The Seattle Mariners 2021 Draft class is developing into a very nice haul. It’s expected their top three picks all will sign, and through Monday had officially signed 14 of their top 20 selections for under $1.6 million, or 18.6% of their bonus pool of $8.526 million. No. 12 overall pick Harry Ford is expected to sign for exactly slot at $4.3664 million, which takes the total remaining to $2.78 million and four players left unsigned. The slot value for second-round pick Edwin Arroyo (No, 48 overall) is $1.5436 million, which would leave about $1.23 million to sign third-round pick Michael Morales, 11th-round pick Will Fleming, 19th-round pick Charlie Welch, and 20th rounder Troy Taylor. I was told over the weekend Welch, a catcher from Arkansas, had come to terms with the Mariners, but the bonus remains unknown at this stage. Arroyo could be an under-slot signing, though it may not be a significantly lower number. If it’s exactly slot for the shortstop, Morales can get done, but there’s a chance Fleming and Taylor will not. The Mariners can go over their bonus pool by up to 4.99% without risking the forfeiture of future picks (they’d pay a 75% tax on the overage) if they choose. Arroyo’s or Morales’ number, once we learn it, will be telling in terms of whether or signing each remaining selection is realistic. Here are some scouting notes on each of the signed players, including Welch, even though he’s not official just yet. Charlie Welch, C — Arkansas (19) Welch is best known for his late-game, late-season heroics at the plate, but his future largely depends on his ability behind the dish. He didn’t start much and is known as “Dr. Pinch Hitter”, but “the bat speed plays,” and there’s athleticism on which to build a defensive foundation. He struggled overall two years ago on the Cape after his freshman season, but flashed power and showed patience at the plate. Riley Davis, RHP — Alabama-Birmingham (18) Davis projects as a middle reliever with average stuff and command, up to 93 mph with a sweeping slider from a deceptive low arm slot. There are some delivery questions, which if answered, could suggest upside. Jimmy Kingsbury, RHP — Villanova (17) Good athlete with a fastball that’s creeped into the mid-90s at times and a slider that in short stints flashes above average. Jimmy Joyce, RHP — Hofstra (16) Up to 94 mph and comfortable sitting 89-91, Joyce employs a long arm path and some less-than-ideal overall mechanics, but the data on his fastball (vertical approach angle) suggest fastball potential. Joyce doesn’t bring any physical projection to pro ball, but everything else suggests a chance at a big-league package, likely out of the bullpen. Cole Barr, 3B — Indiana (15) Barr has a plus arm that fits anywhere on the diamond, but he’s limited to third base and potentially a corner outfield spot if the bat plays. He has some pop, but has work to do in order to generate better contact rates. Andrew Moore, RHP — Chipola (14) Moore looks the part of a big-league arm, and he’s flashed a plus to plus-plus fastball up to 99 mph with data to back it up, namely big-time vertical life. His slider has flashed as a swing-and-miss pitch and projects well in a relief role where it can play off the huge velocity and fastball value. Ben Ramirez, 3B — USC (13) Ramirez’s best tool is above average raw power generated with good leverage. It’s almost exclusively pull power, however, and there are legitimate and long-term concerns about his ability to make consistent contact and hit for average. “Maybe he’s kind of like Brad Miller after he fights through early-career struggles and finds a role,” said one area scout. Corey Rosier, OF — UNC Greensboro (12) Rosier is a good athlete with one of the better eyes at the plate among mid-major bats in the entire class. He projects to below-average power but has produced extra-base pop in games. His defensive skills and footspeed suggest a solid chance to stay in center. “Nothing blows you away but he does a lot of things well enough to notice. He has good instincts everywhere. I could see him as a fourth outfielder, like a Marvin Benard.” Jordan Jackson, RHP — Georgia Southern (10) He’s only 88-91 now, but at 6-foot-6 and 210 pounds carries projection into a Mariners system that has found ways to add significant velocity to arms with far less projectable frames. There’s a 40-grade slider and 30-grade changeup in the repertoire, but this is a piece of clay, and the Mariners may start from scratch. Spencer Packard, OF — Campbell (9) Packard is a corner outfielder with a seasoned hit tool driven by a natural line-drive swing and good plate coverage. The bat speed here is fringe-average, however, and he’s an average runner, so a ton is riding on his ability to identify pitches, make great swing decisions and post high contact rates. James Parker, SS — Clemson (8) Parker is one of the interesting players from the club’s 10 Day-2 selections. He can handle shortstop right now and has the arm to stick, but the intrigue is in the quick, whippy swing that generated average power this past spring. “It’s a little tougher to see the bat playing regularly,” said an area scout, “but the spikes in performance make an impact so there’s a place to start. I like him at second, and his arm could play in a utility role, which may be a safer place to project him offensively, anyway.” Colin Davis, OF — Wofford (7) “He’s gamer with instincts and a high-energy approach,” said one crosschecker. “There’s strength there and some athleticism, but the swing needs a lot of work, which could take time… Defensively I don’t mind him in center, maybe I’m a little high on him in the field.” Bryan Woo, RHP — Cal Poly (6) Woo is a physical right-hander with easy velocity into the mid-90s, and scouts believe there may very well be more there. He’s learned to use his lower half better, but there’s room for a more athletic kick and drive. The breaking ball is a projectable tight slider that works well with his four-seamer that rides in on right-handed batters when he finishes well out front. He’s almost certainly a bullpen arm, and Woo won’t pitch until next summer after April Tommy John, but the velocity potential offers a chance to move quickly once the slider settles. Andy Thomas, C — Baylor (5) “I don’t love his chances back there,” a checker said of Thomas’ ability behind the plate. “But the bat? There might be something there.” Thomas’ power exploded in 2021 versus good competition, showing good bat speed. Mechanically, there are some issues with how he uses his hands and how that might impact his ability to make enough contact in pro ball. Bryce Miller, RHP — Texas A&M (4) Miller is my favorite Day-2 pick. He’s flashed velocity into the 95-97 mph range, and up to 98 as a reliever, but in a starting tole impressed this spring holding his 92-94 mph velocity deep into games, and still showing he can get to 97 on occasion. There are two breaking balls here, led by a projectable curveball, and his changeup has a chance thanks to good arm speed. “Quality arm with a solid floor as a bulk reliever, but he’s new to full-time rotation work. It’s too bad he didn’t have another year there (A&M), he might have ended up a lot higher (in next year’s draft).” I like Miller’s athleticism and loose arm, and even average control gives him a shot to be a No. 4 starter. Michael Morales, RHP — East Pennsboro HS (Pa.) “The kid can pitch,” said a former GM and special assistant. “He may just be scratching the surface. I had him up to 92 and mostly 88-89… easy… movement… and he gets more from it with arm action. I was comfortable writing him up as a future 3-4 based . I put a late-2nd (round grade) on him.” If you watch video on Morales you may get some Logan Gilbert vibes (not a comp) with his arm action and deception, and despite lacking prototypical size (he’s 6-foot-2, 200 pounds), the fastball projects well long-term. Add to that the Mariners’ penchant for adding velocity and it also feels like a prep edition of the George Kirby selection in 2019. He settled in at 88-90 most starts, but scouts have seen him 92-93 for stretches, and there’s a clear path to more, suggesting a mid-rotation ceiling. Edwin Arroyo, SS — Central Pointe Christian Academy (Fla.) Arroyo is a switch hitter with more upside as a lefty, including a chance for average power down the road, but he enters the system an athlete with a plus arm and defensive chops at shortstop who needs experience and work at the plate. The swing path needs some help staying true, and while he’s not a burner he’s an above-average runner with some bat control and great hands. You have to dream a bit, and Arroyo is a long-term prospect, but the reward could be an above-average shortstop with a 50-grade bat, not far off that of current Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford, with Asdrubal Cabrera upside. Harry Ford, C — North Cobb HS (Ga.) Ford boasts above-average tools across the board, including 60-grade speed, throw and defense, power that stretches to at least plus, and a present hit tool with a clean route to hitting for plenty of average. Once you push aside the inherent risk that comes with prep catchers and evaluate Ford as a bat and athlete, the picture starts to look clearer. In other words, Ford is a unicorn. His physical tools suggest several potential defensive options, including center field and second base, but if I had to bet right now I’d wager third base or catcher. Ford ranks No. 5 in my prospect rankings and has as much chance to shoot to No. 1in the next year-plus as anyone in the system. Projecting 2023 I just thought this would be a fun exercise, but there must be rules, so here they are: 1. No free agents. We know there will be some, but predicting them is a loser’s game, so we’ll stay away for the purpose of painting a potential future picture or three. 2. No trades. Same reason. 3. My prospect rankings and all that goes into them — upside and floor, risk and probability — the current big-league roster, and each player’s contract situation produces the portraits below. I will take only reasonable liberties, such as tendering arbitration contracts and exercising team options. Emerson Hancock should be knocking on the door at this point, too, and if he breaks through it the Mariners have a nice problem of ‘too many starters.’ If Kikuchi doesn’t look the part over the final two months, his four-year option becomes highly questionable again, which puts his team control in some doubt. Brandon Williamson and Matt Brash are currently pacing ahead of Kirby and Hancock in terms of ETA , and may beat the higher-ranked pair to the majors, but one or both could land in the bullpen ultimately, or simply be displaced late in ’22 or early in ’23 by their more talented org mates. In two years, Andres Munoz, Brash, Williamson, Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, Levi Stoudt, and Isaiah Campbell could litter the bullpen.
Here’s the new Top 25. Notes Taylor Trammell, Jake Fraley, Robert Dugger, and Anthony Misiewicz have graduated and no longer qualify. As always, this is not a ranking of the most likely players to make the majors, to stay in the majors, or the highest ceiling, and the rankings are not based heavily on ETA. The difference between No. 8 and No. 14, for example, isn’t large. Neither is the difference between No. 15 and No. 29. Players with current injuries or injury histories likely rank lower than they otherwise would, so if you’re wondering, that’s often a factor. Players in the majors still qualify if they have yet to surpass the 130 ABs or 50 innings pitched limits, as ridiculous and arbitrary as those thresholds are, so Logan Gilbert remains ranked. Jarred Kelenic, OF Kelenic’s struggles in the big leagues didn’t expose long-term concerns, it merely showed he hadn’t received the kind of experience and development to help him get through such a stretch. High-end bat speed, hand-eye, bat-to-ball, swing consistency and above-average athleticism still point to a potential star. He’ll be back in the majors later this summer. Julio Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez is the best power bat in the system and isn’t all that far behind Kelenic overall, though he does come with more concerns about the hit tool. He’s just been promoted to Double-A Arkansas and while Jerry Dipoto won’t rule out a September call-up, I think it’d be foolish to take such a risk for a mere 120 PAs and limited upside. Rodriguez’s ETA remains more 2022, even if he does get a cup of coffee in a few months. Logan Gilbert, RHS Gilbert’s showing exactly why the club was as confident in him as any young player they have had in Dipoto’s time with the Mariners. He’s up to 97mph with front-side deception, an above-average slider, 45-50 curveball he hasn’t thrown much of late, and a changeup he’s gaining confidence in that’s flashed plus. He’s an easy No. 3 with a chance for more — just as we thought on Draft day three years ago. Noelvi Marte, SS Marte has moved up a spot since February based on his display of 60-grade power and improved plate discipline. He’ll still chase some, and isn’t going to stick at shortstop, but he flashes enough leather and arm to suggest he can stay on the dirt and offer well above-average offensive production. Whether or not he sees High-A West remains to be seen, but that league is blessed with a lot more stuffy arms than Low-A West, so the club should be cautious with the decision, since there’s nothing wrong with a 19-year-old spending all year in Low-A in his first stateside season. Emerson Hancock, RHS I’m not down on Hancock in the least, but Marte simply overtook him for the No. 4 spot, and Gilbert’s success in the majors made the 3-spot a no-brainer for him. The club’s 2020 first rounder has worked his way to starter workload and looked good last week in Tri-City where I laid eyes on him live for the first time. The mid-90s velo is easy, the arm speed is elite for a starter and he showed all four pitches, including a plus changeup and two average or better breaking balls. Because he made just four starts in college last spring and went 14 months without pitching in a competitive environment, Hancock may spend all summer in Everett, but his combo of stuff and command strongly suggest he can get consistent outs in Double-A right now, so don’t let a lack of a promotion tell you anything meaningful if he indeed remains in High-A all season. Baseball Things subscribers can hear my full audio scouting report on Stoudt right here! Not a subscriber yet? Change that here for $5/month. Cal Raleigh, C Like Marte, Raleigh moved up based on high-level, consistent performance at the plate, and even his “down” stretches look like serviceable production for an MLB-ready bat. Defensively he’s sound with no glaring weaknesses, an average to above-average arm with solid accuracy and an understanding of the position that far exceeds most other catcher prospects in the game right now. Every single day that passes and Raleigh is not in the majors is a surprise to me. The Mariners want Raleigh’s game planning to match his offense, so it’s understandable, but I’m a firm believer some development can and should happen at the big-league level. While I’m already surprised he hasn’t received the call, I’ll be floored if we hit mid-August and Raleigh remains in the 253. George Kirby, RHS Kirby has as much upside as any arm in the organization, but he also has as far to get there as any of them. In addition, he brings high probability and a high floor thanks to his plus control and above-average to plus command. He touched 97 for me last week and used all three secondaries, flashing a solid-average slider and changeup. The right-hander may simply need more time to get his off-speed stuff up to par, but he’s painting fastballs with plane to both sides of the plate and is at least on par with a former teammate of his (stay tuned) who recently received a promotion to Double-A Arkansas. Baseball Things subscribers can hear my full audio scouting report on Stoudt right here! Not a subscriber yet? Change that here for $5/month. Brandon Williamson, LHS Williamson dominated with deception and fastballs in High-A, but had the plus curveball, too, and in two starts in Double-A since his promotion has looked more than ready for the challenge, despite struggling in the middle three innings of his first outing. He’s throwing a mid-80s changeup with command and consistent arm speed and showing average fastball command to make it all work. There’s a slider in his arsenal, too, and right now it’s more of a short-sweeping version than one likely to generate swinging strikes. His curveball is average to plus in pretty much every start, showing two-plane break which allows him to throw it inside to right-handed batters without as much concern he’ll hang it in the middle of the zone. Williamson is a better athlete than some realize, and his control and command have taken a step forward since we last saw him in 2019. Don’t expect him to see the majors in 2021, but once the middle of next season arrives, all bets are off. It’s likely a future No. 4 profile, but there’s a caveat; he’s pitching comfortably in the low-90s right now, but has often sat 94-97 in the past, and that will always give him a shot a bigger projection. Connor Phillips, RHS Phillips, the club’s comp-round pick (64) last June out of McLennan CC in Texas has the best combination of present stuff, command, and projection among the Modesto starters. He’s had a few too many bouts of poor control, but generally stays out of the middle of the plate, and throws a lot of competitive off-speed pitches, headlined by a 55-grade slider and 45 curveball with promise. He’s athletic and touches the mid-90s, but comes with some role risk, thanks to below-average mechanics, led by a relatively long arm path that creates inconsistent release points. Phillips is just 20, however, so there’s time to remedy some of these issues and develop a mid-rotation starter. Levi Stoudt, RHS Stoudt comes in behind Phillips despite having better stuff for three main reasons; he’s had his own control problems very similar to that of Phillips, but he’s also two years off Tommy John (never a positive) and is already 23 years of age. Still, there’s a lot to like about Stoudt, including above-average velocity and a potentially plus-plus changeup. He’s athletic and brings a bit more projection than a 6-1, 195-pound frame might suggest on paper. While his floor lies in the bullpen, we’re talking about a high-leverage role where he may sit 95-100 mph with a 70-grade changeup and average slider. Baseball Things subscribers can hear my full audio scouting report on Stoudt right here! Not a subscriber yet? Change that here for $5/month. Adam Macko, LHS Macko is currently the best starter on the Nuts roster, showing heat into the mid-90s with ride up in the zone, and two competitive breaking balls. He creates deception with his front shoulder and arm path, and pitches effective in on right-handed bats with the fastball and above-average slider. He also has a curveball that projects to be at least average. Some scouts love Macko right behind the Mariners’ big three and ahead of Williamson, Phillips, and Stoudt, while others see traditional concerns with size and fastball value from a shorter pitcher. Lean the former until there’s reason to worry about his size being factor, because so far it hasn’t been. At all. Matt Brash, RHS Aside from spotty control and command, Brash’s development in 2021 is one of the stories of the farm system thus far. He was marked a reliever-only a year ago by several scouts, and perhaps the Padres saw it that way, too, pushing them to hand him to Seattle in the deal for Taylor Williams. Brash misses bats with a fastball up to 97 (he’s been up to 99 in side sessions), and an above-average slider he throws to both lefties and righties alike. He’s athletic and could stand to add more weight, but the delivery offers deception, and he’s reeled in some of the extras to allow him to repeat more consistently, giving him a real shot to start. Double-A might be a stretch for Brash in a starting role, but he’s 23 so it might make sense to get him a handful of outings in Double-A to end 2021. Zach DeLoach, OF DeLoach doesn’t come with big upside and lacks loud tools, but he’s sound in all aspects, from contact, to strike zone discipline, swing consistency, running, throwing, and fielding. He turned that into a huge month of June, and there’s reason to believe there’s more power to come, suggesting a shot at an everyday role in the majors. I could see the club pushing him to Double-A for the final month or so, where he could show signs of a fast-track bat, but we should remind ourselves he faced no live competition after the second week of March last year until the 2021 season opened, so getting him extended plate appearances is the main goal for 2021. Sam Carlson, RHS Carlson’s return has been fun to watch, despite mixed results. He’s missing bats with velocity into the mid-90s and a slider that projects as plus and has a chance to be one of the best in the system by year’s end. He’s shown feel for the changeup at times, and his new curveball is projectable, albeit inconsistent. His control has been below average, and his command leaves a lot to be desired at times, too, but he’s allowed just two long balls in 40 innings thanks to fastball movement and plane, and has tallied 51 strikeouts against 22 walks. On top of all that, he’s a tremendous athlete, perhaps the best in the system, and despite being 23 and having missed four years, there’s a big-league future here after Tommy John surgery and it may very well include a rotation spot. On ceiling alone, Carlson still would rank in the top 5-10. Juan Then, RHS Then may among the most likely of the arms in the Top 15 to land in the bullpen, but it’s far from a sure thing, giving the re-acquired right-hander… wait for it… a non-zero chance to start over the long haul. He’s 93-95 with his fastball and has touched 97 — like every other arm before him — and his slider flashes plus in most starts. He’s built a bit like Brash, but added 15 pounds or so between the shutdown and the 2021 season. Then throws a lot of strikes and his ability to locate his fastball and slider has not stalled despite his velocity ticking up since he returned from the Yankees for two months of Edwin Encarnacion. Then’s third pitch, a hard changeup at 86-90 mph, has been inconsistent to say the least, and despite above-average control, he hasn’t commanded his fastball as well in spots and it’s burned him a bit. One aspect of Then’s game I think gives him a true chance to start is his ability to generate ground balls. He’s producing high GB rates, and it should be sustainable based on the sink on his fastball and the fact he’s flashed the ability to run his changeup down and away to hitters from each side of the plate. Jonatan Clase, CF I’m high man on Clase, but not because I don’t see the risk. He turned 19 in May and is just starting his season in the ACL after hitting .300/.434/.444 in the DSL two summers back. The risk is in both the ceiling, and more specifically the swing-and-miss in his game. But he’s a 70-grade runner and projects well in center long-term, despite considerable work needed to get there. His game plan doesn’t match his swing, hence the strikeouts, but he’s added 25-30 pounds and drew 51 walks in 63 games in 2019. There’s a lot to do here, but Clase offers the foundation of a fireplug-type body that produces fringe-average or better power from the left side to go with the speed and defense, even if the glove has to move to left field. If he stays in center, there’s a chance he plays regularly. Starlin Aguilar, 3B Aguilar and Milkar Perez are similar in some ways; both are sub-6-foot, stocky-bodied infielders, but Aguilar has more athleticism and a better chance to stick at third base, and he happens to have better raw power, too. His defensive position is far from set in stone however, so there’s a ton of pressure on his ability to hit and hit for power, since LF, RF, and first base are next in line. On the upside, there’s a .260 or better hitter with 25 homers here. Austin Shenton, 3B Shenton’s raking in High-A and I expect him to see Arkansas at some point this summer. He’s a doubles hitter right now but there’s enough bat speed to support more home-run power. If we assume the current environment in MLB stays the same (it will not, it’s literally changing as we speak, but for context…), I’d project Shenton as a .250/.320/.450 hitter. Defensively, however, I’m not sure he sticks at third. If the power develops, corner outfield and first base in combo may be just fine as a Chase Headley, Mitch Moreland type. Andres Munoz, RHR The first pure reliever in the rankings has yet to pitch n the Mariners organization due to Tommy John surgery last spring. If things go right he gets things going in August and sees the bigs in September. At his best he’s 98-102 mph (yes, you read that right), and a slider in the 87-91 range that flashes plus and lives average to above average. Throwing strikes has been a problem for Munoz, however — 11.3% walks for the Padres in 22 games in 2019 and a career walk rate in the minors over 15% — but he did show well prior to his call-up two years ago, walking but 8.8% of the batters he faced in 19 innings at Triple-A. The ceiling here is a No. 1 reliever with high strikeout rates, but he’ll need to find his release point and avoid the base on balls to get there. Taylor Dollard, RHS Dollard dominated in Modesto and has now made a couple starts in Everett with good results. He’s mostly low-90s with the fastball, touching 94. His breaking ball and changeup project to average, perhaps a tick above, and his ceiling lives somewhere between No. 4 starter and high-leverage reliever. In the pen, Dollard’s fastball likely ticks up into the mid-90s regularly, but there’s physical projection left in his 6-foot-3, 200-pound frame and it’s a loose arm to dream on a bit. Kaden Polcovich, UT Polcovich was the club’s 3rd rounder last June, and while there were better players on the board, the former Oklahoma State standout has made the pick look just fine. He’s sacrificing some contact, and therefore batting average, for power, but he isn’t sacrificing OBP, so swing away, my friend. For me, what’s most exciting about Polcovich is how well he’s managed at both middle infield spots and center field, suggesting we may be watching a true utility player develop, and that’s pretty fun. He can handle third, too, runs well, and showed in college he can handle the bat. Milkar Perez, 3B Perez brings contact and a line-drive swing the club believes can eventually develop into a 20-homer bat. The concerns are his future position; He’s 5-foot-11 and nearing 195 pounds at 19 years of age, and has never been more than a fringe-average runner. He has a terrific arm, however, so there are options, including staying at third as what I like to call a Luis Sojo-like fit, where the defender doesn’t have ideal range but makes all the routine plays at a high rate thanks to good hands and arm talent. He’s a natural switch hitter that’s batting exclusively from the right side now. I expect him to put up good average and OBP numbers in rookie ball and start 2022 in Modesto, carrying a 50-grade ceiling OFP. Isaiah Campbell, RHS Campbell is a four-pitch arm that flashed dominance in the college postseason back in 2019, including 93-97 mph heat and an above-average. If there weren’t concerns about elbow soreness, he might have been a top 40 pick, but Seattle got him at No. 76 overall in the comp round. Campbell’s best secondary pitch is a slider at 82-85 and an 84-87 mph splitter isn’t far behind. He also has a power curveball with some promise, but it’s clearly his fourth-best offering. Campbell had a minor procedure to clean up that right elbow, so when he returns to the mound is not known, but it may not be this season, and as a result he’s been slid down here to No. 23 despite his chances to start or land in a multi-inning high-leverage role out of the bullpen. Carter Bins, C Bins has plate skills and offers solid-average defense, including a plus arm, and came to pro ball needing an improved swing to maximize his power potential. He’s abbreviated everything below his hands and is generating more pop from gap to gap, and more consistent hard contact. He’s still working pitchers into deep counts at times but is hunting and connecting on fastballs to get the extra-base pop. There has to be some attention paid to his strikeouts — 30% — but at least they’re coming with legitimate power. Bins, 22, should probably see Arkansas later this summer to see how the bat plays at the next level. Bins projects as a No. 2 catcher, but the more he hits the more likely he takes a sizeable portion of a catching time share, rather than a traditional backup role. Victor Labrada, CF The 21-year-old got started a little late but has hit since Day 1. He’s a 65 runner and 60 defender in center, but has 11 multi-hit games in 37 starts, and has drawn walks 16% of the time. He does strike out a bit too much for the profile, and since he’s not going to hit for power the club likely is working with him to close any holes in the game plan and swing. The ceiling here isn’t high, and the chances he plays regularly rely heavily on his on-base ability, but he’s performing at a high level already and is a threat on the bases from the top of the order. Just Missed(The following players appear in no particular order) Damon Casetta-Stubbs, RHSAsdrubal Bueno, SSWyatt Mills, RHRWill Vest, RHRJoey Gerber, RHRAlberto Rodriguez, OF George Feliz, OFRay Kerr, LHR Gabriel Gonzalez, OFPenn Murfee, RHR Kristian Cardozo, RHSYohan Ramirez, RHR Ty Adcock, RHRYeury Tatiz, RHS Wilton Perez, RHS Dutch Landis, RHS
Monthly, I will recap the month that was in the Mariners farm system, including scouting notes, statistical review, and promotion analysis. Buckle up, it was a fine month of May. MODESTO NUTS (LOW-A) Noelvi Marte, SS | 6-1/190 | 19 A lot more ups than downs for Marte in his first month in professional baseball in the states, and he’s already flashing 60-grade game power from 70 raw power he shows off in batting practice. As expected, he’s already looking more like a power player than a speed demon, despite 70 speed when a Tim Kissner-led international scouting department signed him three summers ago. He’s managing at shortstop, and range isn’t of great concern at present, but there are reasons to buy him more as a third baseman; he’s 6-1 and just under 200 pounds at 19 years of age and has the frame to tack on another 10-20 pounds, which puts him more in the Matt Chapman, Anthony Rendon, Aramis Ramirez mold in terms of physical stature. Marte still boasts above-average athleticism, so it’s not necessarily a closed door for him at shortstop, but he’d have to follow the Xander Bogaerts path; Bogaerts, amid concerns about his future position when he was in the minors, made vast improvements with his hands and footwork and became playable through efficiency, despite lacking great range, though without his offensive prowess, he, too, would not likely have remained at the position. Scout: He has the look of a run producer that will provide defensive value, It’s still early in his time (in pro ball), so there is more than one potential end-result with him, but one of them is pretty big. He doesn’t cover the plate as well as Julio (Rodriguez) did there (West Virginia in 2019), but his swing is shorter. He’s not a shortstop for me, but he’s shown enough ability on the dirt to think he could land at third with a shot to be very good there. Quick Word: It’s early, but it’s not crazy to think Marte has a real shot to be the best player among those currently in the organization. He’s likely to bring more defensive and positional value than Julio Rodriguez, and (again, small sample) is developing as fast as Jarred Kelenic did at a similar age. Defensively, third base is the most likely spot for him long-term, but he has good enough foot speed and arm strength to play a corner outfield spot, too. I expect Marte to spend considerable time in Modesto before a promotion is in order. Connor Phillips, RHP | 6-2/195 | 20 Phillips has shown above-average yet raw stuff, including mid-90’s heat and a projectable slider that flashes average. He has trouble finding a consistent release point thanks to a long arm path, but he’s aggressive with the fastball, which offers life and arm side run. He also has a curveball is inconsistent but will flash as average, and is projectable to big-league levels. Scout: It’s a No. 4 high profile for me, but given he’s younger than the standard college draftee he has a little more time to iron things out and push his physical abilities. I do like the fastball projection. Quick Word: Right now, the safest projection for Phillips is reliever, but that’s also lazy and can be said about every single pitching prospect ever at some point in their careers. But it’s Year 1 in pro ball for Phillips, and there’s a solid foundation present which may allow him to evolve into a mid-rotation starter. Phillips is likely to stay in Modesto for most or all of 2021. Adam Macko, LHP | 6-0/180 | 20Macko uses athleticism and deception to more than cover for a long arm path and lack of ideal size, and he’s increased his fastball velocity from 89-93 to more consistently in the low-90s and touching 95 mph. His curveball has shown least average with enormous two-plane break and above-average command, and he’s done a good job staying on top of it to avoid it flattening out on its way to the plate. He’s pitched inside to right-handed batters effectively, but as his slider gets better, he may be able to get them to chase out of the zone more often. Scout: Let me just say this: If he were 6-4, 200, he’s their best pitching prospect and it’s not close. That’s where he is right now. (Fastball has) above-average life and movement, the breaking ball has two-plane break, and it’s sharp, and he clearly has good athleticism. He’ll be able to pitch up effectively and tear down good hitters with that bender. Maybe he’s Randy Wolf. Quick Word: The fastball-curveball combo is loud, and everything plays up considering how well he hides the ball through his three-quarter arm slot. It’s the best left-handed curveball in the system, including Brandon Williamson — at least through May. Macko likely remains in Modesto through the season, but is the most likely of the younger Nuts arms to see Everett, outside Taylor Dollard. Victor Labrada, CF | 5-9/175 | 21 Labrada got a late start but hit the ground running, both literally and figuratively. The left-handed hitting centerfielder has hit for average and some gap power, thanks to a quick swing and solid-average plate discipline. He uses the entire field, gets out of the box quickly and knows how to us his 65-grade speed. Quick Word: The hope is Labrada moves quickly, starting with a mid-season promotion later this summer, resulting in a late-MLB debut. He’s most likely a part-time player, but there are some physical traits and early tools that have flashed level of big-league competence, suggesting at least a chance of an everyday option. Despite a late start, Labrada could get a cup of coffee in Everett later this season. Taylor Dollard, RHP | 6-3/200 | 22 The club’s 5th-round pick last June has outclassed the bats in Low-A West, missing bats at will and only showing vulnerability when he occasionally loses his delivery and falls behind in counts. He’s pounded the strike zone as one of the league’s best arms. Quick Word: The stuff is average at present, but there’s some projection left Dollard’s frame and secondaries, and while his control is above average his command is fringe-average and inconsistent, something he won’t get away with as he moves through the minors. There’s a major-league arm here, but whether he serves in a relief role or as a good back-end starter is why we’re all here watching. Dollard should be exposed to High-A sometime this summer and if he keeps throwign strikes it could come sooner than later. Alberto Rodriguez, OF | 5-11/190 | 20 Rodriguez, a left-handed batter with above-average bat speed, has yet to string together consistent results in 2021, and a lot of his chances to do so hinders on his ability to make more contact — he’s whiffed in 33% of his PAs. But the swing path also needs work; he’s been pull happy and gets out front a lot, leading to weak contact — especially ground balls — pitcher-friendly counts and strikeouts. Quick Word: Rodriguez has flashed what the club saw in him when they chose the outfielder as the return in the Taijuan Walker deal last summer. But the hit tool still has a long way to so and he doesn’t bring big-league speed (45) or defense (45) to the field. Rodriguez’s hit tool needs a lot of work, suggesting a challenge beyond Low-A may not be wise in 2021. Juan Querecuto, SS | 6-2/180 | 20 After three tough summers since signing, Querecuto is healthy and taking advantage of his opportunity. A natural shortstop, he’s moved around the infield and handled it well, and his bat has shown some ability, despite some pitch ID issues that have led to too many chases. Quick Word: He’s a 50 runner with good hands and feet on defense but lacks the range to be a plus glove. He has the arm to play anywhere, at least in stretches, including third base, and the outfield if the Mariners want to make him a true utility option. He’ll have to make more contact — 25% K rate is too high, even considering the current environment — especially with 40-grade power. Querecuto is very likely to remain in Modesto all season. Luis Curvelo, RHP | 6-1/170 | 20 Curvelo is at least 15 pounds heavier than his listed 170, but regardless of his size there’s good, raw stuff here, and he’s absolutely slamming the strike zone with a fastball into the upper-90s and an average power slider with late break and tilt. Quick Word: He’s always had good control, running walk rates of 3.3, 3.3, 7.7, and now 2.5, but he’s added two ticks of velocity since signing, and the slider has come a long way. He’s a reliever only and is a few years away, but his dominance for Modesto stands out enough to suggest a future big-league reliever, potentially one who can battle into high-leverage spots. Curvelo could see Everett later this season if he maintains the control he’s displayed thus far. Sam Carlson, RHP| 6-4/195 | 22 Carlson’s journey to his first full month of professional baseball took nearly four years, but he’s looked solid, showing more than just glimpses of an exceptionally clean, fluid delivery, an above-average slider, promising curveball, and velocity into the mid-90s. He’s had bouts with poor control which has kept him from dominating, and he’s still feeling out how his stuff will play. It takes time for TJ recipients to pitch their back to good control and command, but it’s a great sign Carlson has the snap on his slider and looks the part of not only a $2 million draft pick, but a future big-league arm. Scout: So, this is why the hype. I get it. I didn’t see him his draft year, I was out west, but we had guys who thought he was a top-15 pick and wrote him up that way. He was a bit out of sync, late with his arm, in the second start I saw, but it’s (present) average big-league stuff, and I think that curveball has a chance. Four pitch guy in the middle (of the rotation)? Quick Word: Coming out, Carlson’s fastball had plane and natural sink, and his changeup feel was advanced for a prep arm. On his way back, he’s generated above-average four-seam ride which pairs well with the slider, and occasional upper-zone life that theoretically sets up the curveball and changeup. He is just getting started and has a lot to do, but he’s a prototype from a physical standpoint with athleticism to spare, suggesting a real path to remaining a starter. Carlson just needs to pitch and getting aggressive too soon could be greatly detrimental to the right-hander getting the work he needs in his first year back after a long layoff. Elvis Alvarado, RHR | 6-4/190 | 22 The converted outfielder has good stuff, led by a fastball sitting 93-97, and in the past has touched triple digits. His slider teases average but to miss bats will need more vertical break, depth, and command. Quick Word: Alvarado is a bit like Yohan Ramirez; has the raw stuff, needs to throw more strikes with everything. He’s a reliever only, but the fastball is big enough to see time in bigs, provided he ends up finding the zone enough as he moves through the system. Alvarado is still raw and the softer landing in Low-A West fits his needs better, suggesting he’ll remain in Modesto most or all of 2021. EVERETT AQUASOX (HIGH-A) Emerson Hancock, RHP | 6-4/215 | 22 Hancock made three abbreviated starts in May with satisfactory yet unspectacular results. But he has been efficient. He hasn’t walked any of the 36 batters he’s faced and has yielded just four hits. Hancock hasn’t unleashed his entire arsenal yet, but his slider has been his out pitch so far, and likely the best chance he has for a plus offering that misses bats in the big leagues. Quick Word: Seattle clearly is taking it slow with Hancock, who has gone 2.0, 2.2, and 4.2 innings with 6 days rest in between, then was skipped when his turn came up for start No. 4. At the end of the day, Hancock is a four-pitch starter with an efficient delivery that should lead to above-average command and control, but while he refines his secondaries the Mariners want to get more fastball value out of him. He’s up to 97 mph, but at Georgia the pitch had natural sink and lacked the kind of high-spin life that generated swings and misses. Stay tuned. At this point I’d be surprised if the club gets aggressive with Hancock in terms of promotion. He didn’t pitch the summer between his sophomore and junior years at Georgia, and didn’t get a lot of work in last summer with no MiLB season. I expect a lot of time in Everett, perhaps the entire schedule. George Kirby, RHP | 6-4/220 | 23 Like Hancock, Kirby has been brought along slowly — even slower, considering he made two starts a week apart, covering 3.2 and 5.0 innings, then didn’t start the rest of the month — but his 12-1 K/BB ratio in 8/2 innings is about right for the 2019 first-round pick. Kirby’s second start was nearly perfect as he did not allow a hit but issued his first walk as a professional. Quick Word: The right-hander offers probability and a high floor, but there’s enough to dream on here to see amid-rotation starter within three years, and perhaps more. He’s pitching at 93-95 mph with 60 control and above-average command but has touched triple digits in short stints. His slider and curveball are fringe-average at present, however, and his changeup remains inconsistent. If he’s to move as quickly as his command suggests he could, he’ll need to delivery better crooked offerings. Kirby may be a little more likely to see Double-A Arkansas than Hancock, and perhaps a little sooner, but a lot would have to happen in the next month or two for it to make sense. Brandon Williamson, LHP | 6-6/210 | 23 Williamson was the best performer among the top arms in the system for the opening month, earning him Pitcher Prospect of the Month. The highlight for the club’s 2019 second-round pick came in his final start of the month when he lasted 7.1 innings and allowed an earned run on a walk and two hits and struck out 13 of the 25 batters he faced. He threw 70 of his 95 pitches for strikes and tossed an immaculate inning in the bottom of the third. Scout: This is what you draw up on the board from a physical standpoint. I’d like to see more athleticism in the delivery. He hides his release a bit, and the ball explodes out his hand. I had him 93-96 and he got swings and misses from 22-year-old top-5 round college bats at 93. You can see the curveball projection. Not sure if it’s a slider or cutter he’s throwing, but I like that idea, too. He’s going to move (quickly.) Quick Word: Williamson is up to 97 mph and pitches with average command at 93-95 with life and tail, setting up an above-average curveball with a chance to be plus. He has a slider and changeup, too, but hasn’t used either all that much early on, which is par for the course for young arms this season, considering the off year and intermittent scheduling for spring training and the start of the MiLB season. There’s a mid-rotation profile here, but some upside, too, provided he develops through some long-term mechanical hurdles that often come with tall arms. For me, Williamson is the most likely of the Everett starters to be promoted, and has the best shot at spending more than a few starts there. Levi Stoudt, RHP | 6-1/200 | 23 Stoudt has been up and down out of the gate, struggling with command in issuing four walks in start No. 2 and six in start No. 4, but we shouldn’t forget these are the right-hander’s first four professional outings after having Tommy Johns surgery two years ago. Stoudt has been mostly low-90s, touching 94-95, but has flashed a hard changeup and improving slider that has a chance to miss bats. He just hasn’t thrown enough strikes yet. Quick Word: His athleticism and chance at three big-league pitches suggests a No. 4 profile, but his split-change might end up a 70-grade offering, and despite a lack of physical projection at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds and already 23 years of age, there aren’t stiff limits on his ultimate fastball velocity and value. Stoudt, in his first pro season, has a lot of work to do before a promotion will jive, but he, too, simply needs innings more than a greater challenge. Juan Then, RHP | 6-1/190 | 21 Then finished May with his best start of the year after feeling his way through his first three in abbreviated fashion. It’s a 91-95 mph fastball and promising slider, but he’s missing a quality third pitch and there are some delivery concerns when it comes to a rotation role, despite simple mechanics. He was lights out in his most recent start, going six frames and allowing just two hits. He avoided walks and struck out six. Quick Word: Then, typically pronounced ‘Ten’ despite vowels in Spanish carrying an ‘ay’ sound, is the highest-ranked reliever in the system, but is just 21 and has a chance to start if the changeup develops rather quickly. In a relief role he could see the majors next season. As a starter, Then likely stays in Everett most or all of 2021, but in a relief role could move faster. Isaiah Campbell, RHP | 6-4/230 | 23 Campbell has been piggybacking for 2-4 innings per outings to keep him stretched in ‘starter’ mode, and ultimately has four pitches, including a 55-grade slider and a split-change. He’s been up to 96 mph and in the past has reached 98. He creates plane with the fastball and at times can go fastball-split and induce worm burners for days. But his velocity suggests going upper zone for whiffs, and he’s done some of that, too. He went 16.1 innings in his four outings in May, including 5.2 innings May 23 when he allowed just three baserunners. There’s some concern lingering over some elbow soreness he experienced in 2018, but no sign of it this season, Campbell’s pro debut. Quick Word: There’s a good chance Campbell ends up a multi-inning, three-pitch power reliever where he may add a tick or two of velo and sit upper-90s. He can throw his slider and curveball for strikes, though the curveball is a backburner offering for him right now. His chances to start are better than Then’s however, which is why I have him ranked higher. Like the others who haven’t pitched much in pro ball, Campbell isn’t likely to move quickly as he garners experience and builds up arm strength in his first game action since the college season ended two years ago. Matt Brash, RHP | 6-1/180 | 23 Brash has done some work on his delivery, giving him a chance to start, but we’re seeing some control and command issues early in his four May starts where he issued 11 walks, all in his three final outings of the month. He’s missing bats — 16% swinging strike rate, 37% K rate — and isn’t allowing a lot of hard contact, so the stuff is working, but more strikes — and likely more adjustments to his mechanics — are necessary to project as a big-league starter. Quick Word: Even as a multi-inning reliever, Brash projects as a valuable arm who has been up to 99 mph in side sessions, suggesting he can do that in a bullpen role. He offers deception and at least three pitches, so there’s no reason he can’t be a high-leverage option. Brash’s delivery and ability to throw strikes likely keeps him from Double-A in 2021. Carter Bins, C | 6-0/200 | 22 Bins’ strikeout rates are alarming, but he’s not swinging and missing much and he’s only a moderate chase swinger. He does take pitches and work counts, and his swing remains somewhat rotational, making him late and more likely to foul off balls he should put in play, perhaps creating too many two-strike counts. He has flashed the power in games, but nothing is consistent yet, despite good strike zone awareness. Quick Word: Bins is the No. 2 backstop in the system to start the year but concerns about his ability to hit for average — thanks to a bad swing — casts doubt on his ultimate future. He has made some adjustments and is using more of the field now than in prior years, and he’s shown occasional game power to reflect above-average bat speed. He’s solid athletically and early on has done a better job blocking balls in the dirt, though his framing remains below average. He has a very good arm that should play with better mechanics, something he’s been improving since Day 1. Considering the work Bins has and continues to put in with his swing, I’ll be surprised if he sees Arkansas in 2021. Kaden Polcovich, 2B | 5-10/185 | 22 Polcovich ended May at .236/.352/.382, showing gap power, above-average speed, and instincts that have allowed him show well at three positions — 2B, 3B, CF. The one issue so far is his 26% strikeout rate, a mark for power bats not the next Daniel Descalso. Quick Word: His left-handed swing is sound and more consistent than his righty version, and flashes some torque, suggesting average power is not entirely out of the question. But he may need to shorten up a bit to get to good velocity, and he’ll certainly to cut down on the swing and miss (16%). It’s his first pro season, but it’s not entirely crazy to think he could spend the final month of 2021 in Double-A if he keeps progressing, but the contact rates are important. Austin Shenton, 3B | 6-0/205 | 23 Shenton started the season OK, gathering five hits in four games, then went 2-for-22 with 10 strikeouts, fanning in 15 of 33 at-bats during one stretch the first half of the month. Born of those struggles came the right kind of consistency, and he began to find the barrel more often. He finished the month with two three-hit games over the final eight days, and the power began to show. Quick Word: Shenton came to pro ball as a hitter with a chance to bat .270/.340 with 12-15 homers, but is infusing more leverage into his swing now and could surpass the projection in time. Whether he’s a third baseman or not remains to be seen, but his arm allows for left field or first base, and his plate skills and pitch ID skills should allow him to make swing adjustments without damaging his ability to make contact. Shenton has a shot to see Arkansas by year’s end and might be more likely to do so than all but one name in this report. Zach DeLoach, OF | 6-1/205 | 22 In his first professional action since being the club’s second-round pick a year ago, DeLoach has been a bit up-and-down, but has had several strong games, flashing good athleticism, some power, and patience. He ended the month batting .242/.333/.442 with five doubles, four homers, 11 walks and 21 strikeouts in 108 plate appearances, and has displayed plus defense in both corner spots. Quick Word: He doesn’t have a true lead tool, but has no great weaknesses, either, and reminds me a bit of A’s outfielder Mark Canha, despite the handedness contrast. There’s above-average raw power in his swing and a chance at an especially useful role player in big leagues in a couple of years. DeLoach is unlikely to see Arkansas this season, as he gets his first live action since his college season ended in 2019. Julio Rodriguez, OF | 6-3/215 | 20 Rodriguez, who left the AquaSox to play for the Dominican Republic in the Olympic qualifying rounds in Florida late in the month, was awesome in May, lending more confidence he’ll hit for immense power without deterring the long-term evaluation of his ability to make consistent contact. Seattle’s No. 2 prospect posted a trio of three-hit games, six total multi-hit efforts, and failed to reach base by hit or walk just twice in 21 games, despite the fact he’s three years younger than the average player in the league. Scout: There’s a lot of upside at the plate, but I wonder how quickly he progresses versus more complete pitcher with his current swing mechanics and some of his tendencies. Quick Word: He’s merely 20, and will be until the Alamo Bowl kicks off this winter, and there are superstar traits at which to marvel and dream, including 65-or 70-grade arm strength, baserunning instincts to spare, and well above-average bat speed that produces 70 raw power. While he projects as an average glove and below-average runner, he’ll be fine in right field for a while and brings 40-homer pop and a chance to hit .270 in the current environment. But he does show a front side leak and gets pull happy at times, so he has work to do before we delete the risk from his profile. I think he sees Arkansas this season, and is the most likely of the Sox’s bats to do so — and most likely the first — but ‘when’ isn’t as clear as fans would like to think. Risking rushing a 20-year-old is a very dangerous approach to player development, considering the lack of payoff; his MLB ETA doesn’t change much, if at all, by getting to Double-A in June rather than July or August. He still starts 2022 in Triple-A Tacoma. ARKANSAS TRAVELERS (DOUBLE-A) Ian McKinney, LHP | 5-11/190 | 26 McKinney was outstanding for Arkansas in May, going at least five innings and punching out eight or more in each of his four starts. He’s running a 41% strikeout rate into his first June outing, looking for his third straight start of at least six innings. McKinney has always had a good a good curveball, but he’s added a cutter-slider to the mix and his command of a fringe-average fastball allows him to get to his secondaries consistently. Quick Word: He’s 26 and not a big-league starter, or at least not for the long haul, but 90-93, touching 94, plus curveball with terrific arm speed, and a useful slider and changeup give him a chance to compete against major-league hitters in a condensed role. I think he can handle Triple-A now and believe Seattle hnds him that challenge fairly soon. Penn Murfee, RHP | 6-2/195 | 27 Murfee has been utilized as both a starter and reliever since the club selected him in Round 33 back in 2018, including 20 starts and 12 relief appearances in 2019. He’s in the Travs’ rotation now with mixed results. In 17.1 innings, the right-hander has allowed 33 baserunners, including 19 in his most recent two starts. He’s comfortably in the 89-91 mph range, reaching back for 93, which could tick up in a relief role. Murfee has shown he understands how to attack hitters, and while he may be a great right-on-right matchup, he’s improved his ability to pitch to lefties, burying the slider at the back foot and getting inside and at the top of the zone with the fastball for swings and misses, and going backside for early-count strikes. Quick Word: At the end of the day, his sidearm delivery and fastball-slider combo project well in a multi-inning middle-relief role in the majors, reminiscent of Ramiro Mendoza or T.J. McFarland. As a starter, Murfee has work to do and in the role likely stays in Arkansas all year. As a reliever, he could see the majors in September. So, depends on the club’s plan. Ryne Inman, RHP | 6-5/215 | 25 For two years I spoke aloud about how Inman was a good candidate to transition to the bullpen and progress faster up the ladder, and the club made that move prior to the 2020 season, and we’re finally seeing it in games. Inman, however, has landed on the IL after just three outings with the Travelers. In his three frames, he allowed two hits, a run, two walks, and struck out six of the 10 batters he faced. Quick Word: When he’s right, Inman is 92-96 with a chance for more velocity, and a plus power curveball. The raw stuff suggests at least a middle reliver profile, with a chance to be a little more. Inman has to get healthy before promotional conversations make sense. TACOMA RAINIERS (TRIPLE-A) Cal Raleigh, C | 6-3/215 | 24 Raleigh still has his naysayers, but it’s turned from “likely a first baseman” to “he’s probably just average” when it comes to his defense. He excels in some areas, however, despite limitations in others. At the plate, Raleigh has shown more polish in the early going, increasing his contact rates and finding barrels from both sides of the plate with regularity. One scout, remembering the prevailing opinion on Raleigh from Draft day, said “it looks a little different, he’s done a good job developing his swing from each side.” Raleigh’s two swings are vastly differently, too. It’s a power-based swing from the left-side and he’s more susceptible to upper-zone velocity and chasing down from that side, which shouldn’t surprise anyone since he’s a natural right-handed hitter. As a righty, the swing is more consistent; he did lose some momentum in his development from the right side in high school, college and early in the minors due to a lack of consistent opportunity — he’d go several games without facing a lefty starter and only see limited lefty relievers. “Maybe he gets to 15-18 homers, depending on how he manages the workload, but it sure looks like there will be good offensive production.” Raleigh was my Hitter Prospect of the Month for May, thanks to a gargantuan effort. Quick Word: Raleigh still gets a bad rap defensively, with scouts citing poor athleticism and technique that can be “choppy”, but when watching Raleigh catch, throw, jump out from behind the dish to make a play, or run the bases, I have zero problem imagining it all working in the majors. Many catchers lack the kind of athleticism players elsewhere on the field display on a daily basis. I do think the bat will produce some swing and miss — and there likely will be stretches where the rates are high — but we may be watching a 40-45 grade hit tool inching toward average, which could lead to even more power. I’m a bit bullish on Raleigh’s upside and always have been, but it’s tough to imagine even his median projection not warranting an all-star nod or two in his prime. His full upside comes with tons of doubt, but it’ll hover there until the smoke clears after a few big-league seasons. The club has its reasons, of course, but I can’t think of one single legitimate baseball reason to keep Raleigh in Tacoma any longer. I would be more than moderately surprised if he sees July in a Rainiers uniform, as amazing as the club’s alternate road jerseys are.
It was a stellar opening month for the Seattle Mariners farm system. Four of the club’s top five prospects have made quite the statement. Two are now in the big leagues, two others have had big-time starts to the 2021 season, perhaps more than anyone could have expected. At the end of each month, we’ll scout out a pitcher prospect and hitter prospect as prospects of the month. Let’s start in the batter’s box, where a handful of bats scorched the baseball. But three stood out the most, and none will come as a surprise. HITTER PROSPECT OF THE MONTH Cal Raleigh, C — Tacoma (AAA) | 24 Raleigh was unbelievable in May, batting .361/.417/.687 with 10 doubles, five homers, a triple and just 13 strikeouts in 20 games. Of his 30 hits, 16 are for extra bases. He also has gunned down six of 17 would-be base stealers. But it doesn’t end there. Raleigh begins June with a 13-game hitting streak where he’s 24-for-55 (.436/.459/.819) with four home runs and nine multi-hit games and finished 10 for his final 19 (.526) with three homers. His 13.5% strikeout rate is down from 25% his first two pro seasons, and he’s yet to strike out as a right-handed batter. Raleigh is hitting .440/.553/1.120 with two outs, .423/.400/.808 with runners in scoring position, .440/.545/.840 when ahead in the count, and .400/.435/.750 when behind in the count. This wasn’t an easy choice, but Raleigh sure made it fun. HONORABLE MENTIONS Noelvi Marte, SS — Modesto (A) | 19 Marte will not be 20 until after the season but doesn’t seem fazed one iota by the pitching in the Low-A West league. In 22 games, Marte boasts a .315/.411/.533 slash, including five doubles and five home runs. His 24.3% strikeout rate isn’t concerning, thanks to the power showing and his 13.1% walk rate, plus the league is striking out at a 30% clip. He’s among the elite players and performers in the circuit and has a chance to earn his way to High-A Everett, though expecting that to occur early is more reactionary on a kid with 22 games experience in affiliated stateside ball. The club’s No. 5 prospect posted a .400/.526/.467 line with runners in scoring position and a .455/.667/.545 mark when ahead in the count. Julio Rodriguez, RF — Everett (A+) | 20 Rodriguez, the club’s No. 2 prospect and among the top 5 prospects in baseball, started the season with a bang, similar to that of Marte. In 21 games, Rodriguez batted .322/.404/.575 with five homers, five doubles, and a triple. He even swiped five bags in six tries. He batted .381/.458/.524 with runners in scoring position, .300/.391/.600 with two outs and showed High-A West pitchers what they very much do not want to do, and that’s fall behind in the count. Rodriguez went 13-for-26 (.500/.639/.923) when ahead in the count. On the mound, where the club is building legitimate depth in the lower minors including several with potentially fast tracks to the majors, wasn’t quite as close a race, thanks to the club’s top left-hander. But there were numerous contenders. PITCHER PROSPECT OF THE MONTH Brandon Williamson, LHP — Everett (A+) | 23 Williamson struck out 26 of the first 52 batters he faced over three short-scripted outings to start the season. Then he whiffed 13 of 25 batters in the best start of the season down on the farm, allowing two hits, a run and a walk on 9o pitches, 75 strikes. In the third inning of this start, Williamson completed an immaculate inning — nine pitches, nine strikes, three strikeouts — which wasn’t all that much more dominating than most of his other 7-plus innings. Williamson wins a lot with his fastball right now, thanks to good velocity into the mid-90s and up to 97, and some deception in his delivery. His curveball, his best secondary pitch, is one he can throw for strikes or bury it for whiffs, and he did both in May. In 20 innings over four starts, Williamson struck out 50.6% of the batters he faced (39 of 77), and allowed just 18 baserunners — nine hits, seven walks, two hit batters. He had just on hiccup, so to speak, a four-inning outing that yielded four walks, but just one hit and eight strikeouts of 16 batters faced. Furthermore, Williamson allowed just four left-handed batters to reach base in 22 chances, just two hits (.091 AVG). He’s also buckled down hard with runners on base, yielding but three hits in 36 chances. Opponents, when leading off an inning, managed to reach base only twice all month off the TCU product. HONORABLE MENTIONS Adam Macko, LHP — Modesto (A) | 20Macko has been very good in four starts, and consistent, too, fanning 10 in each of his last three outings. He’s also yet to serve up a long ball, despite giving up nine earned runs. He’s struck out 44% of the batters he’s faced, and while he’s had a short out of control problems in each appearance, he’s rarely been squared up and often induced weak contact. Macko is up to 95 mph, but pitches in the low-90s with average-but-improving fastball command, and the four-seamer has some run to his arm side. He’s done a good job getting inside on right-handed batters with the heater, setting up favorable curveball might be the best in the system, missing bats in Low-A West and also serving as an early-count weapon of the backdoor variety. He has a slider he uses versus left-handers, but can bite the back foot of righties with it, too, and the occasional changeup is projectable. Macko is adept at locating his secondaries as well as any arm in Low-A. Macko is adept at locating his secondaries as well as any arm in Low-A. Taylor Dollard, RHP — Modesto (A) | 22 Dollard has missed bats (21.6% swinging strikes) in four starts and 19.1 innings, allowing 19 hits and four bases on balls. He’s struck out 48% of the total batters he’s faced and walked under 5%. He’s probably ready for High-A — he probably should have started there, but there’s no room for starter innings in Everett. He’s probably a long-term reliever but offers average stuff with a chance at an above-average breaking ball, an average changeup, and some life on a 91-93 mph fastball, suggesting back-end rotation upside. Dollar doesn’t carry as much ceiling as most of the other top arms in the system, but he does have a relatively high floor, and has touched 95 mph in side sessions and shorter outings.
This Mock Draft is different, in that there’s no attempting to predict each club’s pick. Instead, this is what I’d do if I were making the selections for each team in the first round. 1. Pittsburgh Pirates I’m shooting for the moon here, which leads me right to the current favorite to go 1-1. My club is at least three years from competing and the best college pitching available comes with risk I don’t want to manage. Pick: Marcelo Mayer, SS — Eastlake HS (Calif.) Mayer has as much upside as any player in the class and is a favorable bet to stick at shortstop long-term. As a bonus, he bats left-handed and is developing more power the more he plays. 2. Texas Rangers I’m thinking upside play here, too, but I get to kill two birds with one stone. Aside from taking the best player on the board, I get one of the best athletes in the class and add a local kid to the organization. Pick: Jordan Lawler, SS — Jesuit Prep (TX) Lawler also should stick at shortstop, hit for average and power, and brings plus speed to the field, too. 3. Detroit Tigers Considering my board this stage, my decision here is difficult. I’d like to take Brady House here, but he’s likely a 3B not a SS and comes with more hit questions than any bat in my Top 20. My organization is stronger and deeper on the mound than anywhere else, but the value at 3 might be one of the top college arms. Pick: Kumar Rocker, RHP — Vanderbilt Rocker isn’t the slam dunk he seemed to be four months ago, but he brings mid-90s heat and a true swing-and-miss slider. I get to pair him with Casey Mize, Tarik Skubal, and Matt Manning for the next several years. 4. Boston Red Sox I’m down to the best college catcher in the class and the best collection of present stuff and athleticism from a college pitcher. I can’t go wrong. Pick: Jack Leiter, RHP — Vanderbilt Leiter has more explosive stuff, as a whole, than Rocker, led by a live fastball up to 98 mph and a chance at a double-plus power curveball. 5. Baltimore Orioles Considering the risk in House and prep right-handers, and the limited upside of the next-best college bat, this one’s easy, despite what I have in the farm system already. Pick: Henry Davis, C — Louisville I know Davis has some shortcomings defensively (mostly receiving, framing) but he blocks and throws well, and his bat is first-round worthy by itself. 6. Arizona Diamondbacks Considering my club simply is devoid of enough talent to compete, I’m comfortable taking the best player available. But that players also happens to fill one my org’s greatest needs. Pick: Jackson Jobe, RHP — Heritage Hall HS (Okla.) High school righties don’t have a good track record, but Jobe is a special athlete with big upside, and possesses big-league competitive stuff at present. 7. Kansas City Royals I’ve had success recently with college arms in Round 1 (Brady Singer, Kris Bubic, and Asa Lacy is on the way), but still lack pitching depth, power bats, and athleticism. Pick: Sal Frelick, CF — Boston College Frelick checks the athleticism box, but also projects to hit for average, and we think he’ll find enough power to play regularly as early as 2023. 8. Colorado Rockies I have an interim GM and likely a full-time replacement coming over the offseason, but my organization needs both stability in its pitching options and upside everywhere on the field. Pick: Brady House, 3B — Winder-Barrow HS (Ga.) House comes with big physical tools, but there are hit questions. He’s a good athlete and handles shortstop now, but we think he’s an athletic glove at the hot corner and we’re willing to wait for the upside. 9. Los Angeles Angels My big-league club needs pitching, but my job isn’t to tend to the 26-man roster, it’s to add the best talent possible with each pick. Pick: Matt McLain, SS — UCLA McLain may not stick at shortstop but has a great shot to stay up the middle, either at second or in center field. Prior to his thumb injury he showed scouts the power they wanted to see. 10. New York Mets I need to continue to draft and develop pitching, but we have some organizational gaps I can fill without abandoning my board. Pick: Colton Cowser, OF — Sam Houston Cowser’s left-handed swing is sound and compares well with last year’s No 2 pick Heston Kjerstad. 11. Washington Nationals It’s time to think about our future without Max Scherzer, but we’re still a contender with a young core, so I’m going pure BPA here with no big-league agenda. Pick: Kahlil Watson, SS — Wake Forest HS (NC) Watson may fit better at second base and will need some guidance with his approach, but there’s an athletic middle-infield bat here who brings a bit of power potential, and his arm gives him a chance at short. I also remember the last time an undersized power-hitting shortstop scared away some folks, and I bet Francisco Lindor does, too. 12. Seattle Mariners I could go college arm here for the third straight draft, but I’m not sold on the future roles of Ty Madden and Ryan Cusick, leading me to take a different kind of risk this time. I would have leaned McLain here if he were available. Pick: Harry Ford, C — North Cobb HS (Ga.) Ford has plus speed and at least average power potential to go with the tools to stick behind the plate for 10-plus seasons. But his agility and athleticism should allow for a move to second, third or the outfield if the bat figures to be special and the club doesn’t want the labor of developing his catching skills to hold him back. 13. Philadelphia Phillies My org needs pitching and there’s value here in the college ranks, but really like a couple of prep bats in this spot. Hmmm… Pick: Sam Bachman, RHP — Miami (OH) While not a prototype ay 6-foot-1 and 235 pounds, Bachman has three big-league pitches led a put-away slider and a fastball that has been into triple digits, suggesting a floor in a high-leverage relief role and No. 2 upside. 14. San Francisco Giants We’ve taken college bats each of the last three years in Round 1, but the best value here may not allow us to do it again. Pick: Bubba Chandler, RHP — North Oconee HS (Ga.) Chandler is a two-way player and a top 100 prospect as an infielder, but the upside on the mound is tough to ignore. He’s increased velocity with his fastball and lives 92-94 mph and has reached 98. He’s athletic — and is a Clemson recruit at QB — and scouts typically rave about the lack of roadblocks in his projection. 15. Milwaukee Brewers With our development staff, I know we can maximize the best arm available, so I’ve been leaning that way in this class from the start. Pick: Ryan Cusick, RHP — Wake Forest Cusick is mostly a two-pitch arm right now, but it’s a 70-grade fastball scraping triple digits and a curveball that flashes average or better. His changeup isn’t without legitimate projection, however, and there is a second breaking ball in his pocket. 16. Miami Marlins We’ve gone the way of college players in the first round three straight seasons and all things being equal we’re likely to do it again. Pick: Ty Madden, RHP — Texas Madden profiles as a high-leverage reliever due to a shallow arsenal and a deliver that’s both high-effort and not conducive to developing a changeup. But the velocity is elite, and the slider is an out pitch. 17. Cincinnati Reds We haven’t gone the prep route in the first round since Jeter Downs in 2017, and not with our top pick since Tyler Stephenson in 2015, but the value here is in the high school ranks. Pick: Anthony Solometo, LHP — Bishop Eustace HS (NJ) Solometo is a projectable southpaw with a borderline-low three-quarter slot and is up to 95 mph. His ability to attack the entire strike zone with his four-seamer helps it play up and sets up a slurve and promising changeup. There’s quirk in the mechanics, but he repeats well. 18. St. Louis Cardinals We think we have Yadier Molina‘s replacement in last year’s first-round pick Patrick Bailey, but there’s a pair of backstops we like here, plus some arm talent we need. Pick: Jordan Wicks, LHP — Kansas State Wicks’s changeup can be devastating, and it plays well off the fastball into the 92-95 mph range. He throws strikes and has an average cutter-slider and below-average curveball to complete the arsenal. 19. Toronto Blue Jays With the team starting a competitive window, I’m enticed by a lot of the college talent still on the board. I would have considered Wicks, Madden, and Cusick, but the BPA demographic is wide open. Pick: Gavin Williams, RHP — East Carolina Williams gets to the mid-90s with relative ease and has flashed average or better secondaries, including a slider-changeup combo that has chance to be plus. 20. New York Yankees The way this has worked out for us is exciting. Best player available matches our greatest weakness and need. Pick: Dylan Smith, RHP — Alabama Smith pitches in the low-90s, but with command, and sets up one of the better sliders int he class. He also has an average curveball that projects up to plus. He’s very athletic with a clean arm path. 21. Chicago Cubs We’re rebuilding now, but we want to do it quickly and were hoping a college arm we liked here would fall to us. And it did. Pick: Will Bednar, RHP — Mississippi State Bednar owns one of the more polished and complete arsenals in the draft, including two big-league breaking balls and a four-seamer up to 97 mph. He throws strikes and profiles as a strong mid-rotation arm that moves quickly through the minors. 22. Chicago White Sox Stability on the mound would be nice, but we’re in a good spot with this pick to simply take the best player available and completely disregard the present needs of the big club. Pick: Andrew Painter, RHP — Calvary Christian HS (Fla.) He’s up to 96 mph with the four-seam variety and gets some run on the two-seamer, setting up three projectable secondaries. His calling card is fastball command on top of a projectable 6-foot-6 frame. 23. Cleveland (Spiders, c’mon) We know we can max out the value of pitchers and our org is shy on bats, so we’re looking for position players. Pick: Joe Mack, C — Williamsville East HS (NY) Mack is strong, sturdy, and projects to stick behind the plate thanks to a strong arm and baseball IQ. He makes regular hard contact and projects to at least average power. 24. Atlanta Braves This is purely BPA, but if I had my druthers, I’d love to add an up-the-middle talent with all-star upside. Pick: Jud Fabian, CF — Florida Fabian has plus power and projects as an above average defender in center, but has struggled making consistent contact. If he can eliminate some swing and miss he could get to 30 homers. Comps include Adam Jones, Vernon Wells, and Preston Wilson. 25. Oakland Athletics We’ve always danced to our own beat in Oakland, but this pick shouldn’t look odd to anyone. Pick: Will Taylor, OF — Dutch Fork HS (SC) He’s a multi-sport star, including wrestling, and offers 70-grade raw speed and a chance to hit and get to average power production. 26. Minnesota Twins We’re jumping for joy right now because the player we wanted to get to us is there and we’re going to take him. Woo hoo!! Pick: Benny Montgomery, OF — Red Land HS (PA) Montgomery is a projectable athlete with big-time speed and projectable power. If he sticks in center, and he should, at least for a while, he has a great chance to be an everyday option with lineup versatility. 27. San Diego Padres I could throw a dart at our board and feel OK no matter where it lands. So let’s try it. Boom! Pick: Gunnar Hoglund, RHP — Ole Miss Hoglund had a shot to go in the top 10 before being sidelined and undergoing UCL surgery. He’s unlikely to pitch until late 2022 at the soonest but should move quickly through the minors thanks to command and a full assortment of secondaries led by an above-average slider. 28. Tampa Bay Rays Thinking about drafting only shortstops this year to anger the other 29 teams, but we already have 93 of them, so we’ll go in another direction. Pick: Josh Hartle, LHP — Regan HS (NC) Hartle is one of the more projectable arms in the class, bringing a 6-foot-5, 195-pound frame to pro ball. He’s up to 94 mph with the fastball and has a promising slider and changeup. There’s no deception in the delivery, but he commands the fastball well all over the zone. 29. Los Angeles Dodgers We’re always looking for impact pitching and have an excellent choice of upside plays here, both on the mound and in the box. Pick: Joshua Baez, OF — Dexter Southfield HS (Mass.) Baez has plus raw power, but comes with hit tool questions and a very shallow track record versus strong competition.
Mariners fans have long been tired of the press for patience. And who can blame them? It’s been 20 years since their home team made the postseason, and 18 since it won 90 or more games. But when a group led by John Stanton purchased the Mariners in 2016 the deal brought new hope. Five years later and the short leash fans gave the new group is gone. And it should be. When Jerry Dipoto took over as GM and VP of Baseball Operations prior to the 2016 season, it was clear what needed to happen. The organization needed a rebuild. A foundational top to bottom, left to right, tear-it-down, build-it-up. The problem at the time was the roster was aging, expensive and had two mega contracts, which complicated starting a rebuild, and Stanton may not have liked the idea of spending, in the form of covering portions of contracts, to start over in 2016. So Dipoto and company began their tenure running the club in ‘do-what-you-with-what-you-have’ mode. And they did. It was a mediocre team at best at the time and continued to be the first two years. Once 2018 hit, a few things began to pan out and the team win 89 games. I’ve read a lot of criticism about the club’s decision to rebuild after winning 89 games. Some of the reasons I’ve heard and read include “they were an 89-win team, build on THAT,” and “if you can’t take an 89-win team and get to 95 from that you’re a terrible GM.” But the fact is, it was the perfect time to turn it over: Robinson Cano was 35, had half his $240 million contract remaining, and had just come off a suspension for testing positive for banned substances. But he performed well after the suspension, so if a team was willing to take on a good portion of the $120 million left, do it and don’t look back. Edwin Diaz had an elite, and unrepeatable, season as the club’s closer. He’d yet to hit arbitration status and there were four years left of contract control. If there’s one thing we’ve learned about relievers over the years, it’s their insane level of volatility. Feliz Hernandez’s contract had two more guaranteed years, rather than five (at the start of Dipoto’s tenure) The club was out from under the contract of Nelson Cruz after the ’18 season, too, which isn’t a reason to start a rebuild, and it wasn’t a hindrance to house the deal it was a bargain, but having Cruz, Cano, Kyle Seager, and Hernandez was a great hamper to rebuilding, and was actually a bit of an opportunity to see what the roster could do, despite having very little opportunity to go add significant pieces (see: near-empty farm system, available financial assets stretched to a top-10, $175M payroll. Waiting and trying to make the most of the 2018 roster with an aging Hernandez, Cano, and Seager pulling away from his prime, no farm system, no significant financial flexibility — seriously, that roster wasn’t one $15 million player away, it was two stars and three average players (maybe $50-60 million proven players) from being a 95-plus win team — would have been a disaster. They would have lost out on the chance to take advantage of Diaz’s career year — it’s still by far his best year and may always be that way — shed a large chunk of Cano’s remaining contract, maximize the value of James Paxton and Mike Zunino, who each had two years of control remaining (had it been four, keeping both may very well have made sense), and most of all rebuilding the foundation itself — the farm system. Passing on the opportunity to do any or all of the above would have been a fireable offense for any GM and a senseless preference for an ownership. It takes commitment and financial guts to approve such a plan. At the time, the ownership was worthy of applause. Well, that’s faded, if not gone altogether, and not solely because the club still isn’t winning — this season was always marked as the corner, not the year the team had a great chance to win — but because the ownership has done nothing but shoot itself in the foot, even since the rebuild began two and a half years ago. First, by acting like a corporation that doesn’t care enough about its employees, when they cut their pay because the team’s profits were hit by the pandemic, and let it impact their plans to build a winning team — more on that in a minute. That was an opportunity to stand out in a positive way, both in the community and among ownerships in baseball. Failed. Then came the Kevin Mather fiasco. Not only did the president of the baseball team make racist comments, which is bad enough all by itself, he spit on a very good and loyal player, and admitted the club was manipulating the service time of prospect Jarred Kelenic, a practice long deployed in Major League Baseball, but never one that was carelessly and braggadociosly stated to those outside an organization. Mather, at the time, was a minority owner on top of his president role. But rather than the club acting swiftly, removing Mather from the role, and starting the process of booting him from ownership, he was allowed to resign, and Stanton, in a press conference the following Monday after Mather’s comments on a Zoom call to the Bellevue Rotary club were made public, would not even answer the question of whether he would have fired Mather had he not resigned. The owner of the team did nothing to stand up for Julio Rodriguez, Seager, Kelenic, and at the end of the day, for a franchise that cannot afford further embarrassment. Perhaps Stanton lacks the ability to serve as the mouthpiece. I’ll grant him the benefit of the doubt there. But he’s the owner of the team. He can say whatever he wants whenever he wants, and he hasn’t been heard from in any meaningful capacity since. Not on the future of the on-field product, not on the Mather situation, not on further steps the organization has taken to create the right culture for people, including players. What we have learned in recent months is Mather, long before his appalling comments, meddled in baseball operations when he nixed original payroll plans for the 2020-21 offseason, leaving Dipoto to stand pat over the winter rather than start adding significant pieces to help the club turn the corner. Dipoto has been calling ’21, in his own words, the corner year since the rebuild began in November 2018, and here it is time to start executing toward that and Mather, the money guy, chose money, derailing Dipoto’s plans and essentially pushing the timeline backward. But this is on Stanton. It’s on Stanton for not sticking with his commitment to winning baseball, something he has said publicly on numerous occasions, and it’s on Stanton because he asked fans to be patient, and then, asked them for more time, because, well, money. No. Just… no. These are not the actions of a committed ownership. And now, to fans, Dipoto’s words ring hollow if he doesn’t deliver. If you’re Dipoto here, you’re not happy at all. We can argue all day about whether Dipoto can execute as successful a second half of the rebuild process as he has the first half, but none of it matters if the ownership doesn’t stick to its own commitments. Or we need to define the word ‘commitment’ to Mr. Stanton, just so we’re all clear. noun1. the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc. “the company’s commitment to quality” Ownership committing to winning, and staying committed, does not mean it has to spend until they win, or they’re not committed. It means being competitive with payroll. Taking risks when the club’s baseball people see an opportunity. It means thirsting for winning like the fans. And that was Stanton’s selling point as majority owner; he’s a fan. The man keeps score. The dude gets distracted at business meetings because he’s checking scores. True stories. However, the company, the Seattle Mariners, have broken their commitment at least once already under Stanton in terms of putting a winner on the field. Commitments don’t come with conditions. That’s why they’re commitments. After all that’s occurred the past three years — and really the past nine months — Stanton still has an opportunity to climb out of this as clean as Andy Dufresne. But rather than landing on a beach overlooking the blue of the Pacific, such commitment leads to what sports owners like more than anything — money. Literally, remaining committed to winning will make owners even more money. They just don’t want to take risks. That has to change. At the end of the day, the financial backing must be available to Dipoto to expect him to finish what he started. Immediately. Now. It’s difficult enough to build good baseball rosters. There are 29 other teams trying to beat you at the same game, after the same goals, after the same players. Some have committed owners. Those that don’t fail over and over. You know the teams on both ends of this equation: The Los Angeles Dodgers, Washington Nationals, New York Yankees, New York Mets, San Diego Padres, St. Louis Cardinals, Houston Astros, and a few others, have been committed to winning over the last several years. Others are joining or rejoining the party. Most of those teams are winning or have won a lot in recent years. And commitment isn’t about splurging for $230 million payrolls every year, or ever. The Cardinals are consistently ranked between eighth and 14th in payroll. The Astros rank No. 5 this season and last, but have ranked eighth, ninth, and 17th during their run to World Series prominence. YEAR PAYROLL RANK 2022 $33.700M — 2021 $92.325M 25 2020 $112.751M 23 2019 $152.527M 14 2018 $170.971M 10 2017 $174.721M 12 2016 $171.340M 10 2015 $144.985M 13 Heck, the Mariners themselves were 12th in 2017, 10th a year later, and 13th in 2019. And while there’s no “get back to this number and it’s real commitment” it is “get back to the plan” and especially “let Jerry cook.” Put the plan, financially speaking, back in motion. Today. Not tomorrow. Today. If Dipoto (and his lieutenants) has proven anything to team ownership, it’s his ability to be trusted with payroll. He’s cleaned house, has proven adept at working markets with the best in baseball, and has proven he can identify talent, from the amateur ranks through long-time big leaguers. His efforts have protected this ownership’s financial risk for five-plus years now. Time to flip the script. Owners can drive their way to more money. They’re billionaires. They’ve done it before — they do it in their sleep. But owners have never steered teams to winning. Baseball people do that, and it’s time Stanton hands the reins back to his baseball people, led by Dipoto, and sit back and enjoy the ride like the rest of us. But things need to move in this direction quickly or even more fans are going to permanently jump ship. They don’t have another 20 years. They may not have another 20 minutes. And if Stanton doesn’t think Mariners fans will jump ship and hop on the bandwagon of other sports teams in the city with their heads, their hearts, and their wallets, or even toward a potential MLB franchise in Portland, he’s sorely mistaken. The ownership of this baseball team must step up. With their words, with their actions, and with their wallets. The opportunity to be different remains. It’s not too late. It’s never too late be better. To be the outlier in Major League Baseball. To be a place people want to work. To be a place players want to play. To be the team fans want to support. This ownership still has a chance to do right by Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic, and to honor the patience of the fan base, by sticking to their own commitment to winning. And there’s no time like the present.
It’s not even June yet but it’s clear there are five teams in Major League Baseball headed for selling at this year’s trade deadline. There are another handful of clubs on the brink, including the Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels, and Minnesota Twins, but it’s a bit early to write them entirely out of contention for at least the No. 2 Wild Card in their repsective leagues, and the Twins and Angels might be a little more bullish on holding things together and taking a chance the talent wins out over the course of the full schedule. The last-place team in the National League East is just 2.5 games back in the division, so all five teams remain in hunting mode, and even the Reds at 5.5 games back in the NL Central aren’t toast just yet. In addition to the Reds, Angels, and Twins, the Royals may join the sellers list, but are 22-23 and just four games back in the American League Central entering this week. Here are the seven that already appear done for in 2021, and what they may consider trading by July 30. (yes, July 30 is this year’s deadline) Baltimore Orioles The Orioles in a full-scale rebuild and have some interesting pieces they’ll to consider. I don’t see Trey Mancini being shopped this year, and there are a few players not performing, such as Maikel Franco, Shawn Armstrong, and Anthony Santander, that could be sought after if they turn things around quickly. John Means, LHS Means might fetch a solid return package if he’s shopped this summer., but the question isn’t simply about tipping the scale with the right talent, it’s also about whether or not the club believes he’s a key part to the next winner in Baltimore. He’s not a No. 1 starter and his track record as the No. 2 or 3 he’s shown in 2021 is extremely shallow — all of nine starts. Despite a 3.02 ERA in 10 starts last season, he was hit harder than that (4.45 xFIP, 5.60 FIP) and may be valued somewhere in between. Means is 28 and will not be a free agent until after the 2024 season, so it’s three years after this left on his current contract situation, and at very reasonable prices in a world where mid-rotation arms don’t break the bank via arbitration. Freddy Galvis, SS Galvis isn’t likely to getch much as a rental, but he’s having a career year early on (123 wRC+ as of May 23) and legit shortstops with some offensive ability don’t grow on treest, especially in July. Paul Fry, LHR Fry is headed for arbitration for the first time after this season, and he’s backing up a solid 2020 with an outstanding 2021, dominating left-handed batters (.125/.222/.125) and treating righties only slightly better (.211/.302/.237). He’s a two-pitch arm, but he’s getting a ton of value out of his fastball. He’s not a consistent multi-inning option — at least he hasn’t been the past two seasons — and he’s yet to appear in a single true back-to-back, but considering the volatility with relievers and the fact the club is at least two years from competing, the Orioles should dangle Fry and take the best offer. Detroit Tigers The Tigers have flashed a bit early in 2021 but the 40-man roster has a long way to go and it’s difficult to see them winning before 2023. They’ve already moved most of their veterans, but theres a handful that contenders may be texting GM Al Avila about through the deadline. Injured lefty Derek Holland could join the group below, but it’s been three years since he was last serviceable, so I;m not holding my breath. Robbie Grossman, OF Grossman signed a two-year deal worth $10 million prior to this season, but if he keeps running a 130 wRC+ powered by a .384 OBP and acceptable power the Tigers may get an offer they shouldnt refuse. Grossman has a better hit tool as a right-handed batter but more raw power as a lefty and could fill a roll for a contender without a standard answer in an outfield corner, or at DH. Jonathan Schoop, 2B Schoop hasn’t hit much through 43 games (.216/.259/.309) but was solid a year ago and offers a club some pop at second base without giving it back defensively. He’s in Motown on a one-year deal so if clubs call, the Tigers are sure to listen. Wilson Ramos, C Another one-year deal for Avila, Ramos is one hot streak from being a very valuable piece this summer. He owns a career 102 wRC+, but was 11% below average a year ago and is off to a bad start (.200/.238/.392), despite the power this season. If healthy, the 33-year-old Ramos is a solid bet to be moved. Daniel Norris, LHR Norris, a free agent at seasons end, was good in 14 games a year ago, covering 27.2 innings, but he’s allowed earned runs in six of 15 appearances and his walk rate is up more than 3% so far. He’s also getting hit harder than ever (95.2 mph average exit velocity is up more than 5 mph from career), and he’s not getting out lefties or righties, suggesting he’ll need to make an adjustment or two or and perform before he’s the subject of serious trade conversations. Matthew Boyd, LHS Boyd has two years before free agency beckons and he’s having a weird, yet successful season. His strikeout rate is down to 19.4% after he struck out more than 30% of the batters he faced in 2019. He’s also limiting home runs (3.1%) to unsustainable levels right now, but the raw stuff is the same, with one glaring exception; his slider hasn’t been the same since ’19, explaining the huge dip in strikeouts, and swinging strikes, and the increase in contact when he gets batters to chase out of the zone. Still, he’s 30, will be due less than $3 million when the deadline arrives, and has allowed fewer than three earned runs six times in nine starts and fewer than two in four. He’s also gone six or more in six starts and failed to go at least five just once. Clubs are going to call, and the Tigers should pull the trigger. Finally. Seattle Mariners Seattle was hoping to start competing better this season, but former team president Kevin Mather nixed the financial flexibility GM Jerry Dipoto was expecting, so in some ways the club is at least a half year behind where they wanted to be. There arent a lot of pieces left to sell, and there’s a good chance Dipoto looks to add future help this summer to both make up for lost time and get a jump start on the offseason. Mitch Haniger, RF Haniger is finally back healthy after missing 99 games in 2019 and all of 2020 with core injuries and multiple surgeries, and he’s powered up to a 140 wRC+ and above average marks in batting average and on-base percentage. He’s a fringe-average right field glove but has a plus arm, and has lineup versatility from leadoff all the way down to the bottom third. He’s not free-agent eligible until after 2022, and is earning a modest $3M this season. Having said all that, the 30-year-old remains an injury risk to some degree, and the deadline rarely bears a lot of fruit for corner outfielders. Most of all, Haniger’s availability has to be weighed against Dipoto’s attempts to compete some in 2022. If the veteran is traded, it’s likely a sign the club has indeed been forced to push things back a full season. But most signs point to Haniger remaining, and at the end of the day it doesn’t seem like the Mariners would be passing up a lucrative package, anyway. Kendall Graveman, RHR Graveman isn’t going to warrant the kind of trade package a lot of Mariners fans expect, because he’s simply not special. Despite a 1.87 ERA and .111 BAA, his xFIP of 2.87 is rather ordinary for high-leverage arms and the Mariners have babied him all year. The former starter has yet to pitch on back-to-back days and has pitched on fewer than 2 days rest just four times. He’s also pitched on three days rest three times, four days rest once and 6 days rest once. It may be precautionary, as the right-hander was diagnosed with a benign tumor near the C6 of his cervical spine, but if that’s how he needs to go about 2021 it’s going to impact his trade value. That’s assuming the Mariners don’t plan on extending Graveman beyond 2021 and passing on the relatively modest trade return I’d expect to be offered. Tom Murphy, C Murphy entered 2021 as possible trade fodder in July, based on his above-average defense and .273/.324/.535, 18-homer run in 76 games back in 2019. He’s played in 27 games in 2021 and enters the week batting .133/.182/.313 with four home runs. Nobody thought he’d repeat his ’19 success, but this is a but much. If he rebounds for a month or more clubs will call looking for a No. 2 catcher, but despite the fact prospect Cal Raleigh is close, the Mariners should hold Murphy, rather than exchanging him for a bullpen flyer or two. Kyle Seager, 3B Seager’s $15 million option for 2022 may not look bad is he continues to perform at a similar clip — 119 wRC+, .474 slugging percentage, 1.4 fWAR in 47 games — which could entice a club to inquire. The reason the option is a factor is due to a clause in his contract that turns the club option into a player one if he’s traded. Seager’s increase in swinging strikes can be attributed mainly to his increased chase rate, which is up nearly 8% from a year ago, 4.1% higher than his career mark. His zone contact rate is also down enough to think maybe his bat has slowed down, but the sample is small and despite a baseball that’s not supposed to travel as far as recent season’s Seager still is hitting the ball as hard ( career best 90.7 average exit velo) and as often ( career high47.3% hard hit rate) as he ever has. Seager’s ultimate trade fate is somewhat similar to Haniger’s in that the club would have one more hole to fill if they trade him or don’t find a way to bring him back in 2022, either on the option or a new contract. Texas Rangers The Rangers have a lot more to offer than one might assume, considering they’re rebuild is a few years under way. There are a few veterans, namely Jordan Lyles, that likely will be available but difficult to trade considering performance and monies due, but Chris Young will have opportunities to move proven players for future assets. Kyle Gibson, RHS The 33-year-old Gibson is signed through 2022 and will be owed $10 million total once the deadline hits. He struggled some in 12 starts last season, but has been solid in 2021, thanks to the return of his sinker and changeup. Texas could keep Gibson and hope they can break through in 2022, but unless they plan on competing for at least two stars in free agency this coming winter, 2023 is the soonest Arlington is likely to see a winner in the royal, red, and white. There are always contenders needing rotation stability and the fact he’s not a two-month rental and dirt cheap only increases both demand and value. Ian Kennedy, RHR Kennedy is due under $1 million the final two months of the season and has found success in the Rangers bullpen after a terrible 2020 in Kansas City. But success in relief is not new to Kennedy, as he was very good for the Royals in 2019. At press time, he was running a career-high 31.1% strikeout rate and career-best 5.4% walk rate. He’s sitting 93-96 mph and his best secondary has been a solid-average cutter and improved curveball. Kennedy should end up elsewhere by the deadline. He can help a contender. Joey Gallo, OF Gallo’s value peaked in 2017 and held fairly strong in 2019 before he got hurt and missed more than half the season. He hit .181/.301/.378 last season in 57 games and is batting .209/.365/.361 in 47 games this season. He’s fine in a corner outfield spot and will draw walks, and one might wonder if he was surrounded by a better lineup if he might get more pitches to hit and feel incentivized to be more selective. He’s still just 27 and the raw power is at least 70-grade, so a club with a need for some pop that’s willing to put up with low averages could show enough interest to pry him away. Gallo won’t be a free agent until after next season. David Dahl, OF The Rangers’ signing of Dahl was one of the best moves of the winter by any club. It cost the Rangers under $3 million and Dahl has upside, as he showed in 2018 and 2019. But after a fast start this season he’s struggled someting fierce and it appears he’s topping the baseball and/or getting out fron too much. He’d likely have to turn things around for teams to come knocking, but Dahl is a talented hitter who’s healthy so stay tuned here. Pittsburgh Pirates The Pirates were sellers when the year started and even they knew it, but how aggressive they’ll be remains to be seen since there isn’t a whole lot to trade. It would help if Gregory Polanco could find some consistency, because without it no club is going to take on the $6.3 million guaranteed he’s owed. Adam Frazier, 2B Since the Pirates aren’t trading Ke’Bryan Hayes or Bryan Reynolds, Frazier is their most valuable trade chip. The former 6th-round pick is peaking at the right time, batting .335/.396/.462 driven by a line-drive swinf and high rate of contact. He’s an average glove at second base, a very good baserunner with above-average speed and isn’t free-agent eligible until after next season. He also has spent enough time in the outfield to suggest he’s at least average there, too, offering more flexibility to a contending roster, especially if a club that calls on Frazier doesn’t need an everyday player. Tyler Anderson, LHS Anderson should interest some of the Wild Card clubs that are kind of stuck between waiting another year and going for it a bit right now, because he’s a rental with a low price tag in both trade cost and salary (due under $1 million the final two months of 2021). He’s running a career-high strikeout rate of 23.8%, a career best xFIP, throws a lot of strikes, and when he spots his four-seam fastball he’s tougher to hit than his raw stuff would suggest thanks to what has been a very good sinker-cutter combo. Trevor Cahill, RHS Cahill is a No. 5 starter, but has experience in relief and could interest a fringe contender that believes in the veteran’s ground ball arsenal again. Richard Rodriguez, RHR Rodriguez is heading for Year 2 of arbitration following the season and his performance thus far suggests $4 million is not out of the question, which may send the Pirates out this summer to maximize the return on what is shaping up to be another very good season. The righty isn’t posting the huge strikeout numbers he did a year ago (36.6% in 2020, 23.4% in 2021), but he’s issued but one base on balls and has yet to serve up a longball. Rodriguez is a four-seam fastball pitcher with a rare slider (8.7%), which may explain the dive in strikeouts and swinging strikes (down 5%). If he flashes the good slider some before the deadline contenders are going to be interested and the Pirates should be more than willing. Colorado Rockies The Rockies probably should be willing to gut the entire roster and start fresh, but their GM just resigned and the interim GM is scouting director Bill Schmidt, who may or may not be a candidate for the permanent role. How much leash will the club president allow an interim GM? My guess not the kind that makes German Marquez trade bait in July. Trevor Story, SS Story should be one of the elite prizes a this year’s deadline. He’s a free agent after the season, has two 5-win season under his belt and offers speed, power, and defense from the shortstop position. He’s not tearing it up, but is hitting enough to draw significant interest, and he could start a 14-for-25, 6-homer stretch at any moment. While Story should hit anywhere, I do wonder how much he’ll have to alter his general game plan to maintain his power production outside Denver. Story should be sure bet to be moved by the deadline, and it could happen at any moment. Daniel Bard, RHR Bard is a quality arm for the middle innings for a good team, and hes throwing as hard as ever (98.2 mph) with an above-average slider to complement. His contract is club controlled through next season, but the Rockies should have no dreams about 2022. Trade him. Mychal Givens, RHRGivens is a free agent at season’s end, and while he hasn’t been great in 2021 his stuff and deception are lightning in a bottle waiting to happen. He’ll need to string together some success, but he has time to find some mechanical fixes to help him throw more strikes. Robert Stephenson, RHR Stephenson throws strikes and his velocity is up two ticks (97 mph) from a year ago. His curveball is average and the home run ball has bitten him his past 29 appearances, but there’s a controllable, quality middle-relief arm here, perhaps a little more if a club can get more from his secondaries. Jon Gray, RHS Gray was the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 and while he’s been fine, he hasn’t quite lived up to lofty expectations. There’s a chance he’s having his best season in terms of pure results, but it’s difficult to see how its sustainable. After his strikeout rate was cut in half last season, it remains below 20%, and he’s rolling out the worst walk rate of his career. He is, however, generating more ground balls, which is a strategy that theoretically works at Coors Field. His slider, at time throughout his career has been pure filth, and it has been above-average in 2021, but the lack os a quality third pitch has held him back almost as much as his environment. Still, he’s throwing 95 mph, is healthy, and there’s no commitment beyond this season, so I expect the Rockies to trade him. A Wild Card team could use him in the rotation and a World Series contender might see a multi-inning reliever for their October run. Charlie Blackmon, OF Blackmon isn’t hitting much, will be 35 in July and is owed $52 million over the next three years. While it’s difficult to suggest he’s not available, no team is going to take on a significant portion of that money and the Rockies are probably better off hanging onto him and hoping he hits so they can move him next summer. C.J. Cron, 1B/DH Cron is in Colorado on a one-year, $1 million deal, which is going to help him get traded. He’s batting .297/.391/.486 and can fake it at first base. Arizona Diamondbacks I joked in April the Diamondbacks had one good player, Ketel Marte, and while that’s not true — Carson Kelly, David Peralta, Josh Rojas, and Zac Gallen are all good players, and Madison Bumgarner has found a way to be solid again, too — it is true the D-Backs are stuck in purgatory. They’re nowhere near a 90-win team, and 2021 is a lost season, but they do have some talent to dangle in July. Asdrubal Cabrera, 2B/3B I saw Cabrera’s first professional game for short-season Everett in 2004 and he’s still playing — and hitting — at age 35. He’s a .306/.406/.529 hitter as a lefty this season (154 wRC+), can manage at second in short stints and more than handle third base. Cabrera, on a one-year deal in Arizona, could be a valuable reserve for any club aiming toward October. Eduardo Escobar, UT It’s the final year of Escobar’s three-year deal and as a multi-position glove he’s decent enough trade bait to expect buzz on him in July. He’s hitting .230/.272/.470 with 12 homers, so a good club is likely to see him as a short-term replacement or bench option, but there’s no reason for Arizona to keep him beyond July 30. David Peralta, OF Peralta, 33, is signed through next season and will be due about $11 million from this year’s deadline through 2022. He’s been a steady, yet limited performer for years,posting mostly good but not great power numbers, but carries a .290/.345/.474 career slash into the week, which is almost idnetical to his 2021 numbers. He’s an average corner outfielder who struggles versus left-handed pitching, but he’s hit them enough lately to stay in the lineup, and he owns a lifetime 128 wRC+ versus right-handers, essentially making him the Cabrera of outfielder potentially on the trade block this summer.
The past three weeks in Marinersland has been rough. The club was no-hit twice, is averaging 3.1 runs per game in May and allowing nearly six. While there’s no tipping the scales toward a playoff roster in 2021, the Seattle Mariners can and should pull off a few minor moves to improve the club’s ability to compete the rest of the season. Ty France is due back this week. I imagine the roster move there is Eric Campbell option or DFA, and France will play a lot of first base. In a week or so, Dylan Moore will be eligible to return, too, and if he’s ready as soon as he’s eligible, the roster move there is probably Jack Mayfield sent back to Triple-A Tacoma. Once Marco Gonzales returns, one of the relievers likely heads back to Triple-A. But here are four more moves the club can make in addition to getting healthy in order to eliminate some of the steep troughs in expected performance. 1. Call up C Cal Raleigh, option Jose Godoy The wait isn’t going to last much longer, and even if Raleigh comes up and hit .200/.260/.375, he’s an upgrade at the plate and behind it. Tom Murphy is a fine glove, and does some things defensively better than Raleigh at present, but the club’s top catching prospect is a switch hitter with above-average power from both sides — plus from the left — and projects to average on-base marks. This move costs the Mariners nothing. I’m totally OK with the club waiting for what they feel is the right time. They know this player better than anyone. But this ultimately is an easy move. 2. Trade for 2B Adam Frazier, DFA C/1B Jacob Nottingham Why Frazier, and what do the Mariners do with a healthy Moore after this acquisition? Answer: Play matchup. Frazier, who is No. 13 on my Mariners Trade Target Index available to Baseball Things subscribers, is under club control through next season. He’s 29 and a left-handed bat that makes consistent contact. His career slash is .279/.343/.418, but he’s having a career year right now at .339/.402/.471. He’s not going to sustain that, but helps the club get on base more and move runners ahead of him. He handles the bat well, is a good bunter, and a solid defensive second baseman. Frazier can spell Crawford at shortstop, as can Moore, and has nearly 1,000 innings of at least average defense in the outfield. Frazier and Moore have similar defensive profiles, but are opposites with the bat beyond handedness, and until Evan White is ready to return (more on that in a second), Moore and France can share first base and DH, while Moore also spells Kyle Seager at third, Mitch Haniger and Jarred Kelenic in the corners, Crawford at shortstop, as well as some starts at second base. Moore hit .265/.324/.618 May 7-18 before the IL stint, and appears to be much more likely to produce versus left-handed pitching. Frazier wouldn’t be FREE, but the cost here isn’t likely to be prohibitive, and he can help solidify the club’s infield for next season, as he carries a much more reliable set of offensive skills. Even with Shed Long set to start a rehab assignment, the club lacks stability at second base, and it’s time to start considering the floor on a position-by-position basis. Luis Arraez is another option, but he’d be quite a bit pricier as there are four control years attached after 2021. A trio of Top 30 prospects — two in the top 20 — ought to get it done. By the way, Frazier came highly recommended in the 2013 Draft by scout Jeremy Booth: See his scouting report 3. Option 1B Evan White to Triple-A Tacoma How does this help the ‘floor’ of the current roster? Well, think about what we’ve done offensively with the additions of Raleigh and Frazier, and the return of France and Moore. White would have to replace someone on the 26-man. Let’s walk through this. The Mariners have been carrying 10 non-catcher position players, and probably will continue to do so, even after Gonzales returns from the IL. So we have the two catchers, Seager, Crawford, Moore, France, Frazier, Haniger, Kelenic and Kyle Lewis. That’s 10. One of those players is out if White returns to the active roster. What’s likely to happen beyond the scenario we’ve built here is White is activated and a player like Nottingham, Campbell, Mayfield, or Walton is optioned. But we’ve already done that, so we need a different solution. It just so happens this solution is better for player and club. White needs time in Triple-A, and he’s going to get some of that on a rehab assignment, but it should be extended beyond 20 days so he can fix his swing. 4. Trade for RHP Chris Stratton, option Yohan Ramirez This is another inexpensive addition that reduces the inflammatory nature of the pitching staff. Stratton throws strikes, limits walks, and is actually comparabale to Drew Steckenrider in ability to get outs, though at the moment Stratton’s strikeout rate of 24% is down from 29% a year ago. He is, however, avoiding the walk and home run better than ever. His contract is controllable through 2023, so its not a rental and he won’t be free. But the Pirates are going nowhere fast and a couple of potential future contributors should be good enough to grab the right-hander. Stratton, who also has experience starting in the majors, has made five two-inning appearances. He sits 92-94 mph with the fastball, has an average slider and curveball, plus an average changeup. With such an acquisition, the Mariners will have a decision to make when Casey Sadler is ready to return from the IL. Paul Sewald, JT Chargois, Erik Swanson are all potential options to head back to Tacoma. Ultimately, two of the three will shipped out since one is almost certain to go upon Gonzales’ return. Stratton’s price tag is probably similar to that of Frazier’s and he’s around as a quality middle reliever and spot starter through 2023. The above upgrades aren’t going to turn the current roster into a contender, but they solidify the roster both now and for the immediate future, and don’t mortagage but a few pennies of the future in the grand scheme.
If you were especially excited for the 2021 pitching debuts of No. 3 prospect Emerson Hancock, No. 4 prospect Logan Gilbert, and No. 6 prospect George Kirby, I have four words for you: Those three have company. Gilbert looked very good Thursday in Tacoma, touching 97 MPH, flashing two big-league caliber breaking balls, and commanding it all very well. Hancock and Kirby has more abbreviated outings as they get ramped up as the season moves along, but both flashed in their outings; Hancock with velocity, Kirby with command. But Sam Carlson and Brandon Williamson have stolen the show in the first week of the 2021 MiLB campaign, at least in regard to Mariners pitching prospects. The right-handed Carlson, my No. 17 prospect to start the year, made his first appearance in 1,390 days. After being selected No. 55 overall in the 2017 MLB Draft, he took the mound a few times in the Arizona League for the club’s rookie club. When elbow pain sprouted early, he was shut down. Though the club and player hoped to avoid surgery with rest and rehab, he’d go under the knife in July, 2018 wiping out his entire 2018 and 2019 seasons. He was ready to go in 2020 before that season was killed by the pandemic. He was back on the mound in Modesto Saturday, and from my eyes, it went a little something like this. Fastball sat 92-94 mph, touched 95 at least once. The pitch showed life up and to arm side, and Stockton hitters weren’t picking it up in time to read it and make contact. Swings and misses and called strikes throughout the start with the fastball. He showed at least 50 command and 55 control of the pitch. Carlson threw two different breaking balls in this outing. The best one is an 81-83 mph slider with terrific depth and late two-plane break. He threw it at the back leg of left-handed batters and away from righties. It projects as a legit plus pitch with swing-and-miss ability. At times the fastball-slider combo was electric. He also threw a true curveball with mostly vertical break at 75-78 mph. It’s a new pitch for him, but he snapped off a few good ones in this start. It’s a big breaker with long-term potential. I’m not sure Carlson used the changeup in this one. I thought maybe I saw 1-2 but they very well could have been running fastballs. Carlson came to pro ball with a good feel for a firm changeup, so it’s been in his repertoire from Day 1. Carlson’s delivery was incredibly athletic in this outing, which wasn’t a surprise in the slightest because he’s a great athlete. He worked from the severe first-base side of the rubber and utilizes a portional windup, which is to say it’s a simple wind that looks more like he’s going from the stretch, a relatively popular choice these days. He stayed closed well and balanced his shoulder tilt with consistent rhythm. His leg kick was quick and aggressive, but not especially high. He gets the foot down in time in order to pronate his trunk to pull his upper body through with good back bend and leg drive without sacrificing vertical leverage. He finished pretty well out front, and at no point did his delivery unravel in his four innings of work. He pounded the strike zone consistently, rarely giving the hitter the count, and overmatched the Ports’ lineup. I was more impressed by Carlson in this start than any other pitching prospect that has made a start thus far, including Gilbert, and not just because it was Carlson’s first appearance in a game in nearly 1,400 days. It’s clear Carlson is healthy, well conditioned, and has been working on developing his pitches and mechanics while out rehabbing from Tommy John surgery. He’s always looked the part of a big-leaguer, but Saturday the 6-foot-4, 215 pounder looked like you could suit him up to play for the Lakers, the Raiders, or the Dodgers. I’m not saying he’s looked like Jacob deGrom, and it’s just one start that lasted but four frames, but I couldn’t be more encouraged by what Carlson displayed in his return. IP H ER BB SO P S 4.0 2 0 1 7 65 44 The last time I saw Williamson, my No. 9 Mariners prospect, he was fresh out of TCU as the clubs 2nd-round pick back in 2019. He’s always had a four-pitch mix, but he’s developed his curveball quite a bit since then, and he showed off the good velocity in Saturday’s outing in Hillsboro. The 6-foot-6 lefty may remind some of former Mariners left-hander Matt Thornton in some ways. Both throw hard, both tall and lanky, both with good curveballs. Williamson gave up two hits in this game, both singles in the first inning, didn’t walk any of the 15 batters he faced and constantly overpowered the Hops lineup. I’m told he sat in the 92-95 mph range with his fastball, but hit 96, and he flashed an average or better curveball throughout — some with more shape than others — but he maintained arm speed and finished well on almost all of them. Williamson also showed a few changeups with good arm speed and some sink, and either a varied version of the curveball or a small handful of sliders. Right now his slider is behind the curveball, but has a chance to be a legit offering for him. This was the pitcher I was hoping to see two summers ago, but after getting through an entire college season, he wasn’t showing everything he had in his 15 2/3 innings for the Sox. Williamson hit a lot of spots with the fastball in this one, particularly away to both right-handed and left-handed batters. He begins by toeing the third-base side of the rubber, and creates deception with his front shoulder. He stayed on top well in this game, too, creating plane, and tagging the top of the zone and both sides of the plate consistently. The biggest knocks on Williamson entering the 2019 Draft included a lack of an out pitch and some bouts with control issues. But he repeated a clean delivery Saturday and it’s clear the curveball has grown a couple of ticks; at draft time I couldn’t find anyone who’d seen his curveball enough to have a strong opinion it. That’s changed already in just one start. Williamson just turned 23 and thanks to the lost 2020 season is just now getting his feet wet as a pro starter, but with stuff and command like he showed in this start he will see Double-A Arkansas this season and could be on track for a late-2022 or early 2023 MLB debut. IP H ER BB SO P S 4.0 2 0 0 9 67 45 Both Carlson and Williamson have a ways to go, but Saturday was as good a start as anyone could have asked for from both pitchers, and Mariners fans should be excited. Rivals, not so much. Gilbert looked very good in Triple-A … Hancock and Kirby will be unleashed more and more as the season progresses but looked fine … Adam Macko was terrific in his 2021 debut, as was Connor Phillips … the Mariners have Matt Brash looking more like a starter than appeared possible thanks to a calmer delivery with more balance … Taylor Dollard, the club’s 5th-round pick last June, was dominant in his debut … unheralded righty Josias De Los Santos was terrific in his first outing … and the Mariners have yet to unveil right-handers Juan Then and Isaiah Campbell, my No. 10 and 11 prospects.
So, the Seattle Mariners finished the month of April 15-12. There were some ups and downs, including a month the bullpen was one of the best in baseball as the offense is among the league’s bottom third. Mariners April Win-Loss 2015-2019 2019: 18-142018: 16-112017: 11-152016: 13-102015: 10-12 There are a lot of ways to look at the first month of the season, but I hope some of the following numbers help tell the story from a little different angle. Below is a mix of team and player stats, some are positive, some are not. And there’s mostly no rhyme or reason to the order they are listed. The Mariners rank… 17th in runs scored per game (4.15) 13th in runs allowed per game (4.11) 28th in batting average (.211) 27th in on-base percentage (.291) 21st in slugging percentage (.375) 17th in home runs (30) 4th in doubles (46) 10th in stolen bases (13) 8th in batting average with runners on base (.255) 7th in slugging percentage with runners on base (.427) 3rd in batting average with runners in scoring position (.281) 2nd in slugging percentage with runners in scoring position (.516) 11th in batting average with RISP and two outs (.235) 5th in slugging percentage with RISP and two outs (.444) So, the team 11th in batting average w/RISP and fifth in slugging w/RISP is is 17th in runs scored. It’s as if the stats aren’t telling at all and should never be pushed as such an important part of a team’s chances to win games. It’s always been about getting on base, creating a lot of opportunities, and hitting for power. Always. 25th in batting average with two outs (.211) 22nd in on-base percentage with two outs (.299) 21st in slugging percentage with two outs (.362) 30th in batting average when leading off an inning (.184) 26th in on-base percentage when leading off an inning (.272) 19th in ERA (3.75) 16th in FIP (4.02) 28th in xFIP (4.51) 28th in pitcher strikeout rate (20.5%) 28th in starting pitcher strikeout rate (19.7%) 29th in relief pitcher strikeout rate (21.6%) 20th in pitcher walk rate (9.3%) 3rd in saves (8) 7th in starting pitcher innings (137.0) 14th in relief pitcher innings (95.2) 29th in starting pitcher xFIP (4.64) 21st in relief pitcher xFIP (4.32) 8th in relief pitcher LOB% Mariners relievers throw fewer fastballs than all but seven other clubs (49.7%)… They rank 9th-lowest in sliders thrown, 17th in cutters thrown, seventh in curveballs and eighth in changeups. Mariners starters ranks 23rd in fastball rate (45.7%), 13th in sliders, 7th in cutters, 10th in curveballs, 20th in changeups… Ty France ranks No. 14 in Sweet Spot rate (45.9%). Sweet Spot rate means the launch angle is between eight and 32 degrees, the angle at which nearly all hits travel off the bat. Kyle Seager is 28th in barrel rate (16.3%) and 67th average exit velocity (91.0 mph). Luis Torrens ranks 89th in average exit velocity at 90.4 mph. Taylor Trammell‘s 40.7% strikeout rate ranks 16th-highest. Tom Murphy‘s 36.5% ranks 27th-highest. Mitch Haniger;s 144 wRC+ is 19th in MLB among outfielders and 53rd overall. France ranks 27th in fWAR (1.0). Yusei Kikuchi‘s 30.2 innings is 28th in MLB, despite the fact most that rank ahead of him have made six starts to his five. Marco Gonzales‘ 91.4 mph average exit velocity is 6th-highest in MLB. Seattle’s 89.6 mph average exit velocity against is 7th-highest in baseball. The club’s allowed hard hit rate of 39.1% ranks 16th highest. The Mariners’ pitching staff induces chases on pitches out of the zone at a 31.1% clip, 11th-highest in MLB. The starters ranks 22nd (29.9%). The relievers rank 3rd at 32.9%. Mariners pitchers rank 30th in MLB in swinging strike rate at 9.5%, and 20th in called strike rate (16.5%). Both pitches are a sign of raw stuff and command. No team in baseball allows more contact on chased pitches (70.2%), or contact overall (79.7%). Seattle’s first-strike rate of 59.5% is 14th highest. Mariners batters rank 27th in average exit velocity (88.0 mph, tied with LAA, PIT), 19th in hard hit rate (38.6%), and 5th in hard hit rate (9.7%). Batting .219 on the first pitch, and slugging .406 on the first pitch, both worst in baseball. Batting .199 at home, worst in baseball. Seattle is batting just .160 when putting breaking balls in play. Amazingly, the Mariners are 3rd-best in baseball is laying off pitches above the zone (18.5%). 48.2% of the Mariners hits off starting pitchers have been for extra bases, the highest rate in baseball. 43.3% of the club’s hits for the season have gone for extra bases. 45.1% of Mariners hits with two strikes are of the extra-base variety, No. 3 in MLB. Mariners batters have hit against the shift 40% of the time this season, second-most in baseball (ATL, 41%). Seattle is slugging .509 in non-two strike counts, 3rd worst in MLB. Cincinnati leads the league at .670. Cleveland is worst at .473. In non-two strike counts, the Mariners have put 32% of their swings in play, 2nd-lowest in MLB. Mariners batters have chased just 24% of pitches out of the strike zone, 4th lowest in baseball, and just 11% of pitches out of the zone on the first pitch of plate appearances, 2nd-best in baseball. Seattle has scored first in 73% of their road games this season, 3rd-highest rate in MLB. Mariners batters have struck out on three pitches 55 times this season, tied for most in MLB. Eugenio Suarez ranks last (.034), Luis Arraez ranks No. 1 at .306. Mitch Haniger ranks 4th (.267). Hangier hits versus the shift 78% of the time so far. On inside pitches, Haniger owns a 55% ground ball rate. Vs. right-handed breaking balls, Haniger is slugging .611. On breaking balls away, Haniger has swung and missed 61% of the time, 8th-highest in MLB. He’s hitting .500 on fastballs away, however, 6th-best in baseball. Haniger is destroying lefties so far, as evidenced by his .800 slugging percentage against them. Oddly, lefty breaking balls have given him problems (87% whiff + foul rate). Dylan Moore is batting .085 with two strikes, 6th-worst in MLB. He’s put in play just 17% of his swings on fastballs, lowest in baseball. Tom Murphy has swung and missed on 44% of his total swings, incredibly just 7th-worst in MLB. Murphy’s home run to right-center field Friday night was a welcomed sight, since he’s pulling nearly 59% of the balls he puts in play, good for 13th-highest in MLB. Former Mariners catcher Mike Zunino leads baseball in pull rate at 72.7%. Catchers dominate this statistic. Of Kyle Seager’s 25 strikeouts this season, only three have come on fastballs. Seager’s 1.158 slugging percentage w/RISP leads all of baseball, as does his .450 well-hit average on pitches 95 mph or higher. Seager has kept the ball in the air versus righties this season (73% line drive+ fly ball). Seager’s ground ball rate on pitches on the outer portion of the plate is 30%, and his batting average on such pitches is just .103. Seager has swung and missed 54% of the time on breaking ball swings, and right-handed breaking balls are his nightmare (.062 average). 13 of Luis Torrens’ 16 strikeout have come on non-fastballs. Torrens is hitless in his last 16 at-bats vs. LHP. Ty France is batting .378 with a .622 with runners on base. France has hit ground balls on just 6% of elevated pitches so far this season, which makes David Fletcher‘s effort versus Chris Flexen Friday night seem remarkable. France has yet to hit a home run this season when ahead in the count. France is batting .455 with two outs (2nd best), and slugging 1.167 versus changeups. Opponents are batting .182 and slugging .281 off the bullpen, both best in MLB. Seattle has turned a double play on 45% of its opportunities, the 2nd-best rate in baseball (24 of 53). Mariners starters have allowed a league-high .346 OBP versus right-handed batters this season. Ljay Newsome has induced a 79% swing rate with two strikes this season, the best among relievers this season. With two strikes, Will Vest has allowed one extra-base hit. Yusei Kikuchi has held lefties to a .087/.125/.087 slash, which means not one single extra-base hit yet. Chris Flexen’s four-seamer has been battered when he elevates the pitch (.500 average, .786 slugging percentage). Kendall Graveman has not allowed an earned run in any of his nine appearances this season and has allowed just five of 36 batters faced to reach base. Opponents are slugging .061 off Graveman this season. Graveman’s 34% chase rate on fastballs in Top 10 among relievers. Opposing batters have swung and missed on half of Graveman’s sliders, and own a .067 average. Rafael Montero has dominated RHBs this season — .185/.290/.259, despite a career mark of .265/.361/.437. Montero’s fastball has held batters to a .111 slugging percentage, but a .647 slugging on everything else. J.P. Crawford‘s average exit velocity (83.5 mph) ranks 23rd among 24 qualified shortstops (Didi Gregorius, 83.2), and his hard hit rate of 25.4% ranks No. 20. He’s batting .375 on fastballs away and has whiffed on just 14% of his swings on pitches 95 mph or higher. Crawford is batting .500 in favorable counts, and has struck out just once in 13 PAs versus left-handed pitchers. His career rate entering May is 22.5%. Crawford has the 9th-lowest well-struck average on inside pitches this season at .067. He’s batting .133 and slugging .167 on inside pitches. Crawford’s line-drive rate is down 6% this season and his ground ball rate is up 8%. Seattle’s 7-4 win over the Angels Friday gave the club a positive run differential on the year of +1. They’re one of 15 with a positive differential to start the month of May. The Dodgers lead MLB at +34. The Tigers bring up the rear at -58. The Mariners are 8-7 on the road and 7-5 at home. Seattle is 10-10 vs teams .500 or better, the same record as the Padres. Houston is 13-7 in such games, including 5-2 versus Seattle. The Mariners are 8-3 in day games, 7-9 at night, 11-8 vs right-handed starters, 4-4 versus lefties. They’re 4-0 in Little League games, 7-4 in 1-run contests, 5-2 versus teams below .500. Through April, the Mariners have played the toughest schedule in the American League, tied with the Rockies for most difficult in all of baseball.
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. ROTATIONMarco GonzalesJames PaxtonYusei KikuchiChris FlexenJustus SheffieldJustin 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. BULLPENRafael MonteroKendall GravemanAnthony MisiewiczKeynan MiddletonCasey SadlerNick MargeviciusWill VestErik 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. CATCHERSTom MurphyLuis Torrens INFIELDERSEvan WhiteDylan MooreJ.P. CrawfordKyle SeagerTy 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. OUTFIELDERSMitch HanigerKyle LewisTaylor TrammellSam HaggertyJake 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.