Really, aside from the Pirates, the M's couldn't have it much easier. They can go into the afternoon with a list of two players in mind, get one of them guaranteed, and then high five each other for "getting their guy" the rest of the afternoon.
The million dollar question, rather literally, is who's the guy?
As is usual with Jack Zduriencik, the Mariners are mum on whom they might pick. However, only a handful of guys make sense. Here are the most likely candidates to become the newest Mariner, in my estimation:
- Anthony Rendon, 3B, Rice - Reports are that the Pirates are leaning towards Gerrit Cole with the top pick, which I think this is one of the best case scenarios for the Mariners. Any scenario with Pittsburgh taking a pitcher is best, because it leaves the M's with their choice of any position player. With all due respect to the 2011 Mariners, despite their winning ways, the offense still stinks. Unless the M's medical staff is worried about Rendon's shoulder, which could plausibly happen, I don't see how the M's can afford to pass him up. He is my odds-on favorite to be the pick.
- Bubba Starling, OF, Gardner Edgerton HS (KS) - The toolsy prep phenom is a physical specimen with the chance to be a true five-tool talent. This would be a gutsy pick at the top of the draft, but the superstar potential might be enough to lure the Mariners, especially if Rendon is gone and/or if the Mariners worry about Rendon's health. He will likely be tough to sign away from Nebraska, but I am sure the Mariners have already set aside a big chunk of change to sign whomever they pick.
- Gerrit Cole, RHP, UCLA - With Felix Hernandez and Michael Pineda already around for many years, I doubt a power pitcher is on top of Seattle's wish list. However, if Rendon goes with the top pick, and the M's don't like all the risk involved with Starling, it would be hard to pass up Cole. How frightening would he be as a staff addition?
- Francisco Lindor, SS, Montverde Academy (FL) - According to rumors last week, Lindor had a private workout with the Mariners. There is no way he lasts until the M's second round pick, so presumably this shows a degree of interest for their first pick. The M's seem to have a solid shortstop of the future with Nick Franklin, but it's never a problem to have too many good gloves and bats up the middle.
- Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia - While I think it is remote that the Mariners take Hultzen, there is a bit of a counterintuitive argument to be made for him. First of all, unlike Cole, he complements Pineda and Hernandez better as a lefty that doesn't throw in the upper 90s. Second, he doesn't seem likely to demand as high of a bonus as other potential top picks, which might save money for investments later in the draft. If Rendon is taken by the Pirates, and the Mariners do not like the prep bats available, perhaps they go for a somewhat conservative pick up top, and pick someone a little tougher to sign later on.
- Blake Swihart, C, Cleveland HS (NM) - This is my longshot that I probably should not have put on the list at all. I haven't seen anyone link Swihart to the Mariners, and if he really was in consideration, I bet he would have held a private workout with the team by now. Plus, on top of that, I don't see any mock drafts with Swihart near the top 10. Still, I love the guy, and the Mariners have a gaping hole at catcher in the organization.