Casey at the Bat | M's Draft Prospects: Pick No. 2

Casey McLain@caseymclain34Senior Analyst IMay 15, 2009

OMAHA, NE - JUNE 21:  First baseman Dustin Ackley #13 of the North Carolina Tar Heels celebrates with teammates after hitting a solo homer in the second inning to the give the Tar Heels a 1-0 lead over the Rice Owls in Game 13 of the NCAA College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium on June 21, 2007 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

When the Mariners lost their ninth of the last 10 games last night at the bat of Texas first baseman Chris Davis, I began to wonder.

Texas has another one of these guys? Big bats from the left-hand side, they don’t grow on trees, generally, but perhaps the growing season and crops available are different in Arlington.

Davis is just another in a long list that includes Hank Blalock, Mark Teixeira (switch hitter), Carlos Pena and Adrian Gonzalez, not to mention trades which have brought in Josh Hamilton, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rafael Palmeiro and others over the years.

Perhaps the single greatest need the Mariners have had since Ken Griffey Jr. left Seattle, power from the left-hand side, is something that Texas has had in abundance. Of the first four, only Adrian Gonzalez wasn’t drafted by the team, he was acquired in a trade with the Marlins for closer Ugueth Urbina.

Mike Carp? Doubt it.

Carp is a decent talent. He’s a lefty with power, and one who walks, and he’s tearing up Triple A (.294/.393/.588). However, if he maintains these numbers they’ll be the first time in his career he’s had a slugging percentage over .500.

The Mariners have the second-overall pick in the June draft, and it may be one of the most important drafts in team history. With three picks in the first and first compensatory rounds, the team needs to re-stock its farm system for now and the future.

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For now however, is a look at potential candidates for the No. 2 slot:

Stephen Strasburg, SP, San Diego State

6-4, 220 lbs, Throws-Right Bats-Right

Anyone with even a passing knowledge of this year’s draft knows Strasburg’s name. He’s been heralded as the best pitching prospect of either the last two decades, or ever, depending on who you talk to.

Strasburg’s got a dominating 100+ mph fastball, solid off speed stuff, and excellent control considering his age and arm strength.

As with any pitcher who throws that hard, there are concerns about Strasburg’s health. The human arm isn’t meant to throw a baseball in an overhand motion, and generally tendons aren’t built to withstand the violent nature of throwing 100 mph.

There is a very interesting analysis of Strasburg’s mechanics here.

In summary, the frame by frame analysis shows Strasburg next to the famously injury-prone Mark Prior.

Prior is perhaps my favorite baseball player, and thus, I’ll point out that he never had a serious injury problem until he ran into Marcus Giles while running the bases.

I’ll also point out that Strasburg’s left-foot lands more to the first base side of the pitchers mound, and that allows his shoulders and hips to open, alleviating a lot of the prospective strain on his shoulder, which was Prior’s ultimate downfall.

A lot has been made of the “inverted W,” a scapula loading technique to gain velocity on one’s fastball. It’s been blamed for Mark Prior’s injuries, as well as John Smoltz eventual injuries.

While a debate of Strasburg’s injury potential would be extended, it may not be prudent, as Strasburg will likely be gone when the Mariners pick. If he’s not, he’s got a once-in-a-lifetime arm that simply cannot be passed up. The Mariners would draft him, and hope that they can coach his mechanics to be more arm friendly.

Dustin Ackley, 1b/CF, North Carolina

6-1, 185 lbs, Throws-Right Bats-Left

Unfortunately, this season is not one with a slew of competition for the top spot. Unavoidably, if the Washington Nationals draft Strasburg the Mariners will be facing a meteoric fall in terms of the talent they’ll be able to acquire with the second-pick.

Frankly, Ackley is the best hitter in this draft. He hits for average, enough power, and walks a ton, all from the left hand side.

The only question mark surrounding Ackley is what position he plays defensively in the majors. He’s got all the athletic tools play the outfield, but an elbow injury and subsequent Tommy John surgery have relegated him to first base until recently. If he’s drafted by the Mariners, in all likelihood, he’d end up in left field, if he were to play the outfield.

Ackley’s power potential probably tops out at 30 homeruns in the majors, and that’s being generous. He’ll hit a lot of doubles and a handful of triples, but sacrificing the league’s top power position on a guy that doesn’t hit homeruns would be, well, very Bavasi-esque.

That is no reference to Richie Sexson, love or hate the jettisoned slugger, plugging him in at first base made sense. However, as of now the team has a slap hitter in right field, an inconsistent hitter in center field, a platoon of a slap hitter and a young, promising prospect in left, and a free-swinger at short stop.

Many of those guys have been acquired by the Mariners present front office, but the $18 million man in right is a Bavasi-ownership problem.

The league has essentially three premier power positions on the field, first base, right field and left field. The Mariners have only one filled with a presently-productive power hitter.

An inevitable loss of Adrian Beltre will hurt the team, but being able to plug in an up-to-par left fielder that walks more than average would be a major coup.

Grant Green, SS, USC

6-3, 185 lbs, Throws: Right Bats: Right

There is something of a debate projecting Green. He’s been compared to Troy Tulowitzki and Evan Longoria, who, before you check, do play different positions.  

There are very few players at his height that can bulk up and remain athletic enough to play shortstop. Generally, those guys are moved to either second base or third base, depending on their arm strength.

Luckily – at least kind of – the Mariners could soon need an upgrade at all three infield positions left of first base.

Green is a solid hitter, and one with an inside-out approach at the plate. That should allow him to cover the entire strike zone, and if he adds power, he probably projects to a 25 home run threat in the majors.

Green is a solid fielder, though recent struggles may speed up the process toward moving him to another position.

Green walks enough, and with a projectable frame, he really rounds out the second-tier behind Strasburg.


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