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The Curse of the First Rounder

Torey Lovullo
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
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A reoccurring theme has appeared when it comes to the Arizona Diamondbacks and their first-round draft picks.

Dating back to 2016, the Diamondbacks have seen some series bad luck when it comes to the MLB draft. Only one player selected in the last six years (not including 2022) has made their way up to the major leagues.

Now, the team itself is not to blame for this. Before 2016, Arizona has drafted plenty of great major league players. In fact, the Diamondbacks from its team inaugural season in 1998 all the way to 2017, have the leagues third best rating when it comes to first round pick and the players WAR. The WAR (wins over replacement) metric is one of the few statistics in baseball that will always be consistent. This is because it does not matter how talented the rest of them is; the number shows how replaceable or nonreplaceable a certain player can be.

Some notable names from the Diamondbacks first round picks from 1997 include:

  • Conor Jackson: 7-year MLB career, 5 seasons with Arizona
  • Carlos Quentin: 9-year career, 2 seasons with Arizona, 2 all-star game appearances
  • Stephen Drew: 12-year career, 6 seasons with Arizona
  • Justin Upton: 16-year career (currently with Seattle), 6 seasons with Arizona, 4 all-star game appearances
  • Max Scherzer: 15-year career (currently with NYM), 2 seasons with Arizona, 8 all-star game appearances, 3 cy-young
  • Wade Miley: 12-year career (currently with CHC), 4 seasons with Arizona, 1 all-star game appearance
  • A.J. Pollock: 11-year career (currently with CHW), 7 seasons with Arizona, 1 all-star game appearance, 1 gold glove
  • Chris Owings: 10-year career (currently with BAL), 6 seasons with Arizona
  • Trevor Bauer: 10-year career (currently with LAD), 1 season with Arizona, 1 all-star game appearance, 1 cy-young 
  • Archie Bradley: 8-year career (currently with LAA), 6 seasons with Arizona

This list includes two cy-young winners, six all-stars and a gold glove. Many names were Diamondback fan favorites, some still are. As you can tell, the Diamondbacks have had excellent talent from the past, so what changed?

Injuries and a bit of bad luck

Starting in 2016, each and every first-round pick drafted out of the Diamondbacks organization has faced some sort of injury that has either delayed the players career, or completely ended it.

2016- Anfernee Grier

To begin, in 2016 the team selected Anfernee Grier with the 39th overall pick. Grier was a standout player from Auburn University. He was even selected in 2013 by the Detroit Tigers, an offer which he of course declined. After Arizona selected him in 2016, Anfernee was placed in the minor league system where he played with the Missoula Osprey. He then quickly climbed up the ranks after only four games with the Osprey. However, after multiple seasons in the minors, in 2018 the outfielder only played in 34 games due to an injury. This event later led to his release in 2020.

2017- Pavin Smith

In 2017, Arizona selected Pavin Smith out of University of Virginia. Smith played his first season in the minor leagues with the Hillsboro Hops where he recorded a .318 batting average. He was eventually brought up to the major leagues in 2020. Pavin has since played for the Diamondbacks for the past three seasons and has recorded a .250 career batting average. Just last month, he was sent back down to triple-A reno which turned south fast. Pavin recently broke his wrist and has ligament damage, for the time being, he will be off the field due to these injuries.

2019- Corbin Carroll

Carroll was selected 16th overall out of High school. The center fielder was regarded as one of the top prospects nationwide heading into the 2019 draft. Arizona getting him was a steal. At the time, it seemed Corbin would move through the minor league system in a flash. He hit .435 in his first seven high-A games, however, once again bad luck hit. Caroll then missed his 2020 season due to Covid and only played seven games in the 2021 season due to a season-ending shoulder injury that required surgery. On the positive side, Carroll is now back in the minors and is continuing to make a name for himself as he could be brought up to the big leagues any day now. However, if it was not for the surgery, Corbin more than likely would have already started his career with the Diamondbacks.

2019- Blake Walston

With a second first round pick in the 2019 draft, Blake was another player selected out of high school by Arizona. The left-handed pitcher started his first year in the minors strong, pitching for 22 innings and only allowing six earned runs. Walston was another minor league player that had the unfortunate COVID season. Since then, he has struggled with injuries while trying to move up through the ranks. Blake has found himself on the IL twice now in the past two years. Just like Carroll, these injuries have not defeated him, but they may have delayed the process.

2020- Bryce Jarvis

Jarvis was selected 18th overall out of Duke by the Diamondbacks in 2020. During his time at Duke, he threw the first ever perfect game in team history and had an insane .67 era through four starts. This was before his junior season ended due to COVID. He then played in the minor leagues during the 2021 season, however, after throwing 37 innings he was put on the IL with an oblique injury. Bryce did recover from the injury the same season but, his ERA saw a significant increase. The once standpoint pitcher at Duke is now recording a 7.81 era during the 2022 season with the Amarillo Sod Poodles. It is unsure what the futures holds for Jarvis as he is now not been putting up the numbers that he is used to.

2021- Jordan Lawlar

As a senior in high school, Jordan Lawlar pretty much checked every single box. He was named Texas Gatorade Player of the Year, Jackie Robinson Player of the Year, and had a batting average of .412. However, after two games in 2021, Lawlar suffered a season ending shoulder surgery. Jordan is back for the 2022 season and is doing very well for the Visalia Rawhide baseball club. The shortstop has hit .326 this year and was even alongside Corbin Carroll in this year’s futures game. Nonetheless, the season-ending injury that Jordan suffered in 2021 delayed his road to the major leagues.


2018 selection declined his offer with the Diamondbacks* 

To make matters even worse, the second overall selection in the MLB draft, Druw Jones, has just suffered a season ended shoulder injury. Druw suited up in a D-backs uniform for the first-time last week to take batting practice with the team. It was later announced that Druw will miss the remaining of the year due to this injury. Of course, this is not the end of the road for the Diamondbacks most recent draft pick, but it illustrates the team’s recent history of bad luck.

Not all is lost

Three out of the last five first round picks by the team have had season ending shoulder injuries.

Regardless of these injuries interfering with the timeline of players and their MLB debuts, the Arizona Diamondbacks have one of the best farm league systems in the MLB. They were ranked #4 by and this was even before the recent addition of Druw Jones.

This team will be one to watch in the upcoming years as they look to overcome these challenges.





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