Dipoto: Why Mariners went with 3 HS bats to begin 2023 MLB Draft

Jul 13, 2023, 1:16 PM

Seattlle Mariners draft Colt Emerson...

The Seattle Mariners select Ohio high-school infielder Colt Emerson 22nd overall in the 2023 MLB Draft. (Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

(Taylor Jacobs/Seattle Sports)

The Seattle Mariners had three picks in the first 30 selections of this year’s MLB Draft, and they opted for high school hitters with each of those players.

At 22nd overall, it was Ohio shorstop Colt Emerson. At 29 and 30, it was Virginia outfielder Jonny Farmelo and Georgia shortstop Tai Peete, respectively.

Seattle Mariners 2023 MLB Draft Tracker: Every M’s pick

So why did the M’s opt for that strategy? Mariners president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto dove into his team’s draft haul during his weekly Seattle Sports show.

“I think this draft was as deep in position players – particularly the high school group – that we’d ever really seen,” Dipoto said. “We went into this draft with the extra picks believing that this was a chance to swing for the fences, to try to find some big upside and what we would call aircraft carrier-type talents.”

Seattle Mariners ‘aggressive,’ target ‘big upside’ to open 2023 MLB Draft

When you have just one first-round pick, Dipoto said, you have to try and balance risk and certainty. But with the extra picks at 29 and 30, the Mariners decided to bet on upside.

“This time, we went for what we thought was the players that were best and most available to us at this stage (and they) were high-upside, super athletic high school hitters, and we took a crack,” he said. “And I feel really good about what we were able to accomplish… I think we built what should start becoming the next wave. It’s a really exciting group, and we’ve never added this kind of athletic talent in one draft before, at least in my time here.”

We typically see college players rise through farm systems quicker than those coming from the prep ranks, so what does the hit rate on high-school bats look like?

“Pretty good. The best high school hitters in the country – and we nailed three or four of them in this draft – the best high school hitters in the country generally do go on to become major league players,” Dipoto said. “And in some cases – or many cases – they become the stars of Major League Baseball.”

Dipoto said that when it comes to developing hitters, “youth in this regard is really your friend. Emerson and Peete are still just 17 while Farmelo and fourth-round high school outfielder Aidan Smith are 18.

“The young ones really project well because they’re already among the best hitters in their class, and they’re young for the class, which generally it leads you to better outcomes over time. At least that’s what the research will tell you,” Dipoto said. “So we’re really excited about this group when you add it to (2022 first-round pick) Cole Young from a year ago and (2021 first-round pick) Harry Ford. We are starting to build up a nice pocket of players who as they make their way towards Seattle, it should get pretty, pretty fun. And we get more athletic every day.”

Was taking three high school bats over pitchers because of availability, strategy or where the organization is at? Dipoto said it’s a mix of all three.

“We did feel like the best players available to us when we were picking were bats. And it’s also from a strategic standpoint,” he said.

Dipoto brought up Teddy McGraw, a right-handed pitcher from Wake Forest who the Mariners took in the third round as their first pitcher selected, when pointing to the franchise’s pitching development.

“We do feel like our organization has done particularly well in finding players like Teddy and others who we took in the latter half of Day 2 of the draft,” Dipoto said. “And it was just a chance to tap into high-upside bat potential to add to a system that frankly right now is bat-heavy. Our best prospects that haven’t graduated to the big leagues are mostly hitters at this point. But we have a young foundation of pitching, we do very well with finding pitching in various places — sometimes later in the draft, sometimes trade, sometimes the waiver wire. And trusting what we do very well, but mostly taking the best players available to you because the baseball draft is a little different in that way. It’s going to take these kids years to get to the big leagues, and we have to be patient.”

Listen to this week’s Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player near the top of this story.

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