I was curious to see how different a Dipoto draft would look from a Zduriencik draft. Dipoto seemed to respect the job that Zduriencik's scouting department did, so much so that he kept Tom McNamara as the head of scouting. McNamara through his role essentially runs the draft so there was some reason to believe that the M's picks might not look all that different.
Ultimately, there is some evidence that the Dipoto Mariners take a bit different style of ballplayer. However, some players picked - especially early on - look a whole bunch like the players that the Mariners have picked in years past. Without further ado, pick-by-pick takes on the Mariners draft, complete with a grade of each pick:
- Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer - No-brainer pick, courtesy a few teams above the Mariners reaching for players less talented. Lewis is the first player ever drafted from Mercer in the first round of any pro sports draft (not just baseball), so to say he is a small school prospect is an understatement. However, Lewis annihilated Southern Conference pitching for two years, earning conference player of the year honors two years in a row. This year he also was selected as the NCAA baseball player of the year too. Furthermore, Lewis performed admirably the last two summers in the Cape Cod League, which features a high level of competition and wooden bats. Lewis's power in particular translated fine in the Cape, which is noteworthy. Lewis was athletic enough to play center field at Mercer but I think he ultimately will find a home in left or right field. His height and swing path both suggest some issues making contact in the future, but at 6'4" he never projected to hit for average. What Lewis brings is legitimately good power with the potential for good defense. His ability to work counts will determine just how good of a hitter he becomes. I doubt Lewis becomes a star, but it's easy to see how he could become an above average starter in the middle of a lineup. Grade: A
- Joe Rizzo, 3B, Oaktown HS (VA) - Rizzo is a pretty interesting pick, and perhaps says something about the Dipoto regime's values. Rizzo has some things traditional scouts love, namely a beautiful swing and good arm. However, Rizzo is undersized and because of that lacks the kind of projection that scouts tend to love. He also is unlikely to play up the middle defensively, further hampering his upside. With all that said, maybe this pick doesn't say much about Dipoto. Rizzo's best-case comp might be none other than Kyle Seager, and the Mariners have a history of picking these types of fringy hitters under Tom McNamara. Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, though both shortstops, also like Kyle Seager were "reaches" without some of the prototypical tools (though as college prospects). Rizzo has a commitment to South Carolina, which has a reputation as a harder school to sign players away from. Still, Rizzo is unlikely to see his stock go much higher as a prospect. He needs to decide how much he wants a college experience over starting professional baseball. My guess is that he signs and could be a candidate to rise through the early levels of the minor leagues relatively quickly, never garnering much attention as a prospect but hitting too much to not get a shot. Grade: C
- Bryson Brigman, SS, San Diego - Brigman sprayed the ball around as a hitter with limited power in college. With that said, Brigman generally played in parks that favored pitchers and in a few Cape Cod league at-bats his gap power showed up. Brigman will never hit for much power, but he very much fits the Chris Taylor/Drew Jackson mold, which seems to be one that McNamara favors and that the Mariners do pretty well with. Grade: C
- Thomas Burrows, LHP, Alabama - Burrows closed for the Crimson Tide and figures to stay a reliever as a pro. He could progress quickly through the minors, especially given the M's lack of bullpen depth. I would say he is the odds-on favorite to be the first player from this draft class to appear in Safeco Field. Grade: A
- Donnie Walton, SS, Oklahoma State - Walton is an undersized middle infielder that hit well enough at Oklahoma State. He is a senior so should have an easy time signing. Picking him seems at least partially tied to Joe Rizzo as it seems like Walton could sign for under slot value and give the M's some breathing room in negotiation with Rizzo. I think the Mariners could have found more upside with this pick and still saved money, though Walton has a chance to provide organizational depth up the middle. Grade: D
- Brandon Miller, RHP, Millersville - Miller comes from a division II school, so small with a relatively low level of competition. However, Millersville was very good this past year and Miller was clearly the staff ace. He dominated, allowing just 63 hits in over 100 innings while striking out over a batter an inning. Moreover, he had a strong showing in the Cape Cod league, which features lots of the best Division I players in the country. Miller also looks the part of a pro pitcher, standing at 6'4" with a durable pitching frame. Nice pick at this stage in the draft. Grade: A
- Matt Festa, RHP, East Stroudsburg - Festa is a redshirt senior from a small university so he seems like another player likely to sign and maybe for a discount. Festa anchored his pitching staff and blew away hitters all year, though against substandard competition at a relatively advanced age. He is also undersized. Grade: D
- Nick Zammarelli, 3B, Elon - Zammarelli's best tool is power. However, it comes with plenty of strikeouts. He struck out in about a third of his at-bats in the Cape Cod League over the summer, which is alarming to say the least. However, he also clearly improved throughout his college career. Zammarelli could be fun to watch as a good test case over how well the Mariners teach players to "control the zone." He needs to refine his swing and approach to let his power show through in games. Grade: C
- Jason Goldstein, C, Illinois - Goldstein is a senior backstop who started all four years at Illinois in the underrated Big Ten conference. He was productive though did not develop all that much in college. That suggests he might be what he's going to be. Goldstein might fly through the lower levels of the minors but I do not see enough of a bat to ever be a contributor in the majors. However, it does not take much of a bat to be a serviceable catcher, even as a backup. Grade: D
- David Greer, 3B, Arizona State - The Mariners might have to go above slot to sign Greer, and also might have the resources to pull that off with some of the seniors taken in earlier rounds. Greer is a bit of a three true outcome type - lots of walks, lots of strikeouts, and developing power. He still has mostly gap power, but the number of extra base hits has gone up exponentially over his college career. Greer's holes combined with his significant development the past few years suggest a player who could blossom as a professional. Grade: B
- Michael Koval, RHP, Cal Poly Pomona - Another small school pitcher, Koval was the ace for another great Division II team. Koval's ERA and hits allowed were sparkling but he struck out fewer batters than would be expected for a legitimate pro prospect from a small school. He reminds me a bit of Edwin Diaz and Steve Cishak with a bit of cross-fire, side-arm action in his delivery. I wonder if that means the Mariners will convert him into a reliever and see if his stuff plays up. A bit of a reach for my taste at this spot in the draft. Grade: D
- Tim Viehoff, LHP, Southern New Hampshire - Viehoff is a senior from a small school but he absolutely crushed his competition. Flawless production, albeit the age and level of competition must be noted. However, this is a stage in the draft where a player with this kind of track record makes all the sense in the world. Also, Viehoff uncorked 10 wild pitched in just 14 starts, which actually might be a good thing. Pro catchers are much better at blocking pitches, and wild pitches tend to be partly caused by pitches the move around and are tough to handle. Grade: A
- Reggie McClain, RHP, Missouri - Another senior, but this time from the vaunted SEC. He performed admirable, though did not dominate. McClain might have pitched to too much contact, actually, as he walked only 9 batters in 101 innings as a senior. He certainly knows how to control the zone, which at least means he will set a good example of the style the Mariners want to cultivate. He is rather old by prospect standards as he is already 23. Grade: B
- Kyle Davis, RHP, USC - Yet another senior pitcher, Davis flew under the radar at USC. He worked his way into the starting rotation, though never did much to look all that good or bad. Interestingly he worked as a reliever in the Cape Cod league a few summers ago and also found his most success out of the Trojans bullpen as a sophomore. He was drafted last year by the Blue Jays but opted not to sign, and got drafted several rounds earlier this year. He could have a future as a reliever. Grade: B
- Danny Garcia, LHP, Miami (FL) - Some scout in the M's organization must see something they can do to fix Garcia. He took a noticeable step backwards this year after looking like he was on track to become a relatively high draft pick. He became more hittable this year with both a reduced strikeout rate and elevated home run rate. With that said, sometimes if a pitcher gains velocity they will give up more home runs and lose command. I don't know exactly what happened with Garcia, but it is the kind of trend that suppresses value yet there could also be plausible reasons to see the problems as a step back before a few steps forward. Grade: D
- Lyle Lin, C, Junipero Serra HS (CA) - The school buries the story here. Lin is the first Taiwanese player every drafted. For those of you saying "wait, I remember Chien-Ming Wang and he's from Taiwan!" you are correct. He signed as a free agent though. I don't have much on Lin, though looking at his YouTube highlights he appears to have simple stroke that seems rather mechanical for better and worse. It's at least fun to make history. Grade: C
- Dimas Ojeda, LF, McClennan CC - Ojeda is listed as a first baseman so left field is presumably a projected position switch the Mariners will try. Moreover, Ojeda's statline suggests more gap power which is not ideal for first base offense, and his build suggest a lithe body capable of covering some ground. Lots of players have gaudy offensive statlines at McClennan; frankly, Ojeda does not stand out among his teammates. Maybe the roster is loaded with future professionals. It would have to be for this pick to make sense. Grade: F
- Robert Dugger, RHP, Texas Tech - Dugger notched just one year at the D-I level and it was out of the bullpen. So, very small sample size to work with statistically, but what he did was solid. Not the worst value at this point. Grade: C
- DeAires Moses, CF, Volunteer State (TN) - Moses is listed at just 5'9" and 170 pounds. He also did not hit a home run this past season. He has some gap power and I am guessing projects as an above average defender in center field to get drafted this high. Grade: D
- Eric Filia, RF, UCLA - Filia is a 5th year senior, so older at 23 years old. He also missed the past two seasons before playing a full slate of games in 2016. Filia got drafted because he has an incredible eye. He somehow walked 41 times despite limited contact and power ability. He controls the zone and is more likely to set a good example of the M's philosophy than make a dent in the majors. Still, he seems like a helpful player to have in the organization. Grade: B
- Austin Grebeck, CF, Oregon - Grebeck is a pest, plain and simple. He has limited contact and virtually no power, yet still walks a fair amount. He plays a bit like his father, Craig Grebeck, a scrappy outfielder who played for handful of teams around the turn of the millenium. I don't know if Dipoto is good friends with Craig Grebeck, but they probably ran into each other during their MLB careers. This could be partly a pick for him and partly another "Control the Zone" exemplar for other prospects to watch. Grade: C
- Jansiel Rivera, CF, Methuen HS (MA) - I can't find much on Rivera the player, but he has to have one of the most intriguing stories in the draft. Apparently Rivera moved to the Dominican Republic to play there for a few years before moving back to the states on May 6. He told his high school coach he would get drafted when he moved back, though the coach had no idea what to make of such a bold statement after a few years away. So, the Mariners likely gave Rivera some sort of guarantee and almost certainly ran into him while scouting in the Dominican. He seems like a true sleeper prospect they stumbled upon to some degree. The story alone makes him worth the pick at this point. Grade: B
- Jack Anderson, RHP, Penn State - A reliever his whole career in college with some success one summer in the Cape Cod league. Also a senior so easy to sign. Good pick at this stage in the draft. Grade: B
- Trey Griffey, CF, Arizona - I don't know when the Mariners stopped thinking they were drafting real prospects, but they most certainly thought they were through at this point. Trey is Ken Griffey Jr.'s son, and he is a wide receiver for the Wildcats football team. He hasn't played an inning of baseball at Arizona. What a coincidence that he was listed as a center fielder and drafted in round 24...quite the coincidence indeed. The Year of Griffey Worship continues. Grade: A
- Ryan Fucci, CF, Wright State - Fucci is strikeout prone, and probably too strikeout prone to make it far as a professional. However, he also has some speed and gap power. He will sign since he is a senior. Grade: B
- Elliot Surrey, LHP, UC Irvine - The Mariners loaded up on college seniors, perhaps suggesting that Jerry Dipoto prefers some experience even in the lowest levels of the minors. Surrey had a solid career at UC Irvine and now gets a chance to pitch as far as he can go in the pros. Grade: A
- Paul Covelle, RHP, Franklin Pierce - Yet another senior, Covelle had a strong senior season and garnered some attention from the Cape Cod summer league. Worth taking a chance on at this stage. Grade: B
- Nathan Bannister, RHP, Arizona - The senior right-hander was a steady performer throughout his college career and even held his own in the Cape Cod league in 2014. He probably won't miss enough bats to make it to the majors but he is more than worth taking a chance on at this stage in the draft. Grade: A
- Steven Ridlings, RHP, Messiah - It's always a good sign when Google tries to autocorrect your spelling to the person they think you meant, but of course Google was wrong! Ridlings is very much a small school prospect, but he was a highly productive senior that improved over time. It was fun tracking down some info on him and finding a hidden gem of a season. Grade: A
- Tyler Duncan, CF, Edward Milne SS (BC) - Duncan is a Canadian prep star whom has at least one friend that really believes in him, judging from the yelling in the background of the camera phone video I could find to "scout" him. Duncan sets up wide in his batting stance and has rather quiet mechanics. His slight uppercut produces loft and from the looks of it some power potential, though his approach might leave him susceptible to high velocity, particularly up in the strike zone. In the end, this is probably a pick that's a favor to some area scout in the M's draft room that wasn't getting much action. Grade: C
- Lincoln Henzman, RHP, Louisville - Henzman is the rare draft-eligible sophomore and he might have slipped through the cracks. He struggled somewhat out of the Louisville bullpen this season, at least by traditional metrics. However, his strikeout rate and relatively weak contact against him suggest he might have been the victim of bad luck. The Mariners have a bit of a steal if they can get him to sign but if I were him I would return to school and take my chances at improving my draft stock. Grade: C
- Kenyan Yovan, RHP, Westview HS (OR) - Yovan is committed to the University of Oregon and would likely take a signing bonus to get in the fold. I doubt he signs, but maybe he grew up loving the Mariners and that changes his mind. Grade: C
- Morgan McCullough, SS, West Seattle HS (WA) - Local kid, and maybe he signs if he really wants a taste of pro baseball. McCullough is undersized but his raw skills suggest a capable defender up the middle with a bat that might generate some gap power. McCullough is also a University of Oregon recruit but I can't find as firm of information on how likely he is to stick with that commitment. My gut says he has a better chance to sing than Yovan, for whatever that is worth. Grade: B
- David Ellingson, RHP, Georgetown - Solid reliever with a year of eligibility left. No real reason for him to sign this year. Grade: D
- Will Ethridge, RHP, Parkview HS (GA) - Ethridge comes from one of the better prep baseball programs in the nation at the moment and is committed to Mississippi. There is no reason to expect that he will sign. In fact, he has already stated he will go to Ole Miss since being drafted. He is all about his projectable frame at the moment. Grade: D
- Joe Venturino, 2B, Rampano College - Rampano is a DIII school, and I suppose the draft would have been incomplete without such a small school popping up somewhere. The Mariners definitely did not shy away from small schools in this draft. Venturino has virtually no power but good plate discipline and speed. He controls the zone, and as a DIII alumnus myself I enjoy seeing players at this level selected. Grade: A
- Eli Wilson, C, Garfield HS (WA) - Eli is Dan Wilson's son, and if he can block pitches anything like Dan then he has a future in baseball. Eli is definitely to some degree a legacy pick, but unlike Trey Griffey much earlier, Eli actually plays baseball. Moreover, he signed a letter of intent with Minnesota in March which is conveniently where his father played baseball in college. Nice sentimental pick here, and this might not be the last we hear about Eli in baseball as well. Grade: A
- James Reilly, RHP, Albertus Magnus HS - I can't find anything on Reilly. Some scout saw him and liked him. He is the rare pitcher that bats left-handed but throws right-handed, which might suggest some substantial batting in his background. Grade: D
- Camryn Williams, SS, Gaither HS (FL) - Williams enjoyed a solid senior season. I don't know where he is committed to playing but I doubt he signs. Grade: C
- Adley Rutschman, C, Sherwood HS (OR) - Rutschman is committed to Oregon State and the overwhelming odds are that he sticks to that. Still, nice shout out to a relatively local kid. It is interesting that the Mariners listed him as a catcher but he might pitch for the Beavers. Grade: B
Overall draft trends:
- Weighted* GPA of draft grades: 3.06 (B)
- Players by education level: 11 high school, 2 community/junior college, 12 college underclassmen, 15 college seniors
- 19 pitchers drafted, 21 position players
- 15 right-handed pitchers, 4 left-handed pitchers
- Positions drafted, most to least: 6 CF, 4 C, 4 SS, 3 3B, 1 2B, 1 LF, 1 RF, 1 OF
Overall draft thoughts:
I like this draft class quite a bit more than last year's, which using the same methodology ended up with a cumulative 2.29 GPA. However, I should note that I did not like Andrew Moore much and absolutely hated Drew Jackson. Both of them have turned out to be much better than I thought. Time will tell how good the class of 2016 turns out to be.
A couple trends say something about the Mariners as an organization though. They clearly showed an agenda with the positions they had draft picks announced as. I doubt it is a mistake that the Mariners had more players listed as catchers, shortstops, and centerfielders than anywhere else on the diamond, especially given that the only position they drafted nobody at was first base. It is pretty obvious that Jerry Dipoto's philosophy is to allow players to start their careers at the most premium defensive position possible and play it as long as possible.
Furthermore, given this stance, it seems telling that Joe Rizzo was announced as a third baseman. If the Mariners saw any potential for him to stick at shortstop they probably would have announced him as playing that position (he played it a fair amount in high school). Additionally, Kyle Lewis is the only prospect the Mariners listed simply as "outfielder" without a specification of which outfield position. I did not think much of this distinction on day one, but after seeing the rest of the draft unfold that seems like a pretty solid hint that the Mariners are honestly uncertain if Lewis can play center field as he has in college.
Dipoto and co. skewed rather old this year too with a large percentage of college players and college seniors in particular. This largely happened in the middle to later rounds and that probably is not a fluke. We have already seen that Dipoto likes minor league teams with a mix of polished talent around prospects. It's why the M's farm teams are winning much more across the board than in recent history.
The Trey Griffey pick, though symbolic, was also insightful. It came surprisingly early for symbolic pick, which suggests to me that most of the back half of the draft was spent looking for minor league depth that fits the organization. Hitters picked late tended to walk a ton in college, and pitchers tended to throw lots of strikes. In other words, players who control the zone.
It's easy to imagine Everett featuring a pretty strong team looking at this draft class, which could be fun. I also wonder if this college-heavy approach was partially a response to the raw, young players Jack Zduriencik picked near the end of his tenure - in particular players we haven't seen yet this year, like Nick Neidert and Gareth Morgan. It's interesting to wonder if many of the college seniors taken by the Mariners are viewed as peer mentors for the organization's core prospects. There is some evidence to suggest just that. Reggie McClain and Eric Filia will both turn 24 this year and they both posted absurd walk rates in college. They will model exactly what it means to control the zone.
Ultimately, I think this class produces three MLB players: Kyle Lewis, Thomas Burrows, and then one of Joe Rizzo, Bryson Bringham, and Brandon Miller. Some dark horses to become prospects are David Greer, Tim Viehoff, and Jansiel Rivera. I would add any of the prep players in the last 10 rounds that sign to the list as well.
This isn't a sexy class on paper, but it has the look of a solid one. The real test remains if the Mariners can develop their own talent. They have struggled with that in the past; hopefully this draft class one way or another helps them figure out how to help their own prospects blossom.