It is no secret that the Seattle Mariners and Tom McNamara have drafted exceptionally well in the Jack Zduriencik era. Several of their selections have been made easier due to picking so high in the first round -- 2nd in 2009 and 2011 and 3rd in 2012 -- but the true sign of how good a job McNamara has done comes from looking at the year where they didn't have a high pick.
Left without a first rounder in 2010, McNamara (and his scouting staff) took a few more chances than has been the norm in other years and the results were fantastic. Although the top of that draft had superstar names such as Bryce Harper, Manny Machado and Matt Harvey come off the board early, the Mariners were still able to nab some great talent in what looks like at least three steals: Taijuan Walker (43rd overall), James Paxton (4th round) and Stephen Pryor (5th round). Each of those three have already impressed at the major league level for Seattle, and Walker and Paxton could be looking at rotation spots in 2014 because of their successful September debuts.
Impressive, for sure, but that isn't all that came out of that 2010 draft. A few right-handed hitters who have made some noise over the past few seasons in the minors for the M's in Jabari Blash (8th) and Stefen Romero (12th) are also from that draft. And right-handers Tyler Burgoon (10th), Stephen Landazuri (22nd), Forrest Snow (36th), Stephen Kohlscheen (45th) and David Holman (50th) have performed enough that they are now on the prospect radar, too. To top it all off, Tom clearly had a keen eye for one who (temporarily) got away, opting to select D.J. Peterson in the 33rd round that season. Peterson, of course, didn't sign at the time, deciding to attend college at New Mexico, but he now is one of the most well-regarded hitting prospects in the organization and in all of baseball.
Those two hitters and three relievers (Burgoon, Snow and Kohlscheen) have each been dominant at the minor league level at times. Blash led the organization in home runs in 2013 with 25 and he posted an OPS of 1.060 in 29 games after his promotion to Double-A Jackson. Romero fell off from his Player of the Year performance from 2012, but he hit five home runs and drove in 18 runs over his last 11 games, finishing 5th in the organization in RBI despite playing only 98 games. Burgoon (11.4), Kohlscheen (11.4) and Snow (9.1) were three of the 10 stateside relief arms that averaged more than a strikeout an inning in 2013 for the Mariners and Forrest enjoyed a nice bounce back from his 2012 season while Burgoon and Kohlscheen improved on their previous performances while pitching at their highest levels.
11 players from the 2009 through 2012 drafts have already debuted in MLB for the Mariners and there are many more on the horizon. As of today, at least 10 Mariners minor league players from the 2012 and 2013 drafts figure to also make an appearance on our annual Top-50 list which starts counting down next month. Considering only 13 drafted players in the five years prior to McNamara's arrival ever reached the majors for Seattle, that combined figure of 20-plus looks quite impressive, indeed.
"My philosophy is to always take the best guy, regardless of whether he's a hitter or a pitcher," McNamara has said, continuing, "I always tell people that we keep it simple; we take the best guy. But there are always surprises."
One could classify some of those 2010 picks as surprises. Thankfully for the Mariners, they have been the good kind of surprises. But even if you choose to count him lucky on some of those, McNamara has shown a propensity to consistently find value outside of the first few rounds of the draft. 2010 is a fine example of that, but it is only one example. 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 have each been solid, too. And, in my opinion at least, McNamara is a major reason why there hasn't been a change at the GM spot for the Mariners following their continued failures at the MLB level.
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