Quick note: I will be away from the blog and covering the team for this week because of mandatory time off that rhymes with Curto.
The Major League Baseball Amateur draft begins Thursday evening and runs through Saturday. Obviously, there isn't quite the hype that there is with the NFL or NBA draft. Why? Well, most players drafted - even first round picks - won't help the major league squad for a few years after being selected.
Still it's an important part of the building of any organization. The Mariners have placed a lot of emphasis on the draft for the organization's success because GM Jack Zduriencik's heavy amateur scouting background. His sidekick - amateur scouting director Tom McNamara - has been running the draft since 2009. He will speak with the media on Tuesday.
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What are the strengths and weaknesses of this upcoming draft?
The strength of this draft -- as it has been for the last several years -- is in its pitching, this year particularly from the right side, with power arms like Stanford right-hander Mark Appel and Oklahoma right-hander Jonathan Gray leading the charge. There's also a plethora of third-baseman that will likely go in the first round, and it's one of the deeper prep catcher classes we've seen in a long time.
In general though, this is not considered a very strong class. There's very little depth up the middle, with no college shortstops earning a first-round grade from me. There's very little depth in the outfield, and there's a chance we won't see a single left-handed collegiate starter taken in the first-round, which is a rarity to be sure.
What should people know about the changed slotting system we saw last season?
Unlike in the past where the slots were more suggestions than actual guidelines, teams now have an allocated pool based on where they select in the first ten rounds that they cannot exceed by more than ten percent or they will risk losing draft choices. Every draft pick after the tenth round can be given more than a $100,000 dollar bonus, and any money given past that point will count against their pool. This year the Mariners have $6,132,700 dollars to spend, which makes it difficult to go well over-slot with any of their first few picks.
Who do you think the Mariners will take?
Seattle is notoriously tight-lipped about their draft process, but they've been linked to several names. The name getting the most buzz right now is Lakewood High School (Calif.) J.P. Crawford, a switch-hitting shortstop with good bat speed but not much power projection. They've also been attached to Arkansas right-hander Ryne Stanek, a hard throwing hurler who the Mariners selected in the third round in 2010, and Mississippi State's Hunter Renfroe, an outfielder with plus tools across the board who has put it together this year after struggling his freshman and sophomore years. There is also a rumor that Seattle could work out a deal with Oaks Christian High School (Calif.) Phil Bickford, a 6-4, 200 pound 17 year old who has been up to 97 but doesn't have much in terms of secondary offerings yet. If I was a betting man, I would guess that Crawford is the pick, with Peterson and Stanek next in line.
Who do you think the Mariners should take?
Renfroe is likely to be the highest rated player on my board to still be around, and I think he could be in Safeco Field as soon as mid-2014. If someone like Grayson High School (Ga.) outfielder Austin Meadows or LoganvilleHigh School (Ga.) outfielder Clint Frazier fell to them, it would be quite the coup as well if they did somehow fall to the Mariners, which doesn't seem likely -- though not impossible -- at this time.
Where does Kentwood catcher Reese McGuire get selected?
McGuire is considered by many to be the best prep catcher in the draft and is a lock to go in the first-round thanks to his improved receiving and 80 (on the 20-80 scouting scale) arm. The hit tool still concerns some clubs, but I would be stunned if he's still available after Pittsburgh at 14, and he could go as high as No. 4 to Minnesota
What about any other Washington players?
Gonzaga left-hander Marco Gonzales is considered one of the "safer" picks in this draft, a southpaw who only throws in the mid 80's but offers a plus change and gets rave reviews from scouts for his competitiveness. He could go off the board in the mid 20's, maybe as early as 21 to Tampa Bay.
Wenatchee's Dustin Driver was a potential first-round guy coming into the year, but had some mixed results and looks to more more of a mid second-early third round guy at this point. Driver -- a right-handed pitcher -- offers a low 90's fastball and will flash a solid curve ball, but some teams think he's a reliever, and some clubs could be scared off by his UCLA commitment.
Archbishop McCarthy shortstop Trever Morrison hasn't gotten the hype that McGuire and Driver have, but he's a slick fielding shortstop with good bat speed. I wouldn't expect him to go terribly high, though, because his commitment to Oregon State is considered very strong.
You can also expect Washington State outfielders Jason Monda and Adam Nebulowich, PierceCollege right-hander Elliot Morris, University of Washington right-hander Austin Voth, and Montesano High School left-hander Layne Bruner to hear their name called sometime over the weekend as well.