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2019 Mariners draft preview: PAC-12 draft-eligible prospects

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Beyond standout Adley Rutschman, there’s plenty of talent to be had in the Conference of Champions

NCAA Baseball: College World Series-Arkansas vs Oregon State Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

We blinked, and suddenly the MLB draft is just weeks away. As we’ve done in previous years, this year we’ll be previewing some names of college baseball players you might hear called on draft day(s), conference-by-conference. So far, we’ve covered the SEC, ACC, and Big 12; today we turn our attention a little closer to home, to the PAC-12.

UCLA

It’s no coincidence that the conference leaders also boast the most prospects who appear on draft boards. 2B Chase Strumpf is maybe one of the safest bats in the class; while he hasn’t recaptured the brilliance of a sophomore season in which he slugged .633, he’s still slashing .300/.450/.500 on the season. What would appeal to the Mariners most about Strumpf is his advanced approach at the plate; he’s always posted strong plate discipline numbers, but this season he’s walked almost as often as he’s struck out. He isn’t fast and is somewhat defensively limited at 2B for range and arm strength, but he should be able to stick at the keystone. He’d be a solid pick for the Mariners in the late second round or with their compensatory pick at 77, although he likely won’t make it that far. Washington native 1B/OF Michael Toglia is built along the lines of ASU’s Hunter Bishop, with similar power but lacking Bishop’s speed and raw athleticism. He’d be a solid consolation prize for a team that wanted and missed out on Bishop. Fellow OF Jeremy Ydens is having a down season, but is one season removed from a .350/.400/.550 season. INF Ryan Kreidler has bumped his 2018 line of .222/.348/.333 to .308/.388/.492 this season; he can play all over the infield and fits the Mariners’ propensity for picking up quick-risers. Fellow INF/3B Jack Stronach is also enjoying a breakout season where he’s added over 50 points to his slash line. On the pitching side, RHP Jack Ralston is enjoying a breakout season after a forgettable sophomore season. He leads the Bruins with a 9-0 record. RHP Ryan Garcia missed the first 12 games of this season with flexor inflammation but has been strong since returning with a three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball (91-94), slider (82-83), and a changeup (74-77). There’s good reason to be wary of UCLA pitchers, though, especially those with injuries.

Stanford

LHP Erik Miller has a prototypical pitcher’s frame at 6’5”/240 and sits in the low 90s with his fastball, pairing that with a low-80s slider, but has apparently bumped his fastball up to the mid-90s recently. He struggled on the Cape last season but has halved his ERA this season. RHP/1B Will Matthiessen was recently named to the Golden Spikes watch list as a two-way player; he’s hitting .327 with nine bombs and owns a 4.29 ERA with 45 Ks. Righty reliever Jack Little is down a little from his sterling 2018 numbers, when he was selected as a member of Team USA, but has 20 career saves in two seasons with the Cardinal. RHP Zach Grech is a sidearmer whose delivery is reminiscent of Mariners prospect Wyatt Mills. Offensively, the Cardinal are shaking their “Stanford Swing” label with a couple of guys who are the poster children for elevate-and-celebrate: OF Kyle Stowers (no relation to former Mariners prospect Josh Stowers) had a big season on the Cape last summer, being named MVP. He was named to the preseason Golden Spikes Award watch list and has posted a .589 slugging percentage this season. OF Brandon Wulff has hit more than twice the number of HRs he hit last year in half as many plate appearances, and could be an intriguing senior sign. 1B/OF Andrew Daschbach is 6’3”/225 and posting a monster line of .360/.449/.719; he hits balls very very far.

C Maverick Handley has also embraced the slugging revolution, adding 70 points to his average and 80 to his slugging percentage this season. He leads the PAC-12 in pickoffs and is a fine defensive catcher.

Handley said his stats were down a little last year because of his intense course load; he wants to be an orthopedic surgeon, a dream he’s had since he broke his ankle in high school and received a high quality of care at the Steadman Hawkins clinic in Denver; he’s pre-med at Stanford with a major in biomechanical engineering. Also, his walkup music is “Danger Zone” and he’s named MAVERICK HANDLEY. I love him.

Oregon State

The big name here, obviously, is C Adley Rutschman, who is as close to a consensus first overall pick as there’s been over previous years. He’s slugging close to .800! Mercy. Beyond Adley (and the Orioles fans’ 2018 hashtag #PlayBadlyForAdley), 6’4” RHP Grant Gambrell has struck out 67 in 54 innings while walking just 19 batters. JUCO transfer SS Beau Philip put up a strong season but would probably be better served hanging around Corvallis for another season, as would LF Alex McGarry.

Arizona State

Once upon a time, it seemed the Mariners would be able to complete their Bishop Brothers set by drafting OF Hunter Bishop somewhere in the second round. After a torrid junior season that’s seen him named to the Golden Spikes Award watch list, combined with a down draft overall, the younger Bishop won’t even be available by the time the Mariners make their first-round selection at 20. If the Mariners want to pluck a player who’s only a short drive down I-10 from their spring training complex, they might go with RHP Alec Marsh, who’s lowered his ERA steadily over each season and this year posted career-highs in both innings pitched and strikeouts. INF Carter Aldrete has been a steady force in the Sun Devils lineup each of his three seasons, and showed well on the Cape this summer, where he dethroned teammate and possible 2020 first overall draft pick Spencer Torkelson in the home run derby. Aldrete is also team captain and gets high marks for leadership; he;d fit in well with the culture the Mariners are trying to build across the minors. The Mariners drafted C Lyle Lin in the 16th round back in 2016 out of JSerra high school, making him the first Taiwanese-born player to be selected in the MLB draft, but Lin opted to go to ASU; the Astros drafted Lin in the 29th round as a sophomore in 2018, but again, he chose to remain at school. Lin has put up steady numbers each year at ASU but this year found a little more pop in his bat; the 8 homers he’s hit are double what he hit in his freshman and sophomore years combined. That could be enough to overcome his shaky defense at catcher, or make him a palatable play at 1B.

California

Sharing space with Hunter Bishop on the Golden Spikes Award watch list is 1B Andrew Vaughn, who will likely be taken in the first five picks of the draft. More in the Mariners’ price range is C Korey Lee, himself a semifinalist for the Buster Posey Award. Lee is an excellent defensive catcher who throws out almost half of all attempted base stealers (for context, a CS% of around 40% is considered elite) and has double-digit homers this season. RHP Jared Horn has a prototypical pitcher’s body at 6’4”/220 and is having a breakout junior season, posting the lowest ERA of his college career at sub-2 and posting a nice K:BB ratio of 56:18 in 69 IP. SS/OF Cameron Eden can play all over the diamond and is bouncing back after a sophomore slump. OF Brandon McIlwain is a redshirt sophomore transfer from South Carolina who was a two-sport athlete and Pennsylvania’s Gatorade player of the year in high school. He’s also a quarterback for the football team. He’s also a leader in the classroom, being named to the All-SEC academic team while at South Carolina, and is a recognized scholar-athlete at Cal, with one of his projects being developing a platform where athletes can speak anonymously about their struggles. He’s not going anywhere for a while, but he’s definitely someone to watch.

Washington

C Nick Kahle is a Buster Posey Award semifinalist, his second year in a row being named to that list. He’s posted strong numbers in his last two seasons on Montlake, although this year his OBP has soared to over .500 thanks to a career-low in strikeouts vs. an astonishing 58 walks in 50 games played. Draft-eligible sophomore RHP Josh Burgmann has 98 Ks to just 20 walks in 76 IP.

Arizona

Sin City has been producing some major league talent in recent years (Bryce Harper, Kris Bryant, Joey Gallo; in recent years, Cadyn Grenier and 2019 prospect Bryson Stott) and 3B Nick Quintana hopes to add to that list (he also possesses the requisite flow for a prospect from Las Vegas). Quintana has hit every year he’s been at Arizona, although he’s boosted his numbers across the board this year. Quintana has double-digit HR power but some concerning strikeout numbers; he’ll likely be a late Day One selection. Cameron Cannon can play multiple infield spots, but his true home at the next level is probably 2B. This year he’s shown his bat can keep up with the keystone position, with an eye-popping slash line of .430/.500/.700, although the power is more doubles power. He also has a long track record with wood bats, playing multiple seasons of wood bat summer ball, and was an All-Star on the Cape this past summer. He projects to go late in the second round or early in the third round, making him a potential target with the Mariners’ second-round selection or comp pick. Defensively-plus center fielder Matt Frazier has been having his best season as a Wildcat, hitting for both average and power, but it’s been cut short by injury, as he broke his hamate bone early in the season; he might opt to stay at Arizona to build his draft stock back up if he falls too far. Draft-eligible sophomore catcher Matthew Dyer might also opt to remain; he’s posted solid numbers this year but with the departure of OSU’s Adley Rutschman and Washington’s Nick Kahle, he has a chance to stake a claim as the best catcher in the PAC-12 next season. Cuban-born LHP Randy Labaut, in a starter’s role rather than coming out of the bullpen, is having a down season after a dynamite 2018; he might opt to stick around for another year, as might JUCO transfer LHP Andrew Nardi.

USC

OF Blake Sabol can also play catcher, but he’s at his best in center, tracking down fly balls:

Former two-way player CJ Stubbs has come off the mound and settled behind the dish, and has put up a .300/.400/.500 line while playing a surprisingly solid defensive catcher for his first year catching. On the pitching side, RHP Connor Lunn has been a solid option out of the Trojans’ ‘pen. 6’7” RHP Chris Clarke has transitioned exclusively to the bullpen this year, where his ERA has fallen from 6+ to 1.17, and he’s racked up 52 strikeouts to just 15 walks in 46 innings of work.

Oregon

RHP Ryne Nelson has an electric arm: with a fastball that can touch 99 mph paired with a nasty slider, he could be a solid back-end bullpen piece. The Ducks used him as a starter this year, and he’s racked up 98 strikeouts in 61 innings, thanks in part to a nasty 12-6 hook that gives him three usable pitches. Command can be an issue, though—he’s walked 38 this season—and he probably profiles best as a reliever. I was super excited by RHP Kenyon Yovan when I saw him as a fireballing freshman reliever. The Ducks used him as a starter in 2018, when he struck out 98 in 85 innings, but blood clots in his throwing hand have kept him out of action this year. He’s still a draftable prospect after a strong summer on the Cape and also a Team USA selection, but might opt to return to Oregon as a redshirt junior if he doesn’t get a good offer in the draft. INF Spencer Steer has upped his slash line by about a hundred points across the board. Steer can play all over the infield, but he makes some especially spectacular plays guarding the hot corner.