What kind of player might the Seattle Mariners end up with at No. 11? While I don’t do mock drafts — I’ll leave that to Keith Law, easily the best in the business at projecting players to picks and clubs — I do rather enjoy the process of making sense of the top 10 picks or so. Next month, the Seattle Mariners will select just outside the Top 10.
First of all, it’s important to add context. In some drafts, the No. 11 pick is best used on a high-upside arm, while others warrant more of a focus on a college bat. In 2016, the possibilities are all over the map. There appear to be some wild card talents that could go anywhere from No. 1 or 2 overall all the way to the 8-12 range. The ’16 class is deep, mostly in prep talent, however, a dynamic usually resulting in more unpredictable results than are typical.
As for the top half of the first round, the strength is at the plate rather than on the mound, even though as many as three of the top five picks may be pitchers. One national crosschecker I spoke to opined he’d end up with 15-17 prep players in his Top 25 and as many as 11 of them being pitchers.
The draft doesn’t work the way it used to, remember. Each club has a pool of money allotted them based on the picks they own.
(The Mariners have the 15th most pool money at $7.136 million.)
| Mariners 2016 Picks
| Previous No. 11 Picks
| Seattle Mariners 1st-Round Picks
|2014||Alex Jackson, RF||6||XT|
|2013||D.J. Peterson, 1B||12||AA|
|2012||Mike Zunino, C||3||AAA|
|2011||Danny Hultzen, LHP||2||AA-DL|
|2010||Taijuan Walker, RHP||43||MLB|
|2009||Dustin Ackley, OF||2||MLB|
|2009||Nick Franklin, SS||27||AAA|
|2009||Steven Baron, C||33||AA|
|2008||Josh Fields, RHP||20||MLB|
|2007||Phillippe Aumont, RHP||11||AAA|
|2006||Brandon Morrow, RHP||5||MLB|
|2005||Jeff Clement, C||3||RET|
|2003||Adam Jones, SS||37||MLB|
|2002||John Mayberry, OF||28||FA|
|2001||Michael Garciaparra, SS||36||RET|
Without knowing the first 10 selections it’s of course impossible to know which way Seattle will go at No. 11. They’ve been linked a lot to Chaminade Prep High School (Calif.) outfielder Blake Rutherford, Mississippi State right-hander Dakota Hudson, East High School (Kan.) lefty Joey Wentz and a trio of college hitters in Florida OF/1B Buddy Reed, Wake Forest 1B Will Craig and Miami C/1B Zack Collins.
I’m hearing some back-channel whispers about Shenendehowa High School (N.Y.) right-hander Ian Anderson, however, and there are some top eight talents that may be no-brainers should they get to Seattle. With the pools being such a factor, sometimes top 5 types get to the 10-15 range; As one scouting director put it, “we always have one eye on our board and the other on our pool.” If taking a closely graded player at 11 costs, say, $600,000 under slot, it may make sense to take him and grab an over-slot type with the next pick. The one risk there for the Mariners, though, is waiting 39 picks to get a shot at the other player. Don’t count on that kind of scenario with Seattle’s first pick.
Here’s the lowdown on the aforementioned possibilities, plus a few others. If La Costa Canyon’s Mickey Moniak or IBA’s Delvin Perez happen to fall to No. 11, all bets are off:
Blake Rutherford, OF — Chaminade College Prep H.S. (Calif.)
Rutherford, a 6-foot-2, 190-pound left-handed hitter, is considered a polished prep bat with raw power but without the swing to back it up just yet. He’s a little old (19) for a high school senior or many believe he’d be a top-5 pick. The one question I have with a player possessing Rutherford’s profile is the chance he’s more ideal for left field than right. combined with the chance he’s merely a 30-double, 12-14 home run type, putting a ton of pressure on the hit tool to warrant being selected in the top 15.
Dakota Hudson, RHP — Mississippi State
Hudson’s stuff isn’t elite, but he has touched 97 mph with the fastball. His changeup is well below average and he’s used a cutter in the high-80s to work effectively versus left-handed batters. I don’t buy a long-term arm without a chance at a solid-average changeup being much more than a mid-rotation option without a plus breaking ball and most see Hudson’s slider in the 45-50 range. It doesn’t help that his fastball lacks life. On the flip side, the delivery is of the low-effort variety, he repeats fairly well and there’s always a chance he develops a splitter (which doesn’t rely as much on arm action and an athletic delivery) and a smart-enough pitching coach teaches him a two-seamer or a better grip on the four-seamer, allowing for his 92-95 mph heater to play like one.
Joey Wentz, LHP — East H.S. (Kan.)
Wentz will tease the mid-90s pretty much every outing and he has above-average control and fringe-average command already. Law notes in his Insider scouting report that Wentz’s arm action will slow and stiffen on the changeup, but unlike Hudson he has time to figure it out and more athleticism to back necessary progress.
Wentz also is a draftable hitter, but at 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, his lefty power arm is what gets him into the top-15 cobversation. For the record, Wentz is my favorite prep arm for the M’s at No. 11. Pint, Garrett and Groome should be off the board and Wentz is probably being underrated as a result of not being seen as much on the summer circuit as most other prep players.
Buddy Reed, OF — Florida
Reed is my least favorite player linked to the Mariners at 11; he’s probably a good defender in center for 10 years and a chance to hit there’s not a lot of probability here and if he doesn’t hit for some average he’s nothing more than a fringe-average regular. For the record, Law has Reed ranked at No. 65 in his latest Top 100. I’ve talked to crosscheckers that have him anywhere from 30 to 70. Seems 11 would be quite the reach.
Note: I had originally pasted the wrong report in Reed’s spot above. Clearly Reed is not a first-base type long term.
Braxton Garrett, LHP — Florence H.S. (Ala.)
Garrett’s paperwork will resemble that of Max Fried, the California lefty taken No. 7 overall by the San Diego Padres in 2012. Friend has an inch on Garrett and a few mphs on the fastball, but the feel for the curveball, the athleticism and the projectable body (6-foot-3, 190 pounds) suggest a high-probability high school arm, if there is such a thing. I actually prefer Wentz’s profile, however.
Nolan Jones, SS/3B — Holy Ghost Prep (Penn.)
Jones likely moves to a corner infield spot, or even the outfield before he hits the big leagues. He’s big at 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds and if he remains athletic could develop into a plus glove at the hot corner. Law wonders is Jones might be able to be just good enough at second base to be an offense-first type option there. Jeff Kent anyone? Jones is committed to Virginia, a school that tends to keep its commits more than most. Vanderbilt and Stanford are the same way.
Will Craig, 1B — Wake Forest
Craig, like Reed, doesn’t fit the mold at No. 11 for me because he lacks upside. The power is very real, however, and he’s a solid-average defender at first. He works counts, draws walks and hits the ball hard a lot, which probably has Billy Beane and one NFL executive frothing at the mouth, Moneyball style.
Ian Anderson, RHP — Shenendehowa H.S. (N.Y.)
Don’t be too surprised if Anderson gets the nod at 11 despite what MLB.com and other draftniks tweet and report, albeit on the hope he signs for under slot. His season started fairly late, suggesting clubs won’t have a great feel for him once boards begin to take shape — which is any day now for most. Anderson is projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, showing easy arm action, deception and athleticism while touching 95 mph with movement to his arm side. His high arm slot aids a sharp, 12-6 curveball. You have to dream quite a bit here, but there’s a chance he’s a strong No. 3, perhaps a little more, if a club is patient.
Matt Manning, RHP — Sheldon H.S. (Calif.)
Manning is raw — he’s played just two years of full-time pitching — but has hit 98 mph, and despite a very inconsistent knuckle curveball scouts tend to believe in Manning’s physical tools so much he may be a top-15 pick. He’s a Loyola Marymount commit — if he went to school he could be a candidate for No. 1 overall in three years — but there’s almost no shot he falls out of the first round next month. I love the idea of the Mariners going this route at 11.
Zack Collins, C/1B — Miami
Collins has been destined for first base since I saw on the showcase circuit prior to his senior year in high school. He’s developed the hit tool well since then, and there are at least two clubs with crosscheckers who want to keep him behind the plate for a few years and see what happens, but the consensus is he will move off the position. I don’t hear anything suggesting Collins is worthy of a top-15 selection, however.
Josh Lowe, 3B — Pope H.S. (Ga.)
Lowe’s full of 60 or better present grades, though the hit tool isn’t one of them and he’s likely a corner outfielder in pro ball. His calling card is big-time raw power created by leverage and loft he creates with his lower half and a true-blue power swing. Scouts love the entire package as a whole, but the concerns include the creeks in the swing mechanics. He runs well but isn’t quick-footed.
Different Draft Philosophy Under Dipoto?
Yes, the scouting director, Tom McNamara, and his scouts are making the player evaluations, but other front office executives almost always have a say in the philosophy of the club. No, Jerry Dipoto will not be telling McNamara that Player X is something other than what McNamara and his staff have concluded, nor will former Diamondbacks scouting director and current M’s director of player personnel Tom Allison, though Allison’s strengths are in the amateur scouting milieu.
Often in McNamaras tenure, which began in 2009, the Mariners have selected in the top 12, just high enough to get Jack Zduriencik involved more than he might have been if the Mariners were selecting in the bottom third of the first round. The draft has become more critical the past several years, which means the general manager has to make sure it goes well or he’ll find himself where Zduriencik did — forced to make rash decisions on free agents, trades and player development in attempt to save his job.
Philosophically, it’s difficult to project where Dipoto prefers to go. His first two years as GM in Anaheim they didn’t pick until well after Round 1. In 2014, college lefty Sean Newcomb was the pick. Last June, Fresno State catcher Taylor Ward (No. 26) was the selection. It’s just not enough data to opine with wisdom.
My best guess is best player available at No. 11 — if the right college bat shockingly falls, I could see that, otherwise expect a high school player — and more upside plays at 50, 87 and so on.
MLB clubs should never draft for big-league need; it backfires, it’s senseless, and it wastes value. For example, the Mariners; biggest needs in the majors in 2016 and looking ahead to 2017 are starting pitching (Hisashi Iwakuma could be a free agent), relief pitching, first base and outfield. The chances any college starter from almost any draft class skates through the minors — or skips them altogether — to be an option before mid-season the year after the draft in which hes selected are slim to zero. The chances a college hitters makes such a trek are even slimmer and zero-er.
A college reliever, you ask? Dumbest pick ever would be taking a pure reliever at No. 11, or anywhere in the first-round, really. Maybe that arm can help right away, maybe not. Maybe they can help the following year. But in order to do either, we’re talking about a truly elite relief arm, and there are so few of those in any class — none this year — and so few of the elite ones actually do get to the majors that quickly regardless of when they are drafted.
Alas, some will suggest to me on Twitter the M’s draft a first baseman or outfield because that’s what the club lacks. This isn’t the NFL, so you draft assets, not puzzle pieces. If the best player on the board is a catcher, take him. If the best player on the board is a third baseman, where Kyle Seager is the guy for the next several years, still, take that player.
You will see teams taking players that fill needs in two scenarios: One, later in the draft when the pressure to get value slides a bit and the grades on players are minutely close. Two, in the first round, even very, very high, when the players were given virtually identical grades by the club. If there’s literally no discernible difference, draft the player the organization needs the most, particularly if it’s a college player.
Another thing to remember is despite some draft classes being significantly better or worse than it’s predecessors or future classes, each individual class represents a chance for each club to gain ground on the other 29. The clubs that drafts best year-in and year-out, in tandem with the international free agent period, ultimately will have the best chance to make impact trades or replenish impact talent from within, or both. The St. Louis Cardinals, Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Kansas City Royals are good examples.
Jason A. Churchill
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