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It’s Year 1 under new scouting director Scott Hunter. I don’t expect a significantly different approach from recent years, however, at least not when it comes to early picks.

The Mariners took college players in Round 1 in the following drafts under Tom McNamara:

2009: Dustin Ackley, CF — North Carolina
2011: Danny Hultzen, LHP — Virginia
2012: Mike Zunino, C — Florida
2013: D.J. Peterson, 3B — New Mexico
2016: Kyle Lewis, CF — Mercer

The club did not have a natural first-round pick in 2010 and selected Taijuan Walker in the comp round at No. 43. Seattle had no first-round pick in 2015. In 2009, the Mariners had two first-round picks, selecting Ackley No. 2, then prep infielder Nick Franklin at No. 27.

The only year the Mariners selected a prep player as their highest Round-1 selection was 2014 — Alex Jackson.

I don’t expect the college path to change, but not because Hunter, Tom Allison and Jerry Dipoto are the same in their valuations as McNamara and Jack Zduriencik. College players offer two things prep player do not in probability and a quick return on investment. Not to mention it’s just flat out easier to scout college players from all angles. Hopefully, for the sake of Dipoto’s tenure in Seattle and the future of the organization, the player development department is better equipped to cultivate the talent.

I expect Seattle to go the college route again in 2017, based on all of the above and the fact college talent is the strength and depth of Round 1. Here are some candidates that could land in the range of No. 17, including a couple of prep darkhorses.

Churchill’s Top 30 Draft Prospects

From Hunter Greene to two vastly underrated prospects at the high school level.

David Peterson, LHP — Oregon | @_David_Peterson

Peterson is an imposing 6-foot-6 and 240 pounds and repeats his delivery with a fastball at 90-94 mph and a low-80s slider.

His curveball needs a lot of work but the changeup already is useful and the more aggressive he becomes the better his changeup works.

Peterson pounds the strike zone with everything, making him a safe pick, but with his size and physicality there could be more velocity to extract, or at least a more consistent showing of the upper edges of his velo range.

Peterson is a nice blend of probability and upside for a club drafting in the 15-25 range. Not to mention he could be in the bigs in two years.

Griffin Canning, RHP — UCLA | @griffin_canning

Canning has been linked to several teams selecting between 15-25, and while I get it — he’s up to 94 mph with one of the best changeups in the class — he’s vastly overthrown his slider. And here comes the real shocker — John Savage overused him.

He also has a slow curveball.

Canning is alluring because he throws strikes and is more of a safe pick than one with upside. That typically fits the range Seattle selects in this season, but I worry about his 6-foot-1, 180-pound frame already being damaged goods.

He does repeat a simple, athletic delivery, however and could move quickly through the minors.

Evan White, 1B — Kentucky | @Ewhite_19

White, for me, is a better prospect than Burger. Despite being a first baseman, White is athletic. He can run (60) and is an elite defender. He bats right-handed and throws left-handed (with above-average arm strength) or it’d be worth a shot to try him across the diamond. Still, the outfield is a real possibility.

White’s hands are terrific at the platem helping him stay back on offspeed stuff and cover the plate both vertically and horizontally. He uses most of the field and is willing to work counts.

His swing will need some help to generate power, however, but at 6-foot-3 and with long arms, there’s a chance the natural leverage will help him create backspin.

Might he be a right-handed Christian Yelich?

Jordon Adell, OF — Ballard HS (Ky.) | @jordonadell

Adell is higher-risk, higher-reward prep kid that reminds some of a mix between the two Upton brothers because he’s athletic with 65-grade speed, 60-grade range and arm and plus power potential.

Keon Broxton also comes to mind.

Adell projects more like a slugger than a hitter, however — very Justin Upton of him, eh? — and his swing will need work. He doesn’t recognize pitch type yet.

He does have big-time bat speed and already is 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds. Someone’s going to take him in Round 1 and keep him from going to Louisville, but he’s a bit of a project, albeit it one with huge upside.

Keston Hiura, 2B/LF — UC Irvine | @Kestdaddy

Hiura may be the best pure hitter in the draft and has enough power to handle an everyday role at second base. But he hasn’t played the field this season due to an elbow injury that may or may not require surgery and as a result Hiura’s stock has taken a bit of a hit.

One scout comp’d Hiura to Jean Segura at the plate, which is a lofty comparison. He also tossed out Cesar Hernandez. Anywhere in between is ap retty good player, worthy of a top-20 selection, even if he has to move to left field.

I’d take Hiura in a heartbeat and worry about his position later. He works, understands hitting and as one scouting director urged, the hit tool is “becoming an undervalued asset.”

Alex Faedo, RHP — Florida

Faedo is unlikely to fall far out of the Top 10 but may be a candidate to do just that if he negotiates his way out of that range, requesting Top 5 money. He’s been better recently than the majority of the season, resembling the potential No. 1 pick he was entering the season.

After sitting 89-92 mph most of his season, he’s been back up to 92-94, touching 95, better setting up a wipeout slider. He’s built like a starter with a potential third pitch — a changeup — on the way, but without his best fastball he’s more of a No. 3 starter than anything else due to 45 command.

Tanner Houck, RHP — Missouri
Houck has one of the best pure arms in the class and gets good, late sink and run on it at 92-97 mph. He has two offspeed pitches that should get to average levels but the changeup may be limited due to his arm slot; Houck throws from a lower-than-three-quarter slot, making it more difficult to get the proper grip, release and ball action on the pitch.

He’s 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds and he uses his legs to drive into each pitch. He throws cross-body a bit, creating deception. Many scouts love him as a potential high-leverage reliever that can cover 2-plus innings per outing.

Any team drafting him in the first round will give him a chance to start.

Jake Burger, 3B — Missouri State | @burgatron13

Burger can hit and hit for power but it appears I’m the low man on him. He’s not likely to stick at third base and when he faced elite arms was a little more ordinary.

The power remains a tad undeveloped but he can mash the fastball and uses the middle of the field well. He’s not a bad glove and has a plus arm, but he already lacks ideal range for the hot corner. He could be a terrific first baseman, however.

He makes it work in college — mostly versus mediocre pitching — but there’s a near-arm bar in his swing and his back arm stiffens mid-pitch, both of which could impact his ability to hit good velocioty and cover the plate consistently.

I’m not a fan of such a player — a first basemen with some challenges ahead of him — at No. 17 considering the other talents likely to be available. If he was a certain third baseman or a candidate to play right field, I’d feel differemt.

One scout told he, however — “you’d love the guy, I’m telling you.”

Seth Romero, LHP — Houston | @SethR21

Romero’s stock sank once he was booted from the Houston baseball team for off-the-field antics, and that is certainly a concern for MLB clubs who might consider selecting him this high. Several teams have said they’re already off him “for awhile,” which suggests they won’t take him Round 1 and may not want to pay him slot until Round 2 or 3.

Based on ability, Romero is a Top 10-12 talent who worked hard to get in better shape and the results paid dividends. He sits 91-95 mph and has hit 97. The delivery is sound the velo comes easy.

He throws from a three-quarter slot and hides the ball well, helping an already 55/60 fastball play up. His out pitch is a 79-82 mph slider and his changeup has been a useful offering, projecting as above-average in time.

A focused Romero might challenge Brendan McKay and Kyle Wright to be the first player in the class to make the majors.

Logan Warmouth, SS — North Carolina | @LoganWarmouth

Warmouth can hit and if scouts were convined he was a surefire shortstop in the majors he’d rank much higher on boards than he has — among the 8-9 clubs that hinted to me, Warmouth ranks as high as 13 and as low as 31.

He’s sturdily built and uses his lower half well at the plate, generating average bat speed and perhaps average power once he learns to create more loft.

Clubs believe in the hit tool but one area scout is worried he’s got a little Colin Moran in him, in that he’ll hit, but may not hit for enough power to warrant playing everyday at third base.

Warmouth does have the actions to at least play second base, however, where a .270/.340/.430 bat plays quite well.

Jeren Kendall, OF — Vanderbilt | @JerenKendall

Kendall is a long shot to get to 17 despite some swing-and-miss that concern clubs. He’s a 70 runner and plus defensive centerfielder with an above-acerage arm, and average power potential that could land him in the teens in the home run department.

He’s very good on the bases and does draw his share of walks. His strikeout tendency may slow down his trek to the majors, but he has everything going for him.

For smaller players — Kendall is 5-foot-10 and 185 pounds — the swing-and-miss issue tends to be more about pitch recognition and game plan than a mechanical flaw.

Sam Carlson, RHP — Burnsville HS (Minn.) | @SamCarlson33

Carlson is one of the top right-handed prep arms in the class, thanks to a projectable, 6-foot-4, 195-pound fram, above-average control and velocity that’s developing into the low-to-mid-90s range — he touched 97 this spring and sat 92-94.

That velo supports the movement on the fastball, a four-seamer with natural sink and some late life and run to his arm side. The delivery is free and easy though his arm action isn’t perfect, it passes the eye test.

His slider and changeup both flash average with the former porjecting as a plus pitch. Carlson does a very good job with consistent arm speed when going from fastball to offspeed pitch.

I don’t expect him to be available, but there will be surprises in the Top 15 that push someone to 17 that projects higher than that.

My Favorites

Nick Allen, SS — Parker HS (Calif.) | @nickallen10_

Allen is a favorite of a lot of people around the game. Teammates, coaches, even opponents. And scout types adore him for his makeup and leadership as much for his on-field ability.

Don’t let his 5-foot-8, 160-pound frame fool you. Allen is neither small or weak when it comes to baseball skills, and he’s stronger than he looks.

He won’t hit for much power, at least early in his pro career, but the USC commit has bat speed, a future above-average hit tool and all the goods to turn in a Gold Glove career at shortstop — including above-average arm strength and big-time range.

He’s a plus-plus runner with instincts, drawing the easy comps to Jose Altuve, but I think he’s more like Dustin Pedroia physically, just with more lateral range that allow to stick at short.

Drew Waters, OF — Etowah HS (Ga.) | @dwaters121

Waters is strong, has some physical projection left and already shows plus run and throw tools. He’s a switch hitter with a better swing as a lefty but enough bat speed and plate coverage from either side to stay the course.

He may stick in center and reminds me athletically of Mitch Haniger at the same age.

Waters is a strong commit to Georgia, but if he’s willing to take slot at 17, I’d choose him over Adell at over-slot, Canning or Burger at any near-slot tag and many others.

There’s an outside shot, however, Waters is available when the Mariners select again at No. 55, but at that point Waters likely will require an over-slot deal. Pick value at 55 is $1.2069 million.

Heliot Ramos, OF — AC Martinez HS (PR) | @Ramos2136H

Ramos, considered this year’s top prospect from Puerto Rico,  is short to the ball with loose, quick wrists and he covers the vertical strike zone well. Scouts love his foundation, a sturdy lower-half setup and shallow load.

He’s an average or better runner at present with a solid-average arm and reliable instincts in the outfield.  He likely ends up in left field.

Ramos has a chance to hit for average and power. Where his overall value lands, however, is dependent on whether or not he can close a hole on the inner-half, where he has shown struggles to

Top-Right Photo: David Peterson, by Samuel Marshall/Daily Emerald

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. Find Jason's baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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