I am surprised that McLaren got fired, but it really is not a huge move. If Pelekoudas was not going to keep him, then he was gone at the end of the season anyway. It is a sad day, because McLaren is a great guy and he busted his butt every day he was a Mariner. Moreover, a lack of player performance is much more at fault for this collapse than anything McLaren did. On the other hand, his lineups were never that impressive. How McLaren never figured out that Jose Vidro needs to go to the bottom lineup blows my mind. Vidro would have been on the bench a month ago if I were managing the team, yet McLaren continued to bat him at the top of the order.
I would be shocked if Jim Riggleman is the long-term answer as manager, or if he gets this team to play much better. The change is more symbolic of the sweeping changes and massive assessment period the whole organization has entered than any sort of practical fix. At this point, the front office and coaching staff can probably walk around with ease, but many players should still be tip-toeing on eggshells. Changes only began on Monday, and already the changes have been big. Certainly, more will happen.
- Kenji Johjima - It looks like he is going to play some first base, especially once Richie Sexson is gone. He is the first guy I thought of when I heard Lee's comment about assessing players before the deadline. Given his big contract and Japanese ties, I don't think the Mariners would cut him loose. But, the team finally is making a legitimate commitment to Jeff Clement, so Kenji's future with the team may be at first.
- Raul Ibanez - Raul should be a known commodity to Pelekoudas, but his contract expires at the end of the year, and this year is now all about preparing for 2009. I think Lee will be keeping a closer eye on Raul to figure out if that big slump he had earlier this year was a fluke, or a harbinger of something bigger. If he concludes that Raul is not part of the 2009 plans, Raul should have value to a number of teams at the deadline.
- Miguel Batista - He pretty much flamed out as a starter this year, but Pelekoudas is probably seeing if he can fill a role as a reliever for the remainder of his contract. With a season and a half left on the deal, he would be more than a rent-a-player for a contender at the deadline...which in Batista's case probably hurts his trade value.
- Adrian Beltre - There have been enough rumors about Beltre deals over the past few years for me to believe other teams actually have inquired about him. Though I doubt the Mariners have ever seriously considered trading him, he is making a bunch of money and not hitting as well as expected when he was signed. Adrian seems to heat up with the weather, and perhaps Lee is waiting to see if he does. However, between Beltre's hand and contract, I strongly doubt any deal will come close to fruition this year.
- Ichiro - Rumors persist that Ichiro has fallen out of favor in the clubhouse, but I would be looking to trade him based on production. Granted, he is the current face of the franchise, and moving him would be controversial, but there are reasons to assess his value. He is perceived as one of baseball's brightest stars, and maybe he is from a marketing standpoint, but he has not been on the field this year. Honestly, he has always been overrated as a player after his rookie season, and he is showing signs this year that he may be aging. Ichiro's trade value is only going to diminish as time goes on, and if a contending team is looking to make a splash, Ichiro could be their guy. Of all the players on the Mariners right now, Ichiro is the most likely to net a lop-sided package in the Mariners favor, even with his huge contract. If Pelekoudas concludes that age is catching up with Ichiro, maybe Lee will strongly consider a trade.
- Send Brandon Morrow down to Tacoma (with a purpose) and recall Eric O'Flaherty - It is time to stretch out Morrow and try him as a starter. If this team were in contention it would be a dumb move, but this is one of the only times it pays to be out of the race. There is no need to pull off a Joba Chamberlain here. Morrow has all the time he needs to stretch out in AAA, and when he is ready to go, I put him in the M's rotation for the rest of the year. I am not convinced that O'Flaherty has his command back, but if he is that bad he can be sent back down once Putz comes off the DL. With Morrow in the minors, I would insert Miguel Batista as the closer until J.J. is back. There is a purpose behind picking him over what would seem to be the more logical option at this point, Mark Lowe. I would also make it clear to Jarrod Washburn that if he does not start pitching better, his rotation spot will go to Morrow. Otherwise, R.A. Dickey goes back to long relief.
- Place Jose Vidro, Kenji Johjima, Richie Sexson, Jarrod Washburn, Miguel Batista, and Carlos Silva on waivers - It is time to start assessing the market value of veterans on this team, especially the ones with significant contracts. Placing a player on waivers is not a real public thing, and there also is no commitment. If a team claims a player on waivers, one of three things could happen: 1) The Mariners could pull the player back off of waivers and keep him. 2) The Mariners could let the player go to the team that claimed him and get nothing in return. This sounds like a raw deal, but that also means the other team takes on all of the player's remaining salary. 3) The Mariners and the team that claimed him can work out a trade. I would cross my fingers and hope that Johjima and Batista are claimed in particular. Both of them could be replaced internally quite easily, and getting rid of their 2009 salaries would clear $16 million in payroll. More than anything though, I would be using the waiver wire as a cheap, quick way to assess the market value of the players I am most willing to trade. If a team is willing to claim one of these players, they may be willing to give up a worthwhile prospect to acquire him, especially if the Mariners pay some of the salary.
- If a team claims Vidro, work out a trade. If Vidro clears waivers, release him - There is absolutely no point in keeping Vidro around. With Jeff Clement back up, Vidro will see very little action the remainder of the year, and he is not part of the answer in 2009. I would expect him to clear waivers, and if he does, cutting him would give the Mariners another spot to play with on the 40-man roster. If some team does claim him, I would be willing to pay his whole salary to maximize whatever talent the team could get in return.
- Make it clear no veteran on the team is off-limits - I would entertain trade offers for any veteran on this team (including Ichiro), though I would not actively shop many of them. Still, I would be looking to maximize the number of trade offers at this point. Sometimes certain teams become enamored with certain players, and I would not want to stand in the way of that team offering a lop-sided deal.
- Actively try to trade Miguel Batista - There simply is not a place for Batista in my plan, thanks in large part to his poor performance, rather substantial contract, and availability of several cheaper arms in the system that could replace him (Morrow and Ryan Feierabend in particular come to mind). I think a market for Batista could be created by advertising him as the ultimate insurance policy. He can start, do long relief, short relief, or even be an emergency closer. He has experience in all the roles. Letting scouts watch Batista close is the reason that I would choose him to finish ballgames over Mark Lowe while Putz is on the DL. Since he still has good velocity, I think a team would take a chance on him around the trade deadline. If another team will take his whole salary, I would be tempted to give him away for nothing. More realistically, the M's will have to eat some of his salary, but it would be worth it. If Batista can't be traded, I hold on to him.
- Actively try to trade Richie Sexson - Unlike most, I would not cut Sexson immediately because I do not see anyone in the minors that is clearly better than him. However, at the same time, Richie clearly is not the answer moving forward either. It seems that some teams have shown tepid interest over the past couple years in him, and I would let it be known that I would pay his entire remaining salary to maximize interest. The Mariners were planning on paying him anyway, and it would make Richie much more attractive if he were free. Perhaps the Indians, Mets, or Rangers would give up a borderline prospect to try to revive Sexson for a few months, especially if it was at no financial cost. If Richie is traded, I would call up either Balentien or Bryan LaHair to take his place on the roster, whichever is performing better in Tacoma. Whoever is called up would play everyday. LaHair could directly take over at first, and Ibanez could be slid over to first to make room for Balentien in the outfield. If Richie cannot be traded before the deadline, I would release him and still call up either Balentien or LaHair.
- Trade Miguel Cairo and/or Willie Bloomquist - There will likely be a market for both players (especially in the NL), and there is no huge reason to keep either of them. They won't garner anything in return, and frankly I would prefer additional flexibility with the 40-man roster for September call-ups anyway. The first person I would call up to replace one of them is Bryan LaHair, if he is not already up. The next two in line would be Oswaldo Navarro and Tug Hulett, though Hulett's contract would have to be purchased.
- Hope for a lop-sided trade in the M's favor, and accept it if it comes - Wouldn't it be awesome to be on the other side of a Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek for Heathcliff Slocumb deal? Expecting something so gratuitous would be irresponsible, but maximizing slim odds cannot hurt. That is the idea behind exploring trades with all veterans, and adding flexibility on the 40-man roster by trading players like Miguel Cairo and Willie Bloomquist.
This season is not going to get any prettier, but the Mariners can get a head start on 2009. With Sexson and Vidro coming off the books after this season, the team already will have financial flexibility heading into the off-season. Freeing up spots on the 40-man roster by trading guys like Bloomquist and Cairo will add roster flexibility too. Flexibility is key in times of change, and the Mariners can add quite a bit while not making the team much (if any) worse this year and taking a look at some younger guys that could play important roles in 2009.
Bavasi's firing is bittersweet. On one hand, it is relieving. Bavasi maintained that he had put together a competitive team, and that the players simply were not performing. I will grant him that there are some disappointments, but he is to blame for poor roster construction and management. It was nice to see that the organization agrees, and understands that the team is not as close to contention as Bavasi continued to infer with his comments. I could go on about all the curious decisions Bavasi made, but it is not worth beating a dead horse at this point. I will simply say it is nice to know that he will no longer make any curious decisions for the Mariners.
However, the press conference was still sad because it officially raised the white flag. Until today, the public stance from the organization was frustration, but a continued belief that the team would begin to play better. It was rather obvious after such a dismal May that the season was over, but today made it official. Even the organization finally changed its tune. Though I did not expect this team to even climb out of the cellar the rest of the year, it was still tough to see 2008 officially become a lost cause. Today was the final nail in this season's coffin.
Still, long term, this was clearly the right move, and the timing was perfect. Few (if any) would dispute the Mariners are the worst team in baseball after getting swept at home by the Nationals. They have finally hit rock bottom; a team simply cannot do worse than getting swept at home by the worst team in baseball outside of themselves. Clearly, this is not a rash move, but the recent turn of events led remarkably well to today.
Additionally, Lee Pelekoudas is the perfect man for the job right now. Though he served as Bavasi's right-hand man the last couple years as assistant GM, he really is a life-long Mariner who has slowly worked his way up the ranks. For better or worse, Pelekoudas should be influenced by his time under Pat Gillick and Woody Woodward, in addition to the Bavasi era. More importantly, Lee already knows and has worked closely with everyone in place, so he knows the personnel. This should free him up to solely focus on concocting a gameplan for the trade deadline.
Even though today is a bit of a dark day, the Mariners future just got brighter. The organization has given up on 2008, which frees them up to shop around or purge players like Richie Sexson and Jose Vidro. They also have the chance to do some soul-searching for the next three or four months, and figure out if they just need to pick out a few bad apples, or start from scratch. The Mariners officially went into rebuilding mode today, but there is no reason a team willing to spend $117 million on players cannot turn things around quickly.
How did this team regress so much in so little time? I went to my rating system to hopefully find answers. In 2007, the Mariners offense as a whole rated a 75. In other words, it was completely average. In 2008, their rating is a 71, which would even be a significant drop for an individual player. For a team, it might as well be a kiss of death (as we have witnessed). Specifically, where are the problems? Here is a position-by-position breakdown, using my hitter rating formula:
2007: Jose Vidro - 76
2008: Jose Vidro - 66
Here is gaping hole number one. When a team's designated hitter grades out as a poor bench bat, the team's offense is probably struggling. Expecting a repeat of 2007 from Vidro (as the Mariners were) was likely too much, but expecting more than he has contributed so far was certainly fair. Vidro's strengths last year were making good contact and working counts, but he does not make solid contact all that often this year. The M's should cut him loose at this point and give anyone else a chance.
2007: Kenji Johjima - 74
2007: Kenji Johjima - 65
Here is gaping hole number two. An offensive rating as poor as Kenji's this year is palatable out of a catcher if the team has a strong offense, and if the catcher's defense is remarkable. Neither can be said in this case. Kenji is getting old in catching terms, so a drop-off would have been wise to anticipate (though I do not think the M's did anticipate one). However, trailing off this severely is certainly unexpected. I could have told Bavasi that signing Kenji to an extension was a big mistake, but the numbers are doing more than a good enough job of that right now.
2007: Richie Sexson - 70
2008: Richie Sexson - 71
As much as Richie seems to embody the lack of offense this year, he really should not take any of the blame. Though it is still not pretty watching him swing the bat, he is a little bit better than last year to this point. Sexson still is among the worst starting first baseman in baseball today, but the same could be said last year. Even worse, there probably is not a better option in the minor leagues right now, so the M's might as well trot him out there every day. He does add a power presence, and he has a history of heating up in the second half.
2007: Jose Lopez - 67
2008: Jose Lopez - 73
Not surprisingly, Lopez is the brightest spot on the team. He has rebounded from his 2007 struggles, though he also has a history of collapsing after the All-Star break. His batting average continues to flirt with .300, but he never walks and hits for little power, which is why he still rates as a below-average offensive player. However, Lopez hit for quite a bit of power before Hargrove and Pentland got to him, so maybe Lee Elia can bring some of that power back.
2007: Yuniesky Betancourt - 72
2008: Yuniesky Betancourt - 72
Yuni is what he is. Much like Lopez, he flirts with .300, but not with a ton of power and stunningly few walks. So, he still is a below average offensive player. Really, Betancourt is an ideal number nine hitter, but on this team he should be batting higher up. Personally, I would bat him fifth.
2007: Adrian Beltre - 77
2008: Adrian Beltre - 74
Beltre has a history of heating up in the second half for the Mariners, so perhaps he can get back to his form from previous years. On the other hand, the team revealed today that he is playing with torn ligament in his left wrist, and has been all year. In light of that, Beltre's year is somewhat impressive, and his performance has not been a major problem anyway on this roster of headaches.
2007: Raul Ibanez - 79
2008: Raul Ibanez - 76
Much like virtually every M's hitter, Raul is worse this year than he was in 2007. However, in Raul's case, the Mariners should have seen this coming. Ibanez has quietly been a borderline All-Star ever since returning to Seattle, but eventually age catches up. Raul is at a point where he should begin to decline, and the major power outage he suffered before the All Star Break should have woken up the front office. However, as with all the veterans on this squad, the M's seemed to assume they would simply duplicate what they did last year.
2007: Ichiro - 82
2008: Ichiro - 80
I could just copy and paste what I wrote for Raul. At some point, Ichiro is going to get old. Though it would not surprise me if he ages gracefully and has many productive years left, at some point he is not going to be what he used to be. Everyone keeps expecting a surge out of him, and I will not rule that out. However, it would not be shocking if what we have seen is what we get in 2008. I do give John McLaren credit for challenging Ichiro to steal more this year, because his excellent stolen base total is what has him rated this high, and using his speed more will make him more effective as his hitting declines.
2007: Jose Guillen - 78
2008: Wilkerson/Balentien/Reed - 68/67/72
Right field was the one position even the M's front office had to concede was going to be worse than a year ago. However, they certainly did not envision it being this much worse. Both Wilkerson and Balentien have struggled mightily, and Reed does not have enough bats to fairly evaluate him. Moving forward, I would let Reed get the bulk of the playing time, because he may be a better hitter than Balentien right now, and he certainly is a better defender. I will not comment on Wilkerson. It was a bad idea to sign him from the start. He gave the Mariners exactly what they should have expected out of him.
In the end, there is no specific reason why the Mariners are so much worse offensively than they were last year. The front should certainly be blamed if the expected anything more out of right field than they have received so far. Also, the front office should be blamed some for not expecting drop-offs from Kenji Johjima, Jose Vidro, Raul Ibanez, and Ichiro. On the other hand, Johjima and Vidro have been much worse than anyone could have anticipated, and Beltre's torn ligament is simply bad fortune. It does not help that nobody is playing better than could have been expected, either.
Still, at this point, I blame the front office. They continue to throw the players under the bus and simply say that the talent on the roster should be producing more wins. Really, the only two players that have truly underperformed are Kenji Johjima and Jose Vidro, and there is more to the problem than just those two. The players have taken more than their fair share of the responsibility at this point, and the front office is doing this team no favors by asking the current personnel to do more than they are capable of. Sadly, there is not much hope of this offense producing more until the front office realizes that this lineup simply is not as good as they think it is.
2007 #1: Felix Hernandez - 76
2008 #1: Erik Bedard - 79
Bedard may not be the friendliest person, and he may not be everything the front office had hoped for, but he still has improved the starting rotation. His ERA does not show it, but it should come down. He is the victim of a little bad luck.
2007 #2: Jarrod Washburn - 76
2008 #2: Felix Hernandez - 82
Most would say the ace is Felix at this point, but I will stick with the rotation order the team started with. Regardless, the front end of the 2008 M's rotation is significantly better than last year's thanks to the acquisition of Bedard and continued development of Felix. It is unfortunate the King only has .500 record, because he is having a great season.
2007 #3: Miguel Batista - 74
2008 #3: Jarrod Washburn - 66
There was no reason to expect Washburn to fall off as badly as he has this year. He claims he is a victim of Kenji Johjima, but that is a pathetic excuse. Jarrod has been effective the last two years with Kenji behind the plate. If Jarrod really wants to point fingers, he should direct them towards the outfield, which is among the worst defensive units in baseball. However, he really should just point at himself and get to pitching better.
2007 #4: Ramirez/Baek/Feierabend - 60/75/52
2008 #4: Carlos Silva - 69
To Silva's credit, he has been somewhat vocal and is doing what he can in the clubhouse as newcomer. On the field, his performance has left some to be desired. Improved defense would really help Carlos out, but the M's should have known they were only getting a solid starter. He has not been as good as anyone expected (including myself), yet he is still an improvement over the Ho-Ram disaster.
2007 #5: Jeff Weaver - 66
2008 #5: Miguel Batista - 62
Unbelievably, Miguel Batista is worse than Jeff Weaver ended up being last year. Even though Batista is older, he should not be this bad, or even close to this bad. He still has some good zip on his fastball, and it would serve him well to go after hitters, even when there are runners aboard. He struggles to hold runners on whether he noodles around and takes forever on the mound or not, so he might as well focus on the hitter. Or, better yet, the Mariners could take him out of the starting rotation.
2007 Long Relief: Sean White/Jason Davis - 76/64
2008 Long Relief: Cha Seung Baek/R.A. Dickey - 71/84
Middle relief is probably the least important spot on a pitching staff, but the 2008 M's have filled the role with pitchers that are definitely better than a couple of their starters. Dickey gets the start tomorrow, and he should stick in the rotation (though he is not as good as he has shown so far).
2007 Middle Relief: Chris Reitsma/Ryan Rowland-Smith - 54/75
2008 Middle Relief: Ryan Rowland-Smith - 85
There is not much to complain with here. Middle relievers see even less game action than long relievers, but RRS should get more time than he does. He has been really good when given the chance.
2007 Late-Inning Righties: Sean Green - 73
2008 Late-Inning Righties: Mark Lowe/Sean Green - 64/79
Lowe has been a victim of his own lack of control more than anything, but he shows glimpses of getting it back here and there. Still, this bullpen position is in good shape thanks to Sean Green.
2007 Late-Inning Lefties: Eric O'Flaherty/George Sherrill - 86/91
2008 Late-Inning Lefties: Arthur Rhodes - 70
While I am impressed with Arthur's comeback, and he is solid in this role, he is nothing compared to what the Mariners had in this place last year. O'Flaherty's stunning drop-off has really hurt the bullpen, though it would not be as noticeable if Rowland-Smith were given more important innings in this role.
2007 Set-up Man: Brandon Morrow - 76
2008 Set-up Man: Brandon Morrow - 86
Morrow's triple-digit heat is fun to watch every time he gets on the mound. It is hard to call him a surprise, but at the same time his progress is remarkable.
2007 Closer: J.J. Putz - 98
2008 Closer: J.J. Putz - 64
It is easy to see that Putz has fallen off from the elite level he was at the last two years, but it is hard to understand just how much he has fallen. It was probably unfair to expect him to continue to pitch at such an insanely high level, but to go from the best in baseball to a good AAA option is something nobody can anticipate. Putz's strikeout numbers are still good, and his stuff is still good, so there are plenty of reasons to believe he will bounce back. However, to this point, he is the biggest disappointment on the entire team.
The problems with the pitching staff are more complex than the shortcomings on offense. Felix, RRS, Sean Green, and Brandon Morrow have all progressed nicely. Additionally, R.A. Dickey has pitched well in limited opportunities, and Arthur Rhodes has made a remarkable comeback too. On the flip side, Washburn, Batista, and Putz have all failed miserably, and though Bedard has improved the rotation, he has not been the pitcher the Mariners had hoped they were getting.
Fortunately, there are some things that John McLaren can do to improve the pitching if he simply re-shuffles a few roles. I would give R.A. Dickey a chance as a starter, and put Batista in the bullpen as a long-reliever. Also, I would take RRS and make him the set-up man, and start to stretch out Brandon Morrow. I would go to Washburn and tell him that Morrow will replace him in the rotation unless he starts to pitch better, and see if that would stop his whining. If both Dickey and Washburn falter, I would give strong consideration to bringing up Ryan Feierabend.
The front office can help out as well. This season is a lost cause, but Arthur Rhodes would have value to a contending team. However, I would only trade Arthur if he wants to go to a contender. Rhodes did a lot for the Mariners at the turn of the millennium, and now the M's gave him a chance to resurrect his career. The mutual relationship between Rhodes and the Mariners at this point is something that I would deeply respect. The front office could also actively shop Miguel Batista, especially if he is effective out of the bullpen. A contender could see him as insurance in the bullpen and the rotation. The M's would not get much in return, and they also would likely have to pay some of his remaining salary, but clearing his roster spot for a AAA arm has value at this point.
All in all, as bad as the pitching has looked at points during the year, it is not in too bad of shape. Unlike with the offense, Bavasi is right to say that the main problem is a performance that does not match the talent. However, if he is going to dole out blame like that, he also has to acknowledge the number of younger players that are stepping up and continuing to flourish. Also, given the youths' development, McLaren and Mel Stottlemyre should juggle the roles on the staff accordingly. It may take a few years to fix the offense, but the pitching could improve and carry the team more frequently, as it did in Toronto.
- Paul Gran, a third baseman from Washington State, was picked by the Marlins
- Jordan Danks, an outfielder from Texas, was selected by the White Sox. He was in consideration for watch list. He does a little bit of everything and may have some power potential, thanks to his 6'5" frame.
- Eric Thames, #19 on my watch list, was selected by the Blue Jays
- Cleveland selected OF Tim Fedroff, a draft-eligible sophomore. He has been a real good hitter in college, and I was not completely sure if he was draft eligible. He got consideration for my watch list.
- The Rangers selected Mike Bianucci, and outfielder from Auburn. At first glance, he did not jump out at me, but with a closer look he nearly made my watch list. Bianucci showed the ability to hit for average with some power and speed in college, and it translated into success in the Cape Cod League as well.
- The Tigers took Andy Dirks, an outfielder from Wichita State. He has good speed and plate discipline, and has played for a winning program. He does not have star potential, but I have an easy time seeing him as a quality fourth outfielder.
- The Diamondbacks selected Pat McAnaney, a left-hander from Virginia. McAnaney was productive his whole career at Virginia, though he never really was the staff ace thanks to Jacob Thompson. Still, I am surprised a lefty as productive as he was in the ACC lasted this long.
- Matt Hague, an outfielder from Oklahoma State (and formerly the UW), was picked by the Pirates
- Nick Haughian, a lefty from Washington, was picked only two slots after Hague by the Orioles.
- LHP Dan Jennings, a University of Nebraska product, was selected by the Marlins. Jennings does not have overpowering stuff, but I still thought he was one of the better lefties available in this rather weak college crop of starting pitchers.
- The Tigers picked Anthony Shawler, a righty from Old Dominion that has posted big strikeout numbers the last couple years in their starting rotation. He had a sub-par junior year, and it would not surprise me if he decided to go back for his senior season and see if he could improve his draft stock.
- The Padres selected RHP Kyle Thebeau from Texas A&M. Though I did not put him on my watch list, I liked him. His WHIP and BAA were rather pedestrian, but he only gave up 2 home runs in nearly 70 innings pitched this season, and he struck out a ton of batters. San Diego got great value here.
- The Nationals selected LHP Tom Milone from USC. He had not done much until this year, where he had a fantastic showing in the Cape Cod League and followed it with a pretty good season in the Pac-10. He is a candidate to return to school, because another year like this one would likely improve his draft status.
- The Yankees took D.J. Mitchell out of Clemson. According to scouting reports, Mitchell does not have tremendous stuff, but he competes well on the mound. Statistically, he was among the best in the Cape Cod League and the ACC this past season. Even without the world's greatest stuff, I am a little surprised that he lasted this long.
- The Indians picked Donnie Webb, an outfielder from Oklahoma State. Webb had one of the best seasons of any college player in the nation, but this was his first year in Division I after two years in community college. It makes him a bit of a wild card. The lack of a track record is all that kept him off of my watch list, so he could certainly be the real deal.
- Jacob Priday, a senior outfielder from Missouri, was picked by the Astros. If he were a year younger, he may have been on my watch list. Still, he has a long track record of success and fairly steady progression at Missouri. I like what he has to offer, especially at this stage in the draft.
- Faithful followers of my blog may remember Dominic de la Osa from last year's watch list. He returned for his senior season at Vanderbilt and it turned out to be a little disappointing. It ultimately hurt his draft stock, as he went in the 10th round last year to the Tigers, and now is an 11th round choice by the Twins. He has good power, but I wonder if he can hit with a wooden bat after a very poor showing in the Cape Cod League, and a senior season in which he posted a rather high strikeout total.
- The Mariners selected Kenn Kasparek, a pitcher from the University of Texas. He missed all of last year with an elbow injury, but he is tall and has been rather productive on the mound. I like his potential, and I thought he had the look of an M's pitching prospect. In my opinion, he is the third best player the M's have drafted so far, only behind their top two picks. That says something about the value of Kasparek, and the value of the other players the M's have been picking.
- Matt Clark, a first baseman from LSU, was picked by the Padres. He hit well in the Cape Cod League and then had a really good junior season that ended with him being nominated one of the 50 finalists for the Golden Spikes award. Once Allan Dykstra went off the board (ironically to the Padres), this was the first baseman I hoped that the M's would take. Even though I like the Kasparek pick, I would have preferred Clark.
- The Nationals selected Blake Stouffer, an infielder from Texas A&M. He was in the mix for a spot on last year's watch list.
- The Brewers picked Rob Wooten, a reliever from North Carolina. I think this a steal for Milwaukee this late. Wooten was only a closer this year thanks to Andrew Carignan, who is now in the A's farm system and looking really good. Still, Wooten has pitched at a high level his whole college career and he had an outstanding summer in the Cape Cod League. Since he is a senior he is a bit older, but he was still one of the last players left off of my watch list. In fact, if the M's were not so desperate for a first baseman, I may have put him on over Nate Frieman. This guy definitely has Major League potential, and I am really surprised that he lasted this long.
- The Yankees took Florida State outfielder Jack Rye. He is a senior who has consistently produced at a high level his whole college career. Nothing stands out about him, but the whole package he offers is a great value at this point in the draft.
- Jordan Merry, a UW pitcher, was picked by the White Sox. I thought Merry was the best pro prospect on the Huskies staff, and one of the better ones in the Pac-10 this year.
- Michael Schwimer, #20 on my watch list, finally is selected! He goes to the Phillies.
- UW outfielder Mike Conley was selected by the Dodgers. I thought Conley was the best prospect on Huskies this year, but I figured he would not go very high. Considering his a left-handed outfielder with a little pop, I thought he would have been a great second day pick for the Mariners.
- Ryan Keedy, a senior first baseman from UAB, goes to the Cubs. I wasn't super high on him, but he was one of the better first baseman still available.
- The Yankees took another first baseman the Mariners would have been wise to draft, Luke Anders. Luke has been awfully good in the Big 12 the last couple years, and he has flashed some good power.
- The Phillies selected Jim Murphy, a first baseman from WSU.
- The Yankees selected perhaps the most interesting prospect of all this year, Pat Venditte. He is a senior from Creighton that switch-pitches! He really is two pitchers in one. He has two separate wind-ups (he is more overhand from the right side, sidearm from the left side), and even features different pitches with the different arms. His numbers were quite solid at Creighton too, so he is more than a gimmick. They were good enough to earn a selection as on of the 50 finalists for the Golden Spikes award. It appears that Venditte was announced as a right-handed pitcher, but I am sure the Yankees will have him pitch with both hands and see what happens. I am really rooting for this guy to make the majors, even though he is Yankee property now.
- The Reds took Byron Wiley, an outfielder from Kansas State. I was fairly high on Wiley coming into this season, based on his track record of progression and success. However, he was horrible this season. Wiley certainly should go back to college for his senior season and try to rebound and raise his draft status.
- The A's selected Preston Guilmet, a righty from Arizona. He was the Pac-10 pitcher of the year in 2007 as a sophomore, but regressed quite a bit this year. I do not think he is as good as his sophomore numbers suggest, but there is still no way he should have lasted this long in the draft. He would likely benefit from going back to college for his senior season.
- Daniel Edwards, a solid reliever for Kansas State the last couple years, was selected by the Phillies. I have been following him for a couple of years now, and I think he should have gone much earlier today. Edwards posted a sub-1.00 WHIP with good strikeout and home run rates in the Big 12 this year.
- The Marlins selected RHP Elih Villanueva from Florida State. He had a big year for the Seminoles, but did not get much publicity, partly because he was a junior college transfer. He first got noticed by Florida State thanks to an impressive showing in the Cape Cod League a few years ago. I think he has some talent, and I certainly would have taken a chance on him many rounds before this.
- Nate Freiman is a Texas Ranger! Everyone on my list has finally been drafted. This is the longest it has ever taken. I figured it would take Freiman and Schwimer the longest to get drafted, but I am surprised Freiman lasted this long. The height is a concern, but his short stroke counteracts the problem, and he produced in the ACC and Cape Cod League! I sifted through just about every first baseman that I found interesting, figuring the Mariners would have to pick one of them, and they did not. Unbelievable.
- The Atlanta Braves picked an outfielder out of Georgia Southern named Chris Shehan. He was named one of the 50 finalists for the Golden Spikes award, and deservedly so with over 20 home runs, 20 stolen bases, a batting average north of .400, and an on-base percentage north of .500. He had an epic season, and he was on my watch list until I looked at his strikeout total, which was also surprisingly epic for his high batting average. Still, that kind of production cannot be ignored.
- Cole White, an outfielder for the Army, was picked by the Pirates. I first noticed White last year, and I gave him legitimate consideration for my watch list each of the past two years. His numbers are quite good, but become more remarkable when it is considered that he plays in the CAA, which is the most pitcher-friendly conference in Division I baseball, and also an underrated baseball conference in general. I was starting to wonder if he would get drafted, and I am pleased that he did. He probably will not hit for much power, but I will follow his professional career. Hopefully he gives baseball a chance.
9:12 AM – I’ve got draft coverage on, and it is already known that Tim Beckham is going number one to the Devil Rays. I don’t know a ton about him, but the Rays have a loaded farm system right now, and after getting guys like David Price and Evan Longoria high in the draft the past couple years, they certainly can afford to take a chance on a young talent. This really puts the pressure on the Pirates with the second pick, because they are likely looking at college player that will come with a hefty signing bonus. They have not been willing to shell out big signing bonuses in the past, but the new leadership claims that they will pay what is needed for draft talent.
9:33 AM – I looked at Jonathan Mayo’s last projection, as of this morning. He has the M’s grabbing Ryan Perry, a flamethrower out of the
9:45 AM – I just checked Keith Law’s projection as of this morning. Last night, Mayo and Law had quite different looking boards but they look much more similar now. The draft may be crystallizing. However, Law has the Mariners taking a different pitcher, Tanner Scheppers. He is a college arm, and he may have a torn labrum. If the Mariners do pick him, they probably do not thing his injury is that serious.
9:49 AM – After taking a closer look at Scheppers, he does look like the kind of pitcher the M’s covet. He is tall, throws easy, but throws hard. Though he is a college arm, he has only been pitching a few years, so his ceiling may be higher than the average 21-year-old. His stats were good too. As long as the injury concerns around Scheppers are not that big of a deal (which sounds like a big if), I would prefer him over Ryan Perry.
9:54 AM – I took a look at Ryan Perry’s college numbers this year, and he did not get hit as hard as some scouts make it sound. His WHIP is right around 1.00, and he had good strikeout totals. However, he gave up 6 home runs in 70.1 IP, which is not horrible, but Scheppers gave up fewer in more innings. I am guessing Scheppers gets more ground balls than Perry, which would lead me to believe the Mariners would like Scheppers more.
10:02 AM – The Negro League “Draft” is starting. I am curious to see what it is all about. It is meant to be a tribute to the living Negro League players.
10:03 AM – Casey Stern is on the mic as the MC for this. Argh.
10:04 AM – The microphones are not exactly working so far. Hopefully they get the kinks worked out before ESPN starts covering the actual draft in about an hour.
10:05 AM – There we go, the podium mic is working now.
10:07 AM – It is great to hear good, old-fashioned baseball nicknames. The first two selections in the Negro League draft have nicknames “Peach Head” and “Red,” respectively.
10:09 AM – The Negro League draft is going fast. It is going to be over well before 11 AM, which I suppose makes sense. It may be done before 10:30 at the rate it is going.
10:12 AM – Add “Whip” and “Li’l Catch” to the list of awesome nicknames.
10:15 AM – I cannot get enough of these Negro League players! “The Knife,” “Bobo”…it just continues. Where did the great tradition of nicknames go in baseball?
10:20 AM – The Yankees just picked a player from the Cuban stars, and he got quite the ovation (the draft is at Disneyworld in
10:25 AM – The Mariners take John “Mule” Miles in the Negro League draft!
10:28 AM – The Nationals picked a woman who played in the Negro Leagues called “Peanut” Johnson!
10:29 AM – The Negro League draft is over, and Casey Stern has the mic in his hands again…
10:30 AM – Cool, he is going to introduce the dignitaries on hand. Each team has a representative at the draft, and they are meant to be noteworthy personnel from their past. The M’s have Harold Reynolds at the draft, and I know several other teams have Hall of Famers at the draft today. I hope this becomes a draft tradition, because it is a great way to connect baseball’s rich past with its future.
10:37 AM – The Astros, Royals, and Angels do not have honorary representatives. Lame.
10:40 AM – Tino Martinez is at the draft! He is representing the Yankees though.
10:43 AM – Harold Reynolds was just announced as the Mariners representative!
10:45 AM – Mark McLemore is at the draft with the Rangers!
10:46 AM – MLB.tv just aired an Ichiro ad
11:10 AM – ESPN’s buildup to the draft is long enough. The Rays aren’t even on the clock yet.
11:11 AM – Bud Selig is finally on the podium, but he has to give his two cents for why baseball is awesome. He loves trumpeting the competitive balance baseball has. It does look good this year, thanks the Marlins and Rays.
11:12 AM – The Rays are on the clock!
11:20 AM – I’m sure I’ve missed a ton at this point. My computer had a meltdown. I’ll catch up as fast as I can.
11:22 AM – I only missed Tim Beckham officially going to the Rays first overall. Now we shall see if the Pirates shell out some money and go for one of the top college prospects.
11:23 AM – The Pirates do by going with Pedro Alvarez. He is the first off of my board of college players to watch.
11:26 AM – MLB.tv seems to have roughly three ads, and they play them over and over and over. The ads are already old, and there is still plenty of draft to go. It is a bummer because the ads have been good the last couple years.
11:29 AM – Eric Hosmer, a high school first baseman, is the Royals’ pick. He is supposed to have big power, and he has been a good-looking pitcher when given a chance. Signability issues are not ruling the draft as of yet, despite three teams picking that do not spend a ton of money.
11:32 AM – Mariners.com thought the M’s may be picking around noon. There is no way that will happen at this current pace. 12:30 appears to be a little more realistic.
11:34 AM – The Orioles take Brian Matusz, a southpaw from the
11:36 AM – So far the mock drafts have been dead on. If they continue to be, the Giants will take Buster Posey.
11:39 AM – Buster Posey goes to the Giants.
11:40 AM – The Marlins are on the clock, and I would love to see them pick Alonso. They could use a first baseman, Alonso went to college at
11:45 AM – The Marlins select Kyle Skipworth, a high school catcher. He is highly thought of, and he does not come with such a hefty signing bonus as the premiere college players still available. The Marlins need catching help too, and the college catching crop is quite weak this year. All things considered, it is hard to argue with this pick. I still wonder what the Marlins would have done if they had more money.
11:48 AM – Once it was clear that Beckham would be the top pick, the whole top six seemed to solidify. However, the Reds seemed to be a little hard to figure out. This is where things may get interesting. I would take Gordon Beckham if I was running the team, and as of this morning I saw a projection with Beckham in this spot.
11:51 AM – The top player on my board, Yonder Alonso, is the Reds pick! Considering that
11:53 AM – The White Sox are on the clock, and I would be surprised if they do not pick Gordon Beckham. It has been fairly clear that they locked in on him and hoped that they could get him.
11:56 AM – It’s official, Gordon Beckham is
11:58 AM – Justin Smoak seems to be a popular projection for the Nationals, but Jim Bowden loves young, tools-laden players. I would not be shocked if
12:01 PM – The Nationals do go with an arm, and they go with Aaron Crow. He was the top pitcher on my board. In general I think Jim Bowden is a bad general manager, but this is a very nice pick.
12:03 PM – The Astros are on the clock, and popular thinking is that they would take Smoak if he fell to them.
12:07 PM – Well, the first pick that really surprises me is in. The Astros go with Jason Castro, a catcher from Stanford. He was the best college catcher behind Posey, but this is still a reach. He hit well in the Cape Cod League and he has a big arm, so that is how he climbed draft boards. However, I am not sold on his hitting ability, and he has not ever had to call a game. There were many better players available.
12:12 PM – Justin Smoak goes to the Rangers. They need pitching more than offense, but this is still a good pick. Smoak is way more talented than any pitcher available at this point, and
12:15 PM – I have not seen any rumors connecting Brett Wallace and the A’s, but it seems like an awfully natural fit.
12:17 PM – The A’s go with Jemile Weeks, who was someone that some had linked to this pick. Several teams were looking at him in the mid-to-late first round, so
12:22 PM – The Cardinals go with Brett Wallace! This is certainly a surprising pick, considering that Pujols is going nowhere at first base and they do not have a DH spot to play with either. Perhaps the Cardinals think he can stay at third base. They must have thought he was easily the best player left on the board, which I would agree with.
12:25 PM – Through 13 picks, the top 5 on my board are gone, and 8 total have been drafted. I have not agreed with the established baseball minds to this extent the last couple years.
12:28 PM – The Twin just took Aaron Hicks, a high school outfielder with impressive athletic ability. He has tools galore. He certainly fits the profile of a Twins prospect.
12:31 PM – The Dodgers like young guys with high ceilings and projectable bodies too. They like guys that light up the radar gun as well. A darkhorse for this pick might be Ryan Perry.
12:33 PM – The Dodgers go with high-school righty Ethan Martin. He has a projectible body and already throws in the mid-90s. He certainly fits the profile of a Dodgers prospect. Interestingly, he was announced as a third baseman, but most see him as a pitcher. Maybe the Dodgers like him as a hitter more.
12:37 PM – I’m not sure what the Brewers will do. History says they will take whoever is highest on their board. Christian Friedrich might be who they go with.
12:38 PM – The Brewers go with the guy that was hardest to project, Brett Lawrie. I had seen him listed as a shortstop, but he was announced as a catcher. Lawrie is Canadian and got on the radar by destroying international pitching with the Canadian national team. This is quite an intriguing pick. I really like the creativity that the Brewers have been showing in their recent drafts.
12:42 PM –
12:45 PM – The Blue Jays go with David Cooper, who I did not see anyone projecting to go this high. I really like him though, and I was pretty sure he was a guy that the Mariners could choose at 20.
12:50 PM – The Mets did pick Ike Davis. I really like Ike, and Carlos Delgado really looks old at this point. This is a wonderful selection for
12:54 PM – If I were the Cubs, I may look to the prep ranks. The college talent available is at positions that are strong for them right now. They can afford to take a higher risk player with a higher ceiling, if they feel one is out there.
12:56 PM – Instead,
12:57 PM –
1:01 PM – The Mariners select Josh Fields out of
1:06 PM – The Tigers go with Ryan Perry. That makes three straight relievers picked. He throws hard, but I think may give up more than his fair share of home runs.
1:11 PM – The Mets draft Reese Havens. Between Havens and Davis, the Mets have had an outstanding draft. They got good value at both slots, and filled positions of need. Havens has been a shortstop, but he could certainly become a good second baseman.
1:13 PM – Peter Gammons suggested that Reese Havens may get a look at catcher. That would be interesting. I could see that working.
1:14 PM – The Padres are on the clock, and in the past couple years they have drafted a ton of players on my draft boards. I have seen them linked to Shooter Hunt. They could really use some offense though, so I am not going to rule out a guy like Blake Tekotte going here (or to the Padres with a later pick).
1:18 PM – UNBELIEVABLE! The Padres go with Allan Dykstra. They have NO need for a first baseman with Adrian Gonzalez, so he must have been by far the highest player left on
1:19 PM – Now that Dykstra is off the board, I am curious to see what the Mariners do to get a first baseman. Of the players left on my list, only Nate Freiman and Sawyer Carroll have some experience at the position. Other players I looked at that could fill that need are Roger Kieschnick, Luke Anders, and Matt Clark.
1:23 PM – The Phillies pick Anthony Hewitt, a high school shortstop. He is supposed to have all sorts of potential with a ton of tools. According to Keith Law, he looks amazing in workouts, but not good in games. The Phillies could use some pitching, so this pick does not look good at all to me. Pat Gillick loves his tools. Though Gillick is still highly respected, his draft history is spotty at best, especially in recent years.
1:28 PM – The Rockies are suffering through a tough season, but they can take solace in the draft. Their first round pick is in, and they took Christian Friedrich, a left-hander from
1:32 PM – The Diamondbacks are on the clock, and they have drafted extremely well in recent years. They are well stocked, so there is no obvious need. I think they will stick close to home and pick Daniel Schlereth, unless they like Shooter Hunt a bunch more.
1:33 PM – The pick is in, and
1:38 PM – The Twins just made a very interesting pick. They took Carlos Gutierrez out of
1:44 PM – The Yankees go with Garrett Cole, a flame-throwing prep right-hander. He has a violent wind-up and kind of slings the ball up to the plate. He definitely has one of the biggest arms in the draft, but I would not have drafted him. With Scott Boras as an agent, it will take some pretty serious money to sign him, and his mechanics scream arm problems to me, especially with how hard he throws. Cole’s mechanics will make it difficult for him to develop good command too.
1:49 PM – The Indians must have really been bent on adding a middle infielder. They went with Lonnie Chisenhall. He was at
1:50 PM – The Red Sox are certainly in good shape, so they can draft whomever they want. Shooter Hunt was not supposed to be available, and I would not be surprised to see him go right here.
1:55 PM – With the last pick of the first round,
1:57 PM – With the first round complete, 13 of the 25 college prospects on my list are still available, though the highest rated on my board remaining is Aaron Weatherford, ranked 10th.
2:14 PM – Shooter Hunt goes with the first pick of the compensation round, to the Minnesota Twins. He was the one guy on my list that I was surprised to not see go in the first round, based on the mock drafts I had seen.
2:20 PM – Conor Gillaspie goes to the Giants at pick 37.
2:25 PM – The Padres just picked, and did not take a player remaining on the list. Instead they went with a high school outfielder named Jaff Decker.
2:28 PM – The Padres are up again. Is this where Aaron Weatherford goes?
2:28 PM – It is not where Weatherford goes.
2:30 PM – The compensation round is over, and the second round won’t start for another 45 minutes. Two more players on my list were selected, so now 11 remain, with Aaron Weatherford remaining the best yet to be drafted. I do not expect him to last through the second round, but at this point I am not sure when the rest of the players on my list will get selected.
3:39 PM – The second round is well underway, but there has not been much to write about. The Dodgers just took Josh Lindblom, a hard-throwing reliever from Purdue. Aaron Weatherford is still available.
3:42 PM – Unless the Cubs pick Weatherford, he will be available when the M’s pick. It makes me wish that
3:43 PM – The Cubs pick Aaron Shafer, a right-handed pitcher from
3:44 PM – The Mariners select Josh Rabin, an outfielder from
3:45 PM – Looking at Rabin further, he has power, but also lots of concerns. He is patient, but apparently too patient as he hit in bad counts. He did not perform terribly well this year, though he had a back injury. I am not overly thrilled with this pick, but at least Rabin has power, some patience, and there is reason to believe he will bounce back from a sub-par junior season.
3:47 PM – The Padres selected James Darnell, a third baseman from
3:52 PM – The Rockies’ second-round pick is Charlie Blackmon, an outfielder from Georgia Tech. For a long time it looked like Blackmon was going to be on the 25-to-watch list. He had a great year, and has only recently switched full-time to the outfield from pitching. He obviously has a good arm, and he may just be starting to develop as a hitter. Ultimately, he was a bit too much of an unknown for me to feel comfortable putting him above the guys that I did put on my list, but he is worth watching. Blackmon is another guy I would have drafted before Josh Rabin.
3:54 PM – Scott Bittle goes to the Yankees with the third-to-last pick in the second round. He is the only guy on my board that has been selected in the second round. Last year, many of my players were taken in the second round. After a pick that I really did not like in the first round, the Yankees followed it up with a really good one.
3:56 PM – The second round is finished, and Bittle is the only guy to come off the board from the list.
4:00 PM – The Giants continue to have an outstanding draft. They just selected Roger Kieschnick, who was the last person off of the 25-to-watch list. He has produced throughout his college career, and he has quite a bit of natural talent. I certainly would have preferred Kieschnick over Rabin. The Giants may be having my favorite draft so far.
4:08 PM – After seeing so many players fly off my list in the first round, I figured the rest of the day would be fairly slow. However, this is remarkably slow. I am surprised that both Weatherford and Jacob Thompson are still around.
4:11 PM – The Dodgers select Kyle Russell with their third-round pick. He had a huge sophomore season, and followed it up with a pretty good junior campaign. He was eligible for the draft as a sophomore, but returned to college, and I do not think improved his stock all that much. He has shown great power in college.
4:13 PM – The Blue Jays just took Andrew Liebel, a righty from
4:16 PM – The Mariners made their third-round selection. His name is Ben Pribanic, a right-hander from
4:19 PM – Blake Tekotte just went off the board, to the Padres with 101st overall pick.
4:21 PM – I am not impressed with Pribanic at all. He had a 4.72 ERA with 59 strikeouts in 74.1 innings this year. Opponents hit .270 against him. The Mariners have made worse picks this early on (Ricky Orta and Nolan Gallagher come to mind), but there were certainly better options available.
4:21 PM – Aaron Weatherford is finally off the board! The
4:25 PM – The third round is complete, and eight players on my list remain. The highest remaining is now Sawyer Carroll, though I anticipate Jacob Thompson being the next player on the list selected.
4:29 PM – Well, Sawyer Carroll ended up being the next to go after all, to the Padres with the 111th pick.
4:31 PM – Clayton Shunick is now the best player available on my board.
4:43 PM – The Cardinals just selected Scott Gorgen, #24 on my list, with their fourth-round pick. The new Cardinals GM certainly runs drafts different from Walt Jocketty. Between Brett Wallace and now Scott Gorgen, he is not drafting prototypical bodies.
4:49 PM – The M’s latest selection is Steven Hensley, another pitcher, this time from Elon. Where is a first baseman? They REALLY could use one.
4:51 PM – I guess I like Hensley more than Pribanic, but not by much. Overall, his numbers are better, but he played in a smaller conference. Additionally, his home run rate was high. This draft looks worse and worse for the Mariners.
4:53 PM – Trevor May is the first Washingtonian off the board. He went to
5:00 PM – The fourth round is over. Only Scott Gorgen was selected off of my list in the round. Six players remain, with Shunick remaining the best available.
5:06 PM – Clayton Shunick was just selected by the Reds with their 5th round pick, 146th overall. The highest remaining player on my board is now Eric Thames.
5:07 PM – The White Sox selected Daniel Hudson, a right-hander from Old Dominion, with their fifth-round pick. I never seriously considered
5:09 PM – The fifth round is already more interesting than the last three rounds. The Astros selected lefty David Duncan with their fifth round pick. I have not liked
5:17 PM – Jacob Thompson finally is off the board. He goes to the Braves in the 5th round, 160th overall. I am curious to see if he will sign. There is a good chance he could bounce back in his senior season and be a much higher draft pick.
5:19 PM – The pick yet another pitcher in round five, Brett Lorin from Long Beach St. He is tall, and I will find out more later. I am disgusted with this first day. It is pathetic that they did not draft a first baseman, and only drafted one hitter period.
5:21 PM – Lorrin fits the mold of an M’s pitcher. He has good size, did not give up a ton of homers, but surprisingly did not strike out as many hitters as anticipated. My guess is that he throws fairly hard though. Lorrin was a draft-eligible sophomore. He started his career at
5:25 PM – The D’Backs just selected Collin Cowgill with their 5th round pick, 168th overall.
5:26 PM – I am trying to get excited over Dennis Raben, but it is hard. He put together a nice Cape Cod League, but he did not have good enough numbers this year to really warrant being selected as high as the M’s took him. Maybe the Mariners can luck out and find someone a bit later, but at this point Raben has to pan out for this draft class to look good, and I do not feel comfortable with that. There are plenty of rounds left, but realistically a vast majority of the Major League talent available in this draft is already off the board. The M’s really should have drafted at least one other hitter at this point.
5:45 PM – I like the Dodgers draft so far. They just picked Anthony Delmonico in the sixth round. He is a shortstop from
5:49 PM – The Mariners finally drafted a high-schooler, and finally took another position player. His name is Jarrett Burgess, and he went to high school in
Even though I applaud the Mariners ability to find pitchers in the draft in recent years, they should not be the gold standard as far as farm systems go. There is a gaping hole in the organization at first base (even at the major league level), and I have been hoping that they would address it every year that I have compiled a list of prospects. At this point they pretty much have to draft a first baseman, but luckily for them plenty of good options are available.
Overall, this draft is considered by most a relatively weak one, with little star power. I am a little more optimistic, but in general I would agree. The draft appears to have a number of good first baseman and several quality bullpen arms, but everywhere else is somewhere between average and thin. Still, I ended up leaving several players off of my 2008 list that I certainly like, so there is talent to be had.
I made this list, as I do every year, with the Mariners in mind. To this point, they are yet to draft a player off of the list, but this may be the year that changes. The Mariners are a logical fit for any of the first baseman on the list, and additionally rumor is that they are definitely interested in one pitcher on the list as well. Without further ado, the 2008 edition of the 25 to watch:
25. Nate Freiman, 1B, Duke
- STATS: .381 AVG, 11 HR, 46 RBI, .447 OBP, .671 SLG, 13 BB, 16 K, 1 SB, 0 CS
- REPORT: At 6'8" playing first base, Freiman is quite reminiscent of Richie Sexson. That may sound damning, but Richie made some All-Star games in his prime. Taller hitters tend to struggle in the majors, most likely because they have a larger strike zone to cover and naturally longer swings as well. The combination is a recipe for many swings and misses. Really, Richie Sexson is probably the best hitter in major league history 6'6" or taller, and the main keys to his former success were a discerning eye and quick, compact stroke. With only 16 strikeouts and a high batting average in the ACC, Freiman makes contact remarkably well for his height, leading me to believe he can beat his own size too. He even found success in the Cape Cod League over the summer, which uses wooden bats. In addition, Freiman has played some outfield and even catcher, so he is a pretty good athlete. Freiman is getting little attention, but he was one of the better hitters in the best baseball conference this year, and there are reasons to believe he can be a good hitter despite his height.
- STATS: 11-3 REC, 2.31 ERA, 109 IP, 66 H, 36 BB, 115 K, 7 HR
- REPORT: Gorgan has been a mainstay in the Anteaters rotation for three years, and has anchored the staff through the best years in the program's history. His fastball sits in the high 80s and can get into the low 90s, but his best pitch is a change-up. Most teams like his repertoire and production, but are shying away from him because he is only 5'11". Gorgan's windup is fairly clean, he has no injury history, and he has performed at a consistently high level throughout college, so I do not see much reason to worry about his height at all.
- STATS: .361 AVG, 19 HR, 60 RBI, .483 OBP, .687 SLG, 49 BB, 52 K, 23 SB, 4 CS
- REPORT: Based purely on production, Cowgill should be higher on the board, especially considering that he has shown success hitting with wood bats in the Cape Cod League. However, at 5'9", the ability for his power to translate is questionable. Judging from Cowgill's strikeouts, it looks like he was swinging hard to produce his power, and I am guessing he will shorten up his stroke as a professional and have mostly gap power. Still, Cowgill has a great feel for the strike zone, runs well too, and just flat-out knows how to play the game.
- STATS: 9-4 REC, 2.68 ERA, 100.2 IP, 62 H, 56 BB, 126 K, 8 HR
- REPORT: With prototypical size, a live arm, and the ability to make hitters swing and miss, it is easy to see why teams like Shooter Hunt. While I also like him, I have my concerns. He certainly has a wild streak, as shown by all the walks. He was even more wild in the Cape Cod League over the summer too. On top of that, his home run rate is not so great either, leading me to believe that when he is not on, he really struggles. Hunt's stuff is among the nastiest draft, and he has been steadily improving throughout his college career. However, he still is not as polished as some higher on my board, and home runs may always be a concern with him. Hunt is a player I have seen linked to the Mariners with their first pick.
- STATS: 6-4 REC, 4.30 ERA, 81.2 IP, 90 H, 31 BB, 70 K, 2 HR
- REPORT: Based on this season alone, Thompson would not be on the board. However, he was among the best pitchers in the country the last two years running. Thompson has great size at 6'6" and has always been good at inducing ground balls and keeping the ball in the ballpark. Neither of those positive traits abandoned him even through his struggles this year. Additionally, his good command did not leave him either. Thompson does not have overpowering stuff, but I still think he is much closer to the pitcher that dominated as a freshman and sophomore than the one that struggled somewhat this year.
- STATS: 3-1 REC, 1.72 ERA, 31.1 IP, 19 H, 10 BB, 36 K, 1 HR
- REPORT: Schwimer is the oldest player on my board this year, though he is still just 22. The senior right-hander is an imposing figure on the mound at 6'8" and 240 pounds, and pitched out of relief the vast majority of his college career. However, he was used as a starter in the Cape Cod League over the summer, and was rather successful. Somehow, Schwimer has really flown under the radar, but he has performed at a high level his entire college career and shown an ability to succeed as both a starter and a reliever. His size and strikeout rate suggest that he throws hard too, though I cannot confirm that because I could not find video on him. Still, I am curious to see where Schwimer goes in the draft, because I think he is underrated.
- STATS: .407 AVG, 13 HR, 59 RBI, .513 OBP, .769 SLG, 35 BB, 30 K, 11 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: Thames posted solid numbers last year in his first year at Pepperdine, but really exploded on to the scene this year before a leg injury ended his season. I am generally leery of players that explode to the extent that Thames did, but the West Coast Conference is underrated, and by all accounts Pepperdine's home park is difficult to hit in. The injury has probably hurt his draft status, which seems ridiculous to me since he will be completely fine by next season anyway. Thames is too intriguing of a bat for me to put him much lower on this list.
- STATS: .359 AVG, 18 HR, 57 RBI, .486 OBP, .645 SLG, 58 BB, 44 K, 1 SB, 4 CS
- REPORT: Reese really began to emerge in the Cape Cod League over the summer, and continued his success into his junior campaign. He has good hands and a good arm, but limited speed, so there is some thought that he will eventually move from shortstop. However, especially if Haven's bat continues to progress at the rate it has been, any position is an option. I am not sold on his power potential, but he hits too well from a middle infield position to not take notice.
- STATS: 7-1 REC, 1.78 ERA, 70.2 IP, 35 H, 30 BB, 130 K, 3 HR
- REPORT: Bittle should have replaced Cody Satterwhite in Ole Miss's rotation, but instead he pitched in middle relief the whole season and dominated. Satterwhite and Lance Lynn are still generally considered Ole Miss's top two pitching prospects, but it is Bittle that has steadily improved and struck out batters left and right. I do not know how hard he throws, but he appears to command both a fastball and curve from the same armslot. I never thought I would put a middle reliever in college on my watchlist, but here Bittle is, and he has certainly earned the spot.
- STATS: 7-5 REC, 2.16 ERA, 95.2 IP, 77 H, 23 BB, 108 K, 5 HR
- REPORT: Like several pitchers on my list this year, there is virtually no buzz around Shunick and I am not sure why. He was arguably the best pitcher in the ACC this year, and on top of that he has had strong performances in the Cape Cod League the last two years. Interestingly, his summer success in 2006 did not translate his sophomore season, but Shunick said that he realized he had dropped his arm angle. So, he worked on throwing over the top more, and he regained his 2006 Cape Cod form. Shunick seems to be a fairly bright young player, and he should be receiving a little more attention than he has so far.
- STATS: .425 AVG, 10 HR, 79 RBI, .510 OBP, .706 SLG, 38 BB, 22 K, 16 SB, 2 CS
- REPORT: Gillaspie was not on anybody's radar until he tore up the Cape Cod League, and he followed up his strong summer by tearing up the Missouri Valley Conference. He does not seem to have a ton of power, nor great fielding ability, but he can flat-out hit.
- STATS: .419 AVG, 19 HR, 83 RBI, .514 OBP, .782 SLG, 44 BB, 33 K, 12 SB, 0 CS
- REPORT: Carroll hit well last year, but added significant power to his game this year. How well that power will translate at the professional level is debatable, and it ultimately is what kept him from being higher on my list. Still, he has a great approach at the plate and already has experience in the outfield and first base.
- STATS: .371 AVG, 11 HR, 46 RBI, .480 OBP, .607 SLG, 39 BB, 30 K, 26 SB, 6 CS
- REPORT: Despite playing at a major program, there is relatively little buzz around Takotte compared to some of his teammates. However, he was among the team leaders in batting average, on-base percentage, and stolen bases. Tekotte looks like a lead-off hitter waiting to happen with his good speed, plate discipline, and hitting ability. He may not hit many home runs, but he has the power to reach the gaps and the speed to turn some of those hits into triples.
- STATS: .366 AVG, 11 HR, 57 RBI, .447 OBP, .639 SLG, 30 BB, 36 K, 19 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: Jemile is the younger brother of Brewers second baseman Rickie Weeks, so between that and playing for Miami he has received plenty of attention. It is deserved though. Jemile does not have Rickie's power, but he has more speed and the potential to turn into a good defender at second base. Weeks and Tekotte are virtually dead even in my eyes, but I decided to go with Weeks ahead of Tekotte because good middle infielders tend to be harder to find than good outfielders.
- STATS: .359 AVG, 19 HR, 55 RBI, .449 OBP, .682 SLG, 37 BB, 35 K, 0 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: This is a strong draft for first baseman, so Cooper has not garnered as much attention as he probably would most years. In many ways, Cooper is everything the Mariners need. He is a good hitter from the left side of the plate with both patience and power. He has steadily improved throughout his college career, and even had a nice showing in some Cape Cod League at-bats over the summer.
- STATS: 3-1 REC, 0.85 ERA, 31.2 IP, 10 H, 10 BB, 62 K, 1 HR
- REPORT: The general consensus is that there are a number of good bullpen arms in this college class, and I agree. Of all of them, I think Weatherford is the best, which is far from the consensus. Weatherford did not get many opportunities to pitch as the Bulldogs closer this year, but he certainly made the most of his opportunities. He was a highly regarded recruit out of high school, and has steadily improved throughout his college career. Though I could not find video of him, scouting reports say that he throws hard and has a good splitfinger too. Whatever Weatherford has been throwing, the SEC certainly struggled against it. The bullpen may not seem to be a major concern for the Mariners right now, but J.J. Putz is older than most realize, and Brandon Morrow should be a starter soon as well. A reliever like Weatherford would be a good addition.
- STATS: .317 AVG, 9 HR, 30 RBI, .424 OBP, .519 SLG, 28 BB, 28 K, 3 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: Pedro's production this year does not warrant such a high spot on the list, but he had surgery to remove the hamate bone in one of his hands during the season, so he put up those numbers recovering from that. In the past, Alvarez has displayed tremendous power, but also with a rather high strikeout rate. He is likely one of the top two picks in the draft, so there is no way he will fall to the Mariners. Even without the injury, I doubt Alvarez would be quite that high on my board though. He is slightly overhyped in my opinion.
- STATS: .394 AVG, 16 HR, 73 RBI, .468 OBP, .778 SLG, 30 BB, 31 K, 5 SB, 2 CS
- REPORT: Ike Davis has one of the highest ceilings of any college player in the draft. He is a gifted athlete that has only begun to recognize his potential. During his time at Arizona State he has played the outfield and first base while also pitching on a fairly regular basis. He was close to making this list on his pitching ability, but his innings have diminished as he has become a more important hitter in the lineup. Though Davis already hits for great power, he promises to hit for more as he fills out some and focuses more on hitting. Ike is one of the most exciting prospects in this draft, and it is debatable whether he will be available or not when the Mariners make their first selection.
- STATS: 13-0 REC, 2.35 ERA, 107.1 IP, 85 H, 38 BB, 127 K, 6 HR
- REPORT: Crow had an awkward year and tenuously sits as the top pitcher on most draft boards. He was good last year as a sophomore, and then had an unbelievable summer in the Cape Cod League. On top of that, Crow put together a streak of over 43 consecutive scoreless innings this season! Obviously, he has shown the ability to completely dominate, but when he does not have his best stuff this year he was surprisingly poor. He will be picked before the Mariners draft, and I still think he is the best arm available this year.
- STATS: .323 AVG, 16 HR, 50 RBI, .519 OBP, .645 SLG, 62 BB, 45 K, 7 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: Most years there would be plenty of talk about a guy like Dykstra, but this is a strong draft for first baseman. The indications are strong that he will be available when the Mariners pick at 20, and the M's would be wise to take a close look at him. The perception is that Dykstra does not have much upside, but he also is a safe pick. He has tremendous plate discipline and good power. He has performed at a remarkably high level throughout his college career and in the Cape Cod League as well. Even though Dykstra is generally regarded as a good prospect, I think he is underrated by most. The Mariners could really use a polished first baseman ready to move through the system quickly, so Dykstra would be a great fit.
- STATS: .397 AVG, 24 HR, 65 RBI, .505 OBP, .781 SLG, 47 BB, 29 K, 17 SB, 1 CS
- REPORT: At first glance, Beckham does not look incredibly special, but with a bat in his hands he is. He consistently makes hard contact and generates surprising power out of his 6'0", 175-pound frame. Some do not think his power will translate to the pro level, but he hit well in the Cape Cod League over the summer. Beckham reminds me of Dustin Pedroia, though Beckham has a better arm on defense.
- STATS: .383 AVG, 23 HR, 72 RBI, .505 OBP, .757 SLG, 57 BB, 28 K, 1 SB, 3 CS
- REPORT: Smoak has been on Major League radars since his high school days, and really came into his own this year. A switch-hitter, Smoak has a beautiful stroke from both sides of the plate, and he generates tremendous power. Comparisons to Mark Teixeira are easy to make. Earlier on there was some thought that he could be available when the Mariners pick, but the odds look extremely slim now.
- STATS: .414 AVG, 21 HR, 81 RBI, .531 OBP, .762 SLG, 45 BB, 31 K, 16 SB, 4 CS
- REPORT: There is no doubt that Wallace is a complete hitter. He has power to all fields, good plate coverage, and great plate discipline. However, his stock is not as high as what might be expected because he is trapped in a "bad body." Especially in baseball, the list of bad body players that were good is long, and Wallace is more burly than pudgy. He even runs fairly well, as the number of bases he stole suggests. The best pro comparison I can come up with for Wallace is Lance Berkman, though Wallace only hits from the left side. Hopefully concerns over Wallace's body allow him to fall all the way to the Mariners, because he would be a steal with the 20th pick.
- STATS: .468 AVG, 24 HR, 86 RBI, .572 OBP, .897 SLG, 53 BB, 23 K, 5 SB, 3 CS
- REPORT: Posey will go very early in the draft, so I will not spend much time breaking him down. Posey started out as a shortstop, but has since moved to catcher and is catching on quickly. He exploded this season and had by far the best year of any college player in the country. While I think he is great, especially for a catcher, I have a hard time believing he is really as good as this season's numbers suggest. Nothing about his past performance indicated a season like this. Still, Posey is a great athlete with all the tools to be a great professional.
- STATS: .370 AVG, 21 HR, 66 RBI, .536 OBP, .767 SLG, 69 BB, 30 K, 9 SB, 6 CS
- REPORT: As the draft approaches, Alonso's stock continues to rise. The only way he falls to the Mariners is if signability issues scare other teams away, because he is a tremendous prospect. Alonso is the most polished hitter in the draft thanks to an extremely developed eye at the plate. Though he has already displayed good power, he should develop even more as he turns on more pitches. If I had made a pre-season top 25 list, Alonso would have been at the top of it and never budged. With so many strengths as a hitter, it is hard to think that he will not pan out.