A lot has happened since my last draft preview. When my article was published, the draft looked like it would favor the Mariners. At the time, the first two picks in the draft were expected to be Stanford pitcher Mark Appel and high school flame thrower, Lucas Giolito. This arrangement would have catcher Mike Zunino and outfielder Byron Buxton on the board for the Mariners, both of whom would have been an excellent fit for this organization.
However, since then, Giolito sprained his UCL and Appel has shown inconsistency this spring. As a result, both of their draft stocks have fallen. According to Baseball America, the first two picks of the draft will now be Zunino and Buxton, leaving the Mariners in a tough situation.
Here is what the draft will look like if Zunino and Buxton are taken with the first two picks. The Mariners will be faced with the decision of adding yet another arm to the pitcher-loaded farm system, or reaching a few picks up for a necessary position player.
Between names like, Danny Hultzen, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Forrest Snow, Carter Capps, Erasmo Ramirez, Stephen Pryor, Hector Noesi, Blake Beavan, and Chance Ruffin, the Mariners don’t have much of a need for another young pitcher. If they do choose to pick one, there will be many options available. One of these is the previously projected first pick, Mark Appel who brings a plus fastball and two good offspeeds. However, Appel’s fastball has not shown the tail in the spring that it has previously, leading to a slightly disappointing college season thus far.
Other pitching options include Kevin Gausman, Max Fried, Lance Mccullers, and Lucas Giolito. If Giolito can show that he has mostly recovered from his injury, I might like to see the Mariners take him if he is on the board at the third pick. Despite the elbow problems this spring, Giolito’s 6’6” frame, mid-upper 90’s fastball, devastating power curve, and excellent changeup could be worth the risk. Considering the impressive pitching depth in the Mariner organization, this is an ideal year to take a chance on a high risk, high reward type guy like Giolito. The last time the M’s gambled on a pitcher was Taijuan Walker, and it appears that that choice will pay dividends. While you never want to squander a high pick, if there is a year to take a big risk on a big time talent, this is the year. That being said, we saw the Mariners shy away from a big prospect battling the injury bug when they passed on third baseman Anthony Rendon in last year’s draft. Only time will tell if they demonstrate the same type of cautiousness this year.
If the Mariners don’t want a pitcher, there are a limited amount of position players that are worthy of a top 10 pick. Just as luck would have it for the Mariners, a majority of the better position players in the draft after Zunino and Buxton are shortstops. Deven Marrero, Gavin Cecchini, and Puerto Rico native Carlos Correa are all upper first round picks at shortstop. Since the Mariners are loaded at this position with Franklin, Miller, and Trunifel, don’t expect the M’s to take any of these guys.
There are a couple of outfield options as well in David Dahl and Albert Almora. However, both of these guys have hovered in the early teens in draft projections, so the Mariners would need to see something that would justify picking one of them ten spots ahead of their expected value.
If Zunino and Buxton are gone before the Mariners pick, this could be a pretty unproductive draft for Seattle. If nothing else, they can use their draft pick as trade bait down the road. I would encourage all of you to start rooting for Mark Appel, because a good remainder of the season for him would probably result in him being taken in the first two picks which would mean that either Buxton or Zunino would be available when the Mariners take their pick.