Sure, it’s just January, but it’s time to start looking ahead towards the 2013 MLB draft which will take place June 6th-8th. Assuming that the Mariners don’t sign a class A free agent like Michael Bourn before the offseason ends, Seattle will have the twelfth overall pick in the draft.
Before I launch into players the Mariners may look at, let me remind you that the draft can be extremely unpredictable. The stock of these high school and college baseball players, many of whom are still teenagers, can rise and fall quickly over the course of their spring baseball seasons.
Last year at this time, it was generally agreed that the first overall pick would be Stanford pitcher Mark Appel and the second pick would be high school pitcher Lucas Giolito. However, inconsistency from Appel coupled with questions in signability led to him falling to eighth in the draft and he subsequently decided go back to college instead of signing. Giolito hurt his UCL in high school and fell to sixteenth overall. There is a propensity for this kind of volatility in every year of the draft.
That being said, let’s look at some possibilities. Considering Seattle’s farm system’s need for bats in the outfield, it seems reasonable to guess that the Mariners will be looking for an outfielder in the draft. Looking back at Jack Z’s drafts, his early first round picks have all been college players: Dustin Ackley, Danny Hultzen, and Mike Zunino. Let’s narrow the field down to college outfielders. Collegiate outfielders that will likely go in the top half of the draft are Austin Wilson, Aaron Judge, and Michael Lorenzen.
Wilson is a Stanford Junior standing 6’5” and weighing in at 245 pounds. His size provides good power, but he also has good athleticism and possesses nice speed. With solid fielding and arm strength, Wilson has five-tool potential, but he will probably be limited to corner outfield. His stock could really rise or really fall during the college season, as his production in past years has been inconsistent. I got to see Wilson play in person last year, and I was impressed by his physique and tools, but unsure of his refinement.
Continuing along the line of physically imposing outfielders is Aaron Judge of Fresno State who stands at 6’7”. His powerful frame implies power, which he has demonstrated at times, but he hasn’t shown that in games on a consistent basis. In two years at Fresno State, he has averaged a homerun every 65 at-bats. Like Wilson, he has good speed and tools in the outfield and he will profile in right field down the road. If his power appears in games this year at Fresno State, he will probably become a top ten pick.
Michael Lorenzen is the last college name in the outfield to watch going into the season. Unlike Wilson or Judge, Lorenzen doesn’t have big time power, but he is very good in the outfield. His speed gives him excellent range and he compliments it with a good arm. Although he doesn’t have great power, he still has the ability to drive the ball to the gaps and hit extra base hits, but he struggles to draw walks which jeopardizes his ability to hit leadoff. Despite his unrefined plate approach, his leadoff man tools are needed in the Mariner organization. Outside of Leon Laundry, who spent last year in High A, the top of the Seattle farm system is nearly desolate of young speedy outfielders.
Although he’s not an outfielder, North Carolina third baseman Colin Moran is another player to watch. At 6’3”, he has good lift from the left side of the plate and should gain enough power down the road for him to profile well at third base. He is one of the more polished hitters in the draft. On defense, he has some work to do, but will probably be able to stick at third base. If not, his body will allow him to transition to first base, or maybe even a corner outfield spot. If Mike Carp can handle left field, anyone can. He had some minor injury concerns last year during the college season, but stayed healthy over the summer. His durability should be something to keep in mind, however.
Kris Bryant is the last player I’ll touch on. This third baseman from the University of San Diego probably has more power than anyone else in the draft, and unlike some of the other players mentioned in this article, he has showed his pop in games. His swing and miss tendencies are problematic, but he also has excellent plate discipline and draws lots of walks. The power is undeniable, but his defense is a question mark. At 6’5”, Bryant is large for the hot corner, but he has a good arm and decent actions at the present time, so he may be able to stay at third. If his size forces a position change, there is no doubt he will profile well at first base or even in a corner outfield position. His decent speed and plus arm may fit well in right field. If nothing changes between now and the draft, Bryant will probably be snatched up before the twelfth spot in the draft, but history tells us that a lot will happen between now and June, so don’t rule out the possibility of Bryant coming to Seattle just yet.
Keep these five names in mind as we get nearer to the draft. I will give you updates on these players as their seasons progress as well as keep you up to date on other draft developments.