Mariners Draft: M’s scouting director talks best tool, steals, more

Jul 19, 2023, 1:32 PM

Seattle Mariners Colt Emerson Tai Peete...

Colt Emerson takes batting practice with fellow Seattle Mariners draft pick Tai Peete on July 18. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners wrapped up a 22-man draft class last week, which included the M’s making three of the first 30 overall picks. Those first three selections were all used on high-school hitters: shortstops Colt Emerson (22nd overall) and Tai Peete (30th), and outfielder Jonny Farmelo (29).

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The man in charge of Mariners drafts is Scott Hunter, the organization’s director of amateur scouting, who joined Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Wednesday to discuss this draft class.

So, how’d the Mariners do?

“I think we did really well,” Hunter said. “As an organization, it’s a fun time to be a scout with the Seattle Mariners. I mean, we see a lot of our players graduating to the big leagues. It was a lot of fun yesterday when I was able to take Colt and Tai Peete through the clubhouse and the first three guys we see are (drafted Mariners pitchers) Bryce Miller, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby and they all walk over.”

• Three early picks

Having three of the first 30 picks isn’t normal in an MLB Draft. What was that like?

“I don’t know if it really changes anything because we’ve been pretty consistent and disciplined,” Hunter said. “… Really trying to make good decisions, build out a process that really works for us and stay with it. And when you have three first-round picks, everything, the whole talent pool is open to you. And to have three, it does create a little more travel, it does create a little more I don’t wanna say chaos, but I would say excitement, because you’re not sure what’s going to fall through. I mean, even though we had three first-round picks, they’re still in the back of the first round. So the travel days and the work we had to do was probably, I wouldn’t say tripled, but there was a lot of extra work going into this class. And so it was such a deep player pool.”

• The two shortstops

Emerson and Peete are both 17-year-old shortstops who figure to rise through the system at the same time, likely playing at the same level of the minors.

So how will that work out since they’re both listed as shortstops?

“I do believe Colt Emerson has seen some time at third, he’s played short, he’s played second. Even with Tai, Tai’s gonna go out as a shortstop but he’s such a big kid and he’s such an interesting just pure athlete and looks like an NFL wide receiver,” Hunter said. “I mean, and he’s got the speed to even play center field if he wanted to. It gives our player development a lot of options to move them around the field, which is actually a benefit to them. As long as they’re getting their at-bats and developing their offensive skills, I think moving them around the infield and managing their time and what positions they’re gonna play is probably the easier part of it.”

• Best tool in the Seattle Mariners’ class

You’ll hear about a player’s “tools” or skills throughout their developmental process, be it power at the plate, their arm, or other aspects of their game.

Which drafted Mariners prospect has the single best tool in this year’s class?

“I would say probably Jonny Farmelo speed-wise,” Hunter said. “Jonny Farmelo went to the Major League Draft Combine and was I think the third-fastest (runner) in the draft class. So getting a player that has left-handed physicality, power from the left side, can play center field and is a physical power runner who’s going to be able to steal some bases is pretty exciting for us. I mean, just to get that combination of speed and power is kind of rare in the scouting world.”

• Three potential draft steals

Three other draft picks came up during Hunter’s Brock and Salk interview, and it sounds like the M’s may have gotten some of the draft’s top steals.

One is third-round pick Teddy McGraw, a right-handed pitcher from Wake Forest.

“He’s really exciting for us,” Hunter said.

McGraw has dynamic stuff, but he underwent not one but two Tommy John surgeries, including one before the 2023 spring season.

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“Obviously we’ve done pretty well with the Bryan Woos of the world, who’s in our big league rotation right now who we drafted and who was injured at the time in the 2021 draft. He was coming off of Tommy John, just blew his elbow out and we just believed in his delivery and the stuff that was coming out of his hand prior to the injury,” Hunter said. “… We are taking willing to take a shot on guys that have had some injuries, and Teddy is one of those guys.

“He unfortunately had a second Tommy John surgery in January, but if he finished out the season before that injury, he probably would have been in one of the top 15 players selected in the draft. There was a lot of risk on our end in regards to rehabbing him and getting him back to what he was, but there is also a lot of reward because this kid has a special, special arm when healthy.”

Two other intriguing names to keep an eye on are outfielder Aidan Smith, a fourth-round high schooler, and fifth-round infielder Brock Rodden of Wichita State.

Both Smith and Rodden are already in Mariners camp, Hunter said, and both are standing out. That’s especially the case with Smith.

Smith was a favorite of Mariners scouts, Hunter said, with one area scout repeatedly texting Hunter to not forget about Smith since he was a bit under the radar.

“He’s already in minicamp and I’m getting getting rave reviews from our coaches saying, ‘How did we get this kid in the fourth round?’ Because he’s another young, upside high school middle-of-the-field player – probably going to be a center fielder,” Hunter said. “Our high-performance group down there is already saying this kid is not even strong yet, so imagine what we can do with him once he gets into our strength and conditioning program.”

Rodden came up when Hunter was asked who had the most interesting story among the team’s 22 picks.

“He was a drafted player last year that went in the 10th round to Oakland,” Hunter said. “He’s probably 5 foot 9 but he hits the ball extremely hard, he plays the middle of the field, he’s a 70 runner on our running scale. But he chose to go back to Wichita State. He says, ‘I think I’m a better player than being a 10th-round pick,’ and he goes back to school and all he was was a player of the year in his division there and he becomes a fifth-round pick.”

A big part of what stands out with Rodden is his mentality.

“He has an edge to him. I got to meet him at minicamp last week and he is going to be a fun player to watch for our organization,” Hunter said. “And not only his tools and ability on the field, but the attitude and a chip on his shoulder that he plays with is the kind of attitude I think a clubhouse needs that plays winning baseball.”

Listen to a podcast of the full Brock and Salk conversation with Scott Hunter at this link or in the player near the top of this post.

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Mariners Draft: M’s scouting director talks best tool, steals, more