2019 Draft Preview with Chris Crawford

marc w · June 3, 2019 at 12:11 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

The M’s have four selections in the first 100 picks, so let’s take a look at their options and how this draft class shakes out with draft expert and friend-of-the-blog, Chris Crawford of Rotoworld.com and NBCSports. This is now the *eighth* annual draft preview we’ve done, and we’re just a couple of years from watching some of the players we discussed back in 2012 hit free agency, which is pretty insane. So who are the future Carlos Correa and Alex Bregmans, and can they land somewhere else for a change? How do the M’s go about addressing the talent gap they’ve got with Houston and some of their other rivals? Once more, into the breach:

1: The M’s have four selections in the top 100. Set the context for us: is this an above-average draft class? Average-to-mediocre? Poor?

I think it’s somewhere between mediocre and poor, to be honest, but if I had to choose? I think I’d go poor. Part of this is because this might be the worst crop of collegiate pitchers I’ve seen; there just isn’t anything here to write home about; most of these guys are backend starter profiles. It’s got some good college bats and some interesting shortstops on both the collegiate and prep level, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.

2: Who should the M’s take at #20? Who WILL they take?

Once again, the Mariners are being extremely tight-lipped, but there are a few names I’ve heard bantered about; the most recent one being Tyler Calihan, a left-handed hitting third baseman who has a chance for a plus hit tool and decent pop. There’s also been some names like Anthony Volpe, a shortstop that projects as more of a second-to-third round talent to me than someone I’d be taking that high, but the Mariners apparently like him a lot. Texas Tech SS Braden Shewmake, Clemson SS Logan Davidson and a few other collegiate bats have also been mentioned. As for who they should take? Best player left. I think that’s going to be someone like Michael Busch out of UNC or Shewmake, but any of those names outside of Volpe would be solid value, to me.

3: The M’s have talked a lot about trying to contend in 2021. Does that change how they view the draft board?

It sure shouldn’t. The names we’re talking about — even the most advanced — are years away from competing. I suppose you could argue that taking a more advanced player is easier to trade — or maybe the opposite if someone falls in love with the upside — but I can’t imagine Dipoto drafts anyone thinking that they can help in two years.

4: Years ago, you mentioned that showcases, Perfect Game, travel ball, etc. mean fewer impact position players will hit college, tilting the balance (eventually) towards the HS ranks. A few years on, how do you view the situation? There are still huge, impact bats coming out of college, but are HS bats more polished now (cough Jarred Kelenic cough), and are teams opting for more of them?

Pretty similar. It’s just so much easier to scout players now than it was 10-15 years ago. They aren’t perfect scouting chances, but you do get a chance to see their swing and build and get to do some compare and contrasting. I hate them, if we’re being honest, but i do get their purpose.

5: I know you’re someone who’s been very down on the whole draft pool concept and slotting, but it’s governed the draft for a while now. Do you think teams have optimized how they work within its restrictions? Should we expect more underslot-and-spread-it-out stuff, or because research indicates that the earlier the draft pick, the better the chance of a superstar, have we – if anything – seen too MUCH of that?

It’s really hard to say. I think we’ve seen teams grow accustomed to it quicker than I expected, and to be honest? That’s a little disheartening. If I were a GM, I wouldn’t do as much spreading because I think this class is very top-heavy; I want the best guys, because behind it there are more questions than in previous years. And I would say we’ve seen too much of that, to be honest. The draft is not a crap shoot, but it’s volatile, it has to be volatile when you’re taking kids this young. I want the guys who look like the best bets and I would trust my scouting department to find diamonds in the rough later.

6: How much do you think teams adjust a draft ranking based on their own internal strengths/weaknesses in player development? Does a team look at a player and say, “we’ve had success with this type/pitchers who throw these pitches/teaching plate discipline” and bump him up (or the inverse)? Or is it always best available talent, no matter what kind of packaging or characteristics come with it?

I think there’s something to be said about taking a similar type of profile if it works for you — or being hesitant of that profile — but I think for the most part, teams believe in their player-development and just go with the guys they think are the best. I’m sure there’s some of that? But it’s probably not as common as some think.

7: The M’s also pick at #59. Who are some names they may want to look at for their 2nd pick?

There should be some quality names there. Matt Wallner is a guy I’d target; outfielder out of Southern Miss with plus power, cannon for an arm and should get on just enough to play everyday. Tommy Henry is a left-hander out of Michigan that I like. He throws three solid pitches and has good feel. A high-floor type. I also think Chase Strumpf from UCLA could be good value here. He wasn’t as good in 2019 as he was in 2018, but I think you could buy low at that spot and get a potential steal.

8: For the first time since, what, the Blake Snell/Josh Sale year, the state of Washington could see two prep players off the board on the first day. There’s Lakeside CF Corbin Carroll (a UCLA commit) and Selah/Yakima SS Carter Young (who’s going to Vanderbilt if he doesn’t sign). Carroll seems like a lock for the first round; what do you think his ceiling is? Where do you see Young landing? Who else is out there from Washington/Oregon/British Columbia?

This is the best Washington prep class I can remember, which is kinda funny in a down year. Carroll is my favorite prep bat outside of Bobby Witt Jr., he screams top-of-the-order hitter with a chance to hit for average and more pop than I think he’s being given credit for. Josh Mears would be next on that list for me, actually, he’s got ridiculous power potential from the right side and is built like a defensive end. Some questions about the hit tool but his power could make him a top 100 pick. Young is really interesting because he’s a divisive prospect that also has some signing concerns because Vanderbilt. I think on talent he’s a top 100 guy as well, but I could see him falling because of that concern. Oregon and BC are pretty down this year, unfortunately.

9: The college ranks in the Northwest are headed up by the presumptive #1 overall pick, C Adley Rutschman. What’s his ceiling, and how would you compare him to Joey Bart, who went #2 overall a year ago?

I think Rutschman is the best catching prospect since Buster Posey. I love him, and he’s what kinda saves this draft class, in a way. I think he’s a much better prospect than Bart — with all due respect to Bart, he’s good — but Rutschman is just as good or better as a defender, has a much better hit tool, and the power is at least comparable. Plus add in the switch-hitter thing. It would shock the heck out of me if he wasn’t an above-average starting catcher, and there’s well above-average potential there. He’s very, very good.

10: There are some huge pitchers projected to go fairly early in this draft. Not just tall pitchers, but like, NFL tight end size guys. Alek Manoah (6’7″, 270) is the poster boy here, but Jackson Rutledge works, too. Is this a byproduct of teams focusing on upside and velocity? Is this baseball keeping some talent that in prior years really WOULD have gone and played tight end/basketball? Or just some big dudes who happened to be really good at throwing things this year?

I think it’s more the latter. But, it’s interesting nonetheless. Manoah would be a guy I’d target if he falls to Seattle, but someone is probably taking him above. He’s really interesting. Jackson Rutledge is probably my favorite of the prep pitchers even though I have some real concerns about the arm action. But yeah, there are some big boys here, and I think their size helps more than hurts.

11: Besides Rutschman, the Pac 12 seems like it’s particularly laden this year, with Andrew Vaughn and Hunter Bishop also expected to go early in Round 1. Is the conference getting better talent/convincing local kids not to go east, or is there just a good group of coaches helping to get more out of roughly the same level of incoming talent they’ve always had?

It is a pretty good group — comparatively — in ’19, for sure. Really good chance we see all three of Rutschman, Vaughn and Bishop go top 10, and I think you can argue that Rutschman and Vaughn are the best players in the class. I think there are some good coaches in the Pac-12, for sure, but I think some of these kids just got slept on a little too hard coming out of high school. Tough to know for sure, but yeah, definitely a good group this year and a pretty good group next year, too.

12: If you were in charge of a draft room, what are some of the things you might want to change? I guess a big part of this is: are teams too similar in how they approach the draft? How can anyone innovate or do something different now, with all of the analytics and information they have before draft day?

Hard one to answer without going into a Russian novel. I think innovation is really hard right now, but I think innovation is really hard right now in the same way we thought the Nintendo 64 graphics would never be improved on. There’s going to be someone who comes up with something — if they haven’t already — that we’re not thinking about to stand out. But right now, I do think there’s a lot — a lot — of groupthink in the draft. Some of that is due to the financial implications put forward by this stupid system, some of it because it’s so much easier to get information. If I were in charge, I suppose the main thing I’d try and implement is more of a focus on trusting the scouts I have to find me those unsung heroes and really focusing on getting the very, very best talents early. I do not like treating the draft like I’m just hoping something sticks.

13: One thing I’ve been wondering in regards to prospects (pro and amateur) is if we’re TOO down on 1Bs. Cody Bellinger is the story of the year, and he went in the 4th round out of HS, and wasn’t on many top 100 prospect lists in 2016, before shooting to the top 20 the next year. Paul Goldschmidt is another example. Is the fact that Vaughn’s a darkhorse 1-1 candidate a sign that that’s changing, or is the industry right to demand otherworldly hitting if a player doesn’t have as much to offer defensively?

There is no question, but also, I think these might be exceptions to the rule. So many draft picks at the position have failed; particularly those who hit/throw right-right. There’s a couple of those prospects this year like Vaughn and Mike Toglia from UCLA among others, but I do understand the risk there; the bat HAS to max out for there to be value, and asking a player to max out is asking a lot. We should probably be a bit more open-minded to the position, but I also understand why scouts are sometimes hesitant to take them with high selections.

Thanks so much to Chris Crawford for breaking down the class of ’19 for us. Check out his weekly series on the top prospects in the minor leagues here, and follow him on twitter @Crawford_MILB.


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