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Mariners 2020 draft preview two-pack: SS Harold Coll & RHP Blade Tidwell

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A couple potential pop-up picks who fit Seattle’s mold.

Harold Coll on Instagram

Most of our draft previews have focused on possible first round picks, but today’s double feature will cover a couple prepsters who might be available for Seattle’s 3rd-to-6th picks of the draft.

SS Harold Coll - Georgia Premier Academy (HS) - Committed to University of North Carolina

Coll is one of the better known names in this draft beyond the first round, thanks to an appealing profile bolstered by an adept marketing push. That’s no knock on Coll, it’s a savvy play that would be great to see from more young players in building name recognition, but it’s remarkable to have easier access to high-quality video of an 18-year-old hitting triple-digits on throws across the diamond than it is to find useful clips of Jarred Kelenic in the outfield. Perhaps a big reason for that push is how dramatically Coll may have improved his physicality since he last took the field on the showcase circuit.

Coll has the arm to easily stick on the left side of the field, or anywhere on the field for that matter, with clips of him pumping it up over 100 mph across the diamond (to a skittish-at-best first baseman), and clocked at 97 mph at a Prep Baseball Report (PBR) showcase this spring. His hands are fluid and most reports on him see no reason he can’t be an above-average defensive shortstop at the big league level. His foot speed is adequate for the position, and while he’s not a burner, his focus this winter appears to have been on strength. He’s added a lot visually from late-2019 through this spring and now, and his swing is smoother than most for a high schooler.

There’s a lot to like in Coll, and if he were in the midst of a normal showcase circuit right now he could be pushing up draft boards and rankings. While he’s delivered at a top program in Georgia, the key knock on the 5’11, 185 lbs Coll was inconsistency at the dish in summer ball last year. FanGraphs notes he didn’t do damage to “40 fastballs”, a.k.a mid-to-upper-80s heat, and Baseball America worried about his breaking ball recognition with a propensity to chase. Though he’s gotten to his power in games at times, transporting that toolset from BP highlights to in-game impact is a question the pandemic robbed him from being able to more definitively answer for scouts.

The University of North Carolina commit should be available for Seattle at pick No. 64, though depending on how teams view him, he could be gone in that range or not until far later. What it will take dollar-wise to draw Coll out of his commitment will be the determinant for if he fits the bill for the Mariners, as a significant overslot deal would heavily impact much of the rest of their draft. For a system thin on impact middle infielders, Coll would immediately be near the top of the list, though he and Noelvi Marte might quickly have to jockey for minor league reps at shortstop in the near future.

RHP Blade Tidwell - Loretto HS (TN) - Committed to University of Tennessee

In prepping this week, I wanted to profile a couple players who could be considered “pop-up guys”. Staff writer Joe Doyle suggested Tidwell, who fits the profile to a tee, as a lesser-ranked prep arm whose late addition of velocity was enough to intrigue scouts, but the abbreviated season limited his chances to show just how much he’d improved. Last summer, Tidwell was a 6’4 prep RHP working 88-92 on his fastball, with a promising mid-70s curve and the occasional changeup. That you won’t find his name on multiple prospect lists is a testament to the enormity of the task of draft scouting in the best of times, to say nothing of these unprecedented circumstances. Tidwell comes in at No. 408 on Baseball America’s rankings (which, again, go subscribe, they wrote scouting reports on 500 players). Tidwell, however, looks like a different player this spring and summer.

With games back on in some parts of the country, Tidwell has gotten to show his growth, and it’s been impressive. Here’s a clip from one of his first outings back on the field.

And video from his performance today, with a good deal of run on his heater at above-average big league velocity (ignore the typo).

Tidwell’s high school, Loretto, is the alma mater of both current Padres prospect, LHP Ryan Weathers, and Ryan’s father, David Weathers, who had a 19-year MLB career as a pitcher. Tidwell has credited the elder Weathers as a mentor on improving his in-game mentality. The fastball-curve combo has worked well for Tidwell thus far as he threw a no-hitter in one of the few games before the high school season was cancelled this spring. He has the size teams love to project on and could easily add strength to stick in a rotation with improvements on his off-speed.

What’s left to see is how teams like the Mariners will handle these sorts of players. In years past, if a team felt they had a prep they were high on, they could often wait until after the first 10 rounds, then use some leftover slot money to make a more compelling offer above the $100k base limit on signing bonuses for rounds 11-40. The Mariners did this recently with Vancouver, WA RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs, and to a lesser extent with players like young RHPs Dutch Landis, Tyler Driver, and Anthony Tomczak. Instead, with MLB’s hard $20k cap on signing bonuses beyond the draft itself, teams have locked themselves out of enticing most high schoolers to sign, knowing the signing bonus is the only time they’ll receive any meaningful pay until they make the majors. Unless Seattle is willing to go after Tidwell or someone similar with one of their precious six picks, they likely won’t have a chance to get them at all.