By Jared Stanger
Last week I wrote about the college pitchers with some, what I think is, good feel for the type of analysis that leads to the kinds of arms that Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter look for in the MLB Draft. This week I’m writing on the college position players with far less of a connection to how Seattle drafts them. I’ve had some success predicting eventual M’s picks, but it has never been a singular formula. I didn’t look for the same traits in Cal Raleigh that I looked for in Braden Bishop in their respective years when Seattle drafted them.
This year I’m trying something new, and trying to create a more consistent design of how I’m looking for draft talent across the whole diamond. Primarily to see how well it may recognize eventual MLB talent, but hopefully also to see if it works to isolate how the M’s look for talent that hits. These are my inaugural finds:
C – Andy Thomas, Baylor
Thomas is a 6’2″/210lb backstop that hit .337/.411/.986 with 11 HR, 60 RBI, and a very solid 45.9% caught stealing rate. He hits lefty and throws righty. He’s a 5th year senior that should be available in later rounds at very affordable signing bonus figure.
1B – Griffin Doersching, Northern Kentucky
Doersching is a mountain of a man at 6’4″/250lbs. He may best be remembered as the winner of the 2019 college homerun derby. Power is clearly his carrying tool after hitting .316/.488/1.260 with 20 HR and 48 RBI this year. As I looked over his multi-year progression in college, I found myself impressed with a couple things: 1) the way he’s transformed his body from kind of a chubby, baby-fat looking kid, to a really built grown-ass man, and 2) the way he’s improved his plate discipline. Griffin’s 2021 walk rate of 23.7% was almost double that of his previous career high.
The swing reminds me a bit of Mark McGwire. The drip reminds me of Brian Bosworth. Have fun, folks.
2B – Jackson Glenn, Dallas Baptist
Second Base is lowkey very strong this year. In fact this was the hardest position to choose a single winner for this story. I had Cincinnati 2B Jace Mercer in a virtual tie for the win here with higher marks for his defense, but eventually chose Glenn for his better power. But it’s worth noting Mercer, nonetheless, as Glenn may be too pricey to secure.
Glenn is a thickly built 5’11″/225lb purveyor of the keystone position. He hit .366/.438/1.169 with 21 HR, 55 RBI and a very stout 42 extra base hits for the year.
3B – Christian Encarnacion-Strand, Oklahoma State
Third base might be polar opposite from second across this draft class. There really wasn’t anyone that scored well across all tools. Each seemed to have a glaring flaw of one kind or another. CES is the pick from the objectivity of this analysis, but I would probably still prefer to draft Riley Tirotta over him in reality.
Encarnacion is listed at 6’1″/215lbs, but honestly looks a bit bigger to the eye. He hit .361/.442/1.103 with 15 HR and 66 RBI for the year. It’s also worth noting that Seattle drafted him out of high school in 2019.
SS – Trey Sweeney, Eastern Illinois
Shortstop was another disappointing position for the college ranks. Sweeney scored very high himself, but there really wasn’t anyone close behind him. But in terms of big picture, this is a pretty special class of prep SS, so there could be that with proper planning.
Sweeney is a 6’4″/185lb college SS, that hit .382/.522/1.234 with 14 HR, 58 RBI, and a breathtaking 46 walks to 24 strikeouts. Most draft media believe the league will move him off of short, but for the record, Sweeney’s fielding percentage of .975 was higher than, for example, top 15 projected SS Matt McLain.
RF – Kyle Battle, Old Dominion
Battle is a 6’1″/190lb outfielder that exploded onto the draft scene in 2021 by hitting 18 HR, with 61 RBI, .322/.461/1.149 after hitting only 9 homeruns in his first four years COMBINED. He also posted 54 walks this year. His swing lowkey reminds me of Kyle Lewis.
CF – John Thrasher, Hartford
Thrasher is a very athletic 6’2″/190lbs CF who hit .369/.470/1.150 with 7 HR, 23 RBI, but an elite 37 stolen bases in 36 games. And from what I’ve seen; he plays a quality defensive center. Very good combination of traits and at redshirt junior prices.
LF – Jonny Butler, NC State
Butler was, perhaps, the biggest surprise on this list. Not only for appearing on it, but actually coming in 1st overall for all positions. The charmingly nicknamed Jonny Barrels is a 6’1″/205lb OF who hit .377/.451/1.116 with 13 HR and 48 RBI with quite a few clutch moments for the still-playing College World Series semifinalist Wolfpack.
But the biggest surprise was that Butler hasn’t committed a single error in the field in all of 2021. This guy’s a gamer.
And because sometimes a draft class will double or triple dip at any given position…some of the honorable mentions:
C- Michael Trautwein, Northwestern
SS- Shawn Goosenberg, Northwestern
3B- Riley Tirotta, Dayton
2B- Connor Norby, Eastern Carolina
1B- JT Schwartz, UCLA
OF- Jared Dupere, Northeastern
OF- Mason Mcwhorter, Georgia Southern