The 2019 MLB draft is just around the corner. With less than a week to go, it’s about time that we delve into the strategy we might be seeing from the Seattle Mariners scouting department in the coming days.
First and foremost, it is important to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Mariners farm system. For example, one would consider the outfield as a strength for the team. With players such as Jared Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Luis Liberato, Kyle Lewis, Jake Fraley, Dom Thomson-Williams, Braden Bishop and plenty of others in the mix, there isn’t much of a need out in the grass for the Mariners.
Therefore, it’s unlikely that they would add an outfielder with at least the first pick. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they won’t if a player they like falls to them.
The infield, on the other hand, could be considered a weakness. There isn’t a ton of depth there behind the likes of JP Crawford, Shed Long and Evan White. Behind the plate, Cal Raleigh is making some noise and could be the catcher of the future but doesn’t have much behind him other than Jake Anchia. Players such as Joe Rizzo, Donnie Walton, and Noelvi Marte are a ways away an have a lot to prove before then.
And then there is the pitching staff. It has both its pros and cons. Led by Justus Sheffield, guys such as Sam Carlson, Logan Gilbert, LJay Newsome, Justin Dunn, and Eric Swanson could make up the rotation of the future however each one comes with his warts. The relief Corp seems to be in good shape. Art Warren, Wyatt Mills, Matt Festa, and Gerson Bautista figure to be prominent members of a future Mariners bullpen.
One of the biggest things that will influence the Mariners picks this year will be how quickly they can move through the system. With Dipoto planning on competing come 2021-2022, it may be farfetched for a player drafted this year to contribute in that time span.
If that is the plan, it’s more likely that they would go with a polished college player who theoretically should rise faster than a raw high school player. However, if the Mariners want to supplement the teams that come after the 2022 season to replace any departing players, it would be wise for them to go with younger players that they can give time to develop and use them to keep their window of contention open longer.
So what does that all mean? Well, it means that I would expect the Mariners to target a Corner/Middle Infielder or even a catcher with their first pick. Unless someone like OF Hunter Bishop somehow falls to them at the 20th pick (Spoiler Alert: He won’t) then I would say its highly unlikely that they’ll go with an outfielder. I’d go out on a limb and say that they probably wouldn’t go with a pitcher either if the right bat remains.
With that, we now will check out some of the options for the Mariners coming up. First off, we have a few third basemen. Kody Hoese, Brett Baty, and Josh Jung have been linked to the Mariners in recent mock drafts.
Hoese, a 21-year-old out of Tulane, hit .391 with 23 home runs and nearly a .500 OBP. His 6’4, 200 lb frame leaves him some room to fill out as he gets older but he would seem to fit the role of a player that could speed through the minor league system.
Baty is a 19-year-old high school graduate. A 6’3, 218 lb third baseman, Baty’s name has been thrown around all throughout the first round, being mocked as high as 8th to the Cardinals and as late as 25th by the Dodgers, so it would be interesting to see if he is still around for the Mariners at pick number 20.
He would represent the M’s playing a bit more of the long game, as he would likely need more time than a college bat to perfect his craft.
Finally, we take a look at Jung. His power numbers have slipped a bit this year but that didn’t stop him from slashing .333/.471/.597 this past season. Jung is 21 years old out of Texas Tech University and could also fit the mold of a fast mover in the Mariners system. I would think that Jung would be taken before the Mariners get the opportunity to pick, however, if he is still there at #20, there is a good chance that he ends up as a Seattle Mariner.
Moving on, we have a couple of shortstops that could be wearing a Mariners uniform in the next few years, both of which have 80-grade names.
Bryson Stott is a 21-year-old junior out of UNLV. He is 6’3, 195 lbs so he has plenty of room to fill out. He hit .356 with 10 home runs this past season, following up a solid 2018 campaign where he hit just 4 home runs. With JP Crawford at SS, it’s possible that the Mariners would stay away from the position in the draft, however, Stott has the possibility of moving around the field in his future.
Will Wilson, a 6’0 184 lb infielder out of NC State, hit .350/.439/.687 in his age 20 seasons. His longevity at SS is brought into question but for now, the Mariners need not worry about that. His ability to make solid contact makes him a solid pick at #20 and has an opportunity to move quickly in a farm system that is hungry for infielders.
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Last but certainly not least, we will take a look at a few guys off of the bump. There is a shortage of intriguing arms in this draft and the Mariners may want to take advantage of it early on.
First off, George Kirby out of Elon University is a 21-year-old Right-Handed Pitcher. After struggling a bit in 2017, Kirby has certainly made up for it, posting an ERA under 3.00 each of the last two years. In 2019, Kirby posted an incredible 107:6 Strikeout: Walk Ratio, so he seems to fit the “Control the Zone” mantra that the Mariners are pushing.
Zack Thompson would be quite the get for the M’s. He is a 6’3 lefty out of Kentucky who posted a 2.40 ERA in 2019. He owned a .184 OBA and stuck out 130 batters in 90 innings. At just 21 years old, Thompson does come with a bit of injury concern after having elbow surgery earlier in his college career.
In our last slot, we have our first High school pitcher. Matthew Allan, a righty out of Florida, it one of the best Prep arms in the draft. The Mariners, however, may not want to risk their first pick on a young, unproven arm in a rebuilding year.
There are plenty of players that the Mariners could take with the 20th pick, not just the ones outlined above. Based on the Mariners needs, it seems likely they would follow this train of thought.
2019 may be one of the most interesting seasons for the Mariners in recent memory. The June Draft may also be one of the most important. The players taken in this draft should be reaching the majors right around the peak of the projected window of contention for the Mariners.
It will be interesting to see the strategy that Jerry Dipoto uses as draft day approaches but one this is for sure: It’s going to be an exciting day.