PHOENIX — The Diamondbacks selected Chris Owings out of Gilbert High School in South Carolina with the 41st pick of the 2009 MLB Draft.
Now in his third season with the major league club, Owings recalls the moment like it was yesterday.
“I remember being in high school and graduating two days before and being excited for the draft,” Owings said. “A couple days after that, we were watching it on TV and, sure enough, I got the call and it changed my life.”
Owings is one of three Diamondbacks picks made before the second round who are currently on the roster, along with A.J. Pollock and Archie Bradley. In all, 23 of the 32 players selected by the franchise in the first round, the supplemental first round, or the competitive balance lottery round have made it to the majors. Eighteen of those 23 have played at least one game for the Diamondbacks. The team is hoping for another success story with its selection of Auburn outfielder Anfernee Grier with the 39th pick in Thursday’s draft.
In the MLB Draft, there are two rounds sandwiched between the first and second round – the supplemental first round and the competitive balance round. The supplemental first round consists of compensatory picks given to teams that lost a free agent to another team during the previous offseason after making an offer to that player. Following that round is the competitive balance round, which, according to MLB, awards picks to six teams the league deems in need of additional help based on certain criteria. Both Owings and Grier were selected in the competitive balance round.
The Diamondbacks selected Bradley with the seventh pick in the first round in 2011. After bouncing around the minors, he made his major league debut in 2015.
“You have to enjoy (the grind) and love it and just understand that usually the teams and the people who are controlling what happens have a pretty good idea of what’s best for you,” Bradley said. “Even though at the time you may think you should be moved up or you should be somewhere else instead of in Low-A or Double-A or wherever you are.”
Picking 39th is a far cry from the No. 1 overall pick the Diamondbacks had a year ago, when they selected Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, who was traded to the Atlanta Braves in the Shelby Miller deal.
The selection of Grier Thursday marks 20 years since the Diamondbacks made their first-ever draft pick. Cronkite News takes a look back at some of the highs and lows of the Diamondbacks’ draft history.
The Early Years (1996-2005)
The Diamondbacks’ first pick ever was Millikan High School pitcher Nick Bierbrodt, taken 30th in the 1996 draft. Bierbrodt appeared in just five games for the D-backs and 38 major league games total. In fact, none of the team’s first six first-round choices between 1996 and 2002 spent any significant time in the major league clubhouse.
That changed in 2003 with Carlos Quentin, taken with the 29th overall pick, who started a trend of the team’s first-round picks becoming bonafide major leaguers.
Drafted at age 21 out of Stanford, Quentin spent two years with the Diamondbacks before being traded to the Chicago White Sox, where he went on to become a two-time All-Star. He hit more than 20 home runs in each of his four years in Chicago, including a career-high 36 in 2008.
In 2004, the D-backs selected Stephen Drew with the 15th pick in the first round. Drew was the Diamondbacks’ shortstop from 2006 to 2012, when they traded him to the Oakland Athletics for minor league player Sean Jamieson. Drew’s six years with the team is the longest a first-round pick has ever stayed with the Diamondbacks.
In 2005, the Diamondbacks selected 17-year-old Justin Upton with the first overall pick, the first of two times the team would hold the No. 1 slot. From 2007 to 2012, Upton made two All-Star games and earned a Silver Slugger Award before the D-backs traded their most decorated first-round pick to the Atlanta Braves before the 2013 season.
While Upton has continued his success with the Braves, the San Diego Padres and the Detroit Tigers, the Diamondbacks received current players Nick Ahmed, Randall Delgado and Brandon Drury as part of that trade.
The Draft Spike (2006-2010)
Between 2006 and 2010, the Diamondbacks drafted a total of 13 players in the first round.
In 2006, the team selected Max Scherzer with the 11th pick. Before becoming a Cy Young award winner with the Tigers and three time All-Star for the Tigers and Washington Nationals, Scherzer pitched in 46 games over two years for the Diamondbacks.
Scherzer was part of a three-team trade that sent him to Detroit and Ian Kennedy to Phoenix. In the seven years since leaving the team, Scherzer has earned over 100 wins.
In 2007, the D-backs selected Jarrod Parker with the ninth overall pick. Parker spent a little over three years in the minor league system, but only pitched in one game for the Diamondbacks, in the 2011 season.
While he was in the D-backs organization, Parker underwent his first Tommy John surgery, but he has since had two more surgeries with the Athletics and hasn’t pitched in the major leagues since 2013.
Just two years later, in 2009, the Diamondbacks had two first-round draft picks, one of which was used to select Pollock, and three supplemental first-round picks. It was with one of those three picks that the team selected Owings.
Pollock, despite his current stint on the disabled list with a fractured elbow, is in his sixth year with the team and he made his first All-Star Game last year. Owings is in his third season as a utility player.
Coming and Going (2011-2015)
In the last five years, the Diamondbacks have selected six players in the first round and two in the competitive balance round. Four of them are still with the organization, including 2011 picks Archie Bradley and Andrew Chafin.
In late May, Bradley was added to the D-backs starting rotation while Chafin was sent down to the Reno Aces in a wave of roster moves by the team.
For 2013 first-round pick Braden Shipley, life in the minor leagues is still a reality. The 15th overall draft pick in the 2013 draft is still pitching for the Aces. Shipley is the most recent draft pick who has not been traded.
Touki Toussaint, the No. 16 pick from 2014, was traded to the Braves with Bronson Arroyo for infielder Phil Gosselin.
Swanson spent less than five months with the D-backs organization in 2015 before packing up and heading to Atlanta.
Swanson is batting almost .300 for the Braves Double-A team in Mississippi and could be called up to the majors by the end of the season.