Prep Baseball Report

2023 MLB Draft Preview: Seattle's Slew of Selections

David Seifert
Director of College Scouting

As the clock ticks towards the opening bell of the 2023 MLB Draft (July 9-11), the Seattle Mariners get ready to cash in on numerous high picks. With four of the top 57 selections, they look to strengthen a
thinning farm system and continue a supply of impactful prospects to the parent club.

Seattle's bevy of high picks is not unprecedented. Recently, they had four of the first 78 overall picks in the five-round covid draft of 2020. In that draft they chose exclusively the college route (four, 4-year picks and one JUCO selection). So far the results have been mixed on No. 6 overall Emerson Hancock (Georgia), No. 43 Zach DeLoach (Texas A&M), No. 64 Connor Phillips (McLennan JC, TX) and No. 78 Kaden Polcovich (Oklahoma State). DeLoach is batting over .300 in AAA and is statistically the best of the quartet to date.

In 2021 the Reds headed to the war room with four of the top 53 and exited with two players who have already contributed in the Major Leagues. Matt McLain (UCLA) was chosen No. 17 overall and No. 53 overall Andrew Abbott (Virginia) recently debuted (video below), making two starts totaling twelve innings and a 0.00 ERA. Their other top 53 picks included Florida prep Jay Allen at No. 30 and Mat Nelson (Florida State) at No. 35.

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Last summer the Rockies held four of the top 50. They selected Gabriel Hughes (Gonzaga) at No. 10, Sterlin Thompson (Florida) No. 31, Jordan Beck (Tennessee) No. 38 and state of Washington prep Jackson Cox at No. 50. And so far, so great for those four picks. Hughes ranks as the No. 5 best prospect in the organization, followed by Thompson at No. 7, Beck at No. 9 and Cox No. 12.

Also, since 2010 there have been several other clubs in a similar situation. Here’s a quick look at who they picked and how they fared.

Warning: The “average” draft class under these circumstances has been set pretty low. On a 20-80 scouting scale it is comparable to a 30-40 grade.

Los Angeles Angels (2010): Talk about a total miss. With five picks in the top 40 overall the Halos had a golden opportunity to rebuild a depleted farm system and work quickly towards long term success in the AL West. Instead it was a draft where their top player turned out to be 8th rounder Cole Calhoun (14.1 career WAR). The only one of the top five picks who accumulated a positive career WAR was No. 29 overall pick Cam Bedrosian. Other top 40 picks included No. 18 Kaleb Cowart, No. 30 Chevy Clarke, No. 37 Taylor Lindsey, No. 40 Ryan Bolden.

Toronto (2010): This was the beginning of a three year run where Toronto held at least five of the top 61 overall picks. The results were mixed each year, but the plethora of early picks did help them achieve appearances in both the 2015 and 2016 ALCS. With all five of their top 61 overall selections the Jays chose pitchers: Deck McGuire at No. 11, Aaron Sanchez No. 34, Noah Syndergaard No. 38, Asher Wojciechowski No. 41 and Griffin Murphy No. 61. Syndergaard’s 16.0 career WAR leads the quintet.

Tampa Bay (2011): If not for No. 52 overall Blake Snell who was a late developer and has now accumulated a 15.4 career WAR, this draft class would be a total miss. In a historic slew of top selections, Tampa Bay held six of the top 42 and ten of the top 60 picks. Of those 10, five reached the Major Leagues, but only two others besides Snell posted a positive WAR: No. 24 Taylor Guerrieri (0.2 WAR) and No. 31 Mikie Mahtook (0.3). Others in those top ten included No. 32 Jake Hager, No. 38 Brandon Martin, No. 41 Tyler Goeddel, No. 42 Jeff Ames, No. 56 Kes Carter, No. 59 Grayson Garvin, No. 60 James Harris.

Toronto (2011): Round Two with five of the top 57 overall selections was the least productive of the Jays 2010-2012 drafts. Joe Musgrove was the lone Major League contributor. Other picks included No. 21 Tyler Beede, No. 35 Jacob Anderson, No. 53 Dwight Smith, Jr., and No. 57 Kevin Comer.

Toronto (2012): Round Three. Five swings – one home run and four whiffs. That’s the story of the Blue Jays 2012 draft when they held five of the top 60 picks. The Round-Tripper: Marcus Stroman, a college pick from Duke who was chosen No. 22 overall. The misses: No. 17 DJ Davis, No. 50 Matt Smoral, No. 58 Mitch Nay, No. 60 Tyler Gonzales.

Atlanta (2015): With four picks in the top 54 and five in the top 75 the Braves scored an “A” led by the 41st overall pick, Austin Riley and his current 13.5 WAR. Other picks included Kolby Allard at No. 14, Michael Soroka No. 28, Lucas Herbert No. 54 and AJ Minter at No. 75. Prep picks Allard (traded to Texas in 2019, but now back with the Braves) and Herbert were busts, but the three other selections all made strong contributions to the Braves most recent run of success in the NL East, including all-star appearances by both Soroka (2019) and Riley (2022).

Houston (2015): Alex Bregman AND Kyle Tucker. Two all-stars and one is a potential Hall of Famer. That’s really enough said. But, some quick details. Bregman (32.0 WAR) was selected No. 2 overall after the Astros failed to sign Brady Aiken at No. 1 overall from the 2014 draft. Tucker (13.4), at No. 5, was their regular pick based on order of finish from the 2014 season. Houston whiffed on their two others in the top 46 with No. 37 overall Daz Cameron and No. 46 Thomas Eshelman, but that doesn’t matter one bit when the first two selections have been all-stars.

Kansas City (2018): The Royals chose a more conservative route when they held four of the top 40 and five of the top 58 picks. They laid it all on the line with college pitchers starting with Brady Singer at No. 18 overall. They followed at No. 33 Jackson Kowar, No. 34 Daniel Lynch, No. 40 Kris Bubic and No. 58 Jonathan Bowlan. All except Bowlan have reached the Major Leagues, but none have made an impact. Singer (5.2 WAR), Lynch (0.4) and Bubic (1.7) have recorded positive WARs and there is still upside for growth.

Arizona (2019): It’s tough to rival what Houston did in 2015, but the D-Backs 2019 draft looks very promising and had a much different, more challenging dynamic. They held five of the top 56 and seven of the top 75 selections, but none in the top 15 compared to the Astros two of the top five. With an equal mix of collegians and preps with varying levels of ceiling, Arizona set the foundation for what is now the No. 3 ranked player development system in baseball. Prep pick Corbin Carroll, selected No. 16 overall, has already accumulated a 3.8 WAR in his first 91 Major League games. He is currently the leading candidate for NL Rookie of the Year. College pitchers No. 56 Ryne Nelson and No. 74 overall Tommy Henry are both in the D-Back rotation, while another college arm No. 34 Drey Jameson has been in a swing role. No. 75 selection Dominic Fletcher is currently batting over .300 in 85 plate appearances. Prep lefty pitcher Blake Walston, selected at No. 26 is having success as a starter in AAA. Prep right-hander Brennan Malone is the lone selection who has not panned out to date. He was traded in January of 2020 to Pittsburgh and is currently on the 60-day DL.

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