The first step in the careers of former Missoula Osprey players, in the majority of cases, begins at the MLB Draft. And for the Arizona Diamondbacks, the parent club of the Osprey, they could be putting themselves, and Missoula, in good shape to succeed.
The D-back will have two of the top seven picks in the 2011 MLB First-Year Player Draft, one that is being regarded as one of the deepest in quite some time. Arizona will pick third, based on their finish in 2010, and seventh in the first round, the latter coming from not signing last year's first-round selection, pitcher Barrett Loux.
It's expected that the D-backs - who also possess the 43rd pick, which is in Compensation Round A, thanks to Adam LaRoche's denial of arbitration and subsequent signing with the Washington Nationals - will go for the best players available when those picks come around, but will pick a "signable" player for certain with the seventh pick.
The draft begins Monday evening, June 6, with the first round and Compensation Round A. Rounds 2 through 30 will take place on Tuesday, with Rounds 31 through 50 will happen on Wednesday. Teams will be able to sign players immediately following the draft, and those players will report to the respective club's facilities to await their assignments and begin their professional baseball careers.
So who will go to the D-backs at No. 3? It's looking more and more like that will be left-handed college pitcher Danny Hultzen of Virginia, who many experts believe will be a solid fit in the organization. With the words coming from D-backs' CEO Derrick Hall and GM Kevin Towers as of late, the focus will be pitching and defense, and Hultzen will be a pitcher who would likely move up the ladder quickly.
There are other possibilities as well, with right-handed pitcher Gerrit Cole from UCLA and third baseman Anthony Rendon of Rice expected to go in the first two picks to Pittsburgh and Seattle, respectively. Dylan Bundy (Oklahoma) and Bubba Starling (Kansas), a pair of high school outfielders, are also expected to be picked early, as are Cole's teammate at UCLA, right-handed pitcher Trevor Bauer, and left-handed pitcher Jed Bradley from Georgia Tech.
There could be some great choices left at the No. 7 spot for the D-backs to make a quality pick in a draft that is college-heavy in the first-round projections, with 20 of the first 33 picks on most mock drafts having collegiate experience.
Pinning down whom the D-backs will go with is at best a coin flip in what is being tabbed as one of the deepest drafts in history. And while there is a strong feeling among D-backs insiders that the club will opt to get the best player available, there's also the sentiment that it will be a player they feel they can sign before the August deadline to sign draft picks, considering that the No. 7 pick, being a compensatory pick, is not protected.
Looking beyond Day 1 of the draft, the D-backs are likely to shore up at least one of the positions they are lacking depth throughout the organization - that being behind the plate.
While a pair of former Osprey catchers - Rossmel Perez (2008) and Raywilly Gomez (2009) - have moved up the potential prospect ladder, the D-backs would like to add much-needed depth, so don't be surprised if they draft a catcher in the early picks in Tuesday's activities.
Another position of likely focus will be middle infield - especially since high on their potential list for picks at No. 7 happens to be high school shortstop Francisco Linder, out of the Montverde Academy in Florida.
A third factor may be the number of teams within the organization has grown by one, with the addition of a team in the Arizona Rookie League this season. That means that the Osprey will likely see draft picks which are either taken in the earlier rounds or those with college experience. Traditionally, the Osprey have been one of the younger teams in the Pioneer League. The addition of the extra farm club will likely change that.
Not only do Osprey fans have potential new players to be on the lookout for in this draft, there's also the element that a pair of Montanans could be selected in this year's draft, including a Missoula product.
It's looking like Ben Roberts (Missoula Sentinel HS/Missoula Mavericks) will be a Tuesday draft selection. Current draft projections by various draft experts have the prospect who participated in two straight D-backs Tryouts in Missoula, and is a Washington State signee, to go anywhere between Rounds 4 though 20. Through 21 games with the Mavs this season, Roberts is hitting .338 with three home runs and 24 RBIs, with six stolen bases.
Another Montana player to keep an eye on will be Kalispell left-hander Joe Pistorese (Flathead HS/Kalispell Lakers), whom already has flirted with two no-hitters this season for the American Legion Lakers. The 6-foot-1, 165-pound prospect is a possibility for Tuesday's segment, but if he is drafted, will likely go on Wednesday.
The 2011 Osprey will open the season on June 20 at Helena, then will host the Brewers for their home opener on June 22.
Tickets for the Home Opener, as well as all other games this season, will go on sale on Saturday, June 4, at the MSO Hub Box Office, located at 140 N. Higgins, by phone at (406) 543-3300 or online at www.MissoulaOsprey.com.