198 pounder as a potential number one or two starter within three, perhaps four years.
“He has an electric arm and very athletic,” Montgomery said. “He plays soccer and showed us good agility. His curve was rated the best among high school pitchers but given his age and experience, we will not rush him.”
One roadblock to signing Toussaint is his immediately future.
At this point, he is committed to Vanderbilt University, considered one of the top baseball programs in the country. Toussaint told reporters after his selection that he plans to discuss his future with his parents and the Diamondbacks will commence a dialog with Joel Wolfe, his agent.
While Towers said the immediate task is to sign Toussaint, and should that happen, the Diamondbacks’ general plan has Toussaint pitching in the rookie league for the Arizona League Diamondbacks. At this point, Towers said there are no plans for Toussaint to pitch for the Missoula Osprey in the Pioneer League - Rookie Advanced or the Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League, Short Season A.
Given the plethora of pitching talent in the draft, Towers admitted he did not see Toussaint pitch in person.
“Frankly, I didn’t think he would be there (at 16, the Diamondbacks’ first round pick),” Towers said. “Generally, we have him with a 92 to 95 mile-per-hour fast ball and look at him as essentially a power pitcher.”
With an engaging personality and quick smile, Toussaint quickly became the epicenter of his high school team. Plus, his ability did not compromise his standing among teammates. For the season just completed, he was 8-2, 1.22 ERA but critics contend he need to hone his control.
In 63 1/3 innings, he struck out 104 hitters and was named to participate in The Perfect Game in San Diego and Under Amour (Wrigley Field), both national all-star games.
Though born in Florida, he moved with his mother and father to Haiti and lived there until he reached seven. His father became a senator and a presidential contender in Haiti but marital problems forced relocation back to Florida. In time, Toussaint took up baseball and it was not until he was 12-years-old did he become serious about the game.
“I have to thank the Diamondbacks for drafting me and they saw some things in me that other teams did not,” he said on a conference call with reporters after his selection. “At this point, I have a lot to learn and going forward, I want to be a pitcher and not a thrower.”
On Thursday, the Diamondbacks had four picks within the first 70 selections.
On the second round, they choose left-handed pitcher Cody Reed (54th overall) out of Ardmore High School in Ardmore, Ala. Reed was 10-2 with a 0.46 ERA and recorded 226 strikeouts in 92 innings.
In Competitive Balance Round B, the D-backs, as 69th overall, selected outfielder Marcus Wilson, a product of MLB’s Urban Youth Academy and committed to Arizona State University.
In Competitive Balance Round B, the Diamondbacks, as the 70th overall, chose infielder Isan Diaz, from Springfield (Mass.) Central High School. Diaz hit .529 this past season and that was 27-for-51.
The draft continues Friday with rounds 3 through 10, and concludes Saturday with rounds 11 through 40.
BACK ON THE FIELD …
Beginning with a Friday night date with the Atlanta Braves, the Diamondbacks open a five-game home stand.
In the series opener, the D-backs send Brandon McCarthy (1-7, 4.03 ERA) to the hill against Julio Teheran (5-3, 3.25). In facing B. J. Upton in American League competition, Upton is hitting .200 (3-15) lifetime against McCarthy. Upton is the only Atlanta hitter with a considerable number of at-bats against McCarthy.
On Saturday, it’s Wade Miley (3-6, 4.85) opposing Ervin Santana (5-2, 4.10) Throughout his career, Santana has had decent success against Diamondbacks’ players. Second baseman Aaron Hill (.194, 6-31) has the most career at-bats against Santana. It’s a 7:10 p.m. start Saturday and the D-backs will give away Martin Prado bobbleheads to the first 20,000.
On Sunday, Chase Anderson (4-0, 3.32) goes for his fifth straight win as a rookie and is up against Aaron Harang (4-4, 3.24). Lifetime against Harang, Miguel Montero (.556, 10-18) and Paul Goldschmidt (.500, 5-10) have the best numbers.
Other numbers to consider during the Braves series, the Diamondbacks have only two hits lifetime against closer Greg Kimbrel.
After the Braves, the Houston Astros are in Monday night and Tuesday afternoon. Then, it’s a return a two-game set in Houston and three against the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium over Father’s Day weekend.