Mariners draft preview: College bats Seattle could take with No. 6 pick
Last time, we took a look at a few college pitchers that the Mariners could consider taking with the No. 6 overall pick in next week’s MLB Draft.
Seattle has gone that route in the first round of the last two years after taking college position players – outfielder Kyle Lewis and first baseman Evan White – with their top picks in the 2016 and 2017 drafts, which were the first two drafts the Mariners had under general manager Jerry Dipoto.
Lewis and White are both expected to be in Seattle’s starting lineup the next time the team plays a meaningful game, and if all goes right, they should hold down their positions for years to come. Perhaps Seattle’s 2020 first-round pick will be one of the college bats we’ll look at below and join them in the lineup in the near future.
(Note: MLB Pipeline’s top 200 draft prospects list can be found here)
There are three college hitters in MLB Pipeline’s top 10 draft prospects who could be there when Seattle picks at No. 6.
The first is New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales, who stands 5 foot 10 and played both second base and shortstop for the Aggies during his college career. Simply put, the dude can hit. As a freshman, Gonzales hit .347 and hit nine home runs. He followed that up with a .432 campaign where he hit 16 home runs and drove in 80 runs while walking more than he struck out. And in a brief 16-game season this year, Gonzales hit .448 with 12 (!) home runs and, once again, had more walks than strikeouts.
While those stats are with metal bats, which typically inflate stats, Gonzales showed he can handle wood bats as well, posting a .351 average with seven home runs and 33 RBIs in 42 games in the Cape Cod League, a wood bat summer league for top college players.
MLB Pipeline says Gonzales projects more as an offensive-minded second baseman, which could mean that the decision to draft him boils down to how comfortable the organization is with Shed Long as the team’s long-term second baseman. Long got some looks last year and figures to be the starter in 2020 and 2021, but Gonzales may be too enticing to pass up, and his elite play at the college level could make him a candidate to be fast-tracked to the big leagues. He’s been projected in mock drafts typically between picks four and eight, so there’s a good chance he’s on the board when Seattle’s on the clock.
— NM State Baseball (@NMStateBaseball) March 8, 2020
Seattle has two of the game’s top outfield prospects in Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, a nice mix of younger veterans like Mitch Haniger and Mallex Smith, a former top prospect in Lewis, and lesser-known prospects like Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop, so maybe outfield isn’t the team’s top priority. But that could change, obviously, if they fall in love with a prospect. If they do and decide to take a college outfielder, the two to keep an eye on are UCLA’s Garrett Mitchell and Arkansas’ Heston Kjerstad. Both throw right handed and hit lefty.
Mitchell is 6-3, 200 pounds, and is described as “big and strong” while also possessing the ability to steal bases. He is MLB Pipeline’s No. 6 draft prospect and the draft’s top outfielder, according to the site. There are a few reasons he’s seen as a high-ceiling player that comes with some risks, however
The good: Across three seasons at UCLA, Mitchell stole 28 bags and hit .327. MLB Pipeline says he should be able to hold down center field defensively due to his 70-grade speed. At his best, he could be a top of the order player.
The concerns: Something to note with Mitchell is that he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes during the third grade and that’s been something he’s dealt with ever since. While that hasn’t stopped him from succeeding, it’s not out of the question for teams to have worries about his heath. Additionally, for being a bigger guy, he has hit only six home runs in 121 games for UCLA, all coming in 2019.
Mock drafts have Mitchell anywhere from the fifth overall pick to as low as the mid-teens due in part to his diabetes as well as his low power numbers. Based on what I’ve been seeing, he’s one of the hardest players to tab out of the draft’s top prospects, but it’s easy to see why he’ll go in the first round.
⚠️ WARNING: Garrett Mitchell is dangerous.
The @UCLABaseball sophomore records an RBI-triple for the Bruins' second run of the game.
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) May 19, 2019
Kjerstad, 6-3 and 205 pounds, is MLB Pipeline’s 10th draft prospect and is someone that the Mariners already have some familiarity with, so that is definitely something to watch. The Mariners actually drafted Kjerstad out of high school in 2017 in the 36th round, though he opted for college ball with Arkansas, where he developed into one of the best hitters in the country.
While Mitchell is more of a speed guy, Kjerstad’s calling card is his bat and power. In his three years at Arkansas, Kjerstad hit 37 home runs and drove in 129 runs. He also has a career batting average of .343 for the Razorbacks. MLB Pipeline says that Kjerstad has the best left handed power in the draft and has the second most overall power in the draft behind only Arizona State first baseman Spencer Torkelson, who will likely be the No. 1 pick. Kjerstad’s power and strong arm profile him to be a right fielder in the big leagues.
— Razorback Baseball (@RazorbackBSB) April 20, 2020
The MLB Draft starts 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.
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 arms who could be Seattle’s 1st-round pick (June 4)
• Setting the stage for Dipoto’s highest pick as M’s GM (June 3)