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Draft Report Card

Michael Garciaparra
Photo: Mel Bailey

Best Pro Debut: 2B Tim Merritt (3) was a short-season Northwest League all-star, batting .306-5-30 with 11 steals while making a smooth transition from shortstop. 1B Greg Dobbs, whom the Mariners drafted out of high school in 1996 and signed as a fifth-year college senior before the 2001 draft, hit .321-6-49 in the NWL.

Best Athlete: Seattle signed two of the best athletes and football players in the draft in OFs Matthew Ware (21) and Michael Wilson (2). Ware ran track rather than play baseball as a high school junior and senior, but area scout Derek Valenzuela remembered him from his days with the Mariners’ scout team in southern California. Ware’s best sport in football, as he’s starting at cornerback for UCLA as a true freshman. Wilson probably would have been a first-round pick had he not been a linebacker with a scholarship from defending national champion Oklahoma. Wilson, who gave up the gridiron, is more refined than Ware. He has an enticing power-speed combination and threw 90 mph when he pitched as a high school sophomore. SS Michael Garciaparra (1) excelled in baseball, football and soccer in high school. He was the biggest surprise in the first round of the draft, as several teams didn’t have him on their draft board because they hadn’t seen him. Garciaparra had just 12 at-bats as a senior after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while making a tackle as a kicker last fall. But the Mariners knew him well because he had played on their scout team since he was a freshman, and Valenzuela is close to his brother, two-time American League batting champion Nomar Garciaparra. Michael is bigger and perhaps more athletic than Nomar was at the same age, and Seattle raves about his tools and his desire.

Best Hitter: 2B John Cole (5) hit .418 for the University of Nebraska’s first-ever College World Series team but had his pro debut shortened when a baserunning collision left him with a stress fracture in his knee. Merritt also is a gifted hitter.

Best Raw Power: Wilson or 3B Jonathan Nelson (26), whom the Mariners had drafted twice previously. Nelson had been on a Mormon mission, so like Ware he hasn’t played baseball in two years.

Fastest Runner: Ware can blaze through a 60-yard dash in 6.38 seconds.

Best Defensive Player: SS Jeff Ellena (8) is a scrapper with soft hands and plus range. His arm might be a little short for the position, but he’ll be given every chance to prove otherwise.

Best Fastball: Seattle signed just six pitchers, and LHP Bobby Livingston (4) has the best velocity at 91-92 mph. If 6-foot-10, 260-pound RHP Justin Ockerman (6) ever improves his mechanics and incorporates his legs into his delivery, he could blow by Livingston. At this point, Ockerman usually pitches around 90 mph.

Most Intriguing Background: Garciaparra isn’t the only draftee with a baseball relative. Unsigned OF Trevor Heid’s (34) father Ted supervises Pacific Rim operations for the Mariners. Unsigned OF Marquis Pettis (40) is the son of Seattle scout Stacey Pettis and the nephew of former Gold Glove winner Gary Pettis.

Closest To The Majors: Merritt is ahead of Cole because of the injury. Cole should be fully ready for spring training.

Best Late-Round Pick: Nelson and Ware, though it may be difficult to keep the latter away from the NFL.

The One Who Got Away: The Mariners were close to signing Canada’s top prospect, RHP John Axford (7), but he ultimately decided to join Notre Dame’s banner recruiting class. Axford is very projectable at 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds and already throws 87-91 mph.

Assessment: In a draft heavy on pitching prospects, Seattle targeted position players and specifically athletes, and that’s what it got. While many teams considered Garciaparra a first-round reach, the Mariners are thrilled with him. They got a consensus first-round talent in Wilson and also bolstered their catching depth with Rene Rivera (2) and Lazaro Abreu (3).

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