BY Steve Rudman 11:37AM 06/08/2011

Zeitgeist: The Mariners and the Major League draft

Seattle picked Griffey and A-Rod, but there are all those other picks. That’s the problem. Steve Rudman outlines the history for you masochists.

Dustin Ackley, selected by the Mariners in the first round of the 2009 June draft, is currently playing for AAA Tacoma. / Getty Images

If the Mariners knew then what they know now, they would probably have taken Roger Clemens with the seventh pick in the 1983 June free agent draft instead of the player they glommed on to, Darrel Akerfelds, who never pitched for Seattle and won just nine games in five Major League seasons. Clemens won 354.

Since their inaugural season of 1977, the Mariners have missed out on drafting at least a dozen Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, including Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn (see poll below for the Mariners’ shrewdest draft move).

To be fair, the Mariners were not the only team that whiffed on Clemens. Eighteen clubs botched a shot at the indicted pitcher, including seven that drafted players ahead of Clemens who never cracked a big league lineup.

We bring this up because the Mariners are in the process of selecting  50 new players in baseball’s annual June draft. Their prospects of landing the next Clemens are statistically insignificant. In fact, their chances of landing a future All-Star are not very good.

Since 1977, the Mariners have selected 1,670 players in the June draft. Of the 1,670, just 196 (11.7 percent) played a game at the Major League level. How that compares to the rest of the AL West over the same span:

Franchise Choices Reached MLB Pct. In MLB Best Pick
Oakland Athletics 1437 212 14.7 Mark McGwire, 1984
Texas Rangers 1432 199 13.9 Mark Teixeira, 2001
Los Angeles Angels 1498 199 13.3 Jered Weaver, 2004
Seattle Mariners 1670 196 11.7 Ken Griffey Jr., 1987

Of the 196, just 10 became Major League All-Stars. Only two batted .300 while playing for Seattle. Of the 824 pitchers selected by the Mariners, none won 20 games and just three became All-Stars (two with the Mariners).

Every so often, every team scores big in the June draft. The Mariners took a future Hall of Famer in Ken Griffey Jr., in 1987, and another in Alex Rodriguez in 1993. They were obvious selections in their respective years. But more often than not, the draft is the ultimate athletic crapshoot. The best and worst of Mariner drafts from 1977-10:

BEST DRAFT (1981): The Mariners selected two pitchers (Mike Moore and Mark Langston) who developed into All-Stars and who still rank among the top 10 winners in club history, and also selected a career .300 hitter in Phil Bradley (.308).

WORST DRAFT (Tie, 1984, 1989): In 1984, the Mariners selected 40 players, including 17 pitchers, six outfielders, 12 infielders and five catchers. Just one of those players, Bill Swift, who became a journeyman pitcher, reached the major leagues. In 1989, the Mariners had two picks in the first round. With the first, they selected Roger Salkeld No. 3 overall. Salkeld won just two games in two seasons with the team. With the second pick, the Mariners chose Scott Burrell, who never reached the major leagues.

BEST PICK (Ken Griffey Jr., 1987). Griffey not only hit 417 home runs during two stints with the Mariners, he was the single biggest reason baseball finally began to prosper in Seattle.

WORST PICK (Tito Nanni, 1978): Taken sixth overall, Nanni never reached the majors. Meanwhile, Ryne Sandberg or Cal Ripken Jr. were both on the board when Seattle selected Nanni.

BEST SUPPLEMENTAL PICKS: The Mariners made 2B Harold Reynolds their No. 1 pick in the “secondary” phase of the 1980 June draft, following 23 rounds of the regular phase. Reynolds earned two All-Star appearances. Also, in 1984, the M’s selected Mike Blowers in the eighth round of the “secondary” draft. Blowers had two stints with the Mariners and became a significant operative in their 1995 playoff run.

HIGHEST PICK NOT TO REACH MAJORS: Tito Nanni, No. 1, sixth overall, 1978.

LOWEST PICK TO REACH MAJORS: Greg Dobbs, 1,508th selection (53rd round), 1996.

ODDEST PICK: With the 806th pick in the 34th round of the 1979 draft, the Mariners selected Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson, aka, the “Throwin’ Samoan.”

FUTURE ALL STARS IN THE DRAFT (10): Bret Boone (2001, ’03), Phil Bradley (1985), Alvin Davis (1984), Ken Griffey Jr. (1990-99), Mark Langston (1987), Jim Presley (1986), Tino Martinez (1995), J.J. Putz (2007), Alex Rodriguez (1996-98, ’00), Matt Young (1983).

FIRST-ROUND FAVES: The Mariners received long-term starters in the 1977 (OF Dave Henderson), 1981 (RHP Mike Moore), 1982 (SS Spike Owen), 1987 (OF Ken Griffey Jr.), 1988 (INF Tino Martinez), 1993 (SS Alex Rodriguez) and 1996 (RHP Gil Meche) drafts. They added quality with their first-round choices in the 1980 (INF Darnell Coles), 1992 (LHP Ron Villone) and 1998 (Matt Thornton) drafts.

FIRST-ROUND FIASCOS: In addition to Nanni, the M’s fell flat in 1979 (OF Al Chambers), 1983 (RHP Darrel Akerfelds), 1986 (SS Patrick Lennon), 1989 (RHP Roger Salkeld), 1990, (OF Marc Newfield), 2001 (SS Michael Garciaparra), 2002 (1B John Mayberry). Mayberry is the only first-round pick the Mariners failed to sign) and 2005 (Jeff Clement).

HIDDEN GEMS: The Mariners selected INF Dobbs with the 1,508th pick in 1996, OF Raul Ibanez with the 1,006th pick in 1992, RHP Ryan Franklin with the 642nd pick in 1992, OF Darren Bragg with the 579th pick in 1991 and 1B Alvin Davis with the 138th pick in 1982.

20-GAME WINNERS DRAFTED: None. The Mariners have had two 20-game winners, Randy Johnson (20, 1997) and Jamie Moyer (20, 2001 and 21, 2003), but acquired both players in trades.

.300 HITTERS DRAFTED: Career (with Mariners) — 2, Phil Bradley (1985); Alex Rodriguez (1993). Bradley hit .301 for the Mariners between 1983-87; Rodriguez hit .309 between 1993-00.

HALL OF FAMERS MISSED: Ozzie Smith, 1977 (Mariners selected Dave Henderson); Cal Ripken and Ryne Sandberg, 1978 (Mariners selected OF Tito Nanni); Tony Gwynn, 1981 (Mariners selected RHP Mike Moore);

PROBABLE FUTURE HALL OF FAMERS MISSED: Roger Clemens, 1983 (Mariners selected Darrell Akerfelds); Greg Maddux, 1984 (Mariners selected Bill Swift); Manny Ramirez, 1991 (Mariner selected Shawn Estes);

BIGGEST WHIFFS: The Mariners drafted C Jason Varitek with their first pick in 1994, but traded him to Boston before he reached the major leagues in a deal also involving Derek Lowe (8th round, 1991) that yielded the dreadful Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek became an All-Star, Lowe a frontline starter and a closer for several teams. In 2006, the Mariners selected RHP Brandon Morrow in the first round and let RHP Tim Lincecum escape to the Giants. Morrow never panned out with the Mariners, who traded him in 2009 to Toronto, where he still hasn’t panned out. Lincecum is now a two-time Cy Young winner.

DRAFTED, FAILED TO SIGN: Tony Phillips (16th round, 1977), Lance Johnson (31st round, 1982), Juan Pierre (48th round, 1996), Barry Zito (59th round, 1996) and Rich Harden (38th round, 1999).

The following chart breaks down Seattle’s June amateur drafts since 1977, by position:

Year Pitchers Catchers OFs INFs Total Majors
1977 15 4 7 6 32 6
1978 11 3 3 6 23 5
1979 18 3 6 7 34 7
1980 9 2 5 7 23 7
1981 11 3 7 6 27 7
1982 13 5 8 8 34 5
1983 15 2 9 9 35 7
1984 17 5 6 12 40 1
1985 12 2 7 10 31 5
1986 13 2 4 10 29 7
1987 29 3 12 11 55 10
1988 23 8 10 11 52 8
1989 30 5 14 21 70 3
1990 34 6 12 23 75 8
1991 33 6 14 14 67 9
1992 31 4 6 9 50 10
1993 37 7 12 13 69 5
1994 29 10 24 12 75 8
1995 37 8 20 12 77 8
1996 33 5 11 11 60 10
1997 34 4 12 11 61 4
1998 23 7 9 11 50 4
1999 29 3 6 13 51 9
2000 21 5 13 8 47 6
2001 22 7 13 10 52 7
2002 23 5 12 10 50 6
2003 29 5 8 8 50 5
2004 19 6 12 13 50 6
2005 24 5 7 12 48 4
2006 34 2 5 9 50 7
2007 33 2 7 9 51 2
2008 29 5 8 8 50 0
2009 24 5 9 14 52 0
2010 30 4 6 10 50 0
Totals 824 158 324 364 1,670 196

[poll id="7"]


YourThoughts

  • Michael Kaiser

    Wow, was Phil Bradley the quietest career-.300+ hitter in MLB history?  Good break down.  And why does not it even remotely surprise me that one way or another the Mariners are at the bottom of the American League West in drafting acumen.  You should have run a study using the old American League West.  And then the entire American League.  And then all of baseball.  I am guessing the results would essentially track what you discovered with the smaller sample.  The Seattle-syndrome strike again.  A perfect example of this is all the comments on various boards by Mariners’ fans overwhelmingly applauding the latest draft without even addressing substantial counterarguments as to the wisdom and need for drafting an almost major-league ready pitcher with an apparently somewhat limited upside given our other glaring needs.  It is almost like the “Clap Now” billboard requests at Mariners’ games have brainwashed the Seattle populace so that anything that is not absolutely clearly ineptitude gets an unqualified applause.  

  • Michael Kaiser

    Wow, was Phil Bradley the quietest career-.300+ hitter in MLB history?  Good break down.  And why does not it even remotely surprise me that one way or another the Mariners are at the bottom of the American League West in drafting acumen.  You should have run a study using the old American League West.  And then the entire American League.  And then all of baseball.  I am guessing the results would essentially track what you discovered with the smaller sample.  The Seattle-syndrome strike again.  A perfect example of this is all the comments on various boards by Mariners’ fans overwhelmingly applauding the latest draft without even addressing substantial counterarguments as to the wisdom and need for drafting an almost major-league ready pitcher with an apparently somewhat limited upside given our other glaring needs.  It is almost like the “Clap Now” billboard requests at Mariners’ games have brainwashed the Seattle populace so that anything that is not absolutely clearly ineptitude gets an unqualified applause.  

  • Will

    The overly used word, “rebuilding” needs to be junked. The Mariners should be a skyscraper by now considering how long they’ve been rebuilding … yet they remain a gopher hole. The long ago Mets were “lovable losers” while the Mariners are simply aggravating losers. Hell, move the fences to just behind the in-field and they would still whiff.

    • Jamo57

      Just to give a little more context to Seattle’s misery, the Mets came into the league in 1962 and became the ‘Miracle Mets’ in 1969.   8 seasons.    The Ms were last in the post season in 2001.   This is our 11th season without the playoffs.

      And then there is the more telling statistic that this is the Ms 35th season, of which we’ve been to the postseason 4 times.    And only got out of the first round of the playoffs 3 times.    And 0 trips to the World Series.

      But holy smokes!   What a great place Safeco Field is to go to folks!

      • Will

        … and don’t forget all the cute TV ads, the M’s certainly understand the art of hype.

      • RadioGuy

        But to add more context to your context, Jamo57, the Mets were 73-89 the year before their Miracle season…and that was their best record ever up to that point.  They won in ’69 on pitching, defense and timely hitting.  Not one everyday player from that lineup will ever come close to Cooperstown unless they drive there, but they got hits when they had to (the Cubs folding didn’t hurt, either).

        For all the quick fixes the Mariners have tried since 2001, this is really the first full year of committing to this group of youngsters.  I definitely expected more from the offense (I think we all did), but the pitching and defense are in place and I like the overall potential of this lineup more than what the Mets had going for them in 1969.  Not predicting THAT kind of turnaround (they’d put me in one of those nice white coats where the arms come together in back), but I don’t think they’re all that far away from being a pretty good team.

        But they’ve got to live with the ballpark they play in and start to think line drives and grounders and stop swinging for the fences!  A warning track out is still an out.

        • Jamo57

          I agree with you RG that the Ms have finally settled on building the team the right way, through the draft and minor league system.   And to add context to your adding of context to my context, perhaps a better comparison of the Ms futility than the NY Mets of the 60s is to compare them to the Philadelphia Phillies who did not win the World Series until their 97th year of existance after having appeared in the Series previously in 1915 and 1950.   BTW in looking at their history in finding that information, Wikipedia mentioned a historic losing streak of 23 games in 1961 with a young team that went on to have a strong year in 1964.    Oh my God, are we headed for an epic collapse of that magnitude here in Seattle?
           
          But my overall point inspired by Will is that the Mariners ineptitude really is approaching historic levels.    I guess since we are so remote from the ‘national media’ we are simply forgotten rather than being elevated to Cubs, Phillies, or Washington Senators status.      I do salute your optimism, I occasionally have some but then I remember how Chuck Armstrong has somehow presided over the majority of our history.    Something will nip the tender green shoots of Ms success.  Probably just the franchise satisfaction and marketing of a .500 year.
           
          We only have 62 years to go until we match the Phillies.    Chuck can’t possibly live that long can he?

  • jafabian

    If Safeco is such a hard place to hit at, then the M’s have forgotten when they lost 9-8 to the Indians at Safeco.  Or 6-1 to the Rangers.  6-4 to the Angels.  8-3 to the Dodgers.  How do they explain winning 7-4 against the Giants?  And so on.  In fact, why not start asking other teams to start moving in their fences as well to make games more fair for the M’s?

    Or…start learning how to use the spaciousness of Safeco.  Start getting on base and moving the runner over.  Start pulling the ball.  Michael Saunders seems to have learned that.  

    If the M’s were winning consistently they wouldn’t be complaining.  Right now they’re showing that they are a young, inexperienced team with all their grousing about the ballpark.

  • sc400

    Maybe if can get some players that respect the game , but that starts from the top if the owners do not care then why should the players care about winning? maybe owners need start calling out the players instead of blaming it on the manager. until are owner shows a little heart then the player just going cash in the money.

  • SUDS

    This is the first year of hitting futility at Safeco, nor is it the first group of players that have had this problem. In fact, since the steriod era “ended”, the hitting at Safeco has continued to dwindle. While placing all the blame on one cause is erroneous thinking, correcting fixable solutions isn’t. Making adjustments to the dimentions of the power alleys and other specific areas (not just broadly “moving in the fences”) is needed as one part of the solution. The Mariners aren’t the first club that would be doing this; it’s not a new and novel thought. The Tigers realized that Comerica was a barn and made some changes. That, along with their young nucleus (that has lost over 100 games just two years before) sent them into contention for the next eight years. I’m amazed there is debate about making ball park changes…we’ve had good pitching and defence for years now and look where it’s got us. Oh wait, none of the players that have been on the team last 10 years’ teams “respected the game”. Shoot, I should have realized that.

  • Jamo57

    I keep coming back to Howard Lincoln’s view that SoDo can’t handle 3 sports venues.    Perhaps he’s right.    And as the Ms can’t seem to hit in that dense marine air of the waterfront, perhaps it is them who should move to Renton.   It seems like the right thing to do for the young kids, the port, and the community as a whole!

  • Andy

    I say trade Ichiro. I am a big fan of Adam Jones and I am just glad he is not in Seattle to see all this crap.

  • sportspressnw

    Is that a bad thing?