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MLB Draft 2018: Reviewing the Mariners’ past drafts - 2017

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“You have youth, confidence, and a [minor league deal],” the older waiter said.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at Minnesota Twins Jordan Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

To me, the Draft is like a novel you’ve just started reading. You begin get involved with the characters and might even feel emotionally invested in them. but before you even get a quarter of the way through the story, you get distracted and have to put the book down. Then new draft emerges with new characters, and you’re left wondering what ever happened to the old ones. Then the movie comes out and you realize, “Oh... that’s what happened to Ryan Yarbrough.”

The thing about MLB drafts, as Isabelle already iterated, is that you really don’t see a payoff until maybe 3+ years after the players are selected and signed. Even then, prospects tend to find their way out of the organization in trades and such. Some meet worse fates. I believe we can all consider the 2017 draft a success if even one player drafted pans out over the next 3 years. You can try to make all the predictions you want and grade last year’s draft as good or bad, but like your friend who is considering making a tasteless joke about Prince, it’s just too soon to tell.

The Strategy:

Save for the outfield, it was easy to call the Mariner’s minor league system slim pickings, and Jerry Dipoto’s second year as GM required him to draft players that would potentially be assets in the infield. He had a pretty clean slate to do so, though Dipoto seemed to go a little heavy on relievers for most of the draft. The M’s did not participate in any of the competitive balance rounds and did not receive any free-agent-signing compensation picks.

Going into the 2017 Draft, many considered Brendan McKay, the two-way lefty out of Louisville, to be the top prospect. But many mock drafts predicted, correctly, that he would go to the Rays as the fourth overall pick. The Twins, who had the first pick, decided to go with high school shortstop Royce Lewis. The Mariners would have to take the 17th overall pick, which many predicted to be the giant left-handed starting pitcher out of Oregon, David Peterson. This, of course, was not the case.

The Picks:

1st Round (17th Overall Pick): Evan White, 1B, University of Kentucky

Evan White was the last of four first basemen picked in the 1st round of the draft; the 17th pick overall. An atypical player, White throws left-handed despite batting right-handed and lacks power compared to the average first baseman. He makes up for his lack of power with consistent contact and speed and has shown to be an above average defensive player (potentially a Gold Glover, as they all say). More recent profiles on White have him weighing about 18-20 pounds more than he did at the time of his signing, so he could be working on bulking up and going for more power. He currently sports a .280/.359/.391 line in 184 plate appearances playing in Advanced-A Modesto, which is pretty consistent with his .277/.345/.532 line with the Everett AquaSox last season, though he’s hit fewer home runs and is striking out at a higher rate.

2nd Round (55th Overall Pick): Sam Carlson, RHP, Burnsville HS

Sam Carlson was fairly committed to attending the University of Florida, which could be the reason why he wasn’t signed earlier. Upon seeing that he was still available 54 picks into the draft, the Mariners jumped in on signing the right-handed hurler. The M’s signed Carlson for $2,000,000, though the pick’s value was only $1,206,900. I can see how a high school pitcher who peaks at 96mph and has above average command of his secondary pitches would be a desirable target in the 2nd round, but I still feel iffy about high school draftees in general. Pitchers can easily burn out if not taken care of, and the Mariners have been careful with their use of Carlson. He’s pitched three innings of Arizona ball, facing thirteen batters, allowing four hits, one run, and striking out three, and has not faced a batter since July of last year. He does, however, have 18.5K followers on Instagram, if you’re into that.

3rd Round (93rd Overall Pick): Wyatt Mills, RHP, Gonzaga

Wyatt Mills was actually drafted in 2016 by the Rays, but decided not to sign in order to finish his degree at Gonzaga and continue playing for the Bulldogs, which I find admirable. I also dig that he’s a sidearm pitcher with a 93mph fastball that has a tendency for downward movement which works well for him in relief. Mills’ signing might’ve allowed for some wiggle room in the pockets of the Mariners, since the pick’s value was worth $579,800 but he signed for a mere $125,000 (but that still didn’t cover Carlson’s signing). So far, he’s made his way through Everett and Clinton and has seen the most action in Modesto with the Nuts. He’s faced 75 batters in Advanced-A within 18.2 innings. He’s walked five batters in that time, but struck out four times as many. He’s allowed eight runs, posting a 3.38 ERA.

4th Round (123rd Overall Pick): Seth Elledge, RHP, Dallas Baptist University

I like Elledge. I like any minor league pitcher whose numbers seem to get better as he advances to more difficult levels. As far as ERA is concerned, Elledge posted a 4.50 in Everett, a 3.00 in Clinton, and currently has a 1.40 in Modesto. He’s pitched 19.1 innings with the Nuts, with a 50% groundball rate and a 2.41 FIP. He’s faced 176 batters throughout his short minor league career and has only allowed one home run. Not too shabby for Elledge, who, while playing in Advanced-A, is about a year younger than most players.

Notables:

Kevin Santa, SS/2B, University of Tampa (19th Round, 573 Overall Pick)

Santa is a middle infielder from Puerto Rico, who attended the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. His bread and butter is his defensive ability, but he also managed to be an absolute powerhouse while in college. He’s jumped around different levels of the Mariners’ minor league system, but his abilities at the plate have cooled off since playing professional ball.

Tommy Romero, RHP, Eastern Florida State (15th Round, 453 Overall Pick)

Romero is a staff favorite here at LL for both his abilities on the mound, his bulldog mentality, and the fact that he just really seems to love baseball a lot, which is not always a given, believe it or not. He’s had up and down outings as he adjusts to full-season ball, but he pitches with determination and has been getting stronger and more fit in full-time pro ball and seen a slight velocity uptick thanks to that.

Grade: Passing Credit

This draft is not even a year old and the draftees seem to be having a decent time in the minors, although it’s hard to judge when your number two pick throws approximately ten pitches all year. As far as trends go, the Mariners drafted a bunch of college seniors in 2016; they veered from that slightly in 2017, but still stayed very college-heavy. In 2017, only Carlson and disappears-when-he-turns-sideways Puerto Rican Jorge Benitez were the only prepsters taken by the Mariners in the first twenty rounds (other than Myles Christian, who went to college instead). The “first pick collegiate/second pick prep” pattern has now been consistent for both years of the Dipoto-overseen draft, and from what various outlets are saying, seems to be likely for another year unless one of the top prep arms or bats (Nolan Gorman or Jarred Kelenic, although they’ve also been in attendance to see SS Brice Turang) happens to fall to them. Last year the Mariners stocked up on shortstops to replenish a system that’s very thin in the middle infield, going with their typical draft/signing strategy of acquiring quantity, or “penny stocks,” as Dipoto put it. Perhaps this year they’ll make a similar run at catchers or third basemen, two of the most perilously thin positions in the organization.