PHOENIX -- The D-backs took a catcher, Stryker Trahan, with their top pick last year, but it took until the ninth round on Friday for the club to select its first backstop of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft. Arizona took Grant Nelson 270th overall, a senior catcher out of Saint Louis University.
After going undrafted out of high school in California, Nelson began his collegiate career at Skyline College in San Bruno, Calif., where he was a unanimous First-Team All-League selection and earned Northern California All-America honors.
From there, Nelson moved on to Saint Louis in 2012 and started all 59 games, hitting .314. This season, he showed even more improvement at the plate, batting .338 with five homers, eight doubles, three triples and 45 runs scored.
More known for his bat than his arm, Nelson threw out 15 out of 50 basestealers behind the plate in 2013, although he was one of 48 catchers named to the Johnny Bench Award watch list, given to the top backstop in the country.
D-backs follow best-player-available philosophy
PHOENIX -- Drafting by what is needed at the Major League level, especially after the first couple of rounds, isn't much of a concern for D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery.
Sure, sometimes it works out that way, but for Arizona, it's more about taking the players, regardless of position, whom scouts target as the best available.
The D-backs applied that philosophy in full effect on Friday, selecting five position players and three pitchers during the second day of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
"Need-based is so hard and broad as it relates to what we're doing," Montgomery said. "In some cases, we have to, but it's certainly not the driving force. We get really comfortable with a lot of the picks. Our familiarity with some of the players ranges four or five years working on them."
A prime example of the D-backs' Drafting strategy happened early Friday, when the club selected Georgia Tech first baseman Daniel Palka with its third-round pick. With early-season MVP candidate Paul Goldschmidt locked up until 2019, Arizona didn't exactly need a first baseman, especially an advanced one from college, but the club was so impressed with Palka that it pulled the trigger on him.
Taken 88th overall, Palka has about as much raw power as anyone in the class and showed an ability to use it well during games from the left side of the plate.
He hit .342 for the Yellow Jackets this season, launching 17 home runs and driving in 66 runs. Palka also displayed gap power, tallying 13 doubles and three triples this year. There is some swing and miss to Palka's game, striking out a team-high 60 times in 2013, but he makes enough contact to put his power into play.
"That's the one thing Daniel has always done," Montgomery said of Palka's pop. "He's a big physical kid with big left-handed power. He's produced at Tech and in the summer. It was an appealing pick for us and we're happy to have him."
Aside from manning first base, Palka also played some outfield in college, but the D-backs view him as a first baseman moving forward into professional baseball, although he could profile as a power-hitting corner outfielder in the future.
"We like him more at first, but certainly the flexibility there helps," Montgomery said.
The Phillies previously drafted Palka in the 19th round in 2010, and he was a 2013 third-team Louisville Slugger All-American.
Once the D-backs landed a power bat in Palka, they moved on to a trio of defensive-minded players who hit more for contact at the plate. The club took center fielder Matt McPhearson out of Riverdale Baptist School in Maryland in the fourth round, then local product Jamie Westbrook, a shortstop from Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz., in the fifth. After grabbing another center fielder in Colin Bray from Faulkner State Community College (Ala.) in the sixth, Arizona finally selected its first pitcher of the day, Daniel Gibson, a left-handed reliever out of Florida.
Rounding out the busy day for the D-backs was Flowery Branch High School (Ga.) right-hander Brad Keller, Saint Louis University catcher Grant Nelson and Oregon right-handed reliever Jimmie Sherfy.
"There are a lot of good players that come from this part of the Draft," Montgomery said. "Hopefully, we got another Adam Eaton in there."
Day 3 of the Draft continues with Rounds 11-40 streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 11 a.m. MST.
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.
In the Pipeline
If Palka eventually does move to one of the corner outfield spots, his path to the big leagues should clear up a bit. If he stays at first base, the road to the Majors isn't as clear, although the D-backs don't have any other highly regarded prospects at first outside of Brandon Drury, who is still in Class A South Bend and plays third base as well.
The two college relievers the D-backs took on Friday, Gibson and Sherfy, could ascend through the Minors relatively quickly given their amount of experience already and the fact that there is typically more consistent turnover in the bullpen.
D-backs have need for speed with fourth-round pick
PHOENIX -- Riverdale Baptist High School in Upper Marlboro, Md., has long been a hotbed for talented baseball players, and center fielder Matthew McPhearson could be the next big one for the D-backs, who tabbed the 18-year-old with the 120th overall pick in the fourth round on Friday.
Small but athletically built, McPhearson's speed is the first thing that stands out. He can flat-out fly, with the kind of speed that can be a game-changer. He's aggressive on the basepaths and plays a good defensive outfield. He recorded a 6.22 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game National Showcase.
The 5-foot-8, 164-pound lefty has some bat speed and should be a solid hitter moving forward, though power isn't a part of his game. His arm is accurate but not strong, and it might limit him to left field in the long term.
"He profiles as a leadoff guy, because he might be the fastest guy in the Draft," said D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery. "If he's not, he's certainly one of them. We consider him an 80 guy on the scale for speed. Other than that, he's smaller in stature, but he's plenty strong enough. He's actually a compact, physical build for his size."
In 2012, McPhearson was one of just 38 players invited to play in an All-Star Game at Wrigley Field.
The University of Miami commit has the chance to be a real sparkplug at the top of a big league lineup in the future.
Westbrook's power interests D-backs in fifth round
PHOENIX -- Taken No. 150 overall in the fifth round on Friday, Jamie Westbrook has a very good feel for hitting, and even with a small frame, the D-backs believe he has the plus bat speed to have average power in the future.
Westbrook, who has good instincts, is very aggressive on the basepaths and should be a solid basestealer in pro ball. Defensively, Westbrook, out of Basha High School in Chandler, Ariz., profiles best at second base and should be an above-average defender there. He also has a great baseball IQ and outstanding makeup.
"We're very happy," said D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery. "We spent a lot of time with Jamie over the last couple years. He's a really likeable kid and he works his butt off, so to be able to add him is great, and oh by the way, he's got tools and he's talented."
Westbrook batted .434 for Basha in his senior season. Sixteen of his 23 hits were for extra bases, and he had six home runs.
The only issue with Westbrook is that it may be tough to sign him away from Pepperdine. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound infielder signed a national letter of intent in November and is set to arrive on campus in the fall.
Westbrook, was a member of the D-backs Elite Scout team, said when he signed that he committed to Pepperdine for reasons other than baseball. It was a good fit all around for him and his family.
"I think everything will be good there, I don't envision too many problems," said Montgomery of getting Westbrook to sign. "Hometown boy gets to play for his hometown team, I think he's excited."
D-backs take second center fielder in Bray
PHOENIX -- Outfielder Colin Bray starred in three sports at Vancleave High School in Vancleave, Miss., initially signing with Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to play football. On Friday, the D-backs made him their 180th overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft.
A late scholarship offer from South Alabama caused Bray to change plans and choose baseball. After getting just 50 at-bats as a freshman, he transferred to Faulkner State Junior College.
This year, Bray hit .406 through 39 games with 44 runs, 24 RBIs and 15 stolen bases. He's committed to play at Troy next season.
Defensively, Bray reads the ball well off the bat and has plenty of range for a center fielder. If he signs, his athleticism and defense will allow Arizona to be patient as he develops offensively. He had a fielding percentage of .989 with just one error for Faulkner State this year.
Bray has plus speed and makes a lot of contact.
Gibson lone southpaw D-backs tab on Day 2
PHOENIX -- A left-handed reliever from Florida has been the first or second player in each of the past two Draft classes to reach the Major Leagues. If the D-backs keep Daniel Gibson in the bullpen, he could follow a similar path this year after he was selected No. 210 overall on Friday.
Some scouts believe he has what it takes to start, however, as he did in the Northwoods League last summer. Gibson throws four pitches, but he relies on a fastball-slider combination when coming out of the bullpen. His fastball sits in the low 90s with good tailing movement.
"Gibson is kind of a different look guy from the left side," said D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery. "He can run his fastball up there at 92 mph, and it's a tough angle for left-handers. He's been especially tough against them this year, I think they hit less than .200 against him this year, so to have that kind of look coming out of the bullpen with that velocity, it's great."
If Gibson does get a chance to start, he will need to improve his secondary offerings.
Keller the first prep pitcher D-backs take
PHOENIX -- After taking their first three pitchers of the Draft from the college ranks, the D-backs selected right-hander Brad Keller 240th overall from Flowery Branch High School in Flowery Branch, Ga., with their eighth-round pick on Friday.
A Presbyterian College commit, Keller has an imposing frame on the mound, standing 6-foot-5 and weighing in at 230 pounds. His three-pitch arsenal includes a fastball, curveball and changeup.
He also used his height on his school's football team, catching passes as a wide receiver.
Arizona finishes off Day 2 with a closer pick
PHOENIX -- A reliever throughout his college career at Oregon, Jimmie Sherfy served as the Ducks' closer for the past two years, saving 19 games in 2012 and pitching so effectively as a junior that he was added to the Golden Spikes Award midseason watch list. On Friday, the D-backs tabbed him with their last pick of Day 2 of the First-Year Player Draft (300th overall).
The slightly undersized right-hander will touch 93 mph with his fastball, and his two-seamer has good movement. His repertoire also includes both a slider and a changeup, though he doesn't throw the offspeed pitch too often.
"He's got a smaller body but a different look than most right-handers and he has two plus pitches," said D-backs scouting director Ray Montgomery. "We've seen him go 90-93 with the slider and he's saved a lot of games at Oregon."
Sherfy is a high-energy reliever who goes right after hitters and has the right mentality to continue pitching in a big league bullpen one day.
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.