The P’s the Mariners instead coveted: Power, plate discipline, and positional versatility.
The Mariners didn’t get the opportunity to draft Stephen Strasburg, perhaps the greatest pitching prospect ever, who went first overall to the Washington Nationals. They instead drafted Dustin Ackley, widely considered the best hitter in the draft.
In a draft that was widely considered to be pitching-heavy and weak in terms of position players, the Mariners passed on pitching with each of their first five selections.
They even passed on Tanner Scheppers three times. Scheppers went to the Rangers, who had another fantastic draft. Scheppers could be among baseball's top prospects with a strong showing in the minors.
It had been reported that Jack Zduriencik had the intent to draft college pitching early in the draft. He may have come across talents he didn’t think would be available, or missed out on some pitchers he was high on, maybe he was blowing smoke screens to the media, or maybe he simply felt the need to send a message to scuffling youngsters in the Mariners organization.
Regardless of the intent, the latter may be the effect.
The Mariners drafted two middle infielders, a high school shortstop and a college second baseman. Also, Ackley’s coach Mike Fox is on record as saying that Ackley could make a professional transition to second base, in addition to the first base and outfield positions he’s projected to play.
One of those middle infielders, however, was Kyle Seager, who played second base at North Carolina, where Ackley and Fox play and coach respectively.
Not only did the drafting of Seager with the last pick of the day answer the “Why the hell isn’t Ackley playing second at UNC if he’s able to?” question, but it also made it painfully obvious that the organization may be looking to move on from the Jose Lopez and Yuniesky Betancourt double play combination.
The Mariners also drafted a catcher in the supplementary round, perhaps indicating that Jeff Clement’s time with the ball club, at least as a catcher, is limited.
Despite trading for Mike Carp and signing Brad Nelson, not to mention signing early-season standout Russell Branyan, the team drafted two players, Ackley and Rich Poythress, who are listed as first basemen.
In reality, it's possible that neither plays first base, Ackley because he’s more valuable at other positions, and Poythress because he’s more valuable sitting on the bench during the defensive half of innings.
Without further ado, here is some analysis of each Mariners pick.
No. 2—Dustin Ackley, 1B/OF/2B, North Carolina
The drafting of Ackley was pretty obvious leading up to the draft. He’s not going to compare to Ken Griffey Jr.’s early years in Seattle on either side of the ball, but he appears to be an adequate early-order hitter, and may fill the two-hole as soon as next season.
He’s a left handed hitter with excellent patience at the plate. He’s got adequate power, and good speed, so while he won’t win any home-run titles in all likelihood, he’s got potential to hit 40 doubles year in and year out.
If he remains in the outfield he may eventually be forced to left field, where his arm will be better suited. He had Tommy John surgery, and was relegated to first base at North Carolina in order to keep his bat in the lineup.
Ultimately, Ackley’s value depends on what position he plays. Allowing players to choose their position is what has Brandon Morrow struggling in the bullpen right now. Ackley’s ceiling is probably similar to that of Grady Sizemore, while his floor is probably that of a more patient version of Jeremy Reed.
No. 27—Nick Franklin, SS, Lake Brantley High School (Florida)
Franklin is a bit of a surprise pick. Shortstop doesn’t seem like a huge need, where the team has Carlos Triunfel as the seeming incumbent for the position. However, in Franklin, the team gets a guy who should be able to stay at the position (something Triunfel may not be able to do) and a left-handed bat.
There’s not a ton of information about Franklin around apart from a handful of scouting reports. He appears to have an all-around skillset, and he’s ranked modestly by both scout.com and rivals.com.
He batted switch in high school, but most scouting reports have him listed as a lefty. That doesn’t really hurt his value much, and adds another left-handed batting, right-handed throwing player to this mix, which means he can play the infield.
No. 33—Steven Baron, C, Ferguson High School (Florida)
Baron was another surprising pick. If not because Scheppers was available still, simply because the Mariners have Rob Johnson, Jeff Clement and Adam Moore presently in their organization at various levels.
Baron is a developmental catcher, but unlike Clement his development won’t need to occur on the defensive side of the ball. By all accounts, Baron is a solid defensive catcher right now, and one of few high-school catchers who seems to have a feel for pitcher.
That sounds like an unimportant asset, but I believe that all good game-callers must have a working knowledge of pitching strategy.
Baron reportedly has some power and untapped hitting potential, but if he turns into Mike Matheny or Dan Wilson at the plate with similar ability behind it, the Mariners will be satisfied.
No. 51—Rich Poythress, 1B, Georgia
Poythress is a college masher. He’s hit a ton of home runs this season, and has been one of the most powerful hitters at the collegiate level in the past few years, and has played both third and first base.
Reports say he’s got bat speed issues, and though he’s not as tall as Richie Sexson, he’s tall enough for fans to be concerned by a similar swing ailment.
Poythress is a designated hitter and nothing more in all likelihood. Bucky Jacobsen-Kevin Millar-Richie Sexson seems to be his range. If that range seems to end on a lower level player, remember that Sexson was very productive early in his career, the years the Mariners will get of Poythress.
No. 82—Kyle Seager, 2B/3B, North Carolina
Seager is a very interesting prospect. He’s a lefty who hits for high average, walks enough, hits for some power, albeit not a lot, and can play two positions.
If he can stay at second he could be a major coup for the team, perhaps an eventual leadoff hitter on an OPS oriented team. If he moves to third he’s got very limited value.