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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

June 4, 2012 at 9:17 AM

Final mock drafts still have Mariners focusing on Florida catcher Mike Zunino

zuninokudos.jpg

Here is today’s Mariners minor-league report.

(Florida catcher Mike Zunino, No. 3, is congratulated after scoring a run in a Southeastern Conference tournament game against South Carolina. Photo by Associated Press).

The final mock drafts this morning from Baseball America and MLB.com have the Mariners taking University of Florida catcher Mike Zunino. So did the most recent mock draft by ESPN draft guru Keith Law. Update 10:25 a.m.: Law’s final mock draft just came out, and it still has the Mariners taking Zunino, but he’s hardly ironclad in his conviction.

The lone dissenting voice is Kevin Goldstein of Baseball Prospectus (behind a paywall), who has them taking Puerto Rican high school shortstop Carlos Correa. (I initially misread Goldstein’s mock draft and thought he, too had them taking Zunino; that was my mistake, which was posted very briefly).

But everyone in the draft prognostication business notes the same thing: the Mariners play their cards closer to the vest than anyone. Here’s what Goldstein wrote today: “Nobody knows what Seattle is doing. They’re always considered the most secretive team when it comes to the draft, with one executive joking, “I’m not sure anyone in the room knows what they’re going. I just think Jack Z. runs into the room five minutes before the draft to tell them all who they’re taking.”

According to ESPN’s Jim Bowden on Twitter, the Astros are going to take Stanford pitcher Mark Appel, as has been long speculated. If that’s the case, then the Minnesota Twins with the second pick will have a crack at Byron Buxton, the multi-talent high school outfielder from Georgia who will make you drool after you read this article, which makes him sound like a cross between Bo Jackson, Paul Bunyan and Sydd Finch. The Twins could really use pitching, but I don’t think they’ll be able to resist the lure of Buxton.

If Buxton is somehow still there when the Mariners pick at three, I’m confident they will pounce on him. In the more likely case that’s he’s not, it would seem to boil down to three options: Zunino, a catcher who would be on the fast-track to the major leagues; Correa, who many believe has the highest upside potential in the draft, Buxton included; and Oklahoma State lefthander Andrew Heaney, a name that began to be associated with the Mariners a couple of weeks ago and simply won’t go away.

I’d be shocked if the Mariners took a pitcher, but then again, I said the same thing last year, and was indeed shocked when the name Danny Hultzen was called. The Mariners are stealth operators when it comes to the draft, and so — much like their NFL brethren, the Seattle Seahawks, who have confounded experts in recent years — their pick is likely to remain a mystery until Bud Selig calls their name, shortly after 4 p.m. this afternoon.

Here is the draft preview I wrote for the newspaper today.

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