Towers keeps eye on D-backs' present, future
GM scouting potential Draft picks, while evaluating current squad
PHOENIX -- Kevin Towers was not at Chase Field this past weekend because the D-backs' general manager was keeping an eye on the future.
The D-backs hold the third and seventh picks in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft in June, and Towers spent a couple of days checking out some of the country's top prospects, including high school fireballer Dylan Bundy and Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon.
"I usually go out in April and May," Towers said about scouting amateurs. "I doubt I'll see more than 10 players, but I certainly want to see the guys in the mix for [picks] three and seven. That's a significant amount of money, and I think the GM's eyes should at least be on the guys you're looking at."
That does not mean that Towers will be the one running the draft room come June 6. That will fall to first-year scouting director Ray Montgomery and vice president of scouting and player development Jerry Dipoto.
"Ultimately, it's going to be Ray and Jerry's decision," Towers said. "I've never been one to try and control the draft room; they've got more comparisons that I have. But I think it's important for the GM to see these players, and if they want my opinion, I'll give it to them, but if not, that's fine. If they're going to be held accountable for those picks, they should be able to make those picks, and I have a lot of confidence in both those guys that we'll make the right picks."
Towers declined to comment on either player, but looking at the numbers from Bundy's performance would lead one to believe he had to be impressed by the right-hander. The Owasso (Okla.) High School senior allowed just one hit and struck out 16 of the 20 batters he faced and also hit a walk-off homer in the sixth inning, thanks to the 10-run rule.
Towers will likely watch UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole next week and Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen in the Atlantic Coast Conference Regionals.
As for his current crop of players, Towers has been impressed with the attitude if not always the results.
The D-backs are 6-8 following a 4-5 homestand against the Reds, Cardinals and Giants.
"I think the culture has definitely changed in the clubhouse," Towers said. "It's a good clubhouse, I like the guys, I think their focus is good. They expect to win every night and they look forward to playing every ballgame. They play hard and don't give in. Even some of the games we've lost, we've fought back and they haven't given in."
Offense has not been an issue for the D-backs despite the offseason departures of third baseman Mark Reynolds and first baseman Adam LaRoche. Throughout the winter, Towers continually said he didn't think that his team would have trouble scoring runs, and so far he's been right.
The D-backs are fifth in the National League in runs scored, and after setting a Major League record for strikeouts in 2010, they now have the third fewest in the NL.
"We're still hitting home runs, but I think we have a lot more scoring opportunities overall," Towers said. "Now we're struggling a little bit with runners in scoring position, but last year it was the three-run home run or nothing. It seems like at least this year every inning or every other inning we're putting pressure on the opponent and getting runners in scoring position, which is a good sign."
Towers also had praise for the job that manager Kirk Gibson has done in establishing a new attitude, as well as improved fundamentals.
"I think Gibby and his staff have done a real good job on our pickoffs and holding runners and helping [catchers Miguel Montero and Henry Blanco] out there," Towers said. "Nobody has really run on us, and I think we've done a real nice job of running on other clubs."
As for the pitching, well that's a different matter.
The D-backs rank last in the NL in ERA with a 5.55 mark, and they've allowed the third-most runs in the league (85).
"Pitching-wise, we've been hot and cold, and for us to really get above .500, we're going to have to be more consistent with our pitching," Towers said. "Not only starting pitching, but the bullpen. We're going to have to pitch better. I think we'll score enough runs, but for us to really take a run at this thing, we're going to have to pitch a lot better."
Towers will join the team in Cincinnati before heading to South Bend over the weekend to watch the organization's Class A team play.