Continuing our final week before the draft with a look back at the last draft of the Zduriencik Era
The MLB Draft will begin NEXT WEEK, from June 3rd-5th. We’ve got oodles of coverage for you, which you can find in our MLB Draft 2019 section! To get us prepared, as we have in years past we’ll take a look back at the drafts of the past five years, giving ourselves a sense of how these things can go. Sometimes drafts that look great at the time pan out as expected. Sometimes… they do not.
The 2015 season was ripe with optimism, bursting with projections, overflowing with… whatever, you were there. The Mariners time had finally arrived. A highly confident and unfortunately bald Jack Zduriencik acquired beloved strong-man Nelson Cruz and forfeited the first round pick in order to kickstart the process of squeezing the bloated corpse of the Mariners through that cracked competitive window.
This draft was to be the last by Jack, and next-to-last overseen by Tom McNamara. After selecting the previous draft by choosing right handed position players with a Magic 8 Ball, the 2015 draft was all about pitching. High-floor pitching. They threw 25 pitchers against the kitchen wall hoping some of the starchier would stick. Some have stuck. Some.
First round: Nelson Cruz, Boom/Stick
Second round (60th overall): Nick Neidert, RHP
The Mariners went with high school RHP Nick “80-grade first name” Neidert with their first selection. Neidert was in discussion to go in the first round but fell into the Mariners sweaty, desperate hands due to some late-season tendonitis. I presume the plan was to take a high-upside risk to offset the lack of a first rounder, but Nick’s profile was pretty safe as a small, low-nineties, changeup-command guy. Nick was an advanced high school pitcher and impressed as a 20 year old in High-A with a 6.41 K/BB ratio and a 3.39 FIP. At his peak, he climbed to second in the Mariners prospect list in 2016. He seemed a good bet to be a dependable back-end starter in a future Mariners rotation.
Jerry Dipoto Enters the Room.
Jerry: Who are you? Do I know you?
Nick: I’m Nick, it’s great to meet the new-
Jerry: You like Miami, Nate?
Nick: Um. I—
Jerry: Pack your swim trunks, Neck. I traded you to Miami.
After being fried up and plated to the Marlins (along with Christopher Torres and Robert Duggar) for Dee Gordon, Nick pitched well last season for Miami’s AA team (a 3.48 FIP in 126 innings). He’s currently on the 7-Day IL with a knee issues and has been roughed up in his first taste of Triple-A, but he is still young and resembles the high-floor back end starter he was projected to be. He would be a Top-10 Mariners prospect right now and sits just outside top prospect lists.
CBB, 76th overall: Andrew Moore, RHP
Huh. Andrew Moore. An undersized changeup-command righty with great make-up and an advanced feel for pitching? He’s like the older version of Nick if Nick never developed his curveball. I have a soft spot for Andrew, despite the fact that his two pitch speeds are soft and Downey-soft.
Andrew made a splash early by carving up the low minors with excellent command, including a 3.34 FIP as a 21 year old in AA. He even managed to start nine games in 2017 though he didn’t strike anyone out and allowed home runs at rates that are punishable by law. He showed enough promise that the Rays traded Denard Span and Alex Colome for him and Tommy Romero midway through 2018. Depending on Romero’s development, the M’s probably got the best of that deal as Andrew Moore is back in the M’s system at Arkansas after the Rays cast him away.
How’s he doing now?
Soft fastball playing well. What about Downey-soft?
Ah. There it is.
In his first start with Arkansas, Moore impressed with one hit in six innings, striking out 7. It will be an interesting test for the coaching staff to see if they can squeeze something from Moore as they have with other soft-tossers this season. Moore at 94, or Moore with a better breaking pitch would make him an instant prospect.
3rd round, 94th overall: Braden Bishop, OF
This glove-first UW product was drafted for his combination of speed, arm, and instincts in the outfield while the “hitting the baseball” stuff they assumed he’d learn along the way. Somehow, that approach worked.
Braden’s swing change has been well trod territory so I won’t get into it other than to say that after talking with his buddy Jake Lamb, Braden realized he’d need to add power to take the next step. He’ll never be a Bash Brother, but this year, in 34 AAA games, Braden has as many homeruns as he had in 2016 and 2017 combined. He’ll likely be a 4th outfielder for some time, but he is a great example of the kind of skill-change the organization needs from its picks to stay competitive.
He’s also just a stellar human being. We’ll talk about him more in a second.
4th round, 125th overall: Dylan Thompson, RHP
Who? The Mariners went over-slot to grab the high schooler Thompson who fell down a flight of signability-concern stairs to land at the Mariners feet. He pitched well in the AZL his first season, but really struggled to repeat that success. He was shipped off to Tampa, where good Mariners go to retire, in the Taylor Motter trade. No one won that trade, it’s safe to say. Dylan Thompson is out of baseball now, but memories of Motter don’t wash off.
Also drafted this year, still in the system: Eleven Pieces of Spaghetti.
Eleven is a huge improvement over the previous draft’s one. Over 25% of the drafted players are still with us today. The still active Mariners are:
- Braden Bishop (3rd RD), OF
- Andrew Moore (CBB), RHP
- Kyle Wilcox (6th RD), RHP
Apparently, Kyle Wilcox is an alive person who throws baseballs from the bullpen. He’s torching Modesto right now with a 0.82 ERA and 14.73 K/9—but he walks everyone.
- Cody Mobley (8th RD), RHP
I think Cody is still around. He’s listed on the short-season Everett roster. So if anyone wants to watch a 22 year old with a 5+ ERA who hasn’t cracked A ball, this year is your chance.
- Darin Gillies (10th RD), RHP
Gillyweed is all I see when I look at Darin’s name. Gillies is 26 and sports a mid-90s heater and an above average breaking ball. In 2017 he pitched in the Arizona Fall League and held his own, but he’s currently pitching from the back end of the Arkansas bullpen and sporting a 2.31 ERA. He will likely see Tacoma this year, but he’ll need better command to stick around a major league pen.
- Logan Taylor (12th RD), 3B
At one point in 2017, Taylor was bashing at Modesto. This is no longer the case. He is striking out over 30% and well whatever let’s keep going.
- Ryne Inman (15th RD), RHP
Last year this blurb would have been one sentence making fun of his name. This year, though, it’s I don’t even know how many sentences yet. Ryne Inman is a starter that has always had a fastball that touches 94 but no ability to command it. This year (in his third taste of A ball), he’s limiting the walks and missing a lot more bats with a FIP under 3. He should make the jump to Modesto when there’s space. (5 sentences).
- Anthony Misiewicz (18th RD), LHP
A left hander? Is that allowed?! Anthony Misiewicz is yet another player traded to the Rays that the Ms have reacquired. His best pitch is a 60FV curve and he used that, along with a good changeup, to dominate AA this year. He’s in Tacoma now and struggling, but his last start was a solid 6.2 innings with 5Ks. He has the stuff to be a 5th starter and the Mariners desperately need the depth.
- Art Warren (23rd RD), RHP
Oft-injured converted starter who can throw flames and also gas and also he throws heat. Warren is currently on the IL again and has yet to fully put together the promise of his big fastball and sharp breaking ball, but he’s got the pieces to be an 8th-inning guy if he can stay healthy and command the fastball.
- Ljay Newsome (26th RD), RHP
Ah. Ljay. The jewel in the Mariners pitching development crown. In one offseason Ljay Newsome went from 26th round soft-tosser to dominating Modesto and leading the minor leagues in Ks. He’s been well documented on this here website, but for posterity: a big boost in velocity combined with great tunneling has allowed Ljay to carve up High-A and knock on Arkansas’ door.
Also, he might be a cyborg. There is really no way to know:
I am concerned that Ljay Newsome may not technically be alive. pic.twitter.com/fFvnMkC2oG
— Nicholas Stillman (@nick_at_day) May 23, 2019
- Matt Walker (36th RD), RHP
Here is a complete sentence about Matt Walker.
Hero of the Draft:
Braden Bishop. He’s everything humans should aspire to be. He started a foundation called 4MOM for his mom. I don’t know, you guys. I’ve had two disabled parents most of my life and I do not recall starting a foundation at any point for either of them. It has not even occurred to me to try. Never crossed my mind. Braden Bishop is better than me and that’s why he is a hero.
Also drafted by the Mariners this year, still active in affiliated ball: 2?
Number of picks who went unsigned: 6
Biggest ‘What If?’: The Mariners don’t sign Nellie.
By record, the Mariners would have picked 19th in 2015. Some names still on the board: Ke’Bryan Hayes, Michael Soroka, Walker Buehler. There’s a school of thought that says because Nellie didn’t get them to the playoffs, we’d be better off with the draft pick. While I’m curious about that timeline, Nelson Cruz turned out better than we could have dreamed and provided hope and joy in seasons that would have been lesser without him. He was good for Mariners baseball and that is all I have to say about it.
Overall draft impressions: Seattle did much better with this haul than 2014, though that bar is buried underground and they still didn’t hit on a high-impact pick. Their strategy of drafting every RHP worked better than their previous strategy of drafting every right handed hitter, but I think most of that credit goes to Jerry Dipoto’s crew being not incompetent at prospect development. There are no stars here and no Top-100 guys, either. Braden Bishop becoming a ML regular changes this draft’s outlook, but what’s been impressive is the late round guys that are still interesting. If the Ms get one of late round pitchers Ljay, Art, or Anthony to crack the big leagues, that would be a big improvement over 2014.
Draft grade: I grade things for a living. Finals just passed and I am resentful I have to evaluate yet another thing, but it is my duty. In order to grade you need a rubric with a set of desired outcomes and expectations. For a draft to be good, then, let’s say you need one impact player (either Top-100 or over 2 WAR in a season) and at least a few players to slot into your Top 30 that will see major league time. It’s early, but it isn’t looking great. Neidert might be something useful, Bishop I think is something, but the rest is a collection of interesting low-minors fringe guys. It’s not terrible, but I think that puts this draft just below average.