Haunted by the Draft
Despite some claiming they can, no one can 100% predict the future. If someone could, they would be a very wealthy person and probably the head of a nation. In the world of sports, scouting staffs and management make educated projections, applying analysis through on a number of different attributes and experiences for draft selectees in attempt to develop quality big league players.
The importance of developing within your system is crucial, it obviously effects the level of successful the club will have on the field; moreover, it can effect future value in trades, attendance levels and ability to replenish lost players.
Some teams have fantastic track records at doing so (see: Cardinals, St. Louis or Rays, Tampa Bay), others, meanwhile, do not. I would classify the Seattle Mariners in the latter, and intend to look at the misses in recent history and the impacts they’ve had.
The most obvious selection that went awry was Jeff Clement with the No. 3 overall pick (after Justin Upton and Alex Gordon) in 2005. Consider the following players were the 4 picks immediately following Clement: Ryan Zimmerman, Ryan Braun, Ricky Romero, and Troy Tulowitzki. The four were then shortly followed by the like of Mike Pelfrey, Cameron Maybin, Andrew McCutchen and Jay Bruce–all within the top 12.
Clement was an outstanding high school catcher who has set numerous records and, by most accounts, seemed to have the makings of a future star, only to end up as the quintessential ‘AAAA’ player.
For whatever reason he didn’t develop into the player the M’s had envisioned, be it through organizational handling and development or otherwise unreached potential, the effects certainly hurt.
With numerous franchise players going directly after him, the entire framework and the core could have looked a lot better and the 2005 draft will haunt Mariners fans for some time.
Every team is going to miss on draft picks, that is a given. The key is to be right more than you miss, which is something the M’s don’t seem to have a handle on. Further, when you don’t miss on a pick it’s important to retain those players and build around them.
For example, Adam Jones was picked by Seattle in the supplemental round in 2003 at No. 37, but was later dealt along with George Sherrill, Chris Tillman and 2 other prospects for Erik Bedard.
Bedard has had a reasonably solid major league career, albeit quite injury plagued and wasn’t able to help lead the M’s to a title.
Jones, Tillman and Sherrill all have become all-stars in their careers.
Other instances include Brandon Morrow at No. 5 in 2006, only to mismanage how he was utilized between the minors and majors and bouncing between starting and bullpen duties. He eventually became a solid MLB starter after being dealt to the Blue Jays for Brandon League.
League closed for the M’s for a couple years and made an all-star game before being replaced by Tom Wilhelmsen in the closer role and then traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers for yet-to-be impact players. Two selections after Morrow was selected by the M’s, the Dodgers picked Clayton Kershaw, arguably the most dominant pitcher in the game today.
They then later saw outfielder Drew Stubbs picked at No. 8, local Seattle-area project and two time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum at No. 10, followed by this years’ AL allstar game starter, Max Scherzer at No. 11.
Obviously hindsight is 20-20 and there is always going to be misses where a player doesn’t develop and solid players are selected later on- I’m not denying that.
I haven’t touched on the recent picks such as Dustin Ackley (who everyone and their dog would’ve picked at No. 2) or the trades for Jesus Montero or Justin Smoak (could’ve been Chris Davis!) who have yet to develop into significant impact players because there is still time for turnarounds and much has already been written on them.
These were also highly regarded prospects at the time and something has changed their career trajectory.
There are other cases such as Phillipe Aumont (No. 11 in 2007, Jason Heyward #14 to note) or Josh Fields in ’08 not included because I simply used the above examples instead.
The point I’m trying to make is that drafting and development is crucial to the success of a franchise. Stocking up on quality assets allow for a team to assemble a strong core, and also allow a deal that could potentially help push to a championship title.
Here’s to hoping the recent crop of Mariners’ selections develop into a strong core that is retained and can one day contend for a title, although recent history tells me not to hold my breath.