Drafter Jack
Booms and Busts

I couldn't resist the image Doc.  Looks like good stuff!

In 2009 Jack Z. got his first shot at a draft as GM of the M's.  Those '09 guys should be MLB contributors by now, if he got it right.  

The guys he picked in 2010 should be contributors in Seattle, if he got it right.

The guys taken in 2011 should be knocking on the door, if not here already.  The best of the guys taken in '12 should be nearly here.

Draft picks from '13-'15 are pipeline guys and shouldn't be expected to be contributors at this stage.  The guys taken in '13, however, have nearly two full years of work behind them.  

With all that said, looking at the '09-'11 picks, we have a bit of ability to examine what Jack Z. has done to make the M's better, in the Amateur Draft Dept.

In '09 we picked Ackley (1) Nick Franklin (1) and Steve Baron (CA) as noteables. Oh...we got that Seager kid, too, as a diamond in the 3rd round rough.  '09 is a bit of a weird year when you look at 1st round type picks.  Strasburg (#1) and Trout (#26) are the guys who jump off the page as great and quick success stories.  Trout at #26???....I suppose even a Tom Brady fell to the 6th round.  I think people just flat out missed Trout because he was a 17-yr old senior in HS who was a year a way from really showing what he might do.  Then he ripped Rookie Ball that same summer, A Ball as an 18 year old and was in ANA when he was 19.  Interestingly, the Angels draft Randall Grichuck the spot ahead of him...and he's becoming a Class of '09 success story.  But there aren't a great number of '09 1st Rounders who shot to the bigs with great success.  Zach Wheeler, Drew Storen, Tyler Matzek (and a few others) are minor-to-fair success stories as MLB pitchers, perhaps one will leap forward and become a star.  Grichuck and AJ Pollock are rapidly becoming very successful picks.  Both are hitting the ball hard in the bigs this year and both bring + OF gloves, as well.  Interestingly, I advocated chasing both last winter.  Garrett Richards was the #42 pick for the Angels...and he's becoming a very nice pitcher.  There are some nice guys picked early in '09...but none ours.  Seager mitigates a bunch of that, however.

Ackley looked to be a success story....for one single AAA/MLB season.  By his sophomore campaign holes had appeared.  I still believe those holes are mostly personal demons and not mechanical ones.  Whatever theiy are, they remain.  Franklin must be seen as a first round semi-bust or worse.  He sure isn't lighting up MLB throwers (hitting .139 in Florida), which makes the "Wedge destroyed him" thing a bit of an urban myth.  Baron?  A non-factor at this point.  

We picked Ackley and passed on Trout, Grichuk and Garrett Richards.  Such is the state of the AL West, but to be fair...none of those guys went before #25.  All the same, Jack missed the something special in a 17 year old CF and went the safe route with the college bat of the decade.  And that failure has made all the difference.  I would like to give Jack  an "F" grade for his draft of '09 but Seager messes all that uup.  An All-Star GG, clutch-homer-hitting 3B (who plays everyday) covers up a lot of Ackley dismality.  "B-" in this draft.  If Ackley had turned into Seager and Seager was the bust, nobody would hold that against Jack.  But If Jack had got Trout AND Seager in '09....man there would be a lot of folks calling attentin to the genius GM in our midst.

In '10 Jack did even better:  Walker in Round 1, Paxton in the 4th,. Romero in the 12th.  All of those guys have been in the bigs.  Two of them are going to be REALLY good.  I think Romero still has a lefty-bashing MLB role.  But even leaving him out, there is no way this darft isn't a "B" for Jack (if one of Walker/Paxton stays healthy).  It is likely a "B+" and has the potential to be an "A+" of the franchise-building type.  Where Jack failed in '09 (and with the #2 pick) he succeeded in '10 by reaching down and finding SWEET young arms rather deep in the draft pile.

Of course, Trout would be WAY nicer than either. But I'm not holding the Trout miss against Jack forever.  20+ franchises missed that one.

In '11, Jack came up with Hultzen in the 1st, Brad Miller at #62 in the 2nd, Carter Capps (or Logan Morrison, if you will) in the 4th, Hicks in the 4th, Carson Smith in the 8th and Paolini in the 10th.  He also drafted a guy named Kevin Cron in the 3rd who didn't sign and is now in the lower Arizona organization hitting pretty well. Miller and Smith make this draft semi-successful.  Whether this is an B+/A- draft depends on Hultzen's  health and progress.  He's throwing again.  If he's in Seattle next season and getting some folks out, then '11 is a better than fair draft.  Marlette, Paolini, Marder and Pries came in this draft.  Pries was a 30th round pick and is doing fine in Tacoma.  He may throw in Seattle this year.  If he can be a long guy next year, then he's value added stuff. 

In #12, Z got Zunino with the 3rd pick overall and then Diaz, Tyler Pike, Kivlehan, Chris Taylor in the early rounds and Pizzano + Leone in the later ones.  Zunino and Taylor make this a winning draft, or so it now seems.  If Zunino ever chokes up on the bat and hits .240, then it is a very nice draft.  I think both of Kivlehan and Pizzano will be Seattle regulars and Diaz or Pike (or both) will be MLB guys.  Jack gets a"B" grade and it has a chance to go higher.

OK:  Drafts in '13-'15 are still in the panning out stage, it is a bit early to grade them.  For example, in '13 we picked DJ Peterson, Austin Wilson and Tank O'Neill.  Deej hit until this season, his 2nd in Jackson. But he has struggled badly in AA in '15, which seems weird for a 2nd go-around.  Wilson is basically bad in Bakersfield, while Tank has hit some homers there, but has an 11/87 BB/K ration.  He's K'ed in 33% of his AB's.  Tyler Smith was taken in this draft, too.  The M's should move him to CF right now.  That's where our hole is....not 2B/SS's.  Down the line, this kid could help.  He's a dirt dog and can play.

The "magic" .800 OPS in the minors is still a hard to find thing for us, or at least for the guys we've drafted.  We have only have 3 guys that we drafted OPS'ing over .800 and playing regularly.  And that is throughout our entire system.  I don't know what the M's organizational emphasis on MiLB hitting is, but it isn't working very well.

Romero is at .882, Pizzano is at .823 and Blash is at .873.  Blash has struggled to make contact in Tacoma, hitting just .210 (which is what he hit last year there) and K'ing in 35% of his AB's.  Even when he was sent down to Jackson, he still K'ed in nearly 30% of his AB's.  His top-end may be Peguerro-like.  He can certainly ride the ball...but hasn't done anything in AAA.  So if you discount Blash, that leaves us with Pizzano and Romero.  Go figure, those are the two guys I've been pushing all year.  

There is something weird in our MiLB water coolers.  Or in the way we coach hitters.  Man, even in the way we evaluate them....Pizzano was hitting north of .350 (and he walks a bunch) for most of this year, his 2nd in AA, and we still didn't promote him to Tacoma.  That chapped me....What more did the kid have to do?

Anyway, in the 4 drafts orchestrated by Jack Z. that could have possible had impact on the M's right now, Jack really gets a passing grade, or better, in all of them.  From '09-'12 he added guys who have already helped us, with 8  of them  on the MLB roster right now.   Jack did just fine.

Free Agency and trades?

Cruz, Guti, Morrison, Cano, Jackson, Smith, Happ, Elias...etc, they were all Jack gets.  All have been decent (well, maybe not Jackson), or better.  Montgomery was a steal and Carson Smith (drafted late) a terrific find.  Oh...he signed Kuma, too.

But Fister and that dimunitive Angel we traded for (among other examples....including the total dog-housing of Montero) have to be counted against Jack, as well.

Where Jack Z. has failed the organization is in seeing the development of MiLB bats and in his managerial choices.  Ironically, the best manager he had was likely Wakamatsu and Jack sold him out for the aforementioned diminutive malcontent.  Turns out that was a terrible decision.  Many of us called it at the time.  I believe the franchise is still reeling from that decision.

Jack has backed himself into a position where he really can't sell talent right now, without admitting the season has been a drastic failure...which means his tenure as a winning GM has been a failure, too.  Happ/Morrison/Smith....all should be shopped.  Seems like they aren't.  Sigh.

That's Jack's scorecard, when it comes to drafting guys who we might expect to help us now, he hasn't been bad.  But Wedge was a disaster and McClendon is a great guy but not a very good manager.  This year, beginning with such huge hopes, is going down the tubes.  But Jack is sticking by Lloyd....and that is going to cost Jack his job.  But then, I'm not sure canning Lloyd now saves it for him.  We're 30 games beyond that. 

My $.02

A little more Trout and a lot less Ackley in '09 would change much of this tune, but it is what it is.  Do we can Jack for that one miss?  Well, that's not really what he will get his walking papers for, but if he had picked Trout things would be different.  In the end, I guess, he will get his walking papers for that fateful miss....and for hiring two managers who didn't get it done.

Go team.




To me after six-plus seasons the primary way of grading a GM is the success of his big league club. It's certainly a plus if you have a stocked MiLB system (which few seem to say any more about the M's), and it's fine if you can justify a passing-or-better grade on the drafts, but when it comes to keeping his job all of that fades into the background because of his failures at the MLB level.

This is not to discount the exercise of grading Jack's drafts. It's a very interesting exercise, and thanks for doing it, moe.

Is there ANYbody out there these days strongly supporting a continuation of the Zduriencik regime in anticipation of a burst of young talent that's about to take place? Is there ANYbody down in MiLB who looks like more than just a potential MLB peice, like real difference-maker who is liable to help lead us to pennants?

From 2010 until this past offseason I've been panning Jack with little mercy (in the baseball world, you understand). But like everyone, I thought he had pulled things together in an oustanding way this offseason. For me that outlook lasted maybe a month. Now I'm all for chasing him out of town with tar and feathers.

One thing I've always harped re: evaluating his drafts and trades: he had a seriously stacked deck in the early years. Valuable trade bait like Cliff Lee and Doug Fister, not just draft picks but EXTREMELY HIGH draft picks several years running. It's one thing to just evaluate who he ended up picking. It's aNOTHer to consider what other GM's might have done with the selection and asset advantages Jack had to work with.

Thassall I have to say about Jack.

Onward and upward, moe. Nice work.

GLS's picture

If I'm not mistaken, Taijuan Walker grades out as his best first-round pick, does he not? In that case, I have a tough time giving him a passing grade on the draft. Also, the bulk of the draft is Tom McNamara. I doubt Jack had much to do with picks outside of the first round.

GLS's picture

I'm not saying that Walker is bad. What I'm saying is that 6 years of first round picks have netted 1 guy. I like Zunino too, but the hitting is obviously an issue.


I like the piece but without any perspective regarding how other teams have done over time, it's tough to say if the M's draft & development has been good or not. I mean, if the average club gets one good MLB player per draft, then they seem to be doing pretty well. If the average club gets four good players per draft, then they are not doing well. 

After reading this it's actually better than I thought, to be honest. It may well be a mixed bag - better at drafting and developing pitchers than the average club but worse at developing and drafting hitters. 


I hate to be this way, but I've gotta say it. It isn't good enough, and it wasn't good enough, for Jack to be average at assimilating and developing talent. The Mariners had hit (we THOUGHT!) rock bottom in the last year of Bavasi. Everyone said the cupboard was bare. Jack needed to be, indeed he WAS BROUGHT IN to be MUCH better than average at finding and developing ENOUGH talent to restore the fortunes of the team. Average just wasn't going to cut it. They were too far down.

Brass decided to go all in with the draft, and the draft was going to have to yield such a good core of young players that it would lift the team enough to add in veteran talent, which combined with the young core, would yield a consistent contendeer. THAT was the vision. How do you lift a club with NOTHING into SOMETHING with a what Jack found, traded for, and developed? You don't. You need PLUS PLUS performance to do that. (I hope people know by now that my caps are not for SHOUTING, rather they are for logical emphasis.)

IMO Jack was not even average, but if I am wrong and he was average or even slightly better, that is FAR LESS than he was required to be given his mission. Unless, of course, the M's were going to be content with what it turns out they've been.


It lacks perspective.  Didn't have the time to do the analysis of another 2 or 3 teams.  Thanks....

But it isn't as bat as it seems....at least with those 4 years and our payoff from those drafts.


DaddyO... while I definitely would not say I am strongly supporting a continuation of Jack's regime, I am not one that is about to storm the castle Safeco if Jack and Lloyd get another year.

Yes this year a a HUGE disappointment, but Jack did demostrate he can trade by getting Montgomery and Seth Smith and J Happ... and Wellington and Trumbo despite neither working out. We know the draft system works, even though the entire system offense was a joke this year... it was one year.

As Moe wrote, if a manager and coaches did their jobs, the tune would be very different.


Understood, TR. I must admit it was only a few months ago that I had to face that I might have been wrong about Jack after all. Now the shoe is back on the other foot, but it could again turn out I am wrong. The hard part is that even when Jack gets it RIGHT he gets it WRONG. And to blame it on managers and coaches after the parade of managers and coaches he's had is a hard argument for me to swallow. After awhile you begin to question not the managers and coaches but the guy who's hiring and directing them.


All three trades were good, but they were mostly talent-pushes or overpays, depending on how you weigh control years.

Even with the 'best player' paradigm, it's hard to assess because most of the players involved have ended up doing well.

It's been 7 years, but it's no insult to say that maybe Jack just sucks at putting together a roster.


I - like you guys - am perplexed by what to do really.

I do not think the Mariners need to start over from scratch, which I feel may happen if a new GM and manager come in... even if the stated purpose is win now.

Then I am not excited about seeing Lloyd or Jack being in control another year either... BUT I do think Jack is getting better at one specific GM trait each year. Is he perfect now? heck no, but Jack is a better GM today than he was 5 years ago... and I think stability at GM and manager positions are needed at some point. Being good should be more important than stability, but at some point there must be give and take.

I really wish anyone of us knew how much money Jack actually had access to this off season... because it just makes no sense to go into this year with Zunino, Sucre, aged MLB vet in Tacoma and a couple upcoming prospects. If Jack really liked that set up for his roster... I am not sure what to say.   


He did go after Martin pretty hard, something I mocked at the time because I had bought into Zunino. I'm assuming that a Martin signing would have meant no Cruz signing, though, so it might have been a push from a production perspective. The club would just have a gaping hole at DH instead if C. But they clearly had worries about Zunino that I didn't. 


Bavasi traded Soriano, Jones and Choo, but Jack traded Fister and Pineda. Bavasi signed a lot of good international talent. If Z ain't better than Bavasi, and I think that has to be proven, not asserted anymore, then he's a failure by all our accounts. And like DaddyO says, average is not good enough. Hey! Z wins us 75 games maybe. But look at where he started! 61. 

I sure am not giving Z credit for anything Bavasi could do -  make a couple big signings and produce a winning season here and there between disappointments and anemia. 

Having said all that, I do see TR's point, and in fact, I am on record somewhere in the virtualsphere of saying 2015 is the "fall back" season that typically follows sudden success by a young, losing team, and that 2016 is the one to watch. I got ahead of myself in the excitement of 2014.  But seriously, if everything that went wrong or un-smoothly goes right or gets smoothed out, then 2016 could really be special: Felix, Taijuan, Paxton...

Kite's picture

Ackley wasn't the miss in the 09 draft. Not losing the last game for Strasburg was. So was signing Josh Fields, Bavasi's 1-20 pick in 2008 when Boras was trying to get him back to school. He doesn't sign Fields, and we end up with pick 1-21 in the 2009 draft...3 picks before Trout. I don't think Mac misses on that pick. 2 big decisions, but that is the difference between us with Strasburg/Trout and Fields/Ackley. 

To me, Z lacked strategic thinking, prioritized the wrong baseball skills, didn't know how to build a MiLB system, never took risks, and never abused the broken systems in MLB. 

09 was a culmination of that. But so was 2010 - we should have tanked for Harper. Instead he builds a decent team that can win 8x games. Poor strategic planning, didn't think about 5-6 years in the future, just the present and we lost our chance at another Griffey.

In 2011, he takes the risk free pick in Hultzen instead of risking it all on Rendon and his ankles. We needed hitting, every scout raved about Rendon even without the numbers and injury risk. Instead of the risk, he picks the safest option. We lose out on a star and end up with a dud.

We never abused Cuban prospects of Japanese prospects being undervalued. Not even a rumor about us on Cespedes, Soler, Darvish, Abreu, etc. Maybe it's an ownership thing, but we didn't even kick the tires and send scouts

We target the wrong players. Morse, Smoak, Montero, Trumbo, Wells, etc. Robinson, Jackson, etc. Guys no one thinks is good but us. And we lose good players like Pineda or Fister, cheap established talent, to acquire them. 

We have no MiLB system. Theo gets to Chicago and first thing rebuilds how the MiLB system is worked. Z? I don't even think they get proper diets down there. Our MiLB system is a joke, considering we can't produce a single hitter to save our lives. We even kept Franklin switch hitter, when his left side was much better. 






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