The 2017 MLB Draft is officially over, leaving the Mariners with 40 new players, most of which will sign, some of which they’ll exchange pleasantries with before wishing them the best of luck in their college careers. Here are some of the bigger storylines that emerged over the course of the past three days:
Kentucky 1B Evan White is their first-round man
Using first-round picks on a first baseman typically doesn’t turn out very well for the drafting team, but the Mariners strayed from the typical archetype when plucking Evan White out of Kentucky. White, a stellar athlete and defender, lacks prototypical power at first base, but he has a large frame (6’3, 177 lbs) and could potentially switch to outfield if the bat isn’t good enough.
It wasn’t the sexiest pick, but the Mariners grabbed themselves a very good player who immediately slots in as a (at the very least) top-five prospect in the system.
Carlson falls, Mariners jump
There were many surprises in this draft, but very few were greater than RHP Sam Carlson tumbling all the way down to the 55th overall slot, where the Mariners snagged the talented prep arm from Minnesota. Carlson, just 18 years old, throws three pitches that flash plus potential in his low-to-mid 90’s fastball, advanced changeup, and quickly developing slider. He commands all of it well and mechanics are relatively clean and repeatable for a prep prospect.
For the second straight year, the Mariners saw a premiere talent in the draft fall into their arms, with Kyle Lewis surprisingly falling out of the top-ten selections a year ago. Breaks like this help make a very bad farm system good again, and the Mariners are justifiably ecstatic about the whole situation.
Signability concerns seemed to have scared some teams off, but Carlson has made it very clear that he intends to sign with the Mariners once his high school season is complete.
Long Beach State battery remains intact
The Mariners had no interest in splitting up Long Beach State’s dynamic duo of RHP Darren McCaughan and C David Banuelos, using 12th and 5th-round selections on the battery.
Banuelos is one of the premiere defensive catchers in the draft, earning Big West Defensive Player of the Year honors and frequently bringing about declarations of “don’t run on Banuelos” from announcers during Long Beach State’s 2017 playoff run, which ended this past weekend in a Super Regional against Cal State Fullerton. He possesses plus arm strength and an undeniable presence as a backstop.
McCaughan, meanwhile, won’t blow you away with raw stuff, but his ability to spot his 86-88 fastball, changeup, and slider consistently on the black made him one of the more dominant pitchers in the country this past season. In his final start for the Dirtbags, he pitched Long Beach to a Game 1 super regional win over Cal State Fullerton with seven shutout innings. In the effort, he allowed just four baserunners (two walks, two singles) and struck out six.
Strikeout king comes to Seattle
The Mariners used their 11th-round pick on J.P. Sears, the D-1 leader in strikeouts. The 5-11, 180-pound Sears struck out 142 batters in just 95.1 innings over his 2017 campaign, with 27 walks and a 2.64 ERA mixed in. What Sears lacks in overpowering stuff, he makes up for in deception and location.
Mariners embark on pitcher-happy, middle round adventure
In addition to McCaughan and Sears, the Mariners also grabbed several other pitchers with their middle-round picks.
In a money-saving move, relievers Wyatt Mills and Seth Elledge were picked up in the 3rd and 4th rounds. Both players showed serious bat-missing abilities in 2017, with Mills running a 12.94 K/9 and Elledge posting a 12.06 mark. They also added reliever Luis Alvarado in the 13th-round. The Nebraska product struck out 15 in 15.2 innings.
They also picked up multiple starters:
- 6th-round: Oliver Jaskie, LHP, Michigan – 6’4 lefty with a high-80s fastball, above-average changeup, and decent command. Seems like a decent bet to move through the system, but doesn’t have a very high ceiling.
- 7th-round: Max Roberts, LHP, Wabash Valley College – 6’5 lefty who struck out 98 batters in 94.0 innings at Wabash Valley College this year.
- 9th-round: Jorge Benitez, LHP, Leadership Christian Academy – 6’2, 155-pound lefty. Razor thin and will need some time to harness his potential, but there’s plenty to like here with Benitez. Breaking pitches have decent life and his fastball might be able to bump up into the low-90s as he adds strength.
- 10th-round: Randy Bell, RHP, USA – Just 5’10, 185-pounds, but Bell is great at peppering the strike zone. Struck out 93 and walked just 19 in 98.1 innings at South Alabama this year.
Mariners load up on athleticism, take all the shortstops
The Mariners went shortstop-crazy for a second, grabbing four shortstops over six total picks from rounds 19 to 24. Things started with Kevin Santa out of Tampa and ended with Louis Boyd of Arizona. They won’t all stick at shortstop–guys like Boston College’s Johnny Adams seem to be better suited for third–but it’s clear the Mariners love them some athleticism.
Mariners boycott retirement center, avoid seniors
One of the more frustrating aspects of last year’s draft was how many college seniors the Mariners grabbed through the early rounds, using seven of their first fifteen picks on the older and cheaper options. This wasn’t the case this year, as the Mariners used just two of their first fifteen picks on college seniors. There was a run on them later in the draft, but the later rounds are more about finding depth than anything else.
I was a bit worried after last year that the front office had deemed college seniors as the new market inefficiency and am very excited to see the trend bucked.
The Olive Theory
The Mariners swore allegiance to the terrible food, selecting CF Myles Christian out of Olive Branch High School and RHP Austin Hutchison out of the University of Mount Olive with later-round selections.
What did we learn?
- If anything, this draft has given plenty of reason to be confident in Scott Hunter moving forward. Declaring winners and loser of drafts immediately after they’ve taken place is silly and bad and please don’t do that, but at its surface, the Mariners’ draft appears to be a good one.
- They value athleticism above most traits. I touched on this in the shortstop portion, but they seem to be more willing to convert players from more athletic positions (shortstop, centerfield, etc...) to less athletic positions, rather than taking guys who are already seeing question marks at corner positions. They took four shortstops before they selected a single third baseman. Every outfielder they grabbed was a center fielder. Heck, they only drafted two first baseman, and one of them is the highly-athletic Evan White.
Here is a collection of information for all of the Mariners’ selections, posted by myself and Kate (mostly Kate) over the past three days: