Mariners aim to continue Draft trend
Seattle looking for next fast-developing star to add to system
The Mariners are on a roll when it comes to the First-Year Player Draft.Catcher Jeff Clement was Seattle's first selection -- third overall -- in 2005 and he reached the Major Leagues within two years. One year later, they chose right-handed pitcher Brandon Morrow with the fifth overall selection and he needed only eight Minor League outings before reaching the big leagues. And last year, the Mariners' brass were exceedingly pleased when they took right-handed pitcher Phillippe Aumont off the board with the 11th overall selection. A star hurler for Canada's Junior Team, Aumont figures to advance quickly through the Minor League system, but it will happen at his own pace. Thanks to a much better record in 2007, the Mariners must wait considerably longer this year to make their first Draft pick. They have the 20th overall selection.
MLB.com will carry every pick of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft, which takes place June 5-6 at The Milk House at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando, Fla. Day 1 coverage begins at 2 p.m. ET with a simulcast of ESPN2's broadcast of the first round and compensation picks. The remaining rounds on Day 1 will be shown exclusively at MLB.com, with live analysis on site from MLB.com Draft guru Jonathan Mayo.Several of the top amateur prospects are expected in attendance in Orlando for Day 1 of the Draft, and each of the 30 Major League clubs will be represented by front-office executives and baseball luminaries. Fans are welcome to attend Day 1 of the Draft, and admission to The Milk House is free with seating limited to a first-come, first-served basis. Day 2 will get under way at 11:30 a.m. and continue through Round 50, if necessary. Every pick on Day 2 can be heard live at MLB.com. Here's a glance at what the Mariners have in store as the First-Year Player Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
The Mariners had three of the top 100 Draft selections in 2007 and believe they hit a home run with all three of those selections. Besides Aumont, Seattle selected third baseman Matt Mangini, an Oklahoma State slugger, as compensation for losing pitcher Gil Meche to free agency, and tabbed outfielder Denny Almonte from a Florida high school with the 75th selection overall.
Scouting director Bob Fontaine says preparation is more important this year than the past three years, when Seattle had the third, fifth and 11th overall selections.
"So many things can happen with 19 picks in front of you," Fontaine said. "Some will be unexpected, so you had better be prepared on the guys you don't [think] will get to you."
He also said there are more top quality college players available this year than in the past few seasons.
Without a big-time slugger at first base in the system, and plenty of good ones available in this Draft, don't be surprised if the Mariners select a left-handed-hitting first sacker from the collegiate ranks, someone who presumably could advance through the Minor League system quickly.
Switch-hitter Justin Smoak from South Carolina and University of Miami's Yonder Alonso would be good choices, but they probably will be gone before Seattle gets its first pick. Among the other first basemen with potential pop is Ike Davis, an Arizona State star and son of former MLB pitcher Ron Davis.
An organization never has too much pitching, but after loading up on young arms the past three Drafts, especially in 2006 when 10 of the first 14 selections were pitchers, the Mariners can focus more on position players this year. That being said, Seattle will not ignore any quality arms.
"We gave up some good young arms in the [Erik] Bedard trade," Fontaine said, "so it would be nice to restock some starting pitching.
After loading up on pitching in the 2005 and '06 First-Year Player Drafts, the Mariners were more diversified in '07 when five of the seven selections were position players, including Mangini out of Oklahoma State, high school outfielders Almonte and Danny Carroll and two more college outfielders in Joe Dunigan from Oklahoma and James McOwen out of Florida International. Fontaine predicted that as many as six pitchers could be selected by the Mariners in the first 10 rounds.
Recent top picks
Aumont signed late last year and joined Canada's Junior National Team at the International Baseball Federation World Cup in Taiwan and was selected as the Canada East Player of the Year. He currently is pitching for low Class A Wisconsin.
Morrow didn't spend a day in the Minor Leagues last season, but started the '08 campaign in the Minors after being slowed in Spring Training with an arm ailment. He's the primary right-handed setup man for closer J.J. Putz.
Clement started the '08 season at Triple-A Tacoma and was batting .386 when promoted to Seattle on April 30.
Catcher Adam Moore, a sixth-round selection out of Texas-Arlington in '06, currently is playing for Double-A West Tennessee, batting .282 with two home runs and 22 RBIs in 39 games. Seattle has considerable catching depth in the farm system, and Moore is regarded as someone capable of reaching the big leagues quickly.
Right-hander Chris Jakubauskas, converted from first baseman-outfielder to pitcher in 2003, spent four seasons in the Independent Frontier League before signing with the Mariners prior to the '07 season, and he's pitching lights-out for Double-A West Tennessee, posting a 3-0 record and 0.83 ERA after his first six relief outings. He was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma and is 2-1 with a 2.25 ERA after four stars.
In The Show
Clement reached the big leagues for the first time as a September roster addition last season, did extremely well, and got off to such a good start for Triple-A Tacoma this season that he was promoted on April 30. He has struggled a bit, but is showing positive signs of late.
Morrow, who has a fastball that reaches 98 mph with regularity, might become a starter down the road, but he's needed in the bullpen for now.
Jim Street is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.