With the 316th pick in the 2015 MLB Draft, the Arizona Diamondbacks looked to the Mountain West for a jolt of power and found it in Nevada Wolf Pack first baseman Austin Byler.
Byler is listed by Baseball America as a third baseman, ranking 115th among their top 500 and as the second-best prospect from the state of Nevada (after San Francisco Giants first-round pick Phil Bickford). However, he spent the majority of 2015 as the Wolf Pack's first baseman, and his overall placement on BA's list would be fifth among prospects at that position.
Regardless, he blossomed as an offensive force in the process of changing positions, powering Nevada to the regular season title with a .328/.507/.652 line that included 14 home runs, 52 runs batted in and 9 steals. In addition, his on-base percentage ranked third in the NCAA and his slugging percentage was 18th. Despite the disappointing end to Nevada's season in the conference tournament, Byler also went 3-for-4 in the elimination game against San Diego State, scoring three runs and driving in two.
The selection represents a decline in Byler's fortunes from a year ago, oddly enough, in which he was a 9th-round selection of the Washington Nationals. Perhaps the slide down the defensive spectrum left lingering questions among some organizations, but the fact that the Diamondbacks pounced on him at the opening of Day Three certainly means they saw some value in his bat.