So You Still Want Me to Write About the 2018 Draft

Jay Yencich · June 1, 2018 at 8:00 am · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues 

Hello. It’s that time of the year again, in which we spend forty rounds selecting amateur players to later be used as raw materials for Jerry Dipoto’s trade addiction. I mean, help reinforce our minor league system so as to be a service to our major league roster fungibility (in acquiring players, from other major league teams).

For the past few years, I’ve identified us at being at a crossroads where it was becoming increasingly necessary to invest in high upside picks rather than those from the college ranks and of moderate ceilings, merely to fill out minor league rosters. The Mariners then ignored that for one more year, selected mostly college guys, and traded three of them before a year had even passed. So that was cool. On the plus side, I do remember being promised in the weeks immediately following the draft that we had finally reached a supposed break-even point where the system was in good enough shape to where we can start focusing on building over maintaining the status quo. Sure, April and May continued to be pocked with scattered reports from Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen about how the Mariners kept on canceling extended spring training games due to lack of pitching and we even made a minor trade with the D’Backs to get us a least one complex league pitcher but hahahaha maybe this time will be different maybe we don’t have to trade everything that isn’t nailed down, right, you guys? You guys?

When is The Thing?
Day One, is Monday June 4th, starting at 3 pm Pacific, or 2 pm if you want to watch the preview show. It will span the first round, second round, and various compensation picks, which will take us through #78 selection. Day Two will start Tuesday, June 5th at 9:30 am for us and will carry us through round ten. Then and only then are we graced with the Day Three Conference Call, which will begin at 9:30 am on Wednesday June 6th and cover the back thirty with more and stranger players, onward and onward until we run out of baseball players or the fortieth round passes, whichever comes first.

When do the Mariners do Their Thing?
We’re selecting a bit earlier than last year and only have to wait until #14. The Mariners representative will be former first-rounder Mike Moore. As is typical, we didn’t bother with the Competitive Balance Lottery, neither gaining nor forfeiting anything, and will next select at #54 in the second round. Curiously, though we moved up in the first round from #17 to #14, we only moved up one spot in the second round, owning the #55 selection last year. Things begin to normalize after the third round, where the Mariners will select at #90 overall and then in intervals of thirty thereafter, which should be easy enough to remember. I can’t imagine that anyone will decide that they’re done early but it’s surely possible. I just don’t know that it’s happened since the draft was scaled back ten rounds.

What’s Jerry’s / Tom McNamara’s / Scott Hunter’s Thing?
For the most part, the mock drafts I’ve seen and read have made note of the fact that Dipoto, as a GM, has shied away from the high school ranks with the first selection and distinctly preferred college bats. Odds are, we won’t have access to Oregon State’s Nick Madrigal or Florida’s Jonathan India at that point, but outfielders like South Alabama’s Travis Swaggerty and Madrigal’s teammate, Trevor Larnach, could be on the board. If college pitching is instead where we aim, Stetson’s Logan Gilbert, Florida’s Jackson Kowar, and Mississippi left-hander Ryan Rolison are other possibilities. Analysts seem to be predicting a repeat of last year and earlier trends, insofar as we’re going to take a college player first and then grab the highest upside prep player that drops with our second selection, likely an outfielder or an arm looking at the way the depth is configured.

What do analysts think of this Thing?
Strangely, it’s more positive than it has been in years past, although perhaps deeper in comparable talents and not as top-heavy as other classes have been. I’ve seen many years where the scouting community is dour on the amateur ranks and then suddenly more critical as soon as everyone turns pro. Whether the latter comes to pass or no, there’s enthusiasm about the college ranks early on and the general depth of the prep players, particularly the OFs/Ps mentioned above. There are the usual variables of injuries and names rising and falling, a lack of true shortstops, but one other factor that could play out in interesting ways is that it was snowing in the Midwest well into April, which has left some impressions of players incomplete. Teams more confident in their Midwest scouting may be willing to gamble a little on that front. I could see the Mariners being a little more aggressive there since we’ve long had scouting ties to the region.

Any interesting local Things going on?
The top prep prospect is RHP Jayson Schroeder, out of Juanita HS, who was the Times Baseball Player of the Year. He’s thrown in the low-90s but is sturdily-built, so some think that he’s got more in the tank. I don’t know that he’d be a wise pick for us before round three, mostly because I expect someone ranked higher to drop, but I’m also not sure if he’ll make it beyond that, given that he seems eager to sign. I would be 100% okay with it if he was the second-round pick because yeah, fun! Given our preferences, we might instead go with D-III right-hander Hugh Smith, who is playing at Whitworth and is 6’10” with a fastball touching the mid-90s, although the tall thing was really more of a Bavasi preference. SS A.J. Graffanino, IF Willie MacIver, and RHP Joe DeMers would be Huskies of interest, and east of the mountain, RHP Parker McFadden, who was formerly a 20th round pick by us, is at Wazzu. The organization seems more willing to draft from the PNW lately. We’ll see. We could just as easily drift into Pennsylvania D-II schools or ACC/SEC conferences again.

I know if I phrase it around “needs,” I will get yelled at, but what Things are we short on in depth?
Everything. In particular, the catching depth situation in the low minors is pretty dire, whereas the high minors have been patched with waiver claims and conversions. Beyond the relatively easy top three (hooray, Carlson is throwing again), we’ve had more success with relievers this year like Wyatt Mills and Seth Elledge. Outside of the recently-rebounding Braden Bishop and the awesome-when-healthy Kyle Lewis, our mid-to-high-minors outfielders and starters have been underperforming, with the pitching in Modesto unusually bad for the park’s affinities. Infield depth is lacking throughout outside of first base, where we have Evan White and Dan Vogelbach, whom I want to DH for us forever, but given the current major-league infield configuration, this isn’t terrible. We got one of the top July shortstops last year and are projected to get another one this year.

These Things you’re saying, again, don’t seem especially positive?
To be honest, the major league team has been worthwhile and fun this season, which I hadn’t really anticipated, and have been enjoying. Given that we were ranked so poorly to start the season with the major prospects out of action, I didn’t pay much attention to the system this spring since I had other preoccupations. Actually, that’s not entirely true: I regularly torment myself by checking in on prospects like those we gave up for Adam Lind or Joaquin Benoit or who knows how many other minor trades designed to push us over the top which ultimately didn’t. But as for the draft itself, for me, it’s a combination of lack of info, lack of time, and trying circumstances in the minor leagues. I’m still excited and blocking out a few days to stare at it, but I’m approaching it more casually than I have in years past, recognizing that it’s supposed to be a pretty good one and that we have needs everywhere. I feel less amped about speculation than I do getting more players in system and seeing what kinds of returns we end up with and whether we can crawl out of our current, unenviable position in the depth rankings. We don’t have enough or sufficiently high picks to turn it around really quickly, but we’re on track to improve.

What one Thing do you want the Mariners to do?
Draft a future Mariner.


12 Responses to “So You Still Want Me to Write About the 2018 Draft”

  1. groundzero55 on June 1st, 2018 10:14 am

    What television channel can we watch the draft on? Google is apparently unable to supply me with any information that’s not about the 2017 draft.

  2. Jay Yencich on June 1st, 2018 10:27 am

    I don’t know that we can watch it on TV proper, but it’ll be streamed on Otherwise, it’s an MLB Network thing.

  3. groundzero55 on June 1st, 2018 11:18 am

    Alright…figured that might be the case. Guess only big nerds like myself would enjoy watching it live.

  4. 11records on June 1st, 2018 3:19 pm

    Thanks JY! Always good to read your writing… It been a weird season for scouring the Ms MiLB box scores. There aren’t really any players at the top few levels I’ve felt compelled to obsessively track like Tyler O’Neill in years past, or when Cerberus was coming up. I guess my thing now is tracking freshly reinstated hit machine Eric Filia… I have somewhat irrational expectations that he can get on base 45% of the time in AA. And seeing how many HR and Ks Gareth Morgan can pile up. Hopefully this draft gets us a good infusion of talent, and healthy talent at that.

  5. Jay Yencich on June 1st, 2018 4:06 pm

    I was following along with the high-minors starters at the beginning of the year, but most of them have fared worse than anticipated. Povse’s start to the season was probably the most brutal among them, though the last few starts since his double-A demotion have been better. Given that Lewis and White weren’t around in April, I can forgive a lot of people for tuning out that month entirely, though they would have missed out on 2/3rds of the Joes in Arkansas being interesting.

  6. LongDistance on June 2nd, 2018 6:43 am

    Just an offhand thought … generated mainly by the mention of Bavasi (his tallness thing: how true… a kid could be a HBP specialist but if he’s over 6’5″ – and playing in Europe – Bill’s in love). But I wonder if anyone really has that good of a handle on what’s coming in over the transom, given how few scouts are out there. Anymore, it seems like a lot of numbers and navel gazing, and I have this vision of guys in the Front Office coaxing a ouija planchette over reams of stat printouts. I feel like a cranky old curmudgeon just saying that.

  7. Stevemotivateir on June 2nd, 2018 9:33 am

    Landing Madrigal might be a stretch, but will India and Gorman both both be gone by the time the Mariners select? It seems possible that one of them might be available.

    Of course, pitchers might be of more interest, regardless.

  8. Jay Yencich on June 2nd, 2018 3:17 pm

    India and Gorman are both projected to be off sometime in the top ten.

    As for the tallness thing– which I will never stop making fun of, for the record– I was listening to the latest edition of the Wheelhouse podcast and Jerry was talking about how, after the first couple of rounds, it’s more his role to delegate responsibility to those he employs rather than try to intervene all the time, since after a point, you’re making decisions on players you haven’t seen and overruling the scouts who have seen them. The best you can really do is instill a basic philosophy that you can judge players against and let your team run its game. I don’t know specifically how Bavasi ran his gig and if there was a philosophy beyond “tall pitchers and hitters who are coming off injury or transfers,” but we have a good idea that Zduriencik was very much an interventionist GM beyond his first year or so and would dictate what needed to happen based on his own experience. It’s been blamed for what led us to have Danny Hultzen over Francisco Lindor.

  9. Stevemotivateir on June 2nd, 2018 9:35 pm

    ^Dylan Bundy, Anthony Rendon, and George Springer were all available as well. Rendon and Bundy were both graded higher than Hultzen.

    It’s amazing how many bad picks, odd picks, and no picks there were over the better part of a decade.

    And then there’s the bad luck picks.

  10. Stevemotivateir on June 2nd, 2018 9:41 pm

    Let me rephrase that…

    *For more than a decade.

  11. purple1255 on June 4th, 2018 8:49 am

    I enjoy your draft coverage, so keep it up. I do not keep abreast of all the draft eligible players, so I rely upon Baseball America & USS Mariner to provide me with their opinions.

    You are correct in that most of the M’s MiLB players are not having good years (or even average years). Since the M’s have concentrated on college draftees, especially seniors who do not have any leverage in signing, is this keeping them from drafting a HS player who may have greater upside but also cost them more money? Instead they are drafting a player with a lower ceiling, but does not cost them as much $$?

  12. Jay Yencich on June 4th, 2018 11:22 am

    I touch on this a bit in the post that will be popping up shortly, but it’s a side effect of the bonus pools that are in place now. If a high school player with great upside is going to demand money over the recommended slot, then the way they have to compensate, given the constraints of the system, is by using other picks in the top ten rounds (usually college seniors, as noted) to sign under-slot deals, thus increasing the aggregate amount in the pool. It doesn’t wreck the draft entirely as the rounds beyond ten are a little more flexible, but it does make Day Two a lot less interesting to watch.

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