June 3, 2011; Fullerton, CA, USA; Stanford Cardinal pitcher Mark Appel pitches against the Kansas State Wildcats during the ninth inning of the Fullerton regional of the 2011 NCAA baseball tournament at Goodwin Field. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

The MLB Draft And A Dark Horse To Consider

With the annual MLB rule 4 draft quickly approaching there is the normal fan friendly dispute over who the best pick is going to be available and who the Mariners should select. As per usual what dominates most of the talk by fans are the hitters that are potentially available. One such player is Byron Buxton, considered by many to be the #1 talent in the draft and is a small time high school outfielder from Georgia. While possibly the most talented individual in the draft could drop to the Mariners who are drafting third overall.

Buxton dropping to 3rd or even beyond the Mariners could be caused by an assortment of different possibilities and reasons. Respectively the Astros and Twins —each respectively drafting #1 and #2— are both to be said to leaning towards pitchers as well as College players who wouldn’t take as long to progress through their system and provide some help sooner rather than later to the major league squad.

Now, that may or may not happen, a lot is still unaccounted for and things could change hours or even minutes before things kick off for the draft. What everything really hinges on for the Mariners is what happens with Houston and Minnesota.

Of course most fans and those of you that are reading this are all well aware of Byron Buxton and have garnered opinions based off of various scouting reports they’ve read online or by people that have provided video on youtube or an assortment of other collections on other sites.

As you are all well aware beyond Buxton there are the likes of Mike Zunino, the catcher from the University of Florida, and commonly considered the 2nd best position player in the draft. Not just for his strong defensive skills, polish and make-up but also for his hit tool and above average raw power, which always is a stand out package from someone behind the plate.

You also have guys such as Carlos Correa (SS- Puerto Rico), Max Fried (LHP-California) and even a resurgence form the once  unanimous #1 2012 talent –prior to an arm injury–Lucas Giolitto (RHP -California). Who all have made strong, outstanding cases for their consideration at #3. That isn’t even mentioning the likelihood of one of the college “big three” in Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer or Mark Appel being available, all considered to be top of the rotation pitchers.

I think with the growth of interest in the MLB draft more and more fans –much like myself– have developed an interest in this event and have been doing their own research to know and understand who these young men are and how they could affect a persons’ favorite organization.But with all these options out there at #3 let me add a dark horse that has yet to be considered by most fans:

Albert Almora.

Obviously the Mariners are going to draft whomever they believe to be the best available talent. The thing is when you say something like “best” it certainly can create an argument on the determining factors of what defines “best”. Best could mean in terms of the fit between the player and organization. Maybe, the best as in a tool set that organization specifically looks for in a young player, or best as in that player who most wants to sign with your organization.

There are plenty of small factors that can identify the word and put it into proper context. Problem is we still don’t know how the Mariners identify best and more accurately how Tom McNamara believes how it applies.

The Mariners may or may not be looking strictly at position player. Generally speaking I don’t think one team focuses on one specific way or the other. There is a rumor, and I am inclined to believe it’s some what true, that they are closely monitoring Lucas Giolitto and his health situation. It would only make sense that someone that talented and likely to be available to be selected, is someone the Mariners would closely evaluate. But of course it’s only a rumor and we never know who is really going to be “the guy” until the announcement is made on the stage.

There are a lot of really great reasons to draft Byron Buxton. At 18 years old, he’s a man child that garners comparisons to Justin Upton, Eric Davis and even Daryl Strawberry. That said there is no guarantees he is around and so this isn’t a case of Albert Almora is better than Buxton or should be selected in front of him. Please don’t take it as such, rather, take it in the context of Almora may interest the Mariners more than Mike Zunino or Carlos Correra for a variety of reasons.

Almora, recently ranked as high as #7th overall on the big board by Baseball America is a stand out outfielder and is tied all time for the most appearances made with the Team USA Baseball. An organization in which the Mariners have showed ties too in the past when they drafted Nick Franklin and Marcus Littlewood.

While it’s unlikely the Mariners draft the 6’2, 18 year-old out of Hialeah, Florida but the connections are there and his track record is tatted with documentation and is most storied in all of this year’s draft as his 6 different calls to USA national team are tied for the most since the start of the program. Scouts have been tracking him for quite a while.

That said his draft stock has continued to rise as the draft gets closer. His ability to consistently use his tools in game and display his polish and maturity. While he may not have the highest ceiling it’s a good bet that he’ll be a league average center fielder with an average bat.

He currently displays in what most sites are calling “Major league caliber defense” in center field due in large part to his outstanding jumps and above average speed. He displays a hit tool where he could hit for average (+.300) at the next level and possesses enough power to be a 20+ annual home run guy in his peek years.

While he is a right handed hitter his line drive approach coupled with his gritty hard nosed style of play matches up well with the Mariners organization and it might be something to watch leading up to the draft. Almora may not be Danny Hultzen but he could sneak in as a dark horse candidate.

 

Tags: Albert Almora Byron Buxton Carlos Correa Kevin Gausman Lucas Giolito Mark Appel Mike Zunino

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