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Mariners seek big return on top-pick investment

June 8, 2017

SEATTLE -- With general manager Jerry Dipoto looking to add depth to a Minor League system that he's shuffled considerably with a flurry of trades over the past year and a half, the Mariners will seek to stockpile athletic players and pitchers who fit their "control-the-zone" model when this year's

SEATTLE -- With general manager Jerry Dipoto looking to add depth to a Minor League system that he's shuffled considerably with a flurry of trades over the past year and a half, the Mariners will seek to stockpile athletic players and pitchers who fit their "control-the-zone" model when this year's Draft takes place next week.
The 2017 Draft will run from Monday, June 12, through Wednesday, June 14, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and at 3 p.m PT on the 12th. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at 10 a.m. PT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on on June 14, beginning at 9 a.m. PT.
Go to to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.
:: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::
Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Mariners, whose first selection is the 17th overall pick on Monday.
In about 50 words
The Mariners haven't hit on many of their top picks over the past decade. Only four of their first selections in 10 years are still in the organization and just one -- catcher Mike Zunino -- is on the big league club. Tom McNamara oversaw the past nine Drafts, but he's now a special assistant to Dipoto, with former international cross-checker Scott Hunter taking over as director of amateur scouting.
The scoop
It'll take time to see how much Hunter's presence changes the drafting philosophy, but it's safe to expect the Mariners will again continue swinging toward Dipoto's pursuit of hitters with a strong on-base percentage and pitchers who throw strikes. Dipoto has leaned toward college pitchers over prep arms at the higher levels of his past Drafts.
First-round buzz
Mayo says the Mariners seem to be in the mix for a college pitcher at the No. 17 spot and sees UCLA right-hander Griffin Canning as a possible fit. Fellow Draft guru Callis also says Seattle has looked closely at Oregon lefty David Peterson and Missouri right-hander Tanner Houck. If the Mariners go for a position player, Callis believes Missouri State third baseman Jake Burger, North Carolina shortstop Logan Warmoth or UC Irvine outfielder-second baseman Keston Hiura are possibilities. Hiura is regarded as one of the best college bats available, but he's dealing with an elbow injury that may require surgery.
Money matters
To ensure competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that each team has a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of their Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.
This year, the Mariners have a pool of $6,737,300 to spend in the first 10 rounds, 21st among the 30 MLB teams, including $3,333,200 allotted to their first selection in the 17th slot.
Shopping list
The Mariners have needed to dig deep into their pitching depth due to injuries this season, so it wouldn't be surprising to see them look to add another quality arm or two at the top of this year's Draft. But their Minor League system isn't overloaded with elite positional prospects either, given 2014 first-rounder Alex Jackson was traded, 2013 first-rounder D.J. Peterson hasn't developed as fast as hoped and last year's top pick, Kyle Lewis, is recovering from knee surgery. So best athlete available probably holds true if the Mariners see somebody they really like available at their top spots.
Trend watch
In the past four Drafts when Seattle had a first-round pick, the Mariners went with a position player (though they did tab pitcher Nick Neidert with their top pick in '15, when they didn't have a selection until the second round). But most of those Drafts were under previous GM Jack Zduriencik, who tried to solve the Safeco Field challenge by opting for big right-handed power potential in Zunino, Peterson and Jackson. Dipoto wanted to get more athletic in his first Draft with Seattle last year and went with Lewis -- the Golden Spikes Award winner from Mercer University -- with his first choice.
Rising fast
Andrew Moore has wasted no time getting the attention of the Mariners' brass as the 2015 second-round selection out of Oregon State earned the team's Minor League Pitcher of the Year honors last year while earning a midseason promotion from High-A Bakersfield to Double-A Jackson. He again earned another early bump from Double-A Arkansas to Triple-A Tacoma last month and has gone 2-0 with a 3.19 ERA in six starts with the Rainiers. As the Mariners' most-advanced pitching prospect, it seems only a matter of time before the 23-year-old gets a shot with the big league club.
Cinderella story
A 28th-round pick out of Marist College in 2013, infielder Zach Shank has worked his way up through the Mariners' system by impressing both on and off the field. The 26-year-old is at Triple-A Tacoma this year after being given the 2016 Alvin Davis Mr. Mariner Award for his outstanding play and leadership while splitting last year between Double-A Jackson and Tacoma.
In the show
The Mariners only have six of their own former Draft picks on their current 25-man roster: Reliever Dan Altavilla (fifth round in '14), infielder Tyler Smith (eighth round in '13), Zunino (first round in '12), closer Edwin Diaz (third round in '12), left-handed starter James Paxton (fourth round in '10), third baseman Kyle Seager (third round in '09).

The Mariners recent top picks
2016: Kyle Lewis, OF, Extended spring training (injured)
2015: Nick Neidert, RH, High-A Modesto
2014: Alex Jackson, C, High-A Florida (Braves)
2013: D.J. Peterson, 1B, Triple-A Tacoma
2012: Mike Zunino, C, Mariners

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for since 2011. Follow him on Twitter [