Peeking at the 2006 MLB Draft

The Seattle Mariners entered the 2005 season coming off a 99-loss venture that earned them the third pick in the First Year Player's Draft this past June. That selection is the highest the organization has drafted from since the club chose Jose Cruz, Jr. in 1995 – also the third overall pick.

As the '05 campaign winds down, the club is once again looking at selecting somewhere in the top five or six slots – depending on how they finish out the final four games – one more game versus the third-place Texas Rangers and the weekend series against the now-eliminated Oakland Athletics.

Through games of September 28, the Emerald City's finest sit tied for the fourth worst record in baseball – with Lou Piniella's Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Each team sporting a not-so-nifty 67-91 record.

There is a good chance that the M's land the fourth pick in the draft with four games remaining versus team that they have posted a 10-22 record against this summer. The D-Rays have one more versus the fighting Cleveland Indians, whom Tampa has won five of eight, and three versus Baltimore. The Devil Rays are 6-9 against the Orioles this season and have a three-game winning streak overall.

It is also not out of the realm of possibility that Seattle blows their way into the third draft slot, currently occupied by the Colorado Rockies. The M's are just one game ahead of the Rockies and the Mile-high 25 closes out its season with four games versus the New York Mets, another team with very little to play for.

Of course, the action could head in the other direction, if the M's win the final game against Texas, sweep the A's, and the LA Dodgers drop their final four contests, then blue shirts in the City of Angels would move ahead of the M's. Ah, what the heck, semantics, right?

Either way, the M's are likely to be drafting in the top five again. Considering the path it took to get this point, that fact is painful. But it could be fruitful and the talent could join Felix Hernandez, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jeremy Reed and Jose Lopez in the fight to turn this ship around. Oh, wait. I forgot to mention 2005 first rounder, Jeff Clement, whose bat is likely to make an impact by the end of the 2007 season.

Who's Next?

Without getting into premature scouting reports and details of strengths, weaknesses and the draft needs and habits of the clubs that may be selecting ahead of the M's (Kansas City and Pittsburgh for sure, likely Colorado and/or Tampa Bay), let's just get the names out there.

It looks to be a pitching rich draft, though maybe not quite as rich as the 2004 crop that produced Jeff Niemann, Justin Verlander, Wade Townsend, who was re-drafted this June, Philip Humber, Mark Rogers, Jered Weaver, Homer Bailey, David Purcey, Philip Hughes and Jeremy Sowers – all solid to blue chip pitching prospects.

This year's crop will have the depth, but likely fall short in the impact, as well as how quickly the potential impact may be felt.

Here are a handful of college and high school draft prospects – in no particular order. There are many others that could be included - these are not ranked in any fashion, rather an attempt to provide a sneak preview of what may be available next June. The 2006 baseball season and the performances of the prospects below, as well as dozens of other talents, will ultimately dictate who ends up as the top players in the draft.

This is in no way a prediction or projection.

LHP Andrew Miller 6-6/218 North Carolina
RHP Ian Kennedy 6-0/194 USC
RHP Daniel Bard 6-4/200 North Carolina
RHP Dallas Buck 6-2/198 Oregon State
RHP Jared Hughes 6-6/225 Long Beach State
RHP Greg Reynolds 6-8/225 Stanford
OF Drew Stubbs 6-4/195 Texas
LHP Brad Lincoln 6-0/200 Houston
3B Matt Antonelli 6-0/195 Wake Forest

Others: Tim Lincecum, RHP, Washington; Blair Erickson, RHP, UC Irvine; Keith Weiser, LHP, Miami, OH; Richie Lentz, RHP, Washington; Brandon Morrow, RHP, California; Kyle McCulloch, RHP, Texas; Jordan Newton, C, W. Kentucky; Josh Morris, 1B, Georgia.

Miller has the stuff to lock up the top spot and only command issues could get in the way of the Tarheel becoming the No. 1 pick. Armed with a 93-97 mph fastball and a potential plus slider, the southpaw could have a future as a staff ace.

Kennedy was battery mates with M's first rounder Jeff Clement, and may repeat his former catcher's draft slot - the third overall selection. Kennedy sits in the 91-95 range with two different fastballs and his breaking ball is becoming a plus out pitch. Kennedy's change is effective when commaned well.

Bard, another Tarheel, led the Cape Cod League in strikeouts with his 92-95 mph heat and solid slider. More consistency with his offspeed stuff could net Tobacco Road two of the top five picks in the draft.

Buck‘s low 90s fastball and ability to pound the strike zone has led some to project him as a top relief prospect. Further development of his change-up could hold off the move.

Hughes' size will intrigue a lot of scouts but his mound presence and pitchability could land the right-hander in the top half of the first round. Hughes typically sits at 91-93 with the fastball and has a slider that he uses at different velocities.

Reynolds mixes a 95-mph four-seamer with a two-seamer in the 89-91 range. The right-hander's power curve ball and two-seamer need more consistency, but he's likely a first-round choice.

Stubbs is a fine athlete and has a decent shot to stick in center field. The right-handed hitter's bat speed may lead to more than his 11 home runs in his sophomore year at Texas would suggest and his speed, arm and leadership should make him a top five pick.

Lincoln doubles as a first baseman but his future is likely on the mound where his 90-95 mph fastball and potential plus curve ball are a good start to a nasty arsenal.

Antonelli's athleticism and lack of raw power typical of a prototypical third sacker may force a position change, perhaps to second base or the outfield, but his solid baseball makeup and quality physical tools are strong enough for anywhere on the diamond.
RHP Dellin Betances 6-9/225 Brooklyn, NY
RHP Jeremy Jeffress 6-1/185 South Boston, VA
RHP Kyle Drabek 6-0/190 Woodlands, TX
LHP Gavin Brooks 6-3/195 Rancho Buena Vista, CA
OF Cody Johnson 6-4/205 Panama City, FL
LHP Kasey Kiker 5-11/188 Phoenix City, AL
C Max Sapp 6-2/215 Windermere, FL
1B/LHP Aaron Miller 6-3/205 Channelview, TX
RHP Jordan Walden 6-4/190 Mansfield, TX

Others: Devin Shepherd, OF, Oxnard, CA; Jeff Rappaport, OF, Westlake, CA; Jared Mitchell, OF, New Iberia, LA; Gerald Sullivan, RHP, Budd Lake, NJ; Cedric Hunter, OF, Lithonia, GA; Cory Rasmus, 3B/RHP, Phoenix City, AL;

Betances may be the top high school prospect by the time the draft rolls around – if he isn't already. Armed with a 91-94 mph fastball and a power curve ball, the 6-foot-9 right-hander has stardom written all over his tools.

Jeffress rivals Betances and uses an overpowering fastball clocked in the 92-95 range and a developing curve ball. Throws a slider in the 80-mph range and his change has improved every year. Jeffress receives outstanding marks in all areas.

Drabek, son of former big-league pitcher Doug Drabek, has been a prospect since age 13. Sitting 88-91 with the fastball, Drabek mixes in three offspeed pitches, the best being a solid curve ball.

Brooks has a chance to move up the charts with a plus fastball and two plus offspeed pitches, a curve ball and a slider. The left-hander possesses flawless mechanics and his mental toughness paves the way for his 89-92 mph fastball.

Johnson may be the best power prospect in the country and his left-handed swing produces exploding power to all fields. Johnson's size and high ceiling could sneak him into the first round.

Kiker's stock could rise dramatically with a big season in '06. The southpaw loves to use his change-up to offset his 90-92 mph fastball and solid curve ball.

Sapp is a big kid with a big power bat. His defensive skills are solid, led by a plus throwing arm and good footwork. Sapp should be able to stick as a catcher, but has the stick to play anywhere.

Miller's 87-91 fastball and developing change are solid compliments to his plus curveball. Miller has excellent command of all three pitches and also plays first base where he has a chance to develop into a pro hitter.

Walden was this season's pitching prospect of the year, an award given by Baseball America each summer. Walden's fastball sits 91-94 and has been known to reach as high as 97 to go with a solid slider.
Junior College Players to Watch: While there aren't any JuCo talents that are likely to slip into the top five, there are a few to keep an eye on.

  • Stephen Marek, RHP, San Jacinto TX
  • Bobby Mosebach, RHP, Hillsborough, FL
  • Omar Aguilar, RHP, Merced, CA.

  • Unsigned '05 Draftees – '06 Impact?: Top pick Justin Upton is threatening to play at a JC but even if he does so, it won't strip the Arizona Diamondbacks of their rights to the multi-tooled star. There is virtually no chance that Upton is back in the draft next June.

    Second pick Alex Gordon has yet to ink a deal with Kansas City, but neither Gordon's representatives or the Royals front office believe he will be unsigned come May.

    Update - 9/29:: Gordon and the Royals agreed to terms today and Gordon is on his way to Arizona to take part in the Instructional League this fall. The contract terms remain unknown, but it is not a major league contract.

    Luke Hochevar's strange journey to the "unsigned' pile should end – the Dodgers aren't cheap and though Scott Boras is still involved – at least we think – the deal will get done.

    Mike Pelfrey will sign with the Mets, as soon as both sides become reasonable in contract talks. The right-hander is highly unlikely to return to the draft in 2006.

    Two draftees from '05 may spurn pro contracts to enter the draft again. Doug Fister from Fresno State was the Yankees 6th rounder and Brad Cuthbertson from Lethbridge CC was the Giants 6th round selection.

    Cuthbertson may choose to pitch at a 4-year school while Fister has the option to play his senior season at Fresno State.

    M's POV: The M's would love to see Miller, Bard or Kennedy be there at their pick, and one of them probably will be. Stubbs might be an attractive player as well, since the M's are always needing run production in the outfield. But the top talents are on the mound and that is likely the direction the club would go if the draft were today and the M's selected fourth or fifth.

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