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June 5, 2014 at 4:45 AM

Previewing tonight’s MLB draft

The MLB amateur draft starts tonight at 4 p.m. PST/7 EST. It will be televised on MLB Network. The Mariners have the sixth pick and the 74th pick tonight.

Here’s my preview story on the draft which talks about Mariners’ director of amateur scouting talking about taking the best player available. I think I’ve written that before. But McNamara was adamant that they won’t draft for need.

From the story …

“Sometimes when you want something you need to be careful,” he said. “You don’t want to sidestep the best player available and draft for need. We’ll take the best player or best pitcher out there, whether it’s a high-school or college player.”

So who will that player be?

McNamara isn’t offering many hints.

“There is a lot of college pitching,” he said. “There’s a nice group of high-school position players and small chunk of high school pitchers.”

But knowing who will be there is anything but clear.

No consensus top pick seems to exist this year. The Astros, who are picking first overall for the third straight season, have been linked to several players, including top college left-hander Carlos Rodon out of North Carolina State and high-school left-hander Brady Aiken, who has 100 mph fastball.

“I spoke to a few media members and I asked them, ‘what are you hearing?’ and they asked me, ‘what am I hearing?’” McNamara said. “It was a really boring conversation. Nothing got accomplished. You hear plenty of rumors.”

Seattle is the subject of many of those rumors.

“Every day I read something new,” McNamara said.

Here’s a few mock drafts ...

  • MLB.com’ s Jim Callis’ mock draft  … It has the Mariners taking high school catcher/OF Alex Jackson
  • ESPN.com’s Keith Law’s mock draft …. he also has the Mariners taking Jackson.
  • Baseball America’s John Manuel’s mock draft … he has them taking lefty pitcher Sean Newcomb out of Hartford

I’m far from a draft guru. I don’t know that most fans have a significant opinion of some of these prospects since it’s hard to watch them on a consistent basis. Like you, what I know is what I’ve read up on them.

I asked Chris Crawford of ESPN and MLB draft insider to list about five guys that the Mariners might take with that No. 6 pick.

Five potential Targets

Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU — Nola has the best command of any college pitcher in the draft, with a fastball that sits 92-94 mph and a plus change from excellent arm speed. The breaking-ball flashes above-average but isn’t as consistent a pitch, and there are some concerns that his low arm slot will cause troubles at the big league level. If the Mariners want to take a guy who can fast track, however, this would be the guy — assuming the Cubs and White Sox don’t take him first.
Here’s some video of Nola
Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego) — Jackson is the best pure bat in the class, a right-handed hitter with an advanced feel for hitting and plus power as well. There are some mechanical issues to clean up in the swing — and most that I’ve spoke with believe he’s going to move to the outfield, where he has average speed and a cannon for a throwing arm. This is the one prep bat with the potential to be a star, as the bat is going to play at whatever position he ends up at.
Here’s some video of Jackson.
Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Orlando) — The son of former all-star pitcher Tom and the brother of Dodger second baseman Dee, Gordon has as much helium as any player in this draft; a shortstop with excellent footwork and athleticism to make plays to his left and right and a plus-plus throwing arm to boot. He’s not going to hit for huge power because of his frame, but he can put balls into the gap and like Jackson has a good understanding of how to work counts into his favor. The ceiling isn’t as high as Jackson, but he may have the highest floor of any position player in the draft.
Here’s some video of Gordon and some more video
Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State — It’s a weak year in terms of college hitting, but Conforto is the best pure hitter from the college ranks, with plus power from the left side and he’s one of the most patient hitters to enter the draft in the past few years. There are concerns about his defensive value and whether or not he can hit left-handed pitching, but seasons of 280/350/450 aren’t out of the question, and he could move quickly through the Seattle system.
Here’s some video of Conforto and more video
Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford — Outside of Carlos Rodon — who has no shot of falling to Seattle — Newcomb is the best collegiate left-hander in the class, and has been shooting up draft boards as of late. At 6-5, 240; he has prototypical size, and his fastball sits in the mid 90’s with the ability to hit 97 when he rears back. He compliments that with a curve that has two planes of break and a mid 80’s changeup with some deception from a delivery that has very little effort. His upside is probably as a No. 3, but he could move quickly like Nola with the ability to miss bats, though the command isn’t as good.
Here’s some video of Newcomb
Others: Grant Holmes, RHP, Conway (South Carolina High School; Bradley Zimmer, OF, San Francisco; Kyle Freeland, LHP, Evansville

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