I recently became obsessed with looking over past rule 4 drafts on Baseball-Reference. Specifically the years between 2005-2008.
I looked over almost every team's entire draft for those years to see who had the most success and who ended up drafting 200 players over that time span that failed to make any kind of major impact at the major league level.
As you can imagine, the Mariners were among the worst drafting teams during those four years.
I really wanted to find out how strong the correlation was between good or bad drafting and current success at the major league level. By this time, players drafted during that time should either already be making an impact in the majors or be very close to it, if they turned out to be a good draft pick.
I stared at the 2005 draft for a long time, still in disbelief that Seattle could be that unlucky, unfortunate, and whiff so badly with the #3 pick. I'm no longer infuriated or angry about taking Jeff Clement in retrospect. At this point, it's only fascinating. There's hardly any reason to be upset about something that's never going to change.
Of the top seven picks that year, six of them have gone on to have significant success at the major league level. If a player reaches 10 WAR in his career, I'd consider that to be pretty good. The lowest fWAR in those top seven picks (besides the obvious Clement) would then be Ricky Romero at 9.8. Consider that #2 pick Alex Gordon just posted a 6.9 fWAR season, making him roughly 9 WAR more valuable than the entire Mariners 2005 draft. (It's rough because it's only BR that allows me to view an entire draft with WAR included. Comparing bWAR to fWAR is hardly a good method, but considering the circumstance let's just say this: Clearly Alex Gordon is worth a lot more than the Mariners entire draft.)
Four players drafted by the M's that year ended up making the majors at some point: Clement, Justin Thomas, Anthony Varvaro, and James Russell. Like most relief pitchers from the Mariners farm system, Varvaro finally found some success in Atlanta last season.
The 2005 draft was so loaded that outside of the top seven, you still had guys like Jay Bruce, Andrew McCutchen, Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Chris Volstad, Cliff Pennington, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Garza, Joey Devine, Colby Rasmus, Clay Buchholz, and Jed Lowrie drafted in the first round.
By comparison, the top 10 players drafted in 2004 included Justin Verlander and nobody else that has posted a career bWAR above 5.
I'm going to try to stay on topic as much as possible, but when talking about one of my favorite past-times (MLB drafts and the success/failure of top prospects) I tend to go on tangents. Back to the Mariners 2005-2008 drafts...
In 2006, the Mariners were actually quite successful in the draft: Brandon Morrow, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler, Nathan Adcock, Adam Moore, Doug Fister, Dan Runzler, Tyson Gillies and Kameron Mickolio all provided some modicum of value during their careers. Even if that value was in trade or with another team or being a top prospect. You'll rarely see a draft that had seven players reach the majors.
Finally, the 2008 draft was perhaps the worst draft of all during that time. Not a single player that the Mariners drafted that year has reached the majors. Josh Fields was the first round pick and the rest of the draft leaves you wanting more. It's possible that Dennis Raben, Nate Tenbrink, or Brandon Maurer reach the majors (while Brett Lorin and Aaron Pribanic were traded to the Pirates), but mostly they just found organizational filler.
Looking back on these drafts wasn't done as an exercise in how to get myself angry though, it was just about understanding. What's there to really be angry about though when the 2009 and 2010 drafts have already proven to be so awesome? (With much hope for the 2011 draftees, and the upcoming players selected in 2012.)
Somehow what this all leads me to is the Mariners top prospects of 2006. I know, I didn't think it would take me this long to get to the point either, but I warned you that I love talking about the draft and looking back at history.
To know that Seattle's draft in 2005 turned out to be bad, I wanted to see what prospect evaluators thought of some of those picks when ranking the Mariners prospects in 2006. I knew they'd like Clement, but how would they feel about any of the rest?
Then again, I realized it was too early to be thinking of anyone other than Clement. Brad Miller, Seattle's 2nd round pick from this past season, only warrants a mention on most "Top" lists for Seattle's 2012 prospects.
Still, this is where I wound up from all of that, and then all of a sudden I wound up looking at what's happening in the life of Clint Nageotte.
Hey, we're finally here. We're finally to the subject that I placed in the headline of this fanpost. Are you excited? Are you angry?
To begin, here's John Sickels Top 20 Mariners Prospects of 2006:
- Jeff Clement, C, Grade A-
Adam Jones, OF-SS, Grade B+
Asdrubal Cabrera, SS, B
- Clint Nageotte, RHP, C+
Chris Snelling, OF, C+ (grade change from book)
Matt Tuiasosopo, SS, C+
Shin-Soo Choo, OF, C+
Yorman Bazardo, RHP, C+
Bobby Livingston, LHP, C+ (grade change from book)
Wladimir Balentien, OF, C+
Ryan Feierabend, LHP, C+
Luis Valbuena, 2B, C+
Michael Saunders, OF, C+
- Michael Wilson, OF, C+
- Sebastian Boucher, OF, C+
- Osvaldo Navarro, SS, C+
- Edgar Guaramato, RHP, C+
Cesar Jimenez, LHP, C
Anthony Vavaro, RHP, C
- Craig James, RHP, C
To give you an idea of how weak this system would be to Sickels, (though his rankings and philosophies do change over the years,) the Indians are currently considered to be one of the worst farm systems in baseball and they have three players rated above C+. (Though nobody that's an A-).
Shin-Soo Choo, Adam Jones, and Asdrubal Cabrera are obviously the three successful players on this list. Varvaro has a chance to be a useful bullpen piece. Saunders has a chance still to make something of himself in the majors. Luis Valbuena could stick around for awhile as a utility player.
Of course, only Saunders is still a Mariner out of those players.
Sickels ranked Nageotte as the 4th best prospect in the system, a sentiment that was shared by others and we all know the "Nageotte-Blackley" meme by now.
Here is Baseball America's list of the Top 10 Mariners Prospects of 2006:
1. Jeff Clement, c
2. Adam Jones, of/ss
3. Kenji Johjima, c
4. Chris Snelling, of
5. Matt Tuiasosopo, ss
6. Asdrubal Cabrera, ss/2b
7. Shin-Soo Choo, of
8. Emiliano Fruto, rhp
9. Clint Nageotte, rhp
10. Rob Johnson, c
This was also the first year that Felix Hernandez was no longer a prospect, immediately dropping a recurring A player from the Mariners prospect lists.
Said Baseball America at the time, before the Mariners whiffed hard in the next three drafts:
A series of poor drafts has caught up to the Mariners, who forfeited four first-round picks and failed to sign another (John Mayberry Jr., who went to Stanford and became the 19th overall choice in 2005) from 2000-04. Their decision to take Michael Garciaparra 36th overall in 2001, after he barely played as a high school senior because of a football knee injury, remains one of the most puzzling choices in recent draft history.
So the system was already setting up for failure, and then it would be another three years until they finally began to re-stock with the exciting young players and prospects we have today.
Holy shit, have I still not gotten to Nageotte? My bad, you guys.
Let's do some reminiscing on the big guy really quick.
Clint Nageotte, RHP, Sickels #4 Prospect and BA's #9 Prospect for the Mariners
Clint Nageotte was a big right-handed pitcher drafted by the Mariners in the 5th round of the 1999 draft. It was his second time being in the spotlight, having previously starred as a young Babe Ruth in The Babe. Unfortunately, I can't find a screenshot of him in the movie, but here's a quick comparison.
He rose steadily through the system, moving up one level per year and posting excellent strikeout numbers. In 2002, in the California League, he threw 164.2 innings and struck out 214 batters while walking 68. Control was an issue and he threw 11 wild pitches and hit 12 batters.
Still, people were excited about the potential of Nageotte and BA ranked him in the top 100 for four straight years between 2002 and 2005.
Said Sickels: "Clint Nageotte has that killer slider, but control problems remain an issue."
Unfortunately, he was terrible in his very limited major league action (41.2 career innings, 26 Ks, 30 BBs, 7.78 ERA) and Seattle let him go in October of 2006 after his control went from bad to completely erratic. He pitched for a very short time in the Mets system and from 2008-2010, he pitched in Independent Leagues with a 6.91 ERA over 100.1 innings with 67 K/77 BBs.
Where is he now?
Currently, Nageotte is the pitching coordinator for T3 Pelicans, a player development program in Avon, Ohio.
Word for word in his bio:
-Pitched for 3 seasons in the Major Leagues with Seatle Mariners
A rather insulting typo? Perhaps not...
-5th round draft pick for the Seatle Mariners
Hey, the T3 Pelicans motto is "WHERE GOOD PLAYERS BECOME GREAT" not "WHERE GOOD SPELLERS BECOME GREAT" so I guess I'll let it slide.
Chris Snelling, OF, Sickels #5 and BA's #4 Mariners Prospect
The Australian with "5 tools, none of which fixes your knees" was a BA top 100 prospect from 2001-2003, reaching #39 at his peak. He had so much talent, hitting .370/.452/.553 in 291 PAs for the Rainiers in 2005, but those injuries... He's been referred to as "Mr. Glass" by those of us that still appreciate Unbreakable. He was once traded for Ryan Lagerhans, which meant that in a way he still affected the Mariners after he left. (I guess he still affects me sometimes. Like when I wrote these sentences just now.)
Said Sickels: "Chris Snelling is a very good hitter, but he's also good at getting hurt. I gave him a Grade C in the book, but will increase that to C+. He's a Grade B guy on his own merits, but because of his health record I think we have to be careful."
The history of his injuries, which is kind of amazing when you think about it (Spent time on the DL every year from 2002-2008) was just recently recounted by Baseball Prospectus here.
Snelling last played baseball in the Mexican League in 2009, hitting .324/.435/.520 in 49 games. He also represented Australia in the World Baseball Classic that year.
Where is he now?
This blog post posted on March 30, 2010, asks Snelling to please return to Australia and play in the Australian Baseball League. Maybe that would have been a good idea... but maybe he's happy not tearing his knees up any more than he already has.
Yorman Bazardo, RHP, Sickels #8, BA - Not Ranked
The Mariners acquired Bazardo in exchange for Ron Villone, which seemed great because it was nice to get anything of significance for Ron Villone.
Said Sickels: "Bazardo has a good arm but his component ratios have never been impressive."
He made 25 starts in AA San Antonio in 2006 and went 6-5, 3.64 ERA, 138.1 innings, 80 K/45 BB and was DFA'd after the season to make room for Jeff Weaver. Seattle traded him to Detroit for Jeff Frazier after his DFA. (Seattle traded Frazier back to the Tigers in 2008 for "Future Considerations", one of which did not turn out to be Yorman Bazardo.)
Bazardo last pitched in the minors in 2011, throwing 21 innings in the Twins system before being released.
Where is he now?
Bazardo is pitching for the Tigres de Aragua in the Venezualan Professional Baseball League. Here's an article from November that I can't read because I only speak one language.
Here's a more recent article about Bazardo in English on ESPN.
Bobby Livingston, LHP, Sickels #9, BA - Not Ranked
He was a fourth round draft pick in 2001, and was rather good for the first four seasons of his minor league career, but in 2006 his K/9 plummeted to 4.6. He faced 583 batters and struck out just 69 of them while walking 36.
Livingston was released in 2007 and picked up by the Reds. He made 10 less-than-stellar starts in the majors that year.
Where is he now?
Playing in the Mexican League in 2011, Livingston threw 88.2 innings and struck out 62 batters with 38 walks, 110 hits allowed, and 5.68 ERA.
Emliano Fruto, RHP, BA #8, Sickels - Off
That look on his face just screams "I'm a Mariner"
Signed by the Mariners in 2000, Fruto pitched very well in A-ball at the age of 18, striking out 99 batters in 111.2 innings, but with 55 walks. Still, he continued to show promise for several years, but never being able to figure it out once he got to AAA.
He was traded, along with Snelling, for Jose Vidro. Proving that we did indeed win that deal!
He most recently pitched in a major league organization for the Diamondbacks in 2008, throwing 89 innings with 102 strikeouts against 59 walks and allowing 19 home runs.
Where are they now?
Fruto was also in the Mexican League in 2011, throwing 22 innings and striking out 31 batters against 16 walks.
Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Sickels #11, BA - Off
He was a third round draft choice of the Mariners in 2003 and the big left-hander was very successful throughout much of his minor league career.
In 2007, at the age of 21, he pitched well in Tacoma and the following year made 13 starts for the Rainiers, 2.04 ERA, 75 innings, 48 K/15 BB. He gave me hope that he might stick in the major league rotation at some point, but Feierabend was awful during his time in the majors (he gave up 73 hits and 10 HR in 49.1 innings in 2007, though he was only 21) and Seattle released him in 2010.
Where are they now?
That's basically all I've got for today. Yes, this is what happens when I start to look over drafts and prospect lists. I think they are far more interesting in retrospect than they are at the time. I don't think people need to be reminded that prospects are fragile, or that many of them reach a point where the level is just too hard for them to compete any more.
The Mariners had a lot of bad drafts in the 2000's and all of the useful players that they drafted were traded away for less-than-useful veterans. That's just the way of the business sometimes. Either way, they are still people and that's easy to forget. When the prospect light is shining on someone else, they still exist (or there memory does) somewhere.
This was just a chance for me to remind myself of those that were significant to us at one time, and what they are doing today... still being significant, just to someone else or perhaps in another line of work.
If any of you have more information or anecdotes to add, that would be awesome. Would love to hear as much as possible about potentially where Snelling is now, or other former M's prospects.
My name is Kenny and I am a writer for FieldGulls, FakeTeams, and SBN Seattle, but I also like to talk about the Mariners. For more info, you can follow me on twitter or check out my website. Thanks for reading.