Focus on youth, future 'star power' reflected in Mariners' Draft

July 12th, 2023

Despite the Mariners’ recent Draft success, 2023 might be their most important class yet.

Seattle entered with a bounty of picks -- an MLB-high four on Day 1 -- and the seventh-highest bonus pool to spend on their selections.

Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto also indicated it was one of the deepest classes he’s seen.

“This gave us an opportunity to really go for it and shoot for some star power,” Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter said.

Below are three takeaways from the Mariners’ 2023 Draft haul:

High school, high upside, high risk

The Mariners identified high-school position players as a strength of this year’s class, and capitalized on that goal as the Draft went along.

With their first three picks, Seattle selected three high-school bats with high upsides: No. 22 pick, shortstop Colt Emerson, No. 29 pick, outfielder Jonny Farmelo, and No. 30 selection Tai Peete.

The club followed that trend with its 4th-round pick of outfielder Aidan Smith, who MLB Pipeline’s scouting report called “the best pure hitter in the Texas high school ranks.”

“When we started setting things up, we really prepared ourselves to take three, four, maybe even five straight high-school players,” Hunter said, "because the depth of this Draft was really in that class and that pool of player.”

For each of the high-school players selected, Hunter emphasized tools and athleticism. He lauded Emerson as a “pure hitter who already possesses an advanced knowledge of the strike zone.”

Farmelo’s intrigue lies in the combination of his “elite speed” and the potential of a “middle-of-the-order bat.” And Peete drew praise for his tools that showed at last month's MLB Combine, leading all hitters in longest average distance during batting practice (350 feet) and longest average drives (338 ft). Smith also has “five-tool” potential, similar to Peete.

Pitcher development pays dividends

Nobody might have exemplified the Mariners’ high-upside, high-risk approach to this year’s Draft more than Teddy McGraw, even if he wasn’t a high school position player. The right-hander from Wake Forest has first-round stuff. But he underwent his second Tommy John surgery in four years this spring, missing his junior season. His first Tommy John procedure cut his senior season of high school short.

“With our development program and all the guys that we've put through our pitching program, we believe we can get him healthy, get him back on the mound and really have a steal of the Draft almost, if all things come together,” Hunter said.

The success of recent picks like George Kirby, Bryce Miller and Bryan Woo may have played a factor in McGraw’s interest in Seattle.

“Our pitching program has developed so many guys internally that a lot of agents will call us before they call other teams to see if we have interest,” Hunter said. “As soon as we took him, I called Teddy outside the Draft room.

“And he said this was one of the few places he wanted to be, because he knows what we've done with the pitching. So that really helped us.”

Thrifting through the college ranks

After the first four rounds, the path forward was clear. The Mariners selected all four-year or graduate college players in Rounds 5-20.

“Obviously, you've got to spend a little bit extra to get the younger player in the early rounds. We did,” Hunter said. “So we did have to balance that off with looking at the college player once we got through Round 4.”

Nine of the 16 players picked after Round 4 were pitchers, with several earmarked for bullpen roles. While the bulk of the bonus pool will be spent on the earlier picks, Seattle believed it came away with a few steals, including fifth-rounder Brock Rodden, a switch-hitting shortstop from Wichita State.

The belief in its pitching development also showed in its selection of two-way player Brock Hopkins. The Mariners see Hopkins, who played center field for Winthrop, as a pitching prospect. They’ve had success with converted two-way pitching players before though, most notably reliever Ty Adcock.