2004 Mariners Draft Preview

The Major League Baseball draft begins at 9:50 a.m. on the West Coast on Monday. While the Mariners don't pick until the third round (93rd overall), history shows that it doesn't necessarily take a first-round pick to find a future all-star. Check out InsidethePark's Mariners Draft Preview for a complete overview of all you need to know as a Mariners fan heading into this year's draft.

When the clock strikes double-zeros sometime Monday afternoon and the Seattle Mariners make their first selection in the 2004 First-Year Player's Draft, many things will be different. From the people in charge to the philosophical strategies that spew from their collective brain, the M's are likely to take a unique approach to the draft. Unique to the Mariners, anyway. New scouting and player development personnel such as Bob Fontaine and the new roles for Benny Looper, Greg Hunter and draft guru Frank Mattox assure a slightly different flavor to this year's draft process. Oh, and don't forget that the man in charge is new to the organization as well - General Manager Bill Bavasi is looking to stamp his name on the Mariner farm system.

2003 in Review:

Round 1/37- Adam Jones, SS, Morse HS, San Diego, CA
Jones signed for $925,000 and played at two levels in 2003. Drafted as a shortstop rather than a pitcher (he played both in high school), Jones displayed the natural hitting skills that the M's wanted see, hitting .303 in 31 games in the Arizona Rookie League and the Northwest League. The 18-year-old began the 2004 season with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and is hitting .237 with three home runs and 29 RBI in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. Jones could bloom into a five-tool superstar with continued steady development, and may be the team's cornerstone prospect.

Round 2/56- Jeff Flaig, 3B, El Dorado HS, Placentia, CA
Flaig inked a deal for $710,000 but has been unable to show what he can do. Injuries to his shoulder, including surgery this spring, have kept Flaig off the field and in the training room. Flaig is also capable of playing SS and with his potential power bat, could end up in the outfield at some point. Flaig's future is unknown due to lack of time spent on the field but was widely considered the best hitter available when the M's made the selection.

Round 3/86- Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Midview HS, Grafton, OH
Feirabend is the most successful of the 2003 draftees thus far, following up a solid season in the Arizona Rookie League with a fine showing in the Midwest League in 2004. Feierabend, just 18, posted a sparkling 2.61 ERA in six games in 2003 and has taken it to another level with Wisconsin this season. The left-hander is 6-3 with a solid 3.63 ERA in 11 starts, a very impressive stat line for one of the youngest players in the league. Feierabend could develop into a solid No. 3 starting pitcher.

The M's leaned once again in the pitching direction and took three more lefties in a row with picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds. Paul Fagan (4/116), the fourth straight high schooler taken by the Ms, will likely see time with Everett in the Northwest League this season after spending his 2003 season in the Arizona Rookie League.

Casey Abrams (5/146) was drafted out of Wright State, breaking the string of high school picks by the club in the 2003 draft. The southpaw pitched in just four games for Everett in 2003 and is currently pitching out of the bullpen for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

The M's went back to the high school ranks in round six and snared left-hander Eric O'Flaherty, from Walla Walla, Washington. O'Flaherty impressed the M's in his two stops in 2003, combining to go 4-0 with a 2.43 ERA for Peoria and Everett. The 19-year-old is now with Wisconsin, holding down a spot in the starting rotation with a 3-3 record. O'Flaherty projects as a middle-tier starter but with added velocity and improved command could ultimately become a solid prospect.

Seven of the next eight picks were college players, beginning with Jeremy Dutton (7/206), a 1B/3B out of North Carolina State University and LHP Thomas Oldham, a Creighton University product. Dutton has yet to find his stroke and is currently hitting just .204 with Wisconsin after hitting .269 with Everett in 2003. Oldham began his Mariner career with a stellar 2003 at Everett (5-3, 2.86) and has been the staff ace for the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers this season, leading the team in ERA (3.77) and Strikeouts (65).

Catcher Justin Ruchti (9/266), and 3B Mike Cox (10/296), top off the first 10 rounds. Ruchti saw time in Everett in 2003 and could repeat part of 2004 with the Aqua Sox. Known as a defensive backstop, Ruchti could earn his way through the system on defense alone, as long as hit bat is merely adequate. Cox also played with Everett in 2003, and struggled at the plate (.194, 4 HR) in 55 games. The 23-year-old continues to struggle this season (.219, 4 HR) with the Timber Rattlers, leaving his future in the organization in doubt.

See the Rest of the Seattle Mariners 2003 Draft by clicking right HERE.

Seattle Mariners' Organizational Needs :

1. Positional Depth:
The club is known to lack solid positional prospects, but the worst part of that equation is the lack of depth. This is where the idea of drafting a few college players in the first seven or eight rounds, makes a lot of sense. All three outfield spots, and both infield corners could use some help.

2. Make the Catcher Position a Strength:
The void of a Major League Ready backstop is starting to hurt the organization. With Dan Wilson nearing the end of his career, Pat Borders relegated to backup duty, and Ben Davis falling out of favor, the club needs more capable bodies behind the plate. Rene Rivera, Luis Oliveros, and Justin Ruchti are the only three catchers in the system that are thought of as anything but career minor leaguers. Former first round pick Ryan Christianson returned to action on Saturday as the DH for Double-A San Antonio, and as soon as he starts to catch again, the M's are fine in the upper levels. Christianson's health, however, remains a question which is why the catcher's spot needs to be addressed in the draft.

3. Pitching, as Always:
With the vast majority of the top pitching prospects in the system being close to the big leagues, the club would be wise to have already started the replenishment plan for the farm. The M's took Oldham, Feierabend, and O'Flaherty pretty high last June, and all three seem to be a good start toward keeping the minors stocked well with pitching prospects. This is a never-ending task, however, and needs draft attention every year. Add 16th-round pick Aaron Jensen to the list of potential top mound prospects. Jensen fell to round 16 due to sign-ability concerns and is thought to have had talent that could have landed him as high as the first few rounds. He was clocked in the 92-94 MPH range and is thought to have the organizations second-best curveball. Taking a flier on another high-risk high-reward pitcher in the first 10 rounds is again strong possibility.

4. Be Safe Early, Take Risks Later :
The state of the M's farm system is that of America's Heartland the day before a Tornado rips through it and leaves nothing behind. Most of the team's depth will likely be in Triple-A or already with the M's come the end of 2005. Top prospects such as Travis Blackley, Jose Lopez, Shin-soo Choo, Chris Snelling, Jamal Strong, Greg Dobbs, and Justin Leone, will all be wearing Mariner uniforms in 2005, if not sooner, or will be just a cab ride away in Triple-A Tacoma. Clint Nageotte is already gone from the farm system and unless you have the world's strongest tow truck, he isn't coming back.

Drafting the best players through round 10 would probably be wise, allowing for a quick re-stocking of the minor leagues. Take a chance on the "athletes" of the draft after the needs of the club have already been addressed. Too many times the athlete has not panned out. Case in point; Michael Wilson and Michael Garciaparra. Neither player has shown much to warrant their high draft slots nor does it appear that will change anytime soon. Be safe.

The Decision Makers :
General Manager Bill Bavasi hired former Angels' front office executive Bob Fontaine as the new V.P. of Scouting, a position held by Benny Looper for nearly two decades. Looper was promoted to V.P. of Player Development and Scouting, only slightly changing Looper's responsibilities but allowing Fontaine to do his thing and lend a fresh point of view for the draft. Fontaine has favored the drafting of college players in the past and his influence could result in a better mixture of draft picks for the M's in the near future.

Roger Jongewaard, the club's V.P. and Special Assistant to Bavasi, and Lee Pelekoudas, the M's V.P. of Baseball Administration, are valuable members of a newly balanced front office. Jongewaard and Pelekoudas often have differing opinions on scouting and player development, which bodes very well for an organization in need of producing quality talent from within. Former GM Pat Gillick is available to lend his scout's eye and 40 plus years of baseball smarts, and the minor league staff is thought to be a very strong group.

Frank Mattox is the team's Director of Player Development and is leaned on heavily when draft day comes around. Greg Hunter is the M's Director of Minor League Operations and works closely with Mattox in determining the strengths and weaknesses of the current system so the draft can best serve the club.

Scouting guru's Charley Kerfeld and Bob Engle lead a well-respected group that is widely considered one of the best in baseball. Mark Lummus, Chris Pelekoudas, and Pedro Grifol, who is also the Field Manager for the Everett Aqua Sox, are the top scouts that the front office relies on for a keen eye.

Look for a little bit of a change in philosophy but not too much this year. Heading into the draft without a pick until the 3rd round, the M's need to pick the best player's possible.

Possible Draft Targets:

College Players
Aaron Hathaway, C, University of Washington
Mike Butia, OF, James Madison
Seth Smith, OF, Ole Miss
Justin Maxwell, OF, University of Maryland
Richie Robnett, OF, Fresno State
Devin Ivany, C, U. of South Florida
Landon Powell, C, U. of South Carolina
C.J. Smith, 1B/OF, U. of Florida
Nate Moore, RHP, Troy State
Jeff Marquez, RHP, Sacramento State CC

High School Players:
Patrick White, OF, Daphne HS
Mark Reed, C, Bonita HS, La Verne, CA
Eddie Prasch, 3B, Milton HS, Alpharetta, GA
Brandon Allen, OF, Montgomery HS, Montgomery, Texas
Ed Easley, C, Olive Branch HS, Olive Branch, Miss.
Joe Savery, OF, Lamar HS, Bellaire, Texas
Christian Garcia, RHP, Gulliver Prep, Miami, Fla.
Michael Schlacht, RHP, Wheeler HS, Marietta, Ga.

Seattle Mariners Third Round History:
Since the M's do not pick until the 3rd round of the draft this year due to the signings of closer Eddie Guardado and Raul Ibanez, the first player taken by the M's will not be a well-known blue-chip slugger from a four-year college, or the nation's top prep pitcher from some baseball factory disguised as a high school down in the southern corner of the U.S.

The M's better change their luck in round three if they want to make this a successful draft. Check out who they've drafted in the third round of every draft in club history.

2003-Ryan Feierabend, LHP*
2002-Eduardo Martinez-Esteve, OF (Did Not Sign)
2001-Lazaro Abreu, C (Retired last summer)
2001-Tim Merritt, SS (Released this spring)
1999-Willie Bloomquist, SS*
1998-Andy Van Hekken, LHP (traded to Detroit)
1997-Patrick Dunham, LHP
1996-Tony Dejesus, RHP
1995-Greg Wooten, RHP
1994-Matt Wagner, RHP
1993-Ed Randolph, 3B/OF
1992-Chris Widger, C
1991-Jim Mecir, RHP
1990-Dave Fleming, LHP
1988-Jim Campanis, C
1987-Mike Goff, RHP
1986-Jerry Goff, OF
1985-Clint Zavaras, RHP
1984-Ken Spratke, RHP
1983-Dave Hengel, OF
1982-Renard Brwn, OF
1981-Phil Bradley, OF
1980-Robert Hudson, RHP
1979-Rick Adair, RHP
1978-Rob Simond, LHP
1977-Bud Anderson, RHP

Historical 3rd Round Draft Picks:
Since the inception of the draft way back in the 1960's, there have been many quality players drafted in round three, and even some superstars and Hall of Famer's. The M's hope they can land in this category with their 2004 3rd-rounder. In 1974, Pete Vukovich, better known as Clue Haywood in the movie Major League, was the White Sox 3rd rounder and went on to win 93 games for five different clubs. Current Seattle Mariners J.J. Putz (Chicago White Sox), and Randy Winn (Florida Marlins), were both taken in round three in 1995. Oh, and by the way; check out who was a 3rd-rounder in 1979.

2001 Scott Hairston, 2B, Arizona Diamondbacks
2000 Grady Sizemore, OF, Montreal Expos
1999 Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins
1999 Hank Blalock, 3B, Texas Rangers
1998 Barry Zito, LHP, Texas Rangers
1996 Nick Johnson, 1B, New York Yankees
1995 Randy Winn, OF, Florida Marlins
1995 J. J. Putz, RHP, Chicago White Sox
1994 A.J. Pierzynski, C, Minnesota Twins
1994 Aaron Boone, 3B, Cincinnati Reds
1994 Scott Podsednik, OF, Texas Rangers
1989 John Olerud, 1B/P, Toronto Blue Jays
1989 Phil Nevin, SS, Los Angeles Dodgers
1985 Tino Martinez, 1B, Boston Red Sox
1984 Ken Caminiti, 3B, Houston Astros
1983 Wally Joyner, 1B, California Angels
1982 Jimmy Key, LHP, Toronto Blue Jays
1982 Mike Greenwell, OF, Boston Red Sox
1981 Tony Gwynn, OF, San Diego Padres
1981 Dave Cone, RHP, Kansas City Royals
1979 Bob Melvin, C, Baltimore Orioles
1978 Steve Bedrosian, RHP, Atlanta Braves
1975 Dale Berra, SS, Pittsburgh Pirates
1974 Pete Vukovich, RHP, Chicago White Sox
1973 Ruppert Jones, OF, Kansas City Royals
1973 Eddie Murray, 1B/C, Baltimore Orioles
1973 Floyd Bannister, LHP, Oakland Athletics
1972 Dennis Eckersley, RHP, Cleveland Indians
1972 Gary Carter, C, Montreal Expos
1971 Ron Guidry, LHP, NewYork Yankees
1970 Fred Lynn, OF, New York Yankees
1969 Bert Blyleven, RHP, Minnesota Twins
1968 Lamar Johnson, C, Chicago White Sox
1966 Steve Garvey, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Historic No. 93's:
Over the history of the draft the 93rd pick has gone from a fifth-round choice to a late third-round selection. Not many players chosen in that slot have made an impact in baseball. One has made his impact as a coach and manager, while another made his mark as an NFL quarterback, leaving just one successful Major League Baseball player that was taken with the 93rd overall pick in the draft.

1974 Jim Riggleman, 2B/3B, Los Angeles Dodgers
1981 Bubby Brister, SS, Detroit Tigers
1993 Jose Valentin, 3B, Minnesota Twins

Buried Treasures:
1979 Don Mattingly, 19th-round, New York Yankees
1976 Wade Boggs, 7th-round, Boston Red Sox
1965 Nolan Ryan, 12th-round, New York Mets
1984 Jamie Moyer, 6th-round, Chicago Cubs
1975 Dave Stewart, 16th-round, Los Angeles Dodgers
1989 Trevor Hoffman, 11th-round., Cincinnati Reds
1979 Orel Hershiser, 17th-round, Los Angeles Dodgers
1988 Mike Piazza, 62nd-round, Los Angeles Dodgers
1971 Keith Hernandez, 42nd-round, St. Louis Cardinals
1985 John Smoltz, 22nd-round, Detroit Tigers
1996 Marcus Giles, 53rd-round, Atlanta Braves
1978 Ryne Sandberg, 20th-round, Philadelphia Phillies
1990 Eddie Guardado, 21st-round, Minnesota Twins (Draft-and-Follow)
1998 Mark Buehrle, 38th-round, Chicago White Sox (Draft-and-Follow)
1991 Jason Isringhausen, 44th-round, New York Mets (Draft-and-Follow)

Projected 93rd Pick:
Richie Robnett, OF, Fresno State

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