Mariners select college pitcher with No. 14 overall draft choice

Seattle adds right-hander Logan Gilbert from Stetson University.

SEATTLE — The Seattle Mariners, with the No. 14 overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, have drafted Logan Gilbert, a right-handed pitcher from Stetson University.

Stetson is a little-known school outside of its proclivity for producing pitchers, such as notable alumni Corey Kluber and Jacob deGrom.

Gilbert, named the Atlantic Sun’s pitcher of the year as a sophomore, has a fastball that can reach 97 mph, according to scouting reports. He also has a good slider, slow curve and changeup that he throws from a 6-foot-6, 225-pound frame.

He currently leads NCAA Division I schools with 157 strikeouts in 107 innings pitched.

Gilbert said he has a verbal agreement with the Mariners to sign with them once his college baseball season is finished. Stetson will play North Carolina in the NCAA Tournament’s super regional round this weekend, with the winner advancing to the College World Series.

With their second-round pick Monday, the Mariners selected Josh Stowers, a speedy outfielder from Louisville 54th overall.

Stowers was Louisville’s everyday center fielder, batting .311/.451/.483 with 31 stolen bases in 37 attempts, though Baseball America says he grades as more of a left fielder in pro ball due to a below-average arm.

“He doesn’t have one key carrying tool, but the sum of his parts gives him upside,” his Baseball America scouting report says.

Some scouts had written Gilbert off because of some dead-arm issues, when he lost some velocity and action on his breaking pitches, Hunter said. The Mariners almost did, too.

“This is everything I ever dreamed of,” said Gilbert, who landed at Stetson because he said he wasn’t highly recruited out of high school in Florida. “So it’s nice to see all the way since I started playing baseball for this to finally happen.

“And this isn’t the end. This is just the beginning. I’m ready to get to work now.”

Entering the day, Scott Hunter, the Mariners’ director of amateur scouting, made it as clear as could be: their top draft pick would be the best athlete they could get.

“This kid fit every checkpoint as a pitcher that we could want to select,” Hunter said. “We were pleasantly surprised he was sitting there.”

This draft didn’t have a Bryce Harper or Manny Machado, Hunter said. But he did say it possessed plenty of top-end high school arms and prep players, though the Mariners hadn’t drafted a high school player in the first round since right-hander Taijuan Walker in 2010, the same year they drafted James Paxton in the fourth round.

And they hadn’t drafted a pitcher in the first round since right-hander Danny Hultzen in 2011.

Hunter said this year’ draft class was thin on upper-level college talent, and the Mariners would value upside, athleticism and tools-based players over safe picks. This is Hunter’s second year overseeing the draft after taking over for Tom McNamara, who has since been promoted to special assistant to the general manager.

The Detroit Tigers held the first overall pick and selected left-handed pitcher Casey Mize of the University of Auburn, who had a 12.5 to 1 strikeout-to-walk ratio for the Tigers.

JJ Cooper, the executive editor at Baseball America, tweeted that Gilbert, immediately upon signing, “will become one of the best prospects in the system.”

If you’ve been following the Mariners’ farm-system grades, that’s not saying a ton.

Baseball America and ESPN’s Keith Law had ranked the Mariners’ as the worst farm system in MLB.

In the last four picks before the Mariners were set at No. 14, Hunter never sat, standing, pacing, taking sips of what looked like the second soda he’d worked on next to his computer in the middle of the room, all the while periodically checking his phone. Mariners chairman John Stanton sat at a table right behind him and Dipoto was not far off to his right in the room of more than 30 suits.

“Our minor-league organization might be ranked 30th out of 30 but it’s not something we accept,” Hunter said. “Our guys really took on the attitude of being prepared and never just assuming a player is going to be there. We haven’t been to the playoffs in 20 years and that’s something we take personally and I’ve instilled that and our staff is buying in.”

Hunter said he was with some of his staff in the Dominican Republic this past December and they sat and performed an internal mock draft of who they might be able to get.

“Everybody had (Gilbert) in about the top three or four picks in our internal mock drafts,” Hunter said.

But Gilbert went through what he said were some mechanical issues that saw his velocity drop and breaking ball lose some sharpness — and Hunter said that knocked him down many draft boards, including that of the Mariners.

He credited scouts Rob Mummau — a former Everett AquaSox manager — and Jesse Kapellusch for getting him back on board.

“They rallied the troops and said, ‘Hey, you need to go get back down here (to Stetson’s DeLand, Florida campus),’” Hunter said. “And the day before I left for Seattle I went to go see him again and his stuff was pretty much back to where it was in the summer. He just turned 21, he’s a young college performer and college athlete and we have a lot of time on our side and we got some upside on a college pitcher.”

Gilbert said he worked with a pitching coach and started to see his pitches get back to form. His performance certainly never tailed off. In a recent start against Oklahoma State, Gilbert struck out 14 batters in seven innings, throwing 121 pitches.

“I was a little tired during the season,” Gilbert said. “During the middle there was a week I didn’t throw just because of the rainouts and my arm has felt pretty lively since then. I got a bit of rest and it helped me jump back to where I am now.”

This is the fourth time in the past five years that the Mariners have selected outside of the top 10. Since Jerry Dipoto took over as the Mariners’ general manager in 2016, they have selected outfielder Kyle Lewis 11th overall (2016) and first baseman Evan White 17th overall (2017). Both were college bats.

Of previous Mariners’ draft picks, catcher Mike Zunino (first round, 2012), right-handed reliever Dan Altavilla (fifth round, 2014), left-hander James Paxton (fourth round, 2010) and third baseman Kyle Seager (third round, 2009) are currently on the 25-man active roster.

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