A year after being allowed to pick only six players — one more than most teams — the Mariners made 20 selections in the 2021 MLB draft, still 20 fewer than in drafts before the COVID-19 pandemic.
So did Scott Hunter, the Mariners’ director of amateur scouting, and his crew of scouts wish they could’ve made at least five more picks?
“This year was different,” he said. “It was just a little harder because the 20 rounds seemed to almost feel like 40. I don’t know if that was just because of the COVID situation.”
In years ahead, the draft likely will be set at 20-25 rounds depending on negotiations for the collective-bargaining agreement.
But the Mariners were happy for something closer to a normal draft after last season’s five-round event. On Tuesday, they closed out the third day with their final 10 picks (rounds 11-20), selecting six pitchers and four position players.
Of their 20 picks, Seattle selected 10 pitchers — all right-handed — and 10 position players — four infielders, three catchers (including first-round pick Harry Ford) and three outfielders.
Taking position players with half their picks is a different approach under Hunter and general manager Jerry Dipoto.
“We were really aggressive,” Hunter said. “Watching from the sidelines before we started the travel season, we saw this draft was going to be a little higher on high-school hitters. And as you see what we’ve done over the last four years here, we’ve really done a good job and building our organization up to be not only stable, but I would say somewhat thriving, if you believe the third-party industry writings that we’re one of the higher ranked organizations in baseball.
“We set out with a plan to really build the system up and get to a point where we could really be aggressive and start taking some chances and look to build the second wave of young talent.”
The Mariners’ first three picks were high-school players — Ford, shortstop Edwin Arroyo and right-handed pitcher Michael Morales. All three are expected to sign contracts. Multiple reports said Ford has agreed to a signing bonus of the slot value of the No. 12 pick at $4.37 million. Hunter hopes they can get Ford to Seattle for a physical and sign his contract so they can announce it in the next week. First-round picks traditionally take in a game at T-Mobile Park, meet the Seattle media and work out on the field with the big-league team.
“We’ll definitely have that sooner rather than later,” he said. “I did talk to his advisers, and we’re already starting to discuss travel plans for him. So as long as all this stuff, the particulars and the small fine print and the contracts go smooth, I do believe we are looking at a target date of the (July) 21st and 22nd.”
The Mariners have agreed to pay bonuses above the slot value for Arroyo ($1.4 million) and Morales ($733,100) to get them to forgo their college commitments to Florida State and Vanderbilt, respectively. In an ideal world, they’d join Ford in Seattle to take physicals and sign contracts.
“We’ll see if we can get them up here to Seattle, get their physicals and maybe be at the ballpark on the 22nd as a group, because this is our first real roll with high-school players,” Hunter said. “By getting these three together to just represent that next wave of talent I think is important not only for them, but also as an organization as a whole.”
Round 11 (No. 324 pick overall) — William Fleming, RHP, Wake Forest
Height, weight: 6-6, 220
A closer look: With a fastball that can touch 98 mph and unpolished secondary pitches, Fleming profiles as a reliever and could be ready to join Low-A Modesto in a week or two. He made 13 starts as a senior for Wake Forest this past season, posting a 4-6 record with a 6.03 ERA. In 74 2/3 innings he struck out 65 with 21 walks.
Round 12 (No. 354 pick overall) — Corey Rosier, OF, UNC Greensboro
Height, weight: 5-10, 184
A closer look: He was a first-team Southern Conference performer, posting a .354/.434/.604 slash line with nine doubles, four triples, 12 homers, 51 RBI and 17 steals. He has 25 walks and just 28 strikeouts in 52 games.
Round 13 (No. 384 pick overall) — Ben Ramirez, SS, USC
Height, weight: 6-3, 200
A closer look: Ramirez profiles as a utility player. As a senior he slashed .304/.381/.529 with seven doubles, three triples, 10 homers and 54 RBI.
Round 14 (No. 424 pick overall) — Andrew Moore, RHP, Chipola College (FL)
Height, weight: 6-5, 205
A closer look: He made three starts and nine relief appearances, posting a 5-2 record with a 5.29 ERA. In 32 1/3 innings, he struck out 44 with 31 walks.
Round 15 (No. 444 pick overall) — Cole Barr, 3B, Indiana University
Height, weight: 5-11, 195
A closer look: He slashed .292/.415/.526 with a eight doubles, two triples, eight homers and 35 RBI in Bloomington. He has thrown 95 mph from third base to first base and has run 6.5 seconds in the 60-yard dash.
Round 16 (No. 474 pick overall) — Jimmy Joyce, RHP, Hofstra University
Height, weight: 6-2, 210
A closer look: Joyce posted a 3-4 record with a 3.70 ERA in 11 starts. In 73 innings, he struck out 89 with just 21 walks.
Round 17 (No. 504 pick overall) — Jimmy Kingsbury, RHP, Villanova
Height, weight: 6-1, 187
A closer look: He posted a 5-4 record with a 4.87 ERA in nine starts and seven relief appearances. In 64 2/3 innings he struck out 86 with 28 walks. He pitched in a summer college league, posting a 4-0 record with a 4.07 ERA.
Round 18 (No. 534 pick overall) — Riley Davis, RHP, Alabama-Birmingham
Height, weight: 6-3, 200
A closer look: In 13 starts he had a 4-5 record with a 3.74 ERA. In 79 1/3 innings he struck out 60 with 24 walks.
Round 19 (No. 564 pick overall) — Charlie Welch, C, Arkansas
Height, weight: 6-0, 205
A closer look: In 28 games he slashed .388/.494/.821 with five doubles, eight homers and 25 RBI. The Mariners list him as a catcher, but he has mainly been a DH.
Round 20 (No. 594 pick overall) — Troy Taylor, RHP, Cypress College (CA)
Height, weight: 6-0, 195
A closer look: In eight appearances, including five starts, he posted a 3-1 record with a 4.82 ERA. He struck out 23 and walked 20 in 28 innings. Taylor has a strong commitment to UC-Irvine and might not sign.