This year things are different, as their 26-game improvement in the win column last year means they will pick 11th in next Tuesday's draft. As compensation for the loss of reliever Tim Worrell to free agency, Arizona will get a supplemental pick at No. 34 and an extra selection in the third round (86th).
Regardless of where they pick, the club will still approach the draft the same way it has since Mike Rizzo began running the scouting department in 2000.
"We're going to line them up on the board and take the best player available when our turn comes around and we'll see where we're at," Rizzo said. "We're looking to get another impact player for the system."
Given Rizzo's track record, when he says "best player available" he means it, regardless of other circumstances. When other teams shied away from shortstop Stephen Drew in the 2004 draft because of signability questions, Rizzo nabbed him. The organization then went toe-to-toe with agent Scott Boras for nearly a year before finally getting Drew signed.
Then last year, Rizzo took shortstop Justin Upton because he was the consensus best player in the draft despite the fact that the D-Backs had taken a highly-regarded shortstop the year before.
Given the strength of this year's draft, look for the Diamondbacks to take a college pitcher with their top choice.
"I think the depth this year is college pitching," Rizzo said. "It's a good year to pick 11th because there is a girth of pitchers."
Of course, which pitcher the Diamondbacks wind up with depends on what the 10 teams in front of them decide to do. Baseball America's most recent mock draft has the D-Backs selecting University of Nebraska right-hander Joba Chamberlain, while MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo thinks there's a slight chance that Stanford right-hander Greg Reynolds might slip to Arizona after a rough outing recently.
Other possibilities for that spot include Max Scherzer, a right-hander from Missouri and righty Luke Hochevar, who was drafted by the Dodgers last year, but hasn't signed. Both are Boras clients, and as shown with Drew in 2004, the D-Backs aren't scared off by that.
Whoever the pick winds up being, he'll join an impressive farm system. At one point last week, the first-place Diamondbacks had five homegrown products -- Andy Green, Chad Tracy, Conor Jackson, Chris Snyder and Brandon Medders -- on the field at the same time. Add it to the fact that prospects were part of the deals that brought in two other players in the lineup that day -- second baseman Orlando Hudson and catcher Johnny Estrada -- and the health of the system is obvious.
"We're very proud of the guys," Rizzo said. "There's a real good synergy in this organization. It starts with Jeff [Moorad] and Ken [Kendrick] at the ownership level and goes through [general manager] Josh [Byrnes]. The support they give us is incredible. We have the best scouts in the business and don't forget the player development people either. They've done a great job with these guys."
Here's a look at the D-Backs last three No. 1 picks:
Justin Upton, SS/CF, 2005, No. 1 pick: Upton was selected as a shortstop and the club had planned on developing him there, but decided in April to move him to center field. He had an impressive spring with the big club, wowing teammates with his power during batting practice and showing tremendous maturity and poise.
Stephen Drew, SS, 2004, No. 15 pick: After signing just before last year's draft, Drew dominated at Class A Lancaster and was promoted to Double-A Tennessee, where his average dipped to .218. He finished on a positive note though when he hit .337, slugged .738 and had a .439 on-base percentage in the Arizona Fall League. Only Craig Counsell's presence at short is keeping him in Triple-A.
Conor Jackson, 1B and Carlos Quentin, OF, picks nos. 19 and 29: Jackson was drafted as an outfielder before being converted to first base last season. He rose quickly through the system and joined the big league club last July. He's done well as the starting first baseman this year and the organization is excited about his future. There's nothing left for Quentin to prove in the Minors after an outstanding 2005 season in Triple-A, but he is blocked at the moment by veteran outfielders Luis Gonzalez and Shawn Green.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.