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Jordan Lawlar, Ryan Bliss set to represent Diamondbacks in Futures Game

All-Star week festivities are headlined by Monday’s Home Run Derby and Tuesday’s game, but they’re set to begin Saturday with the MLB Futures Game.

Two Diamondbacks prospects will play in the game, which features the top prospects in baseball and will be shown on Peacock at 4 pm Shortstop Jordan Lawlar is among the game’s headliners, and he’ll be joined by second baseman Ryan Bliss.

Lawlar played in the game last year alongside Corbin Carroll and struck out in his lone at-bat. Two years ago, Alek Thomas was the Diamondbacks’ lone representative.

Lawlar, who the Diamondbacks drafted out of high school sixth overall in 2021, is widely considered the organization’s top prospect. He got off to a rough start this year, hitting .162/.296/.342 in Double-A over his first 32 games. But over the last 33 games (also in Double-A), the 20-year-old has been every bit the offensive force evaluators believe he can eventually be at the big league level. In that span, he’s hitting .314/.389/.557 with 18 extra-base hits.

Top Diamondbacks prospect Jordan Lawlar will play in the MLB Futures Game this weekend.

“Sometimes going through struggles is good cause you learn about yourself and what it takes to get out of those things so when they happen down the road, they don’t last as long,” Diamondbacks farm director Josh Barfield said. “And I think he’s done a really good job of a better understanding with his approach. He had gotten a little pull heavy, a little swing happy. He’s done a really good job of getting his swing back on plane and driving the ball to all fields.”

Entering the year, one of the biggest questions surrounding Lawlar was whether he could stick at shortstop long-term. Internally, the Diamondbacks were confident that he could, but external evaluators thought he might be forced off the position by some shaky fundamentals.

This year, he’s solidified himself on that side of the ball.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m proud of,” Barfield said. “… He’s just way more fundamentally sound and you’re seeing way more consistency, not only with receiving the ball but just with the throws, the accuracy, the arm strength, all those things have improved.”

Bliss has not been surrounded by the same hype as Lawlar. He was a second-round pick out of Auburn in the same 2021 draft. After putting together a decent 2021 in pro ball, he struggled mightily at the plate last year, hitting .214/.298/.343 in High-A.

This year, Bliss has been one of the best hitters in the Diamondbacks’ farm system, hitting .358/.414/.594 in Double-A to go with above-average defense.

Auburn Ryan Bliss (9) throws to first during an NCAA baseball game against Mississippi on Sunday, March 21, 2021 in Oxford, MS.  (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Auburn Ryan Bliss (9) throws to first during an NCAA baseball game against Mississippi on Sunday, March 21, 2021 in Oxford, MS. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

“His swing, in some ways, it looks the same as last year, but he’s also made some subtle changes as far as, his bat’s in the zone a lot longer, he’s using the whole field now,” Barfield said. “He had gotten pull-happy last year.”

In order to keep his bat in the strike zone for longer, Barfield said Bliss has worked on not being as “uphill” in his swing. He also said that Bliss has cut down on his chase rate. The numbers back that up — Bliss is striking out 17.0% of the time, down from 24.4% of the time.

And, despite standing just 5-foot-6, he has hit 12 homers, four triples and 25 doubles in 68 games while also using his speed to steal 30 bases.

“The consistency that he’s had,” Barfield said, “the ability to consistently barrel the baseball and drive the baseball, day in, day out for the first three months of the season has been really impressive.”

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Jordan Lawlar, Ryan Bliss to represent D-Backs in Futures Game

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