Draft Preview with MLBDraftInsider.com

marc w · May 31, 2012 at 11:41 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

Baseball amateur draft is coming up this Monday, June 4th. If you’re an avid follower of draft prospects, mock drafts and the like, then you’re no doubt already familiar with Chris Crawford of MLBDraftInsider.com. If you’re one of the many fans that thinks that the Rule 4 draft gets way more ink than it deserves and that it’s all a crapshoot, well, this post isn’t for you.

As you probably know, the M’s have the third pick in Monday’s draft, along with pick #64 in the second round. While this year’s draft class is a clear step behind 2011’s, the M’s will add a top 10 prospect to the fold in a few days time. What makes this year’s draft so hard to handicap is the new slotting system or draft caps that the new collective bargaining agreement imposes. I talked about the new rules before the season started, and Baseball America has done great work with a series of articles on the changes.

So who will the M’s take? How good are the big three college right-handers that most have going in the top 10? What about Buxton/Correa/Almora? The high-school arms like Giolito and Fried? Well I don’t know, so I asked draft guru Chris Crawford, whose website MLBDraftInsider.com is focused on answering such questions. If you need a quick rundown on the candidates for the #3 picks, check out Matthew Carruth’s post here. Lots more after the jump:

My questions in bold, MLBDraftInsider’s answers in italics:
1: Who do you think the Mariners will take at #3? Who SHOULD they take?
I think the Mariners are going to take Mike Zunino. I’ve felt that way since March of 2011, and if he’s the selection, I certainly wouldn’t consider it a giant reach or anything of the sort. He’s shown an ability to get on base and recognize pitches, has power to all fields, and is good enough with the glove to not worry about him sticking behind the plate.

He’s not who I would select, however. If Byron Buxton somehow gets by the Astros and Twins, I think he has to be the selection. In my humble opinion, his talent dwarfs the other options in this draft. Assuming Buxton is gone, Carlos Correa would be my selection. There are two elite bats in this class, if the Mariners passed on both, it’d be a mild disappointment.

How far behind the two HS bats is Zunino in your opinion? I’m assuming the draw back with Zunino is the hit tool, not defense or power, right?

Zunino just doesn’t have the upside that Correa or Buxton do. To use the old scouting terms, I can see Buxton being a potential MVP candidate, and Correa a multiple all-star. Zunino has a chance to be the latter based on positional value? But I don’t see it being a year-by-year type thing.

2: Lucas Giolito was regarded as one of the better HS RHPs in years, and that’s high praise after last year’s crop (Bundy, Bradley). If he hadn’t been hurt, would he be a slam dunk at #3? If he hadn’t been hurt, would he make it to #3?
There has never been a prep right-handed starter to go 1.1 in the Rule 4 Draft, so I can’t say it would be a lock that he’d be the first pick, but it’d be pretty darn close. His size, stuff and work ethic would be too difficult to pass on, especially in a weak draft class. And if Houston were to pass, it would take a “we don’t want to play in Minnesota” from the Giolito camp for him to slip by the Twins. Seattle would have to be borderline incompetent to pass on a healthy Giolito, and since we know they are not, I don’t think they would.

3: Giolito’s elbow didn’t require surgery but it did keep him out of game action. How big of a red flag is that to you?
It’s a red flag, for sure, but it also might be a “blessing in disguise.” The Giolito family deserves credit for not rushing his arm back for the sake of the draft. They have taken the rehab very seriously, and instead of rushing a high-school senior back onto the mound, they have chosen the long-term implications. Would teams have liked to have seen him on the mound? Of course, but I don’t think it’s the death sentence some are making it out to be.

This is then the 2nd year that the family of a big HS RHP has been a (positive) factor. Dylan Bundy’s dad developed his training and routine. Now apparently the Giolitos have helped dictate his timetable to resume pitching. Are teams learning to deal with families, or is this how it’s always been? Was the Lincecum situation, as an example, common, or did that herald a new era when prospects and their kids would be more assertive about timetables, training or whatever?

It’s a case by case basis. There are certainly cases where the family has hurt the players stock, but it does seem the parent/team relationship has improved drastically over the years. I think social
media has played a large part in that, especially twitter.

4: The new draft rules may make it very hard for a team to go over slot. The M’s blew their slot numbers out of the water last year, starting with the #2 pick, but doing it again and again with guys like Jack Marder, Cavan Cohoes etc. Will the M’s go with a signability guy at #3? How do you think the hard caps influence the bargaining power of the HS and College draft picks?
That’s a great question, and unfortunately we don’t know the answer. I don’t think the Mariners are going to take a signability guy at 3, but at 64, 91, etc? There might not be a choice. As for the
bargaining, part of me says that the guys who are going to sign are going to sign, but maybe that’s just me being naive. The other part of me says that the guys on the fence now have a major push in the wrong direction, but maybe that’s just me being a cynical so-and-so.

Have you seen Boras’ idea for a five year rolling cap instead of a year to year cap? Like it? More personally, how might your job and website change if signabity becomes a huge issue? If there’s a huge gap between ‘best available’ and your mock drafts?

I have, and I will say that it’s a better idea than the current system, but it’s flawed. I don’t think there should be a signing cap at all, anything that keeps the best athletes away from baseball is a bad idea.

It makes it a lot harder, because you get bad information out there as it is. The draft already doesn’t go anywhere close to in order of best player available, so now you have to trust that scouts are telling you that this is the guy we want to take. Next year, I may not even do a mock, and just do boards, because I trust my scouting eye a lot more than I trust front-office people, if that makes sense.

5: Gausman and Appel both have size and velocity, but they really haven’t dominated. Their K rates are good, but nothing special and are clearly a tier below recent guys like Hultzen, Pomeranz, Sale, or Bauer. They’re in line with Sonny Gray/Mike Minor types who most don’t view as potential aces. Do you think the M’s need to go for someone with #1/#2 potential? If there aren’t college arms with that top-of-the-rotation ability, should they avoid them, or is there something to be said for getting a safer pick, especially without another pick until #64 and with limited ability to grab a signability kid with a big offer late in the draft? Do Gausman/Appel’s brief-but-uninspiring stints in the Cape League worry you or not?
At the beginning of the year, Appel was the clear No.1 prospect in this draft, but he’s done very little to keep that status. The velocity has been good — and he’s missed bats better than his sophomore campaign — but too many inconsistent results and too many questions about his secondary stuff for me to select him first. Should he fall to the Mariners, I would pass.

Gausman is a bit more interesting, however. His command has improved considerably as the year progressed, and I think there’s much more progression in his right-arm than Appels. I wouldn’t take either one at No.2, for all the reasons you mentioned really, but I would consider Gausman less of a reach.

How’d Gausman do in conference play?

He was very good, although inconsistent. The walks came down, and he was much more efficient than any of the big time starters outside of Zimmer.

6: The HS bats are an interesting group. Chris, your last board had Correa as the #3 talent, but he’s not going to the M’s in your mock (or anyone elses). Do you think the M’s are wary of HS bats?
Wary might be a bit strong, but I think they’re going to have to be overwhelmed with a prep player to take one that high. If Correa was a gimme to stick at shortstop, I think he’d be a lock over Zunino, etc, but if he were a lock to stick at short he wouldn’t be available.

Who would you compare him to? If not Lindor, would a young Glaus be appropriate, with Joel Guzman as the downside risk? Is he Mike Morse, Sean Rodriguez?

I’m not great on player comps, even though I know they’re what’s in. At his best, he’s a .350/.500+ hitter who plays above-average defense at third. At his worst, he’s Joel Guzman (I guess I do like comps).

7: Correa’s 17, and Kevin Goldstein points out that many teams saw Rany Jazayerli’s draft age study showing that players who are drafted at a younger age (17 vs. 18) often turn out a bit better. Do you think the M’s should care about Correa’s birthday vis a vis, I don’t know, Almora’s? Or is Buxton’s raw ability so great that you just ignore things like age?
It’s something to keep in mind, certainly. I think it’s nuts to be concerned about Buxton’s age, but is there a benefit to being 17 compared to 19? Sure, that’s more time to develop a player in your
system. Slightly overblown — and there is the risk of giving 17-year old’s millions of dollars — but it’s something to keep in mind.

8: Another 17-yo SS from Puerto Rico went in the top 10 last year, Francisco Lindor. How would you compare Correa and Lindor?
Outside of the fact that they were both prep shortstops, there isn’t much comparison. Lindor isn’t John McDonald, but he doesn’t have near the raw power that Correa possesses. Lindor is also much more
likely to stick at shortstop, the only tool that Correa would have on him with the glove is arm strength. I’d probably rather have Correa just because the bat plays at short or third-base, but I’d feel a lot more confident if I believed he wasn’t destined for third-base.

How do you think he’d do defensively at third?

He’d be more than adequate, I think. Plenty of arm strength, gets rid of the ball quickly, and moves well enough laterally. We aren’t looking at a future first-baseman, in other words.

9: Byron Buxton’s got all-world ability, but how worried are you about his in-game power? Does he just need a bit of coaching?
As close to unworried as possible. Sure, it’d be nice to see him d ropping bombs against inferior competition, but after seeing Buxton in Chicago, I have little to no doubt the young man will hit for power in the future. He’s not a lock to be a 30+ guy, but he certainly has that in him.

Odds he slips to #3?

I would say 25 percent. I just can’t picture both Minnesota and Houston passing at this point.

10: Max Fried was Giolito’s HS teammate and may be the best prep lefty. He’s got solid velocity and a great curve. Are we overlooking him a bit? Did he slip because he didn’t throw 100 like his teammate?
Fried was one of my favorites coming into the year, but he’s struggled a bit with his consistency this season. When he’s right, he has as good of curveball as any pitcher in this draft, with above-average velocity and good command. Unfortunately, he hasn’t shown that enough this season to warrant top five consideration. I don’t see him slipping out of the top ten, but not a guy I’d consider
at three.

11: Just looking at FIP-type numbers, Andrew Heaney and Marcus Stroman deserve more attention than Appel/Gausman. Heaney doesn’t have the velocity of the others, but he’s got a great K:BB ratio and struck out more than a batter an inning in the Cape Cod League too. Stroman’s got good velocity and he’s K’d about 12.5 per 9 at Duke. His size and repertoire have people calling him a bullpen arm already, but he worked as a starter this year. Should they be in the mix, or are there too many question marks for the #3 pick? Can Heaney be more than a #3/#4 starter in the bigs? Can Stroman start professionally?
Stroman has had an absolutely outstanding year — albeit against a pretty bad ACC — but almost everyone I talk to sees him as a reliever, mainly due to his size. I would give him a chance to start, but these Trevor Bauer comparisons are absolutely insane. At his very best, he’s a mid-rotation starter, at his worst, a very good reliever, probably a closer.

If this was 2011, Heaney would be a round two guy for me. Since it’s not 2011, and the college pitching class is so weak — hes going to go somewhere in the first fifteen picks. There have been a lot of rumors that he’s connected to Seattle, but that’d be a huge mistake. The Danny Hultzen comparisons are lazy, as Hultzen’s three offerings are miles better than the Oklahoma State left-hander. They deserve kudos for their campaigns, but they’re just not top ten talents, much less top three.

12: Kyle Zimmer was talked about as a potential #3 and he’s one of the “Big 3” college arms, but I haven’t seen him linked to the M’s. Great K:BB ratio and low walks for someone who can get into the mid/upper 90s. Good pick at #3? Why is he seen as a step behind Appel?
Zimmer is one of the biggest enigmas of the draft, he could go anywhere from No.2 to No.15, and I’ve seen him linked with plenty of teams in between. While the results have been good, he’s done it against inferior competition in the WCC, and his velocity has been extremely inconsistent. In April I think he would have been a good idea, not so much now.

Do you think that inconsistency would influence a bonus at #3? That is, are inconsistent guys like Zimmer (or, say, Garrett Richards) something of an underpriced asset, or are they priced appropriately given the risk?

That’s a phenomenal question. I think guys with inconsistent statistic results — strikeouts, extra-base hits and the like — are great risk/reward players, but with velocity? That’s a huge risk, because of all the factors that go along with why pitchers lose MPH on their fastball. Maybe you can get him to sign for less because of that, but you take more risk than reward from a cheaper signing, in my estimation.

13: The guy that most people have linked with the M’s at #3 is Florida C Mike Zunino. Zunino seems like a good bet to stick at catcher, but some have questions about how much he’ll hit, especially after a so-so showing in SEC play this year. Was that nerves, or is he going to struggle to hit for average in the majors? If he does, does he have the power to JP Arencibia his way into a line-up, or will he be a solid regular who contributes more with his defense/leadership?
I really don’t worry so much about Zunino’s results in SEC play. I personally think he’s been overused a bit this year behind the plate, and his numbers against Friday starters — generally much better
competition — have been good, and his overall line is just fine. I don’t think hes a star, which concerns a lot of people when you’re talking about the third pick, but as I said at the beginning, I don’t think the pick is a stretch at all. A three to five win player behind the plate definitely has a place on any roster, even if it’s not exactly sexy.

I’d take that. Any concerns about M’s player development, especially as it relates to catchers?

I think we all would, it just isn’t the “build around guy” that everyone wants. I don’t have any concerns about that, the process of drafting the catchers too early is why those players have failed. Zunino wouldn’t fall under that category, even if he isn’t the player I’d take with the third pick.

14: Any names that M’s fans should know about who might be around for that second pick at #64?
It’s tough to say who’s still going to be on the board, but a few guys that would be good value include Barrett Barnes — an outfielder from Texas Tech with plus bat speed and should be able to play centerfield with 60 speed, Pierce Johnson — a right-hander out of Missouri state who would be a first-rounder if not for a forearm strain in the middle of the year, and Kieran Lovegrove, a right-hander out of Mission Viejo High School in California who has plenty of life on his pitches and the best slider of any prep pitcher in the draft.

Thanks once again to Chris Crawford, who runs the great MLBDraftInsider.com and tweets about baseball (and movies) at @CrawfordChrisV. His latest mock draft is here.


9 Responses to “Draft Preview with MLBDraftInsider.com”

  1. Ibuprofen on June 1st, 2012 12:13 am

    Thanks for this, marc. Now I’m even more hyped about possibly getting one of Buxton or Correa.

  2. DAMellen on June 1st, 2012 12:55 am

    A right handed starter has never gone 1.1? What about Gerrit Cole? And Steve Strasburg? Luke Hochevar, Bryan Bullington, the last keeps going. What am I not understanding about that statement?

  3. Chris Crawford on June 1st, 2012 1:12 am

    Sorry, poorly worded on my behalf. A high-school right handed pitcher has never got 1.1. A thousand apologies.

  4. Typical Idiot Fan on June 1st, 2012 1:20 am

    A right handed starter has never gone 1.1?

    He didn’t say it, but he meant “high school” right handed starter. And he’s right, in the history of the draft from 1965 to today, no right handed high school pitcher has been taken #1 overall. A few left handers have (David Clyde, Floyd Bannister, Brien Taylor), but all right handers who went #1 overall were college players.

  5. maqman on June 1st, 2012 6:46 am

    Where Z & Co. will find the gold is in the lower levels of the draft. They are very good evaluators of talent, among the best in the game.

  6. globalalpha on June 1st, 2012 8:17 am

    On the point of 17 year olds turning out better than 18 year olds — I think that has to be an endogenous effect. Players with more talent get drafted at a younger age, and players with more talent end up performing better. I highly doubt there is a direct causal link between age and future performance.

  7. californiamariner on June 1st, 2012 10:08 am

    So is the general consensus between fans that you guys want Buxton or Correa?

  8. groundzero55 on June 1st, 2012 10:31 am

    I was reading all the reports on Zunino and I just wasn’t impressed a whole lot. The consensus seemed to be “one of the best hitters in a bad hitting draft.”

    Not mind-blowing.

    I think out of the high arms, Giolito impressed me most, more than Appel even.

  9. 9inningknowitall on June 1st, 2012 11:00 am

    This entire draft is more difficult to figure out over past years. This is a draft where every first round pick could be a bit of a disappointment or every pick could be a super star in the making. It is just really up in the air because no one really stands out.

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