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Mariners Draft Report Card

By Jim Callis

Best Pro Debut: OF Jamal Strong (6) was named co-MVP of the short-season Northwest League after hitting .314-1-28 with a league-best 60 steals and a 52-29 walk-strikeout ratio. LHP Derrick Van Dusen (5) led the Rookie-level Arizona League in victories, going 6-0, 2.63 with 58 strikeouts in 41 innings.

Best Athlete: Strong or OF Jared Jones (16), who hadn’t played baseball in two years while serving as a backup quarterback at Florida State. Jones has a right-field arm and a power bat.

Best Hitter: 3B Blake Bone (11) or 2B Manny Crespo (14). Bone outhit Crespo .282 to .259 at short-season Everett.

Best Raw Power: Jones, though he’ll need some time to get reacclimated to baseball. He went 2-for-18 in a brief AZL stint.

Fastest Runner: The Mariners have clocked Strong in 3.88 seconds from the right side of the plate to first base, which is almost unheard of.

Best Defensive Player: Strong had tons of range in center field, though his arm has been below-average since he separated his shoulder late in the college season at Nebraska.

Best Fastball: RHP Rett Johnson (8) throws an 89-93 mph fastball and a big league slider. He’s on the fast track after going 5-4, 2.07 with 88 strikeouts in 70 innings at Everett.

Most Intriguing Background: The Mariners drafted two righthanders named Chris Way, who aren’t related, back to back in the 34th and 35th rounds. LHP Sam Hays (4), the club’s top choice, is the grandson of former big league pitcher Sid Hudson. Crespo’s father Manny is a roving infield instructor with the Marlins, while SS Jason Looper (31) is the nephew of Mariners farm director Benny Looper. Neither of the Ways nor Looper signed. In the non-relative category, LHP Ryan Ketchner (10) has overcome a hearing impairment and OF Larry Brown (22) was a quarterback at the JC of the Canyons (Calif.).

Closest To The Majors: Johnson.

Best Late-Round Pick: Jones. At 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, he looks the part of the slugger. If he stops playing quarterback and sheds his football bulk, his ceiling is high. Also keep an eye on LHP Theo Heflin (27), who throws 90-93 mph.

The One Who Got Away: LHP Charlie Manning (9), who has touched 95 mph, stayed home to go to Tampa.

Assessment: The Mariners didn’t start drafting until the fourth round, though they won’t complain because they gave up their first three picks to sign free agents John Olerud, Aaron Sele and Arthur Rhodes, who played key roles as Seattle reached the American League Championship Series. Hays’ signability was in question, but the Mariners got the lefty with above-average stuff for $1.2 million.

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