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Originally published June 4, 2014 at 6:46 PM | Page modified June 5, 2014 at 4:53 PM

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M’s draft philosophy is simple, but who will they pick at No. 6?

Mariners will stay with their “best player available” mantra in Thursday’s MLB amateur draft but aren’t offering any hints at who they’ll choose.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Possible picks

Five players the Mariners might pick with the No. 6 overall choice in Thursday’s draft:

Aaron Nola, RHP, LSU: Nola has the best command of any college pitcher in the draft, with a fastball that sits 92-94 mph and a plus change from excellent arm speed. The breaking-ball flashes above-average but isn’t as consistent a pitch, and there are some concerns that his low arm slot will cause troubles at the big league level.

Alex Jackson, C/OF, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego): Jackson is the best pure bat in the class, a right-handed hitter with an advanced feel for hitting and plus power as well. This is one prep bat with the potential to be a star.

Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (Orlando): The son of former all-star pitcher Tom Gordon and the brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee, Gordon has as much helium as any player in this draft; a shortstop with excellent footwork and athleticism to make plays to his left and right and a plus-plus throwing arm to boot.

Michael Conforto, OF, Oregon State (Redmond HS): It’s a weak year in terms of college hitting, but Conforto is the best pure hitter from the college ranks, with plus power from the left side and he’s one of the most patient hitters to enter the draft in the past few years. There are concerns about his defensive value and whether he can hit left-handed pitching, but seasons of .280/.350/.450 aren’t out of the question.

Sean Newcomb, LHP, Hartford: Outside of Carlos Rodon – who has no shot of falling to Seattle– Newcomb is the best college left-hander in the class, and has been shooting up draft boards as of late. At 6-5, 240; he has prototypical size, and his fastball sits in the mid 90s with the ability to hit 97 when he rears back.

Chris Crawford, ESPN

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ATLANTA – Tom McNamara’s philosophy toward the Major League Baseball amateur draft has been simple and unchanging since he became the Mariners’ director of amateur scouting in 2008.

“I was taught a long time ago you take the best player available whether it’s a position player or a pitcher,” he said.

It’s the philosophy he used when taking Dustin Ackley with the second overall pick of the 2009 draft, Danny Hultzen second overall in 2011 and Mike Zunino third overall in 2012.

It’s the thinking he’ll employ Thursday night when the Mariners pick sixth in the first round of the draft.

“We’re in a good spot,” McNamara said. “There’s a good group of guys we think are going to be there when we make our selection, so we feel pretty good about it.”

The Mariners will also have the 74th pick Thursday.

McNamara’s draft philosophy is far from unique. Most teams preach similar thinking. But the MLB draft is far from simple. With a new slotting system and players more willing to go to college, teams may go safe or cheap or draft for positional need. That thinking resulted in Seattle taking catcher Jeff Clement in the 2005 draft instead of shortstop Troy Tulowitzki.

Obviously, the Mariners organization could use more starting pitching and middle-of-the-order hitters, while true center-field and first-base depth is lacking. But none of that will influence McNamara.

“Sometimes when you want something you need to be careful,” he said. “You don’t want to sidestep the best player available and draft for need. We’ll take the best player or best pitcher out there, whether it’s a high-school or college player.”

So who will that player be?

McNamara isn’t offering many hints.

“There is a lot of college pitching,” he said. “There’s a nice group of high-school position players and small chunk of high school pitchers.”

But knowing who will be there is anything but clear.

No consensus top pick seems to exist this year. The Astros, who are picking first overall for the third straight season, have been linked to several players, including top college left-hander Carlos Rodon out of North Carolina State and high-school left-hander Brady Aiken, who has 100 mph fastball.

“I spoke to a few media members and I asked them, ‘what are you hearing?’ and they asked me, ‘what am I hearing?’” McNamara said. “It was a really boring conversation. Nothing got accomplished. You hear plenty of rumors.”

Seattle is the subject of many of those rumors.

“Every day I read something new,” McNamara said.

They’ve been linked to San Diego high-school catcher Alex Jackson, who is projected to be a corner outfielder. He’s considered one of the best high-school hitters in the draft. Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto and Orlando high school shortstop Nick Gordon — younger brother of Dodgers infielder Dee Gordon — and North Carolina State shortstop Trea Turner are also possibilities.

If they go with a pitcher, college right-handers Aaron Nola (Louisiana State) and Tyler Beede (Vanderbilt) and lefties Sean Newcomb (Hartford) and Kyle Freeland (Evansville) are candidates.

McNamara and his staff haven’t been scared off by the rash of arm injuries with pitchers this season. All three of the Mariners’ top pitching prospects — Hultzen, Walker and James Paxton — have dealt with arm issues. A handful of draft-eligible pitchers are undergoing Tommy John surgery.

“You’ve still got to take them ...” McNamara said. “Somebody is going to go out there and be a star.”

When the Mariners’ pick is announced Thursday night by commissioner Bug Selig, the thinking behind it will not have changed.

“We’ll keep it simple,” he said. “Set the board up, take the best guy and don’t look back.”

McNamara’s picks
A look at the Mariners’ first-round picks under Tom McNamara, the team’s director of amateur scouting:
YearRd (overall) Player, position, school
20131 (12)D.J. Peterson, 3B, New Mexico
20121 (3) Mike Zunino, C, Florida
20111 (2) Danny Hultzen, LHP, Virginia
20101s (43) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Yucaipa (Calif.) HS
2009 1 (2)Dustin Ackley, 2B-OF, North Carolina
1 (27) Nick Franklin, 2B-SS, Lake Brantley HS (Altamonte Springs, Fla.)
1s (33) Steve Baron, C, John A. Ferguson School (Miami)

Ryan Divish: 206-464-2373 or On Twitter: @RyanDivish

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