It’s a big draft for the Seattle Mariners as they look to turn the corner from a rebuild into a competitive window. They’ve assembled a deep farm, rich in pitching and outfield talent. There’s still work to do on the dirt, but by and large the team is in a position to take a little more risks in the draft.
Selecting no. 12 overall affords Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter the ability to reach for upside a little more than in years past. Emerson Hancock was a slam dunk pick with the 6th selection in 2020. He possessed plenty of ceiling and floor. In 2019 and 2018, George Kirby and Logan Gilbert were both safer picks, but they represented key cogs in a rebuild. They’re big league arms, something the system desperately lacked.
Now, with reinforcements on the precipice of debuting for the big league club, the team can select who they deem to be the best player available without any reluctance or apprehension.
Sources close to the team have really reinforced they are looking to grab a bat at the top of the draft this year. Problem is, there’s not a lot of impact bats, especially impact infielders, expected to be on the board at no. 12. Well, at least not on the college side. Team officials have suggested they’re plenty comfortable grabbing a high school bat this year if they believe in the upside.
Let’s try to forecast where the Mariners might go with their first ten picks. For this exercise, I will not only be considering team needs and best player available, but also taking into account bonus pools and what financially makes sense. The Mariners have $8,526,000 to spend on 20 picks this year, and every pick has a slotted value. So you have to stay cognizant of that.
Round 1, Pick 12
Matt McLain, Shortstop, UCLA
Slot Value: $4,366,400
McLain checks a lot of boxes for the Mariners. He simply makes a ton of sense. The team has Noelvi Marte coming through the ranks, but fears on his ability to stick at the position should really be taken into consideration when supplementing the farm. Even if Marte does stay at shortstop, putting your eggs into one basket can be a dangerous game.
Hard to understate how important the last three weeks have been for Matt McLain. His stock was falling, but now he's killing the ball. He's got 7 bombs in the last 11 games. Pretty solid bet to go in the Top ~15 picks right now. Just 7 homers in 2019-2020.pic.twitter.com/fNkxM6sYmz— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 26, 2021
McLain is at least an average hitter with below average power, maybe a tick better. He’s a solid average defender at the position with an average arm. His skillset may fit better at second base or centerfield, but he’s a better bet to play shortstop at the big league level than Marte is, in my opinion. McLain’s 70-grade speed will play anywhere on the field, and he’ll add value on the base paths.
McLain has drawn interest inside the top ten range with the Angels and Mets, as well as the Nationals at pick 11, so I’m not sure how much money you can save in selecting him here. In this case, I have Seattle signing him for slot value here as it appears they’d be lucky if McLain makes it this far.
Round 2, Pick 48
Dylan Smith, Right-Handed Pitcher, Alabama
Slot Value: $1,543,600
The Mariners system has been built on the bump, and for good reason. Seattle has proven very effective at developing starting pitching and getting the most out of future projection in arms. The Crimson Tide’s wiry, athletic righty checks a lot of boxes in what the team seeks in scouting.
one of the biggest Draft risers this spring has been @AlabamaBSB RHP Dylan Smith— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) May 2, 2021
he was drafted out of HS but 2 years in the bullpen w/ a 6.26 ERA took him way off the radar. then he moved to the rotation this year and has been dynamite
career-high 11 Ks vs. Missouri yesterday: pic.twitter.com/9wVVrOPXsz
Smith is a four-pitch righty with a big fastball, up to 97 this season. He’s got a really quick arm, impressive balance and improved fluidity on the bump. The curveball is his best secondary with big 12-6 break, flashing plus though more commonly sitting solid average. He throws a firm, mid-80s slider that has been quite effective against right-handed hitters and shows promise as a future above average weapon. The changeup lags behind the two breaking balls, but some evaluators still believe it’s a future fringe-average offering; usable at the big league level to lefties.
Smith really filled up the strike zone this year thanks to improved strength and rhythm on the mound. He transitioned from the bullpen into the rotation this season and really looks the part of a future big league starter. Over 16 starts, Smith struck out 113 batters, issuing 20 free passes. Of note, ten of those walks came over the course of a string of four starts. By and large, he pounded the strike zone all season, something sure to appeal to the model Seattle has curated over the last handful of years.
Round 3, Pick 83
Chad Dallas, Right-Handed Pitcher, Tennessee
Slot Value: $733,100
If there was any one pitcher who fits the Seattle Mariners model to the T, it’s Dallas. While he doesn’t have prototypical size (just 5-foot-11, 205 pounds), the Knoxville native fills up the strike zone better than most in the country. Over 90.2 innings this season, Dallas punched out 106 batters and walked just 19.
Kumar's counterpart, Chad Dallas, brought along some promise as well. Did give up two solo bombs, but struck out seven and walked none across seven innings. FB 91-94 early, down to 89-92 late. Became SL dominant late (82-86) and showed good CH 85-87. Flashed CB at 77. 10 s/m. pic.twitter.com/nmgC4Gd1sP— Tyler Jennings (@TylerJennings24) April 17, 2021
Dallas doesn’t have overpowering stuff, but it’s a pro arsenal. The fastball is fairly average, routinely 91-93, though he has tickled 96 a few times and has been up to 97. The slider is thrown hard in the mid 80s, up to 88, while the curveball is his best secondary with solid depth and bite usually 78-81 mph. He also flashes a below average changeup. Dallas is a good bet to start at the next level thanks to his solid command and three pitch mix.
He certainly fits the big conference starting pitcher archetype the Mariners have preferred to target in rounds 2 through 5 in years past.
Round 4, Pick 112
Jackson Merrill, Shortstop, Saverna Park HS (MD)
Slot Value: $512,400
One of the biggest goals from this draft for the Seattle Mariners is filling the need for depth on the dirt up and down the system. With McLain in the fold, Dipoto and Hunter go for some upside in the prep ranks here with Merrill. A late pop-up in scouting circles, Merrill added significant strength this winter and became a far more physical player in recent months.
As the cold weather #dudes continue to pop, SS/3B Jackson Merrill out of Severna Park HS (MD) is a name that seems as hot as any right now. Physical 6’2” frame with a budding hit tool and all fields power that is showing in game⬇️ @UKBaseball commit. #MLBDraft— Ian Smith (@FlaSmitty) June 3, 2021
( @MikeMorea1) pic.twitter.com/7Vtvwz0DJs
Merrill certainly has a shot to stick at shortstop where his lateral fluidity, above average arm and soft hands play nicely. If he continues growing, it’s a profile that will work well at third base too. In any case, you’re adding Merrill to McLain, giving yourself a good shot at finding your shortstop of the future here.
Merrill’s calling card is now the bat after his work in the weight room. There’s tons of bat speed and it’s easy to envision plus power here. He draws high marks for his approach and zone recognition, though playing in Maryland does limit the competition he has the opportunity to see on a nightly basis.
Committed to Kentucky, Merrill is generally viewed as sign-able, though this may be a spot where Seattle has to splurge a bit.
Yucaipa, California shortstop/third baseman Caiden Huber is another name to watch here.
Round 5, Pick 144
Hunter Parks, Right-Handed Pitcher, Florence-Darlington Technical College
Slot Value: $379,000
For my money, Parks has some of the sneakiest upside in the 2021 class. He’s got an extremely quick arm and a frame to really dream on.
This kid is going to go early. Flo-Dar Tech RHP Hunter Parks makes it look easy. Up to 98 this Fall. FB ordinarily rides 19"-21". Slider is a wipeout sweeper. Flashes a changeup more and more often. Have heard phenomenal things of his makeup. #MLBDraftpic.twitter.com/9ikrYUeZTf— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) December 29, 2020
At 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, Parks has a lot of development in front of him. The fastball has been up to 98, but as the season progressed he settled in more comfortably 91-93. The heater is data-friendly with plenty of late ride. Parks throws a tight, low-80s slider with some late life and sweep. He’s shown advanced command for the pitch. He works in a fading changeup in the high-70s as well.
Parks has an enticing operation on the bump. I think there’s a starting pitcher here.
A South Carolina commit, Parks may save the Mariners a little money here if he elects to sign.
Round 6, Pick 174
Michael Rothenberg, Catcher, Duke
Slot Value: $286,000
Seattle will have to make up some of their over-spending at some point in the draft and the 6th round presents a pretty good opportunity to fill a need with potentially a haircut.
Duke shortstop Ethan Murray takes the first pitch he sees and drives it into the left-center field gap for a double. He scored two batters later on a sac fly by catcher Michael Rothenberg. Duke up 1-0 over Notre Dame. #MLBDraft pic.twitter.com/cZseDg7vV2— Dan Zielinski III (@DanZielinski3) March 21, 2021
Rothenberg is a 4th-year senior in his second draft-eligible year, coming off a down year at the plate. That said, in 2020 the switch-hitting Blue Devil backstop hit .349 with a .551 on-base percentage. Most evaluators believe it’s a fringy hit tool with above average raw power that he’s been working to tap into.
Behind the plate, Rothenberg has a big arm that’ll play at the big league level, though his receiving skills and mobility have come into question. If MLB moves to robo-umps, Rothenberg is the type of prospect who’s toolset could play in a platoon role at the highest level.
Round 7, Pick 204
Michael Kirian, Left-Handed Pitcher, Louisville
Slot Value: $224,000
Another player in his second draft-eligible year, Kirian is a big, imposing lefty who’s arsenal and frame could fit in a rotation, but probably fits best in a bullpen.
This was the best that I've seen Michael Kirian (LHP, @LouisvilleBSB), who bounced back nicely after a shaky start last weekend. 6'6"/260 lefty showed feel and missed bats with all three pitches today.— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) April 3, 2021
6IP, 7H, 3R, 3ER, 4BB, 11K (W, 5-0).
CH: 82-84 pic.twitter.com/hp7eETDfdd
At 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, Kirian is a lot of pitcher. The fastball has been as hot as 95, but more comfortably sits 90-93 in extended outings. He started for the Cardinals in 2021, but has a long track record of success in their bullpen from 2018 into 2020.
Kirian has a funky cross-body delivery that presents some deception. He has an average slider that flashes above average at times, as well as a curveball and a changeup. He’ll need to continue refining his command and ability to throw good strikes, but there’s some good clay here.
Round 8, Pick 234
Gavin Dugas, Outfielder, LSU
Slot Value: $178,600
Dugas has always been a fascinating player to me. It’s a short, stocky build with big raw power and burgeoning bat speed. There are times he looks stiff at the plate, but when he gets his A-Swing off there’s athleticism and explosiveness in spades. He’s got twitchy hips, though there are times he can’t identify spin and really gets locked up. He’s an average runner, but if Seattle can unlock his full athletic ability and really get his body moving as it looks like it should, Dugas looks like a big leaguer to me, cut from the same cloth as a guy like Adam Duvall.
Over 62 games this season, Dugas hit .295 with 19 homers. The 63 strikeouts are a bit of a concern, but players selected in this range don’t come without their developmental hurdles. He’s likely a left fielder at the next level.
Round 9, Pick 264
Caden Vire, Left-Handed Pitcher, Skyview High School (WA)
Slot Value: $156,100
Admittedly, this one may be a bit presumptive and lives in the necessity Vire would be willing to forego Arizona State. At 6-foot-5, 190 pounds, Vire has a drool-worthy projectable frame with long, lanky levers. He’s merely scratching the surface of what he may eventually be capable of on the mound.
Caden Vire (2021 WA) looking good out of the ‘pen for Baseball Northwest. Long, Uber-projectable frame at 6-5, sitting 85-88 with big extension and angle, quality slider in upper-70s too #ASU commit #WWBAWorlds @PG_PacificNW pic.twitter.com/sdc9IsHQQG— Perfect Game Scout (@PG_Scouting) October 8, 2020
Vire has been up to 91 with tons of english, some arm-side run coming from an wonky, short-arm slot. He’s something of a Joey Gerber, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale amalgamation on the bump. He’s shown flashes of a big breaking ball in the mid 70s, though he’s still finding feel for the pitch. He’s also got a changeup that features solid separation and conviction.
Vire won’t even be 18 on draft day and is without a doubt a huge projection play. He ranks inside the Top 300 over at Prospects Live, while Perfect Game ranks the bluechip southpaw the 3rd best prospect in the state of Washington and a top 20 lefty in the country.
Teams may want to see Vire get more physical on the mound before taking the plunge in the draft, but this represents a solid opportunity for the Mariners to grab a really talented lefty before he hypothetically ascends into a more expensive tier for the 2024 MLB Draft.
Round 10, Pick 294
Glenn Albanese, Right-Handed Pitcher, Louisville
Slot Value: $146,300
It’s been a peculiar ride for the 6-foot-6 Albanese, who’s been injured in a myriad ways since his arrival to Louisville. Bone spurs in 2021, Tommy John in 2017. COVID cancelled 2020. He’s never been able to get his footing and any momentum on the mound. He made four starts this season, posting a 3.71 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 3 walks over 17 innings.
Albanese’s fastball has been up to 97 with some ride and run coming from a longer arm action. He’s got a huge, hammer curveball though he struggled to command the pitch for much of 2021. He also offers an inconsistent changeup.
At almost 23 years old, Albanese doesn’t have much leverage left. At worst, he’s a dynamic reliever who can be stretched out over multiple innings. At best, he finally gets some steadiness to his routine and develops into the starter everyone envisioned in 2017.
The 2021 MLB Draft will take place July 11 and will run through July 13.