The 2018 MLB draft is now at a close, and the shelves of the Mariners system have been stocked with products of varying usefulness (some of those products are not actually tangible things but instead things like “honor” or “backup plans,” but that’s another thing). The Mariners are very mean and completely ignored our wishlist: Isabelle did not get her large tater-mashing boy, Ben did not get his Anthony Rizzo Lite, Tim did not get Jerred Kelenic NOR Jerred Kelenic Lite, Kate and John did not get their risky-but-we-promise-they’ll-work-out HS pitching prospects, and none of us got our Dingcong. But we have moved on and are already picking out our new favorite pet prospects from the draft. Here are the latest guys who will crush our hearts when Jerry trades them for a 26-year-old Triple-A player:
Matthew: Josh Stowers, OF, Louisville
Do I know anything about college baseball? Nope. Will that stop me from having very strong opinions? Of course not!
Some people have said Josh Stowers is a “reach” or “unworthy of a second-round pick” or “Matthew you’d literally never heard of this guy until two days ago, please calm down.” These are all fair points. But when your introduction to a new player is in a GIF this beautiful, it’s hard to contain the emotions.
Josh Stowers— Louisville Athletics (@GoCards) May 23, 2018
-run homerun and -run triple! Cards win 10-2!
@UofLBaseball vs. Duke Friday at 11AM #ACCBase pic.twitter.com/8EjXp7dVFn
In terms of actual baseball, Stowers checks several boxes as well. The right-handed hitting outfielder had a stellar junior season at Louisville, going .343/.471/.564. He also walked more (45) than he struck out (34) and stole 33 bases without being caught once. Admittedly, the Stowers experience is all very new to me. But as far as I can tell, the man is dripping in swag, plays great defense, and his dad is Extremely Online. I could not be more all in.
Connor: Bobby Honeyman, 3B, SUNY Stony Brook
Picked in the 29th round, Honeyman is one of a flurry of infielders the M’s picked up in the later rounds. A third baseman from Stony Brook, Honeyman broke out in a big way his senior year after three seasons of middling play, slashing .336/.387/.479 with an absurd 2.8% strikeout rate in a career-high 242 plate appearances. While he doesn’t offer much in the way of power, his excellent plate discipline should give him a good head start in the low minors, and his 6’0”, 185-pound frame suggests he could bulk up in the future. Honeyman also played all over the infield for Stony Brook, and has a solid glove at third.
Dipoto went for several college players who had a breakout senior year, and Honeyman may be one of the more intriguing ones. Everett’s season starts on the 15th, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the club send him there to kick off his professional career. May those contact skills and plate discipline translate.
(Note: please give yourself the gift of listening to this video with the volume on, and glorying in the “Jimmy Fallon doing a Red Sox fan” accent that is prominent.)
Ders: Charlie McConnell, OF, Northeastern
I came into the draft hoping the M’s would take someone I’d seen through my year and change (so far) broadcasting games in the West Coast League. Instead, the Red Sox, Phillies, Royals, Rockies, Nationals, and Pirates all drafted current or former Bend Elks while other teams drafted other guys I’d seen. So I can’t help with comprehensive scouting or personality reports.
However! McConnell is neat because he’s a CAA player, the same conference as my alma mater Hofstra. Have I seen him play? Nope.
But! He seems pretty fun. The Mariners’ 13th-round pick is a speedy outfielder who swiped 37 bags for the Northeastern University Huskies this spring. He also seems to have at least some gap power as he posted a .470 slugging percentage. McConnell also C’s the Z as he walked more times (30) than he struck out (29).
Also, when I texted a buddy of mine for a scouting report on his time on the Cape, I got back, “he’s a monster.” He didn’t elaborate, but I’ll take his word for it.
My guess is that if McConnell will have any setbacks, it will revolve around his extra-base power. If he can translate his gap numbers from college, he could be a fun guy to watch, especially if he can swipe 30 bags a year in the pros.
John: RHP Joey Gerber, Illinois
Fast-moving relievers, we’ve seen a few. From Wyatt Mills and Seth Elledge last year to the converted starters of the past few seasons, the Mariners have reliably generated MLB-quality relief pitchers out of their farm. While that’s a bit like taking pride in building the world’s best miniature hot dog collection, it’s still a useful characteristic for an organization seeking to remain perpetually in contention. Joey Gerber fits that mold seemingly to a T. His explosive delivery might raise some eyebrows, but a multi-pitch mix headlined by a great fastball-slider combo is the type of repertoire that could have Seattle dodging their run differential for years to come.
Kate: INF Beau Branton, Stanford
Sometimes you don’t know you loved something until it gets taken away from you. That’s how I felt when Cleveland took OSU’s Steven Kwan in the fifth round, and I realized I had already mentally penciled in the Beavers’ leadoff man and his astounding 14:48 K:BB ratio (so very Mariner-y!) atop the AquaSox lineup for the summer. But a door doesn’t close without another, similarly diminutive window opening, and that window is Beau Branton, Stanford’s 5’7” leadoff hitter. (Also, as labored as that small house metaphor may seem, it’s apt for Branton, who has already been offered a job at Disney as a theme park engineer) After batting just .220 over 168 ABs in his freshman year, Branton received only 20 ABs as a sophomore, mostly in late-inning/blowout scenarios. He raised his average to .300 with a perfect fielding percentage, but even Branton, an Engineering major, would be quick to point out that’s some pretty small sample size. Even smaller were the opportunities afforded during his junior year, when he played in just 12 games. But when an injury felled starting second baseman Duke Kinamon at the start of Branton’s senior season, he made the most of his opportunity, finishing with a career-best average of .353 with an OBP of .431 after he re-engineered his swing during winter workouts and got back to more of his natural uppercut that helps him punch balls into the outfield, like so:
.@BeauBranton set a career high with 5 hits in Sunday's 9-6 win, tying a career high with 3 runs scored, including the game-winning run. #GoStanford pic.twitter.com/DMigZU1FYD— Stanford Baseball (@StanfordBSB) May 15, 2018
Branton is cool in other ways, too: he grew up in Saudi Arabia and represented that country in the Little League World Series; he won basically every award a Hawaiian baseball player could win while being a National Honor Society member and AP Scholar at the prestigious Punahou School; and if he does take that job with Disney, he and his father (who was adopted by his older sister in Hawaii after fleeing the Vietnam War, although that’s another story) will have both been engineers--his father was an engineer at an oil company, which is how Beau came to spend the first part of his life in Saudi Arabia. But it looks like Disney might have to wait, at least for a little while, while the already well-traveled Branton adds another few stops to his journey.
Tim: TWO-WAY PLAYER (fine, RHP) Joey O’Brien, College of Southern Nevada
Joey Takashi O’Brien is about the most unique prospect you’ll see in the draft. The son of a Marine and brother of Fukuoka SoftBank Hawks pitching prospect Richard Makoto Sunagawa O’Brien, Joey grew up on Okinawa and came to the US to pursue a baseball career. I don’t know I’ve ever seen a player eligible for both the NPB and MLB drafts in the same season before. Watch an interview with him and it’s impossible not to love the softspoken and tremendously polite, but also humorous, O’Brien. While the name would make you think he is very American, that’s far from the case; when he came over, Joey, who is fluent in both English and Spanish but not a native English speaker, had to acclimate to seeing non-Japanese people dressed in non-military clothing. He wasn’t sure when he arrived at the College of Southern Nevada if he should bow to umpires before stepping into the box or not, and didn’t understand that a two-seam fastball is supposed to move, thinking he needed to “fix” the pitch he was throwing.
O’Brien is a lot more than a nifty trans-Pacific story, though. He hits and runs very well, with a good command of the strike zone. Standing 6’2”, O’Brien can run his fastball up to 96 and throws a three-pitch mix, including a splitter; Scouting Director Scott Hunter compared his delivery to Hisashi Iwakuma. It sounds like the Mariners intend to start the right-hander as a starter, and to have him focus on pitching, but come on, it sure would be neat to see him go both ways. While walks were a bit of an issue in his time in the States, that can possibly partly be attributed to learning his new two-seam fastball—though it’s an effective pitch, Japanese pitchers generally eschew it for a four-seamer and O’Brien only recently adopted it. There’s a lot of upside to dream on here, wrapped in a very different sort of package.
Eric: RHP JT Salter, West Alabama
Do you pine for the days of Dae-Ho Lee’s giant leg-kick moonshots? Have you passionately lobbied #VogeyForFirst on multiple social media formats? Did you love Bartolo Colon before it was cool? Friends, countrymen and women, I have something special to share with you. Meet our new Large Adult Son Reliever:
#NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/P9f1HxTUTN— JT™ (@jtsalter96) February 17, 2018
First of all, whoa, thems some hamhocks! And 6’8”? That’s some serious power + downward force coming off the mound, baby. Secondly, the name! JT, a solid and reliable nickname, finished by SALTER, which lends itself well to a million nicknames, memes, and probable photoshops. He leaves batters feeling SALTY. Batters are slugs and JT brings the SALT. The SALTY dog, the SALTLICK, the SALTSHAKER, and so on and so forth.
Look how he towers over these probably average-sized bros! Like a dad chaperoning the hay ride who wants you to have fun but also be safe, and isn’t afraid to knock some heads together if he has to. Absolute unit.
#NewProfilePic pic.twitter.com/EdpESum9wr— JT™ (@jtsalter96) August 27, 2017
6’8”. 285 pounds. 118 strikeouts in 88 IP this season for the University of West Alabama Tigers. Open up your heart and let our new Large Adult Son into your heart. I know I have.
Isabelle: C Jake Anchia, Nova Southeastern
Not a high schooler: check!
Fills a position of organizational need: check!
Compelling history that guarantees I spend the rest of my days hoping for his, and his family’s, success: check!
Seriously, if you care not at all about the draft, or prospects, still take the time to read the link and learn about the Anchia’s journey. He left his mark on NSU, stepping in after their primary catcher broke his finger to help lead the sharks to the first national baseball title in school history, and is now the second highest draft pick to come out of the program.