By Jared Stanger
The 2019 MLB Draft begins on June 3rd and this will be my lone, annual baseball mock draft.
A baseball draft lacks all of the nuances of trading draftpicks that you find in the NFL draft, but they have increased nuances of high school or college underclass players that may or may not sign, as well as the added difficulty of unslotted, but capped signing bonuses.
Honestly, I’m not privy to most of the signability factors, so I’m basically going to ignore them. This year, I’m also not really going to consider the Mariners draft patterns (which lean about 85% college players in their top 10 rounds). This is not an attempt at guessing what Seattle WILL do…this is my impression of what they SHOULD do.
It seems most of the worthy college players will be gone by the time Seattle drafts at #20. Maybe a middle infielder like Will Wilson is still on the board, but generally my sense is the best player available will be from the prep ranks. The only rumor I’ve seen on Seattle this year is putting them on a couple of overdrafted prep shortstops. I’d prefer Matthew Lugo to the other names I’ve read they’re on, but that’s secondary to my 1A thought:
#20 – RHP Quinn Priester, Cary Grove HS
(Slot value: $3,242,900)
I think there’s a trio of prep righthanded pitchers that would be good value here: Jack Leiter, JJ Goss, and Priester. Leiter and Priester are close in terms of talent and preference, but it seems the buzz is that Leiter is going to cost a lot to pull away from college commit to Vanderbilt.
Priester goes about 6’3″/190lbs with good athleticism. Fastball is currently running 92-94mph with the occasional 96. The curveball is already plus and the two-seamer has got exceptional sink and run.
#59 – 2B Cameron Cannon, Arizona
(Slot value: $1,185,500)
Historically, Seattle has taken college players in the 1st, and then tried to pick an above-slot HS player in the 2nd. I’m going against that this year because that’s how I see the board value falling.
Cannon is Arizona’s starting shortstop, but I’m projecting him to 2nd Base as a pro. The bat is a really solid .390/.479/1.117 slash, with 10.73 SO rate. The power isn’t significant at this point, but Cannon is top 2 in the country in doubles (29 in 53 games). There isn’t much basestealing threat here…which is another reason I move him to 2nd.
Cannon has a really clean, righthanded swing. I think there’s more power to come.
#76 – OF Chris Newell, Malvern Prep HS
(Slot value: $818,200)
This is one of the rare, tradeable draftpicks that the M’s got from Cleveland.
Newell is a guy that I really like. 6’2″/190lbs, already showing promising power, great outfield arm, decent runner. Many mocks have him drafted later…like in the 90’s, but Seattle doesn’t pick again until #97. It’s not worth getting cute over. Plus, you have a better shot of signing a prep player when his natural slot money could be pushed close to a mill with some underslot savings later on.
#97 – SS Connor Walsh, Niceville HS
(Slot value: $599,100)
This is an important pick. This is me advancing the rumor about Seattle’s interest in prep shortstops, but trying to find more value at the position. Walsh is 6’2″/185lbs, and has been measured as one of the fastest guys in this class. His 6.26s 60 yard dash is actually faster than the 6.28s from one of the guys connected to Seattle (Nasim Nunez), and then Walsh has also tied for the hardest exit-velocity of about six of the top HS shortstops available between 1st-3rd round.
#126 – RHP Joseph Charles, TNXL Academy
(Slot value: $451,800)
This is a spot that just feels chock full of pitching. Mostly RHP. The one position player I really like here is Cal catcher Korey Lee who blends solid bat tool with a pretty incredible throwing arm.
But I’m, instead, taking another stab at a prep arm. As you’ll see the rest of my strategy after this swings to college players with the thought of saving money on the overall bonus pool.
Charles has a profile very similar to Priester: 6’3″/190lbs, fastball up to 96mph, with solid curve, and an intriguing change with good armspeed.
#156 – RHP Griffin McLarty, College of Charleston
(Slot value: $336,600)
McLarty is a Junior righty that isn’t on most mock drafts, but that I just spotted while poring over players that fit a certain, preferred profile. I’m hoping 5th round money is enough to lure him away from his Senior season.
Listed 6’3″/185lbs. I don’t have his velo, but eye test tells me he’s maybe 92mph on the fastball. Nice pitchability has led him to a 2019 season of 2.04 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 10.50 SO/9, 5.68 SO/BB.
#186 – C Nick Kahle, Washington
(Slot value: $259,400)
Catcher is a spot I’m not looking for a perfect player. I’m looking for a good receiver, guy that can throw out a basestealer, and that gives you a professional at-bat. Kahle is hitting a decent .337, but with an impressive 59 walks to 26 strikeouts; his OBP of .511 is one of the top 10 of all positions in the entire country. He’s also caught 44% of basestealers.
#216 – LHP Nick Snyder, WVU
(Slot value: $203,400)
My biggest regret in this mock is not being able to find a spot for a LHP earlier on. I’d be very okay with taking a college lefty like Ethan Small or TJ Sikkema somewhere in the 2nd-3rd range, or a Jake Agnos in the 4th. But I’m trusting my eyes that I might have seen something in Snyder that makes more value here, in the 7th.
A big-bodied thrower at 6’7″/220lbs, Snyder looks like his floor is a hardthrowing, lefty relief specialist with his fastball/slider combo. But he’s started 10 games for WVU this year, with 3 relief appearances leading to an 8-1 record, 1.95 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 13.99 SO/9, 3.44 SO/BB.
#246 – LHP Andrew Saalfrank, Indiana
(Slot value: $167,000)
Going back-to-back with college lefties to try to compensate for not getting one earlier. Saalfrank isn’t as big as Snyder (only 6’3″/205lbs), but with a very similar line: 10 starts, 3 relief appearances, 2.03 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 12.80 SO/9, 4.32 SO/BB.
He’s got a nice little curve ball.
#276 – 1B Jake Sanford, WKU
(Slot value: $151,600)
Sanford is my attempt to find a certain kind of profile for first base. He’s 6’2″/205lbs with experience at first and in the outfield. The strikeout rate is a little high at 18.70%, but swinging at a .402/.488/1.316 slash with 22 homeruns and 65 RBI in 53 games makes it worth the swing-and-miss.
#306 – UT Scott Ota, Illinois-Chicago
(Slot value: $143,500)
Typically, Seattle starts going after under-slot, senior signees sooner than here in the 10th round, so keep in mind that my rounds 6-9 may not be the most likely names. But Ota IS a Senior (as will the next picks).
Ota’s 2019: .359/.447/1.212 with 18 homeruns, 55 RBI, and a very solid 11.06 SO%.
#336 – RHP MD Johnson, Dallas Baptist
#366 – OF Will Johnson, EKU
Seattle prefers to take a stab on a high school player here that they will try to sign at over-slot if they can save enough in rounds 1-10, but that’s generally a guy that fell through. Tough to know who it might be at this point.
Johnson looked appealing to me for his mix of power and athleticism: 14 homers and 27 stolen bases. Plus a disciplined approach yielding 51 walks to 39 strikeouts. Seems like a great clubhouse guy, too.
#396 – 3B/SS Patrick Causa, Mt St Mary
Causa would very much be a guy I could see them take in a top 10 round pick. Slashing .402/.521/1.231, with 12 HR, 39 BB, 22 SO.
#426 – RHP Garrett Farmer, Jacksonville State
An undersized pitcher at 5’11″/175lbs, Farmer is a starter thus far with a strong ability to control the zone: 2.32 ERA, 0.91 WHIP, 9.58 SO/9, 9.90 SO/BB.
#456 – RHP Vlad Nunez Jr, Stetson
Another guy that I would realistically see drafted in the first 10 rounds. A Senior closer for Stetson, Nunez posts a 3.43 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 12 saves in 22 appearances. And he’s got that closer fire.