While fans of other teams turn their eyes to the postseason, Mariners fans and our fellow cellar-dwellers instead must get our kicks by taking a longer view, all the way into next June and the 2020 MLB Draft. Luckily Baseball America is here to feed our need to dream on the future, with a “way too early” mock draft of the top ten spots. Of note: BA cautions this is more of a “thought experiment” than a true mock draft, which are usually built with actual insider info from scouts and front offices or even just observing which scouts continually turn up at whose games.
This mock starts off a little differently than the one-two punch that’s been buzzed about, although the top three are all the same names you’ve heard if you’ve been following the draft even a little. The big surprise comes at pick 4, where the BA staff has slotted Nick Gonzales, a target I like for the Mariners. Gonzales is a controversial choice because some question the level of competition he’s faced at NMSU, a notoriously offensive-boosting environment, but he raked on the Cape this summer and finds himself out of the Mariners’ clutches here.
With Gonzales off the board, BA gives the Mariners Arkansas shortstop Casey Martin at 6, also known as staff writer Joe’s favorite target in this draft. [and for making prep-outfielder-loving Kate and John gnash their respective teeths.]
The Other Martin is a slight (5’11”/185) shortstop projected to stick at the position thanks to plus arm strength, although he played third base his freshman year and can handle that position as well. He’s a plus runner who is a legitimate threat on the bases. Despite his slighter stature, C-Mart has some surprising pop in his bat thanks to elite bat speed, but can struggle to make contact (23% K rate in 2019) and the hit tool is a question (phrases Kate hates to type for 100, Alex). The strikeouts will be the thing to watch as Martin embarks on his junior year with the Razorbacks, as that will likely largely determine where he’s selected.
While it’s not a fait accompli that the Mariners will take a college player if a Kelenic-like prep talent turns their heads, it’s been the heavy preference of the Dipoto-led Mariners to go the college route early and often. A college player will also, ideally, line up with the stated target goal of competition in 2022ish, although again with the way Jarred Kelenic has zoomed through the lower minors, the Mariners might be more comfortable with selecting a similarly highly-polished prep bat or arm (although to my mind only Texas righty and large human Jared Kelley fits that description for the pitchers).
Teams famously don’t draft for need but it’s impossible to look at the Mariners system and not see the relative dearth of infield prospects, even as the outfield and pitching crews have seen their crops blossom and flourish. Provided he can cut down on his strikeouts, Casey Martin profiles to be a must-needed boost to the Mariners’ infield of the future.