SEATTLE — The best guess on whom the Mariners will select Monday with the 14th overall pick in the MLB Draft appears to be Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach.
The italicized emphasis is intended in the preceding paragraph. The key word is guess. Projecting picks in the MLB Draft is notoriously difficult, particularly beyond the first few rounds.
Even Mariners amateur scouting director Scott Hunter admits the club must wait to see how things unfold.
“Last year, I thought we did an excellent job of being prepared,” he said, “and having Evan White fall into our lap (with the 17th overall pick). This year is kind of the same situation with the draft not really separating up top.
“A lot of teams are expected to make different kinds of deals and save some pool money. We’re really in a wait-and-see mode and be prepared and have our guys lined up. See what falls our way.”
Until then, everything is a guess.
MLB Draft facts
When: Monday through Wednesday.
Where: MLB Network Studio 42 in Secaucus, N.J.
Draft order: Clubs select in reverse order of their 2017 record. The Mariners have the 14th overall selection.
Format: 40 rounds. The first round and the first competitive-balance round take place Monday, rounds two through 10 take place Tuesday, and rounds three through 40 take place Wednesday. The second competitive-balance round and the compensation round take place after the second round. There are four-minute time limits between picks in the first round and one-minute time limits thereafter through the 10th round. There are no time delay permitted between picks in rounds 11 through 40.
How to watch: Monday’s selections begin at 4 p.m. Pacific time and can be seen on MLB Network and MLB.com. Selections 44 through 78 (the second round, the second competitive-balance round and the compensation round) can be seen Tuesday on MLB.com starting at 10 a.m.
Bonus slots: MLB assigns slot bonuses to all picks through the 10th round. Clubs are not bound by the slot amounts on individual players, but a club’s bonus pool consists of the slot-value total of its picks. There are penalties to clubs that exceed their total bonus pool.
Mock drafts in baseball are tougher than in other sports because the selections are rarely geared toward current needs. In the NFL, for example, if a club needs help on its offensive line, it’s easier to zero in on the top possibilities.
The Mariners, right now, could really use a left-handed reliever, but they aren’t likely to try to fill that need through the draft, which is generally geared three-to-five years into the future.
“We’re going to take the best player possible with the first couple of picks,” Hunter said. “After that, it’s all about balance. Whatever you do with your first couple of picks, just make sure you balance it up later. Balance your portfolio, so to speak.”
That’s the typical approach for most clubs.
Even so, there are a handful of folks who truly study the draft and talk regularly to those involved in the process. Start with the staff at Baseball America, who view the draft and the evaluation of prospects as the primary reason for their existence.
I also pay attention to Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com. Callis spent years at Baseball America before making the switch a few years ago and joining Mayo, who also brings extensive experience to his projections.
This is not to suggest that others making projections don’t work hard or aren’t tied into the process. I’m certain many do and are. But for what it’s worth, my two go-to sources have long been Baseball America and MLB.com.
That’s brings us back to Larnach, a left-handed hitter who zoomed up draft boards this spring after making a mechanical change to his swing that unlocked the power of his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame.
“Some area scouts believe he could tap into 25-plus home runs as a pro,” Baseball America reported. “Defensively, he’s likely a corner outfielder with below-average speed but enough athleticism to make the routine plays.”
Baseball America has the Mariners selecting Larnach in its latest projection. So does Mayo, while Callis predicts it will be Mississippi left-handed pitcher Ryan Rolison.
“Six of Seattle’s last seven first-round selections have been college players,” Baseball America observed, “and all but one of those college products was a hitter.
“There’s an obvious trend that the Mariners have and here we have them reaching around some of the high-upside, riskier high school options for a bat that has performed all spring.”
Even so, picking Larnach could be something of an overdraft. Even after his strong spring, Baseball America only cites Larnach at No. 27 in its latest ranking of the draft’s Top 500 prospects.
Callis isn’t alone in citing Rolison as the likely pick. SB Nation and CalltothePen.com also have the Mariners selecting Rolison, who was once viewed as a Top 10 pick before his stock slipped in recent weeks.
The belief is he could still be on the board for the Mariners as, potentially, a great sleeper pick. Baseball America ranks Rolison at No. 21 in its Top 500.
Callis said, “The best bet is that Seattle takes him or one of the other college arms on the second tier” beyond Auburn right-hander Casey Mize and Florida right-hander Brady Singer, who each appear likely to go in top five.
Other pitching possibilities for the Mariners include Stetson right-hander Logan Gilbert, Florida right-hander Jackson Kowar and South Florida left-hander Shane McClanahan.”
The consensus pick, though, is Larnach.
“Larnach as the best pure bat (likely to be) still on the board,” Mayo wrote. “Drafting a guy in their backyard is a nice bonus for the Mariners.”
Here’s a sampling of mock-draft projections. Note: Many sites update their selections just prior to the draft.
Baseball America: Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
MLB.com: Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison (Jim Callis), and Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach (Jonathan Mayo).
ESPN (Keith Law): Waukesha West (Wis.) HS OF Jarred Kelenic.
The Athletic (Corey Brock): Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
The Sporting News: Loretto (Tenn.) HS LHP Ryan Weathers.
Fangraphs: Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
CBSSports.com: Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
SB Nation: Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison.
Perfect Game: Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
Bleacher Report: South Alabama OF Travis Swaggerty.
Beyond the Box Score: Orange Lutheran (Calif.) HS RHP Cole Winn.
CalltothePen.com: Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison.
Draftsite.com: Sandra Day O’Connor (Ariz.) HS 3B Nolan Gorman.
247Sports.com: Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
2080baseball.com: Forest Central (Ga.) HS RHP Ethan Hankins.
Yardbarker.com: Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert.
Buying online access from Baseball America is worth the price simply for the depth provided on its Top 500 prospects. But for quick reference, here’s a list of those ranked in the Top 30:
1. Auburn RHP Casey Mize.
2. Mountain Ridge (Ariz.) HS LHP Matthew Liberatore.
3. Oregon State SS/2B Nick Madrigal.
4. Florida RHP Brady Singer.
5. Georgia Tech C Joey Bart.
6. Florida 3B Jonathan India.
7. Wichita State 3B Alec Bohm.
8. South Florida LHP Shane McClanahan.
9. Eau Gallie (Fla.) HS RHP Carter Stewart.
10. Orange Lutheran (Calif.) HS RHP Cole Winn.
11. South Alabama OF Tracis Swaggerty.
12. Waukesha West (Wis.) HS OF Jarred Kelenic.
13. North Oconee (Ga.) HS RHP Kumar Rocker.
14. Santiago Corona (Calif.) HS SS Brice Turang.
15. O’Connor (Ariz.) HS 3B Nolan Gorman.
16. Loretto (Tenn.) HS LHP Ryan Weathers.
17. Florida RHP Jackson Kowar.
18. Forsyth Central (Ga.) HS RHP Ethan Hankins.
19. Stetson RHP Logan Gilbert.
20. St. Joan of Arc Catholic (Canada) HS C/3B Noah Naylor.
21. Mississippi LHP Ryan Rolison.
22. Merritt Island (Fla.) HS RHP/C Mason Denaburg.
23. Plant (Fla.) HS OF/LHP Connor Scott.
24. Central Heights (Texas) HS Grayson Rodriguez.
25. American Heritage (Fla.) HS 1B/3B Triston Casas.
26. Missouri State SS Jeremy Eierman.
27. Oregon State OF Trevor Larnach.
28. Montverde Academy (Fla.) HS SS Neanderthal De Sedas.
29. Wichita State OF/1B Greyson Jenista.
30. Kentucky RHP Sean Hjelle.