It’s all but obvious that the Mariners will draft Dustin Ackley in the upcoming amateur draft with the second overall pick. However, the team also holds picks 27 and 33.
Jack Zduriencik has been diligent in acquiring left-handed power hitters, speedy outfielders, and middling starting pitching prospects, so the bottom of the first round could be a field day for the GM.
Ackley has high value because he may be able to play center field, and recently some have begun to project him at second base. Supposedly Zduriencik likes the idea of Ackley at second.
Part of the philosophy laid out in Moneyball is that good hitters are valuable and can be quantified against poor defensive skills. The Oakland A’s drafted several players who perhaps didn’t have a “true position” on draft day (think Jason Giambi, Nick Swisher, Mark Teahen, etc.).
Conventional wisdom, however, dictates that teams should draft pitching and buy hitting. Hitters are a more steady investment, while pitchers are a more volatile investment.
For every Roger Clemens there is a Kris Benson, or worse. For every Trevor Hoffman a Matt Anderson, or worse. Then, halfway through a pitcher’s career, it’s entirely possible that they go all “Barry Zito” on the team they play with and become a $120 million reliever, though Zito’s had a very good start to 2009.
Conventional wisdom dictates that it is better to have pitchers who are cheap, young, and healthy than expensive, old, and injury-prone.
The Mariners could use some depth in their farm system in the form of right-handed pitching, as most of their top prospects are left-handed.
It appears that Zduriencik is eyeing pitching at the college level and may be eyeing hitters at the same level.
Tanner Scheppers tops the list. He’s likely to go early in the first round, perhaps in the top five. However, a shoulder injury kept him from signing with the Pirates last offseason and could drop him in this year’s draft. He boasts a mid-90s fastball, a solid curveball, and a changeup.
The thing I like most about Scheppers is that despite being a college power pitcher, he doesn’t throw a slider, a pitch I consider a precursor for elbow surgery.
Eric Arnett is a guy with a lot of buzz. He’s got a very projectable frame, 6’5”, 220 lbs., but he’s been erratic through his college career. He throws in the low to mid-90s and has correctable mechanical issues that could add to that velocity (closed hips).
Kyle Heckathorn is another guy with a projectable frame (6’6”, 240 lbs.) with good velocity. He’s got a power-pitcher repertoire with an MLB-ready fastball and slider, but like Arnett has mechanical issues (all through delivery). He’s got an impressive set of physical tools and upside based on his flaws, but he’s only an average athlete, which may indicate a lack of desire to improve.
Rex Brothers is the only lefty that may be considered at this pick. Lefties aren’t held to frame standards that righties are, simply because they offer a different arm angle against right-handers, and since most left-handed hitters thrive on low and in fastballs, the pitch plane is less important.
Brothers is a hard-throwing lefty (low to mid-90s). All scouting reports make him sound like J.C. Romero—the problem, of course, is that Romero is a reliever. Brothers presents an interesting skill set though.
I’m convinced that if Zduriencik had been running the ballclub last year, he’d have drafted Allan Dykstra instead of Josh Fields. Dykstra’s a walk machine (43 in 43 games in Single-A last season). However, there are a couple of similar hitters in this year’s draft.
Rich Poythress is a masher from Georgia. He’s right-handed, which may make him unfavorable for Zduriencik. However, he’s got experience at third base, though his poor range could relegate him to 1B/DH full time. He’s got great power but may not hit for great average in the bigs.
Marc Krauss may be the best opportunity for Zduriencik to fill the left-handed batter's box, but he may be a reach at this pick. He’s another third baseman who will have to move. Krauss is something of a walk machine and has recently begun to hit for power. If Zduriencik passes on him in the supplemental round, he may still be around when the Mariners pick at No. 51.
Donovan Tate would be something of a best-case scenario. He’s got tons of upside, though he’s a high school prospect, perhaps less favorable for the team. He also is a Scott Boras client, which is the reason he may actually fall to this spot.
Tate’s a five-tool prospect, but he has an offer to play football and baseball at North Carolina. After an offseason of ugly negotiations with Josh Fields, the Mariners may be hesitant to pull the trigger on Tate.
An A.J. Pollock success range has variety akin to Brandon Roy’s projection coming out of college: He does a lot of things well, but nothing great. If Pollock is an outfielder, he’s an average player, but he may make a very good offensive second baseman if he can play the position at the big league level.
Brett Jackson is an outfielder who can probably play center or left field. He’s an average hitter and an above average runner. Like Krauss, he may be available at No. 51.
Tim Wheeler is a solid defensive center fielder who should be an average left-handed hitter with some work. He has a short stride but exaggerates the rotation on his lead foot, which causes him to swing from an upright stance on a lead leg with a locked knee.
It is possible that Zduriencik isn’t nearly as obvious as I think. There are a handful of prospects with varying draft stocks, depending on who is quantifying it.
Matt Davidson is a third baseman who will get consideration more because of his bat than his glove. If he’s available when the Mariners pick at No. 27 (unlikely), he should be the pick. However, he’s a high school prospect who may have to move to left field or first base.
Tony Sanchez is a catcher from Boston College. He’s an average defender. He’s an average hitter but could have power. Is he Mike Napoli or Mike Piazza? I’d bet on the former.