The Seattle Mariners wrapped up the 2019 MLB Draft on Wednesday by continuing to restock college and high school arms. The club selected pitchers with 23 of its 41 total picks in this years draft, including its first five.
“With how we’ve kind of solidified and strengthened the middle of our organization with some bats ... it was really important to start building a foundation of pitching,” Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter said. “We did get a few bats in this draft, but with the depth of the draft being more on the pitching side than the college bats, we decided it was an opportunity to jump the (pitching) market.”
Seattle started off Monday and Tuesday by selecting five college starters, including first-round pick George Kirby out of Elon at No. 20 overall, before grabbing the first of its 17 position players. The Mariners typically picked pitchers in bunches, separated every so often by a defensive player with a reliable bat.
“If we didn’t get a hitter with our first pick, we were just going to make a run with pitching, and we did that,” Hunter said.
In the later rounds, Hunter said many of Seattle’s picks were data driven, looking for pitchers who could consistently attack the strike zone. He identified right-handers Reid Morgan (Round 13, No. 396 overall), a starter out of South Carolina, and Fred Villarreal (25, 756), a reliever out of Houston, who are both fourth-year college juniors, as two who could have developmental upside.
“We identified guys that could throw a ton of strikes, and had really good breaking balls,” Hunter said. “We think, over the last few years, we’ve really started developing more velocity. We tried to identify a few of those guys that we can build upon, and maybe if we increase their velocity a little bit, can come in and become real prospects.”
Of the 23 pitchers the Mariners selected, most were seasoned college players — and a mix of starters and relievers — but they did take a chance on seven high school arms, beginning with left-hander Michael Limoncelli in the sixth round Tuesday, who underwent Tommy John surgery earlier that morning.
“We did take a few shots,” Hunter said. “We took three more high school arms in the teens there, and one of them is already signed, and two of them I think will get done. It’s just the strategy of not only trying to take all of these college pitchers that should move pretty quick in our system with the lack of obstacles in front of them, but I also wanted to keep aware of continuing to build our lower levels up with some young pitchers that we can develop and take a little more time with.”
Hunter said one of his objectives when he joined the organization — this was his third draft — was to build competitive age brackets throughout the minors.
“It’s something I wanted to do when I came in in 2017 was try to continue to build waves of talent at different age levels so we can hopefully produce a steady stream of impact players in the big leagues,” Hunter said.
He said 26 of the 41 selections have already made commitments to the Mariners, and he thinks there are a few more that could commit to deals later in the summer.
MARINERS DRAFT LOCALS
With their fifth-round pick Tuesday (No. 156), the Mariners selected Bellingham High School product Austin Shenton.
Hunter said selecting Shenton, who also played at Bellevue College before FIU, was “one of the nicest stories” the Mariners have had during the draft in the three seasons he’s been here, because of the local ties.
“The kid was in tears because he’s a lifelong Mariner fan,” Hunter said. “He went to FIU to get more baseball experience and get outside of his comfort zone, and he’s done extremely well.”
Seattle drafted two more locals Wednesday in outfielder Trent Tingelstad (22, 666) and right-hander Garrett Westberg (26, 786). Tingelstad played for Marysville-Pilchuck High School and Everett Community College before heading to Louisiana-Monroe. Westberg played for Decatur and TCC before heading to UCF.