Gilbert, a 6-foot-6 right-hander, leads NCAA Division I with 157 strikeouts this year.
The sudden uncertainty Scott Hunter had about his favorite college pitcher required another trip to DeLand, Florida, a few weeks ago.
Hunter, the Mariners’ second-year scouting director, had had his sights on Stetson University’s Logan Gilbert since last summer, when Gilbert had pitched for the Orleans Firebirds of the Cape Cod League — and pitched so well that Hunter said Seattle scouts unanimously agreed the right-hander was a top-two prospect coming out of the prestigious summer league.
Except, when Mariners’ scouts continued to evaluate Gilbert this spring, they weren’t thrilled with some of the results they were seeing. Notably, Gilbert’s fastball — clocked at 97 mph in Cape Cod — was down several ticks, and his shape-shifting curveball had lost much of its bite.
This concerned Hunter enough that he visited Stetson last month to again scout Gilbert himself. The improved results this time convinced Hunter that Gilbert was worthy of a first-round selection, and the Mariners did just that Monday evening when they selected Gilbert with the 14th overall pick in the MLB draft.
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Gilbert, 21, listed at 6-feet-6 and 225 pounds, was the Atlantic Sun Conference pitcher of the year and an ASUN first-team all-conference selection in both 2017 and ’18.
As a junior this year, Gilbert has posted a 2.52 ERA while going 11-1 with 157 strikeouts and 23 walks in 15 starts (107 innings). His 157 strikeouts lead NCAA Division-1 baseball this season.
“You get a talent like this at pick 14, we’re very excited,” Hunter said.
Gilbert was aware of some of the scouts’ chatter last month.
“Obviously, some people had some concerns and thought I might drop a little farther,” he said.” And then there was some interest a little higher up. Just to go to the Mariners, I’m so excited and fortunate to have this opportunity.”
Fortuitously, Stetson had three rainouts over a five-day stretch in mid-May, which Gilbert said was much-needed time off for his right arm. In two starts since that break, Gilbert has 23 strikeouts in 14 innings, with three earned runs and three walks.
Working with his pitching guru, Gilbert also made an important mechanical fix last month.
“Everyone has a guru,” Hunter said, “and then all of a sudden he made an adjustment and he was back.”
In his last start, against Oklahoma State on Saturday in an NCAA regional, Gilbert struck out 14 in seven innings, allowing two earned runs with three walks on 121 pitches in a 10-3 victory. On Sunday, Stetson (47-11) beat Oklahoma State again to win the regional and advance to a super regional for the first time in program history. Stetson plays at the University of North Carolina this weekend.
Gilbert said he had a hunch he might wind up with the Mariners.
“This is everything I ever dreamed of,” said Gilbert, the first to be named the Atlantic Sun pitcher of the year in consecutive seasons. “But this isn’t the end. It’s just the beginning, and I’m ready to get to work now.”
Asked for a self-scouting report, here’s what Gilbert said:
“I’d say really competitive, really aggressive on the mound. … Loves to play off the fastball to both sides of the plate. … From there, can go to either breaking pitch; I really like the curveball, where it’s at right now. … Also a little hard slider that I just learned in the fall, kind of redefined it and the shape’s looking really good right now. … And then I also have a changeup I like to use to lefties occasionally.”
When the Mariners began scouting Gilbert in the last summer, his fastball was up to 97 mph range, Hunter said. Hunter also said he likes the sharpness of Gilbert’s curveball.
“He throws a ton of strikes … and he misses bats, and that’s something that we value here,” Hunter said. “This kid fit every checkpoint of a pitcher that we would want to select. We’re kind of pleasantly surprised that he was sitting there (at 14).”
Both Hunter and Gilbert said they have an agreement that the pitcher will sign once Stetson’s season is complete. The 14th pick has an assigned slot value of a little more than $3.8 million.
Gilbert will likely begin his pro career with the Everett AquaSox, though Hunter said because of Gilbert’s heavy workload this spring the pitcher could first report to rookie-league ball in Arizona.
Gilbert (born May 5, 1997) graduated with a 4.0 grade-point average from Wekiva High School in Apopka, Fla., according to his Stetson bio. He is a business systems and analytics major at Stetson and said he is two semesters shy of earning his undergraduate degree there.
The Stetson Hatters have become an unlikely source of major-league pitching in recent years. Cleveland ace Corey Kluber and Mets ace Jacob deGrom both went to Stetson, and their success is part of the reason Gilbert said he chose the Florida school.
This is the sixth time in the past eight drafts that the Mariners have selected a college player with their first pick. They took Kentucky first baseman Evan White with the 17th overall pick in 2017, Hunter’s first draft as the Mariners scouting director.
The Mariners have been allotted a little more than $7.5 million in bonus poll money in this year’s draft, according to MLB.com.