BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners Draft Preview: Who to watch for if M’s make it 4 straight college pitchers

Jul 9, 2021, 11:23 AM
Mariners draft...
The Mariners have drafted college pitchers in the first round the last three years. (Getty)
(Getty)

Last time out, we took a closer look at some college hitters who could be in play for the Mariners when they make their first-round draft choice in this year’s MLB Draft.

Mariners Draft Preview: College hitters Seattle could target in 1st round

This time, it’s time to look at college pitchers.

Not only is this a pretty good year for college arms in terms of picking in the first round, but the Mariners have selected college pitchers in the first round each of the last three years. And a few of the names listed below have similarities to two of those picks, while another is pretty similar to one of the Mariners’ more established arms.

So, let’s dive in and look at some pitchers who could see their names called by the Mariners on Sunday.

(Note, all draft board rankings and tool grades are from MLB Pipeline’s draft prospect rankings.)

Something To Note

Before we dive in, here’s what general manager Jerry Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Friday regarding his draft strategy.

“We always approach the draft as take the best available player. And I could refocus that or refine that by saying we approach it as take the best available player with the athletic upside, the potential in the top-100 picks,” Dipoto said. “That’s where you will see us go for the biggest upside we can find …  At the high-end of this year’s draft, maybe more unique to this season than year’s past, we are hyper-focused on the upside and athletic talent in this draft because we think there’s a lot of athletic ability in this class that isn’t present in all classes. That excites us, so you might see a more upsidey play from the Mariners than you’ve historically seen.”

Texas RHP Ty Madden

MLB Pipeline’s No. 9 prospect in this draft, Madden has some similarities to the Mariners’ 2020 first-round pick in Emerson Hancock.

Both Madden and Hancock played for big schools in powerhouse conferences, both stand 6 foot 3 and weigh 215 pounds, and both have very similar repertoires in terms of their pitches.

Both Hancock and Madden offer a four-pitch mix with a fastball, slider, curveball and changeup, and for both, the fastball and slider lead the way with the changeup seen as the third-best offering. MLB Pipeline gives Hancock a 65 grade for his fastball and 60 grades for the slider and changeup while Madden gets 60 grades for the fastball and slider and a 55 grade for the changeup. Both received 55 grades for their control as well. In terms of the fastball, Madden sits 93-96 mph and has touched 99.

And like Hancock, Madden had a very successful college career.

In 181 career innings for the Longhorns, Madden went 14-6 with a 2.59 ERA and 200 strikeouts to 72 walks. In 2021, Madden had himself a very nice season, going 7-5 with a 2.45 ERA and striking out 137 and walking 44 in 113 2/3 innings.

With the way the draft seems likely to go, Madden may not be there for the Mariners at 12 (the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim at No. 9 need pitching depth in a bad way, and the Washington Nationals are another team analysts think could take the best available arm arm when they pick at No. 11). But last year, it seemed unlikely that the Mariners would have the opportunity to take Hancock with the sixth pick and that’s exactly what happened.

Miami Ohio RHP Sam Bachman

Madden may be the more traditional pitcher in terms of build and stuff, but the 6-1, 235-pound Bachman offers an awful lot of upside on the mound, which could line up with what Dipoto mentioned regarding his draft strategy if the team targets a pitcher.

Madden can certainly sling the baseball, but Bachman, MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 draft prospect, has one of the best fastballs in the draft.

That pitch sits 94-97 and has touched 101 and has nice arm-side run and sink and is graded at 70 by MLB Pipeline. Bachman pairs the elite fastball with one of the best breaking balls in the draft, a 65-grade slider that has tremendous bite and movement that Bachman can throw to both lefties and righties. He also offers a changeup that Pipeline describes as deceptive and heavy, and rates at above average with a 55 grade.

The issue with Bachman can be control, but there’s still plenty of clay to mold and play with. Plus, his control has greatly improved since he entered college.

After walking 4.6 batters per nine innings as a freshman in 2019, Bachman improved to 2.3 walks per nine in the shortened 2020 season and 2.6 in 2021.

For his career, Bachman has a 12-7 record with a 3.06 ERA and 199 strikeouts to 62 walks in 159 innings. In 2021, Bachman went 4-4 with a 1.81 ERA and 93 punchouts to 17 walks in 59 2/3 innings.

The Mariners have gone for high floors with their first-rounders under Dipoto, so this would be different as it’s more of an upside selection. But even if Bachman doesn’t wind up being a starting pitcher, his elite fastball-slider combo could make him a force out of the bullpen.

Wake Forest RHP Ryan Cusick

Speaking of flamethrowers, that’s what Wake Forest’s Ryan Cusick (No. 27) is.

A big 6-6 right hander, Cusick, like Bachman, has a fastball that earned a 70 grade from MLB Pipeline and possesses an above-average curveball to go along with an average changeup and slider. Control (45 grade) has been an issue for Cusick as he’s allowed 4.5 walks per nine innings during his college career.

In MLB Pipeline’s June 30 mock draft, Cusick and UC Santa Barbara’s Michael McGreevy (more on him later) are two arms the publication said could be “backup options” for Seattle with the 12th pick.

It’s easy to see why teams would be interested in Cusick, even with the control issues.

With the big-time fastball (sits 94-97 and hit 102 with high spin rates) and his tall and long frame and a pretty effortless delivery, Cusick has the ability to dominate hitters when he’s on his game.

During his college career, Cusick compiled a 10-10 record with a 5.01 ERA and 206 strikeouts to 79 walks in 158 innings.

In 2021, Cusick went 3-5 with a 4.24 ERA and 108 strikeouts to 32 walks in 12 starts (70 innings).

Obviously the results aren’t quite on the same level as some of the other top college arms in this draft class, but there’s clearly tremendous upside with Cusick as he’s a massive and athletic pitcher with a huge fastball that comes from a pretty easy delivery. If a team can get him throwing more strikes, sky’s the limit.

Kansas State LHP Jordan Wicks

While Bachman and Cusick are power righties, Wicks is a good ole crafty lefty.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 16 draft prospect, is a 6-2, 215 southpaw who utilized 55-grade fastballs and sliders along with a fringe-average curveball and an elite (65 grade) changeup that goes along with his plus control.

Wicks sits in the low 90s with the heater, but it plays up due to a high spin rate and his ability to pound the strike zone. With plus control and the fastball paired with his great changeup and above-average slider, Wicks has an advanced feel for pitching and could be someone who rises quickly through the minors as he has a higher floor but likely a lower ceiling.

In his career at Kansas State, Wicks compiled a 15-6 record with a 3.24 ERA and 230 strikeouts to 58 walks in 203 innings. In 2021, Wicks had a 6-3 record with a 3.70 ERA and 118 strikeouts to 28 walks in 92 1/3 innings.

Pipeline said that Wicks is noted by scouts for his competitive fire and “inventiveness.” Sounds a bit like Mariners’ opening day starter Marco Gonzales.

Wicks may not line up with what Dipoto mentioned he’s looking for with his early picks, but Wicks certainly fits the bill of a potential starting pitcher in the mold of a Gonzales or other lefties the Mariners have had success with in the past.

UC Santa Barbara RHP Michael McGreevy

If Madden has some Hancock similarities and Wicks has some Gonzales in him, then UC Santa Barbara’s Michael McGreevy, MLB Pipeline’s No. 28 draft prospect, should be compared to Seattle’s 2019 first-round pick George Kirby.

Kirby was a well-known 6-4, 215-pound control artist on the mound when the Mariners drafted him 20th overall in 2019 out of Elon University. The 6-4, 215-pound McGreevy is a good athlete who is pretty similar to Kirby in build, command, and stuff coming out of college.

McGreevy compiled a 16-3 record with a 2.33 ERA and 194 strikeouts to 31 walks in 189 1/3 innings during his college career. In 2021, which was his first full season as a starter as the 2020 season was shortened due to COVID-19 and he was a reliever in 2019, McGreevy went 9-2 with a 2.92 ERA and recorded 115 strikeouts to just 11 walks in 101 2/3 innings.

McGreevy has steadily gained more strength and velocity during his college career and now sits at 93-96 with some sink on his fastball. He also has a 55-grade slider as his best secondary offering and an average curveball and changeup that he can throw for strikes with his 60-grade control.

There may be more enticing pitchers available at 12, but given McGreevy’s successful college career and his track record of pounding the zone, maybe the Mariners decide to nab someone who has a lot of similarities to one of the top arms in the system.

Others To Watch

Mississippi State’s Will Bednar (No. 32) is seen as a late riser and went as high as 11th in a recent MLB Pipeline mock draft, especially after his heroics in the final game of the College World Series. The 6-2, 230-pound righty has four pitches with two ranking at 60 (fastball and slider) and has above-average control.

Another guy who may have made himself some money during the College World Series is East Carolina’s Gavin Williams. Williams tossed 7 1/3 innings and struck out 13 in a losing effort to Vanderbilt. The 6-6 righty is MLB Pipeline’s No. 31-ranked prospect and possesses an elite (70 grade) fastball with two above-average offerings in his curveball and changeup and an average slider along with average control.

And unfortunately for Ole Miss’ Gunnar Hoglund he’s expected to go later in the first round than he likely would have as he recently underwent Tommy John surgery in his elbow. Hoglund is Pipeline’s 22nd-ranked player in this draft after the surgery and the site’s 10th-ranked pitcher. Prior to the injury, it was thought that Hoglund could be one of the first four or five pitchers taken in this year’s draft. But with the injury, that may not be the case. The Mariners have shown they’re not afraid of guys coming off Tommy John like Taijuan Walker, Kendall Graveman, Andres Munoz, Ken Giles and Marco Gonzales, so that’s something to note. I don’t expect Hoglund to go in the top 15 picks, but if he gets healthy, he has a chance to be one of the best picks of this year’s draft.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

Mariners MLB Draft Primer: What to expect when Seattle picks at No. 12

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