By Jared Stanger
The Mariners during the Jerry Dipoto years have shown themselves to be staunchly in favor of drafting college players in the first five rounds, and exclusively a college player every 1st round under him.
2019- 6×6 college, 5 pitchers, 1 bat
2018- 5×5 college, 3 pitchers, 2 bats
2017- 4×5 college, 3 pitchers, 2 bats
2016- 4×5 college, 1 pitcher, 4 bats
It’s a 90% college tilt in the first five rounds. 57% pitching, 43% bats.
So it only makes sense that pretty much everyone is expecting them to draft a college player again in the 1st round this year, and more college players the rest of the draft.
But I wonder if we’re all wrong.
There was something I first noticed last year. 2019 was a draft that seemed pre-draft very heavy towards position players…and the eventual results showed the same (2 pitchers, 14 bats drafted in the first 16 overall), but Seattle drafted five consecutive pitchers to start their draft. Was this a conscious attempt to find value by zagging while the league zigged?? If so, what would be the contrarian move in the 2020 draft? By all accounts…the league “zig” will be to do what Seattle usually likes to do: draft super heavy on college players.
Which means, if the theory is correct, the zag would be for Seattle to target high-upside prep players.
And the thing is…it kinda makes sense for a few other reasons. 1) Bonus pool allotment this year is use-it-or-lose-it. There is no stashing money for players after the first five rounds. Those guys get $20k or go back to school. You just need to pay six draftpicks and you have $10.265mill to do it. 2) The Mariners farm system is in a pretty good place. The first major wave will hit between this year (if it happens) and next. You could look to draft for upside knowing you’re not desperate for players that will be quick-to-the-show. 3) If you draft/acquire the right prep players; they can actually travel through the farm system as fast, if not faster, than a college player. And those type of players arrive at MLB 2-3 years younger (see Kelenic, Rodriguez, and soon Marte).
On top of all of this; if Dipoto’s own words are to be taken seriously, and not as some kind of misdirection; “I do think there’s a greater likelihood for us to take risks that we might not have been quite willing to take in ’16/’17.”
With all this in mind, I sketched out an entire mock based on upside, and I think the results are pretty interesting.
#6 – RHP Mick Abel
This is the biggest speculation of this mock. Dipoto also made comment that they would, “prefer middle of the field athletic, offensive players near the top of the draft”. He made these comments before the draft was confirmed to only go five rounds, so we need to wonder how much of this draft qualifies as “top of the draft”. It might be the whole thing. It might be the first three picks. As a “preference”, are you okay getting two middle defenders and one pitcher in the first two rounds?
I’m pretty sure there was also a line from Jerry that referred to not taking three consecutive right-handed prep pitchers at the top because of the inherent, well-documented risk around drafting HS RHP. But does this exclude them from taking ONE??
I like Abel here for a few reasons.
- I think he’s the best prep pitcher in this draft, but getting downgraded because of the conventional thinking against prep righties. Which means: value.
- I think he’s got the kind of frame Seattle prefers, and some pretty promising rapsodo metrics to build on. He actually kinda reminds me of Logan Gilbert.
- He’s a Northwest product…essentially from Portland, so getting to play for the major league team closest to home may be a strong incentive to sign away from college commitment to Oregon State.
- Abel’s draft projection is between, roughly, #8-11 overall. If you draft him at #6, you could theoretically give him bonus money for pick, say, #9 and he’d take it.
I’m offering Abel $5mill to sign (slot is $5.7m), and moving the rest down to lower rounds.
(Alternate pick: SS Ed Howard)
#43 – C Drew Romo
Romo is a switch-hitting backstop with arguably the best defense/arm of any catcher this class, pretty underrated bat, and he has projection as roughly a mid-30’s pick. To accomplish this pick I’m counting on two things: 1) the overall dropping of high school talent in this draft, 2) underslot savings from the 1st round allowing you to give Romo bonus of the 36th pick at #43.
I’m giving Romo $2million bonus ($270,200 overslot) to pull him away from his LSU commitment.
(Alternate pick: RHP Justin Lange)
#64- SS Harold Coll
In my opinion, Coll is one of the more under-the-radar gems in this draft. If present value doesn’t have him as a five-tool guy; I think his future value will. The infield arm is very legit. Glove is a 60. Bat seems really good and the power is quickly coming.
We still have $472,700 surplus from the 1st round, so I’m moving most of that to Coll and signing him away from North Carolina for $1.5mill.
(Alternate pick: C Daniel Susac)
#78- LHP Liam Norris
Norris is a well-built prep LHP that reminds me of former Mariner James Paxton.
Norris is committed to North Carolina, so I’m borrowing from future rounds to bump his bonus to $1mill.
(Alternate pick: OF Chase Davis)
#107- 2B Anthony Servideo
With this mock showing Seattle hypothetically missing or passing on 2B Nick Gonzales at #6, I wanted to compensate with a similar player before the draft ended. Servideo, like Gonzales, played primarily shortstop for his college team this year, but whose bat would fit better at 2B.
At 5’10″/175lbs, Servideo is a solid defender, with plus speed (24×26 stolen bases in 2019, 9×10 in 2020), sneaky power (5 HR in 59 AB’s), and a great eye at the plate (.390/.575/1.270).
Here’s one of Servideo’s 2019 homers, and if you look again, he hits it off likely top 5 pick Asa Lacy. Left on left crime.
After all of the previous over-slot deals; we’re down to $765,500 to spend on our last two picks. If we need to go higher on Servideo, we can still go “senior-signing” guy in the 5th (maybe like $50k), and spend most of the remainder now. I’m gonna try to split the $765k pretty close to down the middle so that I can draft a couple college juniors and save all the seniors for those undrafted $20k deals. We’ll do $400k for Servideo.
#137- C Michael Rothenberg
As I said, I want to try to get a college junior here that wouldn’t otherwise sign after the draft. Dipoto says he wants middle of the field defenders and we’ve covered SS, 2B, and one C already. We could go centerfielder here, but my sense is there are some that are Seniors you could sign in UDFA. I don’t see many middle infielders left to double-dip on. And I really like the depth of the catcher class…most of whom are juniors.
Rothenberg is another switch-hitter, with a nice arm, very good power, and above-average running for the spot.
Rothenberg gets the entirety of the remaining bonus pool: $365,500. Which will be better than the offer he’d get if he returns to school and has to become a senior signing in next year’s loaded draft.
6- RHP Mick Abel
43- C Drew Romo
64= SS Harold Coll
78- LHP Liam Norris
107- 2B Anthony Servideo
137- C Michael Rothenberg
I consciously went 4 bats to 2 arms for a couple reasons, but one is that my list of seniors has more interesting pitchers than position players. I’m trying very hard to sign LHP AJ Block out of WSU, RHP Jake Smith out of State College of South Florida, and RHP Brian Van Belle out of Miami as starters. For the bullpen; RHP Mac McCarty, RHP Christian Peters, RHP Brandon Young, RHP Luke Boyd, and LHP Antonio Velez.
Undrafted position players include: OF Parker Bates, OF Brandon Henson, UT Braden Zarbnisky, IF Anthony Warneke, and UT Brett Auerbach.