It is two weeks before the major league baseball draft. Do you know where your talent evaluators are?
The Diamondbacks brought all of their amateur scouts to the Valley for two days of meetings this week to hammer out their preferential list for the June 7-8 selection process, a list that is expected to start with high school infielder Justin Upton and college pitchers Mike Pelfrey, Luke Hochevar and Craig Hansen.
"It’s fair to say we are looking hard at Justin Upton,’’ said D-Backs general manager Joe Garagiola Jr., heavily involved in scouting while the D-Backs were on their latest road trip.
"There are a lot of good college pitchers, and we’re interested in several. The first pick is going to come from a group of Upton and some college pitchers.’’
Upton is a shortstop at Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va., and is the brother of Tampa Bay prospect B.J. Upton, a shortstop who was the second player taken in the 2002 draft. Some project the younger Upton as a center fielder.
Pelfrey is the No. 1 starter at Wichita State, with a fastball that has been clocked in the mid-90s, and Hochevar is the No. 1 starter at Tennessee. Hansen is the closer at St. John’s, and is probably a longer shot than the others to be the first player taken.
The D-Backs will send their scouts back on the road later this week, when their national cross-checkers will join them in what will be the final step in a process they wish never to duplicate exactly. The No. 1 pick goes to the team with the worst record the year before.
"Of course you don’t want the No. 1 pick,’’ D-Backs managing partner Ken Kendrick said. "But if you have it, you want to make the best of it, especially in this setting. We feel we are not in the retooling mode but are in a competitive situation.’’
The D-Backs will have at least five of the first 85 picks in the draft and appear almost certain to have six — Nos. 1, 31, 48, 51, 83 and 85. That batch includes their picks through the first three rounds, plus compensation picks (the 31st and 85th) for losing free agent Richie Sexson to Seattle in the offseason.
The 48th pick would belong to the D-Backs as compensation for the loss of 2004 firstround choice Stephen Drew, who has turned down a bonus worth $5.5 million in a fouryear package that could be worth as much as $7.5 million and is playing in the independent Atlantic League.
If Drew does not sign by May 31 — and there have been no recent talks since the DBacks laid out their final offer about a month ago — the DBacks would get the extra pick and Drew would go back in the 2005 pool, although the D-Backs would be barred from selecting him again.
"The ball is in their court,’’ Kendrick said. "We would love to have (Drew) back. We think our offer is a fair one. That amount of money in a first contract is irrelevant to the money he makes as he continues on. His play determines how much he earns.
"Reasonable people can differ, and unreasonable people can differ. If one looks in the mirror, I don’t think either thinks he is being unreasonable.’’
The D-Backs have shown a marked interest in college players during scouting director Mike Rizzo’s tenure, and their two 2003 first-round picks — Conor Jackson (No. 19) and Carlos Quentin (No. 29) — are considered among the best hitting prospects in minor league baseball.
At the same time, the DBacks selected high school shortstop Sergio Santos in the 2002 first round, and Santos also is considered to have major league potential and has joined Jackson and Quentin at Triple-A Tucson this season.
"Our general thought is like most in this sport, and that is to select the college player. Let the colleges ferret out the talent,’’ Kendrick said.
"The high school players haven’t been exposed to play at the high-level competition all the time. But there are always those who are phenoms. We wouldn’t be afraid of taking a high school player. It is probably viewed that the best player in the draft is a high school player (Upton).
"We would have no trouble taking a high school player. What we would do with every high school kid — we would extensively scout him and give him every possible review. But we would never be afraid.’’