So You Still Want Me to Write About the 2015 Draft
As friends of mine are more into the sport and I can be dragged into matters out of a desire to be conversational, I recently found myself paying some amount of attention to the NFL Draft. You can imagine my bewilderment at the whole affair. “So there is some consensus about where players will fall outside of the first round? And these players can be expected to fill major roles immediately? And you can still find major contributors in the NDFA pool? And various pundits have video clips available and are capable of giving practical commentary on each selection as it’s made all through the draft? What the crap is this?”
I understand some of the nuances that differentiate the sports. Baseball is more skill-based, football has an advantage of media given that all their players go through the NCAA system, etc, and yet, the mind still has some difficulty catching up. The phenomena of drafting this type of position in this round because it can be expected to yield this value is wholly foreign to me, even as I can justify pursuing certain molds of players earlier or later based off of what they might provide.
The Mariners gave up their first round pick because of the Nelson Cruz signing. Consequently, they won’t have their first selection until #60. If this were that other sport, I could speculate on what players might be available at #60, set that against organizational needs, and create a general program for what I expect out of the draft. If I tried that here, I would be hilariously wrong. The time investment required to mock an entire draft is unfathomable to me.
Furthermore, in baseball, there’s rationale for making a big affair of the first round. You can get your number one prospect that way! The Mariner’s last six first overall selections have been considered for #1 prospect internally at various points! Waiting until #60, you don’t have that same boon. That’s not to say that there haven’t been productive players taken by the organization after that. Edwin Diaz was selected 98th overall and is likely the farm’s best starting pitcher right now. Brad Miller wasn’t picked up until #62. Kyle Seager had to wait until #82 and there are probably some teams rather upset with themselves for squandering their chances at him.
As far as who the selection will be, baseball is generally not that predictable and I’ve seen return on heavy investment in the Mariners selecting a guy still on the board exactly once (that would be James Paxton). In lieu of going down the draft boards and looking at prospects in that window around #60, I’ll instead talk about what we’ve seen broadly from the Mariners draft board and what that might translate to.
East Coast and Mid-Atlantic
Examples: Dustin Ackley (1st, ’09), Kyle Seager (3rd, ’09), Danny Hultzen (1st, ’11), Brad Miller (2nd, ’11)
If the Maddox era and a bit after that registers in my mind for drafting toolsy prospects often from cold-weather, Midwest regions, then the drafts under McNamara immediately are characterized by drafting guys out of ACC and SEC schools. Which is not to say that it’s all ACC and SEC, as Carter Capps was a D-II guy, but the east coast, both small and large schools, is where we’ve been most comfortable returning to time and again.
For this draft, one possible name could be Alex Robinson, a southpaw who attends Maryland. He’s got great velocity and bad command, and we haven’t shied away from those types at all. More variable on the list is Virginia’s Joe McCarthy, who is a polished hitter and a potential CF who, worst-case scenario, is a slap-hitting LF. His stock has fluctuated a bit due to offseason back surgery and weak performances following it. If he gets picked, I am going to make so many political references you will hate it. Another candidate, possibly for the second pick, is North Carolina’s Skye Bolt, who has a great name, but still is no Sequoyah Trueblood Stonecipher. Bolt’s a lock for CF and is a switch-hitter with great all-around tools, but his bat skills are not great despite flashing plus power. It’s a weak year on the whole for that region, so we may see the Mariners’ attentions drift elsewhere, in which case…
Examples: Gareth Morgan (comp, ’14), Tyler O’Neill (3, ’13), Lachlan Fontaine (13th, ’13)
The Mariners appear to have been following around the Canadian travel squads these past few years because they were willing to give Morgan well over his slot bonus last season in order to lure him away from the college ranks. Thus far, the returns haven’t been extraordinary as each of these hitters have had issues of polish. O’Neill is at least recovering recently after a very silly first month in which he had an ISO of .195 and ran a 31/1 K/BB.
Josh Naylor out of Ontario is a decent, speculative pick. He’s got elite left-handed power and some contact issues and is also limited to first base despite a good arm. A pick less likely to be available would be Demi Orimoloye, who is a five-tool OF who projects to either center or right field but also doesn’t always make consistent contact. If the team likes the pitching out of Canada this year and wants something different, there’s Mike Soroka, who is a low-90s RH with a great curveball. He could be a difficult sign seeing as how he’s lined up to go to Cal and could really see his stock improve three years down the line, whereas at present it could be harder to justify burning a second round pick on him.
Examples: Nick Franklin (1st, ’09), Marcus Littlewood (2nd, ’10), Brad Miller (2nd, ’11), Joe DeCarlo (2nd, ’12)
You can probably see where the last couple of drafts have thrown me for a loop in that we haven’t picked shortstops with our second picks. Of course, just because they’re selected there doesn’t mean they’ll stay there. Franklin and Miller have both taken on super-utility roles, Littlewood became a catcher, and DeCarlo is basically the Jack Cust profile playing a plus third base.
If we’re going into the college ranks, a couple of possibilities would be Blake Trahan of Lousiana-Lafayette and Mikey White of Alabama. Trahan has good but not great speed, plus bat control, limited power, and a bit of trouble with throwing accuracy (sound familiar?). White is a high-motor guy who plays better than his average tools would lead one to think. As the Mariners drafted DeCarlo out of Pennsylvania HS, you might guess they could be into Travis Blankenhorn, who was two-sport guy (basketball) and is more of a bat-first type who could end up at third, based on his defensive strengths. If he’s available, I’d also consider Florida SS Richie Martin since he was a pick by the ‘Ners out of high school. He’s a bit streaky for a OBP guy with good defensive tools, but he’s also young for the college class.
Bear in mind that this is all broadly speculative based on location and types of players. Among the other features we’ve seen that are peculiar to Mariners drafts, we’ve seen through the years that the Mariners tend to give an edge to players in the same region as their #1 pick, which is why I speculated that the Mariners were actually targeting Carlos Correa in 2012, given that they went heavy on Puerto Rican prospects with Edwin Diaz and Kristian Brito later. The most prominent example of this was probably back in 2009 when we picked Ackley, Seager, and Brian Moran out of NC and then Jimmy Gillheeney out of NC State, followed by the 2011 draft when we got Danny Hultzen, John Hicks, and Steve Proscia all out of Virginia with Chris Taylor getting the nod the following year as soon as he was eligible. There are trends for the draft as it unfolds, but for the top guy, the geographic or positional preference is less important in and of itself. As for simple draft mechanics, of course the team is also entirely likely to go to California, or Texas, or Florida for the selection because those are baseball hotbeds you don’t just ignore. I just can’t provide any specific insights there because those are places that every team is obligated to scout.
It’s a different sort of beast just by virtue of waiting around for #60. The last time we waited so long, it was for a comp pick at #43 which ended up being Taijuan Walker in a draft where we went all in on high-upside pitching. At the time, Walker had just started throwing off the mound after a career as a shortstop and basketball player. There could easily be a push to select a higher-upside, boom-or-bust type in a draft where we otherwise have fewer early picks to play with. The #50-70 range of the boards I’ve stared at are littered with more HS pitchers than would be practical to list. As it’s a draft where the consensus is that there aren’t a lot of guys that combine high-upside with polish, it’s hard to know just where they all might go. The Mariners could easily dip into those ranks for both of their first-day selections, or they could do something crazy like pick up Georgia prep Alonzo Jones, who has the draft’s best speed and is a switch-hitting middle-infield/center field candidate who had his senior season lost to hamate surgery.
Now that I’ve dispensed with the challenges of speculation, I can provide you with some of the more basic information pertaining to the draft.
When is this draft happening?
Round one through Comp B starts at 4 pm PT on Monday, June 8th. Rounds 3-10 will begin Tuesday, June 9th at 10 am PT. The draft will then conclude on Wednesday, June 10th, with the final thirty rounds beginning at 9 am PT.
When are the Mariners picking?
#60, #72 (Comp B selection awarded by lottery), #94, and then #125 and in intervals of 30 thereafter.
Wait, what happened to our first-round pick?
The new CBA rules, we forfeited our first-round pick and the Orioles got a pick added to the end of the first round. They did not get our pick, our pick just disappeared, as is the case now with teams that would have drafted lower in the first round.
What are the strengths of this draft?
From the looks of it, college shortstops, college pitching, high school outfielders, some high school pitching.
Are we missing out by not having a first-round pick?
Probably not. No one seems to be super enthused about this class. We’re missing out on drafting Mike Cameron’s kid though.
What are the Mariners’ needs going into this draft?
Okay, you don’t draft for need because–
Fine, what is the general state of the system?
Depends on what part of it you’re looking at. The young pitching under team control at the major league level is well-known. In the high minors, you have a maybe shortstop in Marte, a backup catcher in Hicks, and various corner infield candidates. The low minors are more characterized by their corner ourfielders and have some interesting pitching, but not a whole lot. The system is still lacking in viable CF candidates and depth up the middle could probably stand to be improved a bit.
Should I really expect the Mariners to draft anyone you’ve listed above?
Based on my track record with guessing Mariners-type picks, probably not. Each organization is going to weight things differently. I could use a draft board from this or that source as a reference point and then see the team end up with a completely different set of priorities. Don’t get too attached to any of the names I’ve listed. Just learn what the actual selections are about when they come.
What would you like to see the Mariners do with this draft?
Draft a future Mariner.