BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners Draft Preview: College hitters who could be M’s 1st-rounder

Jul 13, 2022, 10:18 AM | Updated: Jul 15, 2022, 11:14 am
Mariners MLB Draft Brock Jones...
Stanford OF Brock Jones bats during a game against WSU on March 26 in Palo Alto, Calif. (Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
(Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Who will the Mariners draft this year to add to one of the game’s best farm systems? That question will be answered beginning this weekend with the 2022 MLB Draft.

More Mariners First-Round Draft Previews: College pitchers | High school players

Before this year’s draft starts Sunday, we’re diving into players at both the college and high school levels that could potentially be in play for Seattle when it makes its first-round selection at No. 21 overall. Let’s first dive into the key information and Mariners’ recent draft track record, then kick off our three-part draft preview with a look at college hitters who should be on the Mariners’ radar.

Key Mariners draft details

The MLB Draft kicks off Sunday, and the Mariners will be picking a little later than they have the last few years.

After picking sixth in 2020 and 12th in 2021, the Mariners pick 21st overall. It’s the lowest first-round pick that general manager Jerry Dipoto and his staff have had since taking over in Seattle ahead of the 2016 season, with their previous low selection being 20th overall in 2019 (they took George Kirby with that pick).

Mariners bucked a trend

Every draft under Dipoto resulted in the same thing from 2016 through 2020 – the Mariners taking a college player in the first round.

That didn’t happen last year, though, with the Mariners using each of their first three 2021 draft picks on high school players: catcher Harry Ford, shortstop Edwin Arroyo and pitcher Michael Morales.

Is a new trend of Seattle focusing on high school prospects beginning?

Throughout this recent draft cycle, analysts seem split not just on whether the Mariners will take a college or high school player, but whether that player will be a hitter or pitcher. Currently, 17 of the Mariners’ top 30 prospects on MLB Pipeline are hitters, including six of the top 10. And prior to the selection of Ford last year, the Mariners took a college arm in the first round each draft from 2018-20 in Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Emerson Hancock.

At 21st overall, a lot of what the Mariners do will, obviously, be dependent on what happens before they’re on the clock. But the Mariners should still be able to land an intriguing talent with that pick, be it on the hitting or pitching side.

Let’s start our look at who could be on the Mariners’ radar for their top pick with some notable college hitters. We’ll have breakdowns of college pitchers and high school players coming up Thursday and Friday on SeattleSports.com.

College hitters

The Mariners have drafted college bats twice in the first round under Dipoto in Kyle Lewis (2016) and Evan White (2017). Those two were Dipoto’s first two first-round picks in Seattle so it hasn’t happened in a bit, but that doesn’t mean it can’t happen in 2022.

Outfielders

Brock Jones, Stanford: Jones entered 2022 with high expectations after a big 2021 campaign. It took a while for MLB Pipeline’s No. 33 prospect to get going, but Jones wound up slashing .324/.451/.664 with 21 home runs, 57 RBIs and 16 steals.

Jones is a great athlete (MLB Pipeline gives him a 60 grade for his speed) who started his college career playing both football and baseball and has plenty of pop and tools, but his overall hit tool could use some work. He has the speed and ability to stick in center, but his arm probably has him better suited for left field. Jones is 6-feet tall and hits and throws left-handed.

Dylan Beavers, California: Beavers is very similar to Jones in that both are Pac-12 outfielders who hit from the left side and offer plenty of upside. Beavers, MLB Pipeline’s No. 22 prospect, slashed .291/.427/.634 with 17 home runs and 50 RBIs with a near 1-1 ratio in walks to strikeouts.

While Jones has spent plenty of time in center field, Beavers was a right fielder for Cal. MLB Pipeline compares him to former NL MVP Christian Yelich when he’s “locked in.” Beavers is a taller guy at 6-4, hitting lefty and throwing with his right hand.

Drew Gilbert, Tennessee: One of many top draft prospects from a loaded Tennessee team, Gilbert posted a .362/.455/.673 slash line with more walks than strikeouts this past season. MLB Pipeline’s No. 32-ranked prospect is a shorter outfield prospect than most at 5-9, but he’s got a good hit tool, can run, has a plus arm and can play all three outfield spots.

Gilbert isn’t a big raw power guy, but MLB Pipeline thinks his swing and bat speed could allow him to hit between 10 and 20 home runs without “selling out” for home runs. Gilbert hits and throws left-handed.

Jordan Beck, Tennessee: Another big-time outfielder from Tennessee, Beck is a bigger guy at 6-3 and 225 pounds who MLB Pipeline says is similar body-wise and skillset-wise to MLB outfielder Hunter Renfroe.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 23 prospect, Beck slashed .298/.291/.595 with 18 homers and 61 RBIs. He has a big arm well-suited for right field and is more pop over hit tool. Beck hits and throws right-handed.

Chase DeLauter, James Madison: MLB Pipeline is higher on DeLauter than other sites and mock drafts I follow, but everyone seems to believe he won’t make it out of the first round. Pipeline rates DeLauter as the 18th-best player in this year’s draft with above-average traits in both his hit tool and power, which they believe is plus.

DeLauter is a very big man at 6-4 and 235 pounds, but he runs well and should have no problem being a corner outfielder at the pro level after playing in center field in college. Most drafts have DeLauter going in the mid- to late-20s, so he very well could be available at 21 when the Mariners are on the clock. He hits and throws left-handed.

Infielders

Zach Neto, Campbell: A favorite of mine early in the draft process, Neto may have played his way to being taken before pick 21. MLB Pipeline’s No. 17 prospect has a plus hit tool who hit over .400 with 12 or more home runs each of the last two seasons. He also hit over .300 in the Cape Cod wood bat summer league last summer, and that’s a league the Mariners have looked closely at with their high picks in recent years.

Neto played shortstop in college but may be better suited for second base long-term, though he has a big arm. Neto hits and throws from the right side.

Peyton Graham, Oklahoma: If the Mariners want a college bat on the infield and Neto is gone, they could go with a pretty high-upside pick in Graham, Pipeline’s 28th-rated prospect. He’s a bigger shortstop at 6-3 and 185 pounds who has a cannon of an arm that could help him move to third base if required.

Graham slashed .335/.417/.640 with 20 home runs and 71 RBIs, so he’s a very intriguing prospect with plenty of tools to work with. He hits and throws right-handed.

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