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Mariners ready to restock farm system in Draft

MLB.com @gregjohnsmlb

SEATTLE -- Scott Hunter doesn't necessarily agree with prospect rankings that list the Mariners as the lowest-rated farm system of the 30 Major League franchises, but he isn't hiding from that reputation either.

As the Mariners prepare for the 2018 MLB Draft, which takes place Monday through Wednesday, Seattle's second-year director of amateur scouting acknowledges there is plenty of incentive to change that reputation.

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SEATTLE -- Scott Hunter doesn't necessarily agree with prospect rankings that list the Mariners as the lowest-rated farm system of the 30 Major League franchises, but he isn't hiding from that reputation either.

As the Mariners prepare for the 2018 MLB Draft, which takes place Monday through Wednesday, Seattle's second-year director of amateur scouting acknowledges there is plenty of incentive to change that reputation.

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"Oh, it drives me," Hunter said earlier this week during a break from the multitude of pre-Draft meetings going on in the team's Safeco Field offices. "I don't want to sound like a motivational speaker, but we're blessed with a job where we get up every day and it is a competition.

"There are 29 other teams and if our scouts don't have that drive to compete and beat the guys in our areas, then we're going to be at the bottom of the barrel. That's something we're instilling in our staff, something I believe in and something we are driven by. We know about it. We read the same things. It's not something we want to accept or really tolerate anymore."

The Mariners will have the 14th selection in the first round and 54th overall pick in the second round on Monday, as well as picks in each of rounds 3-10 on Tuesday and 11-40 on Wednesday.

Hunter oversaw last year's Draft for the Mariners for the first time and the club came away with Kentucky first baseman Evan White with the 17th pick and then focused heavily on pitching in the subsequent upper rounds.

White is an athletic, defensive-minded player who is performing well for Class A-Advanced Modesto this season and is ranked as Seattle's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, behind only Kyle Lewis, another promising athlete who was the club's top pick in 2016.

The Mariners grabbed highly regarded prep pitcher Sam Carlson in the second round despite the higher bonus pool money needed to sign him and then saved slot money by taking some college seniors -- who have less bargaining leverage -- with later picks to make it add up.

While Carlson has been hampered by an elbow issue and is just now starting to throw this year, don't be surprised if the Mariners follow a similar path in the top rounds again if they see a way to add players with high ceilings.

"Our whole draft last year, I was really happy with what we added to the system," Hunter said. "It's something we keep preaching to our guys. Getting more athletic, getting more tools-based, not just taking the safe college player that might go out and have a good year or two, but adding some projection picks and upside.

"At the end of the day, if you don't add upside to your organization, you're never going to make any impact on the big league team and you'll always ride that .500 line. We'll take it strategically and pick our times when to increase that risk, but it's definitely something we do value."

MLB Pipeline analyst Jim Callis projects Seattle to pick Mississippi left-hander Ryan Rolison in his latest mock draft, while fellow analyst Jonathan Mayo projects Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach.

"It is absolutely the biggest day in the year for organizations," said Mariners manager Scott Servais, who worked in player development departments for the Rangers and Angels before coming to Seattle. "The decisions you make and how you go about reaching those decisions, it really can change the course of your franchise going forward."

Worth noting

Ichiro Suzuki has always wanted to pitch and the Mariners new special assistant will get a chance to do that soon -- at least in early batting practice.

"It's continuing to evolve with Ichi," Servais said. "He is going to throw some batting practice on the next trip. He's been practicing and I understand it's been very good, which doesn't surprise me. That was the plan, to let things evolve as we go forward. Personally, I really wish we could get him on the bench during games, but I understand there are rules around that. We can't go there yet, but he's been great. I enjoy having him around and the guys do as well."

• Reliever Nick Vincent played catch from one knee prior to Sunday's game and will now advance to throwing while standing as he works back from a strained right groin muscle that has sidelined him since May 26. Vincent said he hopes to be throwing off the mound in a bullpen session by the time the Mariners return from their road trip in a week.

Hisashi Iwakuma's neck issue has cleared up and his bullpen session on Saturday went well. The veteran right-hander will advance again to facing live hitters next in a simulated game as he attempts to return from September shoulder surgery.

Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.

Seattle Mariners