By Jared Stanger
Believe it or not, I’ve actually already started working on the 2018 NFL Draft. Very soon, I’ll be posting some early work on guys that already have 1st round buzz, and/or that caught my eye last year.
But, in the meantime, I’m also a pretty big fan of the MLB Draft. I don’t know that I’ll do many pieces on Mariners draft possibilities, but I have enough of a sense to do one piece that will equate to about a 6-round mock draft.
A brief history of my track record on the Mariners draft:
I’ve never had any clue on any picks outside of the 1st round. Due to signability issues on HS/College underclassmen, as well as guys signing under slot in order to go over slot on early-rounders; it’s very tough to know the direction an MLB franchise will take in the draft. This is mostly for fun.
I’ve done pretty well guessing the 1st rounders, though. I didn’t guess Kyle Lewis last year because he was a projected top-5 pick that ended up falling to Seattle at #11. Instead, I wanted Pittsburgh high school OF Alex Kiriloff. Kiriloff began his pro career as an 18 year old hitting .306/.341/.794 with 7 HR, 33 RBI in 55 games of rookie ball.
In 2015 I absolutely nailed the pick of Nick Neidert at #60.
Here is a tweet from the night before the draft:
And this tweet was right when Seattle went on the clock:
Later in that draft season I would have preferred Seattle draft Aaron Nola. (Anybody notice that AJax is hitting .301 with 9 HR, 23 RBI in 28 games for the Braves affiliate? Might still be some upside left in him.)
I don’t know what to make of DJ’s career so far. Injuries have definitely hurt his progression, and I wonder if he ever fully recovered psychologically from when his jaw was broken by a stray pitch.
(Sidenote: Logan Shore didn’t sign out of HS, but instead attended University of Florida where he posted a 30-11 career record, 2.42 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, led the Gators to consecutive CWS berths, and ended up drafted 2nd round, #47 by Oakland. Currently 2.84 ERA, 28 SO in 25 IP, 1.11 WHIP in High-A ball.)
Obviously Correa ended up going #1 overall. Plawecki was drafted in the 1st round compensatory picks at #35 overall.
So what are we looking at in the present? Seattle drafts at #17 overall this year (followed by 55, 93, 123, 153, etc. After the 3rd round just add 30 to each pick.).
My sense on the overall draft class is that it’s very thin in college bats. Pretty good crop of college arms. Good group of HS arms. The common thought is that Jerry Dipoto prefers college players. In his first draft with Seattle, Jerry and staff went college in the 1st round, HS in the 2nd round, and then 13 consecutive college players before going HS again in the 16th round.
It’s pretty strong evidence going 15-1 in favor of college players that a GM has a preference for the more-developed minds/bodies of college players to the upside in a high school projection.
Assuming presumed top-2 pick Brendon McKay is drafted as a pitcher; the top three college bats per Baseball America are:
UVA 1B Pavin Smith (reminds me of Ackley…buyer beware)
Vandy OF Jeren Kendall
UVA OF Adam Haseley
All three of these rank in BA’s top 13 overall. So, we may not see any fall to Seattle. The top two college bats ranked AFTER #17 are Missouri State’s 3B Jake Burger (#19) and UC Irvine 2B Keston Hiura (#20).
Burger has a ton of power (hit 21 HR in 2016 over 56 games…4th in NCAA with 19 HR, 53 RBI this year in 46 games). Showing improved plate discipline this year with 34 BB to 26 SO. Burger reminds me enough of DJ Peterson to cause some pause, though.
Hiura is hitting .417 with an insane .561 OBP. 43 BB to 26 SO. Some pop with 8 HR, 33 RBI. Wish he had more speed, though (4 SB in 9 attempts). Similar to Kyle Lewis, Keston has an odd foot tap to long horse stride in his swing.
I don’t love either bat at 17.
Interestingly, BA has listed two college LHP on either side of the M’s pick at #17: Oregon’s david Peterson at 16 (MLB.com has him at #31), Houston’s Seth Romero at 18 (MLB.com has him at #20). Both guys rank in the top 10 in the country in SO/9 (Romero #1 at 15.24, Peterson #7 at 12.96).
Romero has been a guy with some redflags. First, there were issues with his weight exceeding team expectations, and then last month Seth was suspended by the team, which was his second such suspension. I prefer to stay away from this kind of player.
Peterson, on the other hand, is 9-2 with a 1.94 ERA, 0.96 WHIP, and leads the country in SO/BB with his mark of 17.83 (107 SO and 6 BB in 74.1 innings this year). Peterson goes 6’6″/215lbs, and works with a FB, CB, CH setup with the FB touching 94-95mph.
recently struck out 20 to only 1 walk over 9 shutout innings vs ASU last week.
The most impressive part of that video is Peterson’s ability to hit his spots. His catcher sets up low-in: he hits low-in. Sets up middle-out: hits middle-out. The strikeouts are great, but the NCAA-leading 0.73 BB/9 is Peterson’s best attribute.
If he’s there, I think Peterson would be Jerry’s preference for the pick by Seattle at #17.
Other potential college arms in the 1st: UCLA’s Griffin Canning, LSU’s Alex Lange, Missouri’s Tanner Houck.
If Peterson is NOT there, I hope Jerry considers a HS arm. My preference is Colleyville Heritage RHP Alex Scherff. BA ranks him only #52 overall right now (MLB at #51). Roughly 6’2″/215lbs (sometimes listed up to 6’4″), Scherff was working 94-95mph last summer with a really good 85mph changeup with good arm action and pitch movement. Alex shows very advanced command of both FB and CH for a high schooler. The slider was his 3rd pitch in 2016, and not terribly impressive.
Video from 2017 suggests Scherff has developed a pretty nasty curve. Either that, or he’s getting his change to drop off the table. I don’t know, but it’s nasty like young King Felix. Report is also that the FB is up to 97-98mph this year, and Scherff has been damn near unhittable in his HS league. Most recent stats I could find on Scherff had him at 69 SO to 4 BB (17.25 SO/BB), and only 1 earned run allowed as of April 10th. Signability concerns might exist with his commitment to Texas A&M.
#17- RHP, Alex Scherff
After a pretty long wait to get to Seattle’s second pick at #55, I think the pick goes college bat. BA has Wake Forest 1B Gavin Sheets at #57, Louisville 3B Drew Eillis at #61, Arizona 1B JJ Matijevic at #63, and Mississippi State 1B/OF Brent Rooker at #64. Quick boxscore on each:
Sheets: .315/.403/1.052, 15 HR, 63 RBI, 27 BB, 23 SO, 0 SB, 0 CS
Ellis: .394/.490/1.229, 13 HR, 45 RBI, 31 BB, 28 SO, 4 SB, 0 CS
Matijevic: .392/.436/1.066, 7 HR, 47 RBI, 14 BB, 31 SO, 8 SB, 0 CS
Rooker: .404/.502/1.387, 19 HR, 65 RBI, 31 BB, 39 SO, 17 SB, 4 CS
Sheets is L/L, Ellis is R/R, Matijevic is L/R, and Rooker is R/R. So Sheets is the only one I’d lock in as 1B/DH only, making him the least interesting of the four.
Here’s a quick highlight featuring Drew Ellis going deep from earlier this year:
Really quiet hands with tremendous bat-speed. Defense looks fine at 3B.
Matijevic has a beautiful left-hand, line-drive swing. He’s currently #2 in the nation in doubles with 22. Arizona has him at 1B, but I think his preferred projection might be left field.
Rooker is an interesting study. He’s 6’4″/215 lbs, studying pre-law at MSU, #3 in the country in HR, #1 in RBI, #1 in doubles, #6 in hits, #6 in batting average, #7 in OBP, #1 in slugging, #1 in total bases, and top 40 in SB. He gets pretty nice loft on batted balls with a slightly uppercut swing.
I don’t know much about his defense, but the stolen bases suggest he’s mobile enough to play some corner OF. The power suggests he could be a pretty athletic 1B, maybe a la Cody Bellinger.
I’m not sure how/why BA has him rated as low as #64 overall (MLB has him at #49), but I’d be thrilled to get him at #55. That’s my first choice for the 2nd round, followed by Ellis, then Matijevic.
#55- OF, Brent Rooker
The next pick is pretty easy for me. I spotted him while looking over the college leaderboards where he ranks 3rd in the nation in SO/9 at 13.66. I watched some tape of him…liked the stuff…saw that BA ranked him as the #104 overall. If you don’t get LHP Peterson in the 1st, LHP Zac Lowther is a great fit in the 3rd.
3-3 on the year with ERA of 3.05, WHIP of 0.98, only 5.08 hits allowed per 9IP. Biggest negative is a bit of control issue, allowing 3.77 BB/9. He works primarily FB/CB right now touching 91mph, with a plus curve at 78mph.
#93- LHP, Zac Lowther
The 4th round seems to be overloaded by HS players, which feels more of a stretch for Jerry than taking one in the 1st like I’m projecting. Last year, at about this same range, Seattle took Alabama LHP closer Thomas Burrows. I’m actually going to stay in the SEC, but go across Alabama to Auburn where RHP Keegan Thompson is 5-3 this year with a 2.08 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, 4.64 K/BB this year. Solid stat-line. Decent stuff on the tape.
Listed 6’2″/209 lbs…I like how he works down in the zone.
#123- RHP, Keegan Thompson
For the 5th round I was trying to target 1) a bat, 2) a bat that plays up the middle. So we’re talking C, SS, 2B primarily. This range of the BA top 200 prospects is almost entirely RHP. But if I fudge a bit and look just earlier than the #153 draft slot, I find St Joseph’s catcher, Deon Stafford at #144.
Hitting .276 this year, but with a very respectable .464 OBP, and .984 OPS, 7 HR, 17 RBI, 37 BB to 26 SO. But then I dug a bit deeper and saw in 2016, Stafford hit .395/.486/1.188 with 18 HR and 49 RBI. Hmm…
#153- C, Deon Stafford
I found 6th round pick Jesse Franklin simply by curiosity of him coming from Seattle Prep. I put on some tape and really liked his swing.
#183- OF, Jesse Franklin
First six rounds:
1-RHP Alex Scherff
2-OF Brent Rooker
3-LHP Zac Lowther
4-RHP Keegan Thompson
5-C Deon Stafford
6-OF Jesse Franklin
I feel like my list is short on a middle-infielder, but that’s also what the top 100/top 200 lists look like. Especially from college. I also really feel like the pick will be David Peterson in the 1st. But this is the way I’d make the picks if my guys stayed available till I was on the clock.