With less than 3 weeks away from pitchers and catchers reporting to Peoria, Arizona to get ready for the 2018 season. While the Mariners are enjoying their last bit of off time, scouts are already prepping draft boards for the 2018 draft.
The 2018 MLB Draft will be a crucial draft for the Mariners and GM Jerry Dipoto. It could very well be his last draft with Seattle. With a depleted farm system and a “win now” window, the Mariners must continuously draft well, until the team decides to go into a full rebuild.
Thankfully for Seattle, who have the 14th pick in this years draft, this draft class is deep, especially with pitching. The Mariners have a desperate need for impact arms in their system. However, it is important to understand that you do not draft for need.
Most prospects taken are at least 2-3 years away from the big leagues. For example; drafting a catcher because you don’t have one on your MLB roster is a foolish route to take. There is no predicting what your needs will be in 3 years, so you just take the best player available to you.
For the Seattle Mariners, that player may very well be Jackson Kowar. Kowar, the 6’5″ right-handed pitcher for the Florida Gators, is ranked the 10th best prospect in the 2018 draft by MLB.com.
Kowar possess a 3 pitch mix that has captured the attention of every MLB team. 2 of these 3 pitches are already MLB quality. At his best, Kowar’s fastball sits at 92 mph with good arm side run. He can crank it up and pitch in mid-90’s regularly, and has hit 98 mph at times. However, when he does this, the fastball has a tendency to flatten out.
Kowar’s real money pitch is his excellent fading change-up. He throws it between 82-84 mph, and can look like a splitter at times. The pitch is thrown with excellent arm speed, routinely fooling the best of hitters in the SEC.
The curveball is his third offering, and it could be the difference maker for the young flamethrower. The pitch is fringe most of the time. However, it does flash plus at times, giving Kowar 3 potentially plus pitches in his arsenal.
When Kowar has all 3 pitches working, he can dominate even the best lineups. The video below is an excellent example of what Kowar can do when everything clicks for him.
Kowar has a relatively easy, repeatable delivery. There is always clean up to be done, but there are few red flags for scouts. The 6’5″ Florida Junior weighs in at 185 lbs, making some scouts believe that there is projection left in his frame. As he works with a Major League team to add strength to his lean frame, there is a fairly high-upside to Kowar.
If he can truly master his curveball, he could be a solid #2 type of starter in the big leagues. Kowar’s most realistic projection is that of a #3 or #4 type of starter, while the fastball/changeup combo give him a floor as a multi-innings reliever going forward.
Drafting Jackson Kowar at 14 would be a nice get for the Mariners. It would add a potential middle of the rotation type of arm to its farm system. Kowar could be up with Seattle by the 2020 season if all goes well, with 2021 as the most realistic target ETA.