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.
When a club has a strong far system getting deeper as you read this, it’s always fun to crosscheck it with other current collections of talent. One way to do that is by objectively identifying how far down one club’s rankings lies a prospect that would rank No. 1 in at least one other club’s system. That list extends beyond the club’s consensus Top 20 prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, so let’s start digging. Two Reminders: Prospect rankings are subjective, but in identifying orgs where Mariners prospects would rank No. 1 for me I’ll be as objective as possible. And rankings don’t dictate how a player will turn out as a major leaguer. It’s only a potential manifestation of talent and developing skills. Rankings, no matter who is putting them together, no matter how many sources are utilized, no matter the evaluation skills of the ranker, should be taken as general indicators. Many times the ‘who’s going to be better?’ is correct, but it’s not an exact science. 1. Jarred Kelenic, OFNo. 1: All but Tampa Bay (Wander Franco), Baltimore (Adley Rutschman). Maybe: Detroit (Spencer Torkelson), San Diego (MacKenzie Gore) Kelenic would be No. 2 in at least 25 organizations and as many as 27, allowing for some difference in opinion. I’d rank him No. 1 for both the Tigers and Padres. 2. Julio Rodriguez, OFNo 1: All but Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, San Diego, Pittsburgh (Ke’Bryan Hayes). Maybe: Kansas City (Bobby Witt), Toronto (Nate Pearson). I would rank Rodriguez No. 1 for Kansas City, but not Toronto. 3. Emerson Hancock, RHPNo. 1: Houston Astros (Forrest Whitley), Philadelphia Phillies (Spencer Howard), Boston Red Sox (Jeter Downs, Tristan Casas), Arizona Diamondbacks (Corbin Carroll, Kristian Robinson), New York Mets (Francisco Alvarez), Los Angeles Angels (Brandon Marsh), Colorado Rockies (Zac Veen), Los Angeles Dodgers (Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray), Cincinnati Reds (Nick Lodolo), Chicago Cubs (Brailyn Marquez), Texas Rangers (Josh Jung), Milwaukee Brewers (Garrett Mitchell), Washington Nationals (Cade Cavalli). Maybe: Cleveland Indians (Nolan Jones), New York Yankees (Jasson Dominguez). I would rank Hancock ahead of both Jones and Dominguez, but it’s close to a toss-up with Jones. 4. Logan Gilbert, RHPNo. 1: Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals. Maybe: Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees. I would rank Gilbert ahead of Dominguez but not Jones. It’s admittedly a toss-up at the end of the day. 5. Noelvi Marte, SS/3BNo. 1: Nationals Marte would also rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, including the Brewers. He may also get the nod at No. 2 for the Rangers. 6. George Kirby, RHPNo. 1: Nationals Like Marte, Kirby likely would rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, Brewers included. The Rangers wouldn’t be far off, but I think he’d slide in behind Jung and Sam Huff for now. 7. Taylor Trammell, OFMaybe: Nationals Trammell would rank No. 2 for the Nationals, if not No. 1, and would get No. consideration for the Brewers. 8. Cal Raleigh, C Raleigh wouldn’t rank No. 1 or 2 for any clubs for me, but would slide in at No. 3 for 8-12 clubs and would be Top 5 for roughly half the league. The Mariners’ No. 9 prospect, left-hander Brandon Williamson, might get into a few Top 5s, and the lowest-ranked Mariners prospect I think would have a shot to get into a Top 5 is probably Isaiah Campbell (No. 10) or Juan Then (No. 11). I see a handful of Mariners prospects ranked between 16-23 that would at least threaten some clubs Top 10. Zach DeLoach, Jonatan Clase, Austin Shenton, Sam Carlson and Andres Munoz would get into a few Top 10s and both Connor Phillips and Levi Stoudt, who have fires lit under them and should move up the ladder fast after some performance, aren’t far behind. There’s been some folks wondering why Baseball America has Seattle as the No. 2 far, system — reminder, farm rankings don’t matter — and The Athletic’s Keith Law has them at No. 13. But when taking into consideration the probability there’s little relative difference between No. 13 and No. 5, if not No. 2, it’s no longer a ‘what-in-the-world’ level inquiry. But the Mariners’ system is not perfect. They lack starting pitching depth after the top three arms, though it’s far from a bare cupboard and the likes of Williamson, Campbell, Then, Carlson, Stoudt, and Phillips can fill those gaps with some game production this summer, and there’s almost nothing up the middle. Cal Raleigh is the lone projectable big-league regular at catcher or second base, and even shortstop is empty if Marte has to slide to third, which is the prevailing belief even if not a foregone conclusions (I repeat, NOT a foregone conclusion). I also happen to disagree with Law on the Cardinals and Twins having better systems than Seattle and I’d debate Seattle has at least temporarily surpassed the Dodgers and Padres. I think the Diamondbacks, ranked No. 5 by Law, is the most overrated system on Law’s list, but that’s just my opinion.
We’re eight months from the end of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, and a lot will happen between now and then. One of those things is movement in the prospect ranks. Players develop at different paces, others will graduate, and new ones will be added to each club’s farm system. Aside from the ultimate additions in July — International free agents, the draft, deadline trades — let’s take a look at how the Seattle Mariners’ Top 10 Prospects might look. I expect two players currently in the Top 10 to graduate, and it’s possible a third, Taylor Trammell, and a fourth, Cal Raleigh, also exceed the 130 at-bat limits to maintain rookie and prospect status, and I’m going to assume both do. The other six — Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Hancock, Noelvi Marte, George Kirby, Brandon Williamson and Isaiah Campbell will remain prospects through 2021. There’s a chance the club’s first-round pick (No. 12) and top international signing could factor in, but for this exercise I will make no assumptions. This is just hypothetical in every way, so, try not to take this too seriously, eh? No. 1 Julio Rodriguez, RF Rodriguez should be challenged in the upper minors this season, starting in Double-A Arkansas, but it’s difficult to see him show anything but progress, even if the numbers may not always scream it. No. 2 Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock’s full arsenal and command should allow him to cruise into Double-A, perhaps by season’s end if there are enough innings in the plan. No. 3 George Kirby, RHP Kirby doesn’t have the raw stuff of Hancock or Logan Gilbert at this stage, but he might be able to command-and-feel his way through High-A West, and I expect more mid-90s heat. No. 4 Noelvi Marte, SS/3B Marte has as much room to show out as anyone on this list, but there’s also a strong possibility he runs into a few hurdles at the plate and doesn’t move quite as quick through Low-A West as Rodriguez did the Sally League back in 2019. No. 5 Brandon Williamson, LHP A consistently-plus curveball with more velocity than he showed over 15.1 innings in Everett two summers ago would offer a more bullish projection for the left-hander. No. 6 Juan Then, RHP There are questions about Then’s future role, but the last time he was on a mound he was 91-95 mph with an average slider. There are signs he’s sharpened the breaking ball to significant levels and gas camp has offered at least another tick. If he holds most of the velocity deep into starts and his changeup flashes viable or better, he’ll shoot up the ranks. No. 7 Zach DeLoach, OF DeLoach lacks a standout tool, but his best attributes are strike zone judgment, swing consistency, and athleticism, all of which should play well in either Low-A West or High-A West. No. 8 Levi Stoudt, RHP Nearly two years off Tommy John and having yet to throw a pitch in a professional game, there’s reason to curb expectations. But the fastball-changeup combo is good enough to dominate Low-A West. An average breaker and he could see Everett for a bit. No. 9 Isaiah Campbell, RHP Campbell’s fastball-changeup is competitive and his slider should be a weapon for him against Class-A bats, but the development of his slider and/or curveball is key to his future. No. 10 Jonatan Clase, CF I guess Clase is my guy. He’s raw at the plate and unrefined in the field, but he’s a 70 runner with bat speed and some present ability to work the zone. He’ll turn 19 in May, but if he sees full-season ball it’s a great sign.
With Major League Baseball, betting can be about the winner of the game, a game prop like ‘will there be a run scored in the first inning?’, a player prop (total hits in a game by a player), or a Futures bet, which is season-long totals of team or player statistics, including wins, or picking division, league or World Series winners. With a month left before Opening Day, I went and checked the Updated World Series odds and found some interesting lines and odds. Here are my favorites by bet type. To Win 2021 World Series New York Mets +1200 (bet $100 to $1200) Minnesota Twins +2200 Toronto Blue Jays +1800 San Diego Padres +700 Atlanta Braves +1000 Even a $100 bet to $300 on the defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers seems worth a stab. To Win 2021 American League Pennant Tampa Bay Rays +900 Minnesota Twins +800 I even like +2000 on the Los Angeles Angels. They’re motivated to keep adding to their roster and they may have the ultimate Wild Card to help with their greatest weakness with Shohei Ohtani likely to pitch some this season. To Win 2021 National League Pennant San Diego Padres +425 Atlanta Braves +600 New York Mets +550 And the Washington Nationals +2500? Seriously? With all that returning talent and a chance to be a lot healthier? Worth the $100 risk. To Win 2021 American League East Tampa Bay Rays +450 The Rays have a chance to be better than last year’s team with Randy Arozarena up to start the year, Austin Meadows healthy and just as much pitching talent as ever. To Win 2021 American League West Los Angeles Angels +360 To Win 2021 National League Central Milwaukee Brewers +375 Often, a club is held to a standard somewhat set by the previous year’s success or lack thereof. The Brewers are better on paper and will start 2021 healthy. Worth the bet. To Win 2021 National League East Washington Nationals +650 New York Mets to Make 2021 Playoffs No: +170 Yes, I’m betting out of both side of my mouth — that’s how it works. This is too good of a bet — risk $100 to win $170 — considering how difficult the NL East is likely to be. New York Yankees to Make 2021 Playoffs No: +550 Same story — too good a bet. It’s also worth mentioning the Yankees’ volatile roster with big-name injury and performance unknowns littering the organization. To Lead MLB in Home Runs in 2021 Yordan Alvarez, +2000 Take this bet. Do it. Bryce Harper, +2000Cody Bellinger, +1300Mike Trout, +1000 To Win 2021 AL CY Young Gerrit Cole, +325 To Win 2021 NL Cy Young Jacob deGrom, +450Max Scherzer, +700Yu Darvish, +1000Jack Flaherty, +1500Max Fried, +1800 To Win 2021 AL MVP Mike Trout, +230DJ LeMahieu, +3000 Yordan Alvarez, +4000 To Win 2021 NL MVP Juan Soto, +850Christian Yelich, +1500 Cody Bellinger, +850 Bryce Harper, +2000 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Strikeouts in 2021 Yu Darvish, +1200 Jacob deGrom, +525 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Hits in 2021 Francisco Lindor, +2000Bo Bichette, +2200Tim Anderson, +2200 To Lead MLB in Regular Season Saves in 2021 Liam Hendriks, +750Edwin Diaz, +1000
As the Seattle Mariners prepare for the 2021 season — Year 3 of the rebuild — let’s look three years ahead to what things might look like as a result of improved scouting and development under GM Jerry Dipoto. A couple of notes first: Contract length and team control years are taken into consideration. For example, Kendall Graveman‘s contract expires at season’s end and he will then qualify for free agency. Therefore, he will not be included in the following projections. Contract Options will be exercised in reasonable situations, such as Marco Gonzales‘ $15 million option for 2024. No additions will be made by any route except organic growth through the existing farm system. No trades, no free agents, no future draft picks or international signings. Age listed below is on Opening Day 2024 ‘Contract’ reflects current contract length, full years of service, or arbitration status entering the season. * denotes contract has further options I chose 2024, three years out, rather than two, to demonstrate how strong the club’s organic growth could be, even that far down the road. Vast improvement without using up a lot of assets is often a precursor to deep playoff runs. Ask the Astros, Braves, Cubs, Cleveland, Twins and many others. ROTATION POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT SP1 Emerson Hancock 24 1.0 SP2 Logan Gilbert 26 2.0 SP3 Marco Gonzales 32 THRU ’24 SP4 George Kirby 26 1.0 SP5 Justus Sheffield 27 ARB2 Gilbert is going to be the first of the future crop of arms to get to the big leagues, but Hancock carries the biggest upside. Brandon Williamson, Levi Stoudt, Sam Carlson, Isaiah Campbell, Adam Macko, and Juan Then will be in consideration by 2024 and could unseat one of the above 5, or replace them if the club trades one or, in Marco Gonzales’ case, declines the option. Sheffield could fit in a relief role if he’s unseated in the rotation. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT CL Andres Munoz 25 ARB2 SU Juan Then 24 2.0 SU Levi Stoudt 26 2.0 SU Isaiah Campbell 26 2.0 For this exercise today I am projecting Then, Stoudt, and Campbell to the bullpen. Connor Phillips could end up there and be a factor by ’24, too, and both Wyatt Mills and Sam Delaplane could remain factors. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT 1B Evan White 27 *THRU ’25 2B Dylan Moore 31 ARB3 3B Noelvi Marte 22 R SS J.P. Crawford 29 ARB4 C Cal Raleigh 27 2.0 LF Jarred Kelenic 24 2.0 CF Kyle Lewis 28 ARB2 RF Julio Rodriguez 23 1.0 DH Ty France 29 ARB2 Neither Moore nor Crawford are the best bets to still be around. There remains an outside chance Marte sticks at shortstop, which could open third base for Austin Shenton or Ty France, the two best in-house bets to man the position in 2022 and 2023. Milkar Perez may be in the third-base picture by 2024. Shed Long could be a factor at second base, followed by Kaden Polcovich. Taylor Trammell and Zach DeLoach will be in play in the outfield before 2024.
Before we discuss the best tools in the Seattle Mariners organization, let me declare something here: I left a lot of 60-grade tools and pitches on the cutting room floor, and a few 70 fastballs. There are more 70-grade and 60-grade tools in the Top 40 this year than I’ve ever seen in my now-18 years scouting and ranking Mariners prospects. At the height of the Jack Zduriencik era in terms of farm systems — 2013 when they ranked top 10 by most outlets, No. 8 by Keith Law — when the likes of Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, Nick Franklin, and James Paxton were all Top 100 prospects by most accounts. Looking back at my 2013 spreadsheets for Mariners rankings, Walker had the best OFP at 55, followed by Hulzen at 54, Zunino and Paxton at 52, and Franklin at 50.5. Brad Miller came in at 50, Brandon Maurer at 47.5, Luiz Gohara at 45, Gabriel Guerrero at 45 and Julio Morban at 44. In order, that entire group of 10 would rank like this. 5. Walker6. Hultzen8. Zunino, Paxton11. Franklin14. Miller17. Maurer (tied)22. Gohara, Guerrero (tied)26. Morban (tied) And that was the best year under the previous regime. Want to compare to the year Dipoto took over in Seattle? Here it is against this year’s group: 4. Kyle Lewis9. Tyler O’Neill14. Nick Neidert16. Drew Jackson22. D.J. Peterson24. Chris Torres26. Max Povse27. Braden Bishop28. Daniel Vogelbach32. Brayan Hernandez This was the club’s Top 10 entering the 2016 season. More context: In 2013 — again, Zduriencik’s best farm system by most accounts (maybe all) — My No. 23 prospect was LHP Jordan Shipers, with a 39.5 grade. Right now I have to go 42 prospects deep to get below 40.0. There are lots of 40.0s in the 30s and 40s, but it doesn’t dip below until No. 49, catcher Matt Scheffler. This system has changed. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Hit Jarred Kelenic 70 Zach DeLoach and Austin Shenton share runners-up honors, but Kelenic is the best hitter in the system. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Power Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic, Noelvi Marte, and Starling Aguilar each have 60-grade power at varying stages of development, but Tyler Keenan grades out somewhere between the aforementioned trip and Rodriguez’s 70. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Athlete Jonatan Clase N/A Kelenic is in this conversation, as is Marte, but Trammell is the runner-up behind Clase, whose 70 speed and electric, quick-twitch actions give him a chance to stick in center for the long haul. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Outfield Arm Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic and Braden Bishop, among others, come in around grade-60, but no one seriously threatens Rodriguez’s crown here. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Catcher Cal Raleigh 55 Carter Bins isn’t far behind in tools but Raleigh is more advanced at this stage. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Infield Arm Milkar Perez 70 Marte has a 60-grade arm, Aguilar too, but Juan Querecuto rivals Perez’s 70-grade. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Infielder Juan Querecuto 60 Querecuto is still raw at the plate but is instinctual in the field, has very good hands and feet, and that big arm to finish off plays. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defense Outfielder Braden Bishop 70 Bishop’s heart rate is undetectable as he plays center field, showing elite routes and tracking skills and very good jumps. He also has a good arm. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastest Baserunner Jonatan Clase 70 Despite going from 155 pounds to the 185 range since he last took the field in the DSL in 2019, Clase still is explosive with his first step and accelerates to game-changing speed within a few steps. He might not hold this crown a year from now with the club’s international efforts recently, but no one else is all that close at the moment. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastball Andres Munoz 80 Prior to his elbow surgery, Munoz sat 96-100 mph and touched 103 mph in his short time in the big leagues. Of the 185 fastballs he’s thrown in MLB, 128 have registered at 100 mph or higher. Oh, and the pitch has life and run, too. **shrugs** If we split it up between pitching roles, Logan Gilbert would get the honor for starters thanks to life and run on what projects to average around 94 mph. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Curveball Sam Delaplane 65 Gilbert and Brandon Williamson would win the award for starters, and Williamson’s breaker has room to surpass both. Delaplane’s is a tight-spinning power curveball with late downward break, capable of generating whiffs in the big leagues. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Slider Emerson Hancock 60 Yohan Ramirez has the best slider among relievers, but Hancock’s 60-grade can be dominant when he’s tunnelling with his fastball and changeup. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Changeup Levi Stoudt 60 Hancock’s changeup belongs in the conversation for runner-up, but Stoudt has a chance at an eventual 70-grade dead fish. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Control George Kirby 70 Kirby has plus-plus control and plus command of his fastball and uses the skills to attack the entire zone and beyond with purpose.
POSTED: No. 2 — Julio Rodriguez, RF POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-10 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcherPOSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heatPOSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief helpPOSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 1. Jarred Kelenic, OF Kelenic brings strength, speed, instincts, power and hitting to the field daily, and has performed well since Day 1 after the New York Mets tabbed him at No. 6 overall in 2018. Fun Note: Former one-time Prospect Insider writer Chris Hervey is credited as Kelenic’s signing scout. The left-handed batter has flashed plus hitting skills, including good plate coverage and an advanced ability to dissect situational counts. The swing is short, the bat speed is plus and it results in a powerful, compact swing he trusts versus good velocity. Combined with his ability to make consistent hard contact and find the barrel, Kelenic may be able to get to and beyond 30 home runs. He’s always done a good job avoiding the chase, but in Modesto in 2019 showed a tendency to lean out and over the plate for something to drive, which in turn made it more difficult to get to hard stuff up and/or in — pitches that ended up on his hands, yet in the zone. Kelenic’s instincts in the batter’s box are very good, and he’s already adept at using the middle of the field. He’s yet to see a steady diet of big velo and ungodly breaking balls — the best pitching he’s seen came against his own teammates last summer — but he’s been astute at avoiding getting longer with his swing, allowing him to battle effectively. He’s a plus runner with enough range to handle center, at least for the first several years of his career, but the Mariners pushed him primarily to left field at the Alternate Training Site where he was asked to clean up some basics. Despite the present speed, Kelenic has added size and strength and likely will continue down that path, so he may end up above-average, instead, suggesting he’s not likely to swipe a lot of bags, though he reads pitchers well and offers well above-average value on the bases. Kelenic’s offensive future is bright, but whether he’s a star or merely a solid player may depend on if he can remain disciplined with his game plan and let the power happen as a result of a premium swing. A power-driven approach means decreased contacts rates, therefore a strain on his batting average and on-base percentage. If he can stay within his strengths, we may be staring down a .320 hitter capable of 40 doubles and 30 homers. Despite recent even in the Mariners organization regarding service time manipulation, Kelenic is likely to start 2021 in Tripe-A Tacoma where he would receive valuable time versus a varied lot of experienced pitching. It’s easy to forget he’s played just 17 games above the California League and won’t be 22 years of age until July. If he indeed misses out on an Opening-Day assignment with the parent club, his time in Tacoma could be anywhere from 2-8 weeks, which heavier emphasis on the short side. Kelenic currently represents the Mariners’ best chance at a superstar. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Matt Holliday MEDIAN: Trot Nixon FLOOR: Troy O’Leary Sure, Holliday is a right-handed batter and was bigger than Kelenic, but he was an underrated athlete who played a strong left field in his prime, and the dude raked. Granted, he represents the ceiling projection for Kelenic, but he did post three 6-win season, one of them a 7-win effort, plus three other 4-win years and two seasons of 3-plus wins. I’ve seen some Grady Sizemore comps for Kelenic, and those fit in a lot of ways, too, but such a comp doesn’t represent Kelenic’s hit tool nearly well enough, which is the same reason I don’t like the Bryce Harper comp some have broached, nor Lance Berkman comp due to defense and baserunning. Kelenic is better defensively than Holliday, and may get a chance to play some center field, where he projects at least as good as Mike Trout, potentially increasing his chances to compete for an MVP in his prime. Nixon posted four seasons of 3-plus wins, two others at more than 2.5 and peaked in 2003 at 5.0 fWAR. He had problems staying on the field, but posted a career .274/.364/.464 triple-slash, serving as a promising median comp for Kelenic. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 65 60+ 55 55 60 60.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 2 Julio Rodriguez RF 2022 POWER AA 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A