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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.