BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Mariners Draft Preview: High school players in play for 1st round

Jul 15, 2022, 1:31 PM | Updated: Jul 16, 2022, 11:08 am
Mariners draft preview Jackson Ferris...
Jackson Ferris during the MLB USA Baseball All-American Game on July 9, 2021 in Denver. (Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(Photo by Daniel Shirey/MLB Photos 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 hitters | College pitchers

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. This is the final part of our three-part draft preview, this time looking at high school players who could be in play when the Mariners are on the clock.

High school players

The Mariners for five drafts generally avoided high school players. That changed last year in a big way with each of the team’s first three selections being prep players, but they’ve still drafted just two high school pitchers in the first three rounds since 2017. The Mariners haven’t taken a high school pitcher in the first round under general manager Jerry Dipoto, or at all since Taijuan Walker way back in 2010.

Pitchers

Ian “J.R.” Ritchie, Bainbridge Island, Wash.Let’s start local, shall we? Ritchie, MLB Pipeline’s No. 47 prospect, is committed to UCLA. The 6-2 right hander sits in the mid-90s with his fastball, per Pipeline, while mixing in a curve, slider and changeup, with the slider grading out the best. He’s a good athlete who should be able to repeat his delivery and fill up the strike zone.

It’s unclear if Ritchie will be a first-round pick, but he’s in good position to be one of the higher-drafted Washington prep players over the last few years.

Dylan Lesko, Ga.: Former Vanderbilt star pitcher Kumar Rocker is one of the biggest wild cards in this year’s draft. That’s also the case with Lesko, MLB Pipeline’s No. 14 prospect. Lesko has been on teams’ radars for years as the 6-2, 195-pound Vanderbilt commit has been a top high school arm for a while now, armed with a mid-90s heater, high-spin curve and what many think is the best pitch in this year’s draft with his changeup.

While Lesko had been penciled in as a top 10 pick for a while, he underwent Tommy John surgery earlier this year and may have fallen down some draft boards as a result. Should Lesko fall too much, he could go to Vanderbilt before re-entering the draft in a few years, or he could potentially be a steal and/or command an above-slot bonus to sign. The Mariners have traditionally gone at-slot with their first pick for a few years, so this would buck another trend. But as noted in the college pitchers draft preview, the team hasn’t been scared off by pitchers recovering from the surgery in the past.

Jackson Ferris, Fla.The Mariners don’t have a ton of lefty pitching prospects in the farm, and they could nab a high-upside one in Ferris, a Mississippi State commit who is Pipeline’s No. 19 commit. The 6-4 southpaw is a three-pitch hurler with a mid-90s fastball, 12-6 curveball and good changeup who is plenty projectible given his height and weight (195 pounds).

Pipeline notes that Ferris’ motion is a little funky, which can get him off track at times.

Infielders

Cole Young, Penn.: One of the prep players most commonly tied to the Mariners, Young is a leftty-hitting shortstop from the Pittsburgh area who checks in as MLB Pipeline’s No. 20 prospect. Young swings it from the left side, and while this sentence from MLB Pipeline may make some Mariners fans wince at first, the site says Young “has received comps to left-handed hitting infielders like Adam Frazier, with more extra-base impact and a better chance to stick at short, and former first-rounder Stephen Drew.”

Young is far more hit than power and he doesn’t have a ton of swing and miss to his game.

Jett Williams, TexasWilliams, who checks in at No. 21 on MLB Pipeline, is one of the smaller prospects in this draft at just 5 foot 8. The Mississippi State commit is described by Pipeline as “a favorite gut-feel guy for a lot of scouts.”

Williams is reported as being a faster player with little swing-and-miss to his game who has “feel for the barrel” and 15-homer potential, though it’s unclear if he’ll stick at shortstop or move to second base or even the outfield as he works his way through the minor leagues. How early he goes could depend on whether a team thinks he can stick at short.

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