By Jared Stanger
We’re down to two weeks away from the 2018 MLB Draft, and as I’m refining my impressions of this class I looked back at some of the players I liked in years past to see if scouting MLB is even worth doing. If I’m just throwing darts, or if I’ve actually shown some talent for spotting talent.
I think the first year I spent time on the MLB Draft was 2012. I didn’t dig very deep into the draft in terms of multiple rounds, but I did study 2-3 rounds worth. That year Seattle was drafting 3rd overall and I was hoping Carlos Correa would be there.
Of course, Correa ended up going 1st overall and has become an All-Star shortstop and World Series champ for Houston. The Mariners took Mike Zunino at #3.
Kevin Plawecki obviously wouldn’t have been a need after the M’s got Zunino, but for the record Plawecki made it to MLB at age 24, but has only hit .220 in a primarily backup role.
In 2013, the M’s were drafting at #12 overall, and I wanted them to get DJ Peterson.
Peterson tore up multiple levels of the minors until he suffered a broken jaw from a hit-by-pitch. He was never the same after that, and has been stalled at AAA for parts of the last four seasons, without ever making it to MLB yet.
Hunter Renfroe was drafted right after Peterson at #13 overall, made it to MLB in 2016, and has yet to put it all together in the bigs. He hit 26 homers in 2017, his first full season, but slashed only 231/284/751.
Phil Bickford was drafted two slots before Seattle’s pick, but did not sign in 2013. Since being drafted again in 2015, Bickford has posted a MILB career mark of 2.71 ERA, 1.136 WHIP, 10.3 SO/9 in the low minors.
But the interesting names on that prior tweet might be Cavan Biggio and Logan Shore. Both were high schoolers in 2013, and remained true to their respective college commitments. Both were drafted again in 2016, and are having tremendous 2018 seasons. Biggio (son of Craig Biggio) is hitting 303/421/1.118 with 12 HR in 36 games in AA, while Shore has opened 2018 with a 2-0 record, 1.21 ERA, 0.896 WHIP, 10.1 SO/9, and 12.50 SO/BB in A+ ball.
Arguably, 2013 wasn’t a great draft overall with only Kris Bryant becoming an all star from that year’s first round (Aaron Judge and Corey Knebel were selected in first round compensatory rounds).
The 2014 draft Seattle was drafting at #6 overall. I preferred the M’s go the route of college pitcher, and draft Aaron Nola.
Nola was drafted at #7, directly after Seattle selected HS catcher Alex Jackson. Nola made quick progression to MLB, hitting the show a year after his draft, at age 22. He’s been predominantly a solid starter since his arrival, and seems to have taken a step up to elite/ace level here in 2018; pitching to a 6-1 record, 1.99 ERA, 0.989 WHIP so far.
Nick Gordon (ironically, the younger brother of new Mariner Dee Gordon) was drafted at #5 overall, and is now 22 years old and tearing up AA: 336/383/907.
The 2015 draft was a tough year because Seattle had no pick in the 1st round, and nothing until #60 overall. Insanely, I called my shot.
This tweet was sent right before Seattle was on the clock:
Neidert was a very solid MILB player for Seattle until he hit AA last year at a pretty young 20 years old. Then Seattle traded him away to Miami. So far, in his 2nd stint in AA, Neidert is improving. He’s currently at a 3.25 ERA, 1.331 WHIP, and his strikeouts are back up over 9.0 per nine innings.
Josh Naylor was another HS kid I liked that year but he went off the board at #12 overall, and he’s currently hitting 344/427/1.002 with 9 HR, 37 RBI in 40 games for the Padres AA team.
The 2016 draft was probably the most unpredictable we’ve seen in the last 5-6 years. The Mariners were picking at #11 (first draft in Jerry Dipoto era, by the way), and the rumor mills had Seattle targeting college RHP Justin Dunn. Personally, I was targeting high bat Alex Kirilloff.
After a very strong debut in rookie ball; Kirilloff missed all of 2017 with Tommy John (IIRC), but he’s back this year and right back in the groove hitting 316/361/949 with 6 HR, 30 RBI in 34 games for the Twins’ farm.
The Mariners, of course, ended up with Kyle Lewis after his surprising fall out of the top 10. I hadn’t spent much time talking about him as he seemed certain to go top 5. I liked the pick.
More 2016 players:
Puckett- hasn’t played in 2018
Gallen (AAA)- 4-1, 2.25 ERA, 1.292 WHIP, 7.5 SO/9, 3.08 SO/BB
Burnes (MILB)- 2.31 ERA, 1.070 WHIP, 9.1 SO/9, 3.26 SO/BB
Justus (MILB)- 224/345/656
Jones- went to college at UW
Vieaux (A+)- 3.89 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 7.2 SO/9
Bieber (AA-AAA)- 1.43 ERA, 0.854 WHIP, 8.2 SO/9, 15.3 SO/BB
Lucchesi (MLB)- 3.23 ERA, 1.225 WHIP, 9.1 SO/9, 3.2 SO/BB
The 2017 first round pick was another tough one to predict with Seattle sitting at #17 overall. It was the second year of Jerry, so I had better feel that it would be a college player, and I had some feeling it might be Evan White.
That was my guess at what Seattle WOULD do. My personal preference was to go after a college pitcher.
Peterson has opened his MILB pro career with a 2.10 ERA, 1.107 WHIP, 8.1 SO/9 in eight starts.
High school outfielder Jordan Adell never felt like a Jerry pick, and seemed destined to be off the board early, but he was really intriguing.
Adell was picked at #10, and already has 10 homeruns to his credit in his first 74 games, plus a 325/380/928 slash and 58 RBI.
Another college bat I was looking at for Seattle last year was outfielder Stuart Fairchild. But he was a weird value between Seattle’s picks at #17 and #55 (Stuart ended up almost exactly between the two, at #38).
Fairchild has hit 297/390/802 to start his career with 23 stolen bases in 94 games.
Heimlich infamously stayed in school after his off-field history came to light, but Lowther ended up drafted at #74 and has been REALLY good; posting a 1.59 ERA, 0.794 WHIP, 13.2 SO/9, 6.82 SO/BB in his first 17 starts.
Overall, I think I’m “hitting” more than I’m “striking out” on my picks for my career. I think the last two years have been especially solid. I think it’s a pretty huge mistake by Jerry and co. to bypass high school players completely in the 1st round. There are awesome talents like Kirilloff to be found there. This year it’s Jarred Kelenic and Cole Winn, for me.
I am looking to get another Mariner mock draft up before the first night of the draft, and I’m shooting to have a full 10 rounds represented.