EVERETT — Damon Casetta-Stubbs tried to dictate where he landed in the 2018 Major League Baseball draft with the help of a baseball cap.
The Vancouver native plopped on a Mariners cap when the draft started, with the hope Seattle would pick him.
There’s no proof the headgear made the difference, but Casetta-Stubbs’ wish came true when the Mariners selected him in the 11th round.
“If I had gotten drafted, I wanted to be drafted by the Mariners,” said Casetta Stubbs, now a member of the Everett AquaSox. “It actually worked out pretty well. This is definitely the team I wanted to get drafted by and the place I wanted to start my career.”
The Mariners called after day two of the draft and worked out a deal with Casetta-Stubbs before taking him in the 11th round. There are no bonus designations for picks after the 10th round, but Casetta-Stubbs signed for $325,000, a fifth-round value.
“I wasn’t going to let my dreams come short for 25,000 (dollars),” Casetta-Stubbs told the Columbian.
He started his pro career last summer with the Mariners’ rookie-league affiliate in Peoria, Arizona, going 0-2 with a 13.50 earned-run average in six games.
A year later, Casetta-Stubbs has settled into Everett’s rotation after beginning the year at low-A West Virginia, an aggressive assignment for a 19-year-old.
“I wasn’t shocked,” Casetta Stubbs said of being reassigned to Everett. “They kind of told me that was the plan all along”
A product of King’s Way High School in Vancouver, Casetta-Stubbs got off to a hot start in West Virginia, not allowing an earned run over his first two starts. After that, he struggled. Eight starts and 34 1/3 innings later, Casetta-Stubbs was 3-5 and his ERA had ballooned to 7.11.
But his final start in West Virginia provided a nice confidence boost. Casetta-Stubbs scattered three hits over six scoreless innings in a win over Delmarva on June 11.
“It was good to leave on a high note,” he said.
Casetta-Stubbs has made three starts for the AquaSox with mixed results. He allowed just two earned runs over his first two starts, but lasted just three innings and allowed five earned runs in the AquaSox’s June 26 win over Vancouver.
His next start, based on his turn in the rotation, likely will be Monday against Boise, although Everett hadn’t announced it’s probable pitchers for the opener of the three-game series.
Along with making the Northwest League all-star team, Casetta-Stubbs said his biggest goal for the upcoming season is becoming more consistent with his outings.
“I think I have the stuff to play everywhere, but just consistency is the big thing for me,” he said. “Not necessarily to be good every night, but put together a good outing — put five, six innings on the board and help the team by not having to eat up relievers.”
Casetta-Stubbs hasn’t emerged on any prospect lists, but his stuff is interesting. He works fast and tries to induce ground balls early in counts with a sinker that sits in the 90-to-92-mph range. His repertoire features a wipe-out slider he can employ late in counts as a put-away pitch. He also can sprinkle in a curveball and a changeup as secondary off-speed pitches.
There are some mechanical aspects he’s hoping to improve, but more importantly, Casetta-Stubbs said he’s working to bolster his mental approach to pitching.
Everett pitching coach Ari Ronick said he’s been impressed with Casetta-Stubbs’ ability to be hyper-focused on his development.
“I think (that focus) is important, especially … with a player like Damon, who came out of high school, where he dominated and maybe hasn’t faced a lot of adversity yet,” Ronick said. “… This is the time to gain those physical and mental skills. It will serve him well in the long run.
“I think he pitches beyond his years. He’s 19 years old and he pitches with a competitiveness that’s really fun to watch.”