With the major league club faltering through the first third of the season thus far and the MLB Draft slated to be held in Seattle next month, it seems like a perfect time to turn our attention towards the future as a bit of a palate-cleanser. In addition to the 22nd pick in the draft this year, Seattle will also select 29th and 30th in the draft thanks to the extra pick the club was awarded for Julio Rodríguez’s Rookie of the Year campaign, as well as a Competitive Balance pick the team was granted.
A quick refresher on how draft slot values work: essentially each draft slot has a dollar value allotted for that pick. The sum of all draft slot values equals a budget for each organization to use in an attempt to sign all of their draft picks. Often times, high school players or collegiate players with eligibility remaining can leverage the option of returning to school for another season in order to increase their contract offer. That being said, the Mariners—who have a couple extra picks—also have a bit extra money to sign their draftees. Seattle could use those extra picks and funds a couple of different ways. If they want to replenish the farm with a larger quantity of relatively safe, lower-ceiling guys that they feel confident they can sign, they could target a wider pool of college juniors with limited leverage. More excitingly, they could opt to go the “high risk, high reward” route and use one or two (or even three!) of their top 30 picks on potentially franchise-altering talent that is likely to demand an over-slot value deal, and fill out the rest of the draft with lower-ceiling college seniors or those who will sign for slot value or below.
With three picks in the back half of the first round, I’ve singled out a few players for Mariners fans to familiarize themselves with that may well be on the board and strong options for Seattle once they’re on the clock. For the purpose of this series, I’ve used MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline’s Top 100 Draft Prospects and only identified players ranking no higher than 20th on the list.
You’ll see a trend with the players identified in this prospect preview. Intentional or not, it seems that the Mariners’ farm system has produced players in “waves” during the Jerry Dipoto era. I tend to view the Julio/Raleigh/Kirby/Gilbert wave (as well as Kelenic and Brash, although they weren’t drafted by Seattle) as one grouping, with the next “wave” seemingly headed up by Harry Ford, Cole Young, Gabriel Guerrero, Tyler Locklear, etc. Most of the players we’re looking at today are college upperclassmen that have the potential to catch-up to that group this summer, hopefully crescendoing at the big league level simultaneously in the not-too-distant future. Now, I don’t have it on any authority that the club necessarily intends to utilize that approach at this year’s draft, but given the unique nature of their arsenal of picks, it’s not hard to imagine the club selecting at least one of these guys inside the top 30 next month.
Before diving into our new crop of draft prospects, a quick update on the group identified back in January:
SS Matt Shaw, Maryland #18 (previously 20):
62 G, 24 HR, 69 RBI, 18 SB, 43 BB, 42 SO, .341/.445/.697
Shaw has played his way (slightly) up Prospect Pipeline’s draft board with a campaign that has seen him nominated for the Golden Spikes Award.
OF Travis Honeyman, Boston College #56 (previously 23):
39 G, 6 HR, 30 RBI, 10 SB, 13 BB, 21 SO, .304/.383/.534
Honeyman missed a significant chunk of the season with a shoulder injury.
RHP Tanner Witt, Texas #41 (previously 24):
6 GS. 10.2 IP, 8 BB, 8 SO, 10.97 ERA, 1.78 WHIP
The hulking prototypical ace made his return from Tommy John surgery, but the results leave some to be desired.
RHP Travis Sykora, Round Rock HS #31 (previously 27):
The big-bodied flamethrower is about as projectable as they come, and Seattle may be one of few teams armed with enough cash to sign him away from his commitment to Texas.
C/SS/OF Cole Carrigg, San Diego State #45 (previously 32):
42 G, 2 HR, 27 RBI, 17 SB, 9 BB, 22SO, .303/.357/.458
A switch-hitting super utilityman, Carrigg’s bat-to-ball skills could be just the type of advanced hitter Seattle is interested in infusing into the system with the next wave of prospects.
RHP Juaron Watts-Brown, Oklahoma State #63 (previously 39):
17 G, 15 GS, 82.1 IP, 48 BB, 124 SO, 5.03 ERA, 1.41 WHIP
The transition to the Big-12 proved challenging for the Long Beach State transfer, but the M’s have shown an ability to make something interesting out of prospects of lesser caliber than Watts-Brown in recent years.
SS/3B Colt Emerson, Glenn HS #27 (previously 45):
Emerson seems to be getting connected to Seattle in draft circles recently and just put a bow on his senior campaign by winning Ohio’s Gatorade Player of the Year Award.
LHP Cameron Johnson, IMG Academy #40 (previously 50):
I have a hard time not falling in love with tall lefties that can bring the heat, and Johnson fits the bill. He’s received glowing reports for the improvements he’s made this season, and has moved up draft boards accordingly.
OF Chase Davis, Arizona #39 (previously 51):
57 G, 21 HR, 74 RBI, 0 SB, 43 BB, 40 SO, .362/.489/.724
Another Golden Spikes finalist, Davis’ combination of power and on-base ability make him one of the most appealing bats on the college circuit.
3B/SS Eric Bitonti, Aquinas HS #65 (previously 57):
An Oregon Duck commit, Bitonti already possesses a big league body, and projects as a well-rounded corner infielder.
SS Nazzan Zantello, Christian Brothers HS #52 (previously 58):
Another athlete seemingly destined for a future up the middle, Zanetello is more wiry and projectable than big league ready.
C Michael Carico, Davidson #105 (previously 63):
21 G, 7 HR, 18 RBI, 1 SB, 17 BB, 14 SO, .350/.514./.688
Carico missed a majority of the season with a broken bone in his wrist, but was his typically productive self at the plate when healthy.
RHP Alonzo Tredwell, UCLA #58 (previously 72):
9 GS, 45.1 IP, 12 BB, 51 SO, 3.57 ERA, 1.21 WHIP
Tredwell was a success in transitioning to a starting role this season; however his campaign was cut short due to a back injury.
LHP Hunter Dietz, Calvary Christian HS #139 (previously 75):
Dietz is a big tall lefty armed with a three-pitch mix. High school pitching doesn’t seem like the likeliest of paths for the Mariners early on in this draft, but teams often draft for talent rather than positional need.
Once again in an attempt to let you determine your favorite options without the influence of knowing their MLB.com Prospect Pipeline rank, I’ve withheld where each potential draftee lands on the list until the end of the article.
1B/RHP Bryce Eldridge, Madison HS
6’7” 225lb Throws: Right Bats: Left
Eldridge is the exact type of prospect Seattle could have a leg up on due to the extra funds they’ve got at their disposal on account of their extra top-30 draft picks. Heralded as possibly the most potent power bat in this year’s draft class, Eldridge has made waves as a two-way player as a prep, but his future is likely in the batter’s box, and if the Mariners are willing to roll the dice on what could develop into one of the game’s top sluggers, Eldridge would immediately provide a huge lift to the position player side of the farm system. Were the team to select Eldridge, they’d almost certainly need to pair it with a college senior, or small school player that is willing to sign under slot value in order to allow the club to allocate a little extra funds to lure Eldridge away from his commitment to Alabama.
6’1” 195lb Throws: Right Bats: Right
What he gives up in age to older brother and Oakland A’s 2021 2nd-rounder Zack Gelof, the younger brother makes up for in power, edging him out 60 to 55 by Prospect Pipeline’s 20-80 scale. Equipped with an oft-praised throwing arm, Gelof has been primarily a third baseman throughout his tenure at Virginia, but he’s also seen significant time at the opposite corner, as well as the outfield. The righty slugger went just 2-for-24 during his time on the Cape last summer, but his .370/.445/.597 line in the Northwoods League the summer prior proves that a wood bat shouldn’t be viewed as a limitation for him. Gelof was named an All-American, and a nominee for the Golden Spikes Award following the season, and has the makings of a star level player that could fill a need at any corner for Seattle.
Really interesting to see whether Jake Gelof can unseat his brother Zack as the highest-drafted player in family history. Zack went no. 60 overall in 2021. Jake is trending toward being a Top 50 pick. Entered today slashing .356/.466/.842.— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) April 15, 2023
6’2” 205lb Throws: Right Bats: Left
After tearing it up at Samford for two seasons, Ledbetter proved he could hang with the big dogs in 2023, transferring up to Mississippi State and posting a .320/.452/.574 slash line with 12 homers and 17 stolen bases. He also walked (47) more than he struck out (36) while impressing scouts with his ability to man center field. While he might need to slide to a corner in the pro ranks, his bat should play at whatever position he lands. Equipped with a “work the count, use the whole field” mentality, the former New England Collegiate League standout represents the type of hitter the Mariners claim to covet (although are inexplicably devoid of). A late riser, the Alabama native may be available under slot value if taken in the top-30.
SS Cooper Pratt, Magnolia Heights HS
6’4” 195lb Throws: Right Bats: Right
Heralded for his bat-to-ball ability and strike-zone awareness, the big-bodied shortstop has flashed the potential for big-league skills across the board. It’d be a little surprising to see the Mariners select a high school shortstop in the first round for the second year in a row, but if there’s a guy you make an exception for, this might be it. Particularly given the difference in frame between Pratt and last year’s top selection Cole Young, it’s easy to imagine one of the two moving off of the six-hole as they approach the big leagues. Pratt seems passionate about his commitment to Ole Miss, but money talks, and Seattle has plenty to play with next month.
6’4” 220lb Throws: Right Bats: Left
Schanuel may well have the single most eye-popping stat you’re going to read here today. En route the posting a .447/.615/.868 slash line and homering 19 times last season, the lefty slugger racked up 71 walks compared to just 14 strikeouts. While his defensive home remains to be seen–he’s seemingly destined for a corner outfield spot if he doesn’t stick at first base–there seems to be few questions about his bat, even with his underwhelming stint on the Cape in 2022. Another Golden Spikes Award nominee, Schanuel uses a smooth stroke to lift balls to all parts of the park. With his size, power, and plate discipline, the Florida native seems like a safe bet to climb the minor league ranks quickly, and there’s already been some industry folks projecting him to Seattle on an under-slot deal.
Nolan Schanuel over his college career:— (@mason_mcrae) April 10, 2023
.383/.497/.690 in 674 PA.
96.2 avg EV, 106.3 90th EV.
9% zone whiff, 16% chase.
63% of batted balls > 95 mph.
1.000+ OPS every season.
The Tyler Locklear of the ‘23 draft.pic.twitter.com/IBPziln88Y
6’1” 180lb Throws: Right Bats: Left
There’s seemingly no shortage of power hitting infielders with a demonstrated ability to work a count, and Taylor is yet another one. The former Cape Cod League all-star slashed an impressive .306/.430/.635 for the Horned Frogs last season, swatting 23 home runs, and posting 54 walks to 60 strikeouts. Taylor, who was 39-for-40 on stolen base attempts in his college career–boasts a frame that might precipitate a move to a middle infield spot as he climbs the ranks. Even with a slight uptick in strikeouts as he tapped into more power during his Junior season, Taylor has shown enough of a hit tool to inspire hope that he could be establishing himself as one of the more consistent offense-producing middle infielders in the league sooner than later.
5’10” 200lb Throws: Right Bats: Right
Troy has been a hitting machine since debuting in the Northwoods League as an 18-year old back in 2020. The San Jose native has steadily increased his production since OPSing .831 in a full time role as a true freshman in 2021, and slashed .394/.478/.699 this past season against stout Pac-12 competition. I’m always a sucker for guys who have success in the Cape Cod League–where the top collegiate prospects duke it out with wood bats for an abbreviated summer season–and Troy did all he could to cement himself as a 1st-round talent there last summer, when he was selected as the league’s top prospect following the season. MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline calls his ability to consistently make hard contact his best skill, while also praising him for his pitch recognition and ability to lay off stuff outside the zone. Troy addressed concerns over his lack of walks by posting a 12.0% walk rate in 2023 compared to a strikeout rate of 14.2%. While the Mariners haven’t had the best of luck targeting college bats early on in recent drafts, Troy could be the type of difference-making hitter that could catch up quickly to the next wave of prospects and be contributing at the major league level sooner than later. Troy represents a different type of hitter than the club has had success producing at the major league level in that he profiles as more “bat-to-ball”–not to say he’s devoid of power, he clobbered 17 long balls in 58 games last season–than “three-true-outcomes”.
6’5” 200lb Throws: Left Bats: Left
Whitman burst onto the scene in 2023 after transferring from Purdue, where he pitched sparingly over his first two seasons. Making 15 starts last season, the stout southpaw logged 81.0 innings, racking up 100 strikeouts while posting a 2.56 ERA and 1.14 WHIP. He uses a three-pitch mix consisting of a fastball that sits in the mid-90s, a low-80s fading change, and a low-80s slider that grades as his best offering. Given the Mariners’ recent track record of success with collegiate arms, it’d be interesting to see what they can do with a hulking left-hander, something they haven’t had the opportunity to see through to the major league level during the Jerry Dipoto regime. Another small school guy, Whitman might just be willing to cash in on his breakout season at a discounted rate that would allow Seattle to go over-slot on another top-30 pick.
An up-close look at Kent State lefty Joe Whitman, who looked great today against EMU. Held velo throughout; legit slider. Leads MAC in ERA (2.61), 3rd in Ks (88).— Burke Granger (@burkegranger) May 14, 2023
7.1IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 2BB, 5K (W, 8-1).
FB: 90-95 (93.1) | 2392 spin | 2 s/m
SL: 82-87 (84.6) | 2697 spin | 11 s/m pic.twitter.com/XEdF59l1ye
6’4” 225lb Throws: Right Bats: Right
While teams typically aren’t inclined to draft for need, it’s hard not to recognize that Wilken has the potential to perfectly fill the club’s void at the cornerstone in the next wave of prospects.The Mariners haven’t had much to show as far as home-grown third basemen since producing Kyle Seager, but the range they’re selecting in this year is plentiful with options that could be the next franchise success story. Wilken is basically your prototypical power hitting corner infielder, socking 31 home runs in 64 games last season, but the 67 walks to just 54 strikeouts hint that he’s more than another home run-or-bust type hitter. And bonus points for proving he can still slug with the best of them, as proven by his 6 HR, .950 OPS season on the Cape in 2021, when he won league MVP honors swinging a wood bat against the top collegiate arms in the nation. Might his big bat coupled with an apparent knack to C the proverbial Z be enough for Jerry & Co. to deem him worthy of a first-round selection?
Brock Wilken hits his 31st HR of the year— ESPN (@espn) June 17, 2023
He is now tied with Jac Caglianone for the most HRs in college baseball this season pic.twitter.com/xYJdEVXeJu
Did you pick out some favorites from this sampling of talent available in the Draft? Time to find out where everyone ranks on Prospect Pipeline, headed into the 2023 Draft season:
#19) SS Tommy Troy, Maryland
#21) 1B/RHP Bryce Eldridge, Madison HS
#24) 3B Brock Wilken, Wake Forest
#29) 1B/OF Nolan Schanuel, Florida Atlantic
#30) 3B Brayden Taylor, TCU
#42) 3B Jake Gelof, Virginia
#43) SS Cooper Pratt, Magnolia Heights HS
#46) LHP Joe Whitman, Kent State
#48) OF Colton Ledbetter, Mississippi State