Although we are still three months away from the MLB draft, which begins on June 4th, I would like to introduce you to a couple of draft prospects that could be selected by the Mariners. The Mariners have the third overall pick, only behind the Astros and Twins. It is generally agreed that the first two picks in the draft will be pitchers Mark Appel and Lucas Giolito, but after those two, the Mariners will have the rest of the draft class to choose from.
The first name I will throw at you is Deven Marrero. I talked about Marrero a few weeks ago after I got to see him play, which you can read here. The one observation I have about Marrero is that he is a shortstop, a position that the Mariners are pretty full at. They have Nick Franklin in the system who is a good looking prospect and Carlos Trunifel who still has some potential although his stock has fallen in recent years. Seattle also drafted high school shortstop Marcus Littlewood in the second round of the 2010 draft, although they are trying to move him to catcher. Last year, they took collegiate shortstop Brad Miller in the second round of the draft. With this depth at the shortstop position, I’m not sure that picking Marrero would be a smart move.
The next option is a high school outfielder from Georgia named Byron Buxton. He has five tool potential but his greatest asset is his speed. Buxton flies on the base paths, and his running ability and plus arm also make him a good looking outfielder. Buxton also has great bat speed and the ability to hit line drives to all fields. If he fills out his 6’2” 190 pound frame a bit, he has some power potential from the right side of the plate as well. Although most facets of his game are unpolished, he brings a lot of skills that can be turned into a five tool player at the big league level. Buxton could fit nicely in the Mariner organization as he should translate into a good leadoff hitter with plus defensive abilities, a skill combination that the Mariners lack in the upper level of their farm system.
Mike Zunino is the top catcher in the draft, and should be available at the third spot. A junior at Florida, Zunino has the
maturity of a college catcher and knows how to call games and handle pitchers. He also is a good defender behind the plate with a great arm. Zunino shows a lot of power at the plate, and some think he can be a middle of the order bat. With the Jesus Montero trade this offseason, Seattle has a much lesser need for a catcher. However, Mike Zunino’s defensive ability could make him especially attractive to the Mariner organization since all of their current catcher such as Montero, John Jaso, and Adam Moore are below average defenders.
One of the main possible pitching prospects the Mariners may take is LSU sophomore Kevin Gausman. He brings a good fastball with nice sink and a promising changeup. Although he has both a curveball and slider, Gausman has struggled with commanding both pitches. If his control improves, Gausman has the makeup of a top of the rotation pitcher.
Junior college pitcher Chris Beck is another option for the Mariners with the third pick in the draft. His fastball is in the low 90’s, but his changeup is a plus pitch. Although sometimes inconsistent, Beck has a sharp slider that can turn into his third plus pitch with a bit of work. He also has good control of all three pitches which makes him enticing.
The last arm to take note of is Lance McCullers Jr. His upper 90’s fastball has very good movement, and his sharp slider runs in the upper 80’s making it a good pitch as well. His value will be dictated by his ability to improve his changeup and control. If he cannot improve his command, he could project as a good closer, but it is not ideal to spend a third overall pick on a closer. Mock drafts have him anywhere from third to the end of the first round due to the uncertainty surrounding his command.
I believe that Buxton and Zunino would be the best choices for the Mariners, both because of their abilities and their practicality for the future of the organization. I have heard concerns from Mariner fans about Seattle’s past failures when drafting catchers. While it is true that our past three first round picks at the position (Jeff Clement, Rob Johnson, and Steven Baron) have not worked out, I don’t think that is a logical reason to avoid Zunino. Clement and Johnson were both picks by Bill Bavasi who is not the talent evaluator that Zduriencik has proven to be. Just because our last gm failed to draft successful catchers, doesn’t mean we should avoid picking catchers now.
Keep these six names, especially Byron Buxton and Mike Zunino, in your mind, because one of these young players will likely be the future of the Seattle Mariners.