|No. 1 — Tyler O’Neill, RF
|Acquired: Third Round, 2013 Draft — Garibaldi HS (Canada)
O’Neill gets the nod at No. 1, despite the most important tool — hitting — being very much a work in progress with significant improvement needed — for two reasons. For one, the No. 2 prospect and last year’s No. 1 took a large step back and showed weaknesses in areas that began 2015 as strengths, including the polish in his swing and ability to make consistent contact through an advanced M.O. Second, O’Neill, who’s just six months older than Jackson, displays the acumen and approach to the game that serves him well, something even the Mariners saw lacking in Jackson last summer.
Jackson could very well return to form, but O’Neill is already two level aheads of Jackson, carries close-second upside levels and perhaps will begin 2016 at Double-A Jackson at the age of 20 after torching the Advanced-A California League last season.
O’Neill’s strengths stand out like a Stallion among Shetland ponies; 35-homer raw power on a 70-grade level. The power is easy — plus-plus bat speed, tremendous hand, wrist and forearm strength. Creates power swing plane.
Underrated athleticism. Improving defensively. Fits well in a corner outfield spot with above-average speed and plus arm strength. He’s still learning to make the throws from the outfield. (catcher and third baseman as a prep). Quick first step for a corner outfielder.
O’Neill is a tireless worker, perhaps the best athlete in the entire system despite the reputation of being purely a power player in all aspects.
O’Neill, however, 30-35 present hit tool. Bit of a free swinger, but did have extended stretches of selectivity suggesting progress, including the final six weeks of the year when he displayed more patience without the sacrifice of any power production. This occurred after he returned from his stint with Team Canada in the Pan-Am Games, O’Neill, the youngest player on the roster, served as a middle of the order hitter, and helped lead Canada to the Gold Medal.
There is a limit to how much better the hit tool can get, but even fringe-average plate skills would serve O’Neill right into the middle of the big-league lineup within the next three years.The majority of the issues reside in simple patience and the willingness to work counts. His two-strike swing needs some refinement, too, and using more of the field — something he did more of in July and August — is necessary to stave off a steady diet of breaking balls down and away.