The Mariners stuck to their philosophy of selecting their highest-rated player regardless of need. It just so happens that Alex Jackson, the high-school slugger Seattle chose with the sixth pick of baseball’s amateur draft on Thursday, addresses the club’s most glaring deficiency.
“It just seems that the right-handed bat is something that is of a premium,” general manager Jack Zduriencik said, referring to a trend that is evident across baseball and especially in Seattle.
The Mariners have used three consecutive first-round picks on right-handed hitters, first with Mike Zunino in 2012, last year with DJ Peterson and now with Jackson, an 18-year-old from San Diego who was rated by Baseball America as the top position player and the fourth-best prospect heading into the draft.
Jackson hit .400 with 11 home runs, 31 RBIs and a 1.459 OPS in 35 games during his senior season at Rancho Bernardo High School, a national powerhouse that has produced All-Stars such as Cole Hamels and Hank Blalock. Everything the Mariners saw out of Jackson while scouting him since his sophomore season led them to the conclusion that his bat was too enticing to pass up.
“We like his hit ability mixed with his power,” said Tom McNamara, the Mariners’ scouting director. “He’s not just a one-dimensional hitter. We think he’s a combination of both. We’ve been scouting him for the last three years – all summer, fall and spring – and we were very happy he was there when we made our selection.”
While he was primarily a catcher in high school, the Mariners believe the 6-foot-2, 215-pound Jackson projects as an outfielder, likely at right field because of what Zduriencik described as a “well-above-average” throwing arm.
“I’ve played multiple positions my whole life, so it’s nothing extraordinary that has been thrown my way,” Jackson said. “I’m looking forward to going out there and competing.”
While McNamara said it’s too soon to know which affiliate Jackson will begin his professional career with, he said the Mariners have classified him as an “advanced player”, meaning the club thinks his track to the big leagues could be quicker than others’.
The first order of business, though, will be getting Jackson signed. He has committed to play at the University of Oregon, but Zduriencik said he’s confident that Jackson will forgo college for the chance to play professionally. Jackson is represented by Scott Boras.
“I think anytime you take a high school player you always have that (risk),” he said, “but how many opportunities does any player anywhere ever get to be taken in the top 10 picks of the draft? How are you going to better yourself? By the time he gets to Oregon he may very well be a big leaguer. I think that’s important, and I do think that his desire is to play pro ball.”
When asked during a conference call about his timetable for deciding whether to sign with the Mariners before the July 18 deadline or play at Oregon, Jackson said: “Right now I have no idea about that.”
Jackson’s selection at No. 6 marks the fourth player the Mariners have drafted in the top 10 since 2009.
• The Mariners wrapped up the first day of the draft by selecting with the 74th pick another high-school outfielder, Gareth Morgan from Toronto, Canada.
Morgan, 18, is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound right-handed hitter. He played both center field and right field for Blyth Academy and was also a three-year member of the Canadian Junior National Team.
Morgan has signed a letter of intent with North Carolina State.
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.