We’re almost caught up now
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. We’ve covered 2014, 2015, and 2016 already.
While 2016 was the first draft with Jerry Dipoto at the helm, it might be accurate to term 2017 the first time he was most responsible for it. Following 2016, longtime scouting director Tom McNamara moved to an advisory role, while Scott Hunter – another pre-Dipoto hire from 2014, was nonetheless selected to head Amateur Scouting. And so, with Jerry’s selection at the helm, the Mariners prepared to take a pick in a season close to this one. They followed the 86-win 2016 campaign with an injury-riddled 78-win slog, and had the 17th overall pick from their prior success. They picked 19th in the second round and 18th otherwise, making this a somewhat reasonable facsimile of this year’s draft.
First Round (17th overall): Evan White, 1B
The best defender in the nation despite playing 1B according to some scouts, White was always a peculiar prospect. Kentucky, like Stanford and a few other baseball powerhouses, is famous for teaching a flat/groundball-centric swing that requires fixing at the pro level, but the Mariners believed in White. His reportedly elite exit velocity and high character felt like worthy projections, and his athleticism give him the flexibility to handle to outfield if the bat needs it. Like 2016’s first rounder, White has made his way to AA-Arkansas, and made adjustments to elevate more. It’s been tougher sledding for White this year, with a .234/.323/.324 line and an 80 wRC+ through 127 PAs. He’s also missed time at a few points with minor injuries. Still, just a month past his 23rd birthday, White’s batted ball profile actually looks great (25.3% line drives, a career-low 41.8% grounders), and his .526 OPS at home vs. .759 on the road suggests he is being stifled more than most by Dickey-Stephens Park. White is currently a top-100 prospect by both MLB Pipeline and FanGraphs.
Second Round (55th overall): Sam Carlson, RHP
A Simba-looking prep prodigee, SCarl was the Mariners big splurge, and one of only two high schoolers Seattle signed in this draft. The 6’4 righty hails from Minnesota and showed 92-95 mph heat alongside an impressive changeup and a decent breaking ball pre-draft and in his first few innings as a pro. Sadly, a flexor strain led to PRP injections which were unable to stave off Tommy John. Potentially the highest-ceiling arm in the organization outside of Logan Gilbert and Justus Sheffield, there will nonetheless be a need to make up for lost time. Carlson is likely to begin in the AZL later this summer as his rehab ramps up, and could well join the West Virginia Power late in the season.
Third Round (93rd overall): Wyatt Mills, RHP
It’s time for a celebration – this is the first draft where all three top picks have actually still been in the organization! Jerry may hold his finger over that big red button daily, but he loves his chosen children most. Mills was an apt underslot selection, befuddling the draft crew on selection day and doing the same to hitters with his sidearm/submarine delivery. The senior sign cruised through every level until finally reaching a bumpier start in Arkansas, but his low-90s velo and dastardly sinker-slider combo have helped him yield just one home run in his first 103.1 professional innings. Mills remains a reliever with great potential to reach the majors this year or the next, particularly if his command tightens up a shade.
Fourth Round (123rd overall): Seth Elledge, RHP
Annnnnnnnd there’s the first one gone. Dealt to the Cardinals in exchange for Sam Tuivailala last year, Elledge is another fast-moving bullpen arm. He’s in AA with St. Louis and striking out over a third of the batters he’s facing, but being hit hard when contact is made, leading to a 5.06 ERA and 3.84 FIP in the young season.
Fifth Round (153rd overall): David Banuelos, C
Before Cal Raleigh, there was David Banuelos. A defensive standout behind the dish, Banuelos showed decent pop in Everett before being dealt in the Ohtani Arms Race to the Twins for $1 million in international bonus money. He’s now in High-A Fort Myers with Minnesota, struggling a bit after acquitting himself capably in Low-A.
Also drafted this year, still in the system: 15.5
We’ll get to that .5 in a moment. 18 members of the 2017 draft class are currently still playing in the Mariners’ system. That’s… not necessarily good or bad, but considering the lack of depth the system had prior, it’s not entirely ideal.
Those players are:
LHP Oliver Jaskie (6th round): Jaskie is a Driveline kid who is a workout machine and has projection out of Michigan. Unfortunately his command has been theoretical, and he’s in extended Spring Training.
LHP Max Roberts (7th round): A JC signee we highlighted in today’s overview of the organization’s starting pitching depth, Roberts has promise but only just began to throw again after TJ surgery.
OF Billy Cooke (8th round): Cookie is a true CF with blistering speed that has let him spell in Tacoma this year as injury coverage, but his bat is probably not cut out for it long-term.
LHP Jorge Benitez (9th round): Is there a LHP in the organization who you can squint at and maybe see an MLB player one day? They probably were taken in 2017. Benitez disappears when he turns sideways but as the other prep signed this year he’s been a long-term project to bulk up.
RHP Darren McCaughan (12th round): A command righty working in the upper-80s gained a tick and is now 89-91 over 87-89. It’s still fringy as all get-out, but the fastball-slider-changeup mix is working well enough in AA to keep an eye on.
RHP Jamal Wade (17th round): Converted outfielder in late college, Wade has mid-90s velo but has less experience on the hill than most. Literally just had TJ.
INF Kevin Santa (19th round): Good contact skills but minimal pop and 2B projection. Hasn’t played in 2019 but spent 2018 w/Modesto and on their IL currently.
INF Connor Hoover (21st round): Bounced all over the system but hit well in Everett last year. Slight frame hurts power numbers & future projection.
SS Johnny Adams (22nd round): Starting SS in Modesto but lack of bat dims prospects. His 23% K-rate in three emergency outings on the mound is narrowly below his 26.3% K-rate as a hitter.
RHP Sam Delaplane (23rd round): Subject of a recent interview with our own Nick Stillman.
Delaplane is currently 3rd in the Cal League in strikeouts. As a reliever. With a low-90s sinker and a high-spin curveball he’s literally struck out 50% of the batters he’s faced and should be in line for a promotion to Arkansas imminently.
RHP Bryan Pall (25th round): TJ survivor finally getting a chance to work in West Virginia this year. Good swing-and-miss stuff but 35-grade command and lots of time to make up.
RHP Austin Hutchison (26th round): The pride of Mount Olive College is helping anchor Modesto’s rotation for the second-straight year. Minimal prospect buzz but two years of decent numbers should earn a trip to Arkansas soon enough.
RHP Collin Kober (27th round): Bullpen ace with flow to spare in Modesto. 2.70/2.71 ERA FIP and 32.2 K% as his results are finally matching his peripherals from last year. Also due to see AA soon.
OF Johnny Slater (28th round): Not Johnny Adams, though my brain does blend the two into a UTIL that shares a 70 wRC+. Struggling mightily in West Virginia, likely odd man out when Julio Rodriguez returns.
RHP Scott Boches (30th round): Surprisingly effective starter by necessity in Low-A last year. Back in the bullpen now with Modesto – lack of command limiting ceiling.
LHP/Analyst David Hesslink (34th round): Thanks for sticking with us, you found the .5! Hesslink was a neat story, drafted out of MIT and given 27.1 innings to work in Everett before being put to work in the real role he was acquired: orchestrating excellent trades.
Hero of the draft: David Hesslink
I’m a bit loathe to do this. If we went purely off prospect sheen and future belief, Evan White should be here by default. If we wanted production this year, Sam Delaplane has it covered. But the surest bet for contribution has been Hesslink, who was swayed into joining the Mariners player development and scouting group thanks to their unique offer of actually getting to be drafted as a player. Hesslink’s most notable work has come in developing daily scouting reports that offer hitters and coaches translatable visuals and data on what the pitches they’ll be seeing that day will look like from their perspective. It’s grown into virtual reality and specialized batting practice simulations the big league team has incorporated, as well as assisting on various other baseline-establishing programs to help prospects get as much feedback as they need to adjust and grow.
Also drafted by the Mariners this year, still active in affiliated ball: 5
As already discussed, both Seth Elledge and David Banuelos are off in St. Louis and Minnesota’s systems respectively. Additionally, 11th round pick LHP JP Sears is with the Yankees as return for Nick Rumbelow. Sears is having another solid year in High-A since the Yankees converted him to a starter, though his stamina is still being tested. 15th rounder RHP Tommy Romero is also in High-A, looking solid with the Rays affiliate. He was dealt to Tampa along with recently returned Andrew Moore for Denard Span and Álex Colomé. Lastly, 31st-round pick 3B/1B Ryan Costello turned himself into an interesting prospect, though he’s struggling in High-A for the Twins this year. He was dealt to the Twins alongside Chase De Jong for Zach Duke and cash.
Number of picks who went unsigned: 9
Biggest ‘What If?’: Health for SCarl
It’s a bit of cheating to blend two points, but with a draft just two years in the rearview there’s little set in stone. Sam Carlson’s injury has cast this whole draft in a darker refrain, as his selection was arguably the more exciting one over White. At the time, Carlson was viewed as a 1st round talent but signability was unclear. Getting him late in the 2nd round seemed like a boon, and it easily still could be. But without seeing Carlson pitch, it’s been tough to remember how talented he is. A healthy Carlson linking up with Logan Gilbert in West Virginia to start this season would’ve done a great deal to help the rotation of the future crystallize in my mind.
Overall draft impression: Seattle went pretty conservative in the upper rungs of the draft, splurging on Carlson but prioritizing signability many other places. It’s not a terrible strategy, as it lets you sprinkle extra sums throughout the rest of the draft, but Seattle missed on a few of their splurges they thought they could get – RHP Luis Alvarado (13th round), C Trevor Casanova (14th), and HS OF Myles Christian (18th) all eschewed their draftings. White and Carlson shone at the top of this draft at the time, high-floor and high-ceiling together, but the rest seemed to aim low, and it’s borne out that way through two more years.
Draft grade: For all the hand-wringing, Evan White is a good prospect with under two years in the pros and has adjusted in a big way at each level he’s faced. He’s a top-100 prospect for most analysts for a reason, and that’s exciting. The rest of the draft is hurt by a combination of trades and low aspirations. Taking a bevy of reliever-first guys is a good plan for getting decent production, but your odds of finding a star are slim. It’s good to see guys like Delaplane, McCaughan, and Costello exceed expectations, but a draft in which only one player could even faintly be outlined as a future star is a frustrating thing as a fan. There’s nothing wrong with this draft, and when you pick in the second half of the draft you’re limited in the talent available, but there’s just an overwhelming sense of beige in looking at this list. Overall: C+