The 2016 MLB Draft was important for the Mariners for a couple reasons. First, it signified our first legitimate look at how the Dipoto regime would approach the draft and what type of players/skills they valued. There were reports that they preferred college bats most and it was just about a given that Dipoto would go for a few guys whose performances fit the organization's "Control the Zone" mantra, but until names were called and ink was poured out, you couldn't be sure.
Second, the farm system was a disaster from a talent standpoint; their top prospect lists were riddled with players whose ceilings were that of No. 5/6 starters, fourth outfielders, middle relievers, and nifty role players. It'd be asinine to think a team could reload an entire system in just a single draft, but the room for improvement was immense and, considering Dipoto's unwillingness to break up the core, the draft likely represented their best shot at providing a pulse to the farm system this season. With the draft's upper-tier group of prospects being fairly large and the Mariners owning the eleventh overall pick, it seemed very likely that whoever they took would either immediately slot in as the top prospect in the system or fall just behind outfielder Tyler O'Neill in the second spot.
When the dust settled and the draft was done, the Mariners had 40 new players. Roughly a quarter of them didn't sign with the M's, leaving us with still far too many players to keep track of. Let's see how some of them are doing, shall we?
Kyle Lewis – OF – 1st Round – Mercer
Background: Lewis falling to the Mariners might've been the biggest surprise of the draft. His combination of athleticism, power, and maturity at the plate had some analysts predicting he'd go as high as first overall. A late starter in the world of full-time baseball, Lewis had the kind of potential and ceiling that you don't come across too often that late in the draft, especially when you consider the complete lack of character concerns or injury history that typically causes players to fall.
How They're Doing: Lewis was to the Northwest League what an oversized 13-year-old is to the Little League World Series. After a slow start, Lewis proceeded to post a 187 wRC+ and a .321 ISO in the month of July, treating pitchers much like how he treated them at Mercer: with complete and total disregard for their well being. Lewis' season came to an end, unfortunately, when he suffered a significant knee injury while attempting to avoid a collision at the plate during a mid-July contest against the Tri-City Dust Devils. Lewis still managed to slot in as the No. 1 prospect in the system according to MLB.com, and he also managed to land a spot in their Top-100 prospect list. The only real fallout I expect from the knee injury is a potential permanent shift to a corner outfield spot. One other thing about Lewis that's worth mentioning is how quickly he's become a fan favorite, frequently staying after games to sign autographs and greet wide-eyed fans.
Joe Rizzo – INF – 2nd Round – Oakton High School
Background: Rizzo's bat landed him $1.75m after the Mariners selected him in the second round. What position he'd end up playing was a question mark, with first base and DH sticking out as potential options, but there was one thing certain about Rizzo: he could hit.
How They're Doing: Rizzo has cooled down after a red-hot start with the AZL Mariners and currently sits at .259/.331/.367 with a 97 wRC+. He's flashed potential at the plate on several occasions, however, and is still relatively young, even for the rookie league (18 years, 4 months).
Bryson Brigman – SS – 3rd Round – San Diego
Background: Brigman was regarded as a high-contact middle infielder who was capable of playing a decent shortstop and a great second base coming out of San Diego. A slip in his power numbers and a so-so performance in the field during his sophomore year at USD caused him to tumble from a potential first-round pick all the way down to the third round, where the Mariners picked him up. Still, there is a lot to like about Brigman. He represented a potentially valuable utility player who is capable of holding his own at the plate despite the lack of power.
How They're Doing: Brigman's year in Everett has been full of ups and downs. He's currently sporting a .371 OBP, a result of an advanced plate approach, strong contact ability, and speed. Brigman's power numbers are way down, however, as he's slugging just .291 thus far. You don't expect a hitter like Brigman to put up a fancy ISO or SLG% because that just isn't the way he approaches things at the plate, but you'd like to see him get that mark somewhere in the .350-.400 range.
Thomas Burrows – LHP – 4th Round – Alabama
Background: The first arm taken in the draft by the Mariners, Burrows pitched directly to the C the Z formula, posting a 13.02 K/9 and 2.86 BB/9 during his final year at Alabama. The Mariners pounced on the lefty with the sweet slider.
How They're Doing: Burrows' numbers with the AquaSox line up almost perfectly with his college numbers. Through 19.0 IP, he's posted a K/9 mark of 13.74 and a BB/9 of 2.84. He's flashed good command of his fastball (which will sit around 88) and his stellar slider, which looks about as close to a MLB-ready pitch as you'll find in Everett. Wouldn't be shocked if he's in Seattle by late 2017/early 2018.
Donnie Walton – INF – 5th Round – Oklahoma State
Background: Walton was a senior out of Oklahoma State who was regarded as a fine all-around ballplayer. He's not the kind of guy who excels in any particular area, but lacks any alarming weakness.
How They're Doing: Walton has been the same exact guy at Everett as he was at OSU for years. A deep run in the playoffs with the Cowboys delayed Walton's M's career, but he's hit the ground running since joining the team. Through 134 PA with the AquaSox, Walton has hit .278/.368/.374 while bouncing between shortstop and second base. Like Brigman, Walton's glove projects far better at second than it does at short, but he can hold his own at the position. His approach at the plate is impressive, as well.
Brandon Miller – RHP – 6th Round – Millersville (PA)
Background: Miller is a small school arm whose approach, like Burrows, fit the C the Z philosophy. He lacked plus-pitches but his ability to command everything in his arsenal made up for it.
How They're Doing: Miller got off to a bit of a rocky start with the AquaSox but has recovered nicely, posting a 3.58 FIP through his first 43.1 IP. The walk-rate (1.45 BB/9) remains impressive and he's starting to pile up strikeouts (a career-high 7 K in 3.2 IP his last outing).
Matthew Festa – RHP – 7th Round – East Stroudsburg (PA)
Background: Another small school pitcher out of the great(? - I've never been) state of Pennsylvania! I bet you'll never guess what his strikeout and walk-rates looked like in college! (Hint: C the Z, baby)
How They're Doing: Festa's peripherals have actually been very similar to Miller's, with a higher walk-rate (2.82 BB/9) and slightly higher FIP (3.95) being the key differences. A bit of poor BABIP luck has also hindered his numbers. Like Miller, Festa gets by more on command than he does pure stuff.
Nick Zammarelli – 3B – 8th Round – Elon
Background: Zammarelli was considered a bat-first prospect with some neat pop and decent approach. The glove wasn't held in very high regard, with a move to first or a corner outfield position potentially being in his future.
How They're Doing: Zammarelli has emerged as the heartbeat of Everett's offense in Lewis' absence, posting a 138 wRC+ and slashing .317/.383/.452 in 205 plate appearances. The strikeout-rate is a little high at 22.9%, but that seems to be a trade-off with his impressive pop. This is all speculative, of course, but Zammarelli is one of two or three AquaSox who I feel have a legitimate chance at seeing time in Clinton before the year ends.
Jason Goldstein – C – 9th Round – Illinois
Background: In typical catcher fashion, Goldstein came out of Illinois with high marks in on-field leadership and ability to work with pitchers. Improvements at the plate vaulted him up to the 9th round, just one year after being selected in the 17th round by the Dodgers.
How They're Doing: He got out to a bit of a late start with the Mariners, first reporting to the AZL Mariners for a short time in mid-July before getting bumped up to Everett. He's been fine in that time, hitting .314/.351/.371 in 35 at-bats. It's not much to go on, but it's nice to see, regardless.
David Greer – INF – 10th Round – Arizona State
Background: Greer is a bit like Zammarelli in that he has a wonderfully impressive bat, but doesn't really project well on the defensive side of things. In his last season at Arizona State, he hit .344/.442/.571 with a .228 ISO.
How They're Doing: Greer has played at three of the four corners for the AquaSox, receiving time at first base, third base, and right field this year. At the plate, he's been terrific, posting a 156 wRC+ through his first 56 plate appearances. The strikeout-rate is relatively high at 26.6%, but everything else looks very good.
- Dimas Ojeda - OF: The Mariners' 17th-round selection out of McLennan JC has made some noise all year, slashing .310/.356/.548 with Everett in 84 at-bats, proving once again that San Dimas High School football does in fact rule
- DeAires Moses - OF: Moses has posted a .421 OBP and 129 wRC+ so far in his brief Mariners career. I swear it feels like the Mariners drafted him thirty or so times before convincing him to sign this year. You can't escape destiny, DeAires.
- Eric Filia - OF: I plan on discussing Filia more later this week, but for now just know that the Mariners drafted a (now) 24-year-old who is wrecking the Northwest League to the tune of a .339/.439/.480 slash line. Filia's path to professional baseball isn't typical and includes a two-year absence from the game. He's a fun player and one I'd like to see in Clinton before the year is up. Oh, also, he has only struck out 13 times in 211 plate appearances. That's pretty insane.
- Tony Zych threw a scoreless inning for Double-A Jackson last night. His fastball sat in the mid-90s and his slider looked as filthy as ever. He commanded both pitches well, frequently spotting his fastball on the corners and placing his sliders either on the edge or just off the plate. He picked up his first strikeout by getting a hitter to chase a slider. His second strikeout came on a perfectly placed fastball on the outside edge.
- Evan Scribner also tossed a scoreless inning for Jackson. His fastball looked okay, hitters failed to square it up, but he was unable to generate any swings and misses with it. The curveball looked great, as he was able to induce chases in the dirt and pepper the bottom of the zone with it. Scribner walked his first hitter, struck out the next hitter, and then picked up a double play.
- Steve Cishek threw an inning of relief for Low-A Everett last night. In his inning of work, he struck out three while allowing two hits and a run. The damage, from what I understand, was a result of Low-A ball defense and he actually looked quite impressive.