The original article is long as Sh*t and rambles, so this is an excerpt:
What If The Mariners Had Drafted Anthony Rendon?
By Tim Dierkes | April 11, 2020 at 3:00pm CDT
It could have easily been Anthony Rendon. The media certainly believed the Mariners would draft Rice’s star third baseman with the second overall draft pick in 2011, despite injury concerns. Former Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik recently told Corey Brock of The Athletic, “We liked Rendon…a lot. Going into the draft, he was probably the player a lot of people thought we were going to take…and we did, too.”
Most observers expected the Pirates to use the first overall pick on UCLA righty Gerrit Cole, and indeed they did. That scenario left two strong possibilities for the Mariners: Rendon, and University of Virginia lefty Danny Hultzen. Rendon was considered by some to be the top talent in the 2011 draft even with recent ankle and shoulder injuries. But those injuries loomed large for the Mariners, with Zduriencik telling Brock, “Anthony had some physical issues. He’d been hurt the year before and was limited somewhat. There were a few things that were concerning.”
You can debate whether it’s fair to criticize the Mariners’ choice of Hultzen in hindsight. Zduriencik told Brock, “Danny was the guy who everyone loved. It made a lot of sense.” But while Hultzen was by no means a reach or a bad pick at the time, he was considered the “safe” choice. After Day 1 of the draft, Keith Law (then of ESPN) said the Mariners “shock[ed] everyone,” elaborating, “I’m not criticizing Hultzen in the least here, but I think drafting at No. 2 overall is a rare chance to go for ceiling, and the Mariners didn’t do that. They took a very safe, very good college pitcher who will move quickly but doesn’t have No. 1 starter upside.” Unfortunately, even the safest pitchers carry extreme risk, and Hultzen’s career was all but wiped out by shoulder issues.
No one could have foreseen that the draft’s best player would turn out to be Mookie Betts, as the Red Sox landed him 172nd overall. But the draft gurus were correct on Rendon, who ultimately has been the second-most productive member of his draft class by measure of Baseball-Reference WAR. And that was a draft that included Cole, Francisco Lindor (also of interest to the Mariners), George Springer, Trevor Story, Javier Baez, and many other excellent players.
To the surprise of the baseball world, the Pirates, Mariners, Diamondbacks, Orioles, and Royals all decided to pass on Rendon. Maybe it was the ankle and shoulder injuries, maybe it was adviser Scott Boras, but whatever the reason, Nationals GM Mike Rizzo was “pleasantly surprised” when Rendon fell all the way to the sixth spot. The Nationals went with who they considered to be the best player available, even with Ryan Zimmerman entrenched at third base. That choice paid off in a huge way for the Nationals. But with apologies to Mariners fans, let’s consider an alternate universe where Zduriencik called Rendon’s name instead of Hultzen’s on June 6th, 2011.
Rendon reached the Majors in 2013 and had his first highly productive season in 2014. By that point, Kyle Seager was already established as the Mariners’ third baseman. Seager’s 18.4 fWAR run from 2013-16 was actually much better than what Rendon did, albeit with a slightly lower ceiling. As with the Nationals, Rendon would have likely been shifted to second base as a rookie to accommodate the incumbent third baseman.