2018 Draft Preview with Chris Crawford

marc w · June 4, 2018 at 5:06 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

It’s still technically time for a preview, as the M’s haven’t made their selection yet. A venerable tradition at this blog, it’s time to talk MLB draft with expert Chris Crawford. Chris has written for Baseball Prospectus, MLBDraftInsider, and is currently at HEROSports. We’ve done these previews here at the good ship Mariner since 2012, when the M’s selected Mike Zunino and the Astros got Carlos Correa.

Because we’re short on time and not at ALL – at ALL – because I’ve been busy and forgot to send some e-mails, this one will be short and to the point. It’s…uh, optimized for mobile. Take it away Chris:

1: Like last year, the M’s have three selections in the top 100 (#14, #54, #90). What kind of draft class are they looking at? Above-average, average-to-mediocre, bad?

I think it’s a weird draft class. There are a lot of interesting prospects, but they all have flaws that keep me from loving most of them. There’s a ton of 45-50 FV to me, which is good, but also not necessarily ideal.

2: Who should the M’s take at #14? Who WILL they take?

I think they’re going to take the best player left, which is another way of saying I have no idea. I definitely know that’s who they should take. I think if either Travis Swaggerty or Jarred Kelenic falls to them, they should be thrilled. If not, someone like Logan Gilbert, Ryan Rolison or Jackson Kowar would be fine.

3: The M’s took a college player first in the drafts that Jerry Dipoto’s overseen. Despite a few different scouting directors, that’s been his MO going back to the Angels – a HS pitcher in the first round once or twice, but generally speaking, he looks to the collegiate ranks. Is that inflexible? Or is that a guy who’s more comfortable with more information and prudently sticks with college players?

I think it’s both. I don’t think outside of the Taylor Ward pick Dipoto has gone way off board in value, and it could be just what has made sense to him. That being said, it’s clear Dipoto values safety, and there’s much more safety in college arms and bats.

4: How good is Casey Mize? Great player or solid player who’s almost certain to make the majors? Would you have taken Bart or Mize or ???? at 1-1?

Mize, easy. I’m not sure he’s a Gerrit Cole or Carlos Rodon type prospect? But he’s really good. He pounds the strike zone and he has three swing-and-miss pitches. He should move very quickly through either the Detroit or Philadelphia system — assuming San Francisco isn’t selecting him as rumored.

5: The M’s also pick at #54. Who might be available in that neighborhood? Would you say this class is deeper than previous classes? Does that matter past the first round?

I think we will see them do what Dipoto has done often; taking the inverse of what he took in the first; a prep player, be it position or pitcher. If they go prep, someone like Owen White or Slade Cecconi makes sense. If they’re going prep bat, maybe they take a chance on someone like Joe Gray or Nick Decker. All fit into that value range.

6: Help me, Chris – I’m scouting the stat lines again. Bren Spillane is running a SLG% that starts with a 9. He plays in a power conference, but he’s not seen as a top-100 guy. What’s his ceiling?

Ton of power, and he’s a good first baseman as well. I think there’s some concerns about the hit tool, but I think he should go in the first 100 picks. I could see him going in the second round for someone who really values right-handed power. Lots of teams value right-handed power.

7: Kyle Lewis – what do you make of his progress coming back from a serious injury? He’s lost a lot of development time, but the talent’s undeniable. Where is Lewis three years from now?

I think you have to give Lewis credit, because a lot of guys would have given up. He clearly hasn’t done that. That being said, it’s pretty clear he’s lost some of the athleticism, in my opinion/folks I’ve spoken with. I still think that Lewis has a chance to be a good starting outfielder, but I think his chance of being a plus one — maybe even a star — has passed. He should be in Seattle by 2019, assuming there’s no trade.

8: For the first time in a while (Blake Snell’s draft year, or the Reese McGuire year?) there are a few local players in the top 100. There’s OSU standout Nick Madrigal, of course, but also Juanita SP Jayson Schroeder, UW SS AJ Graffanino, Hugh Smith at Whitworth, Tarik Skubal at Seattle U, Daniel Bies at Gonzaga, etc. Just a random blip after a few years without much to talk about, or are the local colleges doing something different (even just hiring better coaches/recruiters)?

I think probably a little bit of both. The area is getting better, but also let’s keep in mind that schools like Oregon and Washington have done a great job signing these players. Once in, we don’t hear about them for three years. But yes, the high school class for Washington — particularly Schroeder — is as good as it’s been in a couple of years.

9: I’ve talked a lot about player development in regards to the M’s system, so I’ll ask you the fundamental question: how much of a successful MLB player is due to their talent at the time they enter the system, and how much is due to player development helping them along physically/mentally? Is it different for, say, Edwin Diaz versus Marco Gonzales?

So hard to say, and I think if I had the answer to this I wouldn’t be doing interviews with you. I think you have to have both the physical and mental side. It’s clear the Mariners are doing a better job with the latter as of late, in my opinion. The physical; it’s so hard to say. There’s so much attrition and volatility in players of this age, and calling something the right way to do it, I dunno. I think it’s just different for every player but I really don’t know.

10: Of the top HS arms that could be available at #14 – Rocker, Weathers, Winn, Wilcox – who do YOU like best, and do you think any of them tempt Dipoto away from Team College?

I think it’s Ethan Hankins. If the draft were held in February or March, Hankins is probably the second or third pick in this draft — maybe even the first ever prep right-hander to go first. I don’t think any of them have enough “safety” to tempt Dipoto at 14, but I sure would be. All of those guys are good and I have them ranked highly, but if you were just talking pure upside, Hankins has a ton.

11: Shohei Ohtani’s transition to MLB has been quite successful, and we now have a model of what a two-way player could look like. The Rays are using Brendan McKay as a two-way player in the minors for the time being as well. Do you think baseball’s coming around to this idea, even if it’s as a Brooks Kieshnkick-ian reliever/pinch hitter? Or is it simply too difficult to get enough development time in on such disparate skills?

I think you have to be a special, special player to do it. Ohtani obviously is. Baseball I think is starting to embrace more open-mindedness — see how the Rays are using McKay — but they’re probably exceptions to rules. Baseball is really hard. You want the guy doing what he’s best at as much as possible.

12: Who are some guys you’re particularly high on – guys you like better than what you think the industry consensus is?

I love Swaggerty. I think he’s a potential star. His weakness is his size, but I ignore that. I think he has the potential to be the best player in this draft. Others “like” Swaggerty but I think I’m one of the few who loves. I’m still pretty high on Hankins as we talked about earlier, and Logan Gilbert as well.

13: The M’s took 1B Evan White last year, who was something of a rare animal in that he was an ultra-athletic, good-defender 1B without a ton of power. He’s been in the system for a year now – what do you think of the pick and his development?

I liked — but didn’t love — the pick. I still would have moved him to centerfield but I also get wanting to put him somewhere where he can be plus-plus with the glove and maybe allow the bat to move quicker. That being said, I’m a little concerned at the lack of pop in the Cal League, and a little more swing-and-miss than I’d like to see. Still would give him a chance to be an outfielder, but you can’t complain too much with what you’ve seen.


One Response to “2018 Draft Preview with Chris Crawford”

  1. sexymarinersfan on June 5th, 2018 6:27 am

    I think Cleveland crushed their draft! Along with Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

    I like both of Seattle’s picks, especially Gilbert after what I’ve been hearing about him. Our scouts are saying that he doesn’t have a lot of mileage on his arm, and yet still has a ton of room for development and growth. With his 4 pitch arsenal, which includes a blazing 95 mph fastball, is there any chance we see him come September? Is that what Hunter means when he said, “we expect to see him in a Mariners uniform really soon.”?

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