Kingdome Crossover: Players the Seattle Mariners Could Have Drafted Instead of Danny Hultzen

The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.

This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.

The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.

Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.

The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.

Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.

Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick

Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.

However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.

If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.

Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick

In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.

The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.

He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.

Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick

Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.

He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.

Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.

Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick

Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.

One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.

His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.

Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick

Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.

Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.

The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.

Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.

George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick

While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.

Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.

The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.

Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.

But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.

Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick

Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.

The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.

The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.

Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.

Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.

C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick

Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.

The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.

With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.

He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.

Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick

While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.

Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.

Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.

Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.

Other Notable Names

In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.

The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.

While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.

All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.

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The Mariners Really Need to Trade Felix Hernandez

The Upper Echelons of Major League Pitchers-

  1. Justin Verlander
  2. David Price, Felix Hernandez, CC Sabathia, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw, Jered Weaver
  3. Matt Cain, RA Dickey , James Shields, Zack Grienke, Cole Hamels, Gio Gonzalez
  4. Cliff Lee, Stephen Strasburg,  Yu Darvish, Max Scherzer, Doug Fister, Johnny Cueto
  5. Ian Kennedy, Anibal Sanchez, Jon Lester, Yovani Gallardo, Trevor Cahill, Jordan Zimmerman etc.

Those, in a nutshell, are the top pitchers in baseball. Notice the placement of RA Dickey and James Shields. Both have been traded in the last month, yet both are ranked below (in my estimate) Felix Hernandez. In addition to those two big offseason moves, the Angels signed Josh Hamilton. I say this for one reason, Texas isn’t going anywhere,  and Los Angeles just added Hamilton to their team. The other team in the division is Oakland who, I might point out, was probably the second best team in the AL playoffs last year.

Regardless of Seattle’s current talent (meh,) the team is in a stacked division. Anything besides last place is probably a miracle (barring an Angels’ season-long flop.)

The team isn’t going anywhere soon. Thus it makes sense to trade Felix Hernandez, especially since their top two pitching prospects (Taijuan Walker, Danny Hultzen) are ranked fourth and eighth in terms of the top 100 prospects in the game per Jonathan Mayo.

There are two, if not three, (James Paxton could be special as well) potential Hernandez replacements waiting in the system. Yes, the fences are being moved in and the Mariners need to sell tickets, but dealing Hernandez makes sense.

Let’s put a few things out there. One, Hernandez is four years younger than Shields and twelve younger than Dickey. Not surprisingly, King Felix is a much better pitcher than both. The point on Shields, or even Dickey, is that Shields fetched the number three overall prospect (again all this per Mayo,) Wil Myers, who has at least “star” potential if not more. Another prospect that went to Tampa was starter Jake Odorizzi, ranked the 30th best in all of baseball. Tampa also picked up two other prospects who are ranked in the top 20 of their system.

New York got the 11th and 83rd best prospects in the game by selling high on a 38-year old.

What I’m getting at, if you haven’t gotten there first, is that the Rays and Mets got some of the better packages of prospects that the trading market has seen in the past few years. I would think that the Mariners would want to cash in with a haul of that kind.

The Mariners need a hitter to lead them into the next phase of the franchise (hopefully contending.) I’m sure they’d jump at a package of Jurickson Profar and Mike Olt (not that Texas would consider that seriously.) But Seattle needs a corner stone. They need the next Miguel Cabrera or Evan Longoria. They need someone who can carry a team on his backs/bats. Maybe Felix Hernandez is the way to find that player.

Surely if James Shields and RA Dickey can fetch outstanding hauls of prospects, then a younger and better pitcher (Felix Hernandez) can get a better one.

What do you think? Should the Mariners trade King Felix or should they keep him and try to contend?

MLB Free Agent Predictions Revisited

(Just a fair warning, get ready for a bunch of bahooey)

Here is a condensed, explanation-less list of my free agent predictions in early November:

  1. Albert Pujols to St. Louis
  2. Prince Fielder to Chicago (Cubs)
  3. CJ Wilson to Washington
  4. Jose Reyes to the Mets
  5. Jimmy Rollins stays in Philly
  6. Michael Cuddyer staying in Minnesota
  7. Aramis Ramirez in Miami
  8. Mark Buehrle back with the White Sox
  9. Edwin Jackson with the Yankees
  10. Johnathan Paplebon with Boston
  11. Carlos Beltran in Bean Town
  12. David Ortiz in Oakland
  13. Hiroki Kuroda in LA with the Dodgers
  14. Heath Bell in San Diego
  15. Carlos Pena in Seattle
  16. Roy Oswalt in a Rangers uniform
  17. Coco Crisp back in Cleveland
  18. Kelly Johnson in Miami
  19. Grady Sizemore in the Emerald City
  20. Erik Bedard, ditto
  21. Paul Maholm in Toronto
  22. Chris Capuano in Pittsburgh
  23. Ramon Hernandez in Cleveland
  24. Jason Kubel in Chicago
  25. Ramon Santiago with the Tigers
  26. Jamey Carroll in Minnesota
  27. Clint Barmes in Queens
  28. Kerry Wood back with the Cubs
  29. Frank Francisco in Oakland
  30. Jason Marquis with Anaheim
  31. Joel Pinero in a Mets uniform
  32. Jonathan Broxton in Toronto
  33. Bruce Chen in Seattle
  34. Brad Penny in Cincinnati
  35. Rafael Furcal in St. Louis
  36. Aaron Harang in Baltimore
  37. David Dejesus in Cincinnati
  38. Jeff Francis in KC
  39. Jamie Moyer back with the M’s
  40. Casey Kotchman back with the Rays
  41. Josh Willingham in Colorado
  42. Bartolo Colon in Miami
  43. Ryan Madson in Philadelphia
  44. Francisco Rodriguez with the Marlins

I got six of the predictions correct. That’s seven percent of them right. I can count them on my two hands. Point is, look how smart I am!

Jimmy Rollins, Ramon Santiago, Jamey Carroll, Rafael Furcal and Jeff Francis were my only answers that warrant a “ding” noise on a game show.

Outside of that I had Albert Pujols back with the defending champs, the Prince in Chicago with the Cubs (to be honest I am perfectly OK with getting that one wrong, seeing as, you know, he’s  a Tiger now). I had Jose Reyes staying in New York as the Mets cornerstone. I stated that guys like Michael Cuddyer, Mark Buehrle, Heath Bell and Jonathan Paplebon would never leave the cities they have spent their careers in and that their teams would do everything they could to keep them. Well, turns out Paplebon is in Philadelphia, Buehrle and Bell are in South Beach and Cuddyer is a member of the Rockies.

I then had moves that were similar to what the teams did to address a need, it’s just they didn’t take my oozing-with-credibility advice.

See Edwin Jackson with the Yankees. The Yankees needed pitching and I thought Jackson was a decent investment. Turns out they went and got Michael Pineda and Kuroda instead.

I had David Ortiz going to Oakland. Turns out the A’s might be interested in Manny Ramirez. (Key word is might.)

I had the Cubs getting Jason Kubel to play a corner outfield spot for them when in fact they went out and got David DeJesus.

Brad Penny to the Reds was another failed prediction as reports are that he could be going to Japan.

I was also oblivious to the fact that the Rays and Phillies would find replacements for Ryan Madson and Casey Kotchman with free agents. Which screws up an eleventh of my predictions right there.

I did all right with middle infielders, which means nothing at all.

I also didn’t partake in the Yu Darvish predictions because of the fact that he might become a free agent due to the posting process.

Fielder’s signing completely blew me out of the water. As did the Bell and Buehrle going to South Beach. I thought the Marlins would overspend on some guys, just thought it would be Bartolo Colon and Aramis Ramirez.

So there you have it. I am terrible at picking where free agents will sign. Here’s to next year when I go for a big improvement at 9 for 50.

Give the AL Central Some Love

If you ask a casual fan to name the four best teams in the American League you will probably get some combination of Texas, New York, Boston and the Angels. Yes, they probably have the biggest pay rolls in the league.  Yes, they made the three biggest signings of the offseason (Albert Pujols, CJ Wilson and Yu Darvish). Yes, they could make a fourth (Prince Fielder). Yes, they have represented the AL in the last five World Series. Yes, they sport one of the biggest cash cows in sports (Yankees). And yes, they are probably four of the bigger markets in the country.

But people need to get to start giving the Central some love. No one seems to be talking about Detroit, who despite losing Victor Martienz to injury still have the best pitcher in the league and the best hitter in the league. Also Jim Leyland is the “winningest” active manager in the game. Throw in the league’s best closer last year, Jose Valverde, and one of the better catchers for the next decade in Alex Avila and you’ve got one hell of a team.

It should also be noted that the division isn’t just Detroit (it will be next year), but Kansas City will be pretty good too. The Royals have arguably the most talented farm system in the league that will set them up for a long time. They also have a pretty good young core that’s at the Major League level. Lots to like in Kansas City. They won’t surpass Detroit for a while, but they’ll be in the mix.

The White Sox aren’t without their own hype as they welcome in a new era led by new manager Robin Ventura and potential young stars Dayan Viciedo, Gordon Beckham and Chris Sale.

Cleveland also has its coup of young up-and-comers despite the Fausto Carmona situation (had to mention it at some point). The coup includes Carlos Santana Asdrubal Cabrera and Jason Kipnis.

Minnesota is also a team in the AL Central. As you can see I’m very excited about them (bored voice)… they have a lot of pieces… blah blah blah. Minnesota is in a rebuilding year and has a high pick in the draft (number two overall), and  it will get worse before it gets better. The point is that it will get better for Minnesota, whenever that may be, it will get better. But all hope isn’t lost, Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau can still hit.

The underlying theme spoiler alert of the day is that the Central is not the cellar dweller of the division, or not the worst by any stretch. We know absolutely nothing about the Angels, they haven’t even stepped on the field as a team yet. Yu Darvish will run into a wall at some point from an adjustment point of view. Prince Fielder’s zip code is yet to be determined. Don’t write off the Central, now or later.

Does Yu Darvish Change the Landscape Out West?

Yu Darvish and Albert Pujols have joined the AL West. The Houston Astros will also join next year. Throw Houston out for a minute. Does this change you big east coast Boston-New-York-Philadelphia -are-the-only-teams-that-really-matter-mindset, east coast media persona? Does it surprise you that given the choice, the two bigger free agents flocked to the west coast and not the east? Granted those big market teams were low on cap room, but that’s another story.

I’m not saying that the “power” has shifted out west, but it has certainly evened things out a bit. Both Easts have two, borderline three contenders with Philly , Atlanta and possibly Miami or Washington in the NL and New York, Boston and Tampa Bay. The Wests now have Arizona, San Francisco, two-time defending AL champs Texas and the new look Angels. Unless Prince Fielder signs with the Cardinals, the Tigers are really the only legitimate team in the Centrals.

This is quite a step up from the perception of the west being a barren waste land. Before last year the Diamondbacks were a cellar dweller. San Fran won a title, but before that were stuck in mediocrity. Anaheim had made some playoff appearances, but was stuck behind the Rangers and out of the playoffs (due to the wild card spots being taken up in the East and Central).  Oakland’s biggest success was the Moneyball premiere as of late. Seattle can’t hit to save anything really. The Dodgers have shrunken into a mediocre team with the whole sale of the team situation going on. The Padres missed the playoffs by this much, but otherwise haven’t gotten in recently. Colorado went to the World Series, but has gotten into slow stretches recently. The whole point is that things are changing. The Angels got miles better with only two players. They also will get Kendrys Morales back from injury, which is huge seeing as he is one of the better power hitters in the league when he’s on. The Rangers might have actually upgraded over CJ Wilson with Darvish, despite paying over 100 million to get him. That’s right one hundred million dollars. Take that in for a minute. Go ahead, I’ll wait. Just flip to the next paragraph when you’re done.

Where were we? Oh yeah, the one hundred million dollars. Right, Darvish makes the Rangers better, blah blah blah. Arizona looks like it could be here to stay for a long time. The Giants should rebound next year. The west will be better. The question now is how the west will be won? ((Had to throw that one in there, couldn’t resist.)