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2019 Mariners draft preview: Big Ten Draft-Eligible Prospects

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Dan Wilson’s son, a five-tool sleeper prospect, and arguably the funniest guy in the draft all reside in the Big Ten

Jordan Brewer could be the steal of the draft
Jordan Brewer

As we close in on the 2019 MLB Draft, which takes place June 3-5, we’re taking you through draft-eligible players conference-by-conference. We’ve tackled the behemoths that are the SEC, ACC, Big 12, and PAC-12, and now we’re headed into some of the smaller conferences. The previews will get shorter from here on out as available info gets a little more scarce and draftable prospects get a little slimmer (sorry Nebraska), but if there’s anyone under the radar you know about, drop a short scouting report in the comments.

Indiana

RF Matt Gorski isn’t repeating his incandescent sophomore season, but he’s posted double-digit HRs and upped his walks quite a bit, making him close to a three true outcome player. He’s also a base-stealing threat. Senior utility player Matt Lloyd has hit 16 HR this year and has a career-best slugging percentage, but his strikeouts are a concern. The best draft prospect at Indiana is LHP Andrew Saalfrank, who is the Big 10 Pitcher of the Year; he has steadily decreased his ERA each season; this year, he’s pitched more innings than he has in his college career (69, nice) with his best numbers: 96 strikeouts (ecin) to just 23 walks. An oblique injury disrupted his mechanics and caused some early-season struggles, which might have dinged him on some draft boards, but he’s been as good as anyone down the stretch. Big-bodied senior RHP Pauly Milto is a durable innings-eater who has stepped up as the staff ace for Indiana this year; the Mariners would have gotten a good look at him when he pitched against Washington at T-Mobile Park back in March and carried a no-hitter into the seventh inning. Also, he is hilarious and I love him.

Michigan

Big Blue’s top draft prospect is LHP Tommy Henry, who has been projected anywhere from the first to the third round by various outlets due to a volatile junior season (in April and May, he’s had two starts each where he surrendered five or more runs), and thus has a shot of being available when the Mariners pick at 59. Henry sits 91-93 on his fastball with plus spin, and also throws an above-average slider and fading changeup; however, his fastball is reportedly down to the high-80s, and batters are punishing it. We’ve seen velocity concerns push pitchers way down draft boards, but some team with a big draft pool might want to roll the dice on Henry as an underslot sign to splurge on a prepster later.

If Henry is gone but the Mariners still want to draft out of Michigan (from where they’ve gotten LHP Oliver Jaskie and OF Johnny Slater in recent years), they might go after CF Jordan Brewer, a JUCO transfer in his first year at Michigan who’s slashing .340/.400/.600 with 19 SB and has the potential to be a 5-tool player. I said above Henry is Michigan’s top draft prospect, but personally, I prefer Brewer and wouldn’t mind the Mariners using their comp pick on him, if he’s still available. He is fresh off being named the Big 10 Player of the Year and might be a quick riser in the draft, despite not having any of the traditional buzz due to coming from JUCO and not playing on the Cape. He’s got quite a personality too—look at how he responded to a Nebraska fan who was less than impressed with his mic’d up segment on the Big 10 network:

If Brewer is unavailable, infielder Ako Thomas would also be an intriguing senior sign; he’s a scholar-athlete who can play a solid second base. After only pitching 13 innings his freshman season thanks to a bout with mono (and a collapsed lung and pneumonia and a bizarre allergic reaction that swelled up his fingers), RHP Karl Kauffmann has been Michigan’s workhorse this season; he doesn’t strike out a ton of batters, but he also doesn’t walk many (28 walks in almost 100 IP), and he showed well on the Cape last summer. He throws a sinking fastball, a slider, and a recently-improved changeup.

Illinois

2B Michael Massey isn’t a power hitter but is disciplined at the plate and is strong defensively; he’s only made one error in 383 chances over the past two seasons, and should go somewhere around the 4th-6th rounds. LHP Andy Fisher’s 34 slot delivery gets a lot of ground balls, and he’s posted 90K to 35 BB in 94 IP. Closer Garrett Acton has a 2.23 ERA and a nation-leading 19 saves. OF Zac Taylor, who transferred from Houston after his sophomore year, was drafted by the Twins in 2018 in the 36th round; he made the smart decision to come back to school, as he’s slashing .330/.410/.640 and should be selected much higher than the 36th round as a redshirt senior.

Minnesota

Junior catcher Eli Wilson is Mariner legend Dan Wilson’s son and Garfield alum who was named to the All-Big 10 team this year. The Mariners gave him a courtesy draft in the 36th round out of high school, but could potentially select the high-character, defense-first catcher for real this year. A name to watch for next year’s draft: Gig Harbor native Patrick Fredrickson, who had a dynamite freshman campaign but struggled some as a sophomore.

Iowa

Reliever Grant Leonard has only walked 9 batters to 37 strikeouts in 34 innings of work and has showed an ability to limit strikeouts and hard contact over his three seasons at Iowa.

Ohio State

After two years where he didn’t see much action, LHP Andrew Magno has put up a strong season for the Buckeyes with 58 strikeouts in 52 innings of work out of the bullpen. Junior OF Dominic Canzone is having a career season, slashing .350/.450/.630; Baseball America declares him to have the best arm in the Big 10. This year he broke Nick Swisher’s record of consecutive games reaching base, with 52. Canzone, whose name I definitely do not mistype as “calzone” every time, also has the distinction of appearing on both All-Academic and All-Athletic teams over his three years at Ohio State.

Northwestern

Reliever Nick Paciorek is not, as far as I can tell, related to Mariners great/my go-to Sporcle answer Tom Paciorek, but he has struck out 44 batters in just 26.2 innings, which isn’t too bad considering he’s only recently converted to pitching full-time. Senior INF Jack Dunn doesn’t have much power but has hit for average every year he’s been a Wildcat. Junior INF Alex Erro has excellent plate discipline and some gap-to-gap power and speed.

Rutgers

Rutgers isn’t exactly a power player in the conference, but LHP Tevin Murray was named to the All-Big 10 Second Team—the first time a Rutgers pitcher has received that honor in over a decade. Like Mariners prospect Ian Miller, Murray is a veteran of the Alaska Baseball League, which he credits for exposing him to tougher competition and helping him come into this year shaving two runs off his ERA. At 6’6”, Murray is able to get good extension, and being a lefty aids in his deception: he’s struck out 81 batters in just 68 innings. What might make Murray appealing to the Mariners is his size and ability to command the zone—he’s only walked 36 batters—which might make him a good candidate for Gas Camp.

Michigan State

INF Royce Ando played for the Canadian Junior National team as a high schooler in Ontario and played for Canada at the 2015 18U World Cup in Japan. He doesn’t have a ton of power, but solid plate discipline and contact abilities plus defensive ability around the middle infield make him an interesting potential senior sign.

Purdue

Nothing much to see here for now, but sophomore RHP Bo Hofstra is set to pitch on the Cape Cod League this summer, so we’ll check back with him next year. Also of note: Josh Mears, a LF from Federal Way HS, is committed to Purdue; we’ll see if he winds up a Boilermaker or gets taken in a favorable spot in this year’s MLB draft.

Penn State

LHP Dante Biasi has struck out 102 batters in 71 innings while only walking 33. His brother Sal, also a Penn State grad, is a member of the West Virginia Power, acquired from the Brewers in trade for C David Freitas. The elder Biasi was drafted by the Royals in the 11th round in 2017; his lefty younger brother should beat that mark handily.