Yes, I know it's not over until tomorrow. However, I'm not going to have any clue at all about the guys coming in between rounds 31-50 (not that I have much a clue past 10, but I can pretend), and neither will you so let's just pretend it's all done and dusted because there'll be nothing interesting to talk about there anyway.
If you wanted pitching, it has not been a good couple of days. If you wanted a full restock of the system featuring switch-hitting/left-handed bats with power potential, good news! Seriously though, I don't understand why pitching was such a huge concern. Yes, we're going to have issues with the rotation next year. However, there was one person in the draft who'll be ready to fill in a starting spot in the bigs next year, and he was the only guy in the entire draft we were never going to have a chance with.
The Mariners played it pretty safe all along, favouring relatively polished bats. The big name, of course, is Dustin Ackley, and by taking him the Mariners guaranteed themselves a good draft. Along with Ackley, the M's picked up some solid college and high school bats (especially in Rich Poythress and Nick Franklin), but the pitching taken all have big question marks with blinking neon lights. This was a draft that they could not screw up and one with a budget, which mean leaning towards safe guys in the top few rounds (i.e. not Tanner Scheppers) and forcing a couple of overdrafts for signability. Still, I'm pleased with how things went, and my biggest disappointment was nothing to do with the Mariners, coming when the Twins took Kyle Gibson at #21. Would I have done something differently? Yes, in that I'd have picked Paxton at #33, but that's getting nit-picky. The front office knows what it's doing, and while I'm not blown away post-Ackley, it's hard to argue that they haven't had a good draft.
Get ready to read something along the lines of "Scouts have questioned his power, despite him hitting more homers in his junior year than in the previous two combined" fairly frequently.
#2: Dustin Ackley, CF (UNC) L/R
Ackley was the best position player and the second best prospect in the draft by a wide margin, as those in the running for the number two spot at the start of the amateur baseball campaign - namely UNC teammate Alex White and USC shortstop Grant Green - scuffled while Ackley put in a strong effort during his junior season. Ackley possesses an advanced feel for hitting and commands the strike zone well enough to force pitchers to throw him something he can drive. He's also fast enough to steal his share of bases. His power was a question coming into the season, and Ackley demonstrated that he can hit the ball out of college parks, hammering 22 home runs this season, up from 10 and 7 in his two seasons prior. It remains to be seen whether his newfound power translates to wood bats, but if it does Ackley would be a good bat at first base, his position during most of his college career due to arm troubles. Fortunately, that's not where he'll play in professional ball, as he'll be trialed out in centre field once he signs. His arm should be strong enough after Tommy John surgery to handle the position, and he showed off good range and instincts when he was showcased in centre during a late season series. Ackley's athletic enough to play positions like second as well, but shifting him to the middle infield will take time, delaying the arrival of his bat. Ackley needs a little more polish, but he'll be ready fairly soon. I've heard comps ranging from Darrin Erstad to a CF-playing Todd Helton(!). Look for him in 2011.
#27: Nick Franklin, SS (Lake Brantley High School, Florida) S/R
There were rumblings the day before the draft that Franklin was going to be our guy at #27, and passing on some of the available pitching (particularly Tanner Scheppers) to pick him up caused some consternation. Franklin was considered as a bit of an overdraft by most, but he has a lot of points in his favour. He's rangy and athletic with smooth actions and a strong arm at shortstop, and should stick there as a professional with the ability to be above average with a little bit of work on his feet and positioning. He's no Jiovanni Mier, but nor is he a Jeter out there. Switch-hitting Franklin has a good approach at the plate as sprays line drives to all fields with a smooth stroke, but like Ackley his power has been questioned. He did hit 10 home runs this year as a senior in high school, but the transition to wood will probably drop him down to a below-average power threat. He's not Emmanual Burriss, though, and he should hit enough balls hard to get his share of extra-base hits. Once intriguing comp I heard this morning was a switch hitting Michael Young who plays defence, and if that's what the Mariners saw in Franklin, it's no wonder they drafted him. And for those who are comparing Franklin's downside to Willie Bloomquist, what's a switch hitting Bloomquist with better defence at shortstop? A three win player. He's a way off, but he's a very solid pick at #27: the Mariners signed him because he was at the top of their board for this pick. However, since he was more of a consensus supplemental/second guy than a first rounder, he'll probably sign quickly and below slot.
#33: Steven Baron, C (Ferguson High School, Florida) R/R
Between Ackley at #2 and Baron at #33, the Mariners had most of their first round selection locked down weeks before June 9th. Baron was drafted a couple of rounds ahead of where the consensus had him, and the Mariners apparently took him primarily for budget reasons, having worked out a pre-draft agreement on his signing bonus for below slot at #33. The gap between this pick and his position in the mocks isn't as big as it first appears, though - some of that difference was Baron being considered a tough sign due to Duke's heavy recruitment efforts (he was supposed to be the centrepiece of their incoming class). As a player, Baron's calling card is his defence. For an organisation that puts a heavy premium on catcher defence, it's no wonder they love him. He's not in the Rob Johnson school of catchers who apparently call a good game but look terrible at the things fan can actually see, far from it. Baron moves behind the plate well, does a good job getting behind balls in the dirt and has good footwork with a standout arm - he's genuinely an excellent defender behind the dish. His bat, however, is questionable. Though Baron got into better shape this year and played fairly well because of it, his swing has enough holes that he's unlikely to ever hit for much contact, although he should have average power. His performance at the showcase in Sebring led some to conclude that there's more to his bat than meets the eye, however, so it's not like Baron's totally without upside. I don't like the pick, but I understand where it's coming from, and if I had the opposite stance on catcher defence I'd probably like it.
#51: Rich Poythress, 1B (Georgia) R/R
Here we go. Injury-plagued freshman year aside, Poythress has been terrorising college pitchers since he stepped onto the diamond at Georgia, hitting for a good average while collecting home runs in bunches (15 last year, 25 this year). He's probably the best power hitter in the college ranks, and may rank second only to Dustin Ackley as an overall hitter. Unlike the Richie Sexsons of the world, Poythress doesn't sacrifice contact for a long, powerful swing. Instead, he works the count and when he gets a pitch to hit makes sure to hit it on the button, letting his strength do the rest. The power will almost certainly translate to the professional level, and although Safeco Field tends to sap right-handed power hitters, Poythress has a habit of hitting bombs to right and centre fields just as often as to left. He's also a good bet to maintain a reasonable average at more advanced levels, and his power combined with solid plate discipline will lead him to his fair share of walks. Poythress was trialed extensively at third base, but he's not agile enough to man the position and his destiny lies as a first baseman, where he should be average-slightly above. He was also expected to be a late first-round guy. Getting him here was a steal for the Mariners, and saving money on #27 and #33 will let them sign him without any budget worries. "A poor man's Matt LaPorta" was one of the many things I heard about Poythress on draft day, which I'm more than pleased with. I love this pick.
#82: Kyle Seager, 2B (UNC) L/R
Seager may never hit too many home runs in the majors, but he profiles as a line drive gap hitter in the mould of Jeff Cirrillo before he came to Seattle and went crazy. He's also able to swing the stick left-handed. Noticing a pattern yet? Seager's got a good idea of what he's doing at the plate and has a pretty swing, but as a leftie it's too level to do much real damage, especially with a wood bat. He also lacks the wheels to turn singles into extra-base hits, but despite all this he got his fair share of doubles in college as Dustin Ackley's teammate. Defensively, he's pretty agile in the field; enough to make him an average second baseman as a professional. Don't expect big things from Seager, though. He doesn't have the tools for a breakout, and at this point he is what he is. He's a useful player, tends to play above his tools, and reasonably close to the majors, but you're not going to get an All-Star out of him. Of course, considering what we currently have as middle infielders, that looks pretty nice.
#113: James Jones, OF (Long Island) L/L
Most teams were high on Jones as a left-handed pitcher at the end of last season, but he had a catastrophic junior year which saw him drop out of consideration for the first 70 picks. Lost in all of this was the fact that he was still a pretty good, if unpolished, left-handed bat with some promising power potential and good plate discipline. Defensively, he's fast and has a great arm (he touched 95 as a pitcher in seasons prior), and he could probably work his way to being a reasonable centre fielder with effort and good coaching. The bat is raw enough that he probably languishes in the minor leagues and never amounts to much, but the upside is enough to justify a fourth-round pick. Best case scenario is that he makes us forget about another black outfielder named Jones, and worst case is that we forget this pick ever happened. After making safe pick after safe pick on day one, this is where the Mariners start to roll the dice.
#143: Tyler Blandford, RHP (Oklahoma
Blandford could be a scout's dream. He's got a pitcher's frame and throw great hit, sitting in the mid 90s with the fastball and showing a wicked slider that can make hitters look stupid. He's also got the makings of a good changeup. With this kind of stuff, Blandford should have been an easy first rounder, and he would have been if he had any semblance of command whatsoever. His stuff plays down because he has no idea where the ball is going, leading to a lot of walks and more than a few rockets coming off fastballs down the middle. When his pitches are near the zone, they get swung at and missed a lot, and he still gets more strikeouts than walks, but walking 45 guys in less than 80 innings in college isn't going to cut it as a professional. I had assumed going into the draft that the team taking him would have seen something correctable in his delivery, so the Mariners probably think they can fix him. The minor leagues are littered with guys with stuff but no command, and not many of them ever figure things out, so it's unlikely that you'll ever see Blandford in a Mariners uniform. On the off chance he ever learns to throw that ball at the mitt, we suddenly have a top of the rotation pitcher or a shutdown closer with our fifth round pick, which would be sweet. There's really no middle road here though - this is a pure boom and bust pick.
#173: Shaver Hansen, 3B (Baylor) S/R
What more could you ask than a switch hitting infielder with some serious pop? Well, you could ask for one with power scouts think will translate to wooden bats and one with a better arm and speed... but don't be greedy. This is the sixth round. Although his numbers don't show it (apparently he decided to sacrifice some command of the strike zone in favour of swinging from the heels this year) he has a reasonable eye and he's another one of our draft picks whose power spiked this season after being questioned last summer. Hansen's swing generates questions from scouts wondering how well it'll work with a wood bat, but he put up a good showing in the Cape Cod League last summer, which alleviate those doubts a fraction. He's got the feet and quickness for third base but his arm may not be good enough for the position in the majors - second base was sounding more like the likely destination for him until the Mariners announced him at third. Overall, I really like this pick. Questions of how he'll transition to wood bats are completely valid, but if he does Hansen has big upside with the bat. Did I mention he switch hits?
#203: Brian Moran, LHP (UNC)
Remember everything I wrote about Blandford (if you don't, scroll up two paragraphs)? Invert it and what do you get? A left handed pitcher with no stuff, crazy command, and the weird ability to get people out despite that. Moran's got a mid-80s fastball that he can throw wherever he damn well pleases, but relies on a delivery which sees his throwing arm hiding behind his body for way longer than normal, which I imagine makes the pitch come at the hitter much quicker than the pure velocity suggests. He's got nothing interesting apart from that, flashing a fringy breaking ball that comes and goes as well as a below average changeup. Deceptive bullpen lefties are not exactly a standard player type in the major leagues, so it's questionable whether the same strategy will work in the majors. On the other hand, he was second out all of college pitchers in FIP this year, and first in the non-minor-deity category while striking out 88 in 64 innings against 8 walks. I'm pretty sure that the Mariners spent so much time following Dustin Ackley around that they scouted his teammates more than everyone else in the country, hence a third of our top nine picks hailing from UNC.
Another fun tidbit: Moran is B.J. Surhoff's nephew. He also looks amazing.
#233: Jimmy Gilheeney, LHP (North Carolina State)
Not content with drafting Ackley's teammates to help him sign, the Mariners injected some rivalry in here by drafting NC State's Friday starter. Safeco Field is a place where fringy lefties like Jason Vargas and Garrett Olson can survive, and Gilheeney's upside is that sort of pitcher. However, it's hard to see much in the way of a downside. His command is sharp, his big loopy curveball is good, and his changeup is good with the potential for more. Sitting in the mid-high 80s with the fastball is pretty common for pitchers of this breed, but being that restricted in velocity makes for a pick with no room for growth. If the fastball is more 88 than 86, we might see him in the bigs someday as a real starter, otherwise he's one of those emergency guys that make you wish Brandon Morrow would hurry his ass up and get off the DL.
#263: Trevor Coleman, C (Missouri) S/R
Another switch hitter, this time a catcher. Defensively, think Rob Johnson. Offensively, Coleman is all over the place. He had a great summer performance with wood at the Cape, leading many to believe he'd be a first day pick, but upon his return to college he forgot how to hit and how to catch. When he's on, he's got a long swing with pop, although he swings and misses too often for comfort. He's already shown that his power will translate to wood bats, so that's a question answered, but his massive inconsistency in all assets of the game is a problem - hence the 9th round selection. At his best Coleman is an offence-first, switch hitting catcher, so he has the potential to be a real asset and a steal in the 9th round. But banking on best case scenarios is a good way to get burned, so don't expect too much out of him. If the bat doesn't settle he's Rene Rivera from two sides of the plate rather than just one. Decent risk here nonetheless.
#293: Vincent Catricala, 3B (Hawaii) R/R
More junior-year power spikes. With Ackley, Hanson, Franklin, and now Catricala, the Mariners have really loaded up on guys who've hit a tonne more home runs this season than anyone reasonably expected. For Catricala, his career home run total moved up to 20 this year after a summer of strength training, which is pretty impressive considering that this time last year it had reached the lofty pinnacle of 7. His ability to hit for average has never been in doubt, and his discipline improved with his power - Catricala drew more walks in 2009 than he did in 2007 and 2008 combined. His swing will probably hold up against more advanced competition, as long as they don't throw him too many changeups (or he adjusts to hitting said pitch). Defence at third is not his strong suit - he has no standout tools for a third baseman and may not stick there. For a 10th rounder, though, we got a reasonably polished bat, although he isn't a great fit for Safeco.
#323: Tim Morris, 1B (St. John's) L/L
Continuing the overriding theme of the draft, Morris is a left-handed bat who underwent a big power surge last year, hitting 12 homers to go along with a good average and acceptable discipline. He's also an average defender at first, which is a plus for fans who've recently undergone three-odd years of the Richie Sexson experience. He's had his struggles in college, though, as evidenced by his .059/.158/.059 line as a freshman in Clemson, which may indicate he has trouble with advanced competition. Despite the surge, his power is a question, but if he consolidates his gains he might end up as a big league starter. It's an unlikely bet, though, and that's why he's an 11th rounder.
#353: Andrew Carraway, RHP (Virginia)
Going with the command/no stuff pitchers, Carraway is the right-handed equivalent of 8th-rounder Gilheeney, meaning that his changeup is worse and he throws a little bit harder. His repertoire features a 90-ish fastball, good curve, slider, and a change. He doesn't strike out many, and he doesn't have great stuff, but he doesn't walk guys or make mistakes. He knows how to pitch, as cliched as that is, but I don't really like taking college starters who already are all that they can be. Upside? Chris Jakubauskas. Downside? Probably a slightly worse Chris Jakubauskas. Not much to see here.
#383: Matt Cerione, OF (Georgia) L/L
Tools tools tools. Tools tools tools. Tools tools tools. Cerione has so many tools that they may well have replaced his brain with a power saw at birth, which would explain why he's got a tonne of makeup issues and thinks showboating is more important than playing solid baseball. He also can't hit worth a damn despite being blessed with a quick bat and good power, mainly because his idea of a plate appearance is to swing from the heels at everything. He's probably not going to amount to much, but every now and then one of the tools picks turns good and everyone talks about what a steal it was to take them in the whatever round, and if that happens here then Cerione is a steal in the thirteenth. Since it won't, you can forget his name unless he does something stupid and it becomes a news story around the minors. Did I mention he's got good tools? And, of course, he's left handed.
#413: Adam Nelubowich, 3B/OF (Vauxhall High School, Edmonton) L/R
Our first Canadian of the draft, Nelubowich was ranked as the country's top position player this year, albeit in one of the poorest draft classes our frigid neighbors have produced recently. In showcases against American teams, Nelubowich held his own with a wood bat and drew comparisons to our very own Michael Saunders, although the chances of development along those lines are slim. I suspect any white Canadian outfielder with any pop at all with be compared to Saunders for the foreseeable future. Also he's left handed, so that's a surprise.
Rest of draft
At this point I stop really having a clue about the names involved, so I'll just forward y'all on to the MLB draft tracker and save myself some writing.