The MLB draft starts next Monday at 4 PM PST. In this final week, we’re going to throw some names out who might be available when the Mariners pick with numbers 17, 55, 93, and 123. (NB: there are big gaps between their first and second choices and second and third choices because that’s when the competitive balance picks are. The Mariners don’t have any picks in those rounds, but the good news is the Astros get one because the stupid Cardinals hacked their database. Stupid Cardinals.) We’ve sorted players into two tiers—projected first/second rounders and projected third/fourth rounders. We have also divided players by position, although with the understanding that this draft is exceptionally rich with two-way prospects, and many draftees get moved around defensively to address skill sets/organizational needs anyway. Also, there is a boatload of shortstops. Everyone wants a shortstop, and these gentlemen will all tell you they are shortstops if that’s what it takes.
Top tier (Projected first/second rounders):
Pavin Smith, Virginia - Brendan McKay, a two-way player out of Louisville and one of the top talents in the draft, will be long gone by the time the Ms get to pick at 17, but there’s a chance Smith, from Virginia, falls to them. Our friends at Athletics Nation feel he’s a waste of a #6 pick, but a player who homered more than he struck out this year might be a good fit for Dipoto at 17, if he falls that far, which he won’t. Sorry I got your hopes up. I just wanted to say dude has homered more than he struck out this year.
Nick Pratto, Huntington Beach HS - Pratto is a two-way player whose bat has only recently exploded to stardom-level but still gets the “best prep bat” nod from multiple scouts. He gets on base and has a great sense of the strike zone but will need to hit for power to be a big-league regular, which is always a risky projection for a high school player. Pratto has a strong commitment to nearby USC.
Evan White, Kentucky - Evan White is a weirdo, and hence has already earned my love. A lefty who bats right-handed—what—he’s an extremely athletic first baseman who doesn’t have power as his strongest tool; instead, he’ll hit for average and shows an advanced approach at the plate. The lack of power might make some teams querulous, however. White has plus athleticism and some experience at 3B, so he might be a conversion prospect—maybe even to the outfield.
Brent Rooker, Mississippi State - Rooker is huge (6’4”), but he can run fine and has some positional flexibility, having played both at first and in the outfield. He was impressive enough last year to be drafted by the Twins in the 38th round, but turned them down after redshirting his freshman year and only playing sparingly in 2015 before turning in a strong 2016. He led everyone in Division I with 29 doubles and an .858 slugging percentage while playing in the tough Southeastern conference. If you are still in need of convincing, this fanpost over at Athletics Nation is basically a 1000-word love letter to Brent Rooker.
Keston Hiura, UC Irvine - Probably will need TJ surgery after this season and has been working only in a DH capacity because of that, which might affect his draft stock. Called maybe “the best pure hitter in this draft class” by Jonathan Mayo, which should sound beautiful but only brings up memories of DJ Peterson and Alex Jackson to Mariners fans. He’s seen time in both the OF and at second and it’s unclear as to where his true home is.
Top shortstop prospect and Baseball America’s #2 high school prospect overall, prep star Royce Lewis, will almost assuredly be gone by the time the Mariners pick at 17, but they should have a shot at Logan Warmoth, from North Carolina. Warmoth doesn’t have eye-popping numbers but he does everything well and his bat is considered one of the most solid in the draft. His arm strength, however, is considered average, and it’s looking like he might ultimately be better-suited for second base.
Nick Allen, Parker HS - Allen stands just 5’8” but is hailed as the best defensive shortstop in the draft, and probably the best defensive player overall. He’s not going to hit for power but finds ways to spray hits all over the field, and once he’s on-base he’s a nightmare for opposing pitchers with his plus speed. Scouts rave about his instincts and makeup. He’s a USC commit.
Adam Hall, Lucas Secondary School (Canada, of course) - Hall has tools and upside, but he is a project who is still developing both physically and with his approach. He might decide to honor his commitment to Texas A&M and allow his draft stock to rise even further.
Jeter Downs, Monsignor Pace HS - Yeah, like that Jeter. Downs has a good balance of power and ability to stick at short, with an above-average arm. He’s not nearly as good defensively as Allen—no one is—but he has a more projectable body and could develop his power tool down the road. He’s also got good speed and instincts on the basepaths. The Florida native is committed to Miami.
Jake Burger, Missouri State - Ethan wrote him up here. Burger has been linked to the Mariners in multiple mock drafts. He could be our new large adult son.
Mark Vientos, American Heritage HS - American Heritage HS sounds like a terrifying David Lynch-esque take on a high school movie, doesn’t it? Anyway, Vientos is currently playing short, but scouts don’t think he can stick there and will need to move to third at some point. The 6’4” righty’s real calling card is the bat, but it’s been inconsistent over his career. He’s committed to Miami.
Second-tier (projected third/fourth rounders):
Gavin Sheets, Wake Forest - Remember how I said Brent Rooker was huge? Well Gavin Sheets is huger, at 6’5”/235. He can hold his own defensively, though, and wallop dingers as a left-handed bat. He is very big, and very strong, and makes baseballs cry.
J.J. Matijevic, Arizona - Matijevic had a slow start to his college career but has been gaining momentum with a strong summer in the Cape Cod League leading up to a breakout junior year. He’s not a great defender nor runner so he must rake to really play at first base, which he’s mostly been doing.
KJ Harrison, Oregon State - Harrison is the first position player at Oregon State listed on MLB.com’s prospect watch. The 6’2” righty has hit for both average and power over his time with the Beavs, although in his junior season the power numbers have shrunk somewhat as he’s focused more on getting on base. Who cares Go Beavs draft him Jerry.
Ernie Clement, Virginia - Technically listed as a shortstop but a) there are literally no second base prospects listed 50-100 on MLB pipeline; b) I cannot, cannot write one more capsule using the phrase “super-utility.” Clement benefited from scouts coming to see Virginia’s stars like Pavin and demanded to be the extra kitten you took home even though you were only going to adopt one, you swore. While he can play short, a lack of arm strength makes second his natural landing pad. Clement has been doing well in a leadoff role for Virginia this year, as he’s a scrappy contact hitter with great plate discipline.
Chris Seise, West Orange HS - Seise probably has the best bat of the prep shortstops, but ranks as just an average defender. He is fast and has a plus arm, so he should be able to stick at the position.
Kevin Merrell, South Florida - Merrell’s elite skill is his speed, but his defensive profile is lacking for a shortstop and he will likely need to move off short and into center field, where his plus speed can be an asset. He will hit enough to be a valuable centerfielder.
Brady McConnell, Merritt Island HS - The 19-year-old McConnell has a lean, projectable frame and is a plus runner and defender, but his bat has been inconsistent and he has a strong commitment to the University of Florida.
Greg Jones, Cary HS - Just like a teen movie makeover, Jones shot up six inches between his junior and senior year and started attracting the interest of scouts. He’s a plus defender and some scouts put an 80-grade on his speed. He’s also a switch-hitter who’s much stronger than his still-slight frame appears.
Taylor Walls, Florida State - Walls is a solid but unexciting player who does all the fundamental stuff well: he has long at-bats, walks more than he strikes out, hits singles if not for power, grit grit grit etc. He’s perfectly fine at short but could also offer some positional flexibility as a super-utility type.
Kevin Smith, Maryland - A strong summer in the Cape Cod League kept Smith’s uneven junior year from harming his draft stock too badly, but there are definitely question marks regarding the consistency of his bat. His solid defensive play at a premium position still makes him an appealing early-round option.
Zach Rutherford, Old Dominion - Another entry into the “gritty player with unexciting numbers but strong fundamentals who does all the little stuff well” category. He gets the bonus of the “coach’s favorite” label.
Brent Ellis, Louisville - Ellis is a right-handed bat who could hit for both average and power, and he’s posted a solid OBP throughout college thanks to his ability to take walks and limit strikeouts. He’s only an average defender at the hot corner, though.
Ryan Vilade, Stillwater HS - Winner of the Under Armor All-America Home Run Derby, Vilade already has shown plus power. He’s only an average defender, though, and profiles best at third instead of the shortstop he’s currently playing. He’s an Oklahoma State commit.