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What Local Products Should Seattle Target as Undrafted Free Agents? Pitcher Edition.

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YOU get a reliever and YOU get a reliever and YOU get a reliever. We. All. Get. Relievers!

University of Washington Baseball Twitter

With Friday’s announcement the 2020 MLB Draft will be shortened to 5 rounds instead of the supposed 10, the talent pool available post-draft is going to be immense. On any given year, roughly 1200 players are selected by big league clubs over the course of 40 rounds. Only 160 players will hear their names called in June.

So what’s next for the some odd 1000 players with arguable big league talent and undeniable big league dreams? Well, several factors come into play. Some schools will be force to cut or rescind scholarships for some high school players. On the other end of the spectrum, it shouldn’t be assumed schools are going to honor eligibility limits either. Just because the NCAA approves spring athletes to return to school for another year of eligibility does not mean the school is required to honor it. It’s going to get sticky in some places, and unfortunately, the players will be the ones taking the fall.

Elsewhere, some players may elect to transfer to junior colleges in an effort to keep playing. This applies to both high school players as well as older collegiate upperclassmen. At the end of the day, there’s going to be a talent crunch. This is imminent. Future draft classes will grow stronger at the expense of players hoping to be selected in 2020. We’re all feeling it during these tough times, but this especially sucks.

Alas, some preconceived notions we thought true of this draft cycle remain. Undrafted players will have the opportunity to sign with any team for a maximum signing bonus of $20,000. The bonus cap is a competitive balance measure. If you uncap free agent signings, mega-market teams will sweep up a glut of the talent as they’re undoubtedly strapped with more liquid cash right now. Teams will be privy to an unlimited amount of signings.

So where do the Mariners stand? Well, at surface level, all things equal, Seattle isn’t the most appealing organization for most players. As Red Sox beat writer Chris Cotillo points out, Teams in places with strong amateur bases such as Florida, Georgia, Texas and California will likely have advantages in the undrafted free agent market thanks to proximity and familiarity for the players. Legacy teams such as the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies and Dodgers will also have an advantage, having fans everywhere. The state of Washington is by no means devoid of hotbed baseball talent, but the Mariners aren’t the most storied franchise in baseball history. All things considered, it’s certainly something playing against the team.

So, that being said, who can Jerry Dipoto and Co.™ target as potential lifelong Mariners fans? Who can this front office bank on being familiar with the Pacific Northwest feeling like home? The easiest place to start is local colleges. Since this is a lengthy list, I’ll be publishing this article in two stages: today we’ll look at the pitching class, and tomorrow, position players.

The Local Collegians

Stevie Emanuels

Right-handed Pitcher

University of Washington

Emanuels not only grew up in Bellevue, Washington, he elected to stay home and pitch for his hometown Huskies. Baseball America ranks the 6-foot-5 junior it’s 105th best prospect for the 2020 draft, but that doesn’t guarantee he’ll be one of the 160 selected. I’ve had the opportunity to watch Emanuels pitch in a handful of contests at Montlake. He routinely sits 91-94 with an inconsistent high-spin breaking ball and a changeup he’s sparsely employed. Emanuels likely profiles as a high-leverage reliever at the next level, though he was in the rotation during an abbreviated 2020 campaign. Emanuels only started five games during his Dawg career, four of which came this season, compiling a 0.79 ERA over 22.2 innings, punching out 38 in the process.

Tyson Guerrero

Left-Handed Pitcher

Lower Columbia Junior College

Guerrero highlights at 1:48

Guerrero, a product of Chehalis, started his collegiate career at Washington State University, but shortly thereafter transferred to LCJC. Guerrero started two games for the Red Devils this season, notching 10 innings under his belt, striking out 20 batters along the way. He’s undersized at 6-feet tall, though he could stand to add more weight to his athletic 195-pound frame. “Athletic” may be underselling the sophomore a bit as he’s LCJC’s starting centerfielder on days he doesn’t pitch.

Guerrero packs a punch with a mid-90s fastball and a heavy curveball that tunnels well. Both are above average offerings right now, and couple well should he try to profile as a big league reliever. He has a changeup too, but the pitch currently lacks depth or tail, let alone the command to represent a reasonable offering right now. Guerrero currently rates as the 248th best prospect in this class and profiles as the type of relief prospect Dipoto and Co.™ have coveted in the -teen rounds in recent drafts.

Zane Mills

Right-Handed Pitcher

Washington State University

While Mills isn’t going to be the most highly regarded player on this list, he is one of the youngest draft-eligible collegians you can find, turning 21 right before draft day. Over two seasons with the Cougs, Mills racked up a 3.69 ERA over 61 innings, punching out 72 batters. Walks and extra-base hits plagued him as a freshman, but over 25 innings this past season, he surrendered just 10 free passes and allowed only two doubles. His ERA in 2020 sat at 1.44 when play was suspended.

At 6-foot-4, Mills is built like a starter with broad shoulders and a clean delivery, though did a fair amount of closing out ballgames for Washington State. The Portland, Ore., native features a low ¾ arm slot with short arm action and good elbow spiraling. The fastball is his best pitch as it features a good amount of arm-side run and sink, topping out in the low 90s. The pitch generates tons of weak contact and soft ground balls. He also boasts an average slider that has flashed above average.

Mills may be scratching the surface of what he’s capable of, and it may behoove him to return to school for his junior year to see where his stock may go. That being said, he’s never really been a guy that’s been ‘on the radar’ and an opportunity to jump into pro ball at a young age may be too enticing to pass up. Mills favorite big league team is the Boston Red Sox, so that’ll be something to keep an eye on as well.

The Runaways

Some birds choose to leave the nest, forgoing the opportunity to play in front of family. Departing the state of Washington to play ball out-of-state was the route selected. These guys saw their stock rise in some capacity or another, and both represent legitimate prospects.

Jeremy Wu-Yelland

Left-Handed Pitcher

Hawaii

Wu-Yelland has really seen his stock rise since his 2017 graduation from Central Valley HS in Spokane. The 21st rated prep from the state of Washington that year, Wu-Yelland accepted a scholarship to Hawaii where he’d blossom into one of the more intriguing southpaw prospects in this class.

Yelland exploded onto the scene as a freshman for the Rainbow Warriors, striking out 10 of the 13 batters he faced in his first relief appearance. He features a violent, 3/4 delivery with quite a bit of deception. There’s a lot of moving parts and some herky-jerky head action. That erratic nature to his delivery has led to some command issues. The jury is out on whether he’s a starting pitcher or reliever at the next level. He moved into the bullpen this season after walking 32 batters over 46 innings in 2019. That said, he was masterful in 10 innings for Hawaii out of the ‘pen, striking out 13 and tallying a 0.69 ERA. The move to a relief role certainly benefited his stuff too as the fastball now touches 96 and is accompanied by an average changeup and developing breaking ball.

Wu-Yelland represents the 256th best draft prospect in this class according to Baseball America.

Tommy Vail

Left-Handed Pitcher

Notre Dame

Vail was the second-best prep to come out of the state of Washington in 2017 according to Perfect Game, and for good reason. The Bishop Blanchet product boasts a low-90s fastball that can stretch to 94/95 at times. The pitch explodes at the plate with late arm-side run and accompanying life thanks to above average spin rates and a high 3/4 arm slot. Vail throws his fastball an overwhelming majority of the time, but mixes in a changeup that tunnels well with the running heater. He’s mixed in a breaking ball at times, though the pitch is needs refinement.

Just 6-feet tall, Vail has worked primarily in long-relief outings with the Fighting Irish, though he has notched three starts under his belt in his three seasons at South Bend. It’s a reasonably fresh arm having only pitched 89 innings at Notre Dame. Frankly, there’s a little bit of Marco Gonzales in the profile and delivery, albeit with a bit more gas in the tank. Vail is the 348th best prospect in the 2020 draft class and represents another upside option for Seattle.

Tomorrow we’ll feature the best position player prospects likely available to Seattle on the undrafted free agent market. Stay tuned...