The Seattle Mariners haven’t won a thing since 2001, and the club hasn’t reached 90 victories in a season since 2003. The roster construction has been poor, but the franchise’s scouting and player development has failed miserably during that time.,
Since rebuilding, re-imagining, going young, properly supplementing, or whatever you want to call the club’s attempts over that span requires success in the draft and the Mariners haven’t enjoyed much of that, let’s re-draft for them over the 11-year period between Bill Bavasi’s tenure through Jack Zduriencik’s tenure.
We get to use hindsight here, but I’ll share some draft=day thoughts of each 1st-round pick by the club over the 11 seasons.
Below are the Mariners first-round picks, including 1st-round comp picks, and the re-draft selection based on our 20-20 hindsight.
Remember, other clubs in a re-draft scenario, including those drafting ahead of Seattle, would get shots on these players. The re-draft selection is the absolute best the Mariners could have done with that pick based on results since draft day, presenting what essentially would amount to perfect picks.
Yes, I’m trying to make you mad online about Mariners drafts.
I stopped at 2015 for two reasons. One, that’s the last draft before Jerry Dipoto took over as the GM, and not enough time has passed to do much analysis on draft class after that.
The No. 3 Pick: Jeff Clement, C — USC
The Mariners were heavily linked to Long Beach State SS Troy Tulowitzki and Virginia 3B Ryan Zimmerman — on the recommendation of former GM and then-consultant Pat Gillick — but catching coordinator Roger Hansen signed off on Clement’s hands and feet and the Mariners went the way of the bat-first catcher.
Had Clement not suffered injuries to both knees and to his left elbow, there’s a decent chance he not only would have caught a lot of games in the majors, but hit a little bit, too. But it’s also easy to see why he broke down. Clement was not a great athlete and lacked some of the strength attributes clubs look for in backstops, and Seattle simply went into this hoping Clement could get by in these areas enough to allow his bat to provide the value.
Re-Draft: Troy Tulowitzki
You can make a case for Andrew McCutchen, and by pure rWAR, Ryan Braun, too. Justin Upton may pass them all simply by playing longer. And No. 103 pick Brett Gardner‘s WAR output is between Tulowitzki and Upton.
The No. 5 Pick: Brandon Morrow, RHP — California
Seattle was linked to local arm Tim Lincecum early in the process, but mostly Luke Hochevar out of Tennessee. The fans wanted Lincecum or North Carolina lefty Andrew Miller, who was thought to be the best player in the class at the time by at least a slight majority. Miller went No. 6 to Detroit.
Re-Draft: Clayton Kershaw, LHP — Highland Park HS (Texas)
While it would have been fun seeing Lincecum, a University of Washington star out o Liberty High School, star for the Mariners, Kershaw tuned out to be the best player in the class and is a future Hall of Famer.
The No. 11 Pick: Phillippe Aumont, RHP — Ecole Du Versant
I heard a lot of Beau Mills and Matt Dominguez to Seattle in 2007, and they also were linked quite a bit to Daniel Moskos, who ended up going No. 4 overall to Pittsburgh.
Re-Draft: Freddie Freeman, 1B — El Modena HS (Calif.)
Josh Donaldson, the catcher from Auburn, has compiled the highest rWAR for players picked after the Mariners, but
Heyward would have been a good pick, too, and second-round pick Giancarlo Stanton isn’t far behind. Freeman is less than a season’s worth of WAR behind Donaldson and Stanton and he’s younger than Donaldson by more than four years and healthier than Stanton.
The No. 20 Pick: Josh Fields, RHR — Georgia
This pick was made by the combo of Bill Bavasi and Bob Fontaine and the idea was Fields could be signed and perhaps pitch out of the big-league bullpen later that summer. But he didn’t sign at all in 2008, making the pick one of the worst in franchise history.
But an even worse decision came a year later when Jack Zduriencik decided to sign Fields before the deadline rather than get the No. 21 pick in the 2009 Draft as compensation.
Seattle was linked to numerous players for this pick, including lefty Christian Friedrich — who was my preference at the time — and 1B Ike Davis, whow ent two pick prior to the New York Mets. The Mariners also were linked to Brett Lawrie, who went No. 16 to the Milwaukee Brewers.
Re-Draft: Lance Lynn, RHP — Mississippi
Gerrit Cole is the best player drafted after Seattle in this class, but he went No. 28 to the New York Yankees and didn’t sign, even using our hindsight goggles we can’t suggest Cole would have signed with the Mariners.
Brandon Crawford, the shortstop from UCLA, has out-WAR’d Lynn, but he’s running out of steam while Lynn just had his best season. Crawford went to the Giants in Round 4.
Lynn, a draftee of the Mariners three years prior, would have had to give permission to be re-drafted by Seattle, but he’s clearly the next-best choice. Jake Odorizzi, who went No. 32 to the Brewers, wouldn’t have been a bad pick, either.
It wasn’t a good class, with only 11 players compiling 10 rWAR or more thus far.
The No. 2 Pick: Dustin Ackley, OF
At the time this was absolutely the right pick, with no other club believing any other player was worth the risk at No.2 overall.
Re-Draft: Mike Trout, OF — Milville HS (N.J.)
Trout would a lot of clubs’ re-draft pick in this draft, including the Nationals twice and the Diamondbacks twice. At least the Nationals got Stephen Strasburg at No. 1.
The most egregious misses in the round are the Padres at No. 3 selecting Donavan Tate, who never reached Double-A ball and is now out of baseball altogether, and the Pirates at No. 4 getting 0.1 rWAR out of Tony Sanchez.
There was a lot of talent in this class, but a lot of it was prep pitching that didn’t pan out including lefty-hander Tyler Matzek, a name Seattle was linked to as a backup plan in case negotiations went haywire with Ackley, and Shelby Miller.
The No. 27 Pick: Nick Franklin, SS — Lake Brantley HS (Fla.)
While Franklin wasn’t going to be a star or anything, the Mariners’ player development process failed him big time. He was a confident gamer with underrated hands and had plenty of tools to play second base.
Re-Draft: Nolan Arenado, 3B — El Toro HS (Calif.)
Paul Goldschmidt was taken No. 246 overall by Arizona and has compiled 43.6 rWAR to Arenado’s 37.6, but contracts aside, I’d take Arenado if we had a time machine.
The No. 33 Pick: Steve Baron, C — Ferguson School (Fla.)
Baron has all the physical tools to catch, but needed a lot of work at the plate and it never came to fruition. Another development issue, but with Rex Brothers, Matt Davidson and my favorite Tyler Skaggs on the board, this was a largely disappointing decision. Heck, Richards was available here, too.
The Mariners, for picks 27 and 33, were connected to Cal outfielder Brett Jackson, who went to the Cubs at No. 31.
The Mariners did not have a first-round pick in this draft due to the signing of Chone Figgins, but they did have a comp-rounder.
The No. 43 Pick: Taijuan Walker, RHP — Yucaipa HS (Calif.)
By pure rWAR, Nicholas Castellanos has been more valuable to date and he went one pick later, but this story isn’t yet complete. Walker is just 27 years old.
Re-Draft: Andrelton Simmons, SS — W. OKlahoma State
The No. 2 Pick: Danny Hultzen, LHP — Virginia
We all know this story by now.
I was told by multiple sides the Mariners wanted to take Anthony Rendon but couldn’t risk the medicals, and they weren’t the only club convinced that was too big a risk. in the top 5. I was also told Seattle really liked Francisco Lindor and scouting director Tom McNamara told Lindor’s agent he was their guy.
And maybe he was, up until it came time to make the pick, anyway.
Zduriencik and McNamara went to see Hultzen four Fridays in a row and he became the club’s No. 1 target.
Only problem was, they ignored his red-flag delivery.
Re-Draft: Mookie Betts, OF — Overton HS (Tenn.)
Rendon has the rWAR edge over Lindor entering 2020 but only by 1.5 and Lindor is three years younger. Cole, who went No. 1 to Pittsburgh, also would be a sound re-draft choice, as would George Springer, who has been worth 25.4 rWAR, just 2.2 fewer than Lindor. Springer is 30.
But Betts has a large rWAR lead over all of them, so far, including an MVP in 2018 when he posted 10.6 rWAR. Betts went No. 172 overall (Round 5).
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The No. 3 Pick: Mike Zunino, C — Florida
I take issue with folks ragging on this pick in the manner they do. Did it work out well? No. Was it a BAD pick? Absolutely not.
Even if you think Zunino was a more proper fit in this class between Nos. 7 and 12, you can’t argue the No. 12 pick in an average class shouldn’t be better than a 6.8 rWAR player after seven and a half years.
Player development process failed Zunino big-time.
Still, Zunino has been the 13th most valuable player from this class, despite the awful developmental approach by the club.
I had heard Kevin Gausman, Byron Buxton, Kyle Zimmer and, somewhat oddly, Andrew Heaney connected to Seattle for this pick. Heaney may have been a below-slot backup plan, but the club scouted him heavily late leading up to draft day.
Gausman went No. 4 to Baltimore, Zimmer to the Royals at No. 5 and Heaney No. 9 to the Marlins.
I believe they would have taken Byron Buxton if he lasted one more pick.
Re-Draft: Corey Seager, SS — Northwest Cabbarrus HS (N.C.)
Seager has been the No. 2 player in this class so far, behind only No. 1 pick Carlos Correa, and Seager missed all but 26 games in 2018 with Tommy John surgery.
The No. 12 Pick: D.J. Peterson, 3B — New Mexico
Peterson was my least favorite first-round pick in the Jack-TMC era. There were questions about the hit tool, and there were question about his ability to play third base. It appeared Seattle may have selected a .240/.300/.450, 25-homer first baseman ahead of a number of other players with better profiles.
Seattle was linked heavily to Hunter Renfroe, who went a pick later to the Padres, and prep righty Phil Bickford, who went two pick before. I never heard them much on Dominic Smith, but it would have made more sense.
One Mariners checker at the time told me he wanted Aaron Judge, but McNamara wasn’t interested.
Re-Draft: Cody Bellinger, OF — Hamilton HS (Ariz.)
Aaron Judge has been the No. 2 player in this class so far behind Kris Bryant, but Bellinger, the No. 124 pick in this draft, is the best player in the National League and is just 24.
I know there were scouts in the room fighting for Anderson and Crawford at No. 12.
The Pick at No. 6: Alex Jackson, C — Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.)
Another instance where the pick was right, but nothing else was.
Jackson was being considered as high as No. 4 and had all the tools to not only hit and hit for power, but catch. Despite being traded to the Braves, Jackson still has yet to put it together. He moved to the outfield early in his Mariners career, but is back behind the plate with Atlanta. He made his MLB debut last season. He’s just 24, so there still is time, but it didn’t happen in Seattle.
Treat Turner, who went a pick after Seattle took Jackson, would have worked out OK, too.
The popular opinion on draft day was Seattle should have taken Oregon State’s Michael Conforto, who played at Redmond High School. While hindsight tells us that for sure would have worked out better, I’m not 100% sure the Mariners wouldn’t have ruined a lot of these players. Some of the elites like Lindor, Rendon and Trout would have found a way, but I wouldn’t put Conforto in that category.
Fun fact: The top two picks in this draft has yet to reach Double-A.
Seattle did not have a first-round pick in this draft thanks to the signing of Robinson Cano. In Round 2, they selected Nick Neidert, a right-hander out of Peachtree Ridge High School in Georgia.
Jerry Dipoto traded Neidert to Miami in the deal for Dee Gordon and Shohei Ohtani money. Neidert is on the brink of the majors, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be more than a No. 4 or 5 starter, and likely is an up-and-down starter as a command-and-feel arm with below-average stuff.