The Seattle Mariners have made their fair share of blunders over the years, namely letting numerous players leave for little-to-no return.
This long, illustrious list includes the likes of Carlos Guillen, Jason Varitek, Rafael Soriano, Alex Rodriguez—you get the point.
The M’s missed a big opportunity in the first round of the 2011 draft.
Danny Hultzen was drafted third overall by Seattle and immediately became part of the “Big Three” pitching prospects along with James Paxton and Taijuan Walker. Hultzen showed immense potential, but has seen his career derailed by injuries.
The former first-round pick could still achieve the success he was projected to reach, but it will take time.
Hindsight is obviously 20-20 (stop me if you’ve heard that before), but the 2011 draft produced numerous first-round gems that the Mariners could have taken. Here are some of those players in order of draft position.
Dylan Bundy, Starting Pitcher: Baltimore Orioles, 4th Overall Pick
Bundy, only 22, made his major league debut in 2012. He made two relief appearances for the O’s, totaling an inning and two thirds.
However, the former fourth-overall shows the potential to be a front-line pitcher, if not an ace in the major leagues.
If nothing else, Bundy’s name appearing in trade rumors should speak to his value. According to Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun, Los Angeles wanted Bundy in a trade for Matt Kemp while Roch Kubatko of MASN Sports reported in July that Boston was interested in Bundy in a potential Jon Lester trade.
Anthony Rendon, Third Baseman: Washington Nationals, 6th Overall Pick
In a draft class loaded with talented hitters, Rendon has shown the most polish early.
The third baseman, who has also experience at second base, hit .287 in 153 games. The infielder also scored a major-league high 111 runs. In addition, he swatted 23 home runs, drove in 83 runs and swiped 17 bases.
He would have trouble finding at-bats with Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager manning second and third, but teams can always use extra bats—especially quality ones like Rendon.
Archie Bradley, Starting Pitcher: Arizona Diamondbacks, 7th Overall Pick
Similar to Bundy, Bradley has future ace/front-line starter written all over him.
He’s been routinely ranked in the top ten prospects in the league and is probably on equal, and while his minor league numbers haven’t been overly impressive (4.45 ERA and a 1.506 WHIP in 18 minor league starts across three minor league levels) he still has a bright future.
Bradley is on similar or better footing than Taijuan Walker or James Paxton in terms of potential.
Francisco Lindor, Shortstop: Cleveland Indians, 8th Overall Pick
Lindor has skyrocketed through the minors and could be in Cleveland in the near future.
One of the top prospects in the game, Lindor is regarded as a top-notch defensive shortstop. He also managed a .273 batting average in 38 Triple-A, showing the potential to be more than simply a defensive wizard at the major league level.
His impending arrival also forced two-time All Star Asdrubal Cabrera out of Cleveland at the trade deadline. Incumbent shortstop Jose Ramirez could meet the same fate as Cabrera.
Javier Baez, Infielder: Chicago Cubs, 9th Overall Pick
Part of the Cubs’ first wave of impact prospects to make the majors, Baez shows tremendous upside. He has outstanding power and will drive in plenty of runs when he reaches his potential.
Baez can play either middle infield position and is part of a talented group of Cubs’ infielders that include Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Starlin Castro and Anthony Rizzo among others.
The infielder wouldn’t unseat Robinson Cano at second (duh), but he’d provide an upgrade over Chris Taylor and Brad Miller at shortstop.
Baez mashed 37 homers and drove in 111 runs in across multiple levels in the minor leagues in 2013.
George Springer, Outfielder: Houston Astros, 11th Overall Pick
While Rendon would have been blocked at multiple positions by the Cano and Seager, George Springer wouldn’t have been blocked in the outfield.
Part of the Astros’ next great team, Springer is a slugger in every sense of the word.
The outfielder swatted 20 home runs in a mere 78 games. He only hit .231 and struck out 114 games, but his power is undeniable.
Springer has a .303 career batting average in the minor leagues—or, in other words, he won’t be a .231 hitter forever. He’ll improve.
But instead of hitting bombs in Safeco Field as a member of the M’s, Springer will be hitting for the division rival Astros.
Jose Fernandez, Starting Pitcher: Miami Marlins, 14th Overall Pick
Jose Fernandez is one of the best starting pitchers in all of baseball—a fantastic accomplishment considering he was only drafted in 2011.
The 22-year-old Cuban took home Rookie of the Year and All-Star honors in his first season in 2013. Only Clayton Kershaw and Adam Wainwright finished ahead of Fernandez in Cy Young voting that year.
The Marlins ace is one of the many exiting, young talents in Miami that have prompted the team to give Giancarlo Stanton a big contract and accelerate the rebuilding process so as to win as soon as possible.
Coming off of an injury shortened 2014, Fernandez will undoubtedly be Miami’s ace when he returns in 2015 and beyond.
Seattle is blessed in the pitching department with the likes of Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker, but adding Fernandez certainly wouldn’t have hurt.
C.J. Cron, First Baseman: Los Angeles Angels Anaheim, 17th Overall Pick
Cron can flat out hit. He may not be as dynamic as teammate Mike Trout, but he provides the Angels with another young player to build around.
The first baseman owns a .290 career minor-league batting average and can drive the ball out of the park. He slugged 11 bombs in only 79 games in 2014 and has the potential to do much more.
With Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton in decline, Cron will be counted on to help carry the Angels into the future. Don’t be surprised if Cron gets close to 40 home runs in a season at some point.
He would have been a nice fit at first base for the M’s.
Sonny Gray, Starting Pitcher: Oakland Athletics, 18th Overall Pick
While Bundy and Bradley are future aces, Gray (like Fernandez) is already there.
Gray has a 2.99 ERA in 283 innings pitched and posted a 3.2 WAR in 2014. That 3.2 WAR was higher than the likes of Yu Darvish, Hisashi Iwakuma and Anibal Sanchez.
Gray stepped in during his rookie season and started two playoff games for the A’s. Both times he went toe-to-toe with vintage Justin Verlander and didn’t blink, arguably pitching as well as the former Cy Young MVP.
Also like Fernandez, Gray would have been a nice addition to the M’s, but Seattle will have to settle for seeing him pitch against them a few times a year with Oakland.
Other Notable Names
In addition to the big names like Fernandez, Springer and Rendon, there were a plethora of players available later in the first round of the draft.
The Cardinals and Giants respective second baseman (Kolten Wong and Joe Panik) were taken 22nd and 29th overall. Jackie Bradley Jr. was taken with the 40th pick while fellow Red Sox youngsters, and current farmhands, Matt Barnes (19th), Henry Owens (36th) and Blake Swihart (26th) were also first-round picks.
While Danny Hultzen hasn’t reached the big leagues yet, the M’s clearly could have received more value out of all these players.
All stats courtesy of Baseball-Reference.comunless otherwise noted.