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Seattle scouting director on Draft: 'Really strong'

Mariners focus on high-upside college talent, late-round 'diamonds in the rough'
MLB.com

The Mariners wrapped up the 2018 MLB Draft on Wednesday, and with their selections in rounds 11-40 on Day 3, Seattle hopes to have found not only future Major League stalwarts for the franchise, but also some diamonds in the rough.

Draft Tracker: Every Mariners pick

The Mariners wrapped up the 2018 MLB Draft on Wednesday, and with their selections in rounds 11-40 on Day 3, Seattle hopes to have found not only future Major League stalwarts for the franchise, but also some diamonds in the rough.

Draft Tracker: Every Mariners pick

The Mariners' Draft week began with the selection of a pitcher in the first round for the first time since 2011 -- when the organization picked Virginia's Danny Hultzen at No. 2 overall -- selecting Stetson University right-hander Logan Gilbert with the 14th pick in Monday's first round.

Seattle wrapped Day 1 by drafting another college player, Louisville's Josh Stowers, in Round 2. The selections of Gilbert and Stowers kicked off a Draft-wide trend for the Mariners, who went heavy on adding high-upside college talent to their Minor League ranks.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

Of the Mariners' 40 draft picks, 33 are college players. Seattle didn't draft a high schooler until Day 3, when the organization selected Damon Casetta-Stubbs, a right-handed pitcher out of nearby Kings Way Christian Schools (Wash.), in the 11th round. Casetta-Stubs told The Columbian that he agreed to a $350,000 signing bonus -- well above the $125,000 allotted for Rounds 11-40 -- to forgo his commitment to Seattle University and join the Mariners' Rookie-level affiliate in Peoria, Ariz.

Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter said that the high school players Seattle was targeting went off the board early, and established college players fit with the organization's plan to bolster its upper Minor League levels and improve a farm system often ranked among the lowest in baseball.

"Only time will tell, but we feel really strong about what we did over the last three days," Hunter said. "We were pretty college-heavy, but if you look at the depth of the Draft this year, and so many teams that had multiple picks, a lot of these high school guys were gone, and we had a lot of things in the works that just didn't get to us. We did a very good job of finding some junior college kids, some Division II players we feel very strongly about, saved a little bit of money in the first 10 picks, and then we got a little bit aggressive on some high school pitching."

That high school pitching came in the 11th round, the first of Wednesday's Day 3 of the Draft, when Seattle selected Casetta-Stubbs. The 6-foot-4, 200-pound right-hander has seen his fastball improve dramatically this season, clocked up to 96 mph.

"Casetta-Stubbs is a Mariners fan, and while he did have quite a big number in regards to signability in the top 10 rounds, we met with him and the family and his representative, and just seeing what we were doing here and how he could grow and develop, the family and him came off their number a little bit, and that's why we were able to make a run at him. He's pretty exciting for us."

Another Day 3 pick Hunter is particularly excited about is a pitcher he refers to as "Big Country," J.T. Salter out of the University of West Alabama. Salter is a 6-foot-7, 300-pound right-hander with raw stuff that, if harnessed, could translate into special things at the big league level.

Seattle selected Salter in the 20th round, 598th overall. Featuring a 95-mph fastball along with an 86-mph slider, he posted a 2.65 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 88 1/3 innings for West Alabama this season, earning a first-team All-Gulf South Conference selection.

"We started looking at the video, and we couldn't believe it. He's a massive human being, he's athletic, his arm works, his delivery works, he throws strikes, and now getting him out of West Alabama, we're hoping he's a diamond in the rough," said Hunter. "Once he learns how to really control what he's doing, since he doesn't really have a long track record of having any pitching gurus or real instruction, what he's doing and his size sparked some real interest."

Another selection that Hunter spotlighted was outfielder Cesar Trejo, selected in the 17th round out of the University of North Carolina, Greensboro. In three collegiate seasons, Trejo slashed .333/.400/.557 with 26 home runs and 29 steals in 161 games.

"A 65 runner, a plus arm, has some rawness at the plate, but staying with our motto of trying to get a tools-oriented, athletic-oriented player, along with all of our filters, this is a true five-tool guy that, if he develops into the player we think he can be, has a chance to impact the game on multiple levels," Hunter said.

The Mariners dedicated their final selection of the Draft, right-hander David Rhodes out of Langley Secondary School in White Rock, British Columbia, to longtime scout Wayne Norton, who passed away in January. Norton, a native of Port Moody, British Columbia, covered Canada as a Mariners scout beginning in 2000.

"Wayne Norton is a legend, and I have the utmost respect for him and his wife, Trudy, to whom we sent the video of us selecting this player," Hunter said. "It was a moment we wanted to dedicate to Wayne, but also David Rhodes, because kids in Canada all know Wayne Norton, and to do that in Wayne's honor, and for this kid, we all thought that was a special moment."

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Chad Thornburg is a reporter for MLB.com based in Los Angeles.

Seattle Mariners