By Jared Stanger
The 2018 MLB Draft is now only three weeks away (Monday June 4th-Wednesday June 6th), and with some pretty big downtime in the NFL; I generally like to spend a few weeks digging into some MLB draft prospects.
The Mariners will be picking at #14, #54, #90, #118, and every 30th pick thereafter. I may get this built up to a 10-round mock before the actual draft, but for now I’m just looking at the first five rounds.
Shortly after the 2017 draft completed I made my first foray into the 2018 class, and this is the guy I found:
11 months later and Jarred Kelenic is pretty soundly locked into the top 10 picks. MLB has him at #8, 2080 has him all the way up to #3 overall. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that he’ll make it anywhere near Seattle’s first pick. But, if we consider Seattle’s recent draft history, a) they probably need to prioritize pitching higher, b) they have generally gone with college players in the 1st round, and then shoot for a nice upside high schooler in the 2nd round. So a HS outfielder like Kelenic is probably not a likely Seattle target.
The best college pitcher I’ve watched this Spring has been Auburn’s Casey Mize, and he is currently the favorite to be picked #1 overall. Other first round projected pitchers: Florida’s RHP Brady Singer, USF’s LHP Shane McClanahan, Ole Miss LHP Ryan Rolison, Florida RHP Jackson Kowar, Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert, Stanford RHP Tristan Beck, Kentucky RHP Sean Hjelle. Of that list, I’ve already seen Rolison and Gilbert rumored to Seattle.
Ryan Rolison is a 6’2″/195lb, draft-eligible sophomore lefty with a line of 7-4, 4.03 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 10.6 SO/9, 3.91 BB/9 in 13 starts and 76.0 innings. I tend to think Seattle looks for a little more control from their pitchers, especially in the 1st round.
Logan Gilbert is a 6’5″/195lb, junior righty with a line of 8-1, 2.61 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 12.61 SO/9, 1.88 BB/9 in 12 starts and 86.0 innings. Gilbert’s 121 strikeouts are 2nd in the country, and his 6.72 SO/BB is 21st in the country. The latter stat, I think, might be a strong indicator of Seattle interest, but I just don’t think Gilbert is an MLB player.
So it appears our first choice of college pitcher is not a great group.
The next most likely quartile: college bats. This is a bit stronger section. The top 15 could include 2B Nick Madrigal, C Joey Bart, 3B Jonathan India, OF Travis Swaggerty, 3B Alec Bohm, OF Trevor Larnach.
Bohm- 339/436/1.018, 11 HR, 45 RBI, 31 BB, 20 SO, 35% XBH
Madrigal- 449/488/1.078, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 6 BB, 2 SO (*in 18 games)
Bart- 364/474/1.094, 12 HR, 31 RBI, 34 BB, 43 SO, 34% XBH
India- 384/525/1.305, 16 HR, 40 RBI, 43 BB, 38 SO, 47% XBH
Swaggerty- 301/466/1.050, 13 HR, 38 RBI, 45 BB, 30 SO, 42% XBH
Larnach- 339/466/1.139, 14 HR, 52 RBI, 33 BB, 38 SO, 48% XBH
It’s a pretty nice group when the worst of them is OBP’ing .436. Four of six with more walks than strikeouts. Five of six with over 33% XBH. The downside of this group is that they have a combined 32 stolen bases, and only India has over 10. Even Swaggerty, who averaged 19.5 SB in his first two years of college is only at 7 this year. These aren’t tremendous athletes overall. That’s another thing Seattle has targeted in the Dipoto drafts: Kyle Lewis and Evan White are both very good athletes.
Jonathan India seems like the most well-rounded player. Super clean, quick swing. Showing enough power to play a corner infield spot, but enough athleticism that he could possibly play a middle-infield position. MLB has him projected the #10 overall, so it would take a slight drop to make it to Seattle. I like India a lot, though.
High school pitchers is the strongest group in the first round with about seven slots from most top 20 projections. Potential targets at #14 could include RHP Kumar Rocker, RHP Cole Winn, LHP Ryan Weathers, RHP Ethan Hankins, and RHP Mason Denaburg. The guy that I’m most drawn to from this group is Winn.
Winn is listed 6’2″/195lbs, and works with a good four-pitch mix. The fastball is 92-94mph already and Winn is getting swinging strikes on all of his off-speed pitches. And he’s got plus makeup. As of today, without any unexpected players falling, I take Cole at #14 for the M’s.
High school bats are the shallowest group in the early 1st round. I really don’t see a fit there for Seattle.
The fifth group I want to talk about are the “reaches”. Because there is a drop of 40 picks between Seattle’s first rounder and 2nd rounder, and because the nature of the MLB draft is basically the only place where baseball has a salary cap; we may see Seattle reach on a player at #14 in order to sign him under slot, and then use the remainder to go overslot on a tough-sign at #54. This is where the MLB draft is tougher to predict…draftpick bonuses are not slotted and they are capped.
The reach group could include HS catchers Noah Naylor and Will Banfield, college OF Steele Walker and the aforementioned Trevor Larnach, and HS pitcher JT Ginn.
The guy that I like most to reach on is high school RHP Ginn. Much like Cole Winn, Ginn is 6’2″/199lbs and committed to Mississippi State should he go the college route. Ginn has a live arm; already sitting 95-97mph and touching 99mph. The secondary stuff is less polished than Winn…actually the secondary offering is a really good slider…it’s the third pitch that needs work and may prevent Ginn from starting.
Cole Winn’s tape and statline of 6-2, 0.25 ERA, .111 BAA, 0.527 WHIP, 15.2 SO/9, 11.6 SO/BB won me over.
#14 – RHP Cole Winn, Orange Lutheran HS
Watching tape of basically every player I could find that register in any of the major draft publications’ top 150-200 players, it becomes much easier to isolate a player in the next few rounds.
In the 2nd round, I was very drawn to another high school RHP: Owen White. This is an awesome pitchability player with 92mph fastball, 79mph curve, and a really effective 84mph change. I love his control. And at 6’4″/180lbs there is probably still some room there to add strength and velocity.
White’s senior statline: 9-1, 0.25 ERA, .123 BAA, 0.688 WHIP, 14.6 SO/9, 6.1 SO/BB.
The delivery is a bit unconventional, but the hesi kind of adds to the effectiveness of the fastball/change mix.
#55- RHP Owen White, Jesse Carson HS
In the 3rd round I found another high school RHP I really liked in Braxton Ashcraft, as well as a really nice, toolsy high school SS in Osiris Johnson. But already being two-deep in to high school picks, I’m forcing myself to go college bat.
Cal Raleigh is interesting. He’s slashing 308/442/971 with 9 HR, 39 RBI, 19% walk rate, 36% XBH rate in a strong ACC division. Oh, and he’s a switch-hitting catcher that hits opposite field triples.
#90 – C Cal Raleigh, Florida State
In the 4th round I really like high school two-way player Jack Perkins. Committed to Louisville, Perkins slashed 531/581/1.519 as a batter. As a pitcher, he actually posted a less impressive line: 2.56 ERA, 1.317 WHIP, .219 BAA, 16.5 SO/9, 3.8 SO/BB in six starts. But I think there is potential here. Fastball is only 92mph, but has great plane, which he also mirrors very nicely with a solid curve. Check out this series…
Opens with the fastball.
Then a show-me curve. If he spots this a bit better it’d be a three-pitch punchout.
And a couple pitches later, after showing some off-speed stuff, blows the fastball by him.
#118 – RHP Jack Perkins, Kokomo HS
In the 5th round, I spotted TCU closer Durbin Feltman. Working primarily off of a 95mph fastball and a change that almost has some knuckle action to it, but with identical arm-slot and arm-speed to the FB; Durbin has posted a 0.40 ERA, 0.67 WHIP, added 4 SO/9 from 2017 (up to 15.7 SO/9), and cut his 2017 BB/9 in half (down to 2.01 BB/9 in 2018).
Here’s a look at that change action.
Many of the picks the Mariners will make from roughly pick #4 to #10 will be underslot guys that wouldn’t really be selected as early as they will if not for the screwy MLB draft pool. If Feltman were a Senior, he’d be exactly that kind of pick. But he is only a Junior and could return to school if he chooses. Then again, 5th round is pretty good spot for a pure reliever.
#148 – RHP Durbin Feltman, TCU
Obviously this is a flawed mock draft. I think Seattle is very likely to force a pick on a college player at #14, and there is zero chance they take three high school RHP this early, and four RHP of all ages in five selections, but I have to go with what my eyes tell me. These are the best values I’m seeing.