So You Still Want Me To Write About the 2017 Draft

Jay Yencich · June 5, 2017 at 8:30 am · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

Hello. Once again, later than usual, we are looking down the three-day period where 1200 or so names are called out and added as grist for the peculiar mill that is minor league player development, sort of a Rube Golberg machine that specializes in severed ligaments and PB&J sandwiches. Obviously, not all players will be signed and those that are inked will probably stand a better chance of reaching the major leagues. Probably. For the most part, saner baseball fans are only really looking to pay attention to the top ten rounds or so and the hope of funny names or intriguing storylines thereafter. Seeing as how summers are more ideal for my sit-down writing time, I’ve decided to throw down a brief look at what we have out there and where we’ve been, with the caveat that drafting later in the draft provides more unpredictability. Not that drafting earlier guarantees any amount certainty. Remember when I wrote five or six draft previews and then we picked Danny Hultzen? I certainly remember that happening. I used colorful language.

So, this thing, when does it happen?
Day One will be Monday, June 12th, with the preview show starting at 3 pm Pacific and the real draft starting around 4 pm. This will cover rounds one and two along with the Competitive Balance Rounds A and B after each round. Day Two will follow with the previews beginning at 9:30 am and the real stuff, carrying us through the tenth round, starting at 10 am. Day Three, our beloved conference call day, will begin at 9 am on the 14th.

When does our team select?
Our first pick on Day One will come at #17. Since we were not awarded any picks in the Competitive Balance Lottery, our next pick will be at #55, then our third round pick at #93, then in intervals of thirty thereafter barring someone dropping out early, although that’s been far less frequent since the draft was set to forty rounds. The last time we had a Competitive Balance selection was 2015.

What’s the consensus on this draft?
The same as the consensus on the draft every year: Sub-par.

Wait, what?
Player evaluation and scouting are weird businesses. It seems to be a faux pas to come off as too enthusiastic about anything. I can’t really remember the last draft (2006 maybe?) where there was genuine enthusiasm about the players available. Scouts ply a rather a pessimistic trade and it’s easier to say “x will never be a major leaguer” because odds are you won’t be wrong.

Okay, so what are we looking at here for draft strengths?
College pitching, probably early on, and then thereafter it seems like some prep arms and outfielders are available. These are presumably good things to stock up on since Eric Longenhagen of Fangraphs tweeted in May that an extended spring training game had been canceled due to lack of pitching and that this wasn’t the first time such a thing had happened.

How can a team run out of pitchers?
Because not enough position players know how or are willing.

And what are the system’s needs beyond that?
Stop drafting for need.

Oh, right, what is our depth like?
Curiously, almost all of our offensive breakout players this season have been outfielders and you can look through the ranks and find a couple of interest on any given team (O’Neill and the rotating array of Haniger replacements; Ian Miller and Chuck Taylor; Braden Bishop and Eric Filia; Anthony Jimenez and, weirdly, Gareth Morgan, plus Kyle Lewis soon). After that, we have a lot of pitching, but not a lot of impact pitching and we’ve had to use quite a bit of it to start the year, including some dudes I never really expected to see in uniform but am pleased to see the dream become real for them. Andrew Moore is probably our closest pitching prospect, but there have been good if inconsistent performances from a lot of other names in the system and the only team that’s performed well on the whole is Tacoma. People should talk about Tyler Herb and Ljay Newsome more than they do. There are a few interesting shortstops and middle infield types down at the lowest levels, including some that haven’t debuted yet this year like Greifer Andrade and Chris Torres, and then a few scattered corner infielders of interest like Vogelbach, Peterson, and Joe Rizzo. We don’t really have much in the way of catching that’s compelling, but Steve Baron is hitting okay in Tacoma, and Marcus Littlewood and Tyler Marlette aren’t black holes in Jackson although both could use work on various facets of the game. I don’t really see starters among any of them. Heck, we just converted former prep shortstop Joe DeCarlo to catcher so they must either think the Littlewood experiment went well or they’re desperate.

That doesn’t sound especially positive. What are your overall feelings about the system right now?
Paying attention to the minor leagues long enough, you can learn how to look at players and find some reason for hope or positivity in any season. One of the things that I’ve noticed over the course of this season is how quickly and strangely the system’s outfield depth has turned around. However, there aren’t too many guys even within that that seem like sure starters and with that as arguably the system’s strength at the moment… One of the main troubles here is that DiPoto, in a defensible effort to win now, has traded away a bunch of our interesting lottery tickets with the thought in mind that getting near contributors will pay immediate dividends while postponing a system rebuild. However, given development times within baseball, I think we’re hitting a point where we want to focus our resources on strengthening the system so that we have contingency plans down the line. This draft comes at a good time and I’ll be interested to see how they allocate the resources this year as we seem to be reaching a tipping point where it would be in our best interests to develop more long-term, high-impact players.

What players has the team been linked to?
Even without a system in place to trade draft picks in the MLB, you can only productively guess who might go when for a few picks before someone throws a spanner in the works. One popular pick as of late May was to link the Mariners with LHP David Peterson of Oregon, who has risen up the draft boards from the 60-range preseason. It’s sort of that sweet spot of need and proximity, but dropping down to the seventeenth pick, it’s hard to know what will happen. Personally, I like the idea because it means that in the event that D.J. Peterson makes the major leagues at the same time, we’ll have jerseys with multiple letters and then “Peterson.” Swoon. Otherwise, a good college arm seems like an okay bet. UCLA’s Griffin Canning could be another option. If we’re into college corner infielders since 1B is still a question mark, there are dudes like Missouri State’s Jake Burger and Kentucky’s Evan White available unless the M’s want to see if they can get California prep 1B Nick Pratto to skip out on a USC commitment.

What will the Mariners actually do?
We haven’t drafted this low in a while, so while precedent has suggested “those in proximity to the #1 target,” we don’t really have good bearings on who we expect to get just yet. Safe bets usually include a gritty HS middle infielder with subpar tools as the second pick and otherwise spending a lot of time around D-II schools in New England and the mid-Atlantic. The organization often perceives different strengths at play than the mainstream so it’s difficult to predict whether they will actually go with preps day two or if they’ll perceive other commodities that are being undervalued. I would expect to get a catcher day two at the latest, along with some current starter who will be converted to relief and then fast-tracked after the season, but the draft within baseball is so deep that it’s hard to commit the time to names based on trends given that everything goes haywire, either eventually or quite rapidly.

What do you mean “haywire” exactly?
Donovan Tate was selected third overall by the Padres in 2009 and this was marked as a selection of note by Harold Reynolds because Tate was an exciting athlete and the Padres were “boring.” Tate is now set up to be the QB for the Arizona Wildcats in the fall. Given more time, for all I know, Bubba Starling could be QBing for the Jayhawks next year.

Why do you even remember stuff like this?
Because if Trey Griffey had stayed on as a super senior, we would have had the Mariners-Padres pipeline invade Pac-12 Football and I think that’s hilarious.

What do you think the Mariners should do?
Draft a future Mariner.


6 Responses to “So You Still Want Me To Write About the 2017 Draft”

  1. JH on June 5th, 2017 9:59 am

    The last two drafts I remember that were considered exceptionally strong at the time (rather than in hindsight) were 2010 and 2005. My memory is that 2006 was actually panned over and over again as one of the shallowest drafts in living memory, with Longoria written off as one of the weakest consensus top bats in years. Funny how these things play out.

  2. HighBrie on June 5th, 2017 10:54 am

    Remind me, were you pro-Rendon or pro-Lindor?

  3. Jay Yencich on June 5th, 2017 11:38 am

    The last two drafts I remember that were considered exceptionally strong at the time (rather than in hindsight) were 2010 and 2005. My memory is that 2006 was actually panned over and over again as one of the shallowest drafts in living memory, with Longoria written off as one of the weakest consensus top bats in years. Funny how these things play out.

    Could be I was thinking specifically of Longo and Kershaw and my view of ’06 was skewed by my own enthusiasm for the results, which were not great as such but oh god so much better than what we’d been accustomed to. But the ’06 draft had Lincecum, Andrew Miller, and Scherzer too and people thought perhaps justifiably that dudes like Kyle Drabek, Brad Lincoln, and Brandon Morrow would be decent. Greg Reynolds to the Rockies was always a bad idea though.

    Remind me, were you pro-Rendon or pro-Lindor?

    I was pro-Rendon although I understand that the scouting department was pro-Lindor. Either would have worked.

  4. JH on June 5th, 2017 12:13 pm

    Yeah, the ’06 draft was just thought to have virtually no position players and a group of top college pitching that was seen as good but not great. Obviously the results outpaced the draft’s reputation at the time.

  5. roosevelt on June 5th, 2017 9:34 pm

    So, the M’s are drafting much lower than previous years. I wouldn’t be too concerned as their previous high draft picks have been implausibly bad….

  6. leftfield limey on June 7th, 2017 4:46 am

    “So You Still Want Me To Write About the 2017 Draft”

    Yes please and thank you. Would not be the same without.

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