I’m mostly going to talk about tomorrow’s MLB draft, but there are a few things I should mention first:
- It seems pesky injuries are hitting the Mariners harder than usual this year. The latest casualty is catcher Jesus Sucre, who was hit on the back of his hand by a backswing last night. Nothing’s broken, but he’ll be out at least a few days. Sucre’s been okay, and better than that defensively, since taking Jesus Montero’s roster spot, but he’s no huge loss. The only problem is the M’s had no other catchers on the 40-man roster, since Montero just suffered a knee injury and is out for a month or more. They promoted Triple-A back-up Brandon Bantz, who will be around for a week at most and may not even see the field. Again, no big deal, just a bit of a headache for the M’s to figure out.
- To open a 40-man roster spot for Bantz, Franklin Gutierrez was placed on the 60-day disabled list. That’s retroactive to when he first went on the DL, but it still feels tantamount to the Mariners giving up on Guti. I’m sure we’ll see him the second half of the season, and he might even get our hopes up again, but I see no way he’s around next year, even at a near-minimum salary. Having Guti on the roster means compensating in too many other ways, and it’s just not worth it. You have to be able to count on players to stay on the field for longer than a week. It’s a shame, because he still has mountains of talent, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
- On a brighter note, Nick Franklin has been a revelation as Dustin Ackley’s replacement at second base. He actually looks a lot like Ackley did when he first came up, with a great eye and a swing that delivers a lot of contact and surprising power. He looks better at second, which is nothing against Ackley, who was extremely solid there. In only a week, Franklin has done enough to generate talk about whether Ackley will ever get a chance to reclaim his spot. Those talks are fair, but also remember that Ackley was quite good for a half a season before falling apart last year. You just never know.
- The Mariners have struggled before this Chicago series, but I’m actually feeling a little optimistic. The worst part of the schedule is over, and the offense has crept up to league average and is still improving. More importantly, there’s hope on the horizon for the biggest weakness: the back of the rotation. I’m okay with Joe Saunders, and Aaron Harang I can live with for the moment. That fifth spot is a killer, though. Luckily, Erasmo Ramirez could return within a couple of weeks, and if he has his form back he could immediately become the staff’s third best starter. Danny Hultzen has started throwing again, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him up around the all star break. Keep your fingers crossed, but the options are slowly improving.
The MLB draft starts tomorrow, which most baseball fans are probably not even aware of. I personally love the draft, but it understandably gets less attention than it’s basketball and football counterparts. Most of the players are unknown, and they generally won’t make the majors for 3-4 years, if at all. I like following it because I can completely release my judgement of the picks and just trust in the Mariners. Trust in the Mariners? Am I crazy, you ask? The Mariners are actually quite good at drafting. Since Zduriencik and Tom McNamara, the amateur scouting director, took over, the Mariners’ farm system has gone from maybe the worst in baseball to top two or three, almost solely on the strength of their drafts. We can debate another day on why some of those draftees are failing in the majors, but getting players into the system hasn’t been the problem.
After choosing Mike Zunino third overall last year, the Mariners are picking 12th tomorrow, which is good and bad for all the usual reasons. It’s hard to know who they’ll take that far down the draft, and the Mariners are one of the more unpredictable teams anyway. I’ll list a few potential names below. Just remember that no matter who they pick, don’t get worked up. They know much more about these guys than any of us do. You can treat the Mariners drafting like we treat the Seahawks drafting: it can be surprising and you might wish they had done something different, but they’ve earned a pretty high level of trust at this point. That said, here are a few names:
DJ Peterson is one of the best bats in the draft, and maybe the most advanced. A college third baseman at New Mexico, he’ll likely move to first or DH but should have plenty of bat to still be a threat there. The comparison I’ve seen most is to Kansas City’s Billy Butler. Peterson is probably my top choice of guys who could realistically be available, but I’m not sure he’ll make it to them.
Hunter Renfroe is a college outfielder who is getting a lot of buzz lately. He’s athletic enough to be solid in a corner and has plenty of power. Someone mentioned Jay Buhner as a comparison. The Mariners are low on outfield prospects and Renfroe is probably the best one they might have a shot at.
Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier are both outfielders from Georgia and the two best high school position prospects in the draft. Both will likely go before the Mariners pick, but there’s a chance one could slip. I’d be thrilled with either.
JP Crawford, a high school shortstop, is the only shortstop considered a first rounder. I gather he’s not elite with the glove but could be above-average. The bat is solid. He’s expected to go right around the Mariners’ pick. Not sure how I feel about Crawford, but it’s always good to have shortstops around.
Reese McGuire is a high schooler, and he also happens to go to school minutes away from where I’m writing this, at Kentwood High. He’s a catcher who projects to be solid with the bat and quite good with the glove. He was going to the Mariners in a lot of earlier mock drafts, but I think most now believe he’ll be gone by then. I’d be fine with that. He sounds like a good prospect and it’s fun to add local kids, but I’m not crazy about high school catchers, especially with Zunino and others in the system already.
That’s probably enough names for now. I didn’t mention any pitchers, because I didn’t feel like it. A pitcher pick wouldn’t surprise though. Watch especially for high schooler Phil Bickford and his big fastball, or Ryan Stanek, whom the Mariners previously picked but couldn’t sign away from college.
I’ll try to post something tomorrow night after the M’s pick. For better coverage, try Baseball America or Minor League Ball from a national perspective, and Seattle Sports Insider and Jay Yencich at USS Mariner for a local breakdown.
Go Mariners! Believe Big!