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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Detroit Tigers Off-Season: How and Why the Bench Must be Improved

Bench

While the bullpen is, and will continue to be the biggest blemish on the Tigers’ roster, the bench isn’t spectacular either. More depth and quality will be needed in late-inning situations. Yes, the Tigers lineup is fantastic, but sometimes the bottom half of the lineup pales in comparison to the top half. And, as such is much easier to retire. This was brought into focus in the ninth inning of the second and third games of the ALDS against Baltimore as the bottom half wasn’t able to carry out or continue rallies with the game on the line. The Tigers need better hitters off the bench. Whether they arrive via waiver wire, the trade market, free agency, or what have you, help is needed. Dave Dombrowski has to be particularly active in fixing this during the offseason to improve the team’s chances for next year.

Dombrowski has become adept at plucking hitters out of relative obscurity and then watching them become contributing members on the team. He found Quintin Berry, who ended up being a godsend thanks to his added burst of speed into a slow lineup. Swiss army knife/utility specialist Don Kelly was another find. Matt Tuiasosopo was yet another find who provided Jim Leyland with a power hitting alternative off the bench in the legendary skipper’s final season. However, the greatest find may be that of JD Martinez. The former Astro was picked up by Detroit and, after fixing some mechanics with his swing, turned into a legitimate, middle of the order bat.

The Tigers need more production off the bench. Dombrowski isn’t going to find a JD Martinez in every transaction, but he should be actively looking for bench bats.

Yes, the Tigers’ starting lineup is fantastic, but their bench is comparatively futile. With the exception of Kelly, who has a knack for showing up in playoff games, there isn’t much to scare opposing managers or pitchers. Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera is light-hitting at best and is known more for his speed than anything. Andrew Romine and Eugenio Suarez manned shortstop for Brad Ausmus in 2014. With defensive wizard Jose Iglesias returning from injury next season, and neither shortstop’s play screaming “KEEP ME!” Detroit could look for a better hitting infielder. Another middle infielder, Hernan Perez shows the potential to be a solid two-way player, but if he wasn’t ready to play full time in the big leagues, or if he was unable to unseat Romine or Suarez, he certainly won’t surpass Iglesias next season.

Dombrowski needs to give Ausmus more pop off the bench. Catcher is an area where this could be achieved. Bryan Holaday hit .231 this season and the team might seek an upgrade to backup Alex Avila.

Avila is in a different situation. The Tigers’ starting catcher, who suffered yet another concussion during the season ending loss to Baltimore, should be moved into a backup role, or at least a platoon. This would not only minimize the inexplicably severe beating the he takes and preserve his health, but also allow Detroit to find an offensive upgrade. Avila grades out as a good defensive backstop, but hasn’t been able to replicate his offensive output of 2011 when he drove in 82 runs, garnered MVP votes and earned Silver Slugger and All Star honors.

Acquiring a new catcher to partner with Avila would be prudent. The job may go to James McCann. The Tigers’ top catching prospect is a defensive-minded backstop who also hit .295 in AAA. He’s no Victor Martinez offensively, but the .295 line is an encouraging sign from a player thought to reach the Majors because of his defense.

If catching reinforcements are looked for externally, Russell Martin or Evan Gattis would be ideal fits. Martin, one of the best at his position in the game, grades out favorably defensively and provides pop (47 home runs over the last three years) and the ability to hit for average (he hit .290 this past season). Detroit may lose yet another first round draft pick if they sign Martin, but if the former Dodger is the missing piece in terms of winning the World Series, then there should be no hesitation.

Gattis’ calling card, meanwhile, is his bat. The Braves’ slugger hit 22 home runs in only 108 games for Atlanta. Pairing him with the comparatively defensively superior Avila would be perfect. While Gattis’ bat can provide extreme power, his defense isn’t anything special. Platooning him with Avila would make his defensive deficiencies less of a sore thumb. Plus, Gattis has shown that he can be productive without playing every day. This partnership would also save Avila some physical punishment behind the plate. Gattis won’t come cheap in terms of what the Tigers will have to give up to acquire him, but the second year player isn’t arbitration eligible until 2016 at the earliest and won’t hit free agency until 2019. He made a little over $520,000 last year. This is exactly the kind of player a team looking to save money like Detroit needs—an extremely productive hitter who can play a large role without costing much. He also has played in left field for Atlanta. He’s not Gold Glove worthy playing there, but he does have the experience. Something that would come in handy if Brad Ausmus needed to wedge in an extra bat in a must-win playoff game.

Lastly, the Tigers could, at the very least, use some depth in the outfield. Rajai Davis can get by defensively in center field, so an alignment of JD Martinez, Davis and Torii Hunter (if he returns) in the outfield wouldn’t be bad. In fact, it may win them the division again, but it probably won’t deliver a World Series. Signing an impact center fielder may be out of the question. Colby Rasmus is the most enticing option on the market, but the former Blue Jay may be more appealing, and better suited, to more of a rebuilding team like the Cubs or Astros than Detroit. Speaking of the Astros, Houston’s centerfielder, Dexter Fowler, would present a quality target. It may take a lot to pry him away from the Lone Star state, but the former Colorado player would mesh perfectly in Motown with his mix of speed and pop. Other potentially available center fielders such as Desmond Jennings, Denard Span or Peter Bourjos would all be attainable as well as being logical fits in the Tigers’ lineup.

Bringing in a new, starting caliber center fielder would be advantageous in numerous ways for Detroit. First, it would fix any issues defensively at the position. As much as Rajai Davis fits the profile of an old-school center fielder in terms of speed, he’s predominantly a corner outfielder. Having a center fielder who is more accustomed to playing the position defensively would provide an upgrade. Pushing Davis to the bench or into a role where he would potentially spell the aging Torii Hunter would greatly improve the pinch-hitting options. Throw in a healthy Andy Dirks, a couple of scrap-heap/waiver wire pickups and more polished versions of Stephen Moya and Tyler Collins and the Tigers all of a sudden have a plethora of outfielders who could contribute. Injuries and slumps are about as common as the changing of the seasons, so having too many options is a good problem to have.

The Tigers’ offense has long been deemed one of the best in baseball—maybe the best. But over that span the team hasn’t had the most fearsome bench. The bullpen will need some help too, but changing the bench could help make the difference in finally winning a World Series.

 

All stats courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/ unless otherwise noted.