It’s not even Spring Training yet, but the grind of preparing for the MLB draft never stops. Right before Christmas, Baseball America released their first full first-round mock draft (the previous version only covered the first ten selections). Player fortunes will rise and fall over the course of the season, but it’s useful to start looking at the players who are projected to go in the first round to get to know the next wave of MLB talent. The Mariners’ strong start precluded them from top talents like Oregon State’s Adley Rutschman or prep standout Bobby Witt Jr., but there’s still lots of talent to be had at the M’s draft position of 20th overall. If the Mariners did somehow wind up with UNLV SS Bryson Stott at #20, as Baseball America forecasts, the M’s would be getting a polished athlete with Team USA experience and some personality to boot.
Stott’s calling card is his defense. At 6’3”/200, one wouldn’t expect him to be as fluid as he is at short, but that bigger body gives Stott one of the best infield arms in this draft class, strong and accurate. He routinely makes plays like this:
He’s also drawn praise for solid footwork and strong fundamentals at the position, so despite the bigger body, most scouts see him sticking at short:
Being able to “lengthen a hop” is a massively underrated skill in infielders. Time/speed of runner/ball are factors, but in many instances it’s the better option over simply “chesting up” or blindly stabbing at “oh crap” hop. Last 2 steps are more important than first 2 steps. pic.twitter.com/ItTXL2vMK4— Brett Birdsong (@CoachBirdsong12) January 3, 2019
The question with Stott is the bat. Stott posted a .365/.442/.556 line last spring at UNLV, although detractors are quick to note that those numbers come in the Mountain West Conference, not one of baseball’s traditional powerhouses. A Las Vegas native like fellow shortstop Cadyn Grenier, Stott opted to stay at home for college and continue the family tradition of attending UNLV, where his dad, Derek, played quarterback and his mom, Shana, was a cheerleader. (Not that it was an easy sell: as a child, Bratty Bryson would root against UNLV to be the family contrarian, and was intent on attending college elsewhere, but changed his mind after visiting the campus and seeing the facilities.) Stott did show well as part of the collegiate Team USA, as well as hitting with a wood bat on the Cape last summer, and had success in the Northwoods League. Despite plus contact skills, Stott hasn’t shown much outside of UNLV in the way of power, which has some scouts wary that his larger frame will translate into the left-handed power of a Brandon Crawford (or maybe even a Didi Gregorius). Even without over-the-fence power, Stott’s excellent plate discipline—which he made a point to improve as a sophomore after feeling like he struck out too much in his freshman campaign—and good instincts on the bases (28 stolen bases in his sophomore year), plus his ability to make contact, offer plenty of offensive tools, especially when combined with elite defense.
Given the dearth of infield options in the Mariners’ system, the fast-moving Stott would be a strong play for the Mariners at 20; the question is whether or not he’ll be there. 2080 Baseball predicts Stott will be a top-ten choice, MLB Pipeline ranks him 12th, and Fangraphs has him third overall on The Board. If Stott maintains the status quo or takes a step back in his junior campaign, he might be leapfrogged by enough prospects raising their draft stock to land somewhere in the Mariners’ neighborhood. But with even a slight uptick in his power, Stott could find himself in ... wait. Oh wait. What’s this?
Oh no. Oh nooooo Bryson, nooooooo. Well. If news of this gets out, I can only assume his draft stock will take an inevitable tumble. Maybe Bryson Stott will be a Mariner all.