Seattle Mariners: 15 Players To Target in the First Round of the Draft
The one consolation fans always take from poor seasons is getting a high draft pick.
For the second time in three seasons, the Seattle Mariners will have the second overall pick in the draft. It's not a position any team wants to be in, but the ability to improve your club through the draft is always there.
The man making the final decision on draft picks will of course be GM Jack Zduriencik. You may recall, Zduriencik had several successful drafts as the director of scouting for the Milwaukee Brewers. In fact, he was the first non-general manager to win Baseball America's Major League Executive of the Year Award.
Here are the 15 players the Mariners may target most, broken down by positions of need. The top 3 and most likely to be selected will come in the final slides.
The sexy names you may be looking for are in the final three slides, but here are a few more guys the front office could like.
We start with pitching, as the M's could sure use a couple horses behind Felix Hernandez.
Sonny Gray, Vanderbilt
6'0" 196. Gray, a right hander, reaches the mid 90s with his fastball. He was a high school quarterback with good athleticism and has even shown power potential at the plate. He does figure to be a high to middle first round selection as pitcher, though. He started 16 games, winning 10 and sporting a 3.48 ERA. He issued 48 walks while striking out 113.
Taylor Jungmann, Texas
6'6" 195. A big righty, Jungmann's fastball currently sits in the low to mid 90's, and is countered with a plus changeup and potentially plus-plus slider. He's going to need some mechanics work, but he has tons of raw potential. He started 17 games, winning 8. His sophomore ERA was a shiny 2.02, while pitching 120 innings. He struck out 129 and only walked 41.
Danny Hultzen, Virginia
6'2" 195. Hultzen is the crafty lefty of the group. His fastball is only in the upper 80's, but he's shown great control and pitch selection. He uses a curve, changeup and split finger. In his sophomore campaign, he started 16 games, winning 11. His ERA sat at 2.78 in 106 innings. He struck out 123 and only walked 24. If he ended up in a Mariners uniform, Safeco Field would be very nice to him as it is to similar soft tossing lefties.
6'2" 170. A lefty, Norris is the lone high school pitcher in the group. His fastball sits in the low 90's already and has sinking action. His changeup and slider are ranked decent, while his curve seems to not be as effective. He does show good control. He had signed with Clemson, but some think he is sign-able as a middle first round selection.
Ichiro isn't getting younger. Michael Saunders might not pan out. Franklin Gutierrez's bat may never reach its potential. So, you figure you're going to need some outfield help soon.
The high minors don't offer much in the way of the type of hitters this Mariners front office likes, so perhaps these guys would fit the mold.
George Springer, Connecticut
6'3" 200. Springer has good size with natural power. His speed and arm aren't rated very highly, so he's likely to be a left field candidate. He batted .337 in 2010 with a .491 OBP. Swatting 18 home runs and walking 60 times he showed a solid combination of patience and power. He's projected as a middle first round pick.
Zach Cone, Georgia
6'2" 240. Another corner outfielder with good size. He batted .363/.411/.627 with 10 home runs as a sophomore. His patience rates really low, though. He only walked 14 times while striking out 33 times. He did have 12 doubles and 7 triples, so his power seems legit.
Jackie Bradley, South Carolina
5'10" 175. In his age 20 sophomore season, Bradley batted .368/.473/.587 with 13 home runs and 12 doubles. And, this was coming off a broken hand. He has average patience and power with plus contact for an overall above average bat.
Some things are just certain, such as the sun setting. Or, Jack Wilson being on the disabled list. The Mariners added Brendan Ryan to the roster who can slide over when that happens, which will also open the door for Dustin Ackley to come up.
But that doesn't solve the problem.
While Nick Franklin is showing some promise, you never know with prospects. And, having a surplus of middle infielders is a problem you could live with. Ackley could also always had back to the outfield if the right middle infielder came along.
Jason Esposito, Vanderbilt
He had a solid sophomore season, hitting .359/.453/.599 with 12 home runs. He may end up projecting as more of a 3B type, but he has the athleticism to play up the middle also. His stock has risen considerably since being drafted in the 7th round in 2008.
At 6'0" 185, he has more of a middle infielder build than Esposito. He's just finishing high school, so could end up opting to develop in college but he already profiles as a low first round type guy that is sign-able. He has shown good patience and strike zone understanding. The bat speed is good as well. He doesn't have a ton of range so he may end up being more of a second base candidate in the future.
The Mariners still need catching help. They have a stop gap in Miguel Olivo, and Adam Moore could still develop some, but the depth in the minors isn't great.
Swihart is 6'0", 170. Just finishing high school, he's not very big right now, but he's projected to fill out his frame. He's got a plus arm and his release rates high also. His bat speed and raw power rate good now, and should improve as he gets bigger and stronger.
Another high school player, but at 6'3" 210, Delmonico is already a big kid. He's also played some short stop, so he is athletic. He has a strong arm. He's shown some trouble with inside pitches. He can hit from the left side which is a plus and fits well for Safeco Field.
Cron just finished his sophomore season at Utah. At 6'4" 230 he's the biggest of the bunch. He has decent athleticism for a guy his size also. Cron had a slash split of .431/.487/.817 in 2010 with 20 homers and 16 doubles. The raw power is there. He may not project well long term behind the plate due to his size, but could be a good option for a few years.
#3 RHP Gerrit Cole, UCLA
Selected 28th overall by the Yankees in 2008, Gerrit Cole decided to go to college and it seems to have paid off. He's now projected high in mock drafts, and there's good reason for it.
He's a big kid at 6'4", 215lbs. While leading the Bruins to the NCAA College World Series finals, Cole's 2010 season included an 11-4 record while sporting a 3.34 ERA and 153 strikeouts. His fastball sits in the mid 90s.
Why He Fits:
After Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda, the Mariners don't have a lot of starting pitching arriving any time soon. There are some guys in the low minors with upside, but pitchers develop just as inconsistently as they perform once they reach the majors.
Cole could be the best option if the Mariners decide they want a big arm that can be in the majors soon.
#2 LHP Matt Purke, TCU
Like Gerrit Cole, Matt Purke was drafted and opted to stay in school. The Rangers made Purke their firt round pick (14th overall) in 2011, and he reportedly turned down a $4 million signing bonus to pitch for the Horned Frogs.
Purke went a perfect 16-0 in 2010 with a 3.02 ERA and 142 strikeouts in 116.1 innings.
Why He Fits:
His 6'4" frame along with a fastball that sits between 94-96, Purke is the left handed option if you don't get or want Cole. His command of multiple pitches has been compared to Cole Hammels, but with the arm strength of a Clayton Kershaw.
A fireballer with good command from the left side is never a terrible option.
#1 3B Anthony Rendon, Rice University
Projected as the best hitter in draft class that will be loaded with pitches at the top, Anthony Rendon has lots of tools. His defense rates well at third, with a strong arm and range.
The problem, of course, is that the Mariners have the second pick. Not the first. The Pittsburgh Pirates figure to select Rendon, but with the Pirates revenue issues, there's always a chance that they don't think they can sign him and let him fall into the Mariners' lap.
Why He Fits:
Chone Figgins figures to move back to third for 2011, but he likely won't be around longer than a couple more seasons.
The minor league system lacks a third baseman with both a strong bat and excellent defense. Matt Mangini and Matt Tuiasosopo have both had chances and neither impressed or project well moving forward. Carlos Triunfel could slide over to third, and Alex Liddi has some upside but none project the way Rendon does as an all-around player.
Oh, and the Mariners sort of need offense.