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2017 MLB Draft: The Mariners and Division II Pitchers, Atlantic Region

Mercyhurst and Millersville have both produced pitching prospects for the Mariners in the past; might there be more hidden gems here?

Oakland Athletics v Seattle Mariners
Might any of these fellows join Diesel Dan as a Seattle Mariner?
Photo by Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images

With Ethan tackling some of the more well-known prospects for the 2017 draft, I’m going to cover some deeper possible picks, especially in the realm of Division II pitching. Each year, between 30-50 D-II players are drafted, and the Mariners usually select one or two players. The success of Dan Altavilla (5th round in 2014, Mercyhurst) and strong performance so far in the minors by Brandon Miller (6th round in 2016, Millersville), both of whom were Division II standouts, might tempt Jerry to dip back into that pool in this year’s draft. I’m going to work my way through each division, highlighting the most intriguing names from each school. First up is the Atlantic Region, which includes Mercyhurst and Millersville, among others. Here are some names to know:

Matt Minnick, LHP, Mercyhurst (Jr.)

Named the Baseball America Preseason D-II pitcher of the year, Minnick got out to a hot start in the 2017 season, striking out 32 batters in his first 30 innings with a 2.35 ERA. The 6’2” lefty got a nice writeup over at Minor League Ball back in early April, but was only able to make five appearances thanks to Pennsylvania’s super screwed-up weather. Stupid lake effect snow. His appearances abruptly end after 4/8, so I don’t know what happened there, if he’s maybe working through an injury or what. There’s not a ton of footage of him, but if you want to check out his mechanics there’s a video of it here and here. Minnick has a four-pitch mix and has the distinction of being the ace of a staff full of number ones.

Russell Lamovec, RHP, Mercyhurst (So.)

As just a sophomore, Lamovec might want another year at college, but his numbers are bizzonkers: in 63.2 innings pitched he’s notched 84 strikeouts while walking just 21 batters. His ERA is 2.83. Every pitcher in Mercyhurst’s rotation could have easily served as the ace of other staffs, and I could write up lots of them (like freshman Vincenzo Lucente), but Lamovec’s postseason accolades will probably put him on several teams’ radars.

Really, though, the whole Mercyhurst rotation is pretty stacked. Check out sophomore Chris Vallimont’s starter’s arsenal here, and also keep an eye on freshman Vincenzo Lucente.

Ryan Pansch, RHP, Shepherd University (Jr.)

Confession: I don’t know why, but Ryan Pansch is my favorite pitcher on this list. Maybe it’s because he’s playing so hard to get—I’ve struggled to turn up much of anything about him aside from gamers and stat lines. Maybe that’s because Pansch missed the last two years with TJ surgery, but the junior has come back this year with a vengeance, to win Pitcher of the Year in the Mountain East Conference. At just 5’10”, Pansch doesn’t look intimidating, but in the 74 innings he’s pitched this year for the Rams, he’s struck out 73 batters while issuing just 13 walks, for a K:BB ratio of almost 6:1. He’s a strike-thrower who pitches to contact and therefore will give up some hits, but was able to limit the damage for an ERA of 2.68. Just this past week, he was named first-team All-Region for the Atlantic Region, and he probably had a good chance to be regional pitcher of the year, except he has to share a division with Russell Lamovec from Mercyhurst and his gaudy strikeout numbers. He could benefit from a transition to the bullpen with an increase in his velocity, much in the vein of Altavilla, but really he reminds me of a small-school Andrew Moore with his ability to get batters out when he needs to. Feels like one of Dipoto’s Dudes.

Mike Cipolla, RHP, West Chester (Jr.)

Cipolla had a bumpy 2016 that’s inflating his career numbers, but he’s been dominant this season, with a 1.78 ERA over 60 IP. Cipolla isn’t a strikeout-dominant pitcher (only 38 in those 60 innings), but he doesn’t get hit hard: he’s only surrendered four doubles, a triple, and two home runs this year.

Eli Nabholz, RHP, Millersville (So.)

Another intriguing pitching prospect from Millersville, Nabholz is listed at 6’6” and 235, lean but with a nice strong frame. In 78 IP this year he’s notched 93 Ks and threw the sixth no-hitter in Millersville history, on just 77 pitches. He’s not a high velocity pitcher (his FB sits around 90) and can suffer command problems at times—his walk rate isn’t sterling, and he has 15 HBP this season—but there’s a lot of upside here. Nabholz was profiled for the draft when he was in high school in 2015 by MLB (caution: terrible music ahead).