It's fascinating seeing us build the Mariners brick by brick into a contender. And one of the very shiniest bricks this Spring has got to be Taijuan.
Watching Taijuan throw reminds me that there were only a couple of people who thought he was first round material when he was drafted. He was too inconsistent. He had a good arm when he was on but his curve and slider were all over the place. Delivery problems... the works. But Jack wanted to take all that amazing raw material and see if he could make a pitcher outta him - and he absolutely has.
In fact, while Jack hasn't drafted a lot of arms in the first 5 rounds since he got here, the ones he did take are pretty decent. His critics would say that he hasn't drafted a lot of All-Stars, but Taijuan and Paxton are trying to change that. You'd think his first 5 rounds have got to be leading the world in consistent contributor (though a team like the Nats might be able to claim more impact, since they had the #1 pick and generational talent a coupla times, and feasted on our mistake with Hultzen).
Here's a snapshot breakdown on first-5-rounders (with "success" as major-league quality performer or top-20 prospect, not just superstar):
Successful Hitters (15): Ackley, Seager, Nick Franklin, James Jones, Miller, Hicks, Zunino, Diaz, Tyler Marlette, Kivlehan, Chris Taylor, DJ Peterson, Austin Wilson, Tyler O'Neill, Alex Jackson
Undecided Hitters (5): Gareth Morgan, DeCarlo, Cousino, Reinheimer, CJ Cron (drafted, not signed, fell in draft position after shaky college career)
Failed Hitters (3): Steve Baron, Rich Poythress, Marcus Littlewood
Successful Pitchers (9): Walker, Paxton, Hultzen (talent's not his issue), Ryne Stanek (drafted but not signed, but it was the right call), Capps (BP), Pryor (BP), Edwin Diaz, Yarbrough (BP?), Tyler Olson (swing)
Undecided Pitchers (2): Pike, Altavilla
Failed Pitchers (2): Tyler Blandford (injury and control issues), Ryan Horstman (injury, could still recover)
You could go either way on some of those guys (can Hulten be called successful right now after missing a year+ with injury?) and it's still too soon for several others, but seriously - that success rate is ridiculous. Now, succeeding by drafting a backup pitcher in Hicks is different than getting a lynchpin in Seager, but the point is: Jack doesn't miss often, and Hultzen was the only pure first rounder of the arms in the bunch.
In a redraft, Walker and Paxton both go first round - HIGH. Stanek DID go first round after originally being drafted by Jack in the third and offered 800-ish K to forego college. Diaz would be in the top-50 picks of his draft.
Capps and Franklin were both traded for everyday members of our lineup. Pryor was traded for a DH to try to reach the playoffs last year, and that's after injury concerns on the pitcher's part.
We drafted 4 starters on offense in those rounds (3B, LF, SS, C) with potentially 3 more on the way within the next year or so ( Jones in CF, DJ at 1B, Kivlehan in LF) and expected impact player Alex Jackson just about to start his full-season climb toward the bigs. Two of our 5 starting pitchers (and several members of the pen in later rounds or IFAs) are home-grown. Elias also comes from the farm, even if we didn't draft him, and of course there's Felix who pre-dates Jack - but Jack still had to keep him.
This is the kind of thing we wanted when we hired Jack: a self-sustaining farm that can provide starters year after year in order to make success a long-term reality. I thought someone else was gonna come in here and reap the rewards because of Jack's failures in free agency, but it looks like ownership finally freed up the money over the last 2 years to make success there possible as well. And having this sort of farm allows us all sorts of flexibility when dealing with pending free agents or filling holes. We've already traded spare parts and duplicated positions for starters and positions of need. We'll be able to do even more of that going forward, and possibly packaging several prospects for a front-line player if necessary. It's a good positions to be in.
I dunno who Jack is gonna get in the draft this year. We don't pick until #60 (followed by #72 and #94, as GLS pointed out in the shouts), which is gonna limit the amount of cash we have to work with. But I would expect to take some arms, probably high-school arms we're trying to buy out of college commits since we're a little light on the farm now. Maybe we'll get bored and throw all our top-10 round capital at someone like Aiken (if he really does have an arm issue, his stock will drop severely). I've got my eye on a HS arm like Trenton McKenzie, but he might go in the first - who knows at this point? And since he's a Vandy commit that might get expensive.
Whomever we go for, I'll feel pretty good about the pick. With a history like this, I'd have to.
Looking forward to seeing a few more bricks laid on the wall this summer.