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Mariners draft: Setting the stage for Dipoto’s highest pick as M’s GM

Mariners GM Jerry DIpoto will make his first top 10 draft pick with Seattle next week. (AP)

Next week’s MLB Draft will be the Mariners’ fifth since Jerry Dipoto became general manager, and it will be a very different draft than in years past.

Drayer: High first-round pick gives M’s an edge in adjusted draft format

First and foremost, the draft will be only five rounds, well down from the typical 40. That occurred due to a March agreement between players and owners after the pandemic indefinitely postponed the MLB, college and high school baseball seasons. Additionally, any player who is draft eligible but not selected will be able to sign as an undrafted free agent with a signing bonus of $20,000 or less. You can find more out about the details in this USA Today story.

Secondly, this year will feature the highest draft pick of the Dipoto era by far. After a 68-94 record, Seattle has the sixth overall pick in the first round on Wednesday, June 10. It will be the first time Dipoto and his staff makes a selection inside of the top 10 for the Mariners.

Dipoto has embraced a rebuild or restructuring of the organization’s roster since the end of the 2018 season, putting an emphasis on accumulating top prospects, and nailing a top-10 pick could go a long way in the team’s goal of having sustainable success for years to come.

So now the question is, who will they pick? In the coming days, we’ll have separate posts here on looking at three different groups of players that the Mariners’ 2020 top selection could come from. But first, let’s look at what they’ve done in drafts under Dipoto to get an idea of the team’s tendencies.

Mariners draft strategy

In his four drafts as Mariners GM, Dipoto has gone to the college ranks in the first round every time.

That started in 2016 when he took Mercer outfielder Kyle Lewis with the 11th overall pick. Lewis, that year’s Golden Spikes winner (essentially the Heisman for college baseball), was a consensus top 100 prospect in all of baseball at the start of his professional career until multiple knee injuries derailed his development months after he was drafted. He made his MLB debut this last year, skipping Triple-A all together, and became just the second player ever to homer in each of his three big league games and the first player in MLB history to hit a home run six times in his first 10 career games. In 18 games late last year, Lewis had six home runs, 18 RBIs and hit .268 in 75 plate appearances. He is currently Seattle’s 10th overall prospect, per MLB Pipeline (all rankings below are also from MLB Pipeline).

Next up: Kentucky first baseman Evan White, who was drafted 17th overall in 2017 and was seen as arguably the best fielder in that draft. Many believe he could be a perennial Gold Glove winner at first base. His power wasn’t much in college or at the start of his pro career, but a change in his stance and swing led to an uptick last year (18 home runs in 92 games with Double-A Arkansas, who plays in a very pitcher-friendly ballpark). He is Seattle’s No. 4 prospect and MLB’s No. 56 prospect (the full MLB top 100 prospects list can be found at this link). He notably signed a long-term deal this offseason, rare for a player yet to make his MLB debut, so whenever baseball returns, the 24 year old is expected to be the Mariners’ starting first baseman for the foreseeable future.

The college trend continued in 2018 with the selection of Logan Gilbert, a big right-hander from Stetson, the same college that produced Cy Young winners Jacon deGrom and Corey Kluber. Gilbert was the highest drafted player in Stetson’s history, going 14th overall in 2018, and while mono caused him to not make his pro debut until 2019, he dominated from the start and ended the year in Double-A Arkansas. Overall, Gilbert went 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA in 135 innings between three levels last season. He also showed great command while missing bats, striking out 165 compared to 33 walks. Gibert is Seattle’s No. 3 prospect, and the organization’s top pitching prospect, and is MLB’s 38th overall prospect. Some thought with a full MLB season in 2020 that Gilbert could make his debut. If baseball returns and is well short of the usual 162 games, that may be less likely, but you never know.

Seattle’s most recent first-rounder, right-hander George Kirby, was a strike-throwing machine in college at Elon, posting a ridiculous 17.8 strikeout to walk ratio his final collegiate season to go along with an 8-2 record and 2.75 ERA and, like Gilbert, was the highest drafted player in his school’s history. He continued that trend in the minors, not walking a single batter in 23 innings for the Everett Aquasox after being selected 20th overall in the 2019 draft. Kirby is Seattle’s No. 5 prospect and MLB’s No. 100 prospect.

Draft details

The MLB Draft starts next Wednesday, June 10, at 4 p.m. on MLB Network with the first round and continues on Thursday at 2 p.m. with the rest of the draft. Full details about the draft can be found at this link, and keep your eye on for the next installment in our Mariners draft preview series.

Follow’s Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

More from our Mariners draft preview series

Who should the M’s take with No. 6 overall pick? (June 9)
High school players Seattle could take at No. 6 (June 6)
College bats Seattle could take with No. 6 pick (June 5)
College arms who could be Seattle’s 1st-round pick (June 4)

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