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M’s in Much Better Hands Now

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on May 6, 2006

In case you aren't a believer in Bill Bavasi and Bob Fontaine's abilities to judge amateur talent, check out the proof.

In the first two years, Fontaine has drafted nine players that most consider to be useful prospects, at least.

From C Jeff Clement and SS Matt Tuiasosopo to C Rob Johnson, RHP Mark Lowe and RHP Stephen Kahn, Fontaine has drafted half of the top 10 prospects in the system in just two drafts.

Add to that, LHP's Robert Rohrbaugh and Justin Thomas, OF's Michael Saundersand Sebastien Boucher, and SS Jeffrey Dominguez and it's clear as day that Fontaine can draft, even when he's only had one first round pick to work with, zero second rounders and one third rounder.

In the previous four seasons (2000-2003), the Pat Gillick/Frank Mattox years, only eight useful talents came about – in FOUR DRAFTS.

CF Adam Jones and LHP's Bobby Livingston, Ryan Feierabend and Thomas Oldham are the best of the bunch. Outfielder Jamal Strong was a useful prospect until injuries ended his run.

C Rene Rivera, RHP Rett Johnson and LHP Ryan Ketchner round out the group.

Very unexciting bunch, eh? That's the Gillick/Mattox era for ya.

Gillick and Mattox drafted 13 high school pitchers in the first 10 rounds over those four years, and only Feierabend, Oldham and Livingston have a legit chance to help the parent club.

Selecting Michael Garciaparra in the first round was a colossal mistake, especially since David Wright, Dallas McPherson and Dan Haren were all still available. Ouch.

The M's hold picks 5, 49, 81 and 111 in the first four rounds and while it's not a great draft this season, particularly at the top, the club has a real legit shot to clean house next month.

And since Fontaine can snag a first-round talent in round three and get value in rounds four through 10, it's conceivable that the M's farm system will take a rather large step forward come June.

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25 Responses to “M’s in Much Better Hands Now”

  1. 1996Coug said

    What a crappy year to have top picks…but you’re right Fontaine is very good at what he does. When we fire Bavasi (not advocating that) would Fontaine be someone promotable to that spot??

  2. 1996Coug said

    May I add the two jerks who call for Oakland TV broadcasts to your least favorites on Listening Live? These two guys are so bad they ought to have “wish I was somewhere else” tattooed on their foreheads. Other than fawning over the players as if they were 16 year old girls, they bring nothing to the broadcast. For the first 5 minutes it’s actually so bizarre it’s entertaining, but…nails on a chalkboard.

    You’re absolutely right about Harrelson, though. I hate him so much that when ESPN does their package for the WSox, I’ll mute it because if you listen close enough you can still hear Hawk’s call. Vomit!!

  3. Mariners Revolution said

    You have a great site. I really appreciate the inside information you can provide to the fans. I have to say being a long-time Bavasi critic that I have a difference of opinion, and disagree with putting the blame on Frank Mattox or Gillick. Frank’s title was Director of Scouting, but Roger Jongewaard was the VP of Scouting and Player Development from 1989 to 2003. It is my understanding that Jongewaard should be blamed and not Mattox. Mattox joined the M’s in ’95 as West Coast Scouting Director. To me his role was a supervisory one over all scouts and not a handling of the draft when promoted as Director of Scouting in 1997. I agree that Jongewaard has done a poor job in the amateur draft, and Fontaine has done far more in the past 2 drafts than Jongewaard has done in the past decade. I find it difficuly to blame a GM (Gillick) on the amateur draft, when Roger Jongewaard had been in charge of the amateur draft since 1989. I guess we could debate whether Gillick putting more focus on International Scouting was really a bad move? We have 13 players currently protected on the 40-man roster that were signed as International free agents. I believe Roger’s lack of success is why the M’s basically forced Jongewaard out when Bavasi came in. I do agree Fontaine was an excellent hire by Bavasi. Not to many good things I can say about our GM.

  4. Edman said

    While you mentioned a few obvious Fontaine picks…..I’m even more impressed with his late round picks. He’s made some great picks, that went counter to the old regime’s “best athlete” approach. Fontaine is more interested in their baseball ability…then their tools.

    While some of these guys may never make it, they at least have a shot. Guys like Brian LaHair, Marshall Hubbard, etc.

    We’ll soon see Bob’s handy work. People just need to be patient….it takes 3-4 years to change a minor league system through the draft.

  5. Jerry said

    I would also mention how Fontaine has picked up an interesting injured pitcher each year in the late rounds. In 2004, it was LHP Steve Uhlmansiek and in 2005 it was Anthony Varvano.

    Both of those guys were pretty highly regarded, and slid due to injuries. Both had TJ surgery. Although neither have fully returned from injury, both could end up being steals in the draft.

    I am hoping that the M’s take a flyer on another injured player. The doctors are pretty good at fixing guys up, and these players make excellent risks in the late rounds.

  6. The scouting director is responsible for the draft. Not the Scouting & PD VP… Just like now, Fontaine, the scouting director, is responsible.

    Not Benny Looper.

    Mattox highly recommended those picks and his staff scouted them.

    Jongewaard was Mattox’s boss, and was involved int he decisions, just as Looper and Bavasi are now, but at the end of the day, the middle man, which was ROger then and Looper now, they have far less say.

    And there isn’t an eitheror with drafting and international scouting. You don’t pick between the two. You do both to the utmost. It’s not about money. It’s the same now as it was then. And they are still employing the same scouts international territories then that they do now.

    The difference is easy.

    They are drafting better and still scouring Australia and Latin America for top talents.

    Mattox believes in tools more than anything.

    If a kid doesn’t have athletic tools, Mattox won’t like him, and Gillick is somewhat the same, hence the terrible drafts of all the prep kids with upsides.

    The entire front office shares the blame, including Roger and Benny. But ultimately it’s the job of the scouting director and the GM to make sure the right guys get picked.

  7. Imagine that the M’s top 10 prospect list looks like this in two months…
    Clement, Jones, Miller, Cabrera, Johnson, Tuiasosopo, Hodges, Choo, Feierabend.

    Hodges, along with a few other college bats, could drop into the second round. Others that could drop are Ian Kennedy, Max Sapp, Jeremy Jeffress and Cody Johnson.

  8. Jerry said

    I am keeping my fingers crossed that Luke Hochevar drops down to the second round. That would be perfect.

    Other potentials could include WA native OF Travis Snider, OF Brennan Boesch, RHP Dallas Buck, LHP David Huff, or LHP Nathan Culp.

    Snider is projected to go way earlier, but hopefully his commitment to ASU will scare away some teams. If so, the M’s could swoop in and take advantage of the local connection to get him signed. It would be nice to have another LH impact bat in the system.

    I like your ideas about Kennedy and Johnson. Kennedy in particular would be a steal in the early second round. Like Hochevar, Scott Boras’ involvement with him could cause him to plummet.

    I just hope that the M’s open their wallets. Given how much money the club is spending on a roster that is churning out 90+ loss seasons, they need to spend the cash to build up the farm system.

  9. Jerry said

    As a side note, if Miller gets picked before #5 (which is likely), I am really hoping that Tim Lincecum drops to the M’s. He is so consistently good that he has to be the #2 guy now. If his size and delivery scare off some of the other clubs, he would be a good pick.

    If the M’s got him, he could potentially end up in Seattle in September working out of the pen. The M’s would have to be very conservative with his workload, but Lincecum could be one of those rare guys who spends little time in the minors. Just like Ryan Zimmerman. If he stays healthy, Lincecum could go into spring training of next year with a spot in the rotation his to lose. That would be pretty sweet.

  10. warner28 said

    I think Miller is more likely to fall to #5 than Lincecum, unless Lincecum demands outragous money from eveyone but the Mariners in a ploy to fall to number 5 and stay in Seattle.

    That does happen but does not seem likely at this point, Miller on the otherhand seems to be the one who will be making big money demands and the teams picking before Seattle could pass.

  11. Jerry said

    RE #10,

    I hope that you are correct.

    That said, there are more than five really good pitchers in this draft:

    Miller
    Lincecum
    Lincoln
    Morrow
    Drabek
    Kershaw
    Scherzer

    If the four teams drafting before us all take pitchers, and the M’s are left deciding between Drabek, Kershaw, and Scherzer, that is still OK. All three are very very good prospects.

  12. I’m still not 100% convinced that KC passes up on Miller, so until that becomes more than apparent, the best talent stays at 1.

  13. marc w. said

    Agreed – I think KC CAN’T pass up Miller. Remember last year, when everyone knew Gordon was going to demand (and get) big money, and some thought KC would go with a ‘budget pick?’
    They didn’t, and they can’t. The regime is on its last legs, and they can’t afford the draft failures they had in the 90s – they have to select the draft’s ‘sure thing’ and that means Miller.
    I’m fine with that; I’d rather have Lincecum. But I think the odds aren’t great that he drops to us.

  14. I’d much prefer Miller because he has staying power and is much less of a risk. Matching up each players’ ceilings, Miller still wins out. It just might take him 1-2 years to become a mainstay, while Lincecum may be in the bigs in August.

  15. marc w. said

    I can certainly see that – he’s certainly less risk. But with reports of his velocity in the lower 90s these days, I’m wondering if he doesn’t start looking more like a good #2 at his peak as opposed to a shut-down #1 guy.
    I mean, what do you think his K/9 translates in the majors? His ERA is helped by quite a few unearned runs, etc.
    He’s really improved his control, and I think it’s virtually inconceivable that he doesn’t make the majors (it’s pretty easy to think of a reason why Lincecum wouldn’t), but I’m just not sold on Miller as a dominant TOR kind of starter. (but if he’s there at #5 for some reason, and Lincecum isn’t, well there’s no doubt that the M’s should grab him).

    He’s no Tim Stauffer, but he’s also not Mark Prior.

    I wish he’d get more TV exposure. I keep catching UNC games on Fox College sports, and it’s always their third starter. Same with a lot of the UW games – no lincecum.

  16. Miller in the low 90s?

    Yeah, BY CHOICE. Seriously. He's throwing a 92 mph TWO-SEAMER.

    His 4-seam heater is still 95+.

    And as far as his future holds… look at how many extra-base hits he's given up in 75 innings. THREE. Three all season.

    Re: TV

    That's because those guys are thier Friday starters and the games that are Televised are usually Sat and Sunday games.

  17. marc w. said

    3 xbh? Okay, that’s damned impressive.
    It’s awesome that he’s got a 92MPH 2 seamer, and I’m sure it’s an amazingly effective pitch – but when he’s facing hitters at a AA/AAA level, what’s going to separate him from, oh, Clint Nageotte (2006 version)?

  18. What’s going to separate him from the ’06 version of Nageotte?

    1. Three years of age
    2. Handedness
    3. Command
    4. 95+ mph four-seamer

  19. marc w. said

    OK, I was being slightly facetious/hyperbolic… the command issue is probably the biggest there. But seriously, what kind of K/9 and K:BB rates do you see him running at his peak?

  20. That’s pretty impossible to predict or project but he’s solid in those areas right now.

    21 walks in 75 innings isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either, and it’s far better than Lincecum’s 54 walks in 102 innings or Morrow’s 36 walks in 93 frames.

  21. I think Miller could be Andy Pettitte at his best but with a few more whiffs.

  22. marc w. said

    OK, sounds reasonable, although I’d be *very* surprised if Miller could maintain 7+ K/9 into his MLB career. Not that you have to in order to be quite successful…and even Pettitte has turned into something of a K guy, esp. after age 29. We’ll see.

    Lincecum is either Nick Neugebauer or some sort of freakish Rich Harden clone. I think there’s a better chance that he’s a perennial all-star, and a lot bigger chance of him flaming out. I think who you prefer just depends on your risk tolerance.

  23. What makes you think a 6-6, 200+ pound 21-year-old left-hander with a 95+ mph fastball, a low 90s two-seamer and a plus slider can;t maintain a high K rate?

    That’s prototypical for high K rates.

  24. marc w. said

    Because it’s really, really hard. Andy Pettitte is 6’5″, 230, and he was in the bigs for a while before he started heading north of 7K/9.
    Another question is how much of that 95+ MPH 4 seamer we’ll see. Gil Meche has one of those, but we don’t often see it – and shouldn’t – because, like Nageotte, his best chance of success is getting people out with a moving, low 90s 2 seamer. So, when I see a guy who’s shifted (willingly) to the 2 seamer, and has good but not knock-your-socks-off K rates in college, I’m thinking he’s probably a different category of guy to the Verlander, Prior, Lincecum types. The more i think about it, the more I like the Pettitte comp.

  25. But already saying he can’t is jumping the gun.

    Big time.

    He’s got more natural velo than Pettitte ever had and his slider is an out pitch.

    His stuff and natural skills suggest he’s a mix between Schilling and Randy Johnson.

    But that is insane, which is why i said I think he’s Andy Pettitte.

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