Diamondbacks select 17-year-old RHP Toussaint
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (AP) — The 17-year-old son of a former Haitian presidential candidate is the Arizona Diamondbacks’ first-round draft pick.
Touki Toussaint, who grew up playing soccer before turning his attention to baseball at about age 12, was the 16th player selected overall Thursday.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound right-hander pitched for Coral Springs (Florida) Christian Academy and was 6-2 as a high s school senior with a 0.82 ERA, 86 strikeouts and 33 walks in 45 innings.
Tony La Russa, named Arizona’s chief of baseball operations last month, was in the room when the pick was made.
General manager Kevin Towers said the Diamondbacks didn’t expect Toussaint to be there at No. 16.
“Tremendous upside, relatively new to pitching, a great athlete,” Towers said. “He kind of reminds me when you watch him on video as a young Bob Gibson. The ball comes out of his hand real easy.”
Toussaint, who turns 18 next month, has signed a letter of intent with Vanderbilt. He said he would talk with his family before making a decision on whether to turn pro or go to college.
“I just want to play baseball,” he said.
Toussaint was born in Florida but moved to Haiti to be with his father at 3 months old. In Haiti, where his father was a senator, he said he lived a privileged life.
“My dad was a candidate for president so I had whatever I wanted. I would ask for something and it would happen,” he said. “Coming to America it was different. I had to cook my own food, I had to clean the dishes. I had to do chores and stuff, a lot of responsibility.”
He was playing soccer when his best friend lured him to baseball at age 10.
“I was like ‘I don’t know what baseball is. I’m Haitian,’” Toussaint said.
He said he struck out 22 out of 24 times at bat as a 10-year-old, then quit.
But Toussaint was back at age 12 and he has progressed to become one of the top young pitchers available in the draft.
“He has a pretty electric arm. He’s been up to 95 (mph),” Diamondbacks scouting director Ray Montgomery said. “He’s got a plus curveball for us and a combination of two or three pitches that we think are definitely starter.”
Towers said his player development staff thought Toussaint was one of the top five pitchers in the draft. Towers didn’t even go see him in person because Montgomery didn’t think the young pitcher would be there.
Toussaint is “a guy that we think once our development people wrap their arms around him is a kid that has a chance to be a top of the rotation type starter in the very near future,” Towers said.
Asked to describe his style, Toussaint said, “I just attack hitters. I’m not afraid of anybody so I’m going with first-pitch fastballs no matter what and see how far you can hit it. I have fun, stay loose and play baseball.”
He said that he doesn’t think he’s too young to be a pro.
“I need to grow stronger,” Toussaint said. “But mentally I think I’m prepared.”
Through all the evaluations, his personality stood out.
“When you meet Touki,“Montgomery said, “I think the person may outweigh the talent.”
The Diamondbacks made three other picks on Thursday.
In the second round, they selected left-handed pitcher Cody Reed from Ardmore (Alabama) High School. Reed, the Gatorade Alabama player of the year, went 16-2 as a senior with an 0.46 ERA.
Arizona had two picks in the competitive balance round. With the first, the Diamondbacks picked outfielder Marcus Wilson, from MLB’s Urban Youth Academy and an Arizona State commit. With the second, they chose infielder Isan Diaz from Central High School in Springfield, Massachusetts.