Jason Churchill on Mariners’ options with 2nd pick

Jun 3, 2011, 4:31 PM | Updated: 5:37 pm

Rendon4
Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon is considered the best college position player in the draft. (AP photo)

The 2011 MLB draft is Monday, and unlike in recent years, there’s no consensus as to what will happen with the No. 1 overall pick. That means there’s even more possibilities as to what the Mariners, owners of the second pick, might do.

Jason Churchill of Prospect Insider and ESPN.com joined Matt Pitman and Shannon Drayer on the Mariners post-game show earlier this week for some insight on a few of the players Seattle is considering.

One is Anthony Rendon, a power-hitting third baseman from Rice University who many considered the No. 1 overall pick before a shoulder injury limited his time in the field. In his latest mock draft, ESPN’s Keith Law has Rendon going to the Mariners and UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole going No. 1 to the Pirates.

Rendon’s offensive numbers have dipped considerably this season, from .394 with 26 homers and 85 RBIs in 2010 to .327 with six homers and 35 RBIs in 63 games in 2011.

Churchill believes that when healthy, Rendon has some similarities to Rays third baseman Evan Longoria, the third overall pick in the 2006 draft. Churchill said “all word out of Rice” is that Rendon’s shoulder injury is nothing major.

“If that’s the case and he’s more of what he was last year and he can hit 18-20, 25 homers a year, he’s going to bring to the table a better hit tool than Longoria,” Churchill said, “which means that suggests he will hit for some more average; he might be a .300, .320 hitter, get on base as much or more. And the power might not be that 30 home run power that Longoria brings to the table, but very similar; 18, 20, 25 homers even in a place like Safeco field.”

Cole
UCLA right-hander Gerrit Cole has a fastball that recently reached 101 mph. (AP photo)

As for Cole, Churchill said he recently went through a stretch of starts in which his fastball was flat and his command was off, though he added that often happens with college pitchers nearing the draft, especially those who throw so many fastballs. Churchill said Cole regained his command and hit 101 mph in his last start.

“That is awfully hard to pass up when you’re Pittsburgh and you don’t have that type of player at the top of the draft,” he said. “But if Cole has really put it together and Pittsburgh goes with Rendon at No. 1, doesn’t Seattle have to consider Gerrit Cole at No. 2?”

Others whose names seem to be mentioned as possibilities for the Mariners include a trio of high school players — outfielder Bubba Starling of Gardner, Kan., switch-hitting shortstop Francisco Lindor of Montverde, Fla., and right-handed pitcher Dylan Bundy of Owasso, Okla.

Churchill said that while Lindor hasn’t generated as much conversation as a possibility for the Mariners, he wouldn’t be surprised if the Mariners took him.

Seattle drafted shortstop Nick Franklin with the 27th overall pick in 2009, the same year they took Dustin Ackley at No. 2 with the intention of converting him to a second baseman. Churchill said if the Mariners took Lindor, it wouldn’t be a stretch to slide Franklin to second base — where he has some experience — and move Ackley to left field — a move that has been speculated in recent weeks with the team’s current offensive void at the position.

“It’s something the Mariners have always done, to play guys in multiple positions when they think they have the ability to do that,” Churchill said. “And if that is a possibility down the line you just draft the best player and if Lindor is the best player on the board for them at No. 2, no matter who goes No. 1, he’s going to be the pick and you just slide him into the system and then in three or four years he becomes your starting shortstop.”

Churchill said the appeal with either Cole or Rendon is that they would reach the majors much quicker than any of the high school players, though he added that Bundy could move quickly through the minors. He compared Bundy to Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello in that regard.

“He really knows what he is doing. There’s a lot of pitch ability,” he said of Bundy. “And he has better stuff than a guy like Porcello and Porcello is the example I used because it just took him a couple years out of high school to get to the big leagues by 20. Bundy’s up in the mid 90’s regularly with his fastball and has three other pitches he throws for strikes.”

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