BY Scott Johnson 09:59PM 06/06/2013

Mariners say draft brings ‘two physical hitters’

Mariners’ first two picks are guys who hit well in college — as did Dustin Ackley, the disappointing No. 2 pick in the 2009 draft. But Seattle scouts did not flinch.

Within seconds of the Seattle Mariners selecting University of New Mexico third baseman D.J. Peterson with the 12th overall selection in Thursday’s Major League Baseball draft, an MLB Network analyst unabashedly pronounced him to be “the best hitter in college baseball.”

Five years ago, that might have generated excitement in Mariner Nation. Now? Maybe just a collective groan.

D.J. Peterson / University of New Mexico

Mariners fans have heard it all before. In the 48 months since Seattle selected University of North Carolina star Dustin Ackley with the No. 2 overall selection, they’ve come to learn that being the best hitter in college baseball guarantees nothing.

While Ackley toils in AAA Tacoma trying to erase the penciled-in “bust” label, the Mariners welcomed in another pair of established college hitters in juniors Peterson (6-foot-1, 205 pounds) and second-round pick Austin Wilson, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound outfielder from Stanford, taken with the 49th overall pick.

They address the organization’s most obvious need in that they have potential as power hitters. The Mariners seem genuinely optimistic that their offense improved.

“We just added two bats, two physical hitters,” director of scouting Tom McNamara said Thursday night. “It’s a good day for the Seattle Mariners.”

Asked whether Peterson could develop into a 30-home run guy, McNamara said: “That’s a lot to ask of anybody. He’s a good hitter — one of the best hitters in college baseball.”

Austin Wilson / Stanford Univeristy

No one can know what Peterson will become in the Mariners’ organization, but two obvious linear points on either end of the scale could be Ackley and Kyle Seager. The latter has become a consistent, every-day player after playing alongside Ackley at UNC and being selected in the second round of the draft, while the former has become somewhat of a cautionary tale for teams thirsting for an experienced hitter with a patient approach.

Ackley was tagged as one of the most polished hitters to come out of college baseball for some time when the Mariners grabbed him with the second overall pick in the 2009 draft. After missing out on pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg, Seattle made what was an obvious choice to anyone with knowledge of draft-eligible talent.

No one could have known that free-swinging high schooler Mike Trout, the 25th overall pick, would end up being the crown jewel of the 2009 draft. It would be unfair and overtly revisionist to blame the Mariners for selecting Ackley.

Yet four years later, having posted a .237 batting average in 288 career games at the major league level, Ackley is looking like more of a miss than a can’t-miss. His problems were subject of a lengthy analyis this week in si.com.

A direct comparison linking Peterson to Ackley is premature, and it’s certainly not what the Mariners wanted on the first night of the draft.

McNamara was asked whether the selections of Peterson and Wilson signaled the Ackley pick hasn’t scared off the Mariners of collegiate hitters.

“It’s not really a philosophy,” he said. “If a high school player is the better player, we’ll take the high school player.”

The Mariners liked Peterson so much that they drafted him for the second time. He was a 30th-round pick by Seattle in the 2010 draft coming out of Gilbert (AZ) High School but decided to attend New Mexico instead.

“We liked his bat in high school,” McNamara said. “We were just glad he was there for us to take (again Thursday).”

No one can argue with Peterson’s college production. He earned a share of the Mountain West Conference’s player-of-the-year award in each of the past two seasons and won the conference’s triple crown in the spring, when he batted .408 with 18 home runs and 72 RBI in 55 games with the Lobos.

Wilson wasn’t quite as productive until the end of his final year at Stanford, but he was hampered by elbow problems. McNamara said Wilson checked out medically and shouldn’t have problems.

Nobody knows what to expect out of the latest picks, but it possible to say after Thursday night is that Ackley’s development hasn’t left them gun-shy of the college kids.


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    M’s are stockpiled with pitching right now in the farms. Can’t blame them for going for hitters with their first two picks. Would like to see them getting a leadoff hitter somewhere and a speedy OF who can cover a lot of ground, in the tradition of Junior, Cameron, Ichiro and Guti. Kinda needed in the OF at Safeco. Hope the club can resist rushing them thru the system despite their success at the college level. Sometimes I wonder if some of the younger players on the M’s were pushed thru the farm before they were ready.

    Interesting analysis on Ackley. On one hand I see where Wedge is coming from in his thoughts on Ackley’s hitting problems. However since Ackley was such a solid hitter in college as well as down on the farm that would suggest that somewhere between his first and second year with the big club someone, either GM, manager, hitting coach or Ackley himself, tinkered with his swing or got him to think about working the count and going deep in the pitch count. Something that for years people tried to get Ichiro to do but he largely ignored them and stuck with what got him a Rookie Of The Year and MVP award.

    • 1coolguy

      Don’t get too deep on your analysis – he’s simply playing for an organization that SUCKS, headed by the 2 magpies Lincoln and Armstrong. Until they leave, the M’s are destined for last place. PERIOD.

  • maqman

    A couple of team controlled bats would be very helpful but it will be a while before (and IF) these two start to contribute in The Show, not that I view them negatively, I’m fine with their choice. I’m not so sure we are stockpiled with pitching on the farm now, at least within striking distance time wise. We need to replace Bonderman, Harang and Saunders ASAP, Hopefully Ramirez and Hultzen can fill two of their slots, although there’s no guarantee they will. Paxton is looking like a bullpen candidate so far and Walker is not a slam dunk either. I’d like to see them swing a trade with the Cubs for Scott Feldman, who is reported to be available. I would also be okay with them taking on Lee’s full contract and not giving up much in prospects or paying less of his contract and surrendering Paxton and Ackley and some lesser pieces.

    • art thiel

      Looks like maybe Bonderman might make it to the Fourth of July at least. Whatever the M’s do, no need to rush it. But Jack and Wedge are in contract years. Never a good way to operate.

      • westsydemariner

        Jack Z and Wedgie only operate within finely constrained walls formed by the upper execs and an ownership group who put this team on auto-pilot a long time ago – back in the winter of ’95 as I recall – when they took the wind out of the M’s shot at a world series by dumping Tino Martinez, Jim Mecir and Jeff Nelson for Yankee AAA junk. That was the signal that they were not serious about the game of baseball, and have proven it over and over in the years since. Al freaking Martin??? come on, maaaan!

        Wake me when this team is sold to an owner who is a fan and actually cares about winning.

  • just passing thru

    just bring DJ up now. get it over with.

  • one174

    Ackley, Peterson, and Wilson will all become excellent hitters. Just as soon as the Mariners trade them.

    • art thiel

      In the great tradition of Jason Varitek, Adam Jones . . . ah, never mind.

  • 1coolguy

    Why in god’s name would any team draft a hitter who is 6’5″??? Huger strike zone.
    Other than Willie McCovey (younger readers will have NO idea who he is), I don’t recall a decent tall hitter.
    Weird, but true to the M’s. Another FLA for the M’s: Future Loser of America, as he will play for the inept organization headed by the two magpies, Lincoln and Armstrong.