Shortly after pitching phenom Stephen Strasburg was off the board with the first selection in the 2009 MLB draft, the Seattle Mariners made their highest draft pick since 1993, a year in which they selected a shortstop by the name of Alex Rodriguez with the No. 1 overall choice.
Following the Washington Nationals’ pick of Strasburg may have been like following the Cleveland Cavaliers 2003 NBA draft selection of Lebron James, but rest assured the Mariners did their best to come away with someone a little better than Darko Milicic.
At No. 2 overall, the M’s went with the player widely projected as the second-best prospect in this draft and took University of North Carolina center fielder/first baseman Dustin Ackley.
Ackley, who has batted over .400 in each of the past three seasons at UNC, is a high average hitter with decent speed that could be ready for full-time big league duty within the next two years.
With a swing that has been compared to that of Hall of Famer George Brett, Ackley has shown the ability to hit all types of pitching and probably more closely resembles a Darin Erstad or Jacoby Ellsbury type of player, when all facets of his game are accounted for.
After the selection of Ackley, the M’s then made four more picks amongst the next 80 overall selections.
At No. 27, the Mariners drafted Nick Franklin, a prep shortstop who has been compared to Toronto Blue Jays infielder Aaron Hill.
Six picks later, at No. 33, the M’s took a high school catcher by the name of Steven Baron, who, according to certain sources, had agreed to a deal with Seattle before the draft.
At No. 51, the team tapped the college ranks once again and selected University of Georgia first baseman Richard Poythress.
Poythress, standing 6′4″ and weighing 235 pounds, is a power bat that will need to prove he can do more than just hit home runs.
Finally, with the No. 82 overall selection, the M’s went with a teammate of Ackley’s at UNC in second baseman Kyle Seager.
Five picks, five bats. One has to appreciate that with an organization desperate for hitting.
The Mariners did make one pitching-related move with eyes towards the future, however.
Fans who tuned in to watch the M’s 3-1 loss to Baltimore may have noticed Brandon Morrow getting extended action in relief of starter Jason Vargas.
The 33 pitches Morrow tossed in long relief were by design, and it appears the team will option their 2006 first-round pick to Tacoma in the coming days in order to become a starting pitcher once again.
Those of us who have rode the Brandon Morrow roller coaster from starter to reliever, back to starter, and back to reliever once again can truly appreciate the commitment (or recommitment, if you will) the organization is making to Morrow’s longterm future. This move should benefit both the individual and the team.
The MLB draft continues today, and the M’s will be making a number of selections as the day progresses. You can follow all the action at MLB.com.