Top Mariners Draft pick from every season

February 13th, 2024

There's nothing quite like the excitement of a first-round pick. Over the years, the Mariners have made some pretty good ones, with their share of stars, busts, and the vast in-between. Here's a look back at Seattle’s previous top picks from each Draft since the club’s inception in 1977:

2023: Colt Emerson, INF, John Glenn High School (New Concord, Ohio) (No. 22)
Emerson had committed to Auburn University before Draft Day, after which he joined the Mariners. He was the highest high-school selection out of Ohio since Derek Dietrich was taken in the third round in 2007, and he joined Ken Griffey Jr. (No. 1 overall in 1987) as the Mariners’ lone first-round selections out of the Buckeye State.

2022: Cole Young, SS, North Allegheny High School (Wexford, Pa.) (No. 21)
Young had what Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto described as one of "the prettiest swings in the Draft" for his class. A lefty-swinging shortstop, Young's calling card is his elite hit tool, and he's expected to remain at the premium position rather than move around the diamond.

2021: Harry Ford, C, North Cobb High School (Kennesaw, Ga.) (No. 12)
Ford has spent most of his amateur career behind the plate, but the 5-foot-10, 200-pounder has the versatility, athleticism, quickness and arm to move around the diamond or play outfield. He comes from a talent-rich state that has produced four first-round catchers in the past seven Drafts, along with Max Pentecost, Tyler Stephenson, Anthony Seigler and Joey Bart. Ford grew up a Braves fan and called Freddie Freeman and Jason Heyward two of his favorite players, but he said that he thinks his swing looks more like Ronald Acuña Jr.

2020: Emerson Hancock, RHP, University of Georgia (No. 6)
Hancock finished his Georgia career with a 16-7 record and 3.47 ERA in 33 starts, striking out 206 with 55 walks in 192 innings. He was also named the 2020 Vince Dooley Athlete of the Year as the school’s top male student-athlete. He profiles as a top-of-the-rotation-type starter that will be a huge staple of the Mariners’ long-term core.

2019: George Kirby, RHP, Elon University (No. 20)
Kirby embodies the Mariners’ pitching philosophy of “controlling the zone” and consistently throwing strikes. That was the primary factor in the club selecting the lanky right-hander, who led all NCAA Division I pitchers with a stunning 17.83 strikeout-to-walk ratio and the fewest walks per nine innings at just .611 in his final season at Elon.

2018: Logan Gilbert, RHP, Stetson University (No. 14)
Gilbert became the highest pick ever out of Stetson University, which is saying something, given that the school has also produced Cy Young Award winners Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber. Gilbert has been the headline pitcher in the Mariners’ No. 3-ranked farm system, per MLB Pipeline, and he’s already wowing at the Major League level after debuting in May 2021.

2017: Evan White, 1B, University of Kentucky (No. 17)
White drew comparisons to Mariners legend John Olerud for his defense by scouting director Scott Hunter after the club selected him, and Hunter would know -- he played alongside Olerud when competing for a big league job in the Mets’ organization when Olerud was coming up. White’s glove has lived up to that lofty billing; he won a Gold Glove Award in his rookie season.

2016: Kyle Lewis, OF, Mercer University (No. 11)
Despite spending his college days at a smaller school in Georgia, Lewis was touted by many as the top player in the country, and he fortunately fell to the Mariners outside of the top 10, becoming general manager Jerry Dipoto’s first first-round pick. After battling a few significant injuries in his Minor League upbringing, Lewis’ development culminated in 2020, when he won the AL Rookie of the Year Award.

2015: Nick Neidert, RHP, Peachtree Ridge HS (Ga.) (No. 60)
Neidert was Seattle’s most recent top overall pick out of high school, touted with a wipeout changeup to go with an effective fastball. But Dipoto later flipped him in the deal to bring in Dee Strange-Gordon when the Mariners were going all-in ahead of the 2017 season.

2014: Alex Jackson, C, Rancho Bernardo HS (Calif.) (No. 6)
Jackson was considered by many to be the top high school prospect in the country -- as a junior. He followed that up by jacking his 47th career homer, the most in the San Diego Section area at the time. But he couldn’t quite keep that pace going in three Minor League seasons with Seattle, which wound up trading him to Atlanta with a player to be named later for Max Povse and Rob Whalen.

2013: D.J. Peterson, 3B, University of New Mexico (No. 12)
Peterson became the highest drafted player out of New Mexico, but he wound up never making it to the big leagues with Seattle. The Mariners designated him for assignment in 2017, and he’s since spent time in the White Sox and Reds organizations.

2012: Mike Zunino, C, University of Florida (No. 12)
With incredibly raw power and at a rare position to possess it as a catcher, the scouting world loved Zunino entering the 2012 Draft, especially the Mariners. He was a consensus first-team All-American, the Dick Howser Trophy recipient and Baseball America’s College Player of the Year during his junior season at the University of Florida. Though he showed some glimpses of greatness with the Mariners, including 25 homers in 2017, he wound up hitting just .207/.276/.406 over six seasons in Seattle, and he was dealt to Tampa Bay when the Mariners began their most recent rebuild.

2011: Danny Hultzen, LHP, University of Virginia (No. 2)
Danny Hultzen was the ACC Pitcher of the Year in 2010 at the University of Virginia, then he one-upped himself by earning the John Olerud Award in ’11 as college baseball’s best two-way player. That led to the Mariners taking him No. 2 overall, behind only Gerrit Cole. But no pitcher with as much prominence in the Mariners’ farm system suffered as much of a downfall as Hultzen, who battled multiple shoulder injuries that required surgery.

2010: Taijuan Walker, RHP, Yucaipa HS (Calif.) (No. 43)
Basketball was his first love, but Walker wowed on the baseball field in high school and wound up carving out a promising Minors career with the Mariners, which included an appearance in the 2012 Futures Game. He became a staple in the rotation in 2015-16 then was dealt to the D-backs in the Mitch Haniger trade, only to return in ’20 before being again traded, this time to Toronto.

2009: Dustin Ackley, OF, University of North Carolina (No. 2)
Ackley was arguably the best college hitter in history -- and the Mariners wanted him badly, so much so that first-year general manager Jack Zduriencik shelled out a $7.5 million contract 15 minutes before the deadline to sign that year’s picks. The only three-time All-American in the Tar Heels’ rich baseball history, Ackley hit .410 at UNC and helped the team reach the College World Series. Stephen Strasburg was that year’s Draft star, but Ackley was a very close second. Billed a can’t-miss pick, Ackley went on to have a solid rookie season, but that was his only highlight in Seattle.

2008: Josh Fields, RHP, University of Georgia (No. 20)
Fields was the SEC Pitcher of the Year and a first-team All-American for the Georgia Bulldogs team that finished runner-up to Fresno State in the 2008 College World Series. But he dealt with a few arm injuries and never made his way to the big league club, and he was eventually dealt to Boston three years later.

2007: Phillippe Aumont, RHP, Ecole Du Versant (Gatineau, Québec) (No. 11)
At the time, Aumont was the third-earliest Canadian-born Draft selection, following Adam Loewen and Jeff Francis, both of whom were selected in 2002. But he wound up being a chip used to acquire Cliff Lee in the blockbuster trade in ’09.

2006: Brandon Morrow, RHP, University of California, Berkeley (No. 5)
Morrow had so much potential that he quickly pitched his way onto the big league club one year after being selected, but as a reliever. Then, he earned a spot in the rotation by the end of 2008 and wound up taking a no-hitter into the eighth inning in his first career start. In ’09, he was dealt to Toronto for Johermyn Chavez and Brandon League.

2005: Jeff Clement, C, University of Southern California (No. 3)
Clement won the Johnny Bench Award as the nation's top collegiate catcher at USC, which wowed the Mariners enough to take him so high. But injuries hurt him mightily, and he wound up playing in just 75 games for Seattle, hitting .237/.309/.393 before eventually being dealt to Pittsburgh in 2009, where he played parts of just two more seasons.

2004: Matt Tuiasosopo, SS, Woodinville HS (Wash.) (No. 93)
A local guy, Tuiasosopo was a two-sport star in high school and committed to the University of Washington football team before signing with the Mariners after they selected him in the third round of the 2004 Draft. Though he never quite panned out like the top 10 prospect he was touted as, Tuiasosopo had a few memorable moments over parts of three seasons with the big league club, most notably notching his first MLB hit against Andy Pettitte in Morrow's near no-hitter in '08. He was also a big contributor over four seasons at Triple-A Tacoma.

2003: Adam Jones, SS, Samuel F. B. Morse HS (Calif.) (No. 37)
Jones drew praise for his versatility, drafted as a pitcher and shortstop, though he wound up converting to the outfield after opting to sign with the Mariners instead of playing at San Diego State for Tony Gwynn. He became a five-time All-Star, but not until after he was traded to Baltimore in 2008 as the key piece in the trade for Erik Bedard, who was coming off a top five Cy Young finish.

2002: John Mayberry, OF, Rockhurst HS (Mo.) (No. 28)
Mayberry wound up being one that got away, as the Mariners selected him with their first-round pick, but he opted to instead attend Stanford. He wound up being taken by the Rangers three years later and playing parts of seven seasons in the big leagues.

2001: Michael Garciaparra, SS, Don Bosco Technical Institute (Calif.) (No. 36)
The brother of six-time All-Star Nomar Garciaparra, Michael Garciaparra was drafted as the heir apparent shortstop in Seattle after Alex Rodriguez signed with the Rangers in free agency the offseason prior. But Garciaparra never quite lived up to his lofty hype and wound up spending six seasons in the Minors with Seattle, topping out at Triple-A Tacoma.

2000: Sam Hays, LHP, Waco HS (Texas) (No. 116)
Hayes never pitched beyond Short-Season ball and he made just 25 pro appearances in the organization before tumbling out and never playing professionally again.

1999: Ryan Christianson, C, Arlington HS (Calif.) (No. 11)
A highly touted catcher out of high school, Christianson was off to a strong start with Seattle before injuries slowed him down. He was later suspended for testing positive for a banned substance, and he wound up never making it to the Majors.

1998: Matt Thornton, LHP, Grand Valley State University (No. 22)
Thornton was brought up in the Mariners’ system as a starter, though he wound up blossoming into a solid reliever, earning an All-Star bid in ‘10, but not until after he was traded to the White Sox, and he pitched in 13 total seasons in the Majors.

1997: Ryan Anderson, LHP, Divine Child HS (Mich.) (No. 19)
The 6-foot-10 lefty drew comps to Randy Johnson and was touted as the Mariners’ top prospect in most circles for a multi-year stretch. But injuries prevented him from pitching from 2001-04, and he wound up tumbling out of the system altogether and retiring from baseball in ’05 after an attempted comeback with the Brewers.

1996: Gil Meche, RHP, Acadiana HS (La.) (No. 22)
Meche had his sights set on playing at LSU, but he wound up signing with Seattle after the club surprisingly selected him so high. He battled a shoulder injury that cost him the 2001 season after pitching well in his first two years in the Majors, but he didn’t truly hit his stride until he signed as a free agent with Kansas City in ’06, with whom he blossomed into an All-Star.

1995: Jose Cruz, OF, Rice University (No. 3)
Cruz was brought in to supplement an already strong outfield core that included Ken Griffey Jr. and Jay Buhner, but he wound up not sticking around for long, as he was dealt to the Blue Jays for Paul Spoljaric and Mike Timlin at the 1997 Trade Deadline.

1994: Jason Varitek, C, Georgia Tech (No. 14)
Varitek became a big-time “one that got away” player after the Mariners traded him and Derek Lowe to Boston at the ’97 Trade Deadline in exchange for Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek of course went on to become a three-time All-Star and two-time World Series champion as a staple for the Red Sox.

1993: Alex Rodriguez, SS, Westminster Christian School (Fla.) (No. 1)
Rodriguez oozed with so much potential that the Mariners signed him to a three-year, $1.3 million deal with a $1 million signing bonus. By Spring Training the following year, in 1994, Rodriguez was widely considered the game’s top prospect at age 18. He debuted that season after playing in just 82 Minor League games and just 13 months removed from his high school graduation. He of course went on to become a four-time All-Star with Seattle (14 times overall) and one of the greatest players in club history.

1992: Ron Villone, LHP, University of Massachusetts Amherst (No. 14)
Villone soared through the Mariners’ Minor League system but wound up being traded to San Diego by then-GM Woody Williams shortly after he made his big league debut in ‘95, following 19 games in which he compiled a 7.91 ERA. He wound up back in Seattle nine years later as a free agent.

1991: Shawn Estes, LHP, Douglas HS (Nev.) (No. 11)
Estes seemed destined to play college ball at Stanford, but the Mariners selecting him so high made the professional opportunity too big to pass up. But he never suited up for Seattle, as he was shipped to San Francisco in 1995 with Wilson Delgado for Salomon Torres. He wound up earning an All-Star bid for the Giants in ’97 and played 13 seasons in the big leagues.

1990: Marc Newfield, 1B, Marina HS (Calif.) (No. 6)
Newfield was selected ahead of players that went on to have fruitful careers, including Mike Mussina, Garrett Anderson, Troy Percival and Ray Durham. And the early leg of his Minors career made it look like he was destined for big things in Seattle. But he wound up hitting just .201/.236/.317 in 58 games spread over three seasons before being dealt to San Diego.

1989: Roger Salkeld, RHP, Saugus HS (Calif.) (No. 3)
The grandson of former big leaguer Bill Salked, Roger limped to a 6.26 ERA in 16 games for the Mariners from 1993-94 and never made it back to the Majors after a 29-game stint with the Reds in ’96.

1988: Tino Martinez, 1B, University of Tampa (No. 14)
Martinez was a late bloomer before he finally broke out in ’95, his sixth and final season with the Mariners, when he earned an All-Star bid and crushed 31 homers as a key cog for the team that saved baseball in Seattle. Though he is more remembered for winning four World Series titles with the Yankees, with whom he signed in free agency after that epic playoff run, Martinez is still one of the more fondly remembered players in team history.

1987: Ken Griffey Jr., OF, Archbishop Moeller HS (Ohio) (No. 1)
Griffey is arguably the best No. 1 overall pick in Draft history; he was the first such player to be enshrined in Cooperstown in 2016, a feat that has been matched by only Chipper Jones since. Everyone knows The Kid’s story, one of a rocket ascension through the Minors and with lofty prospect hype before there was prospect hype.

1986: Pat Lennon, SS, Whiteville HS (N.C.) (No. 8)
Lennon is one of the more disappointing picks in franchise history, having taken just 10 at-bats for the Mariners and not until five years after they drafted him.

1985: Mike Campbell, RHP, University of Hawaii at Manoa (No. 7)
Campbell was the local kid who was supposed to be a big part of the Mariners’ rotation as they sought their first winning season. Raised in West Seattle, Campbell attended the University of Hawaii, and though he showed some promise after debuting in 1987 and contributing in the two seasons after, he’s probably most remembered for being the player to be named later in the trade that landed Randy Johnson from the Expos.

1984: Bill Swift, RHP, University of Maine (No. 2)
Swift was one of the Mariners’ more productive first-round picks in their early years, going on to pitch in 282 games with a 4.33 ERA over parts of seven seasons before eventually being traded to San Francisco with with Dave Burba and Michael Jackson for Kevin Mitchell and Mike Remlinger in 1991.

1983: Darrel Akerfelds, RHP, Colorado Mesa University (No. 7)
Just five months after he was drafted, Akerfelds was flipped to Oakland with Bill Caudill for Dave Beard and Bob Kearney.

1982: Spike Owen, SS, University of Texas (No. 6)
Owen was the next pick after Dwight Gooden was taken by the Mets, and though he didn’t come close to matching Doc’s production, he did spend the first four of his 13 years in the Majors with the Mariners, hitting .239/.301/.327.

1981: Mike Moore, RHP, Oral Roberts University (No. 1)
Moore became an All-Star and Cy Young Award finalist, but not until after his seven seasons with the Mariners. He was a key rotation piece for the 1989 World Series-champion A’s, whom he joined after going 66-96 with a 4.38 ERA in 227 games for the Mariners from 1982-88.

1980: Darnell Coles, SS, Dwight D. Eisenhower HS (Calif.) (No. 6)
Coles turned down a baseball and football scholarship at UCLA to sign with the Mariners after they selected him so high, but he wound up hitting just .214/.298/.289 and playing in just 102 games over parts of three seasons from 1983-85, after which he was traded to the Tigers for Rich Monteleone. He wound up rejoining the Mariners in ’88 in a trade from Pittsburgh.

1979: Al Chambers, OF, John Harris HS (Pa.) (No. 1)
Chambers was one of the biggest misses in MLB Draft history, having been touted by the Mariners as the next Jim Rice, according to archives from The Seattle Times. He finally broke into The Show four years after he was drafted and contributed again in ’84 and ’85, but his entire Major League career lasted just 57 games, over which he hit .208/.326/.292. He was released late in Spring Training in ’86.

1978: Tito Nanni, OF, Chestnut Hill Academy HS (Pa.) (No. 6)
Nanni had a lot of potential out of the Philadelphia suburbs, but he never could quite figure it out in the Mariners’ Minor League system. He spent six seasons there then tumbled around in the Angels and Blue Jays organizations but never reached the big leagues.

1977: Dave Henderson, OF, Dos Palos HS (Calif.) (No. 26)
Henderson was the first pick in club history, and like quite a few on this list, he didn’t hit his stride until after he left Seattle. He wound up helping four of his teams reach the World Series between stints in Oakland and Boston.