BRANDON GUSTAFSON

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

Jul 7, 2021, 8:24 AM | Updated: 8:48 am
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto...
Jerry Dipoto is entering his sixth MLB Draft with the Seattle Mariners. (AP)
(AP)

The 2021 MLB Draft is almost here, and for the Mariners they sit with the No. 12 pick overall in what will be general manager Jerry Dipoto’s sixth draft with Seattle.

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After the Mariners went 68-94 in 2019, Dipoto had his highest pick last year since joining the Mariners in late 2015, picking Georgia right-handed pitcher Emerson Hancock sixth overall.

Seattle was pretty competitive overall in the shortened 2020 season, going 27-33 and finishing two games back of the 29-31 Houston Astros for a playoff spot in the expanded field. That 27-33 record put the Mariners just outside of the top 10 in this year’s draft.

In the coming days, we’ll take a closer look at who the Mariners could select with the 12th overall pick. But before we get too deep into some prospects to keep an eye on, let’s take a look back at how Dipoto and the Mariners’ front office have operated since 2016.

All about college

Like with any other draft in professional sports, the first round of the MLB Draft is when all eyes are on the event. And when we look just at the first-round picks that Dipoto has made since joining the Mariners, it’s very clear to see what the trend is.

That trend is that the Mariners prefer college players to high schoolers when making their first selection.

In Dipoto’s first draft in 2016, the Mariners took outfielder Kyle Lewis 11th overall out of Mercer University. In 2017, Kentucky first baseman Evan White was the 17th pick. Stetson right-handed pitcher Logan Gilbert came to Seattle in 2018 as the 14th pick, and the following year, Elon University right-hander George Kirby was the 20th overall selection. And, as mentioned, Seattle took Hancock sixth overall in 2020.

And that trend doesn’t really stop there.

Overall, the Mariners have drafted far more college players than high schoolers under Dipoto.

Yes, when the draft was 40 rounds from 2016 to 2019 (it was only five rounds last year and will be 20 this year), it was far more common to take college players because there were far more pro-ready guys coming out of the college ranks. But the Mariners have preferred college players in early rounds even when they were making 40 picks a year.

Infielder Joe Rizzo (2016) and right-handed pitcher Sam Carlson (2017) are the only two prep players that Seattle has selected in the first three rounds since 2016. In 2020, the Mariners made six picks, and all were college players.

The other trend

As you may have noticed, the Mariners have made five first-round picks under Dipoto. The first two were college bats in Lewis and White, but for the last three years, Seattle has gone with a college right-handed pitcher with the team’s first pick.

Gilbert was the first of that trio after a stellar career at Stetson. The 6-foot-6 right-hander quickly rose through the minors, making his MLB debut in May. He has pitched very well for the Mariners of late and the rookie is 2-2 with a 4.10 ERA in nine starts (41 2/3 innings) this season.

After putting up video game-like numbers at Elon, Kirby has lived up to his billing as an elite strike thrower in the minors. He didn’t walk anyone in 23 innings in 2019 and has recorded just seven free passes in 31 2/3 innings this year. He is 2-2 with a 2.84 ERA in seven starts for the High-A Everett AquaSox this year.

Hancock is also at High-A Everett with Kirby. Unlike Gilbert and Kirby, Hancock didn’t throw a professional pitch before this year as there was no minor league season in 2020. So far in 2021, Hancock is 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in seven starts (26 innings) for the AquaSox.

What about this year?

With those college players, it would appear the Mariners have focused on high-floor players who can move quickly through the ranks. Dipoto seemed to indicate that the Mariners may have a slightly different strategy when it comes to their early picks in this year’s draft, however.

“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 told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Friday. “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 years 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 upside-y play from the Mariners than you’ve historically seen.”

How to follow along

The MLB Draft kicks off Sunday, July 11, with the first round at 4 p.m. The second day of the draft will follow on Monday with rounds 2-10, starting at 10 a.m. Rounds 11-20 will be Tuesday starting at 9 a.m.

The draft coincides with the MLB All-Star break. The All-Star Futures Game is Sunday, the Home Run Derby is Monday and the All-Star Game is on Tuesday.

You can watch the first round of the 2021 MLB Draft on MLB Network or ESPN Sunday night. MLB Network will follow along with the rest of the draft and provide analysis.

We will have coverage here with articles on 710Sports.com.

More information can be found here.

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