Assuming your knowledge of high school baseball in the San Diego area is no better than mine, you probably aren’t familiar with Alex Jackson.
Unless you’re a rabid LSU fan whose devotion to the Tigers extends beyond football, there’s little chance that Aaron Nola’s name rings a bell.
Jackson and Nola, it turns out, share something in common: They are prime candidates to be selected by the Mariners in the first round of the Major League Baseball first-year player draft, scheduled to begin June 5.
The MLB draft is to the NFL draft what Stuart Little is to Godzilla. The baseball draft has minimal buildup. It’s “held” in a TV studio but conducted by conference call. And though the draft lasts three days, same as the NFL, baseball manages to squeeze in 40 rounds, instead of seven.
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In other words, it’s actually kind of watchable. Prospects don’t march onto the stage with their own walk-out music. A throng of yahoos isn’t there to provide immediate, witless feedback. Best of all, viewers are spared the nonsensical observations ESPN football analyst Trent Dilfer provided Saturday morning as the Seahawks were on the clock in the fourth round.
Dilfer compared a typical draft-eligible player’s interaction with a coach to, well, this:
“You’re talking to a coach,” Dilfer began. “The coach is a decision maker. The coach thinks you’re pretty good looking. The coach wants to date you.
“That’s interpreted as, ‘Wow, this guy wants to marry me.’ No!
He wants to date you. He wants you to like him back. The issue in the process is, who is going to marry you?”
As Dilfer continued to beat and stomp on his tortured metaphor, Trey Wingo, anchoring the third-day coverage on ESPN, wore a look of something between puzzlement and heaven-help-us, the-Apocalypse-is-upon-us panic.
Poor Dilfer. He was among the millions of victims of DOS (Draft Overload Syndrome), except it was his job to go on camera and talk — and talk and talk and talk — while the rest of us had the luxury of tuning in or out, whichever was convenient.
Nobody has ever shown symptoms of DOS during the baseball draft, an event so low key it borders on irrelevance.
Even the top prospects — the first-round, cream-of-the-croppers — are sent to the low minors for a crash course in Humiliation Management. The lucky ones make it to the bigs in two, three, maybe four years.
But the draft is not irrelevant to the Mariners, whose starting lineup Tuesday against Tampa Bay included six home-grown players: center fielder James Jones (fourth round, 2009); right fielder Stefen Romero (12th round, 2010); third baseman Kyle Seager (third round, 2009); left fielder Dustin Ackley (first round, 2009); catcher Mike Zunino (first round, 2012) and shortstop Brad Miller (second round, 2011).
The Mariners own two first-round picks in the June draft. They’ll select sixth overall, because their 71-91 record last season was sixth-worst among major league teams, and they’re due a compensation pick at No. 28 because they submitted a $14.1 qualifying offer to retain free agent Kendrys Morales, which he declined.
Seattle also is slotted to choose at No. 75 and No. 81. Quite a haul, potentially — four picks among the first 81 — and a contrast to the Seahawks, whose Super Bowl championship reduced their first choice to No. 32, converted to No. 45 after a series of downward trades.
What will the Mariners do? General manager Jack Zduriencik adheres to a closed-shop policy about this stuff, so we can only speculate while borrowing information gathered by experts.
Baseball America has Jackson, a high school catcher/outfielder from Rancho Bernardo, Calif., going to Seattle at No. 6.
A scouting report on Jackson, assembled by ESPN’s Keith Law: “A very physical kid, 6-foot-1 or so and probably should be pushing 220 pounds at this point, with a mostly clean, potent right-handed swing that should generate line-drive power to his pull side and at least doubles power to the opposite field.”
Another possibility is LSU’s Nola, a right-handed starter who throws from a three-quarter arm slot that produces sink on a low 90 mph fastball. His signature pitch, apparently, is a drop-dead curve that misses bats.
If the Mariners select either of these talents next month, there doesn’t figure to be any dancing in the streets, or impetuous honking of car horns. The next party assembled to view the MLB draft will be the first.
But if recent history holds, the 2014 baseball draft shapes up as more significant for the Mariners than the 2014 football draft was for the Seahawks.
Crazy, no? Drafts are the only thing in sports where losing is preferable to winning. I wish I had a metaphor in store, but after three days of NFL draft bombardment, which followed three months of NFL draft bombardment, my mind is a blank.
The floor is yours, Dilfer.