As we continue to ramp up for the MLB draft in June, we here at LL are endeavoring to bring you a greater understanding of the deep underpinnings of the draft. Last week, we did a full positional overview to look at what’s currently in the system. This week, we look at how we got here, with a review of past drafts 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, and 2016.
The 2013 Mariners went 71-91, with Hisashi Iwakuma and Félix Hernández masking an otherwise abysmal pitching staff and an offense that was in the bottom-10 in the league in runs scored. The arrival of the Houston Astros in the AL West saved them from a fourth straight last-place finish, but it was their fourth-straight fourth place finish and the fourth straight losing season in Jack Zduriencik’s tenure. In the midst of a plucky 2014 team’s emergence, with the addition of Robinson Canó, a draft yielding a mixed bag of responses at the time has so far led to barren results. 2014 becomes tougher to evaluate long-term as many good prospects across the league from this draft have still yet to contribute at the MLB level, but the trends are clear enough for many players. Only one of the following players features in either MLB’s or Lookout Landing’s Top-30 Mariners prospects.
First round, sixth overall pick: Alex Jackson, OF/C
A year after taking D.J. Peterson, the Mariners again went for a player believed to be potentially the top bat in the draft. I remember watching live as the draft occurred, wondering quizzically about the Cubs reaching for Kyle Schwarber (welp), wondering if Jackson might be there, or if my former KingCo 4A opponent Michael Conforto would be a good choice (yes). Jackson was there and the Mariners eagerly bit on the high school bat with a strong arm and plenty of right-handed power. Ranked as the 28th prospect in all of baseball by MLB prior to 2015, Jackson slipped to #94 before last season. A year later and he is on the outside looking in at lists, and is no longer with the Mariners. Jackson is a Florida Fire Frog in High-A after being traded to the Braves organization due to a ~30% K-rate and attitude concerns that slowed his progression. Jackson had hit for more power this year prior to going on the DL this past week, and at the age of 21 has plenty of time to develop still and may well come back to bite the Mariners if he can maintain this year’s success now that he’s moved back behind the plate. Zduriencik’s obsession with righty power hitters was never better exemplified than in this draft, and so far none have contributed to the MLB team’s success.
Competitive Balance Round B, 74th overall: Gareth Morgan, OF
If Austin Wilson is the platonic ideal of a baseball player, Gareth Morgan must be Plato’s ripped older brother. 6’4 and 220 lbs, Gareth has been pointed to as the living embodiment of Jack Z’s dangerous addiction to a specific hitter profile. Back-to-back high school outfielders with all the tools. Morgan just turned 21 and has been having a dandy season with the Clinton Lumberkings, his best as a pro, which I desperately want to see continue, but I have my reservations still. That season is being buffeted by an astronomical .448 BABIP, although his walk rate has improved as well. The issue still remains that Morgan’s power is limited by his inability to make contact. His K% has dropped over 4% from last year in rookie ball, down from 43.3% to 39.4%, which is better than it rising, but doesn’t have me doing cartwheels. There’s still an MLB player somewhere in Gareth Morgan, but good defense, a strong arm, and plenty of speed aren’t enough yet right now unless he keeps putting the ball in play and walking more or hits a homer every other night.
Third round, 80th overall: Austin Cousino, OF
Oof. After hitting on Edwin Díaz and Tyler O’Neill in the early 3rd round the past couple years, Cousino ended the streak of positivity, as the third straight outfielder taken to have yet to make it above Single-A. Cousino was a speedy defensive wizard from the University of Kentucky but his bat failed to apparate. Last May Cousino was released and he is currently not a member of an MLB organization.
4th round, 111th overall: Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
If you set a metronome for the 2013 and 2014 drafts to this point you’d think they were somehow attempting to match one another. Another LHP named Ryan in the 4th round, this time a college arm from Old Dominion who eventually earned the love of Ethan Novak through persistent decency, even as an older prospect at his levels. Yarbrough was an ace for the Jackson Generals in AA last year as a 24 year-old and was part of the package sent for LHP Drew Smyly this offseason. So far Yarbrough has looked solid in AAA-Durham with Tampa, and Smyly’s injury may have folks yearning for more pitching depth. Yarbrough projects as a back-end starter still, albeit an older player to make his AAA debut, but after the disappointing returns of the first three rounds, Yarbrough has looked like an impending pro at least (for Tampa).
5th round, 141th overall: Dan Altavilla, RHP
The first and only member of this draft to make the majors so far, Alt has been mercurial this season after an excellent debut in 2016 following a move to the bullpen. The Mercyhurst product saw his stuff make a massive leap after putting together middling performances in his first two seasons as a starter in the minors. Dapper Dan needs to figure his slider out, but for a fifth round pick, working 96-100 and showing the potential as a strong relief piece is perhaps the only hit in this entire draft that remains with the organization.
6th round, 171st overall: Lane Ratliff, LHP
Ratliff has struggled to find results at every level since arriving out of Jones County JC. The 22 year-old hasn’t looked hopeless, though, posting a 13.65 K/9 and a 3.86 BB/9 in Everett last year after being converted to a reliever as a 21 year-old. His only appearance thus far has been with the Rainiers due to organizational depth issues. There may be something there for Ratliff still, as a LOOGY if nothing else, but he’s a long ways away.
Also drafted this year, still in the system:
This draft, which has not looked good for most teams, has not fleshed out much value for the Mariners. Altavilla is the only MLB player thus far, although like Yarbrough and Jackson, MLB players have been acquired in exchange for them. Players also taken that are still here or elsewhere of note include:
8th round: Kody Kerski, RHP: Fun alliteration, 25 year-old 5’10 reliever doing decently in Single-A.
12th round: Nelson Ward, INF: 24 year old hitting for not much power in Arkansas. Was part of the trade for Joaquin Benoit but re-signed with the Mariners after being released a year later.
13th round: Marvin Gorgas, RHP: 5’9 reliever striking out 11.2 per 9 in Clinton. Continues the trend of excellent names for low-hype players.
14th round: Chris Mariscal, SS: A Mariners Putting together another strong offensive season in High-A, though at age 24 he’s older than the competition.
15th round: Lukas Schiraldi, RHP: 6’6 Modesto reliever convert (WHO IS STARTING THESE BASEBALL GAMES AT THIS POINT, JERRY!?) with wipeout stuff that is as likely to wipe out the hitter swinging as it is to wipe out Aunt Sarah in the third row.
17th round: Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP: Traded to the Athletics for Evan Scribner. Cochran-Gill is with Oakland’s Single-A club.
19th round: Rohn Pierce, RHP: Looks like a Sim. Spells his name like a Sim spoke it. 24 year-old reliever in High-A Modesto.
21st round: Jay Baum, 3B: Light-hitting infielder whose name is inaccurate.
29th round: Tyler Herb, RHP: Herb has slowly built his reputation and is having a decent year in Arkansas, albeit as a 25 year-old. He could see a promotion to Tacoma by the end of the year if he continues to perform. Oh and also he is the only starting pitcher remaining in the organization from this draft.
30th round: James Alfonso, C: Last transaction says “Assigned to the Seattle Mariners” back in March, but I think I would have noticed Nick from New Girl behind the plate.
36th round: Spencer Hermann, LHP: Good sized lefty reliever with a 2.45 ERA/3.31 FIP in Modesto through 18.1 innings and considering two rounds prior the little brother of my former high school teammate was taken this is pretty neat.
Hero of the Draft: Hawtin Buchanan, who narrowly beat out Sheehan Planas-Arteaga and Taylor Zeutenhorst for best name in the draft. None are still in the organization.
Also drafted by the Mariners this year, still active in MLB: N/A
Number of picks who went unsigned: 4
Overall draft impressions: 20 of the players drafted who signed are no longer in the organization. Four more didn’t sign at all. That’s 60% of the draft down the drain, and not just at the back end. Cousino is washed out. 7th round pick LHP Taylor Byrd is gone. So are 9th rounder RHP Peter Miller, 10th rounder C Adam Martin, 11th rounder RHP Jay Muhammad, and many more. Alex Jackson was a good pick at the time that was either poorly developed or not what scouts universally anticipated, though I am unfortunately more inclined towards the former based on the abysmal track record of hitters in Jack Z’s minors. A draft in which three outfielders were the first three picks has produced no hitting prospects. This is the worst draft of the last five years, and that’s a difficult bar to pass.
Draft grade: Gareth Morgan and Chris Mariscal are not only the top position players from this draft, they are likely to be the only position players from this draft in another year. Both are still in A-ball, with BABIP-driven success. An F is hard to earn but it is deserved for position players. Pitchers have hung around, and Yarbrough was likely to make the back of a rotation in the next year or two prior to being flipped for Smyly. With him gone, however, Tyler Herb is the lone starter in the group, which is untenable. Altavilla’s conversion, even with his recent struggles, is a slightly melted bag of ice on the welt that is this draft. A C- for pitchers. Overall: D-