The Seattle Mariners, with the No. 14 overall pick, drafted Logan Gilbert, a right-handed pitcher from Stetson University.
Their second pick of the day went to a college bat. They selected Josh Stowers, a right-handed hitting outfielder from the University of Louisville.
Louisville is a a little more known than Stetson, the school in DeLand, Florida.
But the Hatters have produced some big-time pitchers. Stetson, from the Atlantic Sun Conference, is where Cleveland Indians ace Corey Kluber and New York Mets star Jacob deGrom went.
Gilbert is massive. He’s 6-foot-6, 225-pounds and was selected as his conference pitcher of the year as a sophomore. He has a fastball that can reach 97 mph, and according to scouting reports and he also has a good slider, slow curve and changeup. He leads NCAA Division I schools with 157 strikeouts in 107 innings pitched.
“This is everything I ever dreamed of,” said Gilbert, who landed at Stetson because he said he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school in Florida. “So it’s nice to see all the way since I started playing baseball for this to finally happen.
“And this isn’t the end. This is just the beginning. I’m ready to get to work now.”
Gilbert said he has a verbal agreement with the Mariners to sign with them once his college baseball season is finished. Stetson is in the NCAA super regionals against the University of North Carolina, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.
Some scouts had written him off because of some dead-arm issues earlier this spring when he lost some velocity and action on his breaking pitches, said Scott Hunter, the Mariners’ director of amateur scouting. The Mariners almost did, too.
“This kid fit every checkpoint as a pitcher that we could want to select,” Hunter said. “We were pleasantly surprised he was sitting there.”
Hunter said he was with some of his staff in the Dominican Republic this past December and they sat and performed an internal mock draft of who they might be able to get.
“Everybody had (Gilbert) in about the top three or four picks in our internal mock drafts,” Hunter said.
But Gilbert went through what he said were some mechanical issues that saw his velocity drop and breaking ball lose some sharpness earlier this spring – and Hunter said that knocked him down many draft boards, including the Mariners’.
He credited scouts Rob Mummau and Jesse Kapellusch for getting him back on board.
“They rallied the troops and said, ‘Hey, you need to go get back down here,’” Hunter said. “And the day before I left for Seattle I went to go see him again and his stuff was pretty much back to where it was in the summer. He just turned 21, he’s a young college performer and college athlete and we have a lot of time on our side and we got some upside on a college pitcher.”
Gilbert said he worked with a pitching coach and started to see his pitches perform better, though his performance certainly never tailed off. In a recent start against Oklahoma State, Gilbert struck out 14 batters in seven innings, throwing 121 pitches.
“I was a little tired during the season,” Gilbert said. “During the middle there was a week I didn’t throw just because of the rainouts and my arm has felt pretty lively since then. I got a bit of rest and it helped me jump back to where I am now.”
Hunter said that Gilbert will likely start in their Arizona instructional league and could be with short-season Single-A Everett after that.
Stowers is an everyday center fielder for Louisville, batting .311/.451/.483 with 31 stolen bases in 37 attempts, though he grades as more of a left fielder in pro ball, with a below-average arm, according to Baseball America. "He doesn't have one key carrying took, but the sum of his parts gives him upside," his Baseball America scouting report says.
But Hunter said he sees Stowers as an everyday center fielder.
This draft didn’t have a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, Hunter said. But he did say it possessed plenty of top-end high school arms and prep players, though the Mariners hadn’t drafted a high school pitcher in the first round since right-hander Taijuan Walker in 2010, the same year they drafted James Paxton in the fourth round.
And they hadn’t drafted a pitcher in the first round since right-hander Danny Hultzen in 2011.
Some other observations from Hunter heading into the draft: thin on upper-level college talent, and the Mariners valued upside, athleticism and tools-based players over safe picks. This is Hunter’s second year overseeing the draft after taking over for Tom McNamara, who has since been promoted to special assistant to the general manager.
The Detroit Tigers held the first overall pick and selected left-handed pitcher Casey Mize of the University of Auburn, who had a 12.5 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. That’s command, and he has a fastball that ranges 92-96 mph.
JJ Cooper, the executive editor with Baseball America, tweeted that Gilbert, immediately upon signing, “will become one of the best prospects in the system.”
If you’ve been following the Mariners’ farm-system grades, that’s not saying a ton. Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law had ranked the Mariners’ as the worst farm system in MLB.
In the last four picks before the Mariners were set at No. 14, Hunter never sat, standing, pacing, taking sips of what looked like the second can of sparkling water he’d worked on next to his computer in the middle of the room, all the while he would periodically check his phone. Mariners chairman John Stanton sat at a table right behind him and general manager Jerry Dipoto was not far off to his right in the room of more than 30 suits.
“Our minor-league organization might be ranked 30th out of 30 but it’s not something we accept,” Hunter said. “Our guys really took on the attitude of being prepared and never just assuming a player is going to be there.
“We haven’t been to the playoffs in 20 years and that’s something we take personally and I’ve instilled that and our staff is buying in.”
This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Mariners have selected outside of the top 10. Since Jerry Dipoto took over as the Mariners’ general manager in 2016, they have selected outfielder Kyle Lewis 11th overall (2016) and first baseman Evan White 17th overall (2017). Both were college bats.
Of previous Mariners’ draft picks, catcher Mike Zunino (first round, 2012), right-handed reliever Dan Altavilla (fifth round, 2014), left-hander James Paxton (fourth round, 2010) and third baseman Kyle Seager (third round, 2009) are currently on the 25-man active roster.
Mariners first-round draft picks
2018: RHP Logan Gilbert (Stetson University)
2017: 1B Evan White
2016: OF Kyle Lewis
2014: OF Alex Jackson
2013: 3B D.J. Peterson
2012: C Mike Zunino
2011: RHP Danny Hultzen
2010: RHP Taijuan Walker
2009: 2B Dustin Ackley; SS Nick Franklin; C Steven Baron
2008: RHP Josh Fields
2007: RHP Phillippe Aumont (11); 3B Matt Mangini
2006: RHP Brandon Morrow
2005: C Jeff Clement
2003: SS Adam Jones
2002: OF John Mayberry
2001: SS Michael Garciaparra
TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677