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Mariners Draft Preview
By Jim Callis
Scouting Director: Frank Mattox (first year: 1998).
2000 Draft (First five rounds, picking 16th)
2001 Draft (First five rounds, picking 23rd)
2002 Draft (First five rounds, picking 28th)
Most of their better minor leaguers came from that source: Venezuelan righthander Rafael Soriano, Australian outfielder Chris Snelling, Venezuelan shortstop Jose Lopez, Korean outfielder Shin-Soo Choo, Aussie lefthander Travis Blackley. On Baseball America's Mariners prospects list, just four of the top 25 players were products of the 2000-02 drafts.
In 2000, Seattle forfeited its first three picks as compensation for free agents John Olerud, Aaron Sele and Arthur Rhodes. The Mariners tried to make up for it by spending $1.2 million on lefthander Sam Hays. Hays was considered a first-round talent if not for his strong commitment to Baylor, but the investment hasn't paid off. Seattle did find two solid prospects in outfielder Jamal Strong (sixth round) and righthander Rett Johnson (eighth).
A year later, they gave up their first-rounder for free agent Jeff Nelson and went against the consensus with three of their first four picks. They spent $2 million on shortstop Michael Garciaparra, who wasn't on some teams' draft boards after he tore up a knee playing football the previous fall. Outfielder Michael Wilson, a linebacker with an Oklahoma football scholarship, signed for $900,000 but struggled in the Rookie-level Arizona League last year and is in extended spring training. Catcher Lazaro Abreu didn't play behind the plate in 2001 while recovering from Tommy John surgery and played in just four pro games before tearing his labrum.
Last June, the Mariners had their first true first-rounder since Christianson and spent it on outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who wouldn't budge from his $3 million price and went to Stanford. Seattle also failed to sign outfielder Eddy Martinez-Esteve, who has been Florida State's leading hitter as a freshman. Outfielder Josh Womack, the top pick who signed with the Mariners, wasn't as high on most other clubs' boards.
Seattle again is without a top 30 choice, having given up the 19th overall pick to sign free agent Greg Colbrunn. The Mariners' first pick is a supplemental first-rounder at No. 38, their consolation prize for not landing Mayberry.
Seattle didn't take a college player in the first 10 rounds last year. Just 31 percent of their picks in the first 10 rounds in 2000-02 have come from four-year colleges, and only the Braves at 22.5 percent have a lower mark. If the Mariners focus on high school talent again, the candidates for their top choice could include pitchers such as Daniel Bard, Jared Hughes, Adam Jones, Scott Maine or Adam Miller (the Texas version rather than the Iowa one).