Mariners draft features plenty of arms
Organization selects 34 pitchers, focuses on size and power
SEATTLE -- During the two previous drafts that Bob Fontaine presided over with Seattle, the vice president of scouting made a concerted effort to load up on a bevy of position players.Fontaine's third draft with the Mariners -- which ended on Wednesday, the second day of the First-Year Player Draft -- had an entirely different direction, as Seattle went for arms. A lot of arms, actually. When the dust settled after 50 rounds of drafting, the Mariners proudly pointed to a draft board that included whopping 34 pitchers, including 27 who have collegiate experience. "No one can accuse me of misleading them," Fontaine said, noting that in the day leading up to the draft he said over and over that the Mariners were looking to add pitching. But this much pitching? "The last few years, we spent a lot of time looking at position players and trying to shore that up," Fontaine said. "This year was a good opportunity to load up on arms, and that is exactly what we did." Aside from the 34 pitchers, the Mariners selected nine infielders, two catchers and five outfielders. The Mariners run on arms started on Tuesday when the team picked University of California right-hander Brandon Morrow with the fifth-overall choice. The 21-year-old Morrow, who had what many considered the best pure arm in the draft, is one of 10 semifinalists for the Roger Clemens Award -- bestowed upon the nation's top collegiate pitcher. Morrow was 7-4 with a 2.05 ERA in 14 starts for the Bears this season, using a fastball that touched 99 mph at times and routinely runs between 94-96 mph. He has three other plus pitches -- a changeup, a slider and a split-finger fastball. Morrow said on Tuesday that he doesn't expect contract negotiations to last too long and indicated that he was ready to begin his professional career. He would likely start the season with Class A Inland Empire of the California League.
Seattle drafted 13 more pitchers on the first day of the draft and then selected 20 more on Wednesday, including two local products -- Cam Noble of Jackson High in Everett, Wash., (19th round) and Kyle Parker of the University of Washington (24th round)."Our goal coming into the draft this year was to focus on pitching," Fontaine said, "and we feel like after today, we drafted a lot of quality pitchers both from the college and high school level." Other than seven of the 34 pitchers who are left-handed, most of them will look a lot alike in uniform, as the many fit a certain profile -- big, strong-armed pitchers who deal in power. Third-round pick Tony Butler of Oak Creek High School (Wisc.) is 6-foot-7, seventh-round pick Doug Fister of Fresno State is 6-foot-8. Not big enough? Try 6-foot-9 Kameron Mickolio of Utah Valley State, who was Seattle's 18th round selection. All told, the Mariners drafted 21 pitchers that stand 6-foot-3 or taller. As excited as Fontaine was about the collection of arms that team landed in draft -- especially the thunderbolt of a right arm that Morrow has -- he was pleased and even a bit surprised to see the pitcher Chris Tillman's name on the draft board in the second round. Tillman, a 6-foot-5 right-hander from California's Fountain Valley High School, was pegged as a first-round pick before the season, though he didn't meet expectations and went 5-5 during the season. Still, Tillman throws in the low 90s and has a big curveball. This draft certainly looked little like Fontaine's first two drafts with the Mariners. In 2004, the Mariners -- who didn't have a first-round pick -- found a talented shortstop in Matt Tuiasosopo, who had first-round skills according to many scouts. A year ago, the Mariners had the No. 3 overall pick and selected Southern California left-handed-hitting catcher Jeff Clement, who advanced so quickly that he opened the season at Double-A San Antonio before he needed two minor surgeries in April. This year, it was all about arms. "Overall, we're extremely pleased with the quality of players we drafted." Fontaine said. We look forward to many of these young men signed and in uniform."
Corey Brock is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.