By Tim Booth Associated Press
SEATTLE — Since joining the Seattle Mariners after the 2008 season as their director of amateur scouting, it seems all Tom McNamara has known is making picks at the top of baseball’s amateur draft.
He would like to see that trend change at some point. It would be a sign that the major league product is having more success on the field.
“It would be nice to pick 22 or 25 some year,” McNamara said. “That’s our goal.”
Instead, Seattle will again have a pick near the top in the first round of Thursday’s amateur draft. The Mariners will pick No. 6 overall, the fourth time in the past six years they have held one of the top six selections.
The results from the past on those top picks have been mixed. There is still debate on whether outfielder Dustin Ackley, catcher Mike Zunino or rehabbing pitcher Danny Hultzen will ever pan out to justify being taken with top five selections by the Mariners. Ackley and Zunino are both starters for the major league club, while Hultzen is working his way back from major shoulder surgery.
But another top selection gives Seattle a chance to add a premium player that — depending on the pick — could help the major league club sooner rather than later.
“I like where we’re picking. We’re in a good spot,” McNamara said. “There’s a good group of guys we think are going to be there where we’re going to make our selection. We feel pretty good about it.”
Trying to peg who the Mariners are targeting for the sixth pick has been difficult for draft analysts. Seattle has been linked to both high school stars and college standouts in the months leading up to Thursday but getting a consensus on who sits atop the Mariners’ draft board has been difficult. They’ve been linked to a number of players, including high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, prep shortstop Nick Gordon and Hartford left-handed pitcher Sean Newcomb.
As usual, McNamara didn’t reveal much about his plans other than an emphasis on remaining true to their draft board and evaluations.
“I was taught a long time ago you take the best player whether it’s a position player or pitcher,” McNamara said. “And then sometimes you look at your system. You’re human. ‘Hey we could use some arms at the lower level, or we could use speed.’ Sometimes if you want something, you need to be careful. You don’t want to sidestep the best player out there and draft for need. We’ll take the best player or best pitcher out there, high school or college.”
Seattle will have two picks on the first day. After picking at No. 6 they have to wait until No. 74 for a competitive balance selection that will wrap up the first day of the three-day draft.