Seattle gave up first-round pick when it acquired Nelson Cruz in free agency.
For too many hours on Monday evening, Tom McNamara will have to sit and impatiently wait for his turn.
The Mariners’ director of amateur scouting lives for the MLB amateur draft. His entire year is built around it and building his “board” of possible selections. But when the draft begins at 4:30 p.m. Monday night, he will be a spectator for the first 59 picks. For the first time since 2004, the Mariners are without a first-round pick. So while other teams grab talent early on, McNamara and the Mariners will have to sit and watch the first round as spectators.
Well, the Mariners forfeited their pick when they signed Nelson Cruz in the offseason as a free agent. In a way, Cruz was their pick instead.
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“Yeah, he’s pretty good,” McNamara said with a chuckle. “That’s not a bad first-rounder.”
Seattle will make two picks on the first night of the three-day affair. They have their second-round pick at No. 60 overall, and a competitive-balance selection at pick No. 72.
McNamara seemed upbeat at the chance to find talent for the organization. He and his scouts have been all over the country. They even had a small group of players at Safeco Field for a private workout Friday.
“I’ve read and heard all kinds of things about how this is a bad draft,” he said. “I don’t see that. There is a lot of depth. It’s not easy putting up all our boards, and that’s a good sign. We’ll see where it goes. But there’s enough to go around.”
The Mariners have had plenty of high picks in the last decade, including four top-three picks. Last season, they selected outfielder Alex Jackson with the No. 6 overall pick.
The last time McNamara and his staff didn’t have a regular first-round pick was in 2010. Their first selection was a supplemental first-round pick — No. 43 overall. It got them Taijuan Walker
“I remember like it was yesterday,” McNamara said. “We picked 43 and we had one player on the board at 14 and the other player was at 16 on our 1-through-30 board. Then the player at 14 was taken off the board, and there was one player left on the board. His magnet was sitting there, and it was Taijuan Walker.”
Walker, who was a raw package of athleticism and talent at Yucaipa (Calif.) High School, is now a member of the Mariners’ starting rotation at age 22.
“That was kind of neat,” McNamara said. “It just worked out. So I keep telling our guys there might be somebody 1-through-30 on our board that is there at 60. It happens. It happened in 2010.”
McNamara has had success in the later rounds with infielder Kyle Seager and several college relievers like Carson Smith and Dominic Leone.
Seager was taken in the third round of the 2009 draft with the 82nd overall pick. The Mariners scouted and selected his teammate Dustin Ackley with their No. 2 overall pick, but they fell in love with Seager and grabbed him earlier than many experts expected.
“In 2009, we just had a gut instinct about Seager and we just took him,” McNamara said. “We didn’t really have him in a spot on our board that said this guy is a third-round pick. It just felt right and we took him.”
Seager has become an all-star third baseman and signed a seven-year, $100 million deal in the offseason.
With many of their once top prospects pushed to the big leagues, the Mariners’ minor-league system is lean on top-level prospects. Without a top pick, they will need to find some later round depth and perhaps an unexpected surprise like Seager.
“When we get to 60, our board will be a little empty,” McNamara said. “But that’s what you want. When you are picking 60, you don’t want 45 guys left on your board. We’ve seen a lot of players. We think there’s a lot more depth because we’ve seen a lot more players because of where we are picking.”
|Mariners’ top draft picks|
|The status of the Mariners’ top draft picks in the past decade:|
|Year||No. overall||Name, position||School|
|2014||6||Alex Jackson, OF||Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego, Calif.)|
|Moved to extending spring training after struggles and a shoulder injury at Class A Clinton.|
|2013||12||D.J. Peterson, 3B||University of New Mexico|
|Hitting .205 with a .580 OPS and 51 strikeouts in 51 games for Class AA Jackson|
|2012||3||Mike Zunino, C||University of Florida|
|M’s starting catcher, batting .170 with seven homers, 15 RBI and 63 strikeouts in 51 games.|
|2011||2||Danny Hultzen, LHP||University of Virginia|
|Missed all of 2014 with shoulder surgery, currently shutdown with arm fatigue for Class AA|
|2010||43||Taijuan Walker, RHP||Yucaipa HS (Yucaipa, Calif.)|
|Mariners’ starting pitcher with a 2-6 record and 5.80 ERA in 11 starts this season.|
|2009||2||Dustin Ackley, OF||University of North Carolina|
|Mariners’ platoon outfielder, hitting .197 with a .572 OPS in 50 games with 11 RBI.|
|2008||20||Josh Fields, RHP||University of Georgia|
|Astros middle reliever with a 2-1 record and a 2.40 ERA in 16 appearances|
|2007||11||Phillippe Aumont, RHP||Ecole Du Versant (Gatineau, QC)|
|Reliever for Class AAA Lehigh in Phillies organization with 2-3 record and 2.35 ERA|
|2006||5||Brandon Morrow, RHP||University of California|
|Padres starting pitcher on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation.|
|2005||3||Jeff Clement, C||USC|
|No longer in professional baseball. Spent 2014 as an assistant coach at University of Iowa.|