Seattle goes pitcher heavy on the second day of the MLB draft

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MINNEAPOLIS — In a pattern similar to last year’s draft, the Mariners went heavy on selecting college players on Day 2 of the Major League Baseball draft, which featured rounds three through 10.

Of the eight players selected on Tuesday, seven of them were college players, which included a few picks that could sign under projected slot value — a need for every team.

“We got fortunate in many areas, but at the same time, we were able to stick to a plan, get more athletic, get younger in certain areas and manage our risk in regards to the player pool from this draft class,” said Mariners’ director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter.  “We had a couple of opportunities to really go overpay in the third or fourth round where we could have maxed out and basically punted on our next four or five picks. But after sleeping on it last night, we really felt that taking the risk of overpaying and using our bonus pool in the first few rounds, we could’ve continued that model and not built the depth here.”

Six of the eight selections were pitchers, but the plan wasn’t specifically to target pitching.

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“It was kind of the way it fell for us,” Hunter said. “The draft wasn’t really loaded with college bats or the high school pool in regards to sign-ability. We saw some depth in the pitching and we wanted to go in pitching. It’s one of our organizational needs right now. But with the amount of moves and the amount of injuries, we were in a situation where we really want to restock and get some depth in the organization.”

The Mariners third round pick was a bit of surprise in right-hander Wyatt Mills out of Gonzaga. As a college senior, taking Mills at in that spot will allow Seattle to use much of the money allotted to that slot to sign second-round pick, hard-throwing high school right-hander Sam Carlson, who was a projected first-round pick that will want first-round slot money to sign.

“Obviously, we were in a situation with Sam Carlson where we had to look for opportunities to balance our bonus pool and get the most out of it,” Hunter said.

Carlson, native of Savage, Minn., was at Target Field on Tuesday and met with several players and coaches. He was given some Mariners gear to wear. His high school team in Burnsville is still in the Minnesota state playoffs so the Mariners can’t sign him. But they feel confident that with the first-round money offered that he’ll eschew his commitment to the University of Florida and sign.

“I talked to Sam last night and since the team was in Minnesota, it was kind of fate for all of us,” Hunter said. “We are pretty confident that once his high school season is over that he will be in a Mariner uniform not too shortly after.”

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Mills isn’t without his accolades. As a senior, he went 2-2 with 12 saves and 1.79 ERA in 22 relief appearances. Mills throws from a side-arm delivery and the Mariners had him consistently throwing 91-92 mph and touching 95 mph. In 40 1/3 innings pitched, he struck out 58 batters with four walks — and two of those walks were intentional.

“Being a former hitter, I called BS a little bit,” Hunter said of the velocity and numbers. “But then they pulled up the video and we looked at his numbers. Every time I watched the video of him, I was reminded of that Joe Smith (Blue Jays) and Steve Cishek look. It’s a unique arm slot and the ability to throw as many strikes as he does, someone said it was Bugs Bunny numbers. He could be a quick mover if he keeps doing the things that he’s doing right now. Some people might say it was an overdraft, but he was a guy we felt had Major League value and he also helps us manage our bonus pool since he was a senior.”

Besides Mills, Seattle also selected right-hander pitchers Seth Elledge in the fourth round of Dallas Baptist and Randy Bell in the 10th round out of the University of South Alabama.

Seattle took three left-handed pitchers, which featured their only high school selection of the day. Jorge Benitez was drafted in the ninth round out of the Leadership Christian Academy in Guayanabo, Puerto Rico.

“I wouldn’t call him a project,” Hunter said. “It’s probably an itch I like to scratch because I spent a lot of time in the Latin American world the last three years. It’s a pure physical projection. But he’s a good strike thrower, it’s a clean delivery, he knows how to spin a breaking ball. He’s going to be able to go to the Arizona Rookie League right now and be able to compete. He’s already pitching 85 to 89 mph and touching 90 mph. This is the type of upside and pure projection scouting play that we felt was worth the risk.”

The two position players drafted on on the day had decorated college careers. Catcher David Banuelos taken in the fifth round out of Long Beach State and outfielder Billy Cooke drafted in the eighth round out of Coastal Carolina earned plenty of accolades.

Banuelos is considered one of the best defensive catchers in college baseball and is one of three finalists for the Johnny Bench award, given to the nation’s top amateur catcher. He hit .289 with nine doubles, three triples, seven homers and 29 RBI in 58 games for the Dirtbags. Hunter watched him in person on a trip through Southern California.

“I told our assistant vice president of scouting, Tommy Allison, that this is a kid we have to take in the fifth or sixth round,” Hunter said. “We actually had him higher ranked on our boards than some of the catchers that went before him. I’m not sold that this kid isn’t going to hit enough where he can’t be an every day catcher because there is power in the bat. There is some adjustments to be made with the bat, but he’s not just a defensive type of catcher.”

Cooke was the Sun Belt Conference player of the year after hitting . 353 with a .479 on-base percentage, .587 slugging percentage, 15 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, 38 RBI and 21 stolen bases.

“It was eye-popping the amount of conviction our scouts had in the type of kid he is, the athlete in him,” Hunter said. “He plays with a lot of energy, he’s athletic. He’s not overly physical. He’s only 5-10, 5-11, 175-180 pounds. But he plays with a little bit of an edge.”

 

RD

PICK

PLAYER

POS

B-T

HT

WT

DOB

SCHOOL

HOMETOWN

1

17

Evan White

INF

R-L

6-3

205

04/26/96

University of Kentucky

Gahanna, OH

2

55

Sam Carlson

RHP

R-R

6-4

208

12/03/98

Burnsville High School

Savage, MN

3

93

Wyatt Mills

RHP

R-R

6-3

175

01/25/95

Gonzaga University

Spokane, WA

4

123

Seth Elledge

RHP

R-R

6-2

238

05/20/96

Dallas Baptist University

Frisco, TX

5

153

David Banuelos

C

R-R

6-0

205

10/01/96

Long Beach State University

Ontario, CA

6

183

Oliver Jaskie

LHP

L-L

6-3

210

11/17/95

University of Michigan

Ada, MI

7

213

Max Roberts

LHP

L-L

6-5

160

07/23/97

Wabash Valley College

Valparaiso, IN

8

243

Billy Cooke

OF

R-R

5-10

175

09/26/95

Coastal Carolina University

Maitland, FL

9

273

Jorge Benitez

LHP

L-L

6-3

160

06/02/99

Leadership Christian Academy

Levittown, PR

10

303

Randy Bell

RHP

R-R

5-10

190

02/11/95

University of South Alabama

Woodville, MS