With the 2011 MLB draft approaching quickly, it's exciting to speculate on who the Mariners will get with their second overall pick. I say "who they will get," rather than "who they will take," because it largely (well, entirely) depends on who the Pirates take with the first pick.
The top two projected picks are UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole and Rice University third baseman Anthony Rendon. If the Pirates take Cole, the Mariners will grab Rendon, and vice versa.
I've already explained why I think Pittsburgh will go for Cole, and that would work nicely for Seattle; Rendon is the perfect fit for their up-and-coming team.
It's likely that we wouldn't see him in the majors before 2013, but that lines up with the expected arrival date of most of the other young guys in the Mariners organization.
However, there's still the possibility that Pittsburgh takes Rendon first (maybe if they lose faith in Pedro Alvarez?), so I'm going to examine both situations.
Gerrit Cole, like Rendon, is expected to be major league-ready by 2013. He's pitching in his third year at UCLA, and he just keeps getting better.
Cole's 6'4", 220 lb measurements are the key to his success: he's a power pitcher, very similar to Michael Pineda. Also like Pineda, Cole has a fastball that reaches 100 mph and a wicked slider; it's really remarkable how similar the two are.
One of Cole's most desirable traits is his ability to eat innings. Last year, as a sophomore, he averaged 6.5 innings through the 19 games he started, mostly due to his low pitch count. There's no reason to take a guy out if he's only thrown 80 pitches through seven innings, which is what Cole can frequently accomplish.
Also in his sophomore year, Cole posted an insane 11.2 K/9 ratio while striking out three times as many batters as he walked. He seems to be a low-risk, high-reward draft choice who could bolster the rotation of any team in the majors.
There is, however, one thing to be concerned about: people have compared Cole to Stephen Strasburg, who underwent Tommy John surgery after his first year with the Nationals because of the way he whipped his arm for each pitch. While it's not definite, the possible surgery is certainly a factor to consider.
If Gerrit did fall to second, he would be a the icing on the cake that is the Mariners rotation. Since Bedard is the oldest of the starting five and the most injury prone, he would likely be traded away when Cole was ready to come up, leaving Felix Hernandez, Michael Pineda, Jason Vargas and Doug Fister—and what a rotation that would be.
If the Mariners don't get Cole, it's not like they're really missing out on anything. Anthony Rendon is the top-ranked hitting prospect right now and for good reason. He won the college ROY award and earned MVP honors last year as a sophomore.
So far, through 56 games this year, Rendon is hitting .323 with 17 doubles and five bombs (and even two three-baggers), good for a .516 slugging percentage and a .526 on-base percentage which combine for a 1.042 OPS. The numbers speak for themselves.
Like I mentioned earlier, Rendon would fit beautifully into the scheme the Mariners are currently running. Dustin Ackley is supposed to come up at second, Nick Franklin at short and Adam Moore will catch, all in 2013, barring any major setbacks.
With Rendon in there, as well as Justin Smoak, the Mariners will have one of the youngest, most talented infields in the majors. When coupled with the ultra-veteran outfield comprised of Ichiro and Franklin Gutierrez (as well as a younger guy, Carlos Peguero or Mike Wilson) and a vicious pitching staff, contention seems inevitable.
One might even say that the Mariners will be the team to beat in 2013.