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Off-Season Dreaming 2.0

Barry BondsThe off-season has really started to heat up since my first off-season post and with the new developments, I felt like revising my plan for the Mariners. Here is what I propose now:

MOVE 1: As part of a three-way deal, Mariners send 1B Richie Sexson to the Yankees, SP Joel Pineiro and 1B Ben Broussard to the Nationals, and acquire 1B Nick Johnson from the Nationals. The Yankees send SP Sean Henn and RP T.J. Beam to the Nationals in the deal as well – The Yankees are looking for a full-time first baseman that bats right-handed. Richie Sexson is clearly better than any option the Yankees could sign in free agency, so they would have to listen if the Mariners offered him. This deal makes sense for the Nationals too because they get a serviceable replacement for Nick Johnson in Ben Broussard at a great price, and they also add three pitchers that could all make their major-league squad. As for the Mariners, they dump payroll and acquire Nick Johnson, who should be a perfect fit for Safeco.

MOVE 2: Mariners trade RP Julio Mateo, RP Emiliano Fruto, and OF Jeremy Reed to the Florida Marlins for SP Yusmeiro Petit – The Marlins are looking for veteran relief help and a centerfielder at the winter meetings, and appear poised to give up a young starting pitcher to fill their needs. So, with this deal the M’s get a young starting pitcher that can come in and compete for a spot in the rotation immediately and the Marlins fill both holes. I’m not convinced this package is enough to net Petit though. I would be willing to take Renyel Pinto instead of Petit in the trade, or add another piece (such as Michael Garciaparra, Bryan LaHair, Greg Dobbs, et al) to make this trade happen. The whole deal would hinge on how much the Marlins like Jeremy Reed.

MOVE 3: Mariners sign DH Barry Bonds, SP Tomo Ohka, C Rod Barajas, and 1B Eduardo Perez – My guess is signing all of these free agents would take roughly $20 million, which the Mariners should have available even if they pick up as much as half of Richie Sexson’s remaining contract in my proposed moves. The most controversial signing is Barry Bonds obviously, but his bat would add an incredible presence to the lineup. A less risky (and even cheaper) option would be Luis Gonzalez and I would be content with that. However, with these deals I proposed the Mariners could give Bonds the $10 million he wants and it would not blow the budget. It is something to think about.

So, with these moves the 2007 Mariners would look something like this:

Ichiro, CF
Chris Snelling, RF
Nick Johnson, 1B
Barry Bonds, DH
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Raul Ibanez, LF
Kenji Johjima, C
Jose Lopez, 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Eduardo Perez
Greg Dobbs
Mike Morse
Rod Barajas
Willie Bloomquist

Jarrod Washburn
Felix Hernandez
Tomo Ohka
Cha-Seung Baek
Yusmeiro Petit

Jake Woods
Eric O’Flaherty
Jon Huber
George Sherrill
Rafael Soriano
J.J. Putz

Once again, the lineup looks much improved over last year’s. Just look at Raul Ibanez, the big hitter from last year, dropping to sixth in the lineup. I love the idea of three extremely patient hitters like Snelling, Johnson, and Bonds batting behind Ichiro. This proposed starting rotation is not stellar, but it is better than the one I imagined in my first “Off-Season Dreaming” especially since Beak, Petit, and of course King Felix are all young. This scenario is even less far-fetched than my first plan too since all of these moves are based on reports of what other teams are looking for. The Mariners have been losers in the off-season so far, but there is certainly still hope.

Off-Season Dreaming

J.D. DrewI did not think I would write a post with a bunch of hypothetical moves that the Mariners could make to save themselves, but after a conversation much too late a couple nights ago with a friend of mine I have to. He mentioned a few guys he would like to see the Mariners acquire and, after postulating a few scenarios, we came up with an interesting sequence of events. Here are three moves that would significantly alter the Mariners that are not far-fetched:

MOVE 1- Seattle Mariners trade Ben Broussard, Jeremy Reed, Joel Pineiro, and Wladimir Balentien to the Washington Nationals for Nick Johnson – This deal makes sense for the Mariners for a couple of reasons. First of all, the trade leaves Seattle with multiple spots open on the 40-man roster, which they need to have to sign free agents. More importantly though, this move nets a vastly underrated hitter in Nick Johnson. Each of the past two years Johnson has had a batting average of around .290 with an on-base percentage over .400 and in 2006 he hit a whopping 46 doubles to go along with 23 home runs. Moreover, he accumulated these numbers in pitcher-friendly RFK stadium and is only 27 years old, meaning he is just entering his prime. The trade also makes sense for the Nationals because they receive a first baseman who can replace Johnson’s average and home runs at a cheaper price and they also gain two promising young outfielders, plus a starting pitcher. Considering all the holes the Nationals have to fill they would have to consider this deal.

MOVE 2 - Seattle Mariners trade 1B Richie Sexson, RP Emiliano Fruto, and RP Julio Mateo to the San Francisco Giants for RP Armando Benitez, SP Pat Misch, and RP Billy Sadler – With Nick Johnson having been acquired, Richie Sexson becomes expendable and in this market his $14 million price tag for two years does not look terrible. The Giants are yet another team with several holes and tons of money to spend. This deal makes sense for San Francisco because they add a power bat to the middle of their lineup, two arms to their bullpen, and even get rid of Armando Benitez’s contract. The Mariners add some needed depth to their pitching staff but more importantly gain a bunch of money to spend, roughly $8 million in this deal. In the first move the Mariners also gained $3.3 million which, if Gil Meche’s $3.7 million earned last year is included, brings the Mariners to $15 million under the 2006 payroll. This clears the way for…

MOVE 3 – Seattle Mariners sign OF J.D. Drew – Like Nick Johnson, J.D. Drew sports a terrific on-base percentage and has all the tools in the world to become an elite offensive player. Drew is often criticized of being lazy and soft, but even if he puts up the numbers he has in the past he would be a huge addition to the Mariners lineup.

MOVE 4 – Seattle Mariners sign SP Tomo Ohka – Another beautiful feature of the first three moves is that no payroll was added, meaning the Mariners should still have enough money to add a decent starter like they are currently planning to do. Ohka is nothing special, but he is solid and would not break the bank.

With these four moves the 2007 Mariners would look something like this:

Ichiro, CF
Chris Snelling, LF
J.D. Drew, RF
Nick Johnson, 1B
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Kenji Johjima, C
Jose Lopez, 2B
Yuniesky Betancourt, SS

Eduardo Perez
Greg Dobbs
Mike Morse
Willie Bloomquist
Rene Rivera

Jarrod Washburn
Felix Hernandez
Tomo Ohka
Jake Woods
Cha-Seung Baek

Armando Benitez
Eric O’Flaherty
Billy Sadler
George Sherrill
Rafael Soriano
J.J. Putz

The starting staff and middle relief are shaky thanks to my proposed moves, but I thinking signing an offensive player like J.D. Drew in his prime is better than overpaying for Jason Schmidt or Barry Zito, both of whom may have already had their best years. Plus, the lineup looks fantastic. Ichiro could swing away to his heart’s content because behind him are three guys who will milk everything they can out of counts. The lineup also features five left-handed hitters, which suits Safeco Field very nicely. It does start with four left-handed hitters in a row, but that does not concern me greatly because Ichiro and Nick Johnson have both proven they can hit southpaws just as well, if not better, than right-handers. J.D. Drew’s three-year splits indicate that he can handle left-handers just fine as well. Even though the pitching staff would have everyone nervous, my moves do give the M’s some pitching depth in case of injuries/ineffectiveness.

This hypothetical team has flaws, but it is better than the 2006 M’s and also gives the team more flexibility in the future and even at the 2007 trading deadline (if Adam Jones is ready, the M’s could consider trading Ichiro). I would be excited if the Mariners off-season ended up emulating this.

15 To Watch Update

Tim LincecumBack on June 5, a day before the Major League Baseball draft, I wrote a post that listed 15 players the Mariners should have been looking at in the draft. Of course the Mariners did not select any of these players, but they were all chosen and all but a couple appeared in the minor leagues before the season ended. Now I take the time to look back and see how they have fared in the infancy of their careers. The first set of statistics is the player’s 2006 college statistics and the first write-up is what I said about them on June 5. The second set of numbers is from the pros, whichever level they were at (or multiple levels in some cases) with a following write-up on what I think of them now.

All statistics are from the 2006 season, AVG = batting average, OBP = on-base percentage, SLG = slugging percentage, SB = stolen bases/attempts, BAA = batting average against, K/9 IP = strikeouts/9 innings pitched, WHIP = (walks + hits)/innings pitched

15. Whit Robbins, 1B, Georgia Tech

.358 AVG, .472 OBP, .603 SLG, 40 BB, 36 K - Robbins blossomed this year into a slugger in the ACC, one of the best baseball conferences in the country. His bio page claims that he is also a great defender, though I'm not convinced of that based on his fielding statistics. His strikeout rate is a little higher than I would like to see as well, but his walks prove he has plate discipline and as I mentioned earlier, he did play in what is perennially one of the finest conferences for baseball. Also, he fills a need in the Mariners organization.

Drafted in 4th Round (119th Overall) by Minnesota Twins

Low A Stats: .304 AVG, .421 OBP, .482 SLG, 22 BB, 17 K - Though Robbins played only about a month of pro ball he appears to be having no problems with the transition. I had mentioned that his strikeout rate concerned me somewhat, but he would end up with under 100 punch-outs based on the rate he posted in low-A ball, which is pretty good, especially if he develops a little more power.

14. Evan Longoria, 3B, Long Beach State

.353 AVG, .458 OBP, .602 SLG, 40 BB, 29 K - Like Robbins, Longoria exploded this year and posted tremendous numbers, and people noticed as he is a finalist for the Golden Spikes Award, which is college baseball's equivalent to the Heisman Trophy. Longoria is a lock to go in the first round and is widely considered the best position prospect by far in the draft. However, I don't agree with that. Longoria only posted prolific numbers this year and his numbers before 2006 were quite pedestrian. It shows how much he has improved, but I prefer guys that have a longer track record of success.

Drafted in 1st Round (3rd Overall) by Tampa Bay Devil Rays

Low A Stats: .424 AVG, .487 OBP, .879 SLG, 5 BB, 5 K

High A Stats: .327 AVG, .402 OBP, .618 SLG, 13 BB, 19 K

AA Stats: .267 AVG, .266 OBP, .486 SLG, 1 BB, 20 K

Combined Stats: .315 AVG, .360 OBP, .597 SLG, 19 BB, 44 K – I still am not convinced Longoria will turn out to be the best hitter in this draft but he has been much better than I expected. He completely dominated in the lower levels but AA proved to be much tougher for him. AA is often considered a major weeding out point, a place where true Major League prospects emerge. Clearly, Longoria struggled at that level but his prodigious numbers in lower levels and his final year in college should not be ignored. I think he just got too aggressive at the plate trying to prove himself and that he is a much better hitter than his AA numbers indicate. The Devil Rays have been playing him at shortstop instead of grooming him at third base, which is only interesting because it probably means B.J. Upton’s long-term home in Tampa is at third. What was most staggering about Evan Longoria’s numbers was the incredible power. He appears to have mystically added punching by switching to wood bats. If Longoria had played an entire minor league season he would have hit 35-40 home runs, which is massive power production from the shortstop position, especially for a guy who is barely old enough to go to a bar. Longoria could be the next Miguel Tejada, though with maybe even a little more power and a little more plate discipline, which pushes him towards (here come unfair expectations) Alex Rodriguez. I cannot get after the Mariners for not taking this guy since he did not even make it to them.

13. Chad Huffman, 1B, TCU

.388 AVG, .498 OBP, .742 SLG, 38 BB, 31 K - Though Huffman comes from a smaller conference, he has produced throughout his college career. Every year he has posted an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of over 1.000, and despite the high standards, he has clearly improved every year. He also plays first base, a need in the Mariner organization.

Drafted in 2nd Round (53rd Overall) by San Diego Padres

Rookie-Advanced Stats: .343 AVG, .439 OBP, .576 SLG, 25 BB, 34 K – Chad Huffman also played in high A ball, but only for five games so the stats he “accumulated” are not even worth mentioning. The Padres have switched him to outfield, but I do not care about his defense. Huffman has started off in pro ball right where he left off in college. He can flat-out hit, and get hit by pitches! He racked up 14 HBP in about a third of a season in low A, and judging from his college career, that is just what he does. There is nothing much to say about Huffman other than he was a hitting machine in college and he still is as a professional so far.

12. Luke Hopkins, INF, New Mexico State

.403 AVG, .548 OBP, .799 SLG, 53 BB, 27 K - Hopkins's numbers may be boosted by playing in the desert and a weaker conference, but for two straight years he has posted absolutely ridiculous numbers that only one player in the entire conference has approached. That player is the previous prospect, Chad Huffman. Hopkins doesn't seem to have a set position on defense which probably means he is rather weak in the field. However, if he can hit anything like he has in college, I would stick him at first base and deal with any defensive shortcomings in a heartbeat.

Drafted in 5th Round (150th Overall) by Toronto Blue Jays

Rookie-Advanced Stats: .239 AVG, .337 OBP, .390 SLG, 40 BB, 72 K – It is a pretty simple story here-Luke Hopkins has struggled to make the adjustment to wooden bats. He tore the cover off the ball in college and all of a sudden he is struggling to make contact (see the low batting average and high strikeout rate). However, there is reason for hope. Hopkins walked a lot, which means he still has good plate discipline and if he can get comfortable with wooden bats and simply make contact more, he will be a great hitter. Though I love hitters with killer plate discipline like I believe Hopkins has, every good hitter has to be able to make solid contact at the end of the day, and unfortunately Hopkins was not able to do that as a pro this year.

11. Ryan Strieby, 1B, Kentucky

.347 AVG, .476 OBP, .720 SLG, 44 BB, 37 K - This was Strieby's first year at the Division I level, but his power numbers in the SEC really grabbed my attention. On top of that, he is from Brier, Washington and attended Edmonds Community College before transfering to Kentucky this year, so he has strong local ties. Fans love it when local kids are picked by the home team, especially when they fill a need like Ryan Strieby does.

Drafted in 4th Round (112th Overall) by Detroit Tigers

Rookie-Advanced Stats: .241 AVG, .319 OBP, .335 SLG, 25 BB, 58 K – I wish I could find a silver lining in these numbers, but I cannot say much else other than he may really come into his own and acclimate next year. Strieby did not flash any of the power, hitting, or plate discipline that he seemed to have in college. It is possible he really struggled with the transition to pro ball and that he will settle down and show his true colors next year, or he could simply not be Major League material.

10. Brad Lincoln, P, Houston

1.69 ERA, .198 BAA, 10.7 K/9 IP, 0.96 WHIP: Lincoln is one of two pitchers the Royals are considering taking with the first overall pick, so it is unlikely he will fall to the Mariners at number five. Lincoln has great stuff and he had a dominating year, but he was far from dominating the two previous years thanks to a lack of control. It is reasonable to believe he has developed and improved, but I am not convinced he is as good as most baseball experts believe. Like I said, I prefer guys who have proven themselves for more than one year, especially when they improve dramatically from one year to the next like Brad Lincoln has.

Drafted in 1st Round (4th Overall) by Pittsburgh Pirates

Rookie-Advanced Stats: 0.00 ERA, 10.57 K/9 IP, 0.91 WHIP

Low A Stats: 6.75 ERA, 5.63 K/9 IP, 1.94 WHIP

Combined Stats: 4.66 ERA, 7.37 K/9 IP, 1.64 WHIP – I was concerned about Lincoln’s control problems and they popped up in A-Ball. However, I also really like Lincoln’s upside, which presented itself in the lower Rookie-Advanced league. It is still the same story for Brad Lincoln: he is on the cusp of greatness; all he needs is a little more control. Whether he ever gains that control we shall see.

9. Steven Wright, P, Hawaii

2.30 ERA, .204 BAA, 10.1 K/9 IP, 0.90 WHIP - I don't know if anyone in all of baseball would take Steven Wright over Brad Lincoln, but I probably would. For his college career, Wright clearly has better numbers than Lincoln and he has improved significantly two years in a row. The steadier track record and comparably dominate numbers are what edge Wright just past Lincoln for me.

Drafted in 2nd Round (56th Overall) by Cleveland Indians

Steven Wright did not appear in a minor league game, so I will stand on what I said about him June 5.

8. Wade LeBlanc, P, Alabama

2.72 ERA, .204 BAA, 9.0 K/9 IP, 1.06 WHIP - LeBlanc had a disappointing year in 2005 but came back strong in 2006 and anchored the pitching staff for the team currently ranked ninth in the nation. His subpar junior year concerned me, but last summer he played in the Cape Cod League and did very well and then backed it up with a strong 2006 campaign.

Drafted in 2nd Round (61st Overall) by San Diego Padres

Rookie-Advanced Stats: 4.29 ERA, 8.57 K/9 IP, 1.19 WHIP

Low A Stats: 2.20 ERA, 7.44 K/9 IP, 1.26 WHIP

Combined Stats: 3.05 ERA, 7.95 K/9 IP, 1.24 WHIP – LeBlanc will probably never be an ace, but he is on the path to becoming a really solid middle-of-the-rotation starter. LeBlanc does not strike out a ton of people, and he gives up his fair share of hits, but he only allowed 1 home run 53 2/3 professional innings this year, which is remarkable. LeBlanc keeps the ball in the ballpark and as a result his ERA stays low, especially for someone who is not incredibly overpowing.

7. Jon Jay, OF, Miami(FL)

.355 AVG, .494 OBP, .513 SLG, 38 BB, 24 K, 27/32 SB - I don't understand why baseball experts are not enamored with Jon Jay like I am. This guy can flat-out hit and has put up sensational numbers for three straight years. He has not hit many home runs yet but he hits lots of doubles, and doubles tend to turn into home runs as a guy strengthens and matures. However, even if Jay does not develop any more power, he has the speed and plate discipline to be a fantastic leadoff hitter.

Drafted in 2nd Round (74th Overall) by St. Louis Cardinals

Low A Stats: .342 AVG, .416 OBP, .462 SLG, 28 BB, 27 K, 9/13 SB – I loved this kid on draft day and I still do. He has shown everything I expected him to, and maybe even a bit more. These numbers were accumulated in the Midwest League, which traditionally has low hitting numbers, especially when it comes to power. I have a feeling many teams are going to regret passing over this guy.

6. Cole Gillespie, UT, Oregon State

.378 AVG, .498 OBP, .709 SLG, 40 BB, 27 K, 14/18 SB - Though 2006 was Gillespie's third year of college baseball, it was his first as a starter for the entire year and he posted incredible numbers. There are some injury concerns, but he is so impressive as a hitter and he can play all over the diamond. According to the Oregon State coaches, Gillespie is one of the hardest workers on the team and has a great attitude, which is probably true since he is willing to play anyhwere on the field defensively.

Drafted 3rd Round (92nd Overall) by Milwaukee Brewers

Rookie-Advanced Stats: .344 AVG, .464 OBP, .548 SLG, 40 BB, 34 K, 18/22 SB – This guy is still incredibly impressive as a hitter, to this point as perfect as they come. He even steals bases. I really wish the Mariners would have grabbed this guy.

5. Max Scherzer, P, Missouri

1.95 ERA, .204 BAA, 8.8 K/9 IP, 1.01 WHIP - 2006 was a bit of a "down" year based on Scherzer's past success, but he still had a wonderful season. Scherzer has electric stuff and is a consensus top 10 pick in the draft. He is probably one of the guys the Mariners are seriously considering taking with the fifth overall pick.

Drafted 1st Round (11th Overall) by Arizona Diamondbacks

Scherzer is yet to appear as a professional, so I will stand by what I said June 5.

4. Eddie Degerman, P, Rice

1.80 ERA, .170 BAA, 11.7 K/9 IP, 1.01 WHIP - I absolutely love Degerman and I can't figure out why more scouts don't. He has been one of the finest pitchers on the Rice staff for a couple years now, and that is saying something considering all the great pitchers that have come out of Rice recently. My guess is he can't throw as hard as other pitchers in this draft, but his bio says he can throw three pitches for strikes, which most college pitchers can't do. He actually went to class as well and is on track to graduate with a degree in economics. Despite all the focus on pitching in this year's draft, nobody sees Degerman as a top prospect so I'm really hoping the Mariners scoop this guy up in a later round.

Drafted 4th Round (136th Overall) by St. Louis Cardinals

Rookie-Advanced Stats: 2.76 ERA, 11.27 K/9 IP, 1.35 WHIP – I still think Eddie Degerman was one of the nicest picks in the entire draft. He walks more guys than I care to see, but his command could certainly improve. His control is not horrible, and to go along with that he is hard to hit, as evidenced by his high strikeout rate and low home run rate (he only gave up 1 in 42 1/3 innings pitched). Simply put, pitchers hard to hit tend to succeed, though Degerman certainly needs to harness his pitches better to become a really good starter.

3. Craig Cooper, 1B/OF, Notre Dame

.425 AVG, .522 OBP, .654 SLG, 38 BB, 14 K - Now a senior, Cooper has hit very well since his freshman year and started to add power to his game in 2006. He started his career with the Irish as a center fielder but was moved to first base during his junior season and has already established himself as a very good defender. What impressed me most about Cooper this year was his .425 average and a mere 14 strikeouts, pointing out how amazing he is at making contact.

Drafted 7th Round (213th Overall) by San Diego Padres

Rookie-Advanced Stats: .320 AVG, .418 OBP, .485 SLG, 32 BB, 44 K – Cooper’s strikeout rate was much higher than I expected, but despite that he still hit for a very high average and certainly succeeded. He got a quick call-up to Low A at the tail end of the season, but did not spend enough time at the level to collect any meaningful statistics. I do expect Cooper’s strikeout rate to go down as he gets used to the pro game and that may result in even better numbers across the board. I do not get how over 200 players were picked before this guy.

2. Andrew Miller, P, North Carolina

2.26 ERA, .217 BAA, 9.4 K/9 IP, 1.13 WHIP - Miller, along with Brad Lincoln, are the two pitchers Kansas City is considering taking with the top pick. Miller is the closest thing to the consensus top prospect in this draft so it would be very surprising if the Mariners got a chance to draft him. He is left-handed, 6'7", throws a fastball in the mid-90s, has a wicked slider, and is also a Golden Spikes Award Finalist. In other words, he has everything a scout loves to see.

Drafted 1st Round (6th Overall) by Detroit Tigers

High A Stats: 5 Innings, 0 Runs, 2 Hits, 1 Walk, 9 Strikeouts

MLB Stats: 6.10 ERA, 5.23 K/9 IP, 1.74 WHIP – The contract the Miller signed required the Tigers to call him up in September, so that helps to explain how he made the majors so quickly. In the end he did not accumulate enough stats to draw any great conclusions, so for now I will say he was one of the most polished pitchers in the draft and will likely be one of the better pitchers to come out of this draft.

1. Tim Lincecum, P, Washington

1.94 ERA, .173 BAA, 14.3 K/9 IP, 1.10 WHIP - A Golden Spikes Award Finalist like Miller, Lincecum has posted dominating numbers for three years at Washington and had better numbers across the board than just about every pitcher in college baseball, highlighted by his ridiculous 14.3 K/9 IP. No one is sure where Lincecum is going to go, but I think the Mariners would have to be complete morons to pass on this hometown hero if he's still available at number five. He is as good as any pitcher in this draft.

Drafted 1st Round (10th Overall) by San Francisco Giants

Rookie-Advanced Stats: 0.00 ERA, 22.50 K/9 IP, 0.25 WHIP

High A Stats: 1.95 ERA, 15.61 K/9 IP, 0.90 WHIP

Combined Stats: 1.73 ERA, 16.73 K/9 IP, 0.83 WHIP – I said the Mariners would have to be complete morons to pass up on this guy and I stand by what I said. Trust me, I am rooting for Brandon Morrow, but there would be borderline hysteria if the Mariners had drafted Lincecum and he posted the absurd numbers he did as a Mariner prospect. Lincecum has been absolutely dominant.

I hope the Mariners know what they are doing because they had several opportunities to grab players on this list and they chose to go in a much different direction. If I were the Mariners I would have taken Tim Lincecum first, Cole Gillespie in the second round, Eddie Degerman with their third pick, Craig Cooper with pick four, and Luke Hopkins in the fifth round. Instead, Seattle has Brandon Morrow, Chris Tillman, Anthony Butler, Ricky Orta, and Nathan Adcock. I took about 6 hours on a computer to form this list of 15; the Mariners had a small army scour the nation for months on end to form their list. It is more than reasonable to expect the Mariners picks to be better than mine, but if they are not, I wonder what they did with all that time.

Projected MLB Standings

Dan HarenSeptember has arrived! Every week I update the projected standings based on my version of Bill James's baseball pythagorean theorem. Like the orginal, the projections are based on a team's runs scored and runs allowed. However, I only project a team's remaining games and add that on to what has already transpired, and I also factor in a team's strength of schedule and the strength of the division they play in. Without further ado, here are the projected standings (the +/- after a team's projected record is how many projected wins the team has gained/lost since last week):

1. Athletics, 93-69, +3
2. Angels, 84-78, 0
2. Rangers, 83-79, -1
4. Mariners, 77-85, +3

1. Tigers, 100-62, -2
2. White Sox, 94-68, -1
2. Twins, 94-68, 0
4. Indians, 79-83, +2
5. Royals, 59-103, +1

1. Yankees, 97-65, -1
2. Red Sox, 87-75, -3
3. Blue Jays, 84-78, -2
4. Orioles, 73-89, +2
5. Devil Rays, 64-98, -2

1. White Sox, 0 GB
2. Twins, 0 GB

DIVISION SERIES MATCHUPS: Athletics vs. Tigers, White Sox vs. Yankees

1. Dodgers, 86-76, +2
2. Padres, 82-80, 0
3. Giants, 80-82, +1
4. Diamondbacks, 78-84, -1
5. Rockies, 76-86, 0

1. Cardinals, 86-76, +2
2. Reds, 81-81, -3
3. Astros, 80-82, +3
4. Brewers, 74-88, -4
5. Cubs, 66-96, -3
6. Pirates, 65-97, 0

1. Mets, 100-62, +1
2. Phillies, 82-80, 0
3. Marlins, 79-83, +2
4. Braves, 78-84, +1
5. Nationals, 68-94, -1

1. Phillies, 0 GB
1. Padres, 0 GB
3. Reds, 1 GB
4. Astros, 2 GB
4. Giants, 2 GB
6. Marlins, 3 GB

DIVISION SERIES MATCHUPS: Cardinals vs. Mets, Phillies vs. Dodgers

The A's are absolutely on fire and charging fast. If Rich Harden comes back and has any impact, this team will be really scary. Quietly Oakland has asserted itself as a power in the American League that rivals anyone...The National League wild card is tightening up again. It looked like a few teams may separate last week...I kept waiting for the Reds to fade and they may finally be giving up the ghost.

So Long Pluto

PlutoAstronomers from across the world have been gathered in the Czech Republic for the last couple weeks debating what is, and what is not, a planet. The main controversy centered around Pluto, "The Little Planet That Could" if you will. Pluto is smaller than any other planet, farther from the sun than any other planet until its orbit crosses Neptune's, and the elliptical plane its orbit travels in is much different than that of any other planet. Furthermore, thanks to research since Pluto's discovery in 1930, astronomers have discovered it is far from alone out in the nether regions of our solar system. There are several celestial bodies that are remarkably similar to it, such as UB313 (nicknamed Xena), which was discovered in 2003 and is actually bigger than Pluto. The discovery of UB313, along with the fact there was no definition for what makes a planet, fueled debate over the planets as we know them.

For those of you going "Hey, this is a sports blog!" stick with me, I'm getting there. The International Astronomical Union has met over the last two weeks to finally end the debate by defining what makes a planet. As of last week, it looked like they were zeroing in on a definition that would include Pluto and UB313, but also include some asteroids and even one of Pluto's moons. The definition seemed really stupid; it had the potential to add dozens of planets since there is little doubt many more Plutos and UB313s are just waiting to be discovered. However, the IAU thought about it, realized how dumb the definition would be, talked about it for another week, and yesterday told the world the official criteria for a planet. Pluto no longer makes the cut because its orbit is not round enough. Pluto is the first planet demoted since the 1800s when Ceres, an asteroid, had its planetary status revoked. Ceres would have also been added as a planet if the IAU had not switched up the guidelines they were considering just a week ago.

Though the IAU's ruling is unpopular right now, they got it right. Keeping Pluto in any definition of a planet was going to open the door to asteroids, moons, and other bodies which clearly should not be planets, and I think if most of the people currently upset took the time to realize this they would not be so upset. In case you could not guess, I have a bit of an interest in astronomy but I promised this would ultimately be a sports blog. The IAU meeting in Prague made me start to wonder: Why doesn't sports have a similar union?

Let's create the American Team Sports Union and it would be comprised of sports writers that follow pro baseball (both major and minor league), football, basketball, hockey, and soccer. Everyone would vote on every issue, whether the issue be within their sport of expertise or not. Just as it has been proven planets can be demoted, I would like to see the ATSU start by demoting some teams. Let's start with baseball. What have the Royals and Devil Rays done in the past decade to warrant staying in the major leagues? Nothing, and I believe this union would see it the same way. Both would be demoted to the minor leagues, leaving baseball with 28 teams again. This decision would also require re-alignment (another decision for the ATSU) since it would leave the AL with 12 teams and the NL 16, but ultimately the two leagues would have the same amount of teams again for the first time since 1997.

In fact, I'd like to take this sports union idea one step further. I think each team could have fan unions to keep their team in line. How cool would it be if you were part of a panel for your favorite pro team that could actually veto a move if the vast majority of the panel disapproves of it? Let's set the bar really high; 75% of the panel has to veto it. Even with such a high standard I think a Mariners fan union would have had Joel Pineiro in the bullpen and Carl Everett completely off the team by June (though I would hope that even signing him would have been vetoed). By now Mike Hargrove would have been fired, and maybe even Bill Bavasi too. Certain things, like minor-league call-ups, would be off limits for the union, but if whoever was called up clearly isn't pulling their weight after a month, the union would have the power to send him back down. If a bunch of men and women who stare at the sky for a living can meet in Prague and debate about something billions of miles away and reach a consensus, a bunch of sports junkies could band together and settle disputes over moves in their own backyard.

How Low Can They Go?

MoyerThe Mariners are no longer on the verge of the playoffs. They are no longer on the verge of turning the season around. They are not even on the verge of a meltdown. The meltdown has arrived.

Tonight felt like their last gasp. It was game 10 of this 11 game road trip that the team felt would make or break their season. Already 0-9 on the trip so far, Seattle's odds did not look good tonight either with Jarrod Washburn going against John Lackey. The Mariners got down early 4-0 but battled hard and actually took the lead with a 5 run explosion in the fifth, highlighted by a three-run homer from Ben Broussard. It looked like the Mariners might hand the bullpen a lead for the first time in ages.

But it was not meant to be. Seattle was browbeaten for four more runs and the game seemed out of reach at 9-5 in the eighth inning. There was hope with runners on the corners and only one out, but with one pitch Scot Shields induced a double play ball off of Jose Lopez's bat to squelch that threat. Once again the Mariners mounted a charge in the ninth, but it fell short thanks to a series of questionable stike calls that led to a Snelling K to end the ballgame.

Then, as if the game and the losing streak was not enough of a gut shot, word broke that Jamie Moyer had been traded to the Phillies for a pair of low-level minor-leaguers. While Ichiro is very popular, Jamie Moyer in many ways was the face of this franchise. He certainly was a pillar in the community and a rare athlete who transcended sports in this region, especially considering he has never been a superstar. This is an absolute publicity nightmare, especially in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, but I would have been willing to swallow the deal if it made good, sound baseball sense. The problem is it does not. Moyer has now signed a mutual option for 2007 with Philadelphia, making a return to Seattle in 2007 seem unlike. The Mariners already had two holes to fill in their rotation with Meche and Pineiro likely to leave, and now the Mariners have added yet another one by eliminating Moyer, a rather safe bet to re-sign. Though one of the prospects they received in return looks like a potentially good reliever down the road, does the Seattle bullpen really look like a weakness right now? It does not help either that the first comment I read on the deal from GM Bill Bavasi was, "It's not a thrill." Though he was specifically addressing simply dealing away Jamie Moyer and he went on to say some good things about the prospects they picked up, that is not exactly the first thing you want to read from your GM's mouth.

I really cannot imagine things getting much worse for the Mariners. They have lost 10 straight games overall, and an unfathomable 19 straight against AL West opponents. And, if that was not enough of a gut shot, they traded Jamie Moyer. This has to be rock bottom, doesn't it?

Trade Deadline Review

The non-waiver trade deadline tends to be overblown in baseball and this year was no exception. In fact, the deadline was so pathetic this year that the biggest trade on July 31 was actually the Bucks-Blazer deal in the NBA, where Jamaal Magliore was shipped to Portland. However, there were still some interesting deals and a few bigger trades in the days leading up to the deadline. Here's my rundown of the winners and losers:


Yankees - I can't stand the Yankees and it drives me nuts that they did so well this trade deadline. First, they pulled off a classic move that only they can pull off by acquiring Cory Lidle and Bobby Abreu from the Phillies for four extremely raw prospects that are yet to show lots of promise in pro ball. The only reason Philadelphia did this deal is because the Yankees were willing to take all of Abreu's salary. New York did not need any offense, but Abreu is really going to add to the lineup and it is downright scary to think just how good that offense will be if Sheffield and Matsui come back healthy. Whoever thought up the old baseball adage "pitching and defense wins championships" never imagined this Yankees lineup. Lidle was a great pickup as well because, though he is a mediocre starter at best, he is certainly better than anyone the Yankees have been throwing out as a fifth starter. In fact, Lidle may end up having a bigger impact than Abreu because he is replacing such a weak spot on the Yankees roster. If that deal wasn't bad enough, the Yankees somehow coaxed the Pirates to take Shawn Chacon for Craig Wilson straight up! Wilson is good enough to start on most teams but he'll add a ton of punch to the Yankee bench and all New York gave up was a guy who had no place thanks to the addition of Cory Lidle.

Rangers - Texas also made a big splash by acquiring Carlos Lee, but I am not convinced he significantly improves their team. Lee is replacing Kevin Mench, who had just as good of an average and on-base percentage, and the Rangers also gave up a piece of their bullpen, Francisco Cordero. However, Texas also acquired Matt Stairs from the Royals and Kip Wells from the Pirates for essentially nothing, and those were both good moves. Stairs strengthens the bench and Kip Wells cannot be much worse than John Rheinecker lately, and he has the potential to be a huge improvement. The fact that the Rangers were the second biggest winner at the deadline is telling of how little teams did to improve.

Braves - Bob Wickman and Danys Baez don't sound like much of an improvement, but considering how bad Atlanta's back end of the bullpen has been, they are a significant improvement and patch up the most glaring hole on the team.

Tigers - There was so much talk about Detroit getting a left-handed hitter that it may have been disappointing to the team if no one had been acquired. So, though I think Sean Casey is only a marginal upgrade at first over Chris Shelton, the deal may have prevented a swoon by a bunch of disappointed players.

Reds - I am not convinced Cincinnati is any better now than they were before their trades, but I have to give credit to their GM Wayne Krivsky for acquiring a completely new bullpen in only a month. I still think there was a way to make the same moves without giving up Austin Kearns and/or Felipe Lopez, but freeing up time for Ryan Freel and Chris Denorfia was not a bad move either.


Nationals - I do not know for sure, but it looks like Washington really dropped the ball at the trade deadline. It looks to me like Jim Bowden held out forever trying to get the deal he wanted for Alfonso Soriano but the deal that he wanted never came. That by itself does not bother me. However, by trying so hard to maximize the Soriano deal, Bowden completely ignored other options, namely trading a number of his starting pitchers. There were no attractive starters available this deadline, so Bowden could have probably got a better deal for Livan Hernandez, Tony Armas Jr., and/or Ramon Ortiz than in almost any other year. So, if Bowden really did completely focus on trading Soriano and ultimately not pull the trigger, and consequently completely ignored the possibility of trading any of his starters in what could have been a deal that clearly favored Washington, he completely failed at this deadline. There is still the possibility a trade could be done before August 31, but I wonder if any of those starters will pass through waivers since so many contending teams want starting pitching.

Phillies - Pat Gillick actually said his team would be both a buyer and seller at the deadline. Yeah, sure. He ditched Bobby Abreu, Cory Lidle, David Bell, and Rheal Cormier for essentially nothing. This was a complete roster and salary purge. Pat Gillick better sign a bunch of great free agents with all the money he has all of a sudden saved, because the Phillies got no quality prospects at the deadline despite giving away so much major league talent.

Dodgers - The Wilson Betemit deal looks fair, and the Julio Lugo deal looks pretty good, but trading Cesar Izturis for Greg Maddux made no sense. This team is fading fast and Greg Maddux is not much of an improvement at this point in his career. Izturis was a fan favorite in Los Angeles and he is a better player than Maddux at this point. Furthermore, there is a pretty good chance Greg Maddux will re-sign with the Cubs this offseason if he does not retire, which means in a couple months it will become painfully apparent the Dodgers gave away a gold glove shortstop for absolutely nothing.


Royals - Dayton Moore in his short time with Kansas City has made lots of personnel changes and he made some more at the deadline, most notably acquiring Ryan Shealy from the Rockies. Moore has not acquired any blue chip prospects, but he did not have a ton to work with either. Considering the situation Moore faced in Kansas City, he has done a very good job and there is no doubt the team is better now and has a brighter future with him in charge.

Mets - The most interesting deal of the trade deadline was swung by Omar Minaya when he sent Xavier Nady to the Pirates for Oliver Perez and Roberto Hernandez. Hernandez will become a key arm in the bullpen immediately, but Perez is a project. He has shown the potential to be one of the premier starters in baseball, but has struggled with massive inconsistency. The deal is risky since the winner of it will ultimately be decided by Perez, but it is especially risky for the Mets because they dealt their starting right fielder in a year where they are the favorite to go to the World Series out of the NL. Omar Minaya must have unbelievable intestinal fortitude, because I would be chugging Pepto Bismal by the bottle if I were the Mets GM and just agreed to this trade given the circumstances.

M's Get Another Indian

Before addressing the moves by the Mariners yesterday, I have to touch on the story about Floyd Landis that broke today. Landis, this year's Tour de France winner, is under suspicion of doping after a urine sample taken from him before stage 17 (the stage where he miraculously made up nearly eight minutes after supposedly falling out of contention) indicated high testosterone levels. What this really means is that his testosterone to epitestosterone ratio was abnormally high, and from what I have heard he did not have lots of testosterone but rather a lack of epitestosterone. Some have hypothesized this could be a result of several conditions, most notably the cortisone shots he has been taking to dull the pain in his arthritic hip. Whether that is a credible medical excuse, I have no clue. However, should anyone be surprised that Floyd Landis's drug test revealed high testosterone levels? The man not only just cycled around the perimeter of France on a severely arthritic hip, but also cycled around it faster than everyone else. The drug test proves what was already known: Floyd Landis has serious balls.

Now to the real point of this post. The Mariners were quite busy on Wednesday, starting the day by designating Carl Everett for assignment and finally ending his brief Mariner career. To take his place they called up oft-injured Chris Snelling, who somehow managed to injure himself without playing last night and land back on the disabled list today. This move should have been made over a month ago, so I will not give the Mariners too much credit. Still, I am happy to finally see Everett gone, though I also have to admit he exceeded my expectations. With the announcement of this move, Bill Bavasi added that the Mariners might not be done making moves, almost as if he knew something the rest of us did not. Bavasi was true to his word as he acquired just hours later Ben Broussard from the Cleveland Indians for Shin-Soo Choo and a player to be named later. Bavasi would admit later in the day he knew he would get a deal for a left-handed hitter done, either for Broussard or a mysterious "Player B". "Player B" was most likely Todd Walker of the Cubs.

There is alot to like about Ben Broussard. First of all, he is a left-handed hitter with some power that has destroyed right-handed pitching this year. He had platooned with Eduardo Perez at first base in Cleveland until Perez was traded to the M's, and now they will platoon again at designated hitter. Furthermore, Broussard is under the control of the Mariners until 2008, so he is both a short-term and long-term fix.

However, I have my concerns about this trade. Taking a look at Broussard's home/road splits, I noticed something that worried me. At Jacobs Field this year, Ben has batted .381 with 11 home runs, and on the road he has batted just .248 with 2 home runs. Jacobs Field is not a particularly hitter-friendly park and Broussard has not had a major difference in his home and road numbers in previous seasons, so this may be an aberration. However, Broussard has really broken out this year and it may be just because he has been absurdly hot at home for no apparent reason. Another troubling statistic is his pitches seen per plate appearance. Usually, hitters see more pitches per plate appearance as they get older because they get more selective and discern balls and strikes better. However, Broussard is seeing an average of 3.57 pitches per plate appearance this season, easily the fewest of his career. Considering that the Mariners seem to promote an aggressive approach at the plate, Broussard may average even fewer pitches seen in Seattle which will likely cause his batting average and power to dip even more. Though it is possible Broussard has put everything together this year (like the M's believe), I think it is more likely this is an aberration and that the real Ben Broussard is less than what the M's are counting on him to be. Kudos to the Indians for trading him at what will likely prove to be his peak value.

Even more kudos are in store for Cleveland for getting Shin-Soo Choo in return. I have been high on Choo for several years now and I don't understand why the Mariners did not give him more of a chance. I feel that Choo's hitting ability is at least comparable to Broussard's right now and he definitely has a ton more speed. Choo is also only 24 years old, four years younger than Broussard, so it is not outlandish to expect Choo to develop into a significantly better player than Broussard. According to Bavasi, interest on the trade market for Choo has steadily declined over the last three years, and he also felt there was no place in the Mariners organization for him, so he was content to part with him to get Broussard. The way I see it, the Mariners just made a trade that is considered equal on the current trade market, but they acquired a player at his peak value and gave up a player at his lowest value. A deal like this could end up lopsided, and I do not think it takes too much brain power to decipher which team will likely end up on top. Plus, the Mariners will eventually include a dreaded player to be named later. That player could be an absolute zero or they could be an integral part of the deal; no one will know until that player to be named later is named, later.

As negative as I have been about this trade, the psychological impact it has on the team must be considered. The Mariners players have said from the start that they thought they could win the west and they have to be excited that the front office has been aggressive and added some players that will make a difference. It helps even more that to this point no one else in the division has made a move, which means the guys in the M's clubhouse have to think they have improved the most. The numbers-crunching part of me says the players would perform the same whether the M's made any deals or not, but there is no doubt the players will be happier and more motivated knowing that the front office has faith in them and that the whole organization is committed to winning this year. I do think it is fair to argue that the team's second half swoons, especially in 2002 and 2003, were partially caused by a lack of action at the trade deadline. The players clearly wanted help those years and when they did not get it, they had to be disappointed and that may have carried onto the field and ultimately all the way into the standings. As minor as the Perez and Broussard moves may look, a quick glance around baseball shows no other team that has done more to improve their ballclub (though that is certainly subject to change) and I think the M's players are aware of that.

In the end, the Mariners are a better team with Ben Broussard in place of Carl Everett, but I think Shin-Soo Choo was too heavy of a price to pay. This will be the most compelling August and September northwest baseball fans have seen in years.

Winning Cheap

The All-Star break is usually the deadest sporting time of the year. So, it's a great time of year to devote time to random subjects. I am in the midst of reading Moneyball for the third time and as a result I felt compelled to see how good of a team I could create for cheap. I gave myself $35 million to spend (just a tad less than the lowest payroll in baseball) on a 25-man roster. Here is my team, with 2006 salaries in parantheses (salaries are according to Cot's Baseball Contracts):

1. Carl Crawford, LF ($2.5 Million)
2. Joe Mauer, C ($1.43 Million)
3. Miguel Cabrera, RF ($472,000)
4. Travis Hafner, DH ($2.5 Million)
5. Vernon Wells, CF ($4.3 Million)
6. Chase Utley, 2B ($500,000)
7. David Wright, 3B ($374,000)
8. Ryan Howard, 1B ($355,000)
9. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS ($350,000)

This starting lineup is not just good for the price, it is flat-out good. Crawford provides terrific speed at the top and he, along with Mauer, set the table beautifully for some very formidable hitters in the third through seventh spots. Ryan Howard provides ridiculous power in the eight hole, and Betancourt is an ideal number nine hitter thanks to his great speed. The lineup also staggers left-handers and right-handers almost perfectly, and the defense is quite solid too.

Grady Sizemore, OF ($500,000)
Jorge Cantu, IF ($355,800)
Chris Burke, IF/OF ($362,500)
Nick Swisher, OF/1B ($335,000)
Brian McCann, C ($333,500)

The bench is strong to say the least. Sizemore is the primary left-handed bat and pinch-runner, and Cantu is the primary right-handed bat. All the guys are very good hitters and Burke and Cantu provide great defensive flexibility.

Chris Carpenter ($5 Million)
Francisco Liriano ($327,000)
Scott Kazmir ($371,700)
Dan Haren ($500,000)
Chris Capuano ($450,000)

Outside of Carpenter, there is little postseason experience but these guys are too talented. They all post good strikeout rates and, with the exception of Kazmir at times, also exhibit good control.

Adam Wainwright ($327,000)
Jonathan Papelbon ($335,400)
George Sherrill ($333,000)
Mike Gonzalez ($347,000)
Joel Zumaya ($327,000)
Bobby Jenks ($340,000)

As amazing as Papelbon has been finishing ballgames this year, he came up as a starter and figures to be a starter for the Red Sox down the road. Wainwright, though not closing for St. Louis, is very similar to Papelbon in this respect. So, they are my long relievers on this ballcub because they have the stamina to easily go multiple innings in relief, provide spot starts (though I don't know why I'd ever need one with the starting staff), or pitch one inning in tight situations. George Sherrill has quietly established himself as a dominant specialty lefty in Seattle, and Mike Gonzalez is also a great southpaw who has taken over the closing duties in Pittsburgh after being a setup man. He returns to his setup role on this team. However, the primary eighth inning guy is young Joel Zumaya with his triple-digit heat. Then, to finish things off is another triple-digit flame-thrower, Bobby Jenks.

This team could easily compete with anyone. Amazingly, the total payroll is just $23,325,900, over $11 million less than even the Devil Rays' payroll, the lowest in baseball. It may be harder to win with a smaller budget, but it is far from impossible.

The Game Is An Exhibition

The mid-summer classic, the grandest of all the All-Star games. Something about it makes it more prestigious than the Pro-Bowl or the NBA All-Star Game. Maybe it is the rich history. Maybe it is the game itself, America's pastime. Whatever it is, the MLB All-Star Game is annually the best exhibition in any American sport.

However, the rules of the game have been tinkered with the last couple years and for the worse. Now the game is not a true exhibition since it decides home field advantage for the World Series. Thanks to this rule, debate rages over whether fans should vote for the starting lineups and if every team should be represented. The argument is more than fair and legitimate since the game means something. The MLB All-Star game is not a true competitive match with the current setup, but not an exhibition either. Unbelievably, it is somewhere inbetween.

So, baseball must make a choice: is the game a competition or an exhibition? If they choose that it needs to be competitive and decide home field advantage, then the fans should not vote, not every team should be represented, and the roster should be built to win. The teams would look like World Baseball Classic squads.

But that is not the right choice. The All-Star game is a celebration of baseball, meant to please the fans and reward the players for a job well done. It needs to be an exhibition, the one time where the greatest players in the game go out and play like children in the streets. Remember when Randy Johnson threw a pitch over John Kruk's head, scaring Kruk to death and making him a pathetically easy strikeout victim? Then, four years later, Johnson pulled the same trick against Larry Walker and in response Walker switched around to bat right-handed, even going as far as putting his batting helmet on backwards so the earflap was still in front? Or what about 2001, when Alex Rodriguez forced Cal Ripken Jr. to take the field at shortstop in his final All-Star game? These are great moments that do not happen in a competitive game. Fans see six months worth of competitive baseball; one exhibition in the middle of the year is a breath of fresh air.

Please baseball, make the All-Star game an exhibition again. Take out the home field advantage rule. While you're at it, make a few other changes too. Let the fans vote on the starting pitcher, and also let the fans select one reliever. Keep the rule that every team must be represented, as long as the rosters stay expanded with 32 players, and take the task of picking the final All-Stars out of the manager's hands and make it the baseball writers' task. They know enough to select all the post-season awards, so they are qualified to pick All-Stars and it takes the pressure off managers to pick between their own players and other deserving ones. Also, always have a DH in All-Star games, even when in a National League park. No pitcher is picked because of prodigious hitting ability, so leave hitting in the All-Star game to All-Star hitters. Finally, there should never be a tie like the debacle in Milwaukee. I propose having a game last no longer than 10 innings, and then if the game is still tied, a home run derby decides the winner. Each squad would pick three batters and they each would get three outs (a.k.a., three hits that aren't homers). The team with the most homers in the end would be declared the winner. To add more spice, the opposing team could have three outfielders trying to rob home runs. It would be a quirky way to end a baseball game, but it would be fun to watch, and it is just an exhibition, right?

What Are They Thinking?

After last night's game (yet another loss), the Mariners designated Roberto Petagine for assignment to make room for catcher Luis Oliveros from AA San Antonio. Petagine was the only left-handed bat on the bench and Oliveros will be the third-string catcher.

This move makes absolutely no sense at all from any angle. I still believe that Petagine is a better hitter than Carl Everett and a platoon between Petagine and the recently acquired Eduardo Perez would have been an improvement over playing Everett every day. Petagine could have been a valuable asset if Hargrove had ever used him (he only got 27 ABs the entire year) and now it looks like Perez is destined for the same fate. So, though I think it was idiotic to designate Petagine for assignment, the Mariners probably are not losing much since Hargrove has been even more idiotic with his sparse use of the bench.

Still, why cut the only left-handed hitter on the bench for a third string catcher? As it turns out, Kenji Johjima will miss today's game so he can fly back to Japan and spend an extra day with his family, which includes a new baby. Johjima has more than earned the bonus day since Hargrove plays him too much (once again, too reluctant to use the bench) and it has probably been five months since he has seen his family. Since Kenji obviously won't be available, Hargrove was uncomfortable with the idea of having only one true catcher available for the game. I would be willing to take the risk, since it would be for only today's game and Willie Bloomquist could play catcher in a pinch, but I won't fight this point and concede that there is some logic in calling up a catcher.

However, that is still not an excuse for getting rid of Petagine. The Mariners could have easily called up Oliveros and kept Roberto on the bench. What they could have done instead is transfer Mike Morse to the 60-day DL (since he tore up his knee in Tacoma and is probably done for the year anyway) to make room on the 40-man roster for Oliveros and then they could have "sent down" Felix Hernandez. King Felix isn't getting into today's ballgame so using his slot for a day would make sense. The only problem is that he would have to wait 10 days until being recalled so he would miss one start after the All-Star break. However, the Mariners wisely want to limit Felix's innings anyway, so even this would not be a huge deal. Seattle could send Oliveros back down after the All-Star break and call up someone for a spot start. With just a little creativity, Petagine could have been spared.

With this first error having been addressed, now I can get to my biggest problem with the move: why was Luis Oliveros the choice? The Mariners have not one, not two, but THREE catchers in AAA and all would have been better options than Oliveros. Luis was batting just .194 in AA with a mere two extra base hits, both doubles, in 98 at-bats! Clearly, the kid is not even close to ready for big league pitching. Why was he the choice over any member of Seattle's AAA catching trio, Rob Johnson, Jeff Clement, and Guillermo Quiroz? Johnson is batting .250 in AAA with just a spark of power, but still much more than Oliveros. Furthermore, the organization raves about Johnson's defensive ability (though I have to wonder if they are just blowing smoke up our posteriors. After all, they called up Luis Oliveros in front of him). Jeff Clement was the M's top pick, third overall, only one year ago and everyone agrees he can hit. He still needs work defensively and is coming off an injury, so I am not too angry that he did not get the call. However, I still would have picked him over Oliveros because he can atleast do something. Plus, calling Clement up even if just for a day would create much more buzz and a little shot in the arm for a team that has been battered and bruised in July thus far. Finally, there is the man that should have been called up, Guillermo Quiroz. Quiroz actually made the opening day roster but was designated for assignment for apparently no reason a week into the season and Rene Rivera took his place. No other team claimed Quiroz and he was assigned to Tacoma where he has hit .313 with 8 doubles and 3 homers in 134 at-bats. He is only a year older than Oliveros but much more accomplished, as he has a couple months in the majors already under his belt and was selected to play in the All-Star Futures game a couple of years ago too.

In the end, designating Petagine for assignment and calling up Oliveros probably has very little impact on the team. However, I cannot get over how abominable the move is. I cannot find any logic in it at all. It is utterly and completely wrong, no matter how dissected. As much as I believe continuity is key to winning, moves like this make me seriously question Bill Bavasi and/or Mike Hargrove's baseball acumen. This move is so bad I almost hope both are fired over it.

The Choo-sen One

After an exciting 7-2 road trip, the Mariners were aiming to have a much better series than they just did against the Rockies. The last game was particularly painful since they lost in 11 innings and more importantly, lost Sean Green to back spasms and Jeremy Reed to a broken thumb. Quite literally, the game was a painful loss.

Emiliano Fruto was called up to replace Green, continuing the shuttle the two of them have been riding between the last bullpen spot and Tacoma. This move was an obvious one and should come as no surprise.

However, the Mariners could have gone several ways with Jeremy Reed's replacement. They could have handed the starting job to Willie Bloomquist and recalled Mike Morse to be the utility guy. They could have called up 20-year-old hot prospect Adam Jones, who has been the starting centerfielder for a majority of Tacoma's games and also leads the Rainiers in home runs and RBIs. The oft-injured Chris Snelling is healthy again after major knee surgery and hitting well in Tacoma too.

For now the Mariners have left all of those players in the minors and made the right choice by calling up Shin-Soo Choo. He is quite young himself at 23 years old (though he turns 24 on July 13) and is one of the finest prospects from the Pat Gillick era. This year, Choo has used his sweet left-handed swing to accumulate a .327 batting average with a .401 OBP, .506 SLG, 11 home runs, 42 RBIs and also posseses great speed, as evidenced by 22 steals in just 26 attempts before today's promotion. Choo is a rare five-tool talent and his numbers indicate he is polished enough to be given a shot in the big leagues.

While it was disheartening to see Reed take himself out of yesterday's game and later find out he had broken his thumb, it may be a blessing in disguise for the Mariners. It was time to give Choo a shot in center to see if he could provide more offense and Reed's injury gives the Mariners the opportunity to see what happens, without taking the awkward step of demoting Jeremy. Word is Choo is starting tonight and hitting eighth. I can't wait to see him. Sin-Shoo Choo may be here to stay for good.


Perhaps the most intriguing pick of the entire MLB Draft came in the 5th round, 149th overall, when the Cubs selected Notre Dame pitcher Jeff Samardzija. He has a good arm and also great size at 6'5", but recorded only a 4.33 ERA and 61 strikeouts in 97 and 2/3 innings this season. Samardzija's numbers are not bad, but they certainly are not great either. However, there is reason to believe that Jeff has lots of room to grow because he is a great athlete and has never fully focused on baseball.

But Samardzija's athletic prowess is a double-edged sword. He is a great athlete, so great he also plays football, and by play football I mean catch 77 passes for 1,249 yards and 15 touchdowns. In fact, if Jeff is able to even approach those numbers again this fall he is a lock to go in the first round of the NFL Draft. Samardzija stated before the baseball draft that he was going to play football this fall too, so I thought the Cubs were taking one of the stupidest gambles in the whole draft when they selected him. Then, word broke this weekend that the Cubs have signed Samardzija to a five year deal and that he will likely begin his pro baseball career in Boise, Idaho but still return to Notre Dame in the fall for football. Samardzija has said all along that he wants to play both sports as long as he can and at this point it looks as if he will atleast have the opportunity to become the latest athlete to play in both the MLB and NFL.

Playing one sport at an elite level is hard enough, but playing two simultaneously at a high level is exponentially harder. The most recent man to play both at the same time was Deion Sanders and before him Bo Jackson also pulled the trick, but that's it. Also, Brian Jordan was a successful football player for the Falcons but retired to focus on baseball. Jordan has put together a very good baseball career and is still playing for the Braves today.

A couple other college athletes faced potential MLB and NFL careers in the past few years but took different paths than Samardzija. Josh Fields was a star third baseman and the starting quarterback at Oklahoma State and was considered a pro prospect in both baseball and football. Then, the Chicago White Sox drafted him in the first round of the baseball draft and he dropped football to completely focus on baseball. It appears Fields made a good decision because he is currently hitting well in AAA, so well the White Sox want to bring him up to the majors, but his path is currently blocked by Joe Crede. The most analagous situation to Samardzija's in recent memory is that of Drew Henson's though. Henson played baseball and football at the University of Michigan and, like Fields, played third base in baseball and quarterback in football. However, Henson had a much harder time deciding between the two sports. When Henson first enrolled at Michigan Tom Brady was the starting quarterback and, though he is now an NFL star, he was not as beloved as you would anticipate by Michigan fans. In fact, once Henson arrived many felt he should be the starter ahead of Brady. When Brady graduated and was a mildly surprising late round draft choice of the Patriots (the rest is history), the path was finally cleared for Henson and the expectations were enormous. Henson was expected to be a major contender for the Heisman trophy and potentially be the first player picked in the NFL draft. However, the Yankees decided to draft Henson over that summer and eventually offered him too much money to refuse. He dropped football to focus on baseball and he reached the major leagues but flamed out quickly. Henson returned to football but is now a reserve quarterback for the Cowboys that is yet to show the form that made many believe he could win a Heisman.

Not many people have ever been in Jeff Samardzija's shoes. On one hand, he is a rather obscure professional baseball pitcher. On the other, he is among college football's brightest stars. Samardzija is clearly multiple years away from becoming a Chicago Cub, but he is even more clearly just a year away from becoming an NFL receiver. It is too early to say that Samardzija will be a quality professional football or baseball player, but what if he becomes an NFL star while still pitching in the minor leagues? He would have to attract special attention, maybe even generate sell-outs like Roger Clemens did on his recent comeback tour. Hundreds would show up to minor league parks with footballs, football jerseys, or maybe even helmets that they would beg him to sign. I still think the Cubs made a bad baseball decision by drafting Samardzija so early, but as a sports fan I am thrilled that he is going to get a chance to pitch. With his name and game(s), Jeff Samardzija could be one of the funnest athletes to follow in a long time.

Mariners Ink Morrow

After yet another brutal series against the Oakland Athletics, Mariners fans like myself needed a reason to smile. This morning around 9:15 AM my frown turned upside down when I saw that the M’s had signed their top draft pick Brandon Morrow. A press conference officially announcing it was set for 11 AM and I watched it.

Before even touching on the press conference, I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised at how quickly Brandon Morrow inked his deal. Top draft picks just do not sign this early, especially ones as highly touted as Morrow. This speaks volumes about how much Brandon actually wants to play baseball, not just make money by playing baseball. It is a tremendous sign for his future.

Morrow’s press conference yielded little interesting information, but that is the nature of press conferences involving any sort of signing. It started with Mariners head scout Bob Fontaine telling the media how much the organization likes Brandon Morrow and that they are happy they signed him (real earth-shattering comments indeed). After a fairly brief round of opening statements, the media got the opportunity to ask Brandon Morrow some questions and he provided a few interesting comments.

With a rather monotone voice and the ample use of “ummm” from time to time, Brandon Morrow does not appear destined to become a media darling. However, he did avoid using the easy cliché answers and at times offered remarks that I found interesting. One reporter asked Morrow what made him better than other pitching prospects, which really put him on the spot. Understandably Morrow squirmed some, started by saying he didn’t know what made him better, but then gave a little chuckle and said, “I throw hard.” After that he said he hadn’t really seen many of the top pitchers, but that he felt his height made him a little better than one top pitcher he had seen, Tim Lincecum. At that point, Fontaine saved him (I thought he should have intercepted the question from the start because Morrow obviously isn’t going to know as much about other pitchers as the M’s scouts would) but I like that Morrow gave a truthful response and indirectly acknowledged that he is among the best pitching prospects in the draft.

More than anything, Brandon Morrow gave a little glimpse into his mindset at today’s press conference and I was excited by what I heard. At one point Brandon was talking about his time in the Cape Cod summer league, the most prestigious of all the college baseball summer leagues. He was not considered an elite pitching prospect at the start, but Morrow stated that he felt he should have been. Some would consider such a statement too cocky, but all great pitchers view themselves as great pitchers. It helps that he backed up his own opinion by dominating the Cape Cod league and becoming an elite prospect in the scouts’ eyes. Later on, a reporter asked Morrow how long he thought it would take him to reach the majors. He said he had no timetable, but that he expects to succeed at every level and also has no doubt he will be a major league pitcher.

By signing so early, Brandon Morrow has shown he wants to play baseball and that he has a true passion for it. In addition, he exemplified a supreme confidence in himself that is justified and also necessary for any prospect to become an elite player. Morrow looks as though he is destined to succeed.

Turning the Corner

After sweeping the Angels in Anaheim on the heels of a 5-2 homestand, the Mariners are officially on their first hot streak of the season. Their record in June is a robust 8-2, which gives the team a terrific chance to have a winning month for the first time in quite literally years. Two weeks ago it looked like this season, and a certain manager’s job, may be lost. However, today it appears the Mariners have turned the corner and may be in line to make a surprising run at the division title.

The biggest reason for Seattle’s current surge is an improved offense. While many credit the recent improvement to Hargrove’s lineup shuffle a couple weeks back, the statistics show that the offense has actually been steadily improving throughout the entire season. To start with, Seattle as a team batted .249 in April, .275 in May, and are batting .294 so far in June. In addition their on-base percentage was .315 in April, .321 in May, and is .349 in June. However, what has really spiked is the power, as evidenced in the Mariners’ slugging percentage by month. Seattle had a paltry .389 SLG in April, a slightly improved .397 SLG in May, but have a prolific .522 slugging percentage so far this month! The drastic improvement is mostly due to Richie Sexson and Adrian Beltre finally hitting the ball with authority, though sizzling months from Ichiro, Raul Ibanez, and Yuniesky Betancourt have certainly helped as well. The offense will probably not be able to keep up their current production, but it is not unreasonable to think that they can hit .275 as a team the rest of the way, with a .330 on-base percentage and .425 slugging or better. Offensive production like that would put them in the middle of the pack.

Like the offense, the pitching has improved too, though not as noticeably. Seattle pitching posted a 1.46 WHIP in April, a 1.33 WHIP in May, and a 1.34 WHIP so far in June. The staff’s strikeouts per nine innings has decreased, but that may not necessarily be a bad sign because the team is also facing fewer batters per nine innings. Interestingly, the team’s WHIP and K/9 IP are nearly identical for May and June, but the team ERA in May was 4.87 while in June it is 3.42. This is because the team allowed 34 home runs in May, but is only on pace to allow roughly 17 in June, literally half as many. Even more promising, the Mariners’ pitching numbers are likely to improve this month because it appears that Felix Hernandez is starting to find the dominating form he flashed last year, and Jarrod Washburn and Joel Pineiro have both struggled so far. Right now, the Mariners pitching is mediocre by major league standards, but if the home run rate stays at where it is in June and King Felix pitches like King Felix, the staff may be in the top third of baseball when the season is said and done.

The Mariners will not continue to win nine out of eleven games, but they have steadily improved despite what appears to be a maddeningly inconsistent season on the surface. If Seattle were to sweep the equally hot Oakland Athletics they would vault into second place in the AL West, be back to .500, and almost guarantee their first winning month in years. Even two out of three would be excellent. However, if Oakland continues to be a city of nightmares for Seattle, all hope is not lost. The M's ability to carry their hot streak on the road last weekend really showed me something, making me believe this team may win more than 75 games. The Mariners proved to me that they have made positive strides in every facet of the game, and even if their level of play begins to plateau, they will hang tough in the division race.

Mariners Draft: Day 2

Here’s a fairly brief look at the Mariners’ 19th through 50th picks:
19. Cameron Nobles, RHP, Jackson HS(WA) – The Mariners started off day two just like day one by drafting a pitcher. Nobles is a local product who pitched for the 4A state champion and second-ranked high school team in the nation this year. He already throws 90 MPH with good mechanics and most likely fell this far because he is not likely to sign out of high school. However, the Mariners are the home town team and may have a better chance at getting him. This was a worthwhile risk to start the second day.

20. Johan Limonta, 1B, Miami Dade CC South – Finally, a first baseman! Limonta is a junior at a small college and I can’t find any stats for him, so I really don’t know what to say about this pick besides the Mariners finally addressed their second most pressing need in the organization, behind pitching.

21. Brent Gaphart, LHP, Delaware – Gaphart pitched in only five innings this past season for the Fightin’ Blue Hens but in 2005 struck out 75 batters in only 60 2/3 innings. He also held opponents to a more than respectable .245 AVG that season, but posted a 5.09 ERA thanks to an alarming number of walks. With a little more control, Gaphart could emerge as a surprise prospect for the Mariners in this draft.

22. Fabian Williamson, LHP, Kennedy HS(CA) – This guy is listed at 6’3”, 180 pounds and that is all I know about him. My guess is the Mariners will not even be able to sign him because few high-schoolers chosen this late do sign.

23. Marcos Villezcas, INF, BYU – Villezcas was a marginal hitter with no power in college, so the chances of him being any type of hitter in professional baseball are slim to none. He was probably drafted purely for depth at the minor league level of the organization.

24. Kyle Parker, RHP, Washington – The Mariners went local again, which is always nice to see. Parker tops out at 89 MPH, but possesses an easy and fluid delivery and a breaking ball with good movement. However, his stuff never translated into success at the UW, which leads me to believe it will not translate to success as a pro either.

25. Tyson Gillies, OF, R.E. Mountain SS(Canada) – I was able to find some video of Gillies and even some 2005 statistics from a premier league in British Columbia. At the plate Gillies looks like Vladimir Guerrero to me, except left-handed, until he actually swings the bat. Gillies lacks plate discipline like Guerrero, but also lacks the once-in-a-generation talent that Vlad the Impaler possesses. Tyson’s best attributes right now are his speed and defense, though it is not out of the question that he could develop a little power. At best, Tyson Gillies is an extremely raw long-term project.

26. Greg Moviel, LHP, Vanderbilt – Moviel pitched only 3 2/3 innings the entire season and was lit up. In fact, he has pitched very little in three years at Vanderbilt thanks to injuries, but he is 6’6”, left-handed, and only a junior. Moviel looks like a draft-and-follow to me.

27. Bryan Ball, RHP, Florida – Ball was 4-9 this year with a 5.57 ERA and opponents batted .313 against him. He has pitched better in the past, but not better enough to believe he is a legitimate prospect.

28. Rocky Collis, RHP, Cornell – Collis had high strikeout rates and a very good K/BB ratio throughout his career with the Big Red, but he gave up quite a few hits. However, that was as a starter and if the Mariners turn him into a reliever that may change. I could see Collis emerging as a surprise prospect out of the bullpen.

29. Greg Nesbitt, LHP, James Madison – Like Collis, Nesbitt has always had a good strikeout to walk ratio, but he was hit very hard his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons. However, Nesbitt suddenly became much harder to hit as a senior and really blossomed. He is also a good candidate to emerge as a late-round prospect.

30. Matt Vogel, SS, Lewis and Clark – Though undersized at 5’8” and 170 pounds, Vogel produced in a big way with a .376 AVG, .435 OBP, .587 SLG and only 9 strikeouts the entire year. He also had a .950 fielding percentage, which is very good for a shortstop. Whether Vogel’s power projects into professional baseball is highly questionable, but it was more than worth the risk at this pick. This is the Mariners’ third straight selection that I could see emerging as a surprise prospect.

31. David McClain, RHP, San Jacinto College North – McClain had a very good 2006 season, highlighted by an ERA under 2.00, but the season becomes a great one when you consider he is only 19. McClain may be a draft-and-follow, but the Mariners may also want to sign him and develop him themselves.

32. Joe Agreste, 1B, Potomac State College – I couldn’t find many stats on Agreste, but the Mariners must like him because they drafted him last year as well (he didn’t sign obviously). He batted .348 last year and led his team in home runs with 6, a rather high total for a 19-year-old. I don’t know what would make Agreste sign with the Mariners this year since he didn’t sign with them last year.

33. Robert Harmon, RHP, Arkansas-Little Rock – At 6’7” Harmon looks like a beast on the mound but was hit around with relative ease last year. If all it took to make the majors was height, Harmon would make it. However, it takes a little more.

34. Stan Posluszny, OF, West Virginia – Stan was drafted in the 21st round by the Angels last year, but chose not to sign. He slipped further in the draft this year because he did not flash the same power that he had in previous seasons, though he still put up very nice numbers. He looks like a terrible fielder, but the Mariners could use some more pop and this guy was a very good pick at this point.

35. Alex Meneses, SS, Barry – This year, Meneses batted .376 with an incredible .515 OBP, 53 walks, and 19 stolen bases in 21 attempts! He did strike out 25 times which is a just a few more than I would like to see, but his terrific combination of speed and plate discipline make him an intriguing prospect this late in the draft. I like many of the M’s picks on the second day, but Meneses is my favorite so far.

36. Kyle Haas, RHP, Douglas College – Haas is 6’7” and all legs, and also only 18 years old. He tops out at around 87 MPH right now, but the odds are he will start throwing much harder in the very near future as he matures. He is very raw, but has potential. Considering he is so young, he is not likely to sign as a pick this late in the draft.

37. Christopher Walden, RHP, Bellefontaine HS(OH) – I know even less about Walden than I do about Haas, but my guess is most of what I just said about Haas applies here too.

38. Michael Drake, OF, Cosumnes River College – Another 18-year-old that is not likely to sign at this late of a pick

39. Philip Roy, RHP, Miami Dade CC South – Once again, an 18-year-old with a very “projectable” body to use a scouting term (that means he’s tall and skinny) and also unlikely to sign.

40. Haley Winter, RHP, UC-Riverside – Winter had a solid junior year but struggled as a senior. He will not be a major-leaguer and with all the pitchers already taken, the Mariners do not need him for organizational depth. I don’t know what Seattle sees in him.

41. Brandon Fromm, 1B, San Jose State – Fromm didn’t hit much in his career, but it appears that he played in a park that heavily favored pitchers. In fact, he led the Spartans in home runs his junior season with only four. Fromm was very hard to strikeout in college and also very good defensively.

42. Shane Cox, RHP, Alvin CC(TX) – Another very young pitcher with lots of room to develop physically that is highly unlikely to sign

43. Clint Straka, RHP, North Oklahoma College-Enid – See Shane Cox

44. Brian Earley, RHP, Elder HS(OH) – See Clint Straka

45. Jeremy Camacho, RHP, Eagle Rock HS(CA) – Camacho is shorter at 5’10”, but still a high-schooler unlikely to sign.

46. Robbie Dominguez, RHP, Cerritos College – Dominguez spent two years in the Air Force before pitching this year, but was effective despite not playing for two years. He looks like a draft-and-follow to me.

47. Sean Ward, OF, Evans HS(GA) – A high-schooler unlikely to sign

48. Jeremy Beeching, LHP, Volunteer State CC – Beeching struck out plenty of batters, but walked plenty as well. He doesn’t look like much of a prospect, but then again it is rare to get something out of a 48th round pick.

49. Ryne Tacker, RHP, Rice – Tacker didn’t pitch at all this last season, but had good numbers his junior season. Scott Atchison was picked in the 49th round by the Mariners, so it is possible Tacker could develop into a marginal prospect himself.

50. Tyler Sanford, C, Saguaro HS(AZ) – It figures that the Mariners would polish of their draft trying to acquire yet another catching prospect. If Sanford knows what is right for him, he won’t clog up the minors more by signing.

Overall, I like the Mariners’ second day of the draft more than their first day. They got much better value out of their picks and I have confidence that somebody out of these 32 will reach the majors.

Mariners Draft: Day 1

Here is a more in-depth look at the Mariners’ day one selections, or at least a little more insight than “I have no clue who this guy is, but he’s got a cool name,” which I used a few times when I was writing my immediate reactions yesterday.

1. Brandon Morrow, RHP, Cal – Morrow looks like a classic pitcher in the making at 6’3”, 185 pounds with a prototypical overhand delivery and a fastball that routinely is in the mid 90s. He put together a fantastic year in 2006 as he posted a 2.05 ERA, 1.14 WHIP and averaged a little better than a strikeout an inning. However, he was flat-out awful as a freshman and a sophomore, though in limited action. There is good reason to believe Morrow has turned the corner, especially with his quality stuff, but I would have preferred a player with a more solid track record, such as Tim Lincecum. Still, I believe Morrow was a solid pick and that the odds are he will develop into a quality major league pitcher.

2. Chris Tillman, RHP, Fountain Valley HS(CA) – I really don’t like high school pitchers because history shows a vast majority of them never reach the majors. Tillman entered this season as the highest rated in pitcher in all of the talent-laden state of California, but he slipped some due to issues with his consistency. Like Morrow, he has size, a great delivery, and a great arm but he is extremely unproven. Tillman is quite raw and to be brutally honest, history suggests he will never make the major leagues.

3. Tony Butler, LHP, Oak Creek HS(WI) – Another high school pitcher, Butler is a lesser-known commodity mostly because he plays in Wisconsin, a state baseball scouts tend to gloss over a little more than they should. Another tall pitcher with a good-looking delivery and a good-looking arm (sense a pattern forming?), Butler also played basketball in high school and has signed a letter of intent to go to Arkansas. I have more faith in Butler than Tillman, but only because I don’t know anything negative about what he did on the diamond. Truth be told, I don’t know anything about what he actually has done as a pitcher, so I would advise that he go to Arkansas because the odds say he won’t make the majors coming straight out of high school.

4. Ricky Orta, RHP, Miami(FL) – Orta is a college pitcher with a live arm from a great program. That better be one special arm because he never did anything in college that suggested he could be a major league pitcher. This year his ERA was 6.18 and his career ERA is over 5.00. In fact his best year was 2005, where he posted a 4.98 ERA with a 1.35 WHIP and a good 7.1 K/9 IP. Orta can strike guys out, but he was tattooed way too often by college hitters. He does not look like MLB material to me.

5. Nathan Adcock, RHP, North Hardin HS(KY) – If you pick enough high school pitchers one of them is bound to pan out, and if I had to pick who that one would be out of the trio the M’s picked in the first five rounds, I’d go with this guy. Adcock has a great arm and he used it to strikeout 17 batters in one game this season and recently 16 in a district playoff game. From what little information I have about Seattle’s high school picks, Adcock appears to be the only one who truly dominated this year and that is why I like him the most.

6. Adam Moore, C, Texas-Arlington – Bavasi just couldn’t avoid drafting yet another catcher to add to the Mariners ridiculous stockpile of backstops. Moore looks like a solid defender and posted excellent power numbers and good hitting numbers overall, though he did strikeout more often than I would like to see. I certainly felt there were better players available at this point in the draft that addressed more pressing needs for the Mariners, but there is reason to believe Moore could develop into a solid contributor.

7. Doug Fister, RHP, Fresno State – Another tall pitcher that stands 6’8”, Fister was drafted in the sixth round last year by the Yankees but chose to return to Fresno State for his senior year to graduate with a degree in construction management! In fact, Fister chose to attend Fresno State in large part because he liked the academic programs they offered, so he has a good head on his shoulders. Fister posted good numbers in his college career, but not great ones that strongly suggest he is a great prospect. However, his body has plenty of room to fill out and along with that his velocity may increase from around 90 MPH to as high as 93-95 MPH, and that may make the difference between him being a minor-leaguer and a major-leaguer. I am not sold that Fister is big league material, but he is certainly worth taking a risk on at this point in the draft. This was a solid pick by the Mariners.

8. Steve Richard, RHP, Clemson – Richard put up pretty good numbers at Maine before transferring to Clemson, but he really struggled against the ACC. The scouting report says he has a good arm but he does not look like a major league pitcher to me right now. Richard is a junior, so there is a chance he could return to Clemson and I think that is what would be best for him.

9. Justin Souza, RHP, Sacramento CC – Souza posted a 2.10 ERA with 95 strikeouts in just 89 innings of work this season, so he certainly has great numbers. In addition, he only walked 13 batters. Souza was a very good pick by the Mariners at this point in the draft.

10. Chris Minaker, INF, Stanford – Minaker went to high school in Edmonds, so he is a local product and likely grew up watching the Mariners. He steadily improved throughout his career and flourished this season with a .363 AVG, .401 OBP, .598 SLG, 15 walks and only 17 strikeouts! On top of that, he looks like a solid fielder too. This was arguably the finest pick the Mariners made all day. I really, really like this one.

11. Aaron Solomon, RHP, Cumberland University – Solomon had a whopping 53 strikeouts in just 39 1/3 innings of work, but also had a whopping 32 walks and 5.73 ERA. Those numbers at a lower college level do not indicate future success.

12. Gavin Dickey, OF, Florida – Dickey served as the backup quarterback on Florida’s football team, but he appears to be a better baseball player. This year, he showed much more power than in years past and actually led the team in home runs. However, his 42 strikeouts and paltry 6 walks are a major concern. Dickey is a fantastic athlete with a rare speed/ power combo, but he is an extremely raw hitter. Dickey is a junior and going back to school to see if he can build on this season looks like the best option for him.

13. Joe Kantakevich, RHP, William and Mary – This guy had great numbers in 2004 but has never approached that level since. This year he put up pedestrian numbers at best and I don’t see him ever making the major leagues.

14. Jared Baehl, 3B, North Posey HS(IN) – Baehl has signed a letter of intent to attend the University of Evansville and he also pitches for his high school team. However, since the Mariners have him listed as a third baseman, they likely see him as a position player. Baehl did lead his team in RBIs this year. That is absolutely everything I know about Jared Baehl and I have no clue whether this is a good pick or a bad pick. Usually high-schoolers picked at this point are guys that have the talent to go in the first couple rounds but are highly unlikely to sign, but Baehl doesn’t appear to be that type. So, though I have little information to go on, I am going to call this a bad pick by the Mariners. For me, this was easily their oddest pick.

15. Drew Fiorenza, RHP, Clemson – Fiorenza has good stuff and works really hard, but he just wasn’t that good of a pitcher in college for some odd reason. Fiorenza’s numbers say he’ll never sniff the big leagues, but there is enough potential to take a chance on him, especially as a reliever.

16. Austin Bibens-Dierkx, RHP, Portland – Another local kid, Austin actually led the Pilots with a 4.19 ERA! He also posted a pretty good strikeout rate. It is nice to see the Mariners take a chance on a local pitcher, but Bibens-Dierkx does not look like major league material.

17. Dan Runzler, LHP, UC-Riverside – Since he’s a lefty he’s got a better chance than most guys picked this late, especially because he struck out 52 in 41 1/3 innings. Runzler’s ERA was a little high at 4.14 but he was a solid pick at this point in the draft.

18. Kameron Mickolio, RHP, Utah Valley State – He must look intimidating on the mound at 6’9”, but it appears that hitters found a way to get some good swings against him anyway if his 5.30 ERA is any indication. I don’t see this guy ever pitching in Safeco Field.

We’ll see what the Mariners net in rounds 19-50, but very few major league players are picked on the second day. There are fewer guys that excite me in this group of 18 prospects than I was hoping for, so I have to consider this draft mildly disappointing. Ultimately, whether this draft is viewed as a good or bad for the M’s obviously depends on Brandon Morrow, but even more on the trio of high-schoolers they picked early on. If all three pan out, this was a great draft. If two make it, it was still really good. If only one makes it (as I anticipate), it would be okay, depending on how good that pitcher turns out to be. If none make it this will go down as a bad draft in Mariner history.