A disappointing rookie season for former Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik
Jack Zduriencik took over as Mariners’ general manager in October 2008 with the hope of turning the ship around for the M’s who continued to struggle. Us Mariners fans know the outcome of his tenure as GM and the disappointing draft picks and moves he made. But as the saying goes, you need to learn from your mistakes so let’s take a quick history lesson of Zduriencik’s first MLB draft.
“With the second pick of the first round in the 2009 MLB draft, the Seattle Mariners select….. Dustin Ackley from the University of North Carolina.” There was a real excitement about selecting Ackley out of UNC with such a high pick. Ackley was one of the best college prospects in the 2009 MLB draft class. He hit over .400 in every season in college and was named to the All-America team each time.
Ackley moved from the outfield to first base at UNC after having Tommy John surgery before his junior year, but that did not slow his hitting down. His hitting skills, mixed with his athletic ability faired well for the big leagues and eventually transitioned into a second baseman.
As most Mariners fans know, Ackley did not live up to the hype despite how he tore up the minor leagues. He has a career .283 average in the minor leagues, with a .802 OPS, 30 home runs, and 2020 RBIs. Ackley made his debut in 2011 and stayed with the Mariners until 2015.
Ackley finished his MLB career with a .241 average, .671 OPS, 46 home runs, and 216 RBIs over six seasons. He would finish his career with the Yankees where he was given an opportunity to redeem himself, but he could not.
What is always disappointing to look at is the stars that came out of the same draft class. In the first round, the Mariners passed up on Zach Wheeler, Mike Minor, Mike Leake, A.J. Pollock, and most importantly, Mike Trout. In retrospect, the Mariners horribly failed with the #2 overall pick, but Ackley was undoubtedly one of the best college hitters so the decision to draft Ackley did make sense at the time.
In 2009, the Mariners had two first-round picks. The second pick coming at #27. Zduriencik selected the high school shortstop from Florida, Nick Franklin. The infielder was committed to Auburn University and this pick was a little questionable, compared to the Ackley pick.
Since Franklin was drafted out of high school, it took a little time for Mariners fans to see him in the big leagues. He made his debut in 2013, two years after Ackley. Franklin did not figure things out in the big leagues, but he did his part in the minor leagues.
Franklin’s batting average hovered around .300 while he was in the Mariners farm system and he worked his way up to Triple-A as a 21-year-old. As mentioned previously, Franklin did not pan out for the Mariners or any of the teams he played for. The Mariners ended up trading him in his sophomore season to the Tampa Bay Rays in 2014 as part of a three-team trade at the deadline.
Franklin was sent to the Rays, while the Mariners received Austin Jackson. The Rays sent David Price to the Tigers, and the Tigers sent Drew Smyly and Willy Adames to the Rays. Adames is now the starting shortstop for the Rays in the World Series. Franklin finished his career in 2018 with the Brewers with a career .214 average.
To make matters worse, the rest of the draft selections Zduriencik made never made a positive impact for the Mariners with the exception of one. But it still does not make up for the busts Zduriencik picked. The Mariners had the chance to draft:
- Mike Trout pick #25
- Nolan Arenado pick #59
- Jason Kipnis pick #63
- D.J. LeMahieu pick #79
- Patrick Corbin pick #80
- Paul Goldschmidt pick #246
- J.D. Martinez pick #611
The list goes on and on. But, I did mention one exception. Zduriencik did hit the nail on the head for pick #82 in the third round. The Mariners drafted another UNC Tarheel, Kyle Seager.
There really is not much that has to be said about Seager’s career with the Mariners. He has been with Seattle for 10 seasons now and is turning 33 years old in a couple of weeks. Seager was the lone success of the 2009 MLB draft and we should be grateful for Zduriencik’s one great pick from 2009.
Seager was an All-Star in 2014 and won a Gold Glove as well. He has been in the Top 20 for AL MVP voting twice, once in 2014 and in 2016. His current career average is .256 with a .768 OPS. Seager reached the 200 home run mark early in the 2020 season and he will continue to add to that achievement.
The six-foot third baseman has been a staple in the Mariners’ lineup and at the hot corner, and there are rumors that he is a trade candidate as the Mariners are rebuilding. As much as I think Seager would be a valuable trade piece, I would hate to see him go. Seager provides veteran experience in the Mariners lineup that is filled with so many young players.
Players like Seager are rare because he has been with the team that drafted him for his entire career. Seager proved in 2020 that he still has a lot to offer and played in every game this season. Even if he does start to decline in the next few years, he is worth keeping around.
To sum things up, the first MLB draft for Zduriencik was not a success except for Kyle Seager. But drafting Seager does not excuse the two first-round picks he completely capitalized on with so many other talents that came from this draft class. I will be revisiting other draft classes under Zduriencik in the next few weeks to learn more about the Mariners’ draft history and why we should be so gracious of our current farm system that is starting to form into a great group. So, look out for more draft class breakdowns coming soon.