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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.