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Mariners Linked to Two High-End Prep Infielders

Sources suggest Jerry and Co. want tools and upside

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Cheers, folks.

My name is Joe and I’m new to these here parts. I’ll be using the ol’ feather and scroll to tell some stories about baseball here in Pacific Northwest. I’ve lived in Seattle my entire life and the stitches on these beloved baseballs accurately depict the stitches on my heart and the last 18 years of Seattle stick and ball. Baseball is cyclical. Baseball is cyclical. Baseball is cyclical.

I’m a Coug, through and through, although that’s a conversation for another day (or not, it’s cool).

I also write for Baseball America, so I’ll be doing my best to provide insight into minor league ball, as well as analysis and news from the MLB Draft.

If you want to say hello, I’ll be the one with the bourbon in his hands pregame.

According to two of my industry sources, Seattle is hoping to land one of two high-profile prep middle-infielders at the top of their draft board in the 1st round of Monday’s MLB Draft.

Both sources cited the organization’s desire to bring in prep infielders with good tools and high ceilings that can be molded and groomed. Many analysts have said this is a bit of a down year as far as talent goes in the draft, so scouting departments will have to work a little harder to identify the hidden gems.

Seattle has largely been attached to infielders in most mock drafts over the past few weeks, including Delbarton HS (N.J.) shortstop Anthony Volpe and Texas Tech third baseman Josh Jung. It would appear as though the Mariners have an affinity for dirt-dwellers with their first pick this year.

There are an assortment of middle infielders from the high school ranks in the first round discussion, most of which offer similar toolsets.

Volpe is a polished shortstop with average or slightly better speed. His hit tool is strong for his age, though he offers little in the way of pop from the right side of the plate.

San Luis Obispo (Calif.) SS Brooks Lee is a switch-hitter with good feel from both sides of the plate, so much so that he may be able to keep the trait at the next level. He’s still looking to develop a louder bat, but may have the frame to turn himself into a Jed Lowrie type player.

Collins Hill HS (Ga.) SS Nasim Nunez is an intriguing quick-twitch player. Nunez is very quick to the ball at the plate, and offers 70-grade speed. His arm will allow him to stick at shortstop at the next level. The question with Nunez is, at 5’7”, 160 pounds, will he be able to contribute enough offensively to find a full-time role on the big league club. Nunez draws comparisons to Alexi Amarista.

Freedom HS (Calif.) shortstop Kyren Paris is probably the most appealing prospect from this chair. Paris has the size to suggest he could grow into a little more power. Unfortunately, he too possesses a pronounced flat swing that will lead to ground balls and line drives. Paris will struggle to hit the ball over the fence without some pretty significant changes to his swing. He needs to work on staying back on everything, but the swing speed is there. A slick defender and an even better runner, Paris has some of the tools necessary to make a difference at the big league level. At just 17 years old, Paris put on 15 pounds this year and may still be growing. He’s only 6’0”, 170 right now, but things are trending in the right direction for this kid.

Morgan Academy (Ala.) SS Gunnar Henderson is the exception. At 6’3”, 200 lbs, Henderson is already a big shortstop, especially for his age. Lacking the lateral ability many scouts believe is necessary to stay at shortstop, a move to the hot corner may be in the cards. Henderson offers the best bat profile of the group with a 50-grade hit tool and possibly even better power potential.

Seattle leaning the prep route is a befuddling one in and of itself. If the team is insistent on competing in 2021 or soon thereafter, you’d assume the front office would target guys a little closer to contributing, such as Jung or other collegiate players. The farm is healthier than it was a year ago, but it is still dreadfully thin at a number of positions. In fact, Seattle doesn’t have an impact infielder on the left side of the diamond above the DSL (Noelvi Marte, Juan Querecuto). Third baseman Joe Rizzo could end up contributing, but he remains an unknown with a lot to prove.

No matter how you shake it, all of the guys listed, or anyone not listed for that matter, will be a project. There’s no slam dunks up the middle of the infield that will be available to Seattle with the 20th pick, so this will be a good test for the player development department Dipoto is so heavily leaning on for this “re-tooling.”