Mariners post-draft thoughts

By Jared Stanger

The Mariners finished their 2021 draft on Tuesday after selecting 20 new players. From that group they ended up with three coming from high school, two coming from junior college, and 15 from four-year colleges. They drafted three catchers, three shortstops, three outfielders, one third-baseman, and ten pitchers (all right-handed).

As I watched the picks being made, and even more so looking at them deeper in hindsight, there is something odd about this draft. And it’s more than just the obvious: that they drafted three high school players in the first three rounds, after being college-heavy to the extreme in the first six years under Jerry Dipoto. I’ve been advocating for them to be more considerate of HS players for years now, but in hindsight of this draft, plus the HS picks from the prior 4-5 years, they may simply not be good at evaluating prep talent.

M’s recent top 10 round players drafted from high school:

Michael Limoncelli in rookie ball: 1.80 ERA but 1.80 WHIP with 10 BB to 8 SO.
Adam Macko in rookie ball: 5.96 ERA, 1.632 WHIP, 6.0 BB/9.
Sam Carlson in low A ball: 4.68 ERA, 1.620 WHIP, 5.9 BB/9.
Jorge Benitez in low A ball: 5.13 ERA, 1.633 WHIP, 6.8 BB/9.
Joe Rizzo in AA ball: .216/.310/.687
Nick Neidert: Traded, made MLB
Dylan Thompson: Traded, retired 2017
Cody Mobley: retired 2018

Another thing that quickly showed up this year was the way Seattle didn’t draft anyone that was ranked in the top 250 players from this cycle after the 4th round. In theory, every pick from round 1 through 8 can be from the top 250 without any unusual circumstances as there are 252 picks total for all teams in those rounds.

We may find, once the draftpicks are all signed, that Seattle had to go overslot for their three HS picks in rounds 1-3, which could have forced them to start looking for underslot players starting earlier this year than usual. This could be an explanation for the lack of consensus top 250 guys they chose. I think it’d be a bit of a copout, as you should be able to get both underslot and top 250 in one or two more picks rounds 5-10.

I don’t think there’s anything particularly strange about the college hitters they drafted. I look at them as a group and there’s a pretty consistent theme: average power (to a man they hit between 8 and 12 homeruns this year), with very solid plate discipline (an average of 11.8 BB% to 15.4 SO%, with the worst SO rate being 22%), and every single bat posting at least 30% extra-basehit rate.

So what is the unusual part of this draft class? It’s the pitchers. There is a striking randomness to this grouping of arms. There’s no heavy preference for starter vs reliever. There’s no pattern of picking guys with high K-rates. They aren’t generally consistent strike-throwers with high control. You could suspect there’s an element of pitching analytics at play (spin rate, velo, extension, flat vertical approach, etc), but in the past they looked for those things PLUS many of these other result-based metrics. Why punt on those elements now when they’ve been part of the formula up till now? That doesn’t track.

If you really look at this group of 2021 pitching draftees; the biggest commonality between these guys is……almost every single pitcher was a better performer in 2020 than they were in 2021.

Could it be possible the team decided to direct a majority of their 2021 scouting visits to focus on finding bats, while trusting more of their scouting reports on pitchers from the 2020 cycle??

This becomes more interesting in light of two things: 1) Seattle’s heavy drafting of more pitching than hitting from 2018-2020, 2) the carryover in scouting restrictions from COVID from mid-2020 college season to this year.

In addition to asking “what” was different about this draft cycle, I think it’s important to ask “why”. Why would they change how they scouted and drafted pitchers when they’ve been pretty successful doing it these last few years? One possible answer is that they didn’t. If you change the “when” of scouting these pitchers, the “what” actually looks less unusual.

I still don’t think any of the reasoning I’ve laid out here is an acceptable excuse for putting together a poor draft. Which I think three-four years from now we will all see this class as being. I’ve generally been pretty happy with the Jerry Dipoto era draft classes, and the farm system has been well-regarded since those collective classes. But I have my doubts this year. There are some obvious changes they made this year, and I suspect some unobvious changes, which also means it changes the assumptions and expectations we have that they will succeed.

Mariners 20 round mock

By Jared Stanger

Last week I didn’t think I’d be doing another one of these, but fuck it…let’s do all 20 rounds.

Actually, we have gotten some new intel to warrant some adjustments in the early rounds. Mariners’ draft showrunner Scott Hunter went in front of the press corps earlier this week for a bit of a pre-draft press conference on the field at TMobile, and he doubled-down on Jerry Dipoto’s previous comments about the M’s going more openly, if not straight up aggressively, after the high school players in this draft.

So, while the NCAA’s recent decision to allow athletes to be compensated for their name/image/likeness has already sent at least a handful of known prep players to formally withdraw their names from the draft (Josh Hartle and Nick Mclain amongst them), and more names may come to be known in the next 24-72 hours, for now we may have a little more comfort and freedom mocking a true best player available draft.

With the floodgates open to drafting prep players in the 1st; my thoughts immediately go to the bat side. With the farm system chock full of the recently drafted college pitchers; there’s a degree of simply going with the odds in thinking it will be a hitter. But there’s also a multiple factor greater number of high school position players to the number of high school pitchers.

I’m still bullish on middle infielder Peyton Stovall. I think he’s got a super high floor, and with his quickly emerging power, I like the upside even more. I’ve read reports connecting Seattle to prep catcher Harry Ford, but I tend to prefer Joe Mack. I feel like catcher is a dangerous spot to draft from before they’ve played in college due to the slow-developing nature of the position in general, so I won’t go with catcher here, but I’m just putting it out there I prefer Mack to Ford.

#1.12 – 2B Peyton Stovall, Haughton HS

A prep shortstop that just looks like a future all star second baseman, to me, with one of the best hit tools in the total class. A recent weight-gain and added muscle turned him into a 15 homerun hitter over the 2021 high school season. Defense looks unspectacular but very reliable. Keep him at short for as long as you can (a la Donnie Walton), but feel no shame when he ends up at 2nd.

My intel has shown me that the 2nd to 3rd round might be the time the M’s are looking hardest at drafting a true shortstop. Certainly, they have done a deep-dive at the position to know the options that could be available if they choose to wait.

If you end up on the clock with some mix of Alex Mooney, Carson Williams, Max Muncy, Edwin Arroyo, Noah Miller; they may pull the trigger on the highest-ranked of those names on their board. Both Jerry and Scott have alluded to the athleticism of this high school class, and the previously mentioned group includes switch-hitters, two-way players, and multi-sport athletes.

So it’s tough to walk away from that group. Especially Carson Williams. But I just have other plans.

#2.48 – RHP Jackson Baumeister, Bolles HS

Again, if we’re talking athleticism…Baumeister is a pretty recently converted catching prospect of some regard, that is now focusing more and more on the mound. He’s 6’3″/215lbs with insanely clean mechanics for a guy still relatively new to pitching. His stuff is presently fastball up to 96mph, but sitting more 94, solid curve and quickly evolving change. Pitchability-wise, he’s super efficient, throws a ton of strikes. And there’s still more growth to come with a fulltime pitching commitment.

The other guy in this slot that I recently came to consciously recognize checks a lot of boxes for the M’s last three years worth of draft profiles is Florida righty Tommy Mace. He’s 6’6″/215 with elite extension and strike-throwing. I basically just stopped tracking him because he had a bad ERA (4.38). But the rest of the peripherals are there: 1.24 WHIP, 11.26 SO/9, 2.09 BB/9. I liken him to a righthanded version of 2019 2nd rounder Brandon Williamson, who is already in AA after 15 pro starts.

This is also a great spot to draft from a handful of college lefties. Actually, this is a hard spot to mock draft because of the depth available. But simultaneously that means it will be a great spot to draft in reality. Gonna be plenty to choose from.

#3.83 – OF Malakhi Knight, Marysville-Getchell HS

Knight is a new consideration to my mock drafts. Again, we’re going back to some of the things Jerry Dipoto said recently about athleticism, but also about this draft’s depth. The exact quote, “we approach it as ‘take the best available player with the athletic upside, the potential in the top 100 picks'”. So not only is there a ‘what’ to that quote, there’s a ‘when’. Now, the quote requires some interpretation as what is the definition of ‘top 100 picks’ when your team drafts at #83 and then again at #113, and undoubtedly some from your team’s top 100 board will still be there when you’re back on the clock at #113. But I digress…

Malakhi seems easily the smoothest outfield athlete I’ve seen from this class. He’s 6’3″/195lbs, with a powerful righthanded swing. Look at him switch gears to stretch this hit from Friday night into a triple:

#4.113 – LHP Ryan Webb, Georgia

This is a very strong class of LHP, especially the college group, but this is probably the latest you want to wait to get one that has around 3rd starter potential. Webb is, to me, very Marco Gonzales-esque. Similar build, similar stuff (Webb maybe a bit more velo), and similar leadership qualities.

#5.144 – SS Gavin Conticello, Stoneman Douglas HS

There’s plenty of question of where Conticello’s glove will end up, but I liked what I saw from him at the MLB Combine when he was playing shortstop. I’d leave him there for now. But he’s a 6’4″/195lb kid, so it is possible he ends up at either a corner infield, or maybe even outfield in time. Certainly the hard-swinging, rotational swing is reminiscent of LHH outfielders like Cody Bellinger and Bryce Harper. That’s what you hope for here.

#6.174 – 3B Riley Tirotta, Dayton

After going hard on prep players through five rounds, we’ve now reached the college portion of the draft where we have to include considerations of budgeting to be able to sign the HS group. Tirotta is a 6’3″/195lb, senior out of Dayton that hit 16 homers and stole 14 bases over 51 games this year. 31 of his 61 hits went for extra bases.

#7.204 – RHP Gordon Graceffo, Villanova

Graceffo is a 6’4″/210lb righty that has posted sub-1.60 ERA across the last two college seasons, and who ticked his strikeout numbers up to 9.44 per nine this year while maintaining very low walk rate. The fastball is up to 95mph, with a promising changeup.

#8.234 – 2B Jackson Glenn, Dallas Baptist

Glenn is a very well-tooled player that put together an exceptional 2021 with 21 HR, 19 2B, 2 3B, 13 SB, 32 BB to 33 SO, but is dropping in this draft because he’s 23 years old. I really dig this crop of college 2B, and getting Glenn in the 8th is tremendous value.

#9.264 – C Andy Thomas, Baylor

A consistent name amongst my mock drafts, Thomas is a sound catch/throw receiver with enough bat upside to be a sneaky value late in the end of day 2 of the draft. Very solidly built at 6’2″/210lbs, he hit .337/.411/.986 in 2021 while catching 46% of would-be basestealers. He was also one of three finalists for the Buster Posey Award for college catchers.

#10.294 – RHP Taylor Broadway, Ole Miss

The 10th round has frequently been a senior-signing, college relief pitcher for Hunter/Dipoto drafts. Kind of an easy way to save money towards the bonus pool while getting a useful roster piece. Broadway was one of college baseball’s best closers in 2021, and as a 24 year old he shouldn’t cost much, but bring 7.33 SO/BB out of the ‘pen.

#11.324 – LHP Caden Vire, Skyview HS

The early picks of day three of most Hunter drafts have often been overslot players that you’re taking a bit of a risk on signability, while not risking losing funds from your overall bonus pool. Vire is an interesting, local prep pitcher from near Vancouver, WA that stands 6’6″ but skinny, who is only presently topping out around 91mph, but with tons of projection still remaining. If you can sign him away from his ASU commitment, he could be a very fun project to track over the next 3-4 years.

#12.354 – RHP Aaron Brown, MTSU

Brown is a 6’4″/220lb former Vanderbilt recruit that posted a 0.96 WHIP and 11.87 SO/9 this year. Just need to cut down his homeruns allowed.

#13.384 – 1B Griffin Doersching, Northern Kentucky

Doersching is a massive human of a first baseman. 6’4″/250lbs and I think that might be AFTER he cut weight. Power is his carrying tool, though I also note how improved his plate discipline was in 2021, walking 50 times to 34 strikeouts.

#14.414 – OF Jonny Butler, NC State

Butler was the best scoring player in my analysis of the college class of bats. Just a very well-rounded player that goes B- to B+ across all categories.

#15.444 – LHP Rob Hensey, Monmouth

Hensey is a 6’4″/210lb southpaw that posted a 1.54 ERA, 0.878 WHIP over 41.0 innings this year. He starts with a great frame, clean mechanics, and then you try to develop him a little bit.

#16.474 – RHP Elliott Carney, Wofford

Carney is another local product, but he also worked to a 2021 season line of 3.07 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.94 SO/9, 2.25 BB/9, and a no-hitter.

#17.504 – C Wyatt Hendrie, San Diego State

Most drafts you’ll try to come away with a couple catchers. Hendrie posts a nice mix of bat and athleticism. He hit .379/.464/1.097 with a very low strikeout rate. He was the third Buster Posey Award finalist behind Mat Nelson, and the aforementioned Andy Thomas.

#18.534 – RHP Luke Boyd, Baylor

Boyd is a fifth-year senior who posted 14 saves and an ERA of 1.18 and 13.97 SO/9 combined over the last two years. With his nasty slider, could be very quick to the show.

#19.564 – LHP Parker Harm, North Dakota State

Similar profile to Boyd, but from the lefthand side. Harm is a fifth-year guy that had 12 saves, 1.70 ERA, and 15.08 SO/9 this year.

#20.594 – 2B Jace Mercer, Cincinnati

Mercer is sort of the back end of this 2B class that I really like. He was a finalist for the college 2B Gold Glove award and he stole 22 bases over 53 games this year. Also a switch hitter.

Full recap of the full 20 rounds:

1- IF Peyton Stovall
2- RHP Jackson Baumeister
3- OF Malaki Knight
4- LHP Ryan Webb
5- IF Gavin Conticello
6- IF Riley Tirotta
7- RHP Gordon Graceffo
8- IF Jackson Glenn
9- C Andy Thomas
10- RHP Taylor Broadway
11- LHP Caden Vire
12- RHP Aaron Brown
13- IF Griffin Doersching
14- OF Jonny Butler
15- LHP Rob Hensy
16- RHP Elliot Carney
17- C Wyatt Hendrie
18- RHP Luke Boyd
19- LHP Parker Harm
20- IF Jace Mercer

Mariners Mock Draft 3

By Jared Stanger

We’re down to one week until the first day of the 2021 MLB Draft, and I’m doing another mock draft because we’ve had some new developments. The NCAA via the Supreme Court recently declared athletes can make money using their Name, Image, Likeness (NIL). It’s a long-overdue change, but the side-effects will be widespread and some slow-to-be-revealed.

There may be a change in how eager college athletes are to declare for their respective drafts. But, as one of the sports still allowed to draft prospects directly from high school, baseball will have to quickly discover on the fly how many (more) high school players will decide to actually GO to college in lieu of signing to their drafting team now. In other words; this prep class will be the first ever to be able to choose making money while going to the SEC, or making money while going to the Grapefruit League. And then there will be some more specific niches within the draft where those choices will tend to differ.

One would tend to think most prep players will still be swayed from their college commitment by being offered “first round bonus” money, but there are always instances like Jack Leiter a couple years ago where a player truly wants to get a chance to live the college experience. And now they get that plus don’t have to live off top ramen and PBnJ sandwiches.

I have yet to see anyone acknowledge that the NIL change may shake up the pretty consensus top 8 of this draft class, which contains five HS athletes on most boards. If one or two of those players now feel more inclined to go to college; you no longer need 4 “upsets” for one of the top 8 to fall to you; you’d then need 5-6 upsets. Then the ensuing dominos falling could also move some of the players in the 10-15 range that you were counting on being available will no longer last.

So the safest strategy, and something I’ve been pondering for weeks, could be to plan to overdraft and underslot. Money saved in the 1st round could be even more important this year as you attempt to pull prep players in rounds 2-5 away from their college commitments.

Now, when looking at the reports trickling out about the Mariners draft intentions, which are already limited…Jerry Dipoto and Scott Hunter are rumored to once again be focusing on college players. But this year they are supposedly hyper-focusing on college position players. Do we think those reports are based in fact? Do we think the draft will fall in a way in which a bat that matches the value will still be there, and they won’t force a bat with a reach player? If they can’t find a player that is both from college and a bat; would they prioritize the “college” part or the “bat” part more? Aka…would their first pivot be to college pitcher, or to high school bat?

Because of all the collective thinking I’ve talked about leading up to this; I’m going to pivot to a college pitcher over a prep hitter, even though my personal preference would be to draft HS infielder Peyton Stovall over anybody.

#1.12 – RHP Gavin Williams, ECU

I tend to think that the third-best college RHP after the two from Vanderbilt is Gavin Williams. Not Ty Madden, not Ryan Cusick, not either of the Tommy John guys. I just like his profile, and suspect he fits more into what Jerry looks for, more than any of the others. The guy is 6’6″ throwing 99mph, has plus secondary offerings, and throws a LOT of strikes.

Then, on top of that, I see Williams’ lesser projection of late-1st round, and his redshirt Junior class status, as opportunities to get a better talent with less negotiating power, therefore being able to sign him for an underslot price.

The slot allowance for this pick is $4,366,400 and Williams’ projection is generally 10-20 picks later than #12. Even if you sign him for slot #17 money; you save $750,000. That equates to an additional third round value/signing (or overslotting multiple of your existing picks a combined total of $750k).

Is Williams the “best player available” at #12? Not according to the media. But will he be better than the guys the media like at #12? I think so. And then it’s just a wait and see who is more right.

Having “missed” on the college bat in the 1st round; I’m going to proceed to overcompensate in the next several rounds.

#2.48 – 2B Tyler Black, Wright State

After not getting the guy I could see becoming a mainstay at 2B, Stovall, in the 1st; I’m thinking about adding a stud college 2B in the 2nd. I really like this class of college 2B: Connor Norby, Jackson Glenn, Max Ferguson, Tyler McDonough, etc. Black fits really well the position player metric I created to study this year’s bats. He hit .383/.496/1.179 with 13 HR, 59 RBI, and 39 walks.

Under the Covid rules; he is a redshirt Sophomore with multiple years of eligibility remaining, so it may take full slot value of $1,543,600 to get him to sign. But we should be okay to do that.

#3.83 – SS Gavin Conticello, Stoneman Douglas HS

I think you have to be very selective this year with any and all prep players you draft. But I also think it’s important to pull something from this very exciting overall class of HS shortstops. So my foray into that element of the class comes in the form of the 6’4″/195lb Conticello. His college commitment is to South Florida which hopefully won’t be as hard to sign away from as some of the other players committed to, say, SEC/Pac12 schools.

In addition to my deep dives into this year’s college bats and college pitchers; I also attempted a deeper(ish) dive into this year’s prep shortstops. Just trying to come up with a uniform way to analyze traits. Gavin was one of the top five performers (after the 1st round names).

#4.113 – LHP Ryan Webb, Georgia

There are a few places that this draft is very strong. One is HS shortstops, one is college second basemen, and the third is lefthanded pitching (both college and prep). Hence, part of the reason this mock has gone the way that it has.

Webb is the third name on my LHP priority list, but the only one in the top 3 that is still available this late. In a funny way, you draft this Bulldog to eventually replace our current Bulldog, Marco Gonzales. Plus, the farm already has Emerson Hancock and Tim Elliott from Georgia. Webb should be a quality 3rd starter all day.

#5.144 – 3B Riley Tirotta, Dayton

I’ve been fairly consistent in finding a place to draft Tirotta. It’s him or redrafting former M’s draftpick Christian Encarnacion-Strand to play 3B. I’m going with Tirotta because of the better overall athleticism.

#6.174 – 1B Griffin Doersching, Northern Kentucky

Doersching brings a few things this mock, and the farm system, really needs: some righthanded first base power. And THAT Griffin has in spades. He’s 6’4″/250lbs and won the 2019 College HR Derby. In 2021 he added 20 homers and an impressive 50 walks to 34 strikeouts. So, in addition to the power, there is some plate discipline to him as well.

#7.204 – RHP Daniel Brooks, Bishop England HS

Seventh round is hopefully late enough to draft the always-volatile prep RHP category. In 2019 Seattle drafted prep RHP Mikey Limoncelli and prep LHP Adam Macko back to back in the 6th-7th.

Brooks is a 6’8″/239lb righty with commitment to the College of Charleston. His fastball is currently sitting 95mph and touching 97-98 with high spin, and a really nasty slider. I really like his strong lower half. I could see him getting up to 99-100 in a couple more years. They got Limoncelli to sign for $500k in 2019, so I’d look to pay Brooks similarly overslot.

#8.234 – C Andy Thomas, Baylor

Thomas is a fifth-year senior with good receiving skills and a solid bat. He hit .337/.411/.986 with 11 homeruns, and threw out 46% of would-be base-stealers in 2021. He was also a finalist for the Buster Posey Award for college catchers. Draft for the glove and hope the bat develops.

#9.264 – OF Jonny Butler, NC State

In the analysis I did of college hitters, Butler actually came out as the highest scoring player outside of first round projected bats. He’s a well-rounded athlete that knows how to get on-base, has a little pop, a little speed, and a little defense.

#10.294 – RHP Aaron Brown, Middle Tennessee

In theory, this should probably be a relief pitcher, but having gone 2 to 1 bats to arms so far, we could probably use another starter.

Brown is a guy that scored very well in my study of college pitchers. He’s a 6’4″/220lb former Vanderbilt recruit that posted a 3.99 ERA in 2021 primarily due to an unfortunate number of homeruns allowed (13). I don’t have access to college ballpark tendancies, so I’m not sure if that is park-related. But everything else in Brown’s line looks like the kind of pitcher Scott Hunter targets. He’s a redshirt junior by eligibility, but he’s 22 years old and should sign at senior rate.

#11. 324 – OF John Thrasher, Hartford

Thrasher is a consistent target of mine throughout this draft season. He’s the ideal profile for an eventual 4th-outfielder at the major league level. He was one of the best base-stealers in the country this year, and the bat and glove both appear to be useful. I’d like to see him walk a bit more, but he doesn’t really strikeout much either. Very contact-oriented. Thrasher is a redshirt junior, so he should sign at senior rate.

#12.354 – LHP Caden Vire, Skyview HS

We’ve seen the M’s crew go prep pitcher multiple times in rounds 11-16 over the last handful of drafts. Damon Casetta Stubbs, Holden Laws, Anthony Tomczak. Each of those instances they signed him for over slot money. So it will take some maneuvering rounds 1-10 to be able to afford him.

#13. 384 – RHP Taylor Broadway, Ole Miss

Broadway is an undersized, overaged reliever for the Rebels. He had the second-most saves in the country this year. You should be able to get him for low money as he’s already 24 years old. This could easily be your 10th round pick to save bonus money for, say, Vire.

#14.414 – RHP Elliot Carney, Wofford

Carney is a 23 year old redshirt senior originally out of Sammamish who pitched extremely well in 2021: 3.07 ERA, 0.95 WHIP, 10.94 SO/9. He also threw a no-hitter. Should be a guy that will progress through your system a la Darren McCaughan.

#15.444 – LHP Parker Harm, North Dakota State

Solid lefty bullpen arm with experience closing. 12 saves this year and a 1.70 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, 15.08 SO/9. Very difficult arm angle is death to lefthanded hitters. Fifth-year senior could also be another candidate for that 10th round bonus-saver pick.