Armed with picks, Mariners enter 2019 MLB draft ‘open to anything that could make us better’

Missouri’s Kameron Misner connects for a hit during an NCAA college baseball game against Vanderbilt, Saturday, May 11, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Wade Payne) Wade Payne AP

With the 2019 MLB draft beginning Monday, expect the Seattle Mariners to be busy. They’ve got three picks on the first day, including the No. 20 pick overall, and four in the top 100.

“It’s exciting for us, because it’s an opportunity for our scouts and our organization to make a little bit bigger impact than what we’ve done over the last couple years,” Mariners director of amateur scouting Scott Hunter said recently.

“Being 30 out of 30 a couple years ago (in minor league rankings), now we’re starting to creep to the middle of the pack. … You get some opportunities to make a real impact.”

Who will the Mariners take with No. 20 in the first round? Mock drafts vary.

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In MLB.com’s latest mock draft, Jim Callis projects Seattle will take third baseman Kody Hoese from Tulane, as does The Athletic’s Corey Brock.

ESPN’s Keith Law has the Mariners taking infielder-catcher hybrid Tyler Callihan out of Florida’s Providence High School in his latest rundown.

Baseball America’s Carlos Collazo predicts right-hander George Kirby out of Elon, as has MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo in a previous mock.

And Bleacher Report’s Adam Wells thinks Seattle might take Missouri outfielder Kameron Misner.

Most mock drafts seem to have the Mariners going for college players — who could likely more quickly contributed to the club’s rebuild — but Hunter says Seattle is open to both high school and college players.

“I think we’re open to anything that could make us better right now,” Hunter said. “Last year we were in play for two or three high school guys, and then having the opportunity to take Logan Gilbert switched us from that.

“Then, in the second and third round, with the way the draft is now and how many teams have so many picks … it’s hard to really pinpoint a high school guy that we really want and get him to us. It’s more about preparation and taking the opportunity when it arises.”

This will be Hunter’s third draft since joining the organization in 2016, and he’s already seen some picks rise through the ranks quickly.

In 2017, the Mariners took first baseman Evan White out of Kentucky with the 17th overall pick, who is slashing at .254/.343/.336 with Double-A Arkansas this season. Gilbert, a right-hander who the Mariners drafted with their first pick in 2018 at No. 14 overall, is 2-0 with a 1.73 ERA in five starts with high Single-A Modesto after being promoted on May 2.

“Having Logan doing well right now and already being in high (Class)-A and getting some well-deserved attention nationally … has been really exciting for our staff to see,” Hunter said. “The work, the fruits of their labor coming to fruition.

“And then Evan, the natural progression, he’s in Double-A in his second full season. He’s off to a little bit of a slower start, but competing really well, and I think the last couple years he’s seemed a slow starter and he ends up turning things around. And everybody goes through that as they jump levels. And some of our guys are making jumps so quick.”

Hunter said there aren’t any drastic changes in how the Mariners will approach this season’s draft. But, with successes the past two years, they are in a position to take more risks on players who may need longer to develop.

“I know when I first got here our minor-league system was a little barren, and my goal, and our organization and our staff’s goal was to kind of stabilize that, and I think we’re getting to a spot now where not only are we stabilizing it,” Hunter said.

“We’re seeing some guys move through the system and approaching the big leagues in a little bit faster fashion, that we may be able to take some risks on some younger guys that have a little more time on their learning curve.”

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