2016 MLB Draft: M’s Buzz

 What to expect from the Seattle Mariners in Thursday’s Draft.

The 2016 MLB Draft begins Thursday with the first two rounds and continues Friday and Saturday through Round 40. The Seattle Mariners will select No. 11 and 50 on Day 1’s 77 total picks that includes all of Rounds 1 and 2, plus the Competitive Balance Round A in between, and Competitive Balance Round B, after Round 2.

For the FULL Draft Order and Team Bonus Pools Click Here

Draft Schedule
Thursday: 4:00p PT (MLB Network) — Rounds 1, Competitive Balance A, Round 2, Competitive Balance Round B
Friday: 9:30a PT (MLB.com Streaming) — Round 3-10
Saturday: 9:00a PT (MLB.com Streaming) — Round 11-40 (Rapid Fire)

Tom McNamara leads the club’s scouting efforts and his influence on the selections remains steep, but the Mariners’ organization as a whole is taking a different approach, as covered here by MLB.com’s Greg Johns.

Before getting to some of the ‘buzz’ surrounding the club, lets clear up a few things first.

  • The general manager always has final say on all personnel decisions. The Draft, however, is typically more heavily influenced by the scouting director. His ‘pull’ will break ties in the draft room, generally, and there’s no reason to believe Jerry Dipoto‘s presence will change that.
  • The GM is almost always more heavily involved early in the draft, particularly the first round. I expect Dipoto and others such as Tom Allison to remain a factor throughout Day 1 and into Day 2 as they offer more balance to the selection process.
  • Clubs should not draft players at positions they need on the 25-man roster or what’s lacking in their organization unless the evaluation process spits out two equal or almost equally-graded players. Take the best player, always.
  • The best player doesn’t mean the most upside, or the the highest probability, or the quickest to the majors, though all three are factors in the process. Risk also comes into play, including the risk of injury.
  • Players will be ‘mocked’ all over the board in various places, but when teams are merely “linked” and to multiple players at that, the only team that knows for sure who they are taking at any point until they’re on the clock is the club picking No. 1 overall.
  • Teams generally meet for hours and hours over several days and even weeks leading up to the draft to create a draft board that can go as deep as 2000 players. Many times the last 500-1000, if not more, are ranked in groups or rounds. The top 50-100 are always ranked in order.
  • The draft will not go in any order based on any one factor, such as talent. Signability still comes into play, but each team sees players in their light. Philadelphia might believe the best player is A.J. Puk out of Florida, but we may see them take Mickey Moniak or Nick Senzel or even Riley Pint. As the Indians told me a few years back, “nowadays you have to keep one eye on your board and one eye on your money.”
  • Two players have seen their stock fall fast for different reasons. Puerto Rico star shortstop Delvin Perez reportedly failed a drug test. This could mean he stays on the board for a long time — it would surprise most if he remained a first-round pick. Lefty Jason Groome was expected to be a Top 5 pick but he’s had a bit of a strange path to Draft Day. He transferred from Barnegat High School in New Jersey to the IMG Academy only to transfer back before his senior year. He was initially ruled ineligible to play this spring due to a transfer rule violation and when he did pitch he was inconsistent despite big-time raw stuff. Groome has since changed his college commitment, too, which raised some eyebrows late in the process. Originally a Vanderbilt commit, Groome now is committed toi Chipola, a junior college in Florida. Why does that matter? Well, a commitment to Vanderbilt means three years until he’s draft eligible again. A commitment to a JC, like Chipola, means he can re-enter the draft after either season, which hands him tons of leverage Thursday. It’s actually a move I’m surprised we don’t see more often.

Here’s the buzz surrounding Seattle as Day 1 arrives. (Note: Jamie Moyer will represent the Mariners at the Draft)

I’ll be around during the draft to talk about the Mariners’ picks.

College Players 
The Mariners have been heavily scouting college players, with top brass seeing college arms and bats in May and early June. Most of the reliable information says they’d prefer to get a college bat, but Senzel, Kyle Lewis and Corey Ray should be off the board in the Top 10, which could mean Seattle goes with the best college arm available. The next best college hitter is probably Zack Collins, the catcher from Miami that ultimately will either be a bad glove backstop with plus offensive potential or he’ll have to move to first base, or Vanderbilt outfielder Bryan Reynolds.

I know two clubs that have Collins ranked in the Top 10 overall based on his bat, but more seem to value Collins in the bottom half of the round. Reynolds is a consensus Top 25 player led by a chance to play center field long term and above-average to plus power. He’s not a fast-track prospect with a lack of ideal hit tool, or he’d be a top 5 prospect. He could fit at No. 11 if the Mariners get him for under slot.

The top college arms the Mariners legitimately may have a look at for No. 11 including Boston College right-hander Justin Dunn, Illinois righty Cody Sedlock and Dakota Hudson of Mississippi State. From what I can gather, no other college arm fits the pick range and would be considered an under-slot pick type. Cal Quantrill of Stanford, who has not pitched since last winter after Tommy John, probably goes in Round 1 if he has a pre-draft ‘deal’ with a club at a discount off the first-round rate, but at No. 11 isn’t likely. Puk is not expected to get to 11. If he does, the Mariners almost certainly snatch him up and don’t think twice, even though he’s had a bit of a spotty season.

Dunn, who started a bit late this spring and was in the Boston College bullpen before moving to the rotation for seven starts down the stretch. He’s very athletic with a live, loose arm. He’s a fastball-slider-changeup arm with the former two legit building-block offerings. There are some questions about his long-term future role, but plenty of scouting directors love his shot to start enough that he won’t last much longer than than the low-20s, if he gets that far. Dunn has touched 99 mph in relief and often lives 93-95 with life.

Sedlock carries three quality pitches into pro ball but he’s been worked pretty hard in college and some scouts red flag the delivery, suggesting a bullpen role for him ultimately.  I like what I hear about Hudson better; sitting mid-90s with a plus cutter and a delivery that is more easily fixable than Sedlock’s, per multiple crosscheckers. Neither sound like No. 11 picks to me.

I don’t believe it’s out of the question the Mariners end up taking a prep player at 11, with outfielder Blake Rutherford, right-handers  Ian Anderson, Forrest Whitley and Matt Manning possibilities outside the club’s preference of a college player.

Best-case Scenario
For me, the best-case scenario for Seattle is Corey Ray, the Louisville outfielder, somehow falling to them at No. 11, which seemed plausible a few weeks ago, albeit unlikely. Now, most have Ray going anywhere from No. 3 to the Braves to No. 10 to the White Sox.  Rays is a left fielder in the majors, most likely, but an athletic one who can run, throw, hit and hit for some power with a short, quick swing and no wasted movements anywhere on the field.

That, however, probably isn’t very realistic. After that, the B-CS may be one of the prep lefty Braxton Garrett or right-hander Riley Pint getting to Mariners. Pint may come with a bloated cost, however, and Garrett could, too.

Watch out for the Weird
There are some that believe Quantrill has talked with some clubs in the Top 10-12 picks and that Louisville righty Zack Burdi has, too, which may lead to under-slot selections. If both occur prior to No. 11, it pushes a quality player to the Mariners that otherwise would never reach them. I don’t know how the cub sees Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis, but at 11 overall he may be a steal, despite some long-term concerns with his swing setup.

What if Groome gets to Seattle? Considering the leverage he possesses and the lack of bonus pool flexibility, I’d expect Seattle to pass on a grossly over-slot asking price.

If I had to Wager
Barring so much of The Weird, I’d bet on Dunn, Reynolds or an under-slot selection such as catcher Matt Thaiss of Virginia or  at No. 11. This draft, though, let me tell you — clubs know so much less about how the top 10-15 is going to go this year than any year since at least 2010.

I’d be happy with Dunn at slot price, or even slightly above, but everyone else in the above mix should be slot or below. I don’t see Seattle reaching beyond a Top 20-25 prospect to save for pick No. 50; If they had a compensatory pick in the 20s, they might try and figure out a way to take one of the over-slot types that fall, such as Groome, if that indeed occurs to the best prep left-hander in the draft.

Thaiss is a 40-45 defender with a chance to develop into an average backstop, but his hit tool is polished and he has the strength to develop average or better power. He makes contact at a ridiculous rate — 16 strikeouts in nearly 300 plate appearances — and drew 39 bases on balls while batting .375 with 25 extra-base hits. We can’t ignore the Mariners’ familiarity with the ACC.

What about at No. 50?
I don’t see any of the top 20 or so prospects falling that far, except if clubs deem Perez or Groome entirely undraftable for their own respective reasons. Some names to keep an eye on include:

Anfernee Grier, OF — Auburn
Good chance to remain in center long term, plus runner, potential for above-average power. Needs time to learn to hit.

T.J. Zeuch, RHP — Pittsburgh
The 6-foot-7, 230-pound righty sits 90-94 and can reach back for 96 to set up two breaking balls that needs work. He’s used a changeup but not often. Aggressive leg stride but tends to finish high. High three-quarter slot, gloveside run on fastball.

Buddy Reed, OF — Florida
Reed is as toolsy as it comes and is a switch hitter, but he’s yet to master either side enough to produce consistently. He’s drawn some natural but lazy comparisons to Dexter Fowler and Cameron Maybin, but the similarities ends with athleticism and position.

Bo Bichette, SS — Lakewood H.S. (Fla.)
Bichette has big-time hand and wrist strength and whips the bat through the zone, producing searing line drives and some home run power. He’s strong and sturdy, likely to move to second base or the hot corner in pro ball. Physically reminds some of Brett Lawrie, to give you an idea, but Lawrie, too, impressed with bat speed and strength as a prep.

Chris Okey, C — Clemson
Okey is instinctive and has raw power but the swing is long and his lack of strike zone judgment produces too much swing and miss at this stage. He’s not laterally quick despite being a relatively small catcher — he’s around 205-210 pounds at 5-foot-11 — but projects as a fringe-average glove with a chance to get to average because he works hard. Probably a 55 arm grade with he blocks well and leads from the catcher spot.

Eric Lauer, LHP — Kent State
At 6-foot-3 and 205 pounds, Lauer possesses some remaining projection on an-already solid-average fastball in the low-90s. He’s a low-effort arm with a power slider that flashes plus. Likes to pitch off the fastball. Mid-rotation ceiling if he maxes out the velocity into the 92-94 mph range. Also has a curveball and changeup.

Kyle Muller, LHP — Jesuit C.P. (TX)
Muller, 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, up to 95 mph with the fastball, occasional sink and armside run. Long levered, Muller’s arm action tends to lag begind his lower half, but he finishes out front fairly well. His arm slot is high, but he gets good break on a slider that could progress into a major-league out pitch.  He does telegraph his offpseed stuff. Good developmental power lefty.

Connor Jones, RHP — Virginia
Jones entered the spring with a shot at the first round but it appears that isn’t happening now. He’s a movement fastball guy, but can touch the mid-90s. He varies a slider in the low-to-mid-80s, but it lack tilt. He throws a split-change that pairs well with a sinker and the chance to sit 91-94. Mid-rotation upside, but could move rather quickly if healthy.

Brandon Marsh, OF — Buford H.S. (Ga.)
Marsh can play the outfield, but there’s a good chance he outgrows center field — he’s already 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds — but the power should play in a corner if the hit tool allows. He’s a little raw at the plate, but the physical tools suggest second-round talent.

Reggie Lawson, RHP — Victor Valley H.S. (Calif.)
Lawson has teased with mid-90s velocity but pitches with command at 88-91. His best pitch is a cirveball he can throw for strikes, but they’re soft, often sitting 66-70 mph, but he;s worked on a firmer version into the 71-74 mph range. That’ll play if hes not sacrificing break or depth. He’s projectable at 6-4 and 185 pounds, but there is some work to do with the mechanics. He’s shown athleticism and tremendous pitchability for a teenager. Some scouts seem him as the ultimate high-risk, high-reward sandwich round type pick.

Luis Curbelo, 3B/OF — Coco H.S. (Fla.)
Curbelo played shortstop in high school but projects to third base or the outfield in the big leagues. He does have the hands and fluid footwork and overall actions to play the position, but he’s already 6-foot-3 and 192 pounds, with longer legs than Carlos Correa, who’s merely average at the position. The power potential is intriguing here, so I don’t know if he gets to No. 50.

Will Benson, OF — Westminster Schools (Ga.)
Benson looks the part of an NBA swing forward at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, and is athletic as some of them, too. Blessed with easy, 70-grade raw power, but probably needs some work with the swing to show it in games versus live pitching. He does do well to stay closed and drive the ball from alley to alley. He showed this spring he can stay back on breaking stuff. Benson might be the prep version of New York Yankees 2013 first-rounder Aaron Judge; like Judge, if Benson can stick in the outfield — which means, can he avoid outgrowing the position, because right now he’s average or better, though he does it mostly with pure athleticism. If Benson is around at No. 50 there’s either an injury we don’t know about or signability concerns that haven’t come out yet. He’s committed to Duke.

I’ll update this list as the first round ends and more information pours in, but there is a trend here; pitching, athleticism and outfielders. 

 

 

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