My type is unsubtle. I believe any successful rebuild depends on acquiring/developing stars, and the Mariners have a few such players in their organization at the moment. But going big repeatedly increases your chances of hitting big, even if there can be a commensurate increase in risk. Beyond the fact that the team should be heavily motivated to spend significantly as they look to reenter competition, the current economic landscape of MLB won’t prohibit Seattle in the slightest from finding average roster filling players, considering the league’s middle class has increasingly been the big losers in free agency. If the Mariners don’t show a willingness to exceed their previous spending levels, it would be disappointing, but either scenario places the onus on the team finding star power via their farm system.
It’s that mindset that led me to profile prep OF Austin Hendrick several weeks ago, and the same thought process that makes today’s spotlight so appealing - OF Zac Veen of Spruce Creek HS (FL). It’s likely Hendrick and Veen are compared in a head-to-head fashion over the next several months before the draft. Both boast some of the top exit velocities in the class, 18U Team USA experience, and the in-vogue lefty swing that earns oohs and ahhs in batting practice.
It looks good on the field, but it’s also easy to fall in love based on a showcase or a home run derby.
What makes Veen appealing is the five-tool potential he brings, with the size to develop absolutely massive power in the right system. Veen is listed at 6’4, 180-200 lbs at the moment, a full two to three inches taller than Hendrick. His athleticism has him viewed as a center fielder in the pros, at least until a teammate pushes him off the position, a luxury already not afforded to the RF-pigeonholed Hendrick. If he is a true CF, Veen’s contemporaries could be teenage OFs Pete Crow-Armstrong, Robert Hassell, and/or Dylan Crews. But each of those three only complete part of the package Veen teases.
It’s star power, combined with financial investment, that sets the best teams in baseball up to compete for a title year in and year out. Veen’s combination of projectable body type, exceptional present results, and performance against top competition in showcases, tournaments, and Team USA outings makes him a powerfully enticing pick for the Mariners at No. 6. The ideal outcome is the Mariners coming away from this draft with a potential elite infielder, but the team’s current depth at the OF position should not be seen as an obstacle to getting a player who could set them apart and set the sport on fire. If nothing else, he can stand in for Logan Gilbert on photo day when Gilbert needs a break, but I suspect he’s capable of much much more.