It’s not uncommon for Major League Baseball trades to remain unsettled for a long, long time. The exchange of talent often includes young players not destined for the majors for several years. It’s actually quite fascinating to follow as one trade becomes another, and another, and sometimes another. There are a number of moves Seattle Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto has made the past three years that fall into the same category. Some seem to favor Seattle, a few definitely don’t. One of the many with a chance to have a very long story is the deal Dipoto struck with the Tampa Bay Rays on May 25, 2018, and a few stanzas already have been written. The Mariners, who finished 89-73 that season, were 30-20 when the trade was consummated. They were three games back of the Houston Astros in the American League West and had a two-game lead in the race for the No. 2 Wild Card, so Dipoto got creative. Seattle sent right-hander Andrew Moore and Tommy Romero to Tampa Bay in exchange for veteran outfielder Denard Span and right-handed reliever Alex Colome. Span went on to provide 0.9 rWAR for the Mariners in 94 games, thanks to a .272/.329/.435 triple-slash. Colome pitched in 47 games and went 5-0 with a 2.53 ERA and 49-13 K/BB ratio in 46.1 innings good for 1.4 rWAR. Span retired after the season, but Dipoto flipped Colome to the Chicago White Sox for catcher Omar Narvaez. Colome pitched for two seasons with the White Sox, but neither were of the quality of his time with Seattle, but that’s neither here nor there, and winning the trades is far from the point. Narvaez batted .278/.353/.460 in 132 games for the Mariners in 2019, a season valued at 2.2 rWAR. If you’re counting, that’s now 4.5 rWAR combined between the acquisitions. Following the 2019 season, Dipoto then sent Narvaez to the Milwaukee Brewers and Seattle received right-handed pitcher Adam Hill and the No. 64 overall selection in the 2020 MLB Draft, a competitive balance selection awarded to the Brewers. McLennan CC (TX) right-hander Connor Phillips ended up being the pick. Hill, 23, last pitched at Class-A Wisconsin in the Midwest League, primarily as a starter, but may be suited for Double-A Arkansas this season with a chance to move quickly as a reliever. Still, he’s probably a year from the majors. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound Phillips regularly touched the mid-90s in short stints, has hit 98 mph as an amateur and a professional, and also offers a curveball and chanegup. He’ll turn 20 years of age May 4, likely just days before making his professional debut. He’s currently Prospect Insider’s No. 18 Mariners prospect. On the fastest of tracks to The Show, Phillips’ ETA is likely at least 2023. While the trade Dipoto made with the Rays sure looks like a winner now — Moore is not under contract with a big-league club, even on a minor league deal, and it’s highly unlikely Romero hits the majors before 2022, nor does it seem there’s much chance he proves the gem of the trade — the truth is we won’t know the final numbers of this trade, like so many others, for several years. And knowing how Dipoto operates, he’ll wait until just before the buzzer, then move Hill or Phillips for even more longer-term talent so we have to restart the clock. And maybe he’ll have a sense of humor about it all and keep doing so just to continue adding chapters to the story. After all, if that were to occur, it would mean Dipoto’s rosters are winning enough to earn a long stay at the top of the Mariners’ baseball operations department, which is something the Mariners and the club’s fans need far more than any number of Wins Above Replacement.
Ty France will challenge Mitch Haniger for best hit tool and may hit more long balls than Kyle Lewis. Taylor Trammell is also a 60-grade runner but Haggerty might be closer to a 65, so he gets the nod. Trammell projects as an above-average to plus glove in left, but in CF he’s around average, maybe a little above, and his arm belongs in left. Justin Dunn‘s Cactus League slider would get the nod over Justus Sheffield‘s with a longer track record. At times, James Paxton‘s cutter is a plus pitch, as is Marco Gonzales‘. Kendall Graveman and Keynan Middleton throw a bit harder, but Montero’s fastball has more effective movement. Drew Steckenrider‘s slider flashes plus and if he’s more consistent with it can overtake Middleton for the best slider in the bullpen.
With the 2021 MLB season days away, let’s have a little fun with predictions for the Seattle Mariners. Home Runs: Ty France, 33 Kyle Lewis has the best raw power on the roster but barring a better effort to get to his pull side and thanks to his penchant for swinging and missing he’s not likely to beat France at the long-ball game this season. Batting Average (qualified only): Mitch Haniger, .279 I think there are a small handful of players that could challenge Haniger, and there’s a chance Haniger doesn’t end up qualifying in a Mariners uniform, but he’s the safest bet among projected regulars to hit .270 or better. The only issue is if he’s traded he won’t qualify, at which point I’d pick France. OBP (qualified only): Haniger, .358 SLG (qualified only): France, .518 Haniger is also a big-time candidate here, too. Triples: Jarred Kelenic, 7 He’s not likely to start the season in the big leagues, but he’s a good bet to get 400-plus PAs and his combo of power and speed give him a chance to triple out quite well. Taylor Trammell is also a good bet to hit the gaps and leg out some three-baggers, as is Dylan Moore. J.P. Crawford had four triples in under 400 plate appearances in 2019, so keep an eye on him, too. Walks: Kyle Lewis, 64 I don’t expect his 14% walk rate to continue into 2021 but he’s always drawn 9-12% walks in the minors. Ten percent of 600 (PAs) is 60 and even in a mediocre-at-best lineup the top three regulars are likely to get at least that many trips to the plate. For context, Daniel Vogelbach led the Mariners in PAs in 2019 with 558, and he played in just 144 games, just 129 starts. If Lewis starts 145 games, he’s clearing 600 plate appearances easily. Strikeouts: Lewis, 144 This number could get out of hand, as he whiffed nearly 30% of the time a year ago, but I think if he struggles to such great lengths he’ll get time out of the lineup to work on things, which will limit the volume. For context, his 29.3% K rate over 242 PAs in 2020 resulted in 71 strikeouts. Stolen Bases: Dylan Moore, 22 We’re going to find out more about Moore in 2021 than all of 2020, but there are signs the on-base ability is legitimate (.358 OBP, 8.8% walks in 2020, 8.9%, and a +.94 OBP-AVG in 2019). He’s not a great athlete, but he has 55 speed and reads pitchers as well as anyone else on the roster. Moore swiped 23 bags in his first 441 PAs in the majors, which included 104 times landing at first base via single, error, HBP or walk. fWAR: Lewis, 3.9 He’s not a great CF glove, but he’s about average, and even if he hits .230-.240 he should post at least league-average on-base marks and hit 20-plus homers. As long as he stays healthy he’ll play 145-150 games and that’s a 3.5-win or better player, as a floor. Innings Pitched: Marco Gonzales, 164 I figure 27 or 28 starts, six innings per start — he averaged 6.3 a year ago — and that gets me beyond 160 for the year. Strikeouts: Yusei Kikuchi, 158 Paxton will have the best K% but the chances he remains with the team beyond July or stays healthy for 25-28 starts keep me off him as the leader here. Kikuchi fanned 24.2% of the batters he faced a year ago with a 12.1% swinging-strike rate, so he’s a solid bet to get to 150 or so. Walks: Chris Flexen, 68 Flexen can throw strikes, but his fastball value may struggle in the states and as a result, I fear he may nibble a bit. Certainly more so than Paxton, Gonzales, Kikuchi, Justus Sheffield, and the Justin Dunn we’ve seen this spring. But he’s also more likely to get tp 140-150 innings than is Dunn, who I’d bet has the worst walk rate among the six starters. Saves: Rafael Montero, 31 Saves is a stupid stat — it’s super stupid and shouldn’t exist, and fantasy baseball is also stupid, so take that — but Montero is likely to get the vast majority of opportunities. If he stays with the club all year I think 30-plus is reasonable. Pitcher fWAR: Gonzales, 4.1 Gonzales was No. 13 among starting pitchers in MLB year ago with a 2.0 fWAR in just 10 starts, which prorates out to 5.4 wins above replacement, even when considering he’s likely only tally 27 or 28 starts. While pace isn’t the best way to project, it offers an idea of how reliable Gonzales is. The 29-year-old posted 3.7 fWAR in 2019 (34 starts) and 3.5 in 2018 (29 starts) suggesting 4.1 is anything but a stretch. First prospect called up to 26-man Roster after Opening Day: Joey Gerber, RHR This goes against my current Opening Day Roster projection, since I have Gerber on it, but I’m 33-33-33 in that prediction (Gerber-Swanson-Steckenrider), and if it’s not Gerber I think he forces his way up perhaps before the Triple-A schedule gets underway. First player traded from 40-man roster between Opening Day and July 31: Jake Fraley, OF Just a hunch that when Kelenic is summoned, they’ll need 40-man space in addition to the 26-man spot and whether Fraley is on the 26-man or not he could be moved via small trade to create space. How many games does Kelenic play in Tripe-A Tacoma?: 0 Would it surprise me if he plays in Tacoma? No. But I think there’s a pretty good chance he hangs at the ATS for a few weeks and joins the 26-man later in April before the minor league season even begins, so… Logan Gilbert MLB Games Started: 14 Over/Under 1.5 All-Star Selections: UNDER I could see a second Mariners player sneaking in if a youngster like Lewis wins a fan vote after a Haniger or France gets the initial nod, but other than that I don’t think the chances are good Seattle gets more than one. Next year and beyond, however… Over/Under 162 Home Runs: OVER They hit 60 a year ago in the 60-game season and will have Haniger back, France for the entire season, and likely add more power with their youth than they were running out there a year ago at 2B (Moore played mostly OF). Over/Under 131 Stolen Bases: UNDER I think Seattle will continue to run, but the pace they were on a year ago — nearly one per game — won’t continue over a full season. Over/Under 4.5 Trades Made involving 40-man roster members between Opening Day and July 31: UNDER I think the top three 40-man candidates starting the regular season are Haniger, Paxton, and Montero, with the national media’s mention of Seager being a bit obtuse without unpredictable contract restructure factors that are very, very rare in baseball. Over/Under 72.5 Team Wins: OVER While it is indeed one more year where development is more important than scratching out every victory possible, the roster has more overall talent, fewer holes, more upside, and more depth this year than the club that won at a 73-win clip a year ago. I think on the low side, we’re looking at 70 wins or so. On the high side, this club could threaten .500, though the fact they aren’t likely at all to contend could rob them of key veterans in July that will hurt their chances to max out their win ability. I’d wager on 75 wins.
Updated Saturday, March 27, 10:33 PM PT The club optioned out RHRs Joey Gerber and Erik Swanson Saturday, leaving the final spot in the bullpen to right-handers Drew Steckenrider and Domingo Tapia, officially. Both have performed well, but Tapia has made just two appearances in ‘A’ games to Steckenrider’s seven. Tapia is already on the 40-man, Steckenrider is not, but the official placement of Ken Giles on the 60-day IL will open a spot for the club. I would have gone with Gerber or Steckenrider here — but I thought Seattle would go with the younger player with more upside, the one they control for five more years, rather than the upside of selling Steckenrider at the deadline for little return. Tapia has options, so they’ll be able to call upon all three righties that lose out to Steckenrider, which is clearly the way the club is going. With the news Saturday that centerfielder Kyle Lewis is doubtful for Opening Day, I feel comfortable making the assumption he will see the IL and won’t be on the ODR. I’ve replaced him with the player whose name I hate typing, but this being the final roster projection, let’s pull no punches. With Lewis out, I expect Taylor Trammell to start in center on April 1, but do not believe Lewis’ situation impacts that of Jarred Kelenic at all. As you can see, I still see Justin Dunn over Nick Margevicius for the No. 6 spot in the rotation with the latter serving as the long man out of the bullpen. If it were my choice, considering the minor league season does not begin for an additional 33 days, I would do the same, but if Dunn struggles to get through five innings and continues to battle with control and command problems, I’m sending him to Triple-A in May. One thing not discussed much with Dunn these days — because there are so many other things to dissect — is his lack of a third pitch. Sure, he could go curveball and slider, but he does not have a pitch for left-handed batters, which puts a ton of pressure on his fastball command and the consistency of the slider that’s looked so good this spring.
We’re about a week and a half from Opening Day 2021 at T-Mobile Park when the Seattle Mariners host the San Francisco Giants. There remain just a few spots on the Mariners roster unsettled, at least from our perspective (the club may already know all 26). Here was my first projection. Let’s go through this for the second time this spring. ROTATION Marco Gonzales James Paxton Yusei Kikuchi Chris Flexen Justus Sheffield Justin Dunn I went with Dunn in the rotation over Margevicius because I think Seattle is seeing enough in the right-hander this spring to go back to the well and try to build on the improved stuff. What that specific decision also does is balance the rotation against the four lefties, and sends Margevicius to the bullpen to serve as its lone southpaw. BULLPEN Rafael Montero Kendall Graveman Anthony Misiewicz Keynan Middleton Casey Sadler Nick Margevicius Will Vest Erik Swanson I think Vest, the Rule 5 pick, has done enough to make the club and essentially earn a longer look. How long that lasts should be performance-driven. At this point Yohan Ramirez has made one appearance in an “A” game in Arizona, hitting two batters and walking another. He needs to start the year in Triple-A Tacoma and work on the delivery. His raw stuff is legit, but he doesn’t fill the zone much. Middleton has struggled a bit, serving up five homers, but he does have a 6-1 K/BB ratio in five frames, and the stuff belongs. He also has a bit of a track record a few others in contention don’t. Aaron Fletcher has flashed big-league stuff but more consistent command of the fastball is necessary before he can be viewed as a reliable arm. Sadler has looked very good and is a strike-thrower to boot, something the club needs in the middle innings. Matt Magill has just three appearances, making it more difficult to project him to the ODR. Joey Gerber has looked better this month than most of his appearances last summer, including more velocity, recouped deception, and a better, sharper-breaking slider. Roenis Elias may have been on his way to making the team until his injury. JT Chargois still has a shot, but he hasn’t been used much yet, suggesting the Mariners already know he’s not part of the ODR, but Swanson’s spot is far from sewn up and could go in a lot of directions, including Chargois or Matt Magill. One potential hint on who the club may be viewing as a legitimate option is who is getting the innings this late in Cactus League play. Not just because they want those arms worked into form, but because those not part of the 26-man roster to start the season have another 33 days until their first game, and overworking them in big-league camp is a real problem. CATCHERS Tom Murphy Luis Torrens INFIELDERS Evan White Dylan Moore J.P. Crawford Kyle Seager Ty France Honestly, with Shed Long Jr. being held out of “A” games thus far, it’s a bit more difficult to find the right mix with the infield-outfield groups. I’d choose Jack Reinheimer or Braden Bishop for the final roster spot because the former can play shortstop some, offers a bit more offense right now than does Donovan Walton, and the latter is a 70 glove. Both bat right-handed, balancing the bench. But Reinheimer is not on the 40-man, the Mariners seem to think Jose Marmolejos is something he’s not — an outfielder and a major-league hitter — and Fraley has been given a longer look (so, that’s where I actually lean in projecting the ODR). Once Long is ready, it’s an easier projection, but as of March 21 we don’t have good info on when that might be. OUTFIELDERS Mitch Haniger Kyle Lewis Taylor Trammell Sam Haggerty Jake Fraley There’s no reasonable explanation for a Mariners outfield without Trammell and/or Jarred Kelenic, and at this point, I lean Trammell between the two because of the time Kelenic missed with the knee injury and the lack of overall experience he has versus professional pitching. The truth is, both players are worthy, and if the Mariners were taking the best roster possible north with them to face the San Francisco Giants April 1, Kelenic would be on it. Haggerty’s ability to switch hit and handle second base gives him a great chance to make the club, and he’s actually found the barrel some this spring, worked counts and found the gap a few times. If the club needs a 40-man spot to make room for Kelenic, they’ve yet to officially place Ken Giles on the 60-day IL, per the team site. If they also need one for Reinheimer, Chargois, or Magill, I think the weakest holds on 40-man roster spots are right-hander Domingo Tapia, Walton, an additional 60-day IL case (Long?), or perhaps a minor trade involving a player that didn’t make the ODR, including Bishop and Fraley.
We’re about three weeks from an announcement of the Seattle Mariners Opening Day roster and we’re a step or two closer than we were a week ago, not that there are a lot of questions remaining. But there are a few, so let’s talk this out. Starting Pitchers (6) Marco Gonzales (L) James Paxton (L) Yusei Kikuchi (L) Justus Sheffield (L) Chris Flexen (R) Justin Dunn (R) There appear to be five locks, provided they all remain healthy. I’m still projecting Dunn to the starting six because his greatest competition — Logan Gilbert and Nick Margevicius — have hurdles Dunn does not. Gilbert’s is a service time hurdle — no, it shouldn’t exist, but it does — and a potential concern about workload, though I don’t buy it as a standalone reason to leave Gilbert off the roster to start the season, especially considering he won’t have a place to pitch while he serves out his time. The Mariners should carry Gilbert, but if they want to carry Dunn, too, the club can simply begin the season with seven starters and adjust as arms get stretched out in late April and May. In this scenario, the Mariners wouldn’t have to use seven starters over seven days, they could piggyback Gilbert. If the club wants to ship Gilbert out once Triple-A begins in early May, hell have four or outings under his belt and can stretch out in Tacoma before getting recalled in May. Still, the Mariners have a decision to make on the of the other six starters before Gilbert can be added to the rotation. Dunn is the wild card. I’m on record saying Dunn was not of MLB quality last season and not only needs to be better in 2021, but if he doesn’t show vast improvement all spring warrants being optioned to the minors to start the season. At this point, I’m assuming the early returns on Dunn’s fastball this spring — up to 96 mph, more 92-95 than he showed in 2020 — holds up enough to lend the club the kind of upside confidence to give Dunn the nod over Margevicius. The leash may not be extremely long, but it’s up to Dunn. Who knows what the eventual move is when Gilbert becomes part of the rotation, but the possibilities are endless, including injury removing the decision from GM Jerry Dipoto‘s desk. Margevicius’ greatest obstacle is the club’s investment in Dunn and what may be at least a perceived advantage the right-hander has on his southpaw teammate in terms up ceiling. Relief Pitchers (8) Rafael Montero (R) Kendall Graveman (R) Anthony Misiewicz (L) Will Vest (R) Keynan Middleton (R) Casey Sadler (R) Brandon Brennan (R) Nick Margevicius (L) It’s clear that healthy arms attached to Montero, Graveman, Misiewicz, Vest and Middleton are surefire choices. Sadler is a strike-throwing right-hander with improved velocity the last two years and is out of options. Still making some assumptions here on health, which needs to be noted for all players, especially pitchers, and especially those with an injury history like Brennan, who has yet to make his spring debut. But as long as he’s good to go the sinkerballer is probably one of the eight relievers headed north to start the season — not that his spot is solid in the least. If he’s not healthy or struggles mightily with his control, the next in line likely are Matt Magill, Yohan Ramirez, and perhaps veteran Roenis Elias. I have Margevicius in the bullpen here to start the season, mostly because he’s one of the club’s best 14 arms, can cover a lot of innings in the middle of got-away games, and optioning him is the opposite of giving Scott Servais and Pete Woodworth the best possible staff to succeed. Ramirez has great raw stuff, and he survived on it last season, but unless the club sees reasons to believe he’ll throw strikes with some consistency the right-hander needs extended time in Triple-A to work on his delivery, particularly how his lower half leads him through release point. A healthy Magill was reliable in 2019 and one can argue he has just as much of a shot at Brennan. If we assume health for Magill, who had arthroscopic debridement surgery on his shoulder last September, he’s probably a favorite. He’s walked three batters in his one inning of work so far. We’ll see how this plays out for him. Vest, the Rule 5 pick, has struggled in two innings, allowing four hits and three earnies, but the club believes in his stuff enough to keep handing him the ball in a position earn his spot on the roster. If he’s a disaster this spring, however, the Mariners should find another option, of which there is no shortage, including Wyatt Mills, Joey Gerber, Ramirez, Elias, Magill, and Sam Delaplane. Taylor Guerrieri‘s battle is uphill, but there’s enough stuff to warrant middle innings work and he’s made it through two innings without a walk thus far. Paul Sewald is an underdog, but don’t count him out just yet. He’s missing bats and throwing strikes. JT Chargois has yet to make an appearance, but if he gets going soon enough has a chance to unseat one of the above eight arms. He didn’t pitch a year ago, but in 2019 with the Dodgers used a 95-97 mph fastball and 85-88 mph slider to post a 31.8% strikeout rate. He also found a way for the first time since 2016 in Triple-A to issue a walk less than 11.1% of the time (5.7%). Catchers (2) Tom Murphy (R) Luis Torrens (R) Barring an injury to either Murphy or Torrens, they’ll open the season as the catching tandem. The club has hinted the time share is likely to be a 55-60% to 40-45% in favor of the more experience Murphy. The question here is: What happens if there’s an early-season injury? Next on Baseball Things. Infielders (6) Evan White (R) Dylan Moore (R) J.P. Crawford (L) Kyle Seager (L) Ty France (R) Sam Haggerty (B) This situation is a bit tricky. Shed Long has yet to make his spring debut and the longer he’s out the lower his chances are he starts the season on the Opening Day roster. If it’s injury related — and remember, he had surgery on his lower leg last fall — the club has an easy out on the roster move. He does have an option remaining, though. But Long appears close to getting into an official game based on his activity in simulated action (he homered on a Montero fastball Saturday). Still, it’s difficult to assume he’ll be ready since the club will ask him to play not only second base but probably third base and left field, too. If Long is not ready, the last infielder spot may go to Sam Haggerty, who also can play the outfield. Remember, the Mariners do not need to carry a second shortstop — a position Haggerty can fake for the short term … he’s a better fit at second, but at which Long has zero experience — since projected second baseman Moore can handle the position in case of injury or late-inning weirdness with Crawford. In this projection, I have Long behind schedule, but that can change quickly. Moore and France both can back up White at first. France is Seager’s backup at third. Long and Haggerty both are capable at second, as is France, so the club is covered there no matter which way this group is completed. Outfielders (4) Mitch Haniger (R) Kyle Lewis (R) Jake Fraley (L) Braden Bishop (R) This could be a three-player position group if Long is healthy and makes the club, so keep an eye on that. Both Long and Moore have experience in the outfield, and if Haggerty makes the club he’s essentially as capable as is Moore. With Jarred Kelenic expected to miss at least some time this month with a minor knee tweak, it appears his chances to break camp with the big club are all but gone, leaving open the door for Fraley, and perhaps Bishop, who has made a few minor adjustments with his setup and swing in order to get started sooner and give himself a better chance to handle velocity. One of the buzz names in camp right now is Taylor Trammell, but it seems his chances to break camp as part of the 26-man roster are close to zero. My fear is the Mariners will strongly consider Jose Marmoleos ahead of Fraley, even though he’s below-average defensively and can’t play center (Fraley can) or offer value on the bases (Fraley does). Once Kelenic is up, the misfit is Fraley/Marmolejos, however, not Bishop, based on a combination of handedness and defensive prowess. This is going to be interesting.
When a club has a strong far system getting deeper as you read this, it’s always fun to crosscheck it with other current collections of talent. One way to do that is by objectively identifying how far down one club’s rankings lies a prospect that would rank No. 1 in at least one other club’s system. That list extends beyond the club’s consensus Top 20 prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, so let’s start digging. Two Reminders: Prospect rankings are subjective, but in identifying orgs where Mariners prospects would rank No. 1 for me I’ll be as objective as possible. And rankings don’t dictate how a player will turn out as a major leaguer. It’s only a potential manifestation of talent and developing skills. Rankings, no matter who is putting them together, no matter how many sources are utilized, no matter the evaluation skills of the ranker, should be taken as general indicators. Many times the ‘who’s going to be better?’ is correct, but it’s not an exact science. 1. Jarred Kelenic, OF No. 1: All but Tampa Bay (Wander Franco), Baltimore (Adley Rutschman). Maybe: Detroit (Spencer Torkelson), San Diego (MacKenzie Gore) Kelenic would be No. 2 in at least 25 organizations and as many as 27, allowing for some difference in opinion. I’d rank him No. 1 for both the Tigers and Padres. 2. Julio Rodriguez, OF No 1: All but Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, San Diego, Pittsburgh (Ke’Bryan Hayes). Maybe: Kansas City (Bobby Witt), Toronto (Nate Pearson). I would rank Rodriguez No. 1 for Kansas City, but not Toronto. 3. Emerson Hancock, RHP No. 1: Houston Astros (Forrest Whitley), Philadelphia Phillies (Spencer Howard), Boston Red Sox (Jeter Downs, Tristan Casas), Arizona Diamondbacks (Corbin Carroll, Kristian Robinson), New York Mets (Francisco Alvarez), Los Angeles Angels (Brandon Marsh), Colorado Rockies (Zac Veen), Los Angeles Dodgers (Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray), Cincinnati Reds (Nick Lodolo), Chicago Cubs (Brailyn Marquez), Texas Rangers (Josh Jung), Milwaukee Brewers (Garrett Mitchell), Washington Nationals (Cade Cavalli). Maybe: Cleveland Indians (Nolan Jones), New York Yankees (Jasson Dominguez). I would rank Hancock ahead of both Jones and Dominguez, but it’s close to a toss-up with Jones. 4. Logan Gilbert, RHP No. 1: Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals. Maybe: Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees. I would rank Gilbert ahead of Dominguez but not Jones. It’s admittedly a toss-up at the end of the day. 5. Noelvi Marte, SS/3B No. 1: Nationals Marte would also rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, including the Brewers. He may also get the nod at No. 2 for the Rangers. 6. George Kirby, RHP No. 1: Nationals Like Marte, Kirby likely would rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, Brewers included. The Rangers wouldn’t be far off, but I think he’d slide in behind Jung and Sam Huff for now. 7. Taylor Trammell, OF Maybe: Nationals Trammell would rank No. 2 for the Nationals, if not No. 1, and would get No. consideration for the Brewers. 8. Cal Raleigh, C Raleigh wouldn’t rank No. 1 or 2 for any clubs for me, but would slide in at No. 3 for 8-12 clubs and would be Top 5 for roughly half the league. The Mariners’ No. 9 prospect, left-hander Brandon Williamson, might get into a few Top 5s, and the lowest-ranked Mariners prospect I think would have a shot to get into a Top 5 is probably Isaiah Campbell (No. 10) or Juan Then (No. 11). I see a handful of Mariners prospects ranked between 16-23 that would at least threaten some clubs Top 10. Zach DeLoach, Jonatan Clase, Austin Shenton, Sam Carlson and Andres Munoz would get into a few Top 10s and both Connor Phillips and Levi Stoudt, who have fires lit under them and should move up the ladder fast after some performance, aren’t far behind. There’s been some folks wondering why Baseball America has Seattle as the No. 2 far, system — reminder, farm rankings don’t matter — and The Athletic’s Keith Law has them at No. 13. But when taking into consideration the probability there’s little relative difference between No. 13 and No. 5, if not No. 2, it’s no longer a ‘what-in-the-world’ level inquiry. But the Mariners’ system is not perfect. They lack starting pitching depth after the top three arms, though it’s far from a bare cupboard and the likes of Williamson, Campbell, Then, Carlson, Stoudt, and Phillips can fill those gaps with some game production this summer, and there’s almost nothing up the middle. Cal Raleigh is the lone projectable big-league regular at catcher or second base, and even shortstop is empty if Marte has to slide to third, which is the prevailing belief even if not a foregone conclusions (I repeat, NOT a foregone conclusion). I also happen to disagree with Law on the Cardinals and Twins having better systems than Seattle and I’d debate Seattle has at least temporarily surpassed the Dodgers and Padres. I think the Diamondbacks, ranked No. 5 by Law, is the most overrated system on Law’s list, but that’s just my opinion.
We’re eight months from the end of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, and a lot will happen between now and then. One of those things is movement in the prospect ranks. Players develop at different paces, others will graduate, and new ones will be added to each club’s farm system. Aside from the ultimate additions in July — International free agents, the draft, deadline trades — let’s take a look at how the Seattle Mariners’ Top 10 Prospects might look. I expect two players currently in the Top 10 to graduate, and it’s possible a third, Taylor Trammell, and a fourth, Cal Raleigh, also exceed the 130 at-bat limits to maintain rookie and prospect status, and I’m going to assume both do. The other six — Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Hancock, Noelvi Marte, George Kirby, Brandon Williamson and Isaiah Campbell will remain prospects through 2021. There’s a chance the club’s first-round pick (No. 12) and top international signing could factor in, but for this exercise I will make no assumptions. This is just hypothetical in every way, so, try not to take this too seriously, eh? No. 1 Julio Rodriguez, RF Rodriguez should be challenged in the upper minors this season, starting in Double-A Arkansas, but it’s difficult to see him show anything but progress, even if the numbers may not always scream it. No. 2 Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock’s full arsenal and command should allow him to cruise into Double-A, perhaps by season’s end if there are enough innings in the plan. No. 3 George Kirby, RHP Kirby doesn’t have the raw stuff of Hancock or Logan Gilbert at this stage, but he might be able to command-and-feel his way through High-A West, and I expect more mid-90s heat. No. 4 Noelvi Marte, SS/3B Marte has as much room to show out as anyone on this list, but there’s also a strong possibility he runs into a few hurdles at the plate and doesn’t move quite as quick through Low-A West as Rodriguez did the Sally League back in 2019. No. 5 Brandon Williamson, LHP A consistently-plus curveball with more velocity than he showed over 15.1 innings in Everett two summers ago would offer a more bullish projection for the left-hander. No. 6 Juan Then, RHP There are questions about Then’s future role, but the last time he was on a mound he was 91-95 mph with an average slider. There are signs he’s sharpened the breaking ball to significant levels and gas camp has offered at least another tick. If he holds most of the velocity deep into starts and his changeup flashes viable or better, he’ll shoot up the ranks. No. 7 Zach DeLoach, OF DeLoach lacks a standout tool, but his best attributes are strike zone judgment, swing consistency, and athleticism, all of which should play well in either Low-A West or High-A West. No. 8 Levi Stoudt, RHP Nearly two years off Tommy John and having yet to throw a pitch in a professional game, there’s reason to curb expectations. But the fastball-changeup combo is good enough to dominate Low-A West. An average breaker and he could see Everett for a bit. No. 9 Isaiah Campbell, RHP Campbell’s fastball-changeup is competitive and his slider should be a weapon for him against Class-A bats, but the development of his slider and/or curveball is key to his future. No. 10 Jonatan Clase, CF I guess Clase is my guy. He’s raw at the plate and unrefined in the field, but he’s a 70 runner with bat speed and some present ability to work the zone. He’ll turn 19 in May, but if he sees full-season ball it’s a great sign.
With Major League Baseball, betting can be about the winner of the game, a game prop like ‘will there be a run scored in the first inning?’, a player prop (total hits in a game by a player), or a Futures bet, which is season-long totals of team or player statistics, including wins, or picking division, league or World Series winners. With a month left before Opening Day, I went and checked the Updated World Series odds and found some interesting lines and odds. Here are my favorites by bet type. To Win 2021 World Series New York Mets +1200 (bet $100 to $1200) Minnesota Twins +2200 Toronto Blue Jays +1800 San Diego Padres +700 Atlanta Braves +1000 Even a $100 bet to $300 on the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers seems worth a stab. To Win 2021 American League Pennant Tampa Bay Rays +900 Minnesota Twins +800 I even like +2000 on the Los Angeles Angels. They’re motivated to keep adding to their roster and they may have the ultimate Wild Card to help with their greatest weakness with Shohei Ohtani likely to pitch some this season. To Win 2021 National League Pennant San Diego Padres +425 Atlanta Braves +600 New York Mets +550 And the Washington Nationals +2500? Seriously? With all that returning talent and a chance to be a lot healthier? Worth the $100 risk. To Win 2021 American League East Tampa Bay Rays +450 The Rays have a chance to be better than last year’s team with Randy Arozarena up to start the year, Austin Meadows healthy and just as much pitching talent as ever. To Win 2021 American League West Los Angeles Angels +360 To Win 2021 National League Central Milwaukee Brewers +375 Often, a club is held to a standard somewhat set by the previous year’s success or lack thereof. The Brewers are better on paper and will start 2021 healthy. Worth the bet. To Win 2021 National League East Washington Nationals +650 New York Mets to Make 2021 Playoffs No: +170 Yes, I’m betting out of both side of my mouth — that’s how it works. This is too good of a bet — risk $100 to win $170 — considering how difficult the NL East is likely to be. New York Yankees to Make 2021 Playoffs No: +550 Same story — too good a bet. It’s also worth mentioning the Yankees’ volatile roster with big-name injury and performance unknowns littering the organization. To Lead MLB in Home Runs in 2021 Yordan Alvarez, +2000 Take this bet. Do it. Bryce Harper, +2000 Cody Bellinger, +1300 Mike Trout, +1000 To Win 2021 AL CY Young Gerrit Cole, +325 To Win 2021 NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom, +450 Max Scherzer, +700 Yu Darvish, +1000 Jack Flaherty, +1500 Max Fried, +1800 To Win 2021 AL MVP Mike Trout, +230 DJ LeMahieu, +3000 Yordan Alvarez, +4000 To Win 2021 NL MVP Juan Soto, +850 Christian Yelich, +1500 Cody Bellinger, +850 Bryce Harper, +2000 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Strikeouts in 2021 Yu Darvish, +1200 Jacob deGrom, +525 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Hits in 2021 Francisco Lindor, +2000 Bo Bichette, +2200 Tim Anderson, +2200 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Saves in 2021 Liam Hendriks, +750 Edwin Diaz, +1000
As the Seattle Mariners prepare for the 2021 season — Year 3 of the rebuild — let’s look three years ahead to what things might look like as a result of improved scouting and development under GM Jerry Dipoto. A couple of notes first: Contract length and team control years are taken into consideration. For example, Kendall Graveman‘s contract expires at season’s end and he will then qualify for free agency. Therefore, he will not be included in the following projections. Contract Options will be exercised in reasonable situations, such as Marco Gonzales‘ $15 million option for 2024. No additions will be made by any route except organic growth through the existing farm system. No trades, no free agents, no future draft picks or international signings. Age listed below is on Opening Day 2024 ‘Contract’ reflects current contract length, full years of service, or arbitration status entering the season. * denotes contract has further options I chose 2024, three years out, rather than two, to demonstrate how strong the club’s organic growth could be, even that far down the road. Vast improvement without using up a lot of assets is often a precursor to deep playoff runs. Ask the Astros, Braves, Cubs, Cleveland, Twins and many others. ROTATION POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT SP1 Emerson Hancock 24 1.0 SP2 Logan Gilbert 26 2.0 SP3 Marco Gonzales 32 THRU ’24 SP4 George Kirby 26 1.0 SP5 Justus Sheffield 27 ARB2 Gilbert is going to be the first of the future crop of arms to get to the big leagues, but Hancock carries the biggest upside. Brandon Williamson, Levi Stoudt, Sam Carlson, Isaiah Campbell, Adam Macko, and Juan Then will be in consideration by 2024 and could unseat one of the above 5, or replace them if the club trades one or, in Marco Gonzales’ case, declines the option. Sheffield could fit in a relief role if he’s unseated in the rotation. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT CL Andres Munoz 25 ARB2 SU Juan Then 24 2.0 SU Levi Stoudt 26 2.0 SU Isaiah Campbell 26 2.0 For this exercise today I am projecting Then, Stoudt, and Campbell to the bullpen. Connor Phillips could end up there and be a factor by ’24, too, and both Wyatt Mills and Sam Delaplane could remain factors. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT 1B Evan White 27 *THRU ’25 2B Dylan Moore 31 ARB3 3B Noelvi Marte 22 R SS J.P. Crawford 29 ARB4 C Cal Raleigh 27 2.0 LF Jarred Kelenic 24 2.0 CF Kyle Lewis 28 ARB2 RF Julio Rodriguez 23 1.0 DH Ty France 29 ARB2 Neither Moore nor Crawford are the best bets to still be around. There remains an outside chance Marte sticks at shortstop, which could open third base for Austin Shenton or Ty France, the two best in-house bets to man the position in 2022 and 2023. Milkar Perez may be in the third-base picture by 2024. Shed Long could be a factor at second base, followed by Kaden Polcovich. Taylor Trammell and Zach DeLoach will be in play in the outfield before 2024.
Before we discuss the best tools in the Seattle Mariners organization, let me declare something here: I left a lot of 60-grade tools and pitches on the cutting room floor, and a few 70 fastballs. There are more 70-grade and 60-grade tools in the Top 40 this year than I’ve ever seen in my now-18 years scouting and ranking Mariners prospects. At the height of the Jack Zduriencik era in terms of farm systems — 2013 when they ranked top 10 by most outlets, No. 8 by Keith Law — when the likes of Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, Nick Franklin, and James Paxton were all Top 100 prospects by most accounts. Looking back at my 2013 spreadsheets for Mariners rankings, Walker had the best OFP at 55, followed by Hulzen at 54, Zunino and Paxton at 52, and Franklin at 50.5. Brad Miller came in at 50, Brandon Maurer at 47.5, Luiz Gohara at 45, Gabriel Guerrero at 45 and Julio Morban at 44. In order, that entire group of 10 would rank like this. 5. Walker 6. Hultzen 8. Zunino, Paxton 11. Franklin 14. Miller 17. Maurer (tied) 22. Gohara, Guerrero (tied) 26. Morban (tied) And that was the best year under the previous regime. Want to compare to the year Dipoto took over in Seattle? Here it is against this year’s group: 4. Kyle Lewis 9. Tyler O’Neill 14. Nick Neidert 16. Drew Jackson 22. D.J. Peterson 24. Chris Torres 26. Max Povse 27. Braden Bishop 28. Daniel Vogelbach 32. Brayan Hernandez This was the club’s Top 10 entering the 2016 season. More context: In 2013 — again, Zduriencik’s best farm system by most accounts (maybe all) — My No. 23 prospect was LHP Jordan Shipers, with a 39.5 grade. Right now I have to go 42 prospects deep to get below 40.0. There are lots of 40.0s in the 30s and 40s, but it doesn’t dip below until No. 49, catcher Matt Scheffler. This system has changed. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Hit Jarred Kelenic 70 Zach DeLoach and Austin Shenton share runners-up honors, but Kelenic is the best hitter in the system. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Power Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic, Noelvi Marte, and Starling Aguilar each have 60-grade power at varying stages of development, but Tyler Keenan grades out somewhere between the aforementioned trip and Rodriguez’s 70. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Athlete Jonatan Clase N/A Kelenic is in this conversation, as is Marte, but Trammell is the runner-up behind Clase, whose 70 speed and electric, quick-twitch actions give him a chance to stick in center for the long haul. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Outfield Arm Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic and Braden Bishop, among others, come in around grade-60, but no one seriously threatens Rodriguez’s crown here. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Catcher Cal Raleigh 55 Carter Bins isn’t far behind in tools but Raleigh is more advanced at this stage. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Infield Arm Milkar Perez 70 Marte has a 60-grade arm, Aguilar too, but Juan Querecuto rivals Perez’s 70-grade. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Infielder Juan Querecuto 60 Querecuto is still raw at the plate but is instinctual in the field, has very good hands and feet, and that big arm to finish off plays. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defense Outfielder Braden Bishop 70 Bishop’s heart rate is undetectable as he plays center field, showing elite routes and tracking skills and very good jumps. He also has a good arm. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastest Baserunner Jonatan Clase 70 Despite going from 155 pounds to the 185 range since he last took the field in the DSL in 2019, Clase still is explosive with his first step and accelerates to game-changing speed within a few steps. He might not hold this crown a year from now with the club’s international efforts recently, but no one else is all that close at the moment. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastball Andres Munoz 80 Prior to his elbow surgery, Munoz sat 96-100 mph and touched 103 mph in his short time in the big leagues. Of the 185 fastballs he’s thrown in MLB, 128 have registered at 100 mph or higher. Oh, and the pitch has life and run, too. **shrugs** If we split it up between pitching roles, Logan Gilbert would get the honor for starters thanks to life and run on what projects to average around 94 mph. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Curveball Sam Delaplane 65 Gilbert and Brandon Williamson would win the award for starters, and Williamson’s breaker has room to surpass both. Delaplane’s is a tight-spinning power curveball with late downward break, capable of generating whiffs in the big leagues. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Slider Emerson Hancock 60 Yohan Ramirez has the best slider among relievers, but Hancock’s 60-grade can be dominant when he’s tunnelling with his fastball and changeup. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Changeup Levi Stoudt 60 Hancock’s changeup belongs in the conversation for runner-up, but Stoudt has a chance at an eventual 70-grade dead fish. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Control George Kirby 70 Kirby has plus-plus control and plus command of his fastball and uses the skills to attack the entire zone and beyond with purpose.
POSTED: No. 2 — Julio Rodriguez, RF POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-10 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 1. Jarred Kelenic, OF Kelenic brings strength, speed, instincts, power and hitting to the field daily, and has performed well since Day 1 after the New York Mets tabbed him at No. 6 overall in 2018. Fun Note: Former one-time Prospect Insider writer Chris Hervey is credited as Kelenic’s signing scout. The left-handed batter has flashed plus hitting skills, including good plate coverage and an advanced ability to dissect situational counts. The swing is short, the bat speed is plus and it results in a powerful, compact swing he trusts versus good velocity. Combined with his ability to make consistent hard contact and find the barrel, Kelenic may be able to get to and beyond 30 home runs. He’s always done a good job avoiding the chase, but in Modesto in 2019 showed a tendency to lean out and over the plate for something to drive, which in turn made it more difficult to get to hard stuff up and/or in — pitches that ended up on his hands, yet in the zone. Kelenic’s instincts in the batter’s box are very good, and he’s already adept at using the middle of the field. He’s yet to see a steady diet of big velo and ungodly breaking balls — the best pitching he’s seen came against his own teammates last summer — but he’s been astute at avoiding getting longer with his swing, allowing him to battle effectively. He’s a plus runner with enough range to handle center, at least for the first several years of his career, but the Mariners pushed him primarily to left field at the Alternate Training Site where he was asked to clean up some basics. Despite the present speed, Kelenic has added size and strength and likely will continue down that path, so he may end up above-average, instead, suggesting he’s not likely to swipe a lot of bags, though he reads pitchers well and offers well above-average value on the bases. Kelenic’s offensive future is bright, but whether he’s a star or merely a solid player may depend on if he can remain disciplined with his game plan and let the power happen as a result of a premium swing. A power-driven approach means decreased contacts rates, therefore a strain on his batting average and on-base percentage. If he can stay within his strengths, we may be staring down a .320 hitter capable of 40 doubles and 30 homers. Despite recent even in the Mariners organization regarding service time manipulation, Kelenic is likely to start 2021 in Tripe-A Tacoma where he would receive valuable time versus a varied lot of experienced pitching. It’s easy to forget he’s played just 17 games above the California League and won’t be 22 years of age until July. If he indeed misses out on an Opening-Day assignment with the parent club, his time in Tacoma could be anywhere from 2-8 weeks, which heavier emphasis on the short side. Kelenic currently represents the Mariners’ best chance at a superstar. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Matt Holliday MEDIAN: Trot Nixon FLOOR: Troy O’Leary Sure, Holliday is a right-handed batter and was bigger than Kelenic, but he was an underrated athlete who played a strong left field in his prime, and the dude raked. Granted, he represents the ceiling projection for Kelenic, but he did post three 6-win season, one of them a 7-win effort, plus three other 4-win years and two seasons of 3-plus wins. I’ve seen some Grady Sizemore comps for Kelenic, and those fit in a lot of ways, too, but such a comp doesn’t represent Kelenic’s hit tool nearly well enough, which is the same reason I don’t like the Bryce Harper comp some have broached, nor Lance Berkman comp due to defense and baserunning. Kelenic is better defensively than Holliday, and may get a chance to play some center field, where he projects at least as good as Mike Trout, potentially increasing his chances to compete for an MVP in his prime. Nixon posted four seasons of 3-plus wins, two others at more than 2.5 and peaked in 2003 at 5.0 fWAR. He had problems staying on the field, but posted a career .274/.364/.464 triple-slash, serving as a promising median comp for Kelenic. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 65 60+ 55 55 60 60.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 2 Julio Rodriguez RF 2022 POWER AA 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 2. Julio Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez has done nothing but hit since a Tim Kissner-led Mariners Lat Am scouting department signed him nearly five years ago out of the Dominican Republic. The only problem is he’s amassed just 547 at-bats between the DSL, Sally League and his 17-game stint in Advanced-A Modesto to end 2019. The tools are loud, starting with 70 raw power and evidence he’ll make consistent enough contact to tale advantage. He’s a bit pull happy entering 2021, but has hit searing line drives to the middle of the field in BP and occasionally in games. His hand-eye is high-end and there’s bat speed to spare. In favorable counts versus lower-level arms he’s destroyed velocity and shown an improved ability to stay back on soft stuff. But there’s still work to do in this department, and better pitching may give him fits early. Despite the propensity to get himself out, he was a teenager playing at both full-season Class-A leagues the last time there were minor league games, and he still found a way to rake, including more than one dominating tear. The right-handed hitter does have a ways to go to be considered a surefire impact bat in the big leagues, which is why it’s more difficult to project him as such as easy as it is for the club’s No. 1 prospect. Rodriguez’s tendency to leak out as he stalks pitches results in some front-foot swings, opening him up for offspeed stuff and a relentless attack of the outer edge. His swing has at least one or two unnecessary parts to it, but he’s already made similar fixes the past few years, so I’m not overly concerned by its existence after 143 professional games. Athletically, the now-20-year-old has lost a step or so as he’s filled out — he was 180 pounds when he signed and was up over 220 last spring — reducing his foot speed to about average, which pushes him to right field regularly where he’s shown instincts and a 70-grade arm with accuracy. He’ll likely end up a fringe-average runner, but he does a lot of things well defensively that should help him stick for years. His makeup is off the charts and the kid oozes personality, including a persistent smile, giving him a great chance to be the darling, fan-favorite of the club’s top young players. If you’d never seen Rodriguez before in your life — live, video or a simple photo, you could pick him out in a ballpark full of baseball players, because he’d be the one having the most fun and making sure everyone within miles know about it. If he can improve his ability to cover the whole strike zone and use more of the field, the ceiling here is very high, up to and including a non-zero chance at MVP-caliber seasons in his prime, led by tons of extra-base power. He’s still a few years away, most likely, but Rodriguez has the physical tools and fortitude to compete and develop in a league where he’s among the youngest players, which will be the case from the get-go this spring. Rodriguez is likely slated for Double-A Arkansas where he’ll see pitchers 2-6 years his senior, offering the kind of examination he needs to take the next steps. I’m not sure how likely it is he sees Tacoma before year’s end, but Rodriguez isn’t your typical 20-year-old. ETA: 2022 MLB COMPS CEILING: Jim Rice MEDIAN: Danny Tartabull FLOOR: Jonny Gomes Rice won an MVP in 1978 and finished Top 5 on five other occasions, posting five 5-win seasons, two of them 6-win efforts and a 7.7 fWAR campaign when he won the American League MVP. Rice also had a cannon in right field and used instincts and routes to provide value in the field. Rodriguez has tools and a skills trend that suggest something similar is at least plausible. His profile-changer is the hit tool. I project average to above-average ability to hit for average and get on base — .265-.270, .330-.340 OBP — to support the power, but there’s a path for .280-.290 and .370-plus on-base marks, which could get him into some MVP conversations down the line. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 55+ 65+ 50 45 70 58.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Saturday: No. 2, No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 3. Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock has yet to throw a professional pitch but entered last spring as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the draft. A few hiccups along the way pushed him down to the Mariners at No. 6, including two below-average starts of the four he made before his season was shut down in March. He also suffered a Lat strain in April his sophomore year, finishing unevenly. There are questions about his fastball, but not significant concerns; it’s a natural-sinking fastball he throws with plane and has yet to learn to attack the top of the zone in order to get more swings and misses from the pitch. But he’s comfortably 93-95 mph and up to 99 and generates some run to his arm side, which helps set up his secondaries. His best offspeed stuff includes an above-average changeup that flashes plus or better and can generate whiffs as he buries it off the fastball, and a sharp slider that darts down and away from right-handed batters and at the back foot of lefties. His curveball projects well, but like Gilbert it’s not likely to become an out pitch, instead a good weapon early in counts and versus left-handed bats to keep them off the straight stuff. Hancock is a superior athlete with a fluid, repeatable delivery, finishing strong and inline from a slightly-below three quarters arm slot. He stays closed and employs his lower half well, generating an aggressive, long stride toward the plate, yet stays on top well to keep everything on plane or with downward break. His sound mechanics help him throw strikes with his entire arsenal, and pitch effectively to both sides of the plate with the fastball. His plus control should lead to with plus command. Hancock profiles as a very good No. 3, but there’s a relatively strong chance he ends up a No. 2 with some dominant traits, including two out pitches and a fastball capable of generating ground balls as well as swings and misses when he attacks at or above the hands. If things work out right, Hancock is a strikeout pitcher with some solid-average ground ball tendencies, though some of the latter could be tempered by the club’s attempts to get more from his velocity high in the zone. Hancock probably headed for Everett to start 2021 and with some workload limits, but I expect him to move quickly through the middle of the minors and put himself in the big-league conversation in a year, year and a half, suggesting Opening Day 2023 is a real possibility, sans service time manipulation. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: Carlos Carrasco MEDIAN: Pete Harnisch FLOOR: Jeremy Guthrie While Hancock and Carrasco are built differently now, there are some similarities in body, style, and especially (potential) performance. Carrasco uses a two-seamer to mix up the fastball and gain varying movement, something Hancock does, at present, with the four-seamer, but both pitchers use slider-changeup before curveball, but have the slower of the two breakers in their hip pocket. Carrasco has three 5-win seasons despite being unable to remain fully healthy most of his prime, so keep that in mind when wondering if Carrasco is the right comp. There’s 6-win upside here with Hancock. His edge over Gilbert is minimal, but real, despite the No. 4 prospect holding edges in present probability and ETA, as well as projected fastball value. Hancock carries more ceiling, yet not a lot more risk in spite of all of the above. He’s a better athlete, too, and even with the 2020 MiLB season being canceled got deeper into his development sooner than did Gilbert. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (93-97) 60 (80-84) 50+ (76-79) 60+ (83-86) 60 56.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 4. Logan Gilbert, RHP Simply put, Gilbert looks the part of a frontline arm capable of logging 120 pitches per start and covering 200-plus innings per season. He uses his 6-foot-6 frame to drive the ball downhill and pitch with life up in the zone, displaying a vertical attack unmatched in the system. The fastball is up to 96 mph, cruising 92-95 with armside run. His best secondary is a low-80s slider that flashes plus and works well off the four-seamer and in tandem with his average to above-average knuckle curveball which comes in at 74-77. Gilbert’s changeup is fringe-average at present, flashes above average and could end up a plus offering in time. His consistent arm speed and use of his lower half to finish strong out front helps everything play up, but the changeup may benefit most. His delivery is consistent, making him a safe bet to throw strikes consistently, and having come to pro ball nearly three years ago with average command there’s a good chance he ends up in the plus range. Gilbert won’t overpower hitters with velocity, but he should get good fastball value from its movement and his ability to fill up all quadrants of the zone. His ability to use his entire arsenal projects for some success immediately upon his arrival in the major leagues. He’s yet to show his best stuff for an extended period, since Gilbert has managed just 135 professional innings — thanks to an illness the summer he was drafted and the cancellation of the MiLB season a year ago — and they all came during the 2019 campaign across three levels. He’s 24 in May and around 225 pounds, so there’s no meaningful physical growth remaining, but the package of stuff, projectable durability, and command suggest a good No. 3 starter, with a chance for a little more depending on the further development of his changeup. The former first-round pick is ready to face big-league bats, and should get that chance early in 2021, whether it be in May or right from the get-go as a member of the club’s six-man rotation. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Chris Carpenter MEDIAN: Andy Benes FLOOR: Trevor Cahill Pitch development and command can be improved, and both can be developed beyond present projections. If either happens for Gilbert his comps could change along with them, though Carpenter peaked as a 6-win starter and posted two other 5-win seasons and a 4.5-win campaign, so that’s a pretty darned good ceiling comp for the Mariners here. I do wonder, however, if there might be another tick of velocity coming, perhaps enough to get him more consistently into the mid-90s, which also can be a profile-altering development. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (92-96) 55+ (81-85) 55 (74-77) 55 (85-87) 50+ 55.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners 5. Noelvi Marte, SS As Marte has added strength and now looks the part of a corner bar with plus power. While it’s not out of the question he sticks at shortstop — I’d put the chances at 10-15% — most signs point to the 19-year-old eventually moving to the hot corner where his plus arm, good footwork and projectable range fit the hot corner well. He’s still a ways away, but there’s a lot to like about Marte’s ability to get the bat head out front, use the middle of the field, and cover the zone both vertically and horizontally. The bat speed is plus and he generates natural leverage. The swing is free and easy and he’s developed a better two-strike swing since signing nearly three years ago, including simplified usage of his lower half. As a result, Marte’s ability to stay back on soft stuff, yet trust his hands suggests advanced hitting skills and a projectable hit tool. While I’m not quite as bullish on the hit tool as some, at lest not with so little experience and no live look for yours truly, I do buy the raw power and its chances to reach beyond plus levels and eventually show up in games, and from right-center to the left-field line. Marte projects to play everyday, likely at third base, and hit 20-30 home runs with above-average batting averages and on-base marks. Since he’s still maturing physically, the power grade is a bit fluid, and he may end up merely an average runner despite being scouted a burner at 16. He’ll likely start 2021 in Modesto to work on making more consistent contact versus better pitching. There’s a chance he earns his way to Everett this summer. Considering at least two of the club’s Top 5 prospects project to graduate in 2021, Marte likely ends the season in the Top 3. It’s not out of the question he’s the club’s No. 1 prospect by July, and a Top 40 prospect in baseball by September. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: David Wright MEDIAN: Bill Hall FLOOR: Willy Aybar As Marte gains experience, advances through the minors and becomes more skill-oriented rather than a tools-based prospect, his floor and median comps will increase in value, though both are relatively high considering his lack of experience at timeline. Marte’s ceiling comp could get better, too, specifically in the power department. Among the most optimistic and aggressive comps I’ve heard this winter include Matt Williams, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Bregman. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN OFP 55+ 60+ 50 60 50+ 53 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A