Rounds three through 10 of the 2014 MLB Draft took place Friday, with the Seattle Mariners selecting sixth in each round. It was an excellent Day 1 for the club, tabbing Alex Jackson at No. 6 and selecting Gareth Morgan at No. 74. I’ll have more on Morgan over the weekend, but here’s a look at what the club did Friday, pick by pick.
Round 3: Austin Cousino, CF — Kentucky (No. 80)
Cousino, pronounced Co-Sino, like ‘casino’ but with the ‘oh’ sound and a softer ‘s,’ comes to pro ball as a glove-first center fielder. He was the SEC’s freshman of the year two years ago when he led the team in hitting at .319 and was third among regulars with .408 on-base mark. He blasted nine home runs that year and slugged .515, stealing 15 bases in 16 attempts.
He struggled a year ago, managing a paltry .249 average and .402 slugging percentage, but did maintain his on-base percentage at .383. He bounced back some this spring, ending the year at .308/.365/.441 and swiped 19 bags in 20 attempts.
He’s a 60-grade runner with an average throwing arm, and has terrific defensive instincts, projecting as a plus glove. Despite standing just 5-foot-10 he’s stronmg at 185 pounds and gets the bat through the zone quickly.
Some of his struggles since his freshman year are attributed an overaggressive approach at times. He’s been susceptible to decent breaking balls and one scout opined that Cousino appeared to lose sight of what he was on the diamond after the big year two years ago. Nine homers in college is like 18-20 in the majors.
Shortening up and focusing on hard contact could do wonders for him, but the swing needs work, including where his hands start, how he loads and finally how deep the load ultimately is.
Cousino, if he signs, could hit Short-season Everett this summer and start 2015 in the Midwest League. He could decided to take another year in school to put up better numbers, but his draft stock isn’t likely to improve all that much better than the third round.
Round 4: Ryan Yarbrough, LHP — Old Dominion
Yarbrough is a senior sign that I believe was overdrafted because the club may need to go over slot with each of their first two picks. He’s 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds and sits in the 87-90 mph range, touching 91-92 on occasion. He also offers a curveball and changeup, with the latter showing plus potential.
Yarbrough is likely a long-term bullpen arm, and perhaps a candidate work on a cutter or slider to go with the fastball-changeup combo.
Round 5: Dan Altavilla, RHP — Mercyhurst College
It took me 11 attempts to find a scout I knew that had seen Altavilla and had enough on which I could write here. The right-hander sits 90-94 mph with life, a little sink and the run is armside. The slider is below average but has good shape and breaks late, suggesting more work could improve it to average or better levels.
He tends to telegraph his changeup, but there is fade and sink to it. This particular scout believes Altavilla is destined for the bullpen, not only due to a high-effort delivery, but because in such a role the fastball may play up another tick and become more of a strikeout weapon. It doesn’t help that he’s only 5-foot-11, but he is 200-plus pounds and is a very physical pitcher. Think Dom Leone.
Altavilla is another candidate for Everett this summer, and another below-slot overdraft to help take care of the first few rounds.
Round 6: Lane Ratliff, LHP — Jones County JC (Miss.)
Ratliff is a projectable 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds and he’s just 19 years of age. He offers a fastball in the upper 80s, touching 90 on occasion and offering a slurve and kindergarten changeup.
The velocity has a chance to grow as he learns to pitch and scouts have seen him hit 92 in workouts and in shorter stints, but he works off the fastball well as-is, commanding it to both sides of the plate. If his secondary stuff develops, Ratliff has a shot to start long term.
Round 7: Taylor Byrd, LHP — Nicholls State
Byrd, one of five seniors the club selected Friday, was the ace of his college staff thanks to an above-average curveball and average velocity. He’ll to clean up his mechanics and throw more strikes consistently, not to mention improve the changeup, but he’s somewhat similar to the M’s 7th-round pick from a year ago, southpaw Tyler Olson out of Gonzaga.
Round 8: Kody Kerski, RHP — Sacred Heart University
Kerski, an undersized right-hander at 5-foot-11 and 190 pounds, does possess good arm speed and he’s improved his velocity significant in college. He sat 82-85 mph in high school but he’s added 20 pounds of muscle and has maintained athleticism and a loose arm. He now sits 86-89 and has a sharp 12-6 curveball thrown from a high three-quarter arm slot.
Kerski is another possibility at Everett this summer.
Round 9: Peter Miller, RHP — Florida State
I imagine some of the club’s top heat saw Miller when in Tallahassee to see right-hander Luke Weaver, the ‘Noles ace who went to the St. Louis Cardinals at No. 27 overall.
Miller, a 6-foot-1, 195-pound right-hander, sits 88-90 mph but has been seen pitching comfortably at 89-92. He uses a three-quarter arm slot and offers a 71-74 mph curveball that he tends to telegraph some but that is better when it’s 74 than 71, and a 79-84 mph changeup that needs a lot of work.
Round 10: Adam Martin, C — Western Carolina
Martin, a right-handed hitting catcher, is a big, strong hitter with above-average raw power but a long swing with home run purpose. He’s beatable with good velocity and well-placed breaking balls, reminisce of Justin Smoak or John Buck.
He’s below-average behind the dish, but works hard, possesses leadership skills and has above-average arm strength.
No. 74: Gareth Morgan, OF — Blyth Academy (ON)
Morgan was the top Canadian talent in the class and the Mariners know him pretty well, having known and worked well with his travel team — the Langley Blaze, the same travel team as 2013 third-round pick Tyler O’Neill — and having seen Morgan on the Showcase trail/
He’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, swings a powerful right-handed bat and has big raw power from the right-center field alley to the left field line. He has a plus arm, is an average or slightly above-average runner and plays a solid right field.
The hit tool is the only question, but that happens to be the most important tool for a position player, which explains why Morgan was not discussed in the top 40 with the Monte Harrisons and Braxton Davidsons, but the Mariners see a pretty clean swing and a kid dedicated to working at his craft.
This is not a comp, projection or player-to-player comparison in any manner, but the knock on Giancarlo Stanton in 2007 was that his swing was a bit long, he had problems covering the entire strike zone and clubs were worried he might strike out 200 times a year.
All it takes is the right talent, the right work ethic and the right voice to help a kid with Morgan’s physical tools to develop into a good major league player. Clearly the Mariners believe he’s the right talent.
Morgan is committed to North Carolina State, but like Jackson is likely to sign, even though it may take a little more than the $760, 300 assigned value for the No. 74 pick.
Photo of Gareth Morgan by Scott Kurz/Area Code Baseball