The final mock drafts are pouring out before this afternoon’s draft begins at 4 p.m., and the overwhelming consensus is that the Mariners will pick Rice third baseman Anthony Rendon. I profiled Rendon on Sunday because of my growing sense that he is headed for the Mariners with the No. 2 overall pick.
I’m not quite ready to take that to the bank, however. Jack Zduriencik and scouting director Tom McNamara could still pull a fast one. Zduriencik is famous for zealously guarding his team’s draft intentions. I kept hearing all weekend that the Mariners were in love with Francisco Lindor, the switch-hitting high school shortstop from Florida. He had a great workout at Safeco Field on Thursday. But if it’s not Rendon, my hunch is it will be Bubba Starling, an outfielder from Kansas who might have more upside than anyone in the draft. Zduriencik loves athletes with power, and Starling is a tremendous athlete with tons of power. He’s signed to play quarterback with Nebraska, but rest assured that anyone who drafts him high will have gotten signals from Starling’s camp (he’s being advised by Scott Boras) that there’ s a magic number that would get him to sign.
That said, I’m still hearing Rendon for the Mariners, and the draft gurus agree. The four most respected draft analysts all came out with their final mock drafts today, and all four — Jim Callis of Baseball America, Keith Law of ESPN.com, Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus and Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com — had the Pirates taking UCLA pitcher Gerrit Cole first, and the Mariners going with Rendon at No. 2.
Remember this: Going into this year, Rendon was the consensus No. 1 pick, and no one thought the Mariners had a chance to get him at No. 2. Three things changed: One, Cole got off to a sensational start and developed a changeup to supplement a fastball that gained in velocity to occasionally over 100 mph. Two, Rendon got a shoulder strain that raised issues about whether he is injury prone while limiting him to DH duties most of the year. And three, Rendon’s offensive statistics dropped dramatically, particularly his power.
Now, if you believe that No. 2 is largely responsible for No. 3 (along with new bat regulations that resulted in a 40 percent decline in home runs in collegiate baseball), and, furthermore, you believe the injury is not serious long-term, then the Mariners should be ecstatic to get Rendon at No. 2.
The Mariners have been doing their due diligence on Rendon’s injury and should have a good idea of what he’s facing. Rendon himself believes that all he needs is rest and the strain will heal itself. If the Mariners are convinced that’s the case, I believe Rendon’s name will be called shortly after 4 p.m. this afternoon.