RHP Stephen Kahn: A Potential Draft-Day Steal

YAKIMA, Wash. - In the crap shoot that is a professional sports draft, anything can happen, and often times no one knows what that will be until years after the fact. Teams sit and ponder their fate at the end of draft day, wondering if they've just acquired the next Michael Jordan or been burdened with the next Rick Mirer. If the Seattle Mariners have it their way, newly signed pitcher Stephen Kahn will make them look like draft-day geniuses.

Kahn, a 6-foot-3, 210-pounder with a big sharp curveball, is the latest official addition to come out of the Mariners' valuable crop of 2005 draft picks.

Coming off his junior year at Loyola Marymount University, Kahn's career has been impressive, though not without its faults. After a solid freshman year (25 G, 5-4, 4.98 ERA) in which he led his team in saves (6), Kahn exploded in 2004, going 7-3 in 16 appearances with the Lions. He was named the WCC Pitcher of the Year and won a gold medal with the United States National Team. On top of that, he was the only Division I pitcher in the nation to make at least 12 starts without surrendering a single home run.

Kahn's value as a draft pick was at an all-time high going into his junior year this past spring, but after his numbers took a bit of a dive, Kahn fell off a few teams' radar screens. In 17 appearances, Kahn posted a 5-6 record and a 5.60 ERA. Despite the drop in numbers, Baseball America was still hot on Kahn, saying he "has the best draft potential and the best fastball in the WCC."

With talk like that, draft expectations were high for Kahn and, even after a sub-par junior year, he was expected to be picked up fairly quick. It may have been pure luck that the Mariners were able to wait until the fifth round to nab Kahn.

"My expectations [for the draft] were definitely a lot higher than where I ended up going," said Kahn. " thought I'd be a top-three rounder, but I had a disappointing junior year."

After a couple months of negotiating, Kahn agreed to terms with the Mariners last week and was promptly assigned to the Arizona Rookie League. Kahn couldn't have been happier to sign with the organization.

"I've always liked the Mariners," he said. "A lot of guys I've idolized have come through this organization."

Kahn's tenure in Arizona was short-lived—he only appeared in one inning of one game before being promoted to Everett, where he's been since July 29th. In four appearances thus far with the Sox, Kahn has recorded three saves while posting three strikeouts, three walks and an 8.10 ERA.

"My first outing for Everett was a little shaky," Kahn admits. "But I was a little nervous, getting my feet wet, and really getting the pro-ball experience. After that, I think I've been pretty solid."

"Pretty solid" is a conservative view of Kahn's work. The man's numbers so far are a smokescreen to the true potential that he holds and while it's easy to get carried away with the foresight of future success, it's pretty hard to argue with a 94 mph fastball at this level of play.

As to Kahn's position within the organization, he says he's remaining flexible, though he'd like to get his shot at starting.

"Closing is a lot of fun for me, I like coming in when the game is on the line, but starting is something I have most experience with," he said. "It's up to the Mariners what they want me to do—I'm pretty flexible and I can do whatever they need me to. But, if I had a preference, I think that I'd like to be a starter."

In either role, Stephen Kahn has the credentials and the abilities to become a good one.

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