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Grading Day One of the Draft

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 7, 2006

Okay, so after you get past the disappointment of the Mariners selecting Brandon Morrow ahead of consensus top talent Andrew Miller, the Mariners had a pretty solid day drafting.

Bob Fontaine got his man, the club's third rated starting pitcher on their board after Miller and Hochevar, and M's fans should be happy about that regardless of the Miller factor.

The following might make you feel better and understand why it was a good idea to pass on Miller, though the general idea is preposterous.

Miller was not going to accept any deal south of $7 million in bonuses from the Mariners. From Miller's perspective, Seattle is a team in massive rebuild mode, has very little track record of winning and is 3000 miles from where he's lived his entire life.

So what about Detroit?

They may not have an easy time signing him, either, but they train in Florida, where Miller is from, play in Detroit, not far from where Miller's family lives and the Tigers are contenders now, and look to be for many years to come.

If you are Andrew Miller, you are surely more willing to come down on your asking price for Detroit than for Seattle.

So it would have cost Seattle at least $7 million, probably eight, just to sign him.

Imagine a free agent, any position, and I used outfield in an earlier analysis so let's do that again.

What if last winter when the M's needed a lefty stick, the best stick on the market wanted to come to Seattle, but it was going to cost nearly three times as much as the next best option, Jacque Jones?

Brian Giles for $17-18 million per year for three years or Jones at $6 million per year for three years?

That's insane money for Giles, even though he is far and away a better hitter than Jones. This town would have freaked out if the M's gave Giles $50-54 million.

And we're talking about proven talent, not draftees.

So why would the Mariners give Miller, a potential No. 1, but probably No. 2 left-handed starter $7-8 million, and endure a likely long drawn-out contract negotiation process, when they could get Morrow, a potential No. 2, probable No. 3 starter with slightly more risk for a third of the price, why wouldn't they?

Fact is, if Miller was truly never going to settle for near slot money, the Mariners did the right thing, as much as it sucks.

Another factor is the idea of busting slot by such an enormous margin. MLB and other clubs frown on that and the M's really didn't want to ruffle feathers. Miller is good, no doubt, and the best talent in the draft, but if the Mariners are going to piss off the rest of the league and MLB, he's not the player in which to test those waters.

Justin Upton or Alex Gordon, yes. AROD or Junior, sure. Those are premium talents, at the highest of the (new word alert) premiumistic spectrum.

Miller is not.

And it's not like Morrow is some slouch.

Tim Lincecum is too much of a risk for the M's, who are in no position to gamble, which left them Morrow. Personally, I would have gone with the kid at five, but I certainly understand the M's position.

Morrow is expected to ink a deal rather quickly, by the way, and probably for somewhere between $2.3 and 2.75 million dollars on a minor league contract.

Expect him to start his career in A ball with the exact assignment dependent on how early he signs. If he signs later this month, he'll probably make a "shake the rust off" start or two in Everett and then slide up to Inland Empire where his talents will be challenged.

The Mariners would like Morrow to pitch in AA by season's end which would pace him for the big leagues no more than two years from now.

While the Morrow selection was indeed wise, the pick gets a B grade. Miller would have received an A, Hochevar a B+.

The M's best selection came in round two, although they were hoping Miller's teammate Daniel Bard would slip to the 49th spot. Bard went 21 picks earlier and the M's shifted gears.

The club preferred to get a bat in round two, but there weren't any college sticks that made any sense.

Right-hander Chris Tillman was in the 20s on many clubs draft boards, and for the M's to get him at 49 was fantastic.

Yeah, I know, he's a prep pitcher and we have seen one after another go down without helping the big club much at all. Injury, off field problems, terrible performances, you name it.

But Tillman is a pretty darned good prospect.

At 6-5 and 190 pounds, Tillman's arsenal includes a fastball clocked in the 89-91 range and a power curve ball. Tillman's best attributes are easily his physical projectability, his advanced command and some very solid mechanics for a high school kid that just turned 18 in April.

He'll add pounds and likely a few mphs on the radar gun, but a smooth delivery and consistent overall mechanics bode very well for Tillman's future.

Of course, his timetable is a moot subject, but he's already the club's second best pitching prospect behind Morrow, which is both a shot at the current crop and a compliment to Tillman.

Tillman stays on top of his fastball and his four-seam heater has a natural run to it that bores in on righties and away from lefthanders.

His arm action and arm slot look a lot like that if Detroit righty Justin Verlander, if you want a comp of a current MLB pitcher – delivery only.

In round three, the M's went for a projectable lefty, Tony Butler. Butler is 6-7 and 210 pounds and regularly hits 90+ on the radar gun. Butler's secondary pitches need work but he gained a better feel for a slider late in his prep career.

Butler is a very interesting selection and will be fun to watch develop. He will certainly fill out physically and could end up in the mid-90s with his fastball. Word is that his command is pretty solid. Improving his other pitches will be numero uno.

Overall, the M's took 18 players, 14 of them were pitchers. Of those 14, 11 were from the college ranks.

Another very interesting pick came in round seven when the M's snagged Fresno State righty Doug Fister.

Fister (right) is 6-8 and 210 pounds and has a delivery very similar to that of Tillman, though not quite as smooth. He was 8-6 for the Bulldogs with an unimpressive 4.10 ERA, but hits the low 90s with his fastball and with the right adjustments may be able to sharpen his command and be a surprise steal.

In the 18th round, the M's took Kameron

Mickolio is probably a relief option.

Fun fact: M's 16th rounder Austin Bibens-Dirkx, and yes that is the correct spelling, uses a true sidearm delivery – not a submarine style, but a real, true, sidearm angle.

He's got pretty good command and is an interesting relief pitcher to keep an eye on.

Clearly, the club saw an opportunity to stock the farm with more options on the mound, and they got that job done, with a bang.

Rumor has it that if 3B Chris Marrero, OF Chris Parmelee or C/1B Max Sapp would have fallen to 49, the M's may have chosen one of the prep bats over Tillman.

But be happy that didn't happen, this club needs legit rotation candidates like Tillman.

The Tillman selection gets an A.

Overall: B-

I had them at a C/C+ until I inquired further about Butler and fifth rounder Nathan Adcock.


19 Responses to “Grading Day One of the Draft”

  1. Salty Dog said

    What are the chances Gavin Dickey and Jared Baehl get signed, instead of going to college? (back to college, in Dickey’s case) And is the club looking at Baehl as a position player or as a pitcher?

    Both look like good athletes who could blossom with a focus solely on baseball.

    I like the look of Dirkx (and great name, too). His motion looks like it could be very tough on righties.

    Like Tillman, too – not based on his pitches, which didn’t blow me away (at least on the mlb.com scouting video), he just looks like a baseball player. Seems very smooth mechanically, coordinated, and confident.

    Morrow’s going to be a solid pro, I think. His fastball’s straight, but he throws it on a nice downward plane with good velocity, znd if he has a good splitter, that’s enough to be successful.

  2. Ty said

    Hey guys,

    Any chance you can tell us anything about the Mariners 10th round pick, Chris Minaker? He’s a short stop from Stanford and I have a friend that knows him. When I told my friend that the Mariners drafted him, he was exstatic. Any info on the guy?

  3. The M’s see Baehl as a hitter.

    I’d expect Dickey to go back to school unless there are outside factors pushing him out.

    Re: Minaker

    He’s a utility guy with a decent bat. Pretty sound ballplayer in the mold of a Geoff Blum, Mark Bellhorn type player.

    His bat is his best attribute, he won the pac 10 bat of the year.

  4. Andrew said


    So do you see Minaker as a Bloomquist replacement type? Hopefully with a better bat.

  5. Edman said

    From what Fontaine said, as quoted on TV, they really like Morrow’s fastball. It’s not just 93-95 MPH……but it’s a sinking pitch thrown hard. I think that was probably what caught their attention. Lots of kids throw that hard, but not many have a natural sink.

    And, they do project him as a starter. At least, that’s where he’ll start out.

    I think too much was made of his diebates. I’m not sure what type he has, but it’s a very controlled disease. I believe Jason Johnson has it as well, and I haven’t heard of any huge concerns with him.

    I think some of you need to think about Miller for a second. Just what charactor issues might he have, if he THINKS he’s work an $8 million plus bonus, just for the right to see him pitch…..don’t you think he may not be a team player? I don’t know the kid, but for crying out loud……that much money for a guy who could blow an elbo out before he reaches the majors? It’s not like a position player, who stands a good chance of playing everyday. Pitchers come with risks.

    All in all, I think the M’s were smart. This isn’t a rich position player draft, so use your top picks to get pitching. I’m sure Fontaine feels he can get the same talent level drafting position players later, as he can drafting them early.

    Fontaine seems to find those kind of players in the mid rounds. Unlike the guys before him…..he seems to have a better prerequisite for those mid to late draftees. I remember something about his changing the “best athlete” concept that the M’s had…..to “the best baseball player”.

  6. Joshua said

    Finally saw some “good” video of the kid (Morrow) on yesterdays post game. I love the guys motion. I know the fastball is upper 90’s but it truley looks like a laser beam coming out of his hand. Havent seen the splitter yet but its supposed to be plus, right?

  7. StandinPat said

    I think its important to keep everything in context. Alot of people are pissed we took Morrow, whcih is pretty dumb. You can be mad that we passed up player A or B, but to say that Morrow is a scrub and not worthy of the #5 pick is foolish. Also as far as gaining velocity, figuring out a secondary pitch, it seems like Morrow was about a year or two behind Linecum in his development. So with another year of harnessing his newfound ability maybe his strikeout numbers would have rivaled Linecums and everyone would be ectastic we got such a steal. Lets actually watch the kid pitch later this year and then see whats what.

  8. Alex said

    The seem to be be picking only left-handed sticks today in terms of offensive players.

  9. KB said

    I haven’t found any M’s commentary on today’s draft yet.

    Interesting that we took Jackson’s RHP Cameron Noble, although I doubt he’ll sign.

    We took a lot of HS kids late in the draft as well, and a couple college guys who probably don’t have many options.

  10. Today’s picks mean so little, really, thought if they can convince Noble to sign by giving him a little extra slot, they got 5th round talent there.

  11. KB said

    They certainly should try. That’d be a nice steal.

    Where there any other names that jumped out at anybody?

  12. Jerry said

    Hopefully some of those highschool kids end up going to JCs, so the M’s will have some interesting draft and follow candidates next year.

  13. I think the M’s mentioned they were looking to draft 6-8 DFE candidates today, and may have gotten a few yesterday, too.

  14. Michael Sayler said

    I think Morrow will be a excellent starter and Jason did’nt you have Morrow 2nd in your mock draft??? I think Nobles has a scholie to uw hopefully we can sign him. Great Job on the draft Jason!!!

  15. Thanks, Micheal.

    At one point I thought it was very possible for Morrow to go second, but Colorado got Reynolds who will be cheaper.

    Colorado is a horrible franchise. Reynolds is a No. 4 starter. Yuck.

    Nobles does have a ride to UW – it’ll take 4th or 5th round dough to sign him, but that’s a possibility.

  16. StandinPat said

    Jason, which DFE’s or hard signs do you see as turning this draft from a B- to an A? How much would a guy like Nobles improve this draft for Seattle?

  17. Matt Antle said

    How do you feel about 8th round pick Steve Richard? He has good tools (6’3”, mid 90’s fastball, slider, change, split) but he had trouble in the closer role his sophomore year. Any projections/comparisons?

  18. willmore2000 said

    Jason, if Morrow had been off the board, would the Mariners have gone with Miller or Lincecum ?

  19. If Morrow would have been gone than Lincoln or Hochevar would have been available.

    Lincecumw as their third choice.

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