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.
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.
We’re about a week and a half from Opening Day 2021 at T-Mobile Park when the Seattle Mariners host the San Francisco Giants. There remain just a few spots on the Mariners roster unsettled, at least from our perspective (the club may already know all 26). Here was my first projection. Let’s go through this for the second time this spring. ROTATION Marco Gonzales James Paxton Yusei Kikuchi Chris Flexen Justus Sheffield Justin Dunn I went with Dunn in the rotation over Margevicius because I think Seattle is seeing enough in the right-hander this spring to go back to the well and try to build on the improved stuff. What that specific decision also does is balance the rotation against the four lefties, and sends Margevicius to the bullpen to serve as its lone southpaw. BULLPEN Rafael Montero Kendall Graveman Anthony Misiewicz Keynan Middleton Casey Sadler Nick Margevicius Will Vest Erik Swanson I think Vest, the Rule 5 pick, has done enough to make the club and essentially earn a longer look. How long that lasts should be performance-driven. At this point Yohan Ramirez has made one appearance in an “A” game in Arizona, hitting two batters and walking another. He needs to start the year in Triple-A Tacoma and work on the delivery. His raw stuff is legit, but he doesn’t fill the zone much. Middleton has struggled a bit, serving up five homers, but he does have a 6-1 K/BB ratio in five frames, and the stuff belongs. He also has a bit of a track record a few others in contention don’t. Aaron Fletcher has flashed big-league stuff but more consistent command of the fastball is necessary before he can be viewed as a reliable arm. Sadler has looked very good and is a strike-thrower to boot, something the club needs in the middle innings. Matt Magill has just three appearances, making it more difficult to project him to the ODR. Joey Gerber has looked better this month than most of his appearances last summer, including more velocity, recouped deception, and a better, sharper-breaking slider. Roenis Elias may have been on his way to making the team until his injury. JT Chargois still has a shot, but he hasn’t been used much yet, suggesting the Mariners already know he’s not part of the ODR, but Swanson’s spot is far from sewn up and could go in a lot of directions, including Chargois or Matt Magill. One potential hint on who the club may be viewing as a legitimate option is who is getting the innings this late in Cactus League play. Not just because they want those arms worked into form, but because those not part of the 26-man roster to start the season have another 33 days until their first game, and overworking them in big-league camp is a real problem. CATCHERS Tom Murphy Luis Torrens INFIELDERS Evan White Dylan Moore J.P. Crawford Kyle Seager Ty France Honestly, with Shed Long Jr. being held out of “A” games thus far, it’s a bit more difficult to find the right mix with the infield-outfield groups. I’d choose Jack Reinheimer or Braden Bishop for the final roster spot because the former can play shortstop some, offers a bit more offense right now than does Donovan Walton, and the latter is a 70 glove. Both bat right-handed, balancing the bench. But Reinheimer is not on the 40-man, the Mariners seem to think Jose Marmolejos is something he’s not — an outfielder and a major-league hitter — and Fraley has been given a longer look (so, that’s where I actually lean in projecting the ODR). Once Long is ready, it’s an easier projection, but as of March 21 we don’t have good info on when that might be. OUTFIELDERS Mitch Haniger Kyle Lewis Taylor Trammell Sam Haggerty Jake Fraley There’s no reasonable explanation for a Mariners outfield without Trammell and/or Jarred Kelenic, and at this point, I lean Trammell between the two because of the time Kelenic missed with the knee injury and the lack of overall experience he has versus professional pitching. The truth is, both players are worthy, and if the Mariners were taking the best roster possible north with them to face the San Francisco Giants April 1, Kelenic would be on it. Haggerty’s ability to switch hit and handle second base gives him a great chance to make the club, and he’s actually found the barrel some this spring, worked counts and found the gap a few times. If the club needs a 40-man spot to make room for Kelenic, they’ve yet to officially place Ken Giles on the 60-day IL, per the team site. If they also need one for Reinheimer, Chargois, or Magill, I think the weakest holds on 40-man roster spots are right-hander Domingo Tapia, Walton, an additional 60-day IL case (Long?), or perhaps a minor trade involving a player that didn’t make the ODR, including Bishop and Fraley.
We’re about three weeks from an announcement of the Seattle Mariners Opening Day roster and we’re a step or two closer than we were a week ago, not that there are a lot of questions remaining. But there are a few, so let’s talk this out. Starting Pitchers (6) Marco Gonzales (L) James Paxton (L) Yusei Kikuchi (L) Justus Sheffield (L) Chris Flexen (R) Justin Dunn (R) There appear to be five locks, provided they all remain healthy. I’m still projecting Dunn to the starting six because his greatest competition — Logan Gilbert and Nick Margevicius — have hurdles Dunn does not. Gilbert’s is a service time hurdle — no, it shouldn’t exist, but it does — and a potential concern about workload, though I don’t buy it as a standalone reason to leave Gilbert off the roster to start the season, especially considering he won’t have a place to pitch while he serves out his time. The Mariners should carry Gilbert, but if they want to carry Dunn, too, the club can simply begin the season with seven starters and adjust as arms get stretched out in late April and May. In this scenario, the Mariners wouldn’t have to use seven starters over seven days, they could piggyback Gilbert. If the club wants to ship Gilbert out once Triple-A begins in early May, hell have four or outings under his belt and can stretch out in Tacoma before getting recalled in May. Still, the Mariners have a decision to make on the of the other six starters before Gilbert can be added to the rotation. Dunn is the wild card. I’m on record saying Dunn was not of MLB quality last season and not only needs to be better in 2021, but if he doesn’t show vast improvement all spring warrants being optioned to the minors to start the season. At this point, I’m assuming the early returns on Dunn’s fastball this spring — up to 96 mph, more 92-95 than he showed in 2020 — holds up enough to lend the club the kind of upside confidence to give Dunn the nod over Margevicius. The leash may not be extremely long, but it’s up to Dunn. Who knows what the eventual move is when Gilbert becomes part of the rotation, but the possibilities are endless, including injury removing the decision from GM Jerry Dipoto‘s desk. Margevicius’ greatest obstacle is the club’s investment in Dunn and what may be at least a perceived advantage the right-hander has on his southpaw teammate in terms up ceiling. Relief Pitchers (8) Rafael Montero (R) Kendall Graveman (R) Anthony Misiewicz (L) Will Vest (R) Keynan Middleton (R) Casey Sadler (R) Brandon Brennan (R) Nick Margevicius (L) It’s clear that healthy arms attached to Montero, Graveman, Misiewicz, Vest and Middleton are surefire choices. Sadler is a strike-throwing right-hander with improved velocity the last two years and is out of options. Still making some assumptions here on health, which needs to be noted for all players, especially pitchers, and especially those with an injury history like Brennan, who has yet to make his spring debut. But as long as he’s good to go the sinkerballer is probably one of the eight relievers headed north to start the season — not that his spot is solid in the least. If he’s not healthy or struggles mightily with his control, the next in line likely are Matt Magill, Yohan Ramirez, and perhaps veteran Roenis Elias. I have Margevicius in the bullpen here to start the season, mostly because he’s one of the club’s best 14 arms, can cover a lot of innings in the middle of got-away games, and optioning him is the opposite of giving Scott Servais and Pete Woodworth the best possible staff to succeed. Ramirez has great raw stuff, and he survived on it last season, but unless the club sees reasons to believe he’ll throw strikes with some consistency the right-hander needs extended time in Triple-A to work on his delivery, particularly how his lower half leads him through release point. A healthy Magill was reliable in 2019 and one can argue he has just as much of a shot at Brennan. If we assume health for Magill, who had arthroscopic debridement surgery on his shoulder last September, he’s probably a favorite. He’s walked three batters in his one inning of work so far. We’ll see how this plays out for him. Vest, the Rule 5 pick, has struggled in two innings, allowing four hits and three earnies, but the club believes in his stuff enough to keep handing him the ball in a position earn his spot on the roster. If he’s a disaster this spring, however, the Mariners should find another option, of which there is no shortage, including Wyatt Mills, Joey Gerber, Ramirez, Elias, Magill, and Sam Delaplane. Taylor Guerrieri‘s battle is uphill, but there’s enough stuff to warrant middle innings work and he’s made it through two innings without a walk thus far. Paul Sewald is an underdog, but don’t count him out just yet. He’s missing bats and throwing strikes. JT Chargois has yet to make an appearance, but if he gets going soon enough has a chance to unseat one of the above eight arms. He didn’t pitch a year ago, but in 2019 with the Dodgers used a 95-97 mph fastball and 85-88 mph slider to post a 31.8% strikeout rate. He also found a way for the first time since 2016 in Triple-A to issue a walk less than 11.1% of the time (5.7%). Catchers (2) Tom Murphy (R) Luis Torrens (R) Barring an injury to either Murphy or Torrens, they’ll open the season as the catching tandem. The club has hinted the time share is likely to be a 55-60% to 40-45% in favor of the more experience Murphy. The question here is: What happens if there’s an early-season injury? Next on Baseball Things. Infielders (6) Evan White (R) Dylan Moore (R) J.P. Crawford (L) Kyle Seager (L) Ty France (R) Sam Haggerty (B) This situation is a bit tricky. Shed Long has yet to make his spring debut and the longer he’s out the lower his chances are he starts the season on the Opening Day roster. If it’s injury related — and remember, he had surgery on his lower leg last fall — the club has an easy out on the roster move. He does have an option remaining, though. But Long appears close to getting into an official game based on his activity in simulated action (he homered on a Montero fastball Saturday). Still, it’s difficult to assume he’ll be ready since the club will ask him to play not only second base but probably third base and left field, too. If Long is not ready, the last infielder spot may go to Sam Haggerty, who also can play the outfield. Remember, the Mariners do not need to carry a second shortstop — a position Haggerty can fake for the short term … he’s a better fit at second, but at which Long has zero experience — since projected second baseman Moore can handle the position in case of injury or late-inning weirdness with Crawford. In this projection, I have Long behind schedule, but that can change quickly. Moore and France both can back up White at first. France is Seager’s backup at third. Long and Haggerty both are capable at second, as is France, so the club is covered there no matter which way this group is completed. Outfielders (4) Mitch Haniger (R) Kyle Lewis (R) Jake Fraley (L) Braden Bishop (R) This could be a three-player position group if Long is healthy and makes the club, so keep an eye on that. Both Long and Moore have experience in the outfield, and if Haggerty makes the club he’s essentially as capable as is Moore. With Jarred Kelenic expected to miss at least some time this month with a minor knee tweak, it appears his chances to break camp with the big club are all but gone, leaving open the door for Fraley, and perhaps Bishop, who has made a few minor adjustments with his setup and swing in order to get started sooner and give himself a better chance to handle velocity. One of the buzz names in camp right now is Taylor Trammell, but it seems his chances to break camp as part of the 26-man roster are close to zero. My fear is the Mariners will strongly consider Jose Marmoleos ahead of Fraley, even though he’s below-average defensively and can’t play center (Fraley can) or offer value on the bases (Fraley does). Once Kelenic is up, the misfit is Fraley/Marmolejos, however, not Bishop, based on a combination of handedness and defensive prowess. This is going to be interesting.
When a club has a strong far system getting deeper as you read this, it’s always fun to crosscheck it with other current collections of talent. One way to do that is by objectively identifying how far down one club’s rankings lies a prospect that would rank No. 1 in at least one other club’s system. That list extends beyond the club’s consensus Top 20 prospects, Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez, so let’s start digging. Two Reminders: Prospect rankings are subjective, but in identifying orgs where Mariners prospects would rank No. 1 for me I’ll be as objective as possible. And rankings don’t dictate how a player will turn out as a major leaguer. It’s only a potential manifestation of talent and developing skills. Rankings, no matter who is putting them together, no matter how many sources are utilized, no matter the evaluation skills of the ranker, should be taken as general indicators. Many times the ‘who’s going to be better?’ is correct, but it’s not an exact science. 1. Jarred Kelenic, OF No. 1: All but Tampa Bay (Wander Franco), Baltimore (Adley Rutschman). Maybe: Detroit (Spencer Torkelson), San Diego (MacKenzie Gore) Kelenic would be No. 2 in at least 25 organizations and as many as 27, allowing for some difference in opinion. I’d rank him No. 1 for both the Tigers and Padres. 2. Julio Rodriguez, OF No 1: All but Tampa Bay, Baltimore, Detroit, San Diego, Pittsburgh (Ke’Bryan Hayes). Maybe: Kansas City (Bobby Witt), Toronto (Nate Pearson). I would rank Rodriguez No. 1 for Kansas City, but not Toronto. 3. Emerson Hancock, RHP No. 1: Houston Astros (Forrest Whitley), Philadelphia Phillies (Spencer Howard), Boston Red Sox (Jeter Downs, Tristan Casas), Arizona Diamondbacks (Corbin Carroll, Kristian Robinson), New York Mets (Francisco Alvarez), Los Angeles Angels (Brandon Marsh), Colorado Rockies (Zac Veen), Los Angeles Dodgers (Keibert Ruiz, Josiah Gray), Cincinnati Reds (Nick Lodolo), Chicago Cubs (Brailyn Marquez), Texas Rangers (Josh Jung), Milwaukee Brewers (Garrett Mitchell), Washington Nationals (Cade Cavalli). Maybe: Cleveland Indians (Nolan Jones), New York Yankees (Jasson Dominguez). I would rank Hancock ahead of both Jones and Dominguez, but it’s close to a toss-up with Jones. 4. Logan Gilbert, RHP No. 1: Houston Astros, Philadelphia Phillies, Boston Red Sox, Arizona Diamondbacks, New York Mets, Los Angeles Angels, Colorado Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs, Texas Rangers, Milwaukee Brewers, Washington Nationals. Maybe: Cleveland Indians, New York Yankees. I would rank Gilbert ahead of Dominguez but not Jones. It’s admittedly a toss-up at the end of the day. 5. Noelvi Marte, SS/3B No. 1: Nationals Marte would also rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, including the Brewers. He may also get the nod at No. 2 for the Rangers. 6. George Kirby, RHP No. 1: Nationals Like Marte, Kirby likely would rank No. 2 for about a dozen clubs, Brewers included. The Rangers wouldn’t be far off, but I think he’d slide in behind Jung and Sam Huff for now. 7. Taylor Trammell, OF Maybe: Nationals Trammell would rank No. 2 for the Nationals, if not No. 1, and would get No. consideration for the Brewers. 8. Cal Raleigh, C Raleigh wouldn’t rank No. 1 or 2 for any clubs for me, but would slide in at No. 3 for 8-12 clubs and would be Top 5 for roughly half the league. The Mariners’ No. 9 prospect, left-hander Brandon Williamson, might get into a few Top 5s, and the lowest-ranked Mariners prospect I think would have a shot to get into a Top 5 is probably Isaiah Campbell (No. 10) or Juan Then (No. 11). I see a handful of Mariners prospects ranked between 16-23 that would at least threaten some clubs Top 10. Zach DeLoach, Jonatan Clase, Austin Shenton, Sam Carlson and Andres Munoz would get into a few Top 10s and both Connor Phillips and Levi Stoudt, who have fires lit under them and should move up the ladder fast after some performance, aren’t far behind. There’s been some folks wondering why Baseball America has Seattle as the No. 2 far, system — reminder, farm rankings don’t matter — and The Athletic’s Keith Law has them at No. 13. But when taking into consideration the probability there’s little relative difference between No. 13 and No. 5, if not No. 2, it’s no longer a ‘what-in-the-world’ level inquiry. But the Mariners’ system is not perfect. They lack starting pitching depth after the top three arms, though it’s far from a bare cupboard and the likes of Williamson, Campbell, Then, Carlson, Stoudt, and Phillips can fill those gaps with some game production this summer, and there’s almost nothing up the middle. Cal Raleigh is the lone projectable big-league regular at catcher or second base, and even shortstop is empty if Marte has to slide to third, which is the prevailing belief even if not a foregone conclusions (I repeat, NOT a foregone conclusion). I also happen to disagree with Law on the Cardinals and Twins having better systems than Seattle and I’d debate Seattle has at least temporarily surpassed the Dodgers and Padres. I think the Diamondbacks, ranked No. 5 by Law, is the most overrated system on Law’s list, but that’s just my opinion.
We’re eight months from the end of the 2021 Major League Baseball season, and a lot will happen between now and then. One of those things is movement in the prospect ranks. Players develop at different paces, others will graduate, and new ones will be added to each club’s farm system. Aside from the ultimate additions in July — International free agents, the draft, deadline trades — let’s take a look at how the Seattle Mariners’ Top 10 Prospects might look. I expect two players currently in the Top 10 to graduate, and it’s possible a third, Taylor Trammell, and a fourth, Cal Raleigh, also exceed the 130 at-bat limits to maintain rookie and prospect status, and I’m going to assume both do. The other six — Julio Rodriguez, Emerson Hancock, Noelvi Marte, George Kirby, Brandon Williamson and Isaiah Campbell will remain prospects through 2021. There’s a chance the club’s first-round pick (No. 12) and top international signing could factor in, but for this exercise I will make no assumptions. This is just hypothetical in every way, so, try not to take this too seriously, eh? No. 1 Julio Rodriguez, RF Rodriguez should be challenged in the upper minors this season, starting in Double-A Arkansas, but it’s difficult to see him show anything but progress, even if the numbers may not always scream it. No. 2 Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock’s full arsenal and command should allow him to cruise into Double-A, perhaps by season’s end if there are enough innings in the plan. No. 3 George Kirby, RHP Kirby doesn’t have the raw stuff of Hancock or Logan Gilbert at this stage, but he might be able to command-and-feel his way through High-A West, and I expect more mid-90s heat. No. 4 Noelvi Marte, SS/3B Marte has as much room to show out as anyone on this list, but there’s also a strong possibility he runs into a few hurdles at the plate and doesn’t move quite as quick through Low-A West as Rodriguez did the Sally League back in 2019. No. 5 Brandon Williamson, LHP A consistently-plus curveball with more velocity than he showed over 15.1 innings in Everett two summers ago would offer a more bullish projection for the left-hander. No. 6 Juan Then, RHP There are questions about Then’s future role, but the last time he was on a mound he was 91-95 mph with an average slider. There are signs he’s sharpened the breaking ball to significant levels and gas camp has offered at least another tick. If he holds most of the velocity deep into starts and his changeup flashes viable or better, he’ll shoot up the ranks. No. 7 Zach DeLoach, OF DeLoach lacks a standout tool, but his best attributes are strike zone judgment, swing consistency, and athleticism, all of which should play well in either Low-A West or High-A West. No. 8 Levi Stoudt, RHP Nearly two years off Tommy John and having yet to throw a pitch in a professional game, there’s reason to curb expectations. But the fastball-changeup combo is good enough to dominate Low-A West. An average breaker and he could see Everett for a bit. No. 9 Isaiah Campbell, RHP Campbell’s fastball-changeup is competitive and his slider should be a weapon for him against Class-A bats, but the development of his slider and/or curveball is key to his future. No. 10 Jonatan Clase, CF I guess Clase is my guy. He’s raw at the plate and unrefined in the field, but he’s a 70 runner with bat speed and some present ability to work the zone. He’ll turn 19 in May, but if he sees full-season ball it’s a great sign.
As the Seattle Mariners prepare for the 2021 season — Year 3 of the rebuild — let’s look three years ahead to what things might look like as a result of improved scouting and development under GM Jerry Dipoto. A couple of notes first: Contract length and team control years are taken into consideration. For example, Kendall Graveman‘s contract expires at season’s end and he will then qualify for free agency. Therefore, he will not be included in the following projections. Contract Options will be exercised in reasonable situations, such as Marco Gonzales‘ $15 million option for 2024. No additions will be made by any route except organic growth through the existing farm system. No trades, no free agents, no future draft picks or international signings. Age listed below is on Opening Day 2024 ‘Contract’ reflects current contract length, full years of service, or arbitration status entering the season. * denotes contract has further options I chose 2024, three years out, rather than two, to demonstrate how strong the club’s organic growth could be, even that far down the road. Vast improvement without using up a lot of assets is often a precursor to deep playoff runs. Ask the Astros, Braves, Cubs, Cleveland, Twins and many others. ROTATION POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT SP1 Emerson Hancock 24 1.0 SP2 Logan Gilbert 26 2.0 SP3 Marco Gonzales 32 THRU ’24 SP4 George Kirby 26 1.0 SP5 Justus Sheffield 27 ARB2 Gilbert is going to be the first of the future crop of arms to get to the big leagues, but Hancock carries the biggest upside. Brandon Williamson, Levi Stoudt, Sam Carlson, Isaiah Campbell, Adam Macko, and Juan Then will be in consideration by 2024 and could unseat one of the above 5, or replace them if the club trades one or, in Marco Gonzales’ case, declines the option. Sheffield could fit in a relief role if he’s unseated in the rotation. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT CL Andres Munoz 25 ARB2 SU Juan Then 24 2.0 SU Levi Stoudt 26 2.0 SU Isaiah Campbell 26 2.0 For this exercise today I am projecting Then, Stoudt, and Campbell to the bullpen. Connor Phillips could end up there and be a factor by ’24, too, and both Wyatt Mills and Sam Delaplane could remain factors. POS PLAYER AGE CONTRACT 1B Evan White 27 *THRU ’25 2B Dylan Moore 31 ARB3 3B Noelvi Marte 22 R SS J.P. Crawford 29 ARB4 C Cal Raleigh 27 2.0 LF Jarred Kelenic 24 2.0 CF Kyle Lewis 28 ARB2 RF Julio Rodriguez 23 1.0 DH Ty France 29 ARB2 Neither Moore nor Crawford are the best bets to still be around. There remains an outside chance Marte sticks at shortstop, which could open third base for Austin Shenton or Ty France, the two best in-house bets to man the position in 2022 and 2023. Milkar Perez may be in the third-base picture by 2024. Shed Long could be a factor at second base, followed by Kaden Polcovich. Taylor Trammell and Zach DeLoach will be in play in the outfield before 2024.
Before we discuss the best tools in the Seattle Mariners organization, let me declare something here: I left a lot of 60-grade tools and pitches on the cutting room floor, and a few 70 fastballs. There are more 70-grade and 60-grade tools in the Top 40 this year than I’ve ever seen in my now-18 years scouting and ranking Mariners prospects. At the height of the Jack Zduriencik era in terms of farm systems — 2013 when they ranked top 10 by most outlets, No. 8 by Keith Law — when the likes of Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Danny Hultzen, Nick Franklin, and James Paxton were all Top 100 prospects by most accounts. Looking back at my 2013 spreadsheets for Mariners rankings, Walker had the best OFP at 55, followed by Hulzen at 54, Zunino and Paxton at 52, and Franklin at 50.5. Brad Miller came in at 50, Brandon Maurer at 47.5, Luiz Gohara at 45, Gabriel Guerrero at 45 and Julio Morban at 44. In order, that entire group of 10 would rank like this. 5. Walker 6. Hultzen 8. Zunino, Paxton 11. Franklin 14. Miller 17. Maurer (tied) 22. Gohara, Guerrero (tied) 26. Morban (tied) And that was the best year under the previous regime. Want to compare to the year Dipoto took over in Seattle? Here it is against this year’s group: 4. Kyle Lewis 9. Tyler O’Neill 14. Nick Neidert 16. Drew Jackson 22. D.J. Peterson 24. Chris Torres 26. Max Povse 27. Braden Bishop 28. Daniel Vogelbach 32. Brayan Hernandez This was the club’s Top 10 entering the 2016 season. More context: In 2013 — again, Zduriencik’s best farm system by most accounts (maybe all) — My No. 23 prospect was LHP Jordan Shipers, with a 39.5 grade. Right now I have to go 42 prospects deep to get below 40.0. There are lots of 40.0s in the 30s and 40s, but it doesn’t dip below until No. 49, catcher Matt Scheffler. This system has changed. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Hit Jarred Kelenic 70 Zach DeLoach and Austin Shenton share runners-up honors, but Kelenic is the best hitter in the system. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Power Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic, Noelvi Marte, and Starling Aguilar each have 60-grade power at varying stages of development, but Tyler Keenan grades out somewhere between the aforementioned trip and Rodriguez’s 70. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Athlete Jonatan Clase N/A Kelenic is in this conversation, as is Marte, but Trammell is the runner-up behind Clase, whose 70 speed and electric, quick-twitch actions give him a chance to stick in center for the long haul. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Outfield Arm Julio Rodriguez 70 Kelenic and Braden Bishop, among others, come in around grade-60, but no one seriously threatens Rodriguez’s crown here. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Catcher Cal Raleigh 55 Carter Bins isn’t far behind in tools but Raleigh is more advanced at this stage. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Infield Arm Milkar Perez 70 Marte has a 60-grade arm, Aguilar too, but Juan Querecuto rivals Perez’s 70-grade. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defensive Infielder Juan Querecuto 60 Querecuto is still raw at the plate but is instinctual in the field, has very good hands and feet, and that big arm to finish off plays. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Defense Outfielder Braden Bishop 70 Bishop’s heart rate is undetectable as he plays center field, showing elite routes and tracking skills and very good jumps. He also has a good arm. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastest Baserunner Jonatan Clase 70 Despite going from 155 pounds to the 185 range since he last took the field in the DSL in 2019, Clase still is explosive with his first step and accelerates to game-changing speed within a few steps. He might not hold this crown a year from now with the club’s international efforts recently, but no one else is all that close at the moment. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Fastball Andres Munoz 80 Prior to his elbow surgery, Munoz sat 96-100 mph and touched 103 mph in his short time in the big leagues. Of the 185 fastballs he’s thrown in MLB, 128 have registered at 100 mph or higher. Oh, and the pitch has life and run, too. **shrugs** If we split it up between pitching roles, Logan Gilbert would get the honor for starters thanks to life and run on what projects to average around 94 mph. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Curveball Sam Delaplane 65 Gilbert and Brandon Williamson would win the award for starters, and Williamson’s breaker has room to surpass both. Delaplane’s is a tight-spinning power curveball with late downward break, capable of generating whiffs in the big leagues. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Slider Emerson Hancock 60 Yohan Ramirez has the best slider among relievers, but Hancock’s 60-grade can be dominant when he’s tunnelling with his fastball and changeup. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Changeup Levi Stoudt 60 Hancock’s changeup belongs in the conversation for runner-up, but Stoudt has a chance at an eventual 70-grade dead fish. TOOL PLAYER GRADE Control George Kirby 70 Kirby has plus-plus control and plus command of his fastball and uses the skills to attack the entire zone and beyond with purpose.
POSTED: No. 2 — Julio Rodriguez, RF POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-10 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 1. Jarred Kelenic, OF Kelenic brings strength, speed, instincts, power and hitting to the field daily, and has performed well since Day 1 after the New York Mets tabbed him at No. 6 overall in 2018. Fun Note: Former one-time Prospect Insider writer Chris Hervey is credited as Kelenic’s signing scout. The left-handed batter has flashed plus hitting skills, including good plate coverage and an advanced ability to dissect situational counts. The swing is short, the bat speed is plus and it results in a powerful, compact swing he trusts versus good velocity. Combined with his ability to make consistent hard contact and find the barrel, Kelenic may be able to get to and beyond 30 home runs. He’s always done a good job avoiding the chase, but in Modesto in 2019 showed a tendency to lean out and over the plate for something to drive, which in turn made it more difficult to get to hard stuff up and/or in — pitches that ended up on his hands, yet in the zone. Kelenic’s instincts in the batter’s box are very good, and he’s already adept at using the middle of the field. He’s yet to see a steady diet of big velo and ungodly breaking balls — the best pitching he’s seen came against his own teammates last summer — but he’s been astute at avoiding getting longer with his swing, allowing him to battle effectively. He’s a plus runner with enough range to handle center, at least for the first several years of his career, but the Mariners pushed him primarily to left field at the Alternate Training Site where he was asked to clean up some basics. Despite the present speed, Kelenic has added size and strength and likely will continue down that path, so he may end up above-average, instead, suggesting he’s not likely to swipe a lot of bags, though he reads pitchers well and offers well above-average value on the bases. Kelenic’s offensive future is bright, but whether he’s a star or merely a solid player may depend on if he can remain disciplined with his game plan and let the power happen as a result of a premium swing. A power-driven approach means decreased contacts rates, therefore a strain on his batting average and on-base percentage. If he can stay within his strengths, we may be staring down a .320 hitter capable of 40 doubles and 30 homers. Despite recent even in the Mariners organization regarding service time manipulation, Kelenic is likely to start 2021 in Tripe-A Tacoma where he would receive valuable time versus a varied lot of experienced pitching. It’s easy to forget he’s played just 17 games above the California League and won’t be 22 years of age until July. If he indeed misses out on an Opening-Day assignment with the parent club, his time in Tacoma could be anywhere from 2-8 weeks, which heavier emphasis on the short side. Kelenic currently represents the Mariners’ best chance at a superstar. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Matt Holliday MEDIAN: Trot Nixon FLOOR: Troy O’Leary Sure, Holliday is a right-handed batter and was bigger than Kelenic, but he was an underrated athlete who played a strong left field in his prime, and the dude raked. Granted, he represents the ceiling projection for Kelenic, but he did post three 6-win season, one of them a 7-win effort, plus three other 4-win years and two seasons of 3-plus wins. I’ve seen some Grady Sizemore comps for Kelenic, and those fit in a lot of ways, too, but such a comp doesn’t represent Kelenic’s hit tool nearly well enough, which is the same reason I don’t like the Bryce Harper comp some have broached, nor Lance Berkman comp due to defense and baserunning. Kelenic is better defensively than Holliday, and may get a chance to play some center field, where he projects at least as good as Mike Trout, potentially increasing his chances to compete for an MVP in his prime. Nixon posted four seasons of 3-plus wins, two others at more than 2.5 and peaked in 2003 at 5.0 fWAR. He had problems staying on the field, but posted a career .274/.364/.464 triple-slash, serving as a promising median comp for Kelenic. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 65 60+ 55 55 60 60.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 2 Julio Rodriguez RF 2022 POWER AA 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 2. Julio Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez has done nothing but hit since a Tim Kissner-led Mariners Lat Am scouting department signed him nearly five years ago out of the Dominican Republic. The only problem is he’s amassed just 547 at-bats between the DSL, Sally League and his 17-game stint in Advanced-A Modesto to end 2019. The tools are loud, starting with 70 raw power and evidence he’ll make consistent enough contact to tale advantage. He’s a bit pull happy entering 2021, but has hit searing line drives to the middle of the field in BP and occasionally in games. His hand-eye is high-end and there’s bat speed to spare. In favorable counts versus lower-level arms he’s destroyed velocity and shown an improved ability to stay back on soft stuff. But there’s still work to do in this department, and better pitching may give him fits early. Despite the propensity to get himself out, he was a teenager playing at both full-season Class-A leagues the last time there were minor league games, and he still found a way to rake, including more than one dominating tear. The right-handed hitter does have a ways to go to be considered a surefire impact bat in the big leagues, which is why it’s more difficult to project him as such as easy as it is for the club’s No. 1 prospect. Rodriguez’s tendency to leak out as he stalks pitches results in some front-foot swings, opening him up for offspeed stuff and a relentless attack of the outer edge. His swing has at least one or two unnecessary parts to it, but he’s already made similar fixes the past few years, so I’m not overly concerned by its existence after 143 professional games. Athletically, the now-20-year-old has lost a step or so as he’s filled out — he was 180 pounds when he signed and was up over 220 last spring — reducing his foot speed to about average, which pushes him to right field regularly where he’s shown instincts and a 70-grade arm with accuracy. He’ll likely end up a fringe-average runner, but he does a lot of things well defensively that should help him stick for years. His makeup is off the charts and the kid oozes personality, including a persistent smile, giving him a great chance to be the darling, fan-favorite of the club’s top young players. If you’d never seen Rodriguez before in your life — live, video or a simple photo, you could pick him out in a ballpark full of baseball players, because he’d be the one having the most fun and making sure everyone within miles know about it. If he can improve his ability to cover the whole strike zone and use more of the field, the ceiling here is very high, up to and including a non-zero chance at MVP-caliber seasons in his prime, led by tons of extra-base power. He’s still a few years away, most likely, but Rodriguez has the physical tools and fortitude to compete and develop in a league where he’s among the youngest players, which will be the case from the get-go this spring. Rodriguez is likely slated for Double-A Arkansas where he’ll see pitchers 2-6 years his senior, offering the kind of examination he needs to take the next steps. I’m not sure how likely it is he sees Tacoma before year’s end, but Rodriguez isn’t your typical 20-year-old. ETA: 2022 MLB COMPS CEILING: Jim Rice MEDIAN: Danny Tartabull FLOOR: Jonny Gomes Rice won an MVP in 1978 and finished Top 5 on five other occasions, posting five 5-win seasons, two of them 6-win efforts and a 7.7 fWAR campaign when he won the American League MVP. Rice also had a cannon in right field and used instincts and routes to provide value in the field. Rodriguez has tools and a skills trend that suggest something similar is at least plausible. His profile-changer is the hit tool. I project average to above-average ability to hit for average and get on base — .265-.270, .330-.340 OBP — to support the power, but there’s a path for .280-.290 and .370-plus on-base marks, which could get him into some MVP conversations down the line. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 55+ 65+ 50 45 70 58.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Saturday: No. 2, No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 3. Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock has yet to throw a professional pitch but entered last spring as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the draft. A few hiccups along the way pushed him down to the Mariners at No. 6, including two below-average starts of the four he made before his season was shut down in March. He also suffered a Lat strain in April his sophomore year, finishing unevenly. There are questions about his fastball, but not significant concerns; it’s a natural-sinking fastball he throws with plane and has yet to learn to attack the top of the zone in order to get more swings and misses from the pitch. But he’s comfortably 93-95 mph and up to 99 and generates some run to his arm side, which helps set up his secondaries. His best offspeed stuff includes an above-average changeup that flashes plus or better and can generate whiffs as he buries it off the fastball, and a sharp slider that darts down and away from right-handed batters and at the back foot of lefties. His curveball projects well, but like Gilbert it’s not likely to become an out pitch, instead a good weapon early in counts and versus left-handed bats to keep them off the straight stuff. Hancock is a superior athlete with a fluid, repeatable delivery, finishing strong and inline from a slightly-below three quarters arm slot. He stays closed and employs his lower half well, generating an aggressive, long stride toward the plate, yet stays on top well to keep everything on plane or with downward break. His sound mechanics help him throw strikes with his entire arsenal, and pitch effectively to both sides of the plate with the fastball. His plus control should lead to with plus command. Hancock profiles as a very good No. 3, but there’s a relatively strong chance he ends up a No. 2 with some dominant traits, including two out pitches and a fastball capable of generating ground balls as well as swings and misses when he attacks at or above the hands. If things work out right, Hancock is a strikeout pitcher with some solid-average ground ball tendencies, though some of the latter could be tempered by the club’s attempts to get more from his velocity high in the zone. Hancock probably headed for Everett to start 2021 and with some workload limits, but I expect him to move quickly through the middle of the minors and put himself in the big-league conversation in a year, year and a half, suggesting Opening Day 2023 is a real possibility, sans service time manipulation. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: Carlos Carrasco MEDIAN: Pete Harnisch FLOOR: Jeremy Guthrie While Hancock and Carrasco are built differently now, there are some similarities in body, style, and especially (potential) performance. Carrasco uses a two-seamer to mix up the fastball and gain varying movement, something Hancock does, at present, with the four-seamer, but both pitchers use slider-changeup before curveball, but have the slower of the two breakers in their hip pocket. Carrasco has three 5-win seasons despite being unable to remain fully healthy most of his prime, so keep that in mind when wondering if Carrasco is the right comp. There’s 6-win upside here with Hancock. His edge over Gilbert is minimal, but real, despite the No. 4 prospect holding edges in present probability and ETA, as well as projected fastball value. Hancock carries more ceiling, yet not a lot more risk in spite of all of the above. He’s a better athlete, too, and even with the 2020 MiLB season being canceled got deeper into his development sooner than did Gilbert. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (93-97) 60 (80-84) 50+ (76-79) 60+ (83-86) 60 56.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 4. Logan Gilbert, RHP Simply put, Gilbert looks the part of a frontline arm capable of logging 120 pitches per start and covering 200-plus innings per season. He uses his 6-foot-6 frame to drive the ball downhill and pitch with life up in the zone, displaying a vertical attack unmatched in the system. The fastball is up to 96 mph, cruising 92-95 with armside run. His best secondary is a low-80s slider that flashes plus and works well off the four-seamer and in tandem with his average to above-average knuckle curveball which comes in at 74-77. Gilbert’s changeup is fringe-average at present, flashes above average and could end up a plus offering in time. His consistent arm speed and use of his lower half to finish strong out front helps everything play up, but the changeup may benefit most. His delivery is consistent, making him a safe bet to throw strikes consistently, and having come to pro ball nearly three years ago with average command there’s a good chance he ends up in the plus range. Gilbert won’t overpower hitters with velocity, but he should get good fastball value from its movement and his ability to fill up all quadrants of the zone. His ability to use his entire arsenal projects for some success immediately upon his arrival in the major leagues. He’s yet to show his best stuff for an extended period, since Gilbert has managed just 135 professional innings — thanks to an illness the summer he was drafted and the cancellation of the MiLB season a year ago — and they all came during the 2019 campaign across three levels. He’s 24 in May and around 225 pounds, so there’s no meaningful physical growth remaining, but the package of stuff, projectable durability, and command suggest a good No. 3 starter, with a chance for a little more depending on the further development of his changeup. The former first-round pick is ready to face big-league bats, and should get that chance early in 2021, whether it be in May or right from the get-go as a member of the club’s six-man rotation. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Chris Carpenter MEDIAN: Andy Benes FLOOR: Trevor Cahill Pitch development and command can be improved, and both can be developed beyond present projections. If either happens for Gilbert his comps could change along with them, though Carpenter peaked as a 6-win starter and posted two other 5-win seasons and a 4.5-win campaign, so that’s a pretty darned good ceiling comp for the Mariners here. I do wonder, however, if there might be another tick of velocity coming, perhaps enough to get him more consistently into the mid-90s, which also can be a profile-altering development. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (92-96) 55+ (81-85) 55 (74-77) 55 (85-87) 50+ 55.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners 5. Noelvi Marte, SS As Marte has added strength and now looks the part of a corner bar with plus power. While it’s not out of the question he sticks at shortstop — I’d put the chances at 10-15% — most signs point to the 19-year-old eventually moving to the hot corner where his plus arm, good footwork and projectable range fit the hot corner well. He’s still a ways away, but there’s a lot to like about Marte’s ability to get the bat head out front, use the middle of the field, and cover the zone both vertically and horizontally. The bat speed is plus and he generates natural leverage. The swing is free and easy and he’s developed a better two-strike swing since signing nearly three years ago, including simplified usage of his lower half. As a result, Marte’s ability to stay back on soft stuff, yet trust his hands suggests advanced hitting skills and a projectable hit tool. While I’m not quite as bullish on the hit tool as some, at lest not with so little experience and no live look for yours truly, I do buy the raw power and its chances to reach beyond plus levels and eventually show up in games, and from right-center to the left-field line. Marte projects to play everyday, likely at third base, and hit 20-30 home runs with above-average batting averages and on-base marks. Since he’s still maturing physically, the power grade is a bit fluid, and he may end up merely an average runner despite being scouted a burner at 16. He’ll likely start 2021 in Modesto to work on making more consistent contact versus better pitching. There’s a chance he earns his way to Everett this summer. Considering at least two of the club’s Top 5 prospects project to graduate in 2021, Marte likely ends the season in the Top 3. It’s not out of the question he’s the club’s No. 1 prospect by July, and a Top 40 prospect in baseball by September. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: David Wright MEDIAN: Bill Hall FLOOR: Willy Aybar As Marte gains experience, advances through the minors and becomes more skill-oriented rather than a tools-based prospect, his floor and median comps will increase in value, though both are relatively high considering his lack of experience at timeline. Marte’s ceiling comp could get better, too, specifically in the power department. Among the most optimistic and aggressive comps I’ve heard this winter include Matt Williams, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Bregman. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN OFP 55+ 60+ 50 60 50+ 53 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: Nos. 31-40 POSTED: Nos. 21-30 Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20. Below is prospects Nos. 11-20. Important note: There’s not a significant difference between 20 and 13, at least not as much as seven entire spots in a good farm system would suggest, but here’s a delicate balance between upside, risk, and ETA. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A/A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carslon RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHR 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 20. Milkar Perez, 3B Perez is still raw and because he lacks athleticism is limited defensively. The Mariners believe his arm strength and hands allow him to work at third base, but there are questions as to whether or not his power will. He’s a switch hitter but is better from the left side and the difference may be stark enough to eventually abandon the efforts from the right side. For now, he shows above-average raw power as a lefty. Perez’s calling card is bat-to-ball skills that generate hard line drives thanks to good bat speed. But the power is critical here, as he’s not athletic enough to project to the outfield, though his arm would play, and a move across the diamond to first does nothing but add pressure to the bat. He’ll have to hit regardless, and if the power doesn’t come he’ll have to hit an awful lot to profile as a regular. The Mariners like a loot of the intangible, however, and a .280/.350/.450, doubles-driven bat isn’t that far from what Kyle Seager brought to the table in his prime, so… no sneezing. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 60 45 19. Jake Fraley, OF Like Bishop, Fraley is starting to run out of time to show he’s an answer to a question Seattle is asking. What we know is Fraley can run some and cover ground in the outfield. He displayed improved power in 2018 and 2019 after adding some bulk to his frame, but his game plan in his short stints in the majors was exposed and he wasn’t given a lot of time to make adjustments. The swing is short enough and the bat speed is above-average, but he’s had problems staying back on soft stuff and since he may not profile in center he’s unlikely to serve as anything more than a part-time option if he doesn’t piece together a hit + doubles package at the plate. He’ll be 26 in May and has a shot to break camp with the big club. His shot to show he’s more than an extra may be limited to a few weeks of at-bats, or come with another team. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 50 45+ 50+ 45 55 18. Levi Stoudt, RHP After Tommy John surgery two summers ago, Stoudt’s arm strength is all the way back as he touched 97 this past fall. He came to pro ball with an above-average split-grip changeup projecting to be plus or better in time. He’s going with the slider as his breaking ball of choice, but has a curveball in his pocket if he ever wants to go back to it; it was below-average at Lehigh, but flashed depth. I’m not as high on Stoudt at this stage as most others because he’s yet to throw a professional pitch and lacks physical projection at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds — not to mention has the zipper on his resume now, and is already 23. I think there’s a very good chance he’s a reliever, but has a shot to be a good No. 4 or a light if things break right, and the fact he projects for average command lends confidence to the median projection. He’s at least two and a half years away in a rotation role, but if he’s transitioned could move rapidly to the majors as a legit three-pitch arm capable of pitching in high-leverage situations. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 55 (93-97) 50+ (82-86) 45+ (77-81) 60 (85-88) 50+ 17. Connor Phillips, RHP Phillips is certainly more of a project than is Stoudt, but there’s a lot more projection in the frame (6-2/190) and despite technically being a college draftee (McLennan JC, TX) he won’t turn 20 until May. He’s tagged 98 mph with his fastball and his cruising velocity is an easy 92-95 with some run. He added curveball last summer, but his hard slider has flashed plus and on occasion last spring showed an average change. He’s further away from his ceiling, but there’s probably another step for Phillips that isn’t there for Stoudt, and both come with there own risks. For Phillips, it’s inconsistent control and command, and a delivery that’s come apart with runners on base. TOOLS FB SL CH CB CO 65 (93-98) 55+ 45+ NEW 45+ 16. Andres Muñoz, RHR Muñoz is an easy scouting report. Prior to the injury he was 97-102 mph with an average slider that plays up because the velocity is essentially burning cheese. Muñoz is not afraid to throw in on right-handed batters, and his heat shows effective run to his arm side and tons of life at the top of the zone. The control problems stem mainly from his high-effort delivery yanking him hard to the first-base side of the mound at release point. If he can stay in-line more everything, including (as ridiculous as it sounds) the triple-digit heat. But there are also some arm path adjustments that could me made to help him with consistency. How much the Mariners want to mess with that with the righty coming off March, 2020 Tommy John surgery remains unclear, but a healthy Muñoz sees the majors this season and when he does it’s must-see TV, even though it would surprise no one if he wasn’t living in the upper-90s right out of the gate. One reason the Mariners might be aggressive in trying to clean up Muñoz’s mechanics is his history of arm issues, almost exclusively with the elbow. Seattle is hoping he can be their relief ace moving forward, and the stuff suggests that’s plausible. There’s just a ways to go for it to occur so I have a hard time ranking him higher than this. TOOLS FB SL CO N/A N/A 80 (97-102) 60 (84-87) 40 N/A N/A 15. Sam Carlson, RHP I’m high-man on the now 22-year-old Carlson despite the fact he’s coming off 2019 Tommy John and has faced just 13 batters in three and a half years since the Mariners selected him in Round 2 of the 2017 Draft and handed him $2 million. Why? He possesses a projectable starter’s repertoire, including an advanced changeup, sinking fastball up to 96 mph, and potential for an average or better slider thrown from a true three-quarters slot. He’s also an absolute beast, both physically and in terms of mental toughness. Carlson is one of the best athletes in the system and as built himself into a monster, adding good weight and maintaining an explosive lower half. This is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward for many, but I see No. 3 upside with a good middle reliever’s floor, and I think he’s going to move a little faster than one might otherwise think because he’ll get a lot of value out of his sinking fastball in the lower minors. I imagine Carlson has a chance to start in Modesto in May, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Seattle held him back a bit to easily manage his workload in what we all hope is his first full season in pro ball. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 60+ (90-96) 50+ (83-86) 40+ (76-80) 55+ (83-85) 45+ 14. Austin Shenton, 3B I may also he high-man on Shenton, but I believe in the hit tool and think his power will show up more after he gets to the big leagues, not unlike Kyle Seager, who managed just 22 homers in 1245 plate appearances spanning 269 minor leagues games. What Shenton doesn’t quite have — or at least hadn’t shown through 2019 — is Seager’s hands and feet at third base. I think he ends up fringe-average at best defensively at the hot corner, but there’s a chance the bat plays and then some, covering a move to a corner-outfield spot. He sees the ball well and might be the smartest hitter in the system. Shenton’s strengths also fit T-Mobile Park very well; he likes to use both gaps for doubles, can go line-to-line in contact situations and his pull power plays to Mobi’s right-field naturally. Shenton may be fit to start 2021 in Double-A Arkansas with a chance to see Tacoma by year’s end. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 50 45 13. Jonatan Clase, CF And I KNOW I’m high-man on Clase. The 18-year-old kid starred for the DSL club two summers ago, despite most of the attention going to his more famous teammate, Noelvi Marte. Clase swung and missed a bit too much during that stint, but has bat speed, instincts, can run for days, and has shown the organization a work ethic that makes player development staffers giddy. He’s actually grown a few inches and put on some good weight, but I’m told remains explosive out of the box and in the field. His speed and quickness give him a solid chance to stick in center field, though he needs a lot of experience and coaching, and a throwing program has helped him project to average arm strength. He’s years away, and is still raw at the plate, but won’t be 19 until late May, and when he’s anywhere near a field is as energetic as any player you’ve ever seen. He does nothing half-assed, and has a chance to impact the game in a lot of ways, though power isn’t likely to be one of them to a great degree. I’ll take a player like Clase over a high-probability back-end starter or a relief arm any day of the week and twice on game day. Clase is likely starting the season in extended awaiting the rookie season to start. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 50 40 60+ 50 70 12. Zach DeLoach, CF I warned on DeLoach three weeks after the draft when a team analyst told me DeLoach was the best ’20 Draftee he saw in 10 days watching fall ball. DeLoach has above-average raw power to his pull side, but otherwise is a better bet to use the middle of the field, make a lot of hard contact and get on base a ton. There may be 16-18 homers in the bat, but if there isn’t the bat may be light for a corner, putting pressure on his instincts to take over in center and make up for average speed and fringe-average arm strength. DeLoach, too, is a left-handed bat that profiles well at T-Mobile Park, and I’m a little more bullish on the power developing than some, explaining why I have him 4-10 spots higher. I’d like to see the Mariners ship DeLoach to Everett in May to get started. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 60 45 11. Juan Then, RHP Then, properly pronounced more like ‘Tayn’ (silent ‘h’) but likely to be Americanized to ‘Ten,’ is a bit undersized at 6-feet tall but put on some good weight over the past year-plus and his velocity exploded in instructs, reportedly touching 100 mph and living 95-plus in short outings. The lower slot he’s deployed might impact his ability to throw a legit, repeatable changeup in a starter’s role, but it’s added deception and movement to his fastball and slider. He has a chance to start, and the ceiling lies somewhere in the middle of the rotation, but the floor may be as a high as the next Edwin Diaz. He’s a good athlete and in years past has thrown enough strikes to believe he’ll continue to do so moving forward, despite the added effort and difference in release angle. Then should start 2021 in Everett, where play-by-play great Pat Dillon should have one of the best rosters in AquaSox history from which to create more audio memories for the rest of us. TOOLS FB SL CH CO N/A 70+ 50+ 45+ 45+ N/A
Saturday: Nos. 31-40 Sunday: Nos. 11-20. Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20. Below is prospects Nos. 21-30. Important note: There’s not a significant difference between 40 and 18, at least not as much as 22 entire spots in a good farm system would suggest, but here’s a delicate balance between upside, risk, and ETA. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 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 30. Sam Delaplane, RHR Delaplane jumped onto the radar when he sat 95-98 mph for a bit in Modesto in 2019, but he was more 92-95 in Arkansas, with a reach-back for a bit more, rather than living in he high range. His plus breaking ball looks like a spiking slider, but it’s a curveball at 83-87 mph with legendary spin rates and late break that results in swings and misses. The right-hander is a strike thrower, but does struggle with location and when he doesn’t have his best fastball batters will lay off the breaking ball. I have some durability concerns along with questions about how deep into his appearances he can hold the mid-90s or better heat or I’d rank him 10-plus spots higher, but he can answer those question very quickly this spring where it’s not out of the question he makes the big club. 29. Wyatt Mills, RHR Mills is more projectable than Delaplane and while the last time we saw him pitch in games his raw stuff was merely average for a reliever, he’s shown improved velocity and breaking balls shape. Mills was essentially the consolation prize in Round 3 when the Mariners schemed Sam Carlson into their second-round and paid him $2 million. Mills has proven to be a fine choice for the under-slot play. He was essentially 91-95 mph in 2019 but in the fall was often 94-96 and touched 97. He throws from a true sidearm slot, adding deception and sink to the arm side life on the pitch, setting up a 55-grade slider that plays well off the fastball. Like Delaplane, Mills has an outside shot to break camp with the big club, and if not likely sees the big leagues at some point later in the season. 28. Adam Macko, LHP Macko is a fun left-hander to watch; he’s aggressive, very athletic, and works fast. He also has an above-average curveball that projects to plus, and if you know anything about me at all you probably know I love me some left-handed curveballs. Macko lacks the stature of the protypical, projectable arm at just 6-feet and 180 pounds, which is part of the reason he doesn’t rank 10 spots higher. He’s touched 93-94 mph, but in Everett two summers ago was mostly 89-90, and it remains to be seen how he handles the workload of a pro starter. On the flip side, he might be a four-pitch arm, and has separated himself as the best of the club’s prep arms for their 2019 draft class. 27. Joey Gerber, RHR Gerber offers size, some athleticism, deception from a three-quarters slot and a sinking fastball up to 98 mph. He was mostly 93-95 in the big leagues last summers, and at times struggled to stay above 92, and the slider was quite flat. He’ll have to finish better through his release point to get the bite on his slider and command both his pitches better. Doing so could lead him to a setup-style role with some chances in high-leverage situations, but there’s work to do here despite a lot of success in the minors, including a 112-30 K/BB ratio across four levels. Gerber enters camp with a chance to show he’s ready for a big-league role, but the better bet is he starts in Triple-A Tacoma and is one of the first handful of relievers to get the call as the season progresses. 26. Yohan Ramirez, RHR Ramirez’s raw stuff is pretty good, and it kept him from disastrous results in 2020 despite walking more than 21% of the batters he faced. He’s up to 98 mph with the fastball and he ditched the curveball for a plus slider in the low-80s. Ramirez has to throw more strikes to get back to the big leagues, and that means repeating his delivery and finishing through a consistent release point. I’m projecting he starts 2021 in Tacoma, considering the additions Seattle has made to the reliever corps over the winter. 25. Braden Bishop, CF The former UW standout still possesses the elite defensive chops and at least 65-grade speed, but he’s struggled in sporadic opportunities in the majors, showing shaky discipline and some timing issues. The swing isn’t clean, but he’s worked to kill a trigger tick that should allow his above-average bat speed to play better, which suggests a better shot to make consistent contact and take advantage of improved raw power. His raw speed has never resulted in a lot of stolen bases, but he’s a very good baserunner and can handle the bat in small ball opportunities. Bishop’s defensive instincts are terrific — the best I’ve ever seen from a prospect. He gets very good jumps, reads balls off the bat at an elite level and his routes are pristine. He also throws well, generally receiving above-average grades. If he hits even a little bit he’s a major leaguer, even as a fourth outfielder or platoon option, but he’s running out of time, both in terms of age (27) and chances in Seattle. He has an option left, but could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as part of the at-least temporary solution in left field prior to the arrival of Jarred Kelenic. 24. George Feliz, CF The Mariners signed Feliz as part of their 2019 July 2 class for his athleticism, advanced hitting skills and legitimate chance to stick in center. He projects for a lot of above-average tools, with present plus speed, a plus arm and a hit tool reminiscent of a .300 or better hitter with good OBPs. He’ll get on the field for the first time this summer, so Feliz is a longer-term prospect. He has received comparisons to Nationals centerfielder Victor Robles from some, though I’d cut a bit shy of that, to be honest. At least for now. 23. Will Vest, RHR Vest was the club’s Rule 5 pick in December, plucked from the Tigers’ organization after his velocity ticked up beyond the mid-90s in the fall. A starter at Stephen F. Austin State, Vest has taken to the relief role and his arm speed has turned into 93-96 mph velocity and a slider that was sharper as he added velocity. He’s going to make the club out of camp barring injury, and has a chance to be a very good middle reliever, somewhat similar to Sam Dyson with better control, and therefore a better chance at consistency. 22. Anthony Misiewicz, LHR Misiewicz exhausted his rookie status in 2020 due to pro-rated service time rules, but his 20 innings pitched certainly doesn’t remove the prospect tag. The lefty was pretty good in those 20 frames, including a 30%-7% K/BB ratio and a 98th percentile barrel rate. But he still gave up a lot of hard contact and right-handed batters did almost all of that damage (.308/.386/.590), and all of it off his cutter and curveball. He can use the cutter more effectively in on righties, or use his 93-95 mph four-seamer more often. But command is a rather large part of the success in these situations, too. Misiewicz’s ceiling is multi-inning middle reliever — but he’s ready to take on a similar role immediately (since he did it fairly well last season), so his lack of reward is mitigated some by both ETA and probability. 21. Ljay Newsome, RHP Newsome is a fascinating prospect, partially because he wasn’t one at all until his arm took well to gas camp two years ago. Until then, the right-hander was cruising at 84-86 mph and touching 88, winning with volume strikes and fringey overall stuff. He also lacks physical projection at 5-foot-11 and a listed 210 pounds that might be a few kilos light. Newsome came out firing in 2019, however, sitting 91-93 mph and even touching 95. Later that summer the velo faded, but he was back at it last summer in the majors, averaging 91.7 mph on the four-seamer. He’s still a command-and-feel arm with fringe-average stuff, and lacks an out pitch, but I’m not convinced we’ve seen his best curveball or changeup, and he’s used a cutter in the past that might help him versus lefties (.379/.400/.724). The best news is the command is consistent, includes all of his pitches, and at least borders on plus. He has a shot to be a back-end starter and hang around the bigs awhile, but could also be effective in a long role. Newsome enters camps as the No. 7 or 8 starter, and falls behind Logan Gilbert on the ultimate depth chart for 2021, so there may not be a lot of chances for him to start for Seattle. Or is there? James Paxton isn’t necessarily finishing the season with Seattle, Justin Dunn may not be a starter OR a big leaguer, and injuries are always a consideration. Newsome likely starts in Tacoma, but he’ll be back at T-Mobile in 2021.
Sunday: Nos. 21-30, Nos. 11-20. Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20, including right here with Nos. 31-40. Below is the start of the Top 40, broken into groups. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHP 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 40. Taylor Dollard, RHP Dollard is an athletic sinker-slider starter who came to pro ball with underdeveloped changeup and some concern about fastball value. At Cal Poly in 2019, he sat 88-89 mph a lot, but touched 91-92, and has some 93s on the board for some scouts. There’s some physical projection left here, but he’ll need to answer some repertoire questions to stick as a starter. Seattle didn’t draft him in the 5th round last June because they thought he was the next great Mariners reliever, so he’s going to get a long look in the rotation, and the fact he throws a lot of strikes could go a long way. It doesn’t hurt that Poly is a pretty good school for arms. 39. Tyler Keenan, 1B/3B Keenan is a big, slugging left-handed bat with significant concerns about his ability to man third base, which puts pretty much every ounce of pressure available on his ability to hit and hit with power. He generates easy loft with a classic power swing but at Mississippi made consistent contact and proved adept at working counts and taking walks. He might be a three true outcome bat, but there are signs of more if given time to adjust to professional pitching. 38. Starlin Aguilar, OF Aguilar, just signed in January out of the Dominican Republic, is a sturdily-built left-handed hitter with a chance to hit for corner-type power thanks to a short swing and plus bat speed. Most project him to move from his listed position of second base over to third. I have him as an outfielder; there’s enough athleticism and arm to fit in left field and while he can field a ground ball, he lacks natural infield actions and likely outgrows both second and third, so I’m skipping that move, though Aguilar will be given every opportunity to prove he can handle it — and hit enough to profile there. 37. Kristian Cardozo, RHP Seattle swooped in late on the Venezuelan Cardozo after the Los Angeles Dodgers back out in July, 2019. The right-hander offers some projection from his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame (at signing), and a fastball already into the low-90s without much effort. His 71-76 mph curveball has varied shapes, but projects as at least average, and he’s shown good feel for a tailing changeup. Cardozo has a legitimate chance to develop as a starter and sure looks the part physically. 36. Michael Limoncelli, RHP Limoncelli had Tommy John surgery before the Mariners made him their sixth-round pick back in 2019. He was up to 94 mph the previous summer with a projectable curveball. He’s a good athlete with foundational arm action, and should be jumping out of his sleeves to get pitching again this spring. He’s likely to start the year in extended spring training, and may not leave Peoria all season, but once he’s rolling he could move quickly through the lower minors with command of his top two offerings. 35. Damon Casetta-Stubbs, RHP Casetta-Stubbs, 21, was the club’s 11th-round pick in 2018 out of Vancouver, Wash., and has flashed four pitches and maturity in his 26 professional appearances. He’s touched the mid-90s with his fastball, but as a pro he’s been more 88-92 mph. He has two breaking balls, both of which may be big-league pitches. The slider is the better of the two right now, and the changeup should develop over time thanks to consistent arm speed and deception. DC-S, all 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds of him, remains a project and is future role is up in the air, but the physicality and projectable velocity suggest a strong chance of a valuable arm. 34. Kaden Polcovich, 2B Polcovich was overdrafted in Round 3 last June, but he’ll do a lot of things that could push him through the minors fairly quickly. First off, his only flaring weakness is power at the plate; he’ll make contact, draw some walks, he runs well and can play at least two infield positions — second base, third base — and should be able to handle at least left field, if not center if given the chance. He will reach the gaps, so don’t let his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame fool you … well, not too much, anyway, since most scouts tell me he’s more like 5-8. But he performed in his short time at Oklahoma State and the plate skills are legitimate. 33. Aaron Fletcher, LHP Fletcher came over with Taylor Guilbeau in the deal with the Washington Nationals in July of 2019. He’s up to 96 mph when he’s right and the funk in his delivery offers deception, thanks to an aggressive from leg, a tucked front shoulder and a long slingshot-style arm path behind it all. His slider is below average, though it plays up some as a sweeper versus lefties, but it lacks depth. He’s flashed a fringe-average changeup that may be key for his chances versus right-handed batters. Fletcher is purely a reliever and made his debut last season, walking seven and striking out seven in 4.1 innings of work, showing off his profile in one simple line. If he throws strikes, he has a chance to stick this season and be a difficult at-bat, ala Tony Sipp. 32. Alberto Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez is a difficult profile, since he comes to Seattle with corner-outfield defense and an up-the-middle bat. He’s just 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, but has a compact swing and has made a lot of loud contact in the DSL and Gulf Coast League. He should continue to show consistent contact rates, but the Mariners could view Rodriguez as a real candidate for some swing adjustments and a little more power, as scouts do like his quick wrists and ability to cover the strike zone. He’s just an average runner with a 50-55 arm, so left field seems about right, but even without much power there’s a chance the bat value grows through on-base skills and a high average. 31. Carter Bins, C Bins’ swing was a mess most or all his college career with aggressive rotation and too many parts, but he knows the strike zone and uses a lot of the field. Seattle made progress in Year 1 with the swing and he smacked seven home runs in 49 games in Everett just weeks after signing. His bat speed is fringey, but he’s worked to shorten it with good results. Bins has some defensive chops, and looked better late in the year in terms of getting his glove down and using his feet for lateral range. He has terrific arm strength, but his accuracy was inconsistent at UNLV and his first stint in pro ball. Bins profiles as a backup led by above-average raw power and the ability to draw walks.