BY SPNW Staff 01:17PM 06/06/2013

Baseball draft: Mariners boons and swoons

The Mariners have selected nearly 1,800 players in the June free agent draft, but only slightly more than 100 of them reached the major leagues with Seattle.

The Mariners traded Jason Varitek, their first-round pick in 1994, to Boston before Varitek reached the major leagues. He made three All-Star teams with Boston. / Wiki Commons

In their three-plus decades of largely tortured existence, the Mariners have selected nearly 1,800 players in the annual June free agent draft, the next edition of which is Thursday with Seattle holding the 12th overall pick. Only slightly more than 100 of those selectees actually reached the major leagues with Seattle, and fewer than 20 really distinguished themselves. The best and worst of the June draft as it relates to the Mariners:

BEST DRAFT: In 1981, the Mariners selected pitchers Mike Moore and Mark Langston, both of whom developed into All-Stars (although Moore didn’t become an All-Star until after he left the club). In the same draft, the Mariners added future All-Star outfielder Phil Bradley, a career .301 hitter with the team.

WORST DRAFT: In 1989, the Mariners had two selections in the first round. With the first, they took RHP Roger Salkeld No. 3 overall. He won just two games in two seasons before the Mariners gave up on him and dealt him to Cincinnati. With their second pick, the Mariners chose Scott Burrell, who never reached the major leagues.

MOST FUTILE DRAFT: The Mariners selected 40 players in the 1984 draft, and only one, RHP Bill Swift, reached the major leagues.

BEST PICK: Ken Griffey Jr., 1987. Griffey not only hit 398 home runs before departing for Cincinnati (417 total), he became the single biggest reason baseball finally prospered in Seattle.

WORST PICK: Tito Nanni, 1978. Selected in the first round, sixth overall, Nanni not only never reached the majors, he never emerged from the low minors. Meanwhile, the Mariners could have had Ryne Sandberg,  Cal Ripken Jr., Kirk Gibson or Dave Stieb, all of whom were available for the plucking after 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. In 1984, the Mariners 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 PICKS NOT TO REACH MAJORS: Tito Nanni, first round, sixth overall, 1978; Ryan Anderson, first round, 19th overall, 1997 (Anderson advanced as high as AAA before shoulder problems did him in).

LOWEST PICK TO REACH MAJORS: Greg Dobbs, 1,508th selection (53rd round), 1996. Dobbs reached in majors in 2004 and hit a home run in his first major league at-bat that year (Sept. 8).

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.”

MOST APPROPRIATELY NAMED PICK: In the 34th round of the 1987 draft, 862nd overall, the Mariners selected pitcher Scott Pitcher of Hillsborough Community College (Tampa).

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

FIRST-ROUND FAVES: The Mariners received significant starters in the drafts of 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), 1996 (RHP Gil Meche), 2009 (INFs Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager). They added quality with their first-round choices in the 1980 (INF Darnell Coles), 1992 (LHP Ron Villone) and 1996 (RHP Gil Meche, INF Willie Bloomquist) drafts.

FIRST-ROUND FIASCOS: In addition to horrendous selection of Tito Nanni in 1978, the Mariners executed pratfalls in 1979 (OF Al Chambers), 1983 (RHP Darrel Akerfelds), 1986 (SS Patrick Lennon), 1989 (RHP Roger Salkeld), 1990 (OF Marc Newfield), 2002 (1B John Mayberry, failed to sign) and 2005 (C Jeff Clement).

HIDDEN GEMS: The Mariners selected INF Greg 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, 1B Alvin Davis with the 138th pick in 1982; 3B Jim Presley with the 62nd pick in 1979.

GREATEST ESCAPE: In 2002, the Mariners used their No. 1 pick on John Mayberry, who elected to play college ball instead of signing with Seattle. Mayberry re-entered the draft in 2005 and was taken by the Rangers. The Mariners saved themselves at least $2 million in signing bonuses and today Mayberry is a career .250 hitter in Philadelphia.

WORST DRAFT STREAK: In 1984, the Mariners drafted 16 right-handed pitchers who failed to make the major leagues.

BEST DRAFT PICK NEVER TO PLAY FOR M’S: 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 trade, one of the worst in club history, netted the Mariners the dreadful relief pitcher Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek has been an three-time All-Star, Lowe a frontline starter and closer.

DRAFTED, FAILED TO SIGN: Tony Phillips (16th round, 1977), Charley O’Brien (21st round, 1981), Lance Johnson (31st round, 1982), Morgan Ensberg (61st round, 1994), Juan Pierre (48th round, 1996), Barry Zito (59th round, 1996) and Rich Harden (38th round, 1999), John Mayberry (1st round, 2002).

MOST CASH SQUANDERED IN THE DRAFT: The Mariners gave 1997 No. 1 Ryan Anderson a $2.175 million sigining bonus, 1991 No. 1 Ryan Christianson a $2.1 million bonus and 2001 No. 1 Michael Garciaparra a $2 million signing bonus. Anderson never made it past AAA, the Mariners flushed Christianson, and Garciaparra never reached the majors.


  • Stephen Johnson

    The draft ineptitude is breath taking isn’t

    • art thiel

      The casualty rate is high throughout baseball, more than any sport. But only two teams have never made a World Series appearance.

    • jafabian

      I believe most teams have pretty much the same track record as the M’s. Drafting for MLB is a lot different than it is for the NFL or NBA.

  • Will

    But the M,s have a moose, clever tv commercials and plenty of bobbleheads … so you want them to be winners too?