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 fullpositional 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.
There was a lot to feel good about heading into the 2016 MLB draft. The Mariners were playing good baseball. Every single affiliate was either in first place or turning on the jets and making a surge towards it. Several prospects who looked dead in the water a year ago were showing signs of life. Lots of momentum was on Seattle’s side and the possession of the No. 11 pick–a spot that virtually guaranteed you were getting a prospect who would immediately plug into any top-100 prospect list–only added to the celebration.
I’ll be honest, there were some nerves. It was the Mariners’ first draft with new general manager Jerry Dipoto running the show. Expectations were unclear. Tools and archetypes he valued in the draft were unclear. Their strategy was unclear. Do you load up on big names who’d need over slot deals and then draft a bunch of college seniors at the tail end of the draft? Do you make a run at a big prep prospect who is vehemently declaring he’ll be going to college? It was all a mystery.
Here’s how things turned out:
1st Round, 11th Overall pick: Kyle Lewis, OF
Kyle Lewis dropping to the Mariners was one of the biggest surprises of the draft. Considered by some to be one of the two or three best players in the class, Lewis somehow tumbled down and the Mariners pounced.
The big slugger out of Mercer hit the ground running in Low-A Everett, slashing .299/.385/.530 over 135 plate appearances with the AquaSox. Unfortunately, his season came to a devastating end on July 19th, when an ugly collision at home plate left him with a torn ACL and torn meniscus. He hasn’t played in an official game since and isn’t expected to be back until some undetermined point in June.
The injury hasn’t stopped people from dreaming on his potential, however. Lewis has made numerous top prospect lists and is generally considered to be the best prospect in the Mariners’ system.
2nd Round, 50th Overall pick: Joe Rizzo, 3B
It’s hard to find a prep hitter who looks as polished as Rizzo looked coming into the 2016 draft. Boasting a smooth swing, an advanced approach, and the willingness to use the whole field, it’s easy to see why the Mariners are so enamored.
Rizzo is currently in Class-A Clinton, where he’s hit .245/.370/.327 over 119 plate appearances. The power is yet to show up, but Rizzo only recently turned 19 and is still fairly young, even for the already baby-faced (and pitcher-friendly) Midwest League. His smaller frame (5’9, 194 pounds) suggests the power won’t ever become a significant tool, but it should be better down the road.
3rd Round, 87th Overall pick: Bryson Brigman, INF
The Mariners went with the athletic Brigman with their third pick, seeing in him a potential utility type with a good enough plate approach to survive his total lack of power. Brigman, a product of University of San Diego, has spent all of the 2017 season with Class-A Clinton, where he’s hit .267/.360/.336 with a 105 wRC+.
He’ll fall somewhere in that No. 15-20 range on most Mariners top prospect lists.
4th Round, 117th Overall pick: Thomas Burrows, LHP
Burrows was seen as a potential fast-moving reliever coming out of college, flashing a filthy fastball-slider combo and a spectacular ability to miss bats. The relationship didn’t last long, however, as Burrows was sent to the Atlanta Braves in the Mallex Smith/Shae Simmons trade. He is currently running a 3.71 FIP and 3.82 xFIP in 22.1 innings with Atlanta’s Class-A team.
5th Round, 147th Overall pick: Donnie Walton, SS
The scouting report on Walton when he came to Seattle is simple: while he lacks much in terms of true strengths, he also doesn’t really have many weaknesses in his game, either. Scouts raved about his makeup and he figures to play all over the diamond as he moves through the system. The ceiling isn’t high, but the expectation is that he can be a reliable utility guy at some point.
Walton skipped a level and went straight up to Advanced-A Modesto this year and is currently hitting .239/.337/.331 over 163 plate appearances for the Nuts.
6th Round, 177th Overall pick: Brandon Miller, RHP
The first starting pitcher taken in the draft by the Mariners. I sometimes describe Miller as Andrew Moore-lite, a nod to his general polish and command-heavy approach on the mound coming out of college. Miller has been okay in Clinton this year, running a 3.86 FIP and 3.88 xFIP over 47 innings. The control has slipped on him some in his first full season of professional baseball.
Also drafted this year, still in system:
The vast majority of the class is still in the system. Let’s cover some of the more noteworthy guys instead:
8th Round: Nick Zammarelli, 3B: 22-year-old corner infielder who became a fan favorite in Everett. Hitting .200/.314/.306 with Class-A Clinton in 102 plate appearances this season.
11th Round: Michael Koval, RHP: 22-year-old righty out of Cal Poly. 3.92 FIP in Clinton this year. Same initials as Mortal Kombat.
13th Round: Reggie McClain, RHP: 24-year-old running a 3.31 FIP after making the jump to Advanced-A Modesto. Interesting mechanics. Age and raw stuff doesn’t speak to a very high ceiling, but he’s the kind of pitcher I feel will stick in the system for awhile.
15th Round: Danny Garcia, LHP: Lefty starter out of Miami who has been racking up strikeouts but struggling with consistency in Clinton.
19th Round: DeAires Moses, OF: 21-year-old speedster who the Mariners drafted for what feels like the nineteenth time in 2016.
20th Round: Eric Filia, OF: Earned MVP honors in the Northwest League after being drafted. Currently in Modesto, where he’s hitting .298/.379/.399. Age keeps his stock from going too high, but Filia can flat-out rake.
23rd Round: Jack Anderson, RHP: Submarine pitcher. Phenomenal out of Clinton’s bullpen this year, posting a 2.66 FIP over 22 innings.
Also drafted by the Mariners this year, still active in MLB: N/A
Number of picks who went unsigned: 11
Overall draft impressions: Outside of the Lewis pick, I was somewhat underwhelmed by Dipoto’s first draft. They failed to sign all but one of their prep picks (Rizzo) and used several early selections on older college seniors with low ceilings and fairly under slot value. Filia’s breakout has helped make the class look a little better, and there are a few guys here I could see making the majors in some capacity, but in terms of high ceilings, there isn’t much to get excited about outside of Lewis and Rizzo. That being said, all you really need is a very small amount of guys turning into MLB-quality players to make a draft look successful. A surprise here and there, a maintained legitimacy of Filia’s breakout, maybe a passable reliever and suddenly you have yourself a class you’ll remember fondly. It is far too early to put anything in stone here (except that Trey Griffey isn’t going to be as good as his father; we can go ahead and carve that one right in).
Draft Grade: I am not about to dish out a grade to a year-old draft class, but I will say Kyle Lewis has an A+ smile