The 2019 Draft: A Day One Thread

Jay Yencich · June 3, 2019 at 2:00 pm · Filed Under Mariners 

I was talking with a friend the other day about epics and sagas and the tradition of catalogues of names within, and is there anything approaching that in modern life outside of sports drafts? On scale, I don’t think so. Unlike last year, we’re going to have minor and major league games alongside the draft but I have listened to an watched some recent Mariners games and I know what I would prefer to pay attention to. Pre-game starts at 3 pm where you can get various talking heads on and then the real draft gets rolling at 4 pm. There are supposed to be five-minute intervals between picks, but it never actually goes down that way. Maybe we call out our dude around 6 pm?

Last year was fun in that most mocks predicted us to pick a college outfielder and we ended up with a pitcher, and a very good one at that, because I don’t know, Logan Gilbert had mono. This year, the sense seems to be more that names are being listed because they have to be and you can’t disappoint after setting up such expectations. What I mean by that is no one seems to have a clear sense of where the draft is going outside of “let’s hope the Orioles aren’t cheap and actually pick the #1 talent.” The deeper into the first round you get, the weirder the analysts feel it will become as there are depth quirks and an absence of real consensus about talent. I can’t tell you right now which NCAA players may or may not have mono but my instinct is that it’s a good and potentially untapped market to be exploring.

Even as scouting departments differ, I’ve noticed an annual trend among journalism outlets to coalesce around one or two candidates as we hit the day of, perhaps because more information has become available, perhaps because no one wants to be “wrong.” The flavor of the day is Elon RHP George Kirby, who would be an infinitely more fun selection were the team still owned by Nintendo. As it stands, he fits conceptually into the framework. What could be briefly said about Kirby is that he controls the zone, has enough pitches to start, had a good Cape Cod League showing, has a track record, and previously demonstrated more velocity (topping 97 mph) than he’s recently shown (low-to-mid-90s). The major question with him is how to rate his competition, but the Mariners have gone to Elon somewhat regularly in the draft and I figure they should be able to account for that by now.

Analysts like to provide themselves with an out by noting other names in play as extra info. If local kid OF Corbin Carroll drops, most seem to think we’d snap him up readily. He’s probably the only outfielder that regularly gets linked to us as, if not pitching, outlets are often tying us to infielders such as college shortstops in Greg Jones, Logan Davidson, and Will Wilson or prep infielders like the aforementioned Anthony Volpe and Gunnar Henderson, with a new recent and intriguing addition of pop-up player 3B Keoni Cavaco. I’d be into it, but it would take a confident team to pull it off. Cavaco has plus tools all around and yet hasn’t had an especially strong track record despite playing in southern California and getting reps in against better-than-average prep competition.

Anyway, in conclusion, the last time the Mariners had the 20th overall pick in the draft, they selected right-hander Josh Fields from the University of Geo– (is tackled and dragged off stage) NO, THEY NEED TO KNOW! (kicks at air)

Round One: RHP George Kirby, 6’4″, 195 lbs, 2/4/1998, Elon
2017: 1-3, 16 G (5 GS), 4.84 ERA in 61.0 IP, 67 H (3 HR), 41 R (33 ER), 55/17 K/BB
2018: 10-3, 15 G (15 GS), 2.89 ERA in 90.0 IP, 88 H (3 HR), 36 R (29 ER), 96/27 K/BB
2019: 8-2, 14 G (14 GS), 2.75 ERA in 88.0 IP, 73 H (3 HR), 34 R (27 ER), 107/6 K/BB

I bought heavily into the middle of the first-round talk that it was going to be unpredictable and that we would have no clear notion of what was going to happen. Among the things that were regarded as sure, Carroll to the D’Backs and Kirby to the Mariners. Both have come to pass as other stocks have risen and fallen. Given that we rather like the mid-Atlantic college ranks and Elon is in North Carolina, this was probably a safe prediction.

Kirby is doubly regarded as a pretty “safe” pick, although that’s a phrase that I’ve been deeply hesitant to use post-Hultzen. To mitigate that somewhat, they brought in Trevor Bauer to talk about his mechanics a bit and Bauer was effusive, while adding that he thinks there could be more velocity in there with some small mechanical adjustments, at which point he’d sit 93-95. That, combined with the command, could be an intriguing combination. I’d like to see how he would stack up against our other C the Z favorite in Ljay Newsome, less for the stuff and more for the dart-throwing aspect, as Kirby’s heat on a bad day is better than Newsome on a good one.

Whereas Gilbert was a converted infielder who took to pitching later, Kirby’s been a pitcher throughout, first in Westchester County, NY and then in North Carolina. As something of a testament to his pitching smarts and command, his change-up is regarded as being highly advanced and something that he spots well to the bottom half of the zone. Kirby will throw both forms of breaking ball although neither has been especially consistent. The track record within the system suggests to me that player development might eliminate one in favor of developing the other, but that’s also going off a longer personal view and I don’t know with all the changes in coaching and player development recently whether we might approach him differently. “Gas Camp” seems like a given at the very least.

In a surprise to me given how everyone talks up the clean mechanics, I don’t know that I can find anything from PitchingNinja on how his release points look from one pitch type to the next, nor others. What I feel like I can say is that the Mariners have probably been on him for a while as they’ve drafted other Elon players, like Nick Zammarelli in 2016, Ryne Ogren last year, and further back have shown a fondness for scouting there with RHP Steven Hensley and 2B Donny Jobe in 2008. It’s not much, but with a non-powerhouse conference Colonial Athletic Association, which has names you’ll recognize although not necessarily for baseball, I would imagine that having more context would help the team develop a better sense of just what they’re getting in Kirby.

Round Two: LHP Brandon Williamson, 6’6″, 210 lbs, 4/2/1998, North Iowa Area CC / Texas Christian
2017: 4-1, 14 G (5 GS), 4.84 ERA in 49.0 IP, 43 H (5 HR), 34 R (21 ER), 47/25 K/BB
2018: 8-4, 12 G (12 GS), 2.89 ERA in 66.0 IP, 60 H (HR), 31 R (23 ER), 104/34 K/BB
2019: 3-5, 14 G (14 GS), 4.48 ERA in 66.0 IP, 72 H (4 HR), 47 R (33 ER), 73/33 K/BB

Can I be amused for a second that pick one was born on 4/2 and pick two was born on 2/4? Anywho…. Williamson spent the first two years of his collegiate career at a community college after a somewhat undistinguished prep career in Minnesota. He only started to become a guy people were following as he moved further and further south, which leads me to wonder a little about his background, specifically whether he’d latched onto any of the velocity boosting programs of his own accord. What we do know of him is that he’s had a bit of an injury history after having surgery on both labrums (labra?) in the fall. That’s HIP labra, not arm ones. Important distinction.

If you want something to latch onto, I’d suggest that Williamson seems to be getting out of the awkward phase in the pitcher’s lifespan and still has some potential a coaching staff could work with. The mechanics appear to be okay, but the feel for pitches and the velocity both come and go and he can either pitch in the low-90s and blow one by in the mid-90s on occasion or go through a full outing scraping 90. His secondary offerings– curveball, slider, change– also have need of fine-tuning and one would expect that as a pro, they focus on getting him a better change-up and likely nix the curve.

I don’t know if adding numbers will make this more or less abstract, but let’s play around with this and take his last five starts as a sort of “sample”:

5/5, @ WV, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 5/3 K/BB
5/12, vs. Kansas, 8.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R (ER), 11/3 K/BB
5/18, @ Texas Tech, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R (3 ER), 4/3 K/BB
5/24, vs. Baylor, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 9/1 K/BB
5/31, vs. Cal, 4.0 IP, 3 H, R, 7/2 K/BB

I feel like that helps get some sense of it. I’m looking at sixteen starts for him on the TCU website (is The Baseball Cube missing pre-season? Post-season?) and I see seven starts where he didn’t hit five innings, and nine of five or more. The same source shows eight starts of three or more walks, which means eight of fewer than that. He could be one of the best pitchers one weekend and a relative non-prospect the next. Despite being a “college pitcher” and therefore “safer”, Williamson is a real boom-or-bust prospect and one that you’d really have to trust your pitching staff with to select him this high.

Round Comp B: RHP Isaiah Campbell, 6’4″, 225 lbs, 8/15/1997, Arkansas
2016: 3-1, 13 G (6 GS), 3.69 ERA in 31.2 IP, 31 H (4 HR), 19 R (13 ER), 23/11 K/BB
2017: 0-0, G, 40.50 ERA in 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1/1 K/BB
2018: 5-7, 18 G (17 GS), 4.26 ERA in 69.2 IP, 67 H (4 HR), 41 R (33 ER), 75/29 K/BB
2019: 10-1, 14 G (14 GS), 2.50 ERA in 90.0 IP, 71 H (3 HR), 33 R (25 ER), 97/15 K/BB

Comp picks are interesting to deal with, not that we have a great recent track record of the Mariners actually utilizing them. The gist is that they exist to help ease the loss of another draft pick or player, but unto themselves cannot result in a further compensation pick in the following draft, lest some bunch of aspiring goofballs decide to game it and TAKE ALL THE PLAYERS. Thus, you’re going mostly college unless you have a strong verbal commitment from a high schooler. In this case, the team went with the former.

Campbell has some similarities to Williamson, and some crucial differences. He was interesting enough as a prep player, but said interest was in his build and status as a physical specimen. The body intrigued as did the loose, but he was not always consistent mechanically and tended to telegraph a few of his offerings. He’s grown a bit into… I guess what the player development folks would term as “man strength,” but really it’s been about getting all the moving parts in sync and maintaining that for a full season. If you’re a believer in him, you would regard the 2019 line as what he looks like now that most of his issues have been ironed out. The trick will be maintaining it.

So, what is Campbell now? He throws in the low-to-mid-90s and has already eliminated the weaker curveball from his arsenal in favor of a hard slider. He’s also gotten himself a change that doesn’t have a long track record but looks pretty good. If you’re thinking about the zone existing vertically and that you need to be able to pound down as well as draw swings up (the vertical zone is something Dipoto talks about REGULARLY on The Wheelhouse), Campbell can do that. A development plan for him would be less about getting him to completely alter one part of his approach and more about learning what was successful for him this year and keeping him on it with minor improvements.

The live video got into this a little bit, but one of the more interesting things about Campbell is that he’s an Air Force brat, born in Portugal and doing time in other NATO countries like Germany and Turkey before settling in for high school in Kansas. I don’t know what all that means, but it makes for a fun story as there’s never been a major league player who was born in Portugal and I’m all about the international game.


4 Responses to “The 2019 Draft: A Day One Thread”

  1. Jay Yencich on June 3rd, 2019 8:27 pm

    Can’t say I anticipated the Padres popping Mears at #48

  2. bat guano on June 3rd, 2019 9:00 pm

    Jay, I really appreciate your insights. Thanks for doing this!

  3. Westside guy on June 3rd, 2019 9:35 pm

    Thank you Jay. I find this all fascinating, perhaps because I know so little about this level of baseball.

  4. Mr. Sandwich on June 3rd, 2019 11:48 pm

    Thank you for this Jay.

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