Seattle Mariners: Ranking the Best Draft Picks in Franchise History
Major League Baseball's 2011 First Year Player Draft kicks off on Monday, June 6th, and the Seattle Mariners once again own the No. 2 overall selection. Teams can really set themselves up for a future of winning with the right draft choice: it is often the least expensive route for getting the best player available for a long tenure of team control.
Most teams have both struck gold and struck out with their picks over the years, but the key to success is limiting the bad and maximizing the good. With that in mind, let's look back at the 11 best draft picks in Mariners franchise history.
11. Mike Moore
Mike Moore was never an all-star, and in fact he only had one winning season as a Seattle Mariners pitcher (17-10 in 1985), but he was a quick-ascending innings eater that pitched about league average ball for seven seasons. He didn't exactly help the Mariners climb up the rankings, but he was a steady contributor on some bad teams.
Moore was clearly regarded as the top starting pitcher in the 1981 draft class at the time, but some of the names that the Mariners passed on to take Moore include Frank Viola (second round), David Cone (third round) and Tony Gwynn (third round).
10. Dave Henderson
The first first-round draft pick in franchise history was spent on California high school outfielder Dave Henderson in 1977. "Hendu" had his nickname and his trademark grin while he was a member of the Seattle Mariners from 1981 through August of 1986, but he never really had a top-notch offensive season while hitting in the Kingdome. Still, he produced better-than-average OPS numbers and played good defense as the first in a long line of talented center fielders for the ballclub.
9. Tino Martinez
Tino Martinez enjoyed most of his personal success as a member of the New York Yankees, but he had some very good seasons as a member of the Seattle Mariners, too. Most notably among those was that improbable, Griffey-less run in 1995, during which Martinez hit 31 home runs and drove in 111 runs to help lead the ballclub to the greatest moment in franchise history.
The fact that he was traded to those dreaded Yankees along with a very good reliever (Jeff Nelson) for a bad third baseman (Russ Davis) and a worse left hander (Sterling Hitchcock) will always kill me, but Tino—the 14th overall pick in the 1988 draft—still did the Mariners a lot of good in his time with the club.
8. Phil Bradley
Phil Bradley was the Mariners' everyday left fielder for just four full seasons, but in those four seasons, he never hit under .297, and never had an OPS+ of less than 107. He stole 107 bases, hit 52 home runs, scored 100 runs twice, and made the all-star team in 1985.
He may not be a household name to most Mariners fans that came around in '89 or 2001, but he is what neither of those teams—and not too many before or after—had: a regular left fielder that could play every day, hit the ball, and catch it.
He was a third-round pick by Seattle in 1981, and he also brought back reliever Mike Jackson when he was traded away in 1987. Bradley ranks 13th in career WAR for position players in franchise history...just ahead of the "other" best left fielder in team history, Raul Ibanez.
7. Erik Hanson
Erik Hanson was a second-round pick in 1986 for the Mariners out of Wake Forest and he was in the major leagues just two seasons later for a cup of coffee.
In his first full season with the M's in 1990 though, Hanson really broke out as he became the first right-hander to win 18 games and posted the fourth best WHIP (1.16) and ninh best ERA (3.24) in the American League that season. While he never duplicated that success, he did post a 3.69 ERA and 56 wins (still eighth best in team history) during his six seasons with the club.
Hanson is also another player that gains value for what he got the Mariners in return in the 1993 trade that sent him to the Cincinnati Reds: Bobby Ayala and Dan Wilson.
6. J.J. Putz
J.J. Putz wasn't selected until the Mariners got him in the sixth round of the 1999 amateur draft. As soon as he switched from starter to reliever in the minor leagues, he began to climb the ranks quickly. And when Eddie Guardado taught him to throw a splitter, well, things really started looking up. His 2007 season (1.38 ERA, 0.70 WHIP and 40 saves) are the stuff of legend.
Sure he ruffled a lot of feathers when he basically blamed Ichiro for the Mariners clubhouse being divided back in 2008, but what he did for the Mariners in his six seasons with the club, including his 101 saves—and what they got in return for him in that famous three-team trade when he left—send him up this list higher than you may originally think he deserves to be.
5. Bret Boone
Bret Boone had two tours of duty with the Seattle Mariners, and while it was the second that earned him a spot on this list, the fact of the matter is still that he was originally a Mariners draft pick.
Taken in the fifth round of the 1990 draft, Boone's bloodlines made him a hot name to Mariners fans, and when the franchise traded him away without ever giving him a full shot at a job, many were upset. But the fact of the matter was that Boone hadn't proved he could hit at that time.
Of course, upon his return to Seattle eight seasons later, the hitting was other-worldly. His 2001 season—.331/.372/.578, 206 hits, 37 HR and 141 RBI as a second baseman—got him a Silver Slugger award, an all-star game nod and a third place finish in the American League MVP vote (notably behind teammate Ichiro Suzuki).
Two more great seasons and two more simply good seasons followed before the Mariners cut the aging Boone midway through the 2005 season. But those seven big-league seasons in Seattle have his name all over the franchise leader boards.
4. Mark Langston
Before the Mariners ever had a winning season, the best thing in franchise history was probably Mark Langston. Langston was taken in the same draft as No. 11 on this list, Mike Moore, but although Moore made it to the big leagues sooner, Langston—a second-round pick in June of '81—undeniably had the better career with the Mariners and the larger impact on their ability to contend.
He won 74 games in his five and a half seasons in Seattle (fifth best in team history), won two Gold Gloves and an all-star game while leading the American League in strikeouts three times. But the best thing he ever did for the Mariners was get traded.
Langston was dealt to the Expos in May of 1989 for Gene Harris, Brian Holman and a tall, wild lefty named Randy Johnson. Johnson, of course, performed amazing feats for the Mariners and then himself netted the club three prospects...one of whom ultimately netted the club a few more. He was also involved in one of the most memorable plays in Mariners history when he was a member of the California Angels. Lots of great stuff, all thanks to Langston.
3. Alvin Davis
Alvin Davis was drafted in the sixth round in 1982 out of Arizona State University, but he quickly charged through the Mariners system and won the starting first base job in 1984. That season he was an all-star, the Rookie of the Year (ahead of teammate Mark Langston, and other names like Kirby Puckett and Roger Clemens) and placed 12th in the American League MVP voting following his .284/.391/.497, 27 HR, 116 RBI rookie year.
He would spend eight seasons as the Mariners' everyday first baseman, but never quite recapture the magic of that rookie season.
That said, he still ranks in the top 10 of several offensive categories for the Mariners, and he is affectionately known as "Mr. Mariner" to every Seattle fan. I was in attendance for his final game and final at bat as a member of the Seattle Mariners, and I can tell you firsthand that this city loved Alvin Davis.
2. Alex Rodriguez
Alex Rodriguez was a no-brainer pick at No. 1 overall when the Mariners selected him in June of 1993 from Westminster Christian High School out of Miami, Florida. But just because he was the consensus top choice that year doesn't preclude him from this list. He put up three of the eight best offensive seasons in Mariners history, won a batting title, four Silver Sluggers and made four all-star teams in Seattle...all before he turned 25 years old.
He was robbed of the MVP award as a 20-year-old (.358/.414/.631, 215 hits, 141 runs, 54 2B, 36 HR, 123 RBI) and became just the third 40/40 player (40-plus HR and 40-plus SB in the same season) in 1998. Sure, you can't trust anything that he ever says and he is a Yankee now, but when he was with Seattle, times were good.
1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
You could argue that Alex Rodriguez has had a better overall career, and he may actually end up being viewed as a far superior ballplayer to Ken Griffey, Jr. when all is said and done. But because of the way their careers evolved, there is absolutely no doubt who ranks higher on Mariners fans' lists and in their hearts.
"Napgate" is nothing compared to what A-Rod did to Mariners fans when he left. And in all honesty, what we got to see day-in and day-out from 1989 through 1999 should wipe away any thought of what Alex ever was.
Don't let 2009 and 2010 cloud your memories of Junior—think back to the glory days. Prodigious home runs. Game saving catches. Ear-to-ear smiles. Backwards caps. Warehouse caroms. Home run titles. Eight straight games. Gold Gloves, an MVP and a .300 average. And, of course, the bottom of the pile.
Griffey was plain and simply the best ballplayer the game has ever seen in his first go-round in Seattle, and if the injuries hadn't torn him down, they would've had to start a whole new wing in Cooperstown just for him.
As it is now, we'll just have to settle for him being the first Seattle Mariners player inducted into the Hall of Fame...and the No. 1 Best Draft Pick in Mariners Franchise History.