If the Mariners knew then what they know now, they would probably have taken Roger Clemens with the seventh pick in the 1983 June free agent draft instead of the player they glommed on to, Darrel Akerfelds, who never pitched for Seattle and won just nine games in five Major League seasons. Clemens won 354.
Since their inaugural season of 1977, the Mariners have missed out on drafting at least a dozen Hall of Famers or future Hall of Famers, including Ryne Sandberg, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Tony Gwynn (see poll below for the Mariners’ shrewdest draft move).
To be fair, the Mariners were not the only team that whiffed on Clemens. Eighteen clubs botched a shot at the indicted pitcher, including seven that drafted players ahead of Clemens who never cracked a big league lineup.
We bring this up because the Mariners are in the process of selecting 50 new players in baseball’s annual June draft. Their prospects of landing the next Clemens are statistically insignificant. In fact, their chances of landing a future All-Star are not very good.
Since 1977, the Mariners have selected 1,670 players in the June draft. Of the 1,670, just 196 (11.7 percent) played a game at the Major League level. How that compares to the rest of the AL West over the same span:
|Franchise||Choices||Reached MLB||Pct. In MLB||Best Pick|
|Oakland Athletics||1437||212||14.7||Mark McGwire, 1984|
|Texas Rangers||1432||199||13.9||Mark Teixeira, 2001|
|Los Angeles Angels||1498||199||13.3||Jered Weaver, 2004|
|Seattle Mariners||1670||196||11.7||Ken Griffey Jr., 1987|
Of the 196, just 10 became Major League All-Stars. Only two batted .300 while playing for Seattle. Of the 824 pitchers selected by the Mariners, none won 20 games and just three became All-Stars (two with the Mariners).
Every so often, every team scores big in the June draft. The Mariners took a future Hall of Famer in Ken Griffey Jr., in 1987, and another in Alex Rodriguez in 1993. They were obvious selections in their respective years. But more often than not, the draft is the ultimate athletic crapshoot. The best and worst of Mariner drafts from 1977-10:
BEST DRAFT (1981): The Mariners selected two pitchers (Mike Moore and Mark Langston) who developed into All-Stars and who still rank among the top 10 winners in club history, and also selected a career .300 hitter in Phil Bradley (.308).
WORST DRAFT (Tie, 1984, 1989): In 1984, the Mariners selected 40 players, including 17 pitchers, six outfielders, 12 infielders and five catchers. Just one of those players, Bill Swift, who became a journeyman pitcher, reached the major leagues. In 1989, the Mariners had two picks in the first round. With the first, they selected Roger Salkeld No. 3 overall. Salkeld won just two games in two seasons with the team. With the second pick, the Mariners chose Scott Burrell, who never reached the major leagues.
BEST PICK (Ken Griffey Jr., 1987). Griffey not only hit 417 home runs during two stints with the Mariners, he was the single biggest reason baseball finally began to prosper in Seattle.
WORST PICK (Tito Nanni, 1978): Taken sixth overall, Nanni never reached the majors. Meanwhile, Ryne Sandberg or Cal Ripken Jr. were both on the board when Seattle selected Nanni.
BEST SUPPLEMENTAL PICKS: The Mariners made 2B Harold Reynolds their No. 1 pick in the secondary phase of the 1980 June draft, following 23 rounds of the regular phase. Reynolds earned two All-Star appearances. Also, in 1984, the Ms selected Mike Blowers in the eighth round of the secondary draft. Blowers had two stints with the Mariners and became a significant operative in their 1995 playoff run.
HIGHEST PICK NOT TO REACH MAJORS: Tito Nanni, No. 1, sixth overall, 1978.
LOWEST PICK TO REACH MAJORS: Greg Dobbs, 1,508th selection (53rd round), 1996.
ODDEST PICK: With the 806th pick in the 34th round of the 1979 draft, the Mariners selected Washington State quarterback Jack Thompson, aka, the Throwin Samoan.
FUTURE ALL STARS IN THE DRAFT (10): Bret Boone (2001, ’03), Phil Bradley (1985), Alvin Davis (1984), Ken Griffey Jr. (1990-99), Mark Langston (1987), Jim Presley (1986), Tino Martinez (1995), J.J. Putz (2007), Alex Rodriguez (1996-98, ’00), Matt Young (1983).
FIRST-ROUND FAVES: The Mariners received long-term starters in the 1977 (OF Dave Henderson), 1981 (RHP Mike Moore), 1982 (SS Spike Owen), 1987 (OF Ken Griffey Jr.), 1988 (INF Tino Martinez), 1993 (SS Alex Rodriguez) and 1996 (RHP Gil Meche) drafts. They added quality with their first-round choices in the 1980 (INF Darnell Coles), 1992 (LHP Ron Villone) and 1998 (Matt Thornton) drafts.
FIRST-ROUND FIASCOS: In addition to Nanni, the Ms fell flat in 1979 (OF Al Chambers), 1983 (RHP Darrel Akerfelds), 1986 (SS Patrick Lennon), 1989 (RHP Roger Salkeld), 1990, (OF Marc Newfield), 2001 (SS Michael Garciaparra), 2002 (1B John Mayberry). Mayberry is the only first-round pick the Mariners failed to sign) and 2005 (Jeff Clement).
HIDDEN GEMS: The Mariners selected INF Dobbs with the 1,508th pick in 1996, OF Raul Ibanez with the 1,006th pick in 1992, RHP Ryan Franklin with the 642nd pick in 1992, OF Darren Bragg with the 579th pick in 1991 and 1B Alvin Davis with the 138th pick in 1982.
.300 HITTERS DRAFTED: Career (with Mariners) — 2, Phil Bradley (1985); Alex Rodriguez (1993). Bradley hit .301 for the Mariners between 1983-87; Rodriguez hit .309 between 1993-00.
HALL OF FAMERS MISSED: Ozzie Smith, 1977 (Mariners selected Dave Henderson); Cal Ripken and Ryne Sandberg, 1978 (Mariners selected OF Tito Nanni); Tony Gwynn, 1981 (Mariners selected RHP Mike Moore);
BIGGEST WHIFFS: The Mariners drafted C Jason Varitek with their first pick in 1994, but traded him to Boston before he reached the major leagues in a deal also involving Derek Lowe (8th round, 1991) that yielded the dreadful Heathcliff Slocumb. Varitek became an All-Star, Lowe a frontline starter and a closer for several teams. In 2006, the Mariners selected RHP Brandon Morrow in the first round and let RHP Tim Lincecum escape to the Giants. Morrow never panned out with the Mariners, who traded him in 2009 to Toronto, where he still hasn’t panned out. Lincecum is now a two-time Cy Young winner.
The following chart breaks down Seattle’s June amateur drafts since 1977, by position: