Mariners see plenty of promise with No. 12 pick
Stocked with young pitching, Seattle could look to add offense in first round
SEATTLE -- Having one of the first few picks is great when it comes to Draft day, but the reason for having high selections isn't such a positive.
So Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara isn't about to complain about choosing 12th in Thursday's first round of the First-Year Player Draft after Seattle had one of the top three picks in three of the previous four years.
"Obviously all of us would rather have a lower pick," McNamara said, knowing that would mean a better win-loss record the previous season. "But we'll make the best of it and take advantage of picking 12."
The Mariners need their recent high picks to start paying off, and they're still waiting on catcher Mike Zunino, pitcher Danny Hultzen and even 2009 first-rounder Dustin Ackley after he was sent down to Triple-A Tacoma last week to iron out his struggles at the plate.
Zunino was the third overall selection last year after Hultzen (2011) and Ackley (2009) were the No. 2 picks. This time the Mariners have more uncertainty about who'll they wind up with in the first round, given the way things could play out above them.
What McNamara does know is they'll wind up with an excellent young prospect.
"I keep reading and hearing this is a weak Draft and I always stay away from that," McNamara said. "I think it's fine. Where we're picking, we're fine."
The lower selection did affect how the organization spent its time over recent months in regard to its first-round pick, given the variables of who will be on the board when their name comes up Thursday.
"There's always pressure to pick the right guy, no matter where you're at," McNamara said. "The biggest difference is when you have one of the first three picks, you identify about five guys you're considering and you'll see them play [in person] five or six times. But when you're picking 12th, you don't have that luxury because you're looking at more players. But we've still seen them plenty of times."
The 2013 First-Year Player Draft will take place Thursday through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Thursday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 73 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. Rounds 3-10 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Friday, beginning with a preview show at 12:30 p.m., and Rounds 11-40 will be streamed live on MLB.com on Saturday, starting at 1 p.m.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 100 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of Draft-eligible players. You can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft on Twitter. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
McNamara and general manager Jack Zduriencik have steadfastly stood by the policy of always picking the best player, regardless of position, and that certainly remains true this year. The club has accumulated considerable strength in pitching prospects in recent years, but this season at the Major League level has shown again that you can never have enough in that area.
While rookie Brandon Maurer initially cracked the rotation coming out of camp, other more highly touted prospects like Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, Erasmo Ramirez and James Paxton have yet to become available due to either injury (Hultzen and Ramirez), age (Walker) or lack of production (Paxton) even with the Mariners needing help at the big league level.
Ackley's recent demotion to Tacoma, along with a similar move with catcher Jesus Montero, also served as a sharp reminder that even the highest-regarded position players aren't slam dunks for immediate success either.
So the Mariners will go about adding whatever player they feel has the best chance of being a difference-maker down the road, regardless of position or age. McNamara said the fact the Mariners took college players every time they had a top-three selection the past four years was purely coincidental.
"Each year we've had high school guys ranked right next to guys we took," he said. "Last year our top three guys weren't just college guys. We've never said we have to pick a college guy this year. It's just line up the board and take the best player. That's what we do.
"There are no magical potions. We keep it simple. High school, college, Northwest, Southeast, West Coast. We don't care. We just want the best guy."
One of the best guys this year happens to be in the Mariners' backyard, with catcher Reese McGuire of Kentwood High School in nearby Kent, Wash., regarded as a top 12 pick by most experts.
The Mariners took Zunino with their first pick last year, but McNamara wasn't giving any hints on whether McGuire was a consideration or not.
"He's a good-looking kid," McNamara said. "I can't really comment otherwise, but we're quite aware of where he's playing. We've been in there plenty. That's kind of neat because he's in your backyard, so we've gotten to know him and his family pretty well. He's a good player. He represents the Northwest pretty well."
It would seem surprising for Seattle to tab a catcher in the first round for a second straight year. They've been linked more with left-handed-hitting outfielder Austin Meadows out of Grayson High in Georgia or power-hitting corner infielder D.J. Peterson from New Mexico.
If they opt for pitching, the top arms likely to still be available in the No. 12 range include right-handers Ryne Stanek from Arkansas, Chris Anderson from Jacksonsville, Jonathan Crawford from Florida and Phil Bickford from Oaks Christian High School in California.
Here's a glance at what the Mariners have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Seattle could go any direction with the 12th selection, the main thing is getting the pick right. This is an organization with a lot of young pitching in the pipeline, but the club also continues searching for offensive help and certainly would welcome adding a promising bat to the mix.
The Mariners have had to play things a little more coy this year, given the variables of the 12th pick. McNamara says the team didn't want to tip its hand on some of the players it's most interested in, so Zduriencik wasn't able to view as many of the top prospects in person as in previous years.
But that's the way most organizations operate, given few teams are in a top-three spot and everyone is playing the guessing games on who is drawing interest from other clubs. The Mariners did their due diligence and McNamara and his scouting department have spent the past week setting up their Draft board. Now they'll wait to see who falls to them at 12, with fingers crossed that one of the three or four players they most covet will still be available.
The Mariners feel there's good value with the 12th pick, which is one they refused to give up by pursuing one of several free agents last winter that would have cost them that selection in compensation.
There are several outstanding college pitchers at the top of most team's boards, but after that it's tough to know what direction this year's Draft will take. Because of that, the Mariners will have several options among their favored picks, but there seems to be growing speculation they' try to land a position player with some pop if possible.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo has Seattle taking New Mexico's Peterson in his second mock draft. Others have linked the Mariners to Meadows. But in reality, the Mariners are playing things close to the vest and it's hard to know exactly where they'll wind up on Thursday.
Mariners' bonus pool
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $100,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.
Any team going up to five percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100-percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100-percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.
If the Mariners choose strictly on need, the outfield would seem the best place to start. With Franklin Gutierrez's contract coming to an end this year and Michael Morse, Raul Ibanez and Jason Bay all on one-year deals, there certainly seems room for an up-and-coming youngster for a club that went out and signed Endy Chavez and Corey Patterson this year just to add organizational depth.
That said, the Mariners would welcome offensive thump at any position. And while the organization has been lauded for its pitching depth in the Minors, this season has shown that cultivating young arms is a tough task as injuries have slowed Hultzen and Ramirez, while Paxton hasn't shown the consistency to warrant a promotion and Walker is still developing in Double-A at age 20.
The Mariners have plucked a pitcher with their first pick in five of the past seven years, the lone exceptions being Ackley in 2009 and Zunino last year. During Zduriencik's tenure, Seattle has picked a college player with its top pick three times -- all three when they had a high first-round pick -- and opted for a high school player first only in 2010 when they didn't have a selection until the sandwich round and took Walker with the 43rd pick.
• Recent Draft History •
2012 Mike Zunino, C, Triple-A Tacoma
2011 Danny Hultzen, LHP, Triple-A Tacoma
2010 Taijuan Walker, RHP, Double-A Jackson
2009 Dustin Ackley, 2B, Triple-A Tacoma
2008 Josh Fields, RHP, Houston Astros (15-day DL)
Zunino has shot up through the system since being drafted with the second pick last June, playing Class A ball in Everett and Double-A with Jackson in the final months last year and then opening this season at Triple- A Tacoma. Another youngster on the move is shortstop Brad Miller, a second-round pick in 2011 out of Clemson who was impressive last year with Class A High Desert and Double-A Jackson, then opened this season again at Jackson before getting promoted to Tacoma last week.
Right-handed rookie starter Maurer developed into the long-shot success story this spring as a 23rd-round pick in 2008 who leapfrogged highly touted pitching prospects Hultzen, Walker and Paxton to land a spot in the rotation.
But Maurer was sent down last week, so the biggest Cinderella now surely is veteran Ibanez, a 36th-round pick by Seattle in 1992 who has gone on to play 18 years in the Majors and is on his third go-round with the Mariners.
In The Show
In addition to Ibanez, there are only four other Mariners Draft picks who are on the current 25-man roster. Outfielder Michael Saunders was an 11th-round selection in 2004, third baseman Kyle Seager was a third-round pick in 2009, recently promoted infielder Nick Franklin was a first-rounder in 2009, and reliever Carter Capps was a third-round pick in 2011.