The Seattle Mariners have made numerous moves since the Mid-Season Top 30 Prospect Rankings was released July 5. A handful of talents from that list are now with other organizations. Here’s the Updated Top 30. More on the farm system on Baseball Things Tuesday nightClick Here to Subscribe! Note: Players in big leagues do not qualify (Emilio Pagan, Marco Gonzales) Kyle Lewis, CF — Modesto (A+) Evan White, 1B/RF — Not Active Julio Rodriguez, RF — Not Active Sam Carlson, RHP — Arizona (R) Nick Neidert, RHP — Arkansas (AA) Juan Querecuto, SS — Not Active Chris Torres, SS — Everett (SS-A) Greifer Andrade, OF — Everett (SS-A) Thyago Vieira, RHP — Tacoma (AAA) Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton (A) Braden Bishop, CF — Arkansas (AA) Max Povse, RHP — Tacoma (AAA) David Banuelos, C — Everett (SS-A) Ronald Rosario, OF — Everett (SS-A) Boog Powell, OF — Tacoma (AAA) Luis Liberato, OF — Modesto (A+) Daniel Vogelbach, 1B — Tacoma (AAA) Luis Rengifo, UT — Clinton (A) Anthony Jimenez, OF — Clinton (A) Osmy Gregorio, SS — Arizona (R) Tyler Marlette, C — Arkansas (AA) Chuck Taylor, OF — Arkansas (AA) Joseph Rosa, 2B — Everett (SS-A) Ryne Inman, RHP — Clinton (A) Ian Miller, CF — Tacoma (AAA) Jorge Benitez, LHP — Arizona (R) Robert Dugger, RHP — Modesto (A+) Andres Torres, RHP — Everett (SS-A) Juan Then, RHP — DSL Alex Campos, SS — DSL Others: Gareth Morgan, OF — Clinton (A); Rob Whalen, RHP — Tacoma (AAA); Marcus Littlewood, C — Arkansas (AA); Christopher Marte, RHP — DSL; Bryson Brigman, 2B — Clinton (A); Nolan Perez, 3B — DSL; Nick Wells, LHP — Clinton (A); Ljay Newsome, RHP — Clinton (A); Matt Festa, RHP — Modesto (A+); Eric Filia, OF — Modesto (A+); Joe DeCarlo, C — Modesto (A+); Billy Cooke, OF — Clinton (A); Jepherson Garcia, 1B — DSL; Brayan Perez, LHP; Joseph Hernandez, RHP; Yeuri Tatiz, RHP. Gone from July 5 Top 30 Tyler O’Neill, OF; Brayan Hernandez, OF; Tyler Smith, SS; D.J. Peterson, 1B; Brandon Miller, RHP. Others Gone: Pablo Lopez, RHP; Lukas Schiraldi, RHP.
The Seattle Mariners farm system reminds of the 1989 Cleveland Indians. Not the actual baseball team, but the one portrayed in Major League. About mid-season, Harry Doyle proclaimed the Indians were “threatening to climb out of the cellar.” While I don’t believe at any point the Mariners had the worst farm system in baseball, they were closer than they’d ever like to be. But they’ve improved and even jumped a few spots in the rankings — perhaps into the high teens or low 20s. It started last June when the club drafted Kyle Lewis. It continued over the winter when the player development staff fully adopted their new ways. Last month, the Mariners added two legitimate Top 10 prospects, and over the weekend added two more long-term prospects with upside, and a third may be on the way. Here’s my updated Top 30, not including Dominican outfield prospect Stir Candelario, for whom the Mariners have been the favorite to sign, since he hasn’t signed yet. Note: Rank/Player/Position, Team/Age. Age is of July 15, 2017. Kyle Lewis, CF — Arizona (rehab)/21 Lewis is the one potential star in the system with a chance to stick in center while hitting for average and power. The club is taking their time with his secondary rehab — in his first game back with Modesto he banged his surgically repaired knee on the outfield wall. 2. Evan White, 1B/RF — Everett/21 White hasn’t played much yet but he’s athletic and not just on the bases or in the field. His swing reminds me of a young Jayson Werth. 3. Julio Rodriguez, RF — NA/16 A future corner outfielder that comes to pro ball with a lot of future 55 and 60 grades on the hit tool. The power will develop as he matures. He’s a right-handed batter with an above-average arm. Your browser does not support iframes.4. Tyler O’Neill, LF — Tacoma/22 O’Neill has shown defensive progress and the power still is showing up, but Triple-A pitching has predictably given him some problems. He just turned 22, however, and won’t be outworked. 5. Sam Carlson, RHS — NA/18 Carlson hasn’t — and may not — pitched since being selected in Round 2 last month but brings plus velocity and a chance for two above-average secondary pitches. Shot at No. 2 starter with higher probability as a stuff-led No. 3. 6. Nick Neidert, RHS — Modesto/20 Neidert’s ceiling remains a mid-rotation arm but he’s probably raised his floor a little bit this season, as well as his probability to reach the majors as a lite No. 3 or No. 4 starter. 7. Brayan Hernandez, CF — Everett/19 Hernandez is an upside play. He runs well, projects as average or better in center field and has the tools to project as an average big-league bat. If the hit tool allows for it, there’s 12-15 homer pop in the bat speed. 8. Juan Querecuto, SS — NA/16 Querecuto has a shot to stick at shortstop but he’s not a good runner and likely profiles at second or third base, or even the outfield where his 60 arm strength plays well. The Mariners will hope the power develops beyond most present projections if he has to move out of the middle of the diamond. 9. Greifer Andrade, LF — Everett/20 Andrade isn’t the athlete the Mariners hoped he’d be when they signed him — strictly a corner fielder now — but the bat has shown up, with some power. In a lot of ways, he’s Juan Uribe. 10. Chris Torres, SS — Arizona/19 Torres is tooled up as a top-of-the-order menace who sticks at shortstop long term. But at some point he’s going to have to perform or the confidence in his future will begin to fade. He doesn’t make consistent contact and makes too many mistakes with the glove. Center field? 11. Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton/19 Rizzo’s current swing plane won’t allow for much power but he’s one of the more natural hitters in the system and is holding his own in the Midwest League at 19. 12. Max Povse, RHP — Tacoma/22 As a reliever, Povse projects as a middle innings type, perhaps in a multi-inning role. There’s a non-zero chance the club revisits the right-hander as a starter, however, so he’s ranked accordingly. 13. Emilio Pagan, RHR — Tacoma/26 Pagan has been lights out this season, including two highly-effective, long-form outings in the majors before his current run in Tacoma. Fastball is up to 96, setting up a plus slider. 14. David Banuelos, C — Everett/20 Banelos has enough bat speed, but the swing mechanics aren’t ideal, which is why he lasted as long as he did. In time, he’s a big-league catcher defensively, led by a plus arm and good instincts. If he hits, he’s a starter. 15. Braden Bishop, CF — Modesto/23 Bishop is having a terrific season in Modesto and needs to be challenged with a promotion before the year is out, in my opinion. He’s making contact, reaching the gaps and working counts. Floor: fourth outfielder. 16. Thyago Vieira, RHR — Arkansas/24 Vieiera’s control and command have been inconsistent this season but he’s still sitting 95-99 mph with a developing power curveball. 17. Daniel Vogelbach, DH — Tacoma/24 He can’t play first and may not hit for ideal power but Vogelbach knows the strike zone and hits a lot of line drives. 18. Tyler Smith, SS — Tacoma/25 A legit shortstop glove and a quick trigger for fastballs keeps Smith on the list. 19. D.J. Peterson, 1B — Tacoma/25 Peterson is an average defender at first base and will need to hit to play regularly. He’s running out of time but has made progress this season, using more of the field and covering a hole at the bottom of the strike zone. 20. Luis Liberato, OF — Modesto/21 Liberato has three average or better tools and the chance for a fourth, but in the end he probably ends up in left field as a poor-man’s Luis Gonzalez. 21. Brandon Miller, RHS — Clinton/22 Miller sits 89-92 mph with an above-average slider that has flashed plus. His changeup is below average but shows some promise. If he’s moved to the bullpen, perhaps the velocity ticks up into the mid-90s and his slider lives in the plus range. 22. Anthony Jimenez, OF — Clinton/21 Jimenez has four solid tools and more power than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame suggest. He has good bat speed but the swing can get long and he’s still learning to lay off pitches above his hands and breaking balls down and away. Potential center-field defense. 23. Ronald Rosario, OF — Arizona/20 Rosario is a long-term upside play, but I much prefer this route to the low-ceiling, medium-risk talents such as Bryson Brigman. Rosario, a left-handed bat, creates good leverage and possesses above-average bat speed. The swing is lengthy and can get loopy, creating a lot of swings and misses. He’s a good athlete and ultimately fits in a corner outfield spot. 24. Rob Whalen, RHS — Tacoma/23 Whalen throws strikes with three pitches, touching 92 mph, and when his command is at its best he’s a No. 5 starter with a chance for a little more. 25. Ryne Inman, RHS — Everett/21 The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Inman — a 15th round pick two years ago — is a strike thrower who is developing stuff to go with it. The changeup is the most intriguing pitch, but he came to pro ball with both a slider and curve, the slider being the most promising. 26. Tyler Marlette, C — Arkansas/24 Marlette is developing the hit tool while he continues to work on his defense but the intrigue here is the power. He’s not hitting a lot of home runs right now, but 15-18 homers is not out of the question. 27. Luis Rengifo, 2B/UT — Clinton/20 Rengifo has been one of my favorites short-season watches for two-plus years since a Lat Am scout told me he had outstanding on-field instincts. He’s showing that now by playing multiple positions regularly. He’s a fringy shortstop at best, but could play second base and the outfield at average or better levels. 28. Chuck Taylor, OF — Arkansas/23 Taylor just keeps hitting and shows more power potential than teammates Ian Miller, who is two years older. Taylor profiles better in left field, but he, too, is a high-instincts player. 29. Osmy Gregorio, 2B/SS — Arizona/19 Like Rosario, Gregorio is a pure upide play that is more valuable for me than taking a chance on a player with little chance to be a regular, but a greater chance to reach the high minors or a part-time role. The arm works fine on the left side of the infield and he runs well. Gregorio’s swing needs some work, but the bat speed is there and he’s shown some solid strike zone judgment in Arizona. 30. Jorge Benitez, LHP — Arizona/18 Benitez offers projection, including future velocity, suggesting a high-leverage bullpen role as a potential floor. If he wants to start, he’ll have to add to his 160-pound frame, but he’s just 18. Others: Alex Campos, SS — DSL/17; Juan Then, RHS — DSL/17; Joseph Rosa, 2B — Everett/20; Christopher Marte, RHS — DSL/18; Nolan Perez, 3B — DSL/18; Jepherson Garcia, 1B — DSL/18; Bryson Brigman, 2B — Clinton/22; Andres Torres, RHS — Everett/21; Billy Cooke, OF — Clinton/21; Kyle Wilcox, RHR — Clinton/23; Ljay Newsome, RHS — Clinton/20; Nick Wells, LHS; Clinton/21; Gareth Morgan, OF — Clinton/21; Lukas Schiraldi, RHR — Modesto/24; Pablo Lopez, RHS — Modesto/21; Matt Festa, RHR — Modesto/24; Joe DeCarlo, C — Modesto/23; Eric Filia, OF — Modesto/25; Ian Miller, CF — Arkansas/25; Marcus Littlewood, C — Arkansas/25. The Mariners remain the favorites for 16-year-old Stir Candelario from the Dominican Republic. He offers plus raw power and a chance to hit for average, but isn’t as athletic as Rodriguez and may end up at first base, despite a good throwing arm. He hasn’t signed yet, so he’s not ranked above, but he’s fit somewhere in the 15-25 range. Boog Powell and Andrew Moore retain their rookie status, for now, but are on the big-league, 25-man roster, so they weren;t considered for the Mid-season Top 30. Powell would have ranked just ahead of Vogelbach and behind Bishop. Moore would have ranked No. 7. I did get some useful information on the other three international signings — LHP Brayan Perez (Venezuela), RHP Joseph Hernandez (DR), RHP Yeuri Tatiz (DR), but it was difficult to place them in the top 30 at this time. All three are considered particularly raw with heavy projections and not enough present ability.
I read. I watch. I listen. And the past few weeks I have read, watched and listened to a lot of folks discuss the Seattle Mariners and their trade deadline strategy. What it could be. What it should be. Why they should buy. Why they should sell. And so on. But it sounds to me like there’s a missing factor or three not being connected to the club’s current position. The Mariners are 39-39 entering play Tuesday night at Safeco Field versus the hapless Philadelphia Phillies. It just so happens a .500 record puts them smack dab — yes, I said it — in the middle of the American League Wild Card race. This simple fact suggests the club should have no part of selling. There’s no evidence to suggest they will and there’s no evidence to suggest they should. While their current position makes them buyers, there are multiple angles for clubs to buy at the trade deadline. Tuesday morning on 710 ESPN’s Brock and Salk, Jayson Stark opined the Mariners’ 28-percent chance to win a Wild Card berth is not worth mortgaging future pieces, going as far as to say he doesn’t know one ‘thoughtful GM in the game, including Jerry Dipoto, that would do so. We know they aren’t selling. We know to some extent they should buy. Stark says buying for a Wild Card berth makes no sense. Done and done. Right? Wrong. I also heard 710 ESPN’s Tom Wassell and Bob Stelton, during their evesdrop segment, discuss the Stark comments. Everything the duo added to the conversation made perfect sense, including how much more a one-game Wild Card might mean to Seattle than most other clubs. But a few things still seems to be missing. 1. The vast majority of clubs selling want young players, mostly prospects, in return. The Phillies don’t want veteran players with contracts, including Nelson Cruz and Kyle Seager, in return for right-hander Pat Neshek. While they’d certainly prefer, in many cases, the controllable major leaguer to the Double-A prospect, contenders rarely move those players in July. Sellers know prospects, largely, is what they will get in return. 2. The Mariners couldn’t mortgage their future in prospects if they tried. 3. Seattle isn’t going to be involved in trades for high-priced and/or big-named starting pitchers such as Chris Archer, Gerrit Cole and Jose Quintana. The type of deals we’re talking about are more along the lines of high-leverage relievers, mid-rotation rentals and part-time players. None of which cost clubs a Top 50 prospect like Kyle Lewis. The club has one premium prospect in their entire farm system in outfielder Lewis. As much as I like Tyler O’Neill, Evan White and Sam Carlson, none fall into that category. White and Carlson cannot be traded yet, anyway. The club’s system is 40 percent better today than three weeks ago and 60 percent better than 13 months ago. But it’s not good, lacks high-ceiling talent and in no manner would trading three of their Top 10 prospects to get better at the deadline be mortgaging their future. What Dipoto has done the past two seasons is build some depth in particular areas that may allow them to move a player or two. In Mitch Haniger and Ben Gamel the club may have two everyday outfielders they didn’t have a year ago. Does this mean they should just go out and move Lewis and/or O’Neill in deals for short-term help? Of course not. But there’s no reason they can’t make multiple deals without touching Lewis or the big-league roster. Remember back in October when everyone and their Uncle Bob said the Mariners can’t get significantly better because they have ‘nothing to trade’? That turned out to be patently false. Dipoto moved Taijuan Walker and Ketel Marte for Jean Segura and Haniger and the club is better for it, both in the interim and the long-term. Ya know this Ben Gamel guy? Yeah, he was acquired in exchange for Jio Orozco and Juan De Paula. Two right-handed pitchers with good arms who may very well never touch the big leagues. The Gamel trade was made in August last year — AFTER the deadline. Nick Vincent, he of the 2.72 FIP, 0.7 fWAR and 0.95 WPA, all tops on the club, was acquired in a trade for cash. The deal was made at the end of spring training. It’s called creativity, thorough scouting and an understanding of what it means to trade a B- prospect or two (not a lot). Dipoto has done that and then some in his short tenure as Mariners GM. As for whether it’s worth trading anyone but Lewis (reminder: none of this year’s draftees can be traded yet) for a better shot at a one-game Wild Card, of course it is. Because deals made that improve the roster not only increase the chances of said Wild Card berth, they also improve the Mariners’ chances to WIN that game. In the end, remember there is a such thing as going for it without acting like the late-90s Yankees, and there absolutely are ways to get better without trading your very best prospect or any of the key figures on the roster that’s brought the club to this position. That said, if the Rays, who probably want no part of moving their ace, want to send Archer — who is under club control for three more years — to Seattle for a package including Lewis, the Mariners certainly have to consdier that. 😉 Underrated Trade Chips The Mariners do lack the headliner trade chips, hence the fact they either won’t be in on deals for frontline starters or will have to take back big salary in return (Jeff Samardzija, $81 million through 2020), but they do have the kind of chips that can finish off deals and get talks started on two-month rentals such as Jason Vargas or any number of relievers noted here. Some of those prospects: Nick Neidert, RHP Neidert hasn’t raised his ceiling — still a No. 3/4 starter — but it’s safe to say he’s raised the floor a little bit, showing a more consistent average fastball with movement, plus control, above-average command and improved breaking ball. Boog Powell, OF Clubs are still going to frown on Powell being suspended TWICE for violating baseball’s drug policy, but fact is he controls the zone and has a knack for making contact. He’s an average center-field glove and above-average runner, suggesting strong fourth-outfielder profile. You know, the kind the Yankees saw in Gamel. Ryne Inman, RHP Inman was a 15th-round pick in 2015 out of Atlanta but he’s pounding the zone and the stuff is more than a tick better than draft day. Inman, in trades, is a lot like Orozco or De Paula; an arm a team can dream on a bit. Brandon Miller, RHP Miller throws downhill with a fastball touching 93 and he commands it well at 89-91 mph. His slider is above-average and at very worst can be tried in a relief role to see if the velocity jumps. Be a shame not to take advantage of what could be a 65 slider. Braden Bishop, CF Like Powell, Bishop isn’t going to hit for much power, but he brings high-end defense and baserunning to the ballpark everyday. Luis Liberato, OF Liberato is a solid athlete with a chance to develop average power. I like him more in left field than center and in a lot of ways he reminds of Shin-Soo Choo; lacked a lot of natural instincts of some players, but once he figured out some things his tools won out. Thyago Vieira, RHP Still working on a delivery that can, well, deliver better control and command, Vieira hits triple-digits occasionally, often sitting 95-99 mph with a power curveball that flashes average. Max Povse, RHP In a relief role, Povse should be able to sits 93-95 mph, and his curveball has taken a full step forward since the Mariners acquired him in the trade for Alex Jackson, suggesting a three-pitch reliever — he also has an average changeup — capable of going through a lineup once or twice. Tyler Marlette, C Marlette is a 40/45 defender but two years ago most defensive grades were in the 30s other than his arm strength and accuracy, where he’s fringe-average to average and still improving. His footwork is starting to even out and he’s shown the ability to sit lower in his crouch more consistently. He profiles as a bat-first backup. D.J. Peterson, 1B Peterson hs been up and down again in 2017 but it’s been a little more encouraging than a year ago; for one, he’s healthy after half a season (knock on wood). Second, he’s had some strong stretches where he used the whole field and hit for average without sacrificing power. He has nine homers and 10 doubles on the year. He’s not likely to be an everyday guy anytime soon, but could earn his way into a platoon scenario at some point. Dan Vogelbach 1B/DH Vogelbach can “flat out hit,” per the club’s Triple-A coach Denny Hocking. I believe in a longer stint in the majors he would hit enough to warrant a roster spot. The problem is, he’s still a 40 glove at first at best, brings zero value on the bases and his power is to his pull side, which he has problems getting to. An AL club such as the White Sox or A’s might see some value in him.
While the big club looks to get healthy after a .500 month of May, the top talents in a very shallowly-stocked organization has changed quite a bit. Preseason Top 25: LINKPreseason Org Rank: 28Farm Report: April Here’s an updated Top 10 with scouting & player development notes. (A full re-ranking of the Top 25 will occur in four weeks in the Mid-season Report) Only players in the minors on Jun 1 are eligible. Kyle Lewis, OF Lewis is getting close to being sent out on assignment after spending the last 10 months rehabbing from knee surgery. Depending on the timing, he could start out with some ABs in the Arizona League but will see a full-season assignment early in the proccess. Lewis is capable of moving through Class-A and Advanced-A ball this season and setting himself up for a 2018 assignment at Double-Arkansas and ending the season in Seattle. Status: Neutral Tyler O’Neill, OF — Tacoma (AAA) O’Neill has had his moments this season but has had trouble making consistent contact. He hasn’t had a lot of problems with breaking balls but has found himself in a lot of pitcher’s counts, leading to higher strikeout totals. It was always clear O’Neill was going to need time to run into walls and make the proper adjustments to climb over them, just as he did every other step of the way. The power remains, the defense is being cleaned up and he’s a better runner than many think. O’Neill will turn 22 on June 22. Status: Neutral Nick Neidert, RHP — Modesto (A+) Neidert, unlike a year ago, has consistently sat on the firmer side with fastball velocity — 90-92, touching 93, rather than 88-90, touching 92) and has repeated his delivery and pounded the strikezone. Neidert creates deception with his delivery and creates a bit of a cross-body effect — nothing like that of Danny Hultzen — and throws from a true three-quarters arm slot, generating horizontal movement and late life. Your browser does not support iframes.He’s been fairly dominant in the Cal League and may end the season in Arkansas. Status: Up Andrew Moore, RHP — Tacoma (AAA) Moore has pitched better in Triple-A than he did at Double-A Arkansas and should be one of the Mariners five starters right now — he’s better than Sam Gaviglio and veteran Yovani Gallardo. He lacks upside — he’ll carry a No. 4 ceiling into the majors due to a lack of a strikeout pitch — but he’s safe and reliable. There’s no reason for Seattle to wait based on service time and arbitration clocks, which should be and are reserved for premium prospects that threaten to cost clubs millions of dollars in additional payroll resources for hitting such status a year earlier than necessary. Status: Up Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton (A) Rizzo, who just turned 19 at the end of March, has shown well in the Midwest League, batting .278/.399/.365 and displaying improved actions at third base. The initial scouting reports on Rizzo included both defensive questions and concerns he won’t hit for the kind of power that is typical of corner defenders. He has just one home run and eight doubles and has struck out more than is ideal, but he’s young for the league and has performed admirably in his first full season as a pro. Your browser does not support iframes.Rizzo will develop more game power — he has average to slightly above-average bat speed — as he learns to create more backspin. He’s currently rolling out a heavy dose of ground balls and low line drives, but he covers the plate, works counts and has drawn comparisons to Jose Vidro as a hitter. This is a good thing. Status: Up Anthony Jimenez, OF — Clinton (A) Jimenez has come out of nowhere this season after spending the last three years rotating through the Venezuelan, Dominican and Arizona summer leagues, albeit with terrific results. He’s more than held his own this season, posting a .306/.374/.529 triple-slash and the scouting report matches the performance.The swing possesses plane and bat speed, he covers the zone well and finds the barrel regularly. He’s a plus runner and defender in center field and will be 21 for the entire 2017 campaign. Jimenez is the first batter in the following video: Your browser does not support iframes.He does tend to get too aggressive which causes him to chase balls out of the zone, resulting in too many strikeouts. But his track record suggests more consistent contact is an adjustment or two away. Status: Up Braden Bishop, OF — Modesto (A+) Bishop has had a strong, consistent season and projects as a big leaguer but needs to develop profile-changing power, and it appears he’s taken a step in the right direction. He’s stronger this season and is swinging more aggressively when the count allows for it, using a very Jean Segura-like setup that’s different from last year. Most importantly, he’s working counts in his favor and squaring up pitches more often than last season. Your browser does not support iframes. Bishop is a 65 glove in center and a terrific baserunner. If he can make contact and get on base, he’s a major-league quality outfielder. If he can hit 6-10 home runs and 25-plus doubles on top of that, he’s a starting-caliber centerfielder in the mold of Denard Span. Status: Up Chuck Taylor, OF — Arkansas (AA) Taylor, 23, is a better prospect than fellow Travlers outfielder Ian Miller. Miller may be the fastest runner in the organization but Taylor is the better hitter and he’s a year and a half younger. Taylor, a former fourth-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, has hit well from both sides of the plate this season, but has more natural power as a left-handed batter. He makes consistent contact from both sides and is more disciplined than Miller, both in terms of strike zone judgment and knowing his own swing. He’s just 5-foot-9 but is sturdily built and has strong, quick hands that generate some pop, though he’s not likely to reach beyond the 8-12 range. He’s an above-average left fielder and fringe-average center fielder but with more regular time in center — which he’s been receiving lately — he could reach average levels. Not bad for a Rule 5 pick. Status: Up Max Povse, RHP — Arkansas (AA) Povse pitched well in seven starts, reach the sixth inning in his first four outings and compiling a 21-8 K/BB ratio. At 6-foot-8 and about 210 pounds, there’s projection left, but the Mariners have decided to try and get that projection in a relief role. He’s currently on the DL with a hamstring tweak, but I’m interested to see whether or not shorter stints and a more aggressibe delivery create better arm speed and therefore more velocity. As a starter, Povse typically pitched in the 90-92 mph range with downward plane. He’d touch 95-96 on occasion, setting up a 12-6 curveball and changeup. The breaking ball lacks plane but the changeup is average to above average and he’s improved his arm speed with it. Your browser does not support iframes.In relief, Povse can max out his effort, ideally sitting mid-90s and developing the best version of his curveball, a sharper edition. If he continues to throw strikes in this role, he could see the majors by September — provided he’s healthy enough, soon enough. I don’t believe the Mariners made the decision based on lack of performance. But at times pitchers hit a wall and a 6-foot-8 project doesn’t help the club for at least two years. Besides, Povse can always transition back if the opportunity arises. Status: Down (role change) Luis Liberato, OF — Clinton (A) Liberato has been on my radar since his 2015 year in Short-season Everett. He lacks instincts but has five tools to fringe-average or better levels, including 55 speed and a 55 arm.He’s solid-average in a corner and at times looks the part in center. His swing allows his power to show up in games, as evidenced by his .455 slugging percent in 45 games this season. But Liberato’s plate skills lack, including strike zone judgement and pitch recognition, and he tends to drop his hands and try to hit the ball in the air. Liberato will not turn 22 until December and remains an intriguing talent, but he’s yet to put it together for longer stretches. Status: Down Photo: Tyler O’Neill, by Jim Oxley/HERO Sports
The Seattle Mariners struggled through the month of April and while it’s as clear as day the club’s greatest organizational weakness is the talent collection below the big leagues, there are some bright spots, and light at the end of the tunnel. Seattle Mariners Farm ReportPreseason Top 25: LINKPreseason Org Rank: 28 Here’s an updated Top 10 and some scouting and development notes. Note: This is not a pure Top 10, it’s a combo Top-10/Power Rankings. Only rostered MiLB players are considered, which leaves out the likes of Brayan Hernandez (5), Chris Torres (6) and Greifer Andrade (15). Mitch Haniger (3), Ben Gamel (13), Tony Zych (18), Emilio Pagan (25) , James Pazos (22), Boog Powell (20), Guillermo Heredia, Dillon Overton aren’t presently in the minors. Kyle Lewis, OF Lewis is getting closer to being ready to be sent out on assignment but the Mariners aren’t pushing it. He will play this summer, but at least check he was still ‘weeks’ away from playing in games. He may serve as DH some early on to make sure the surgically repaired knee isn;t asked to do too much from the get-go, but all signs point to a full recovery for last year’s 1st-round pick.The two biggest questions for Lewis once he does get back on the field are where he ends up defensively and how he counters the suggestive issues of his deep hands load that truggers his swing. Does the knee injury push him into a corner outfield spot where it’s possible he would have ended up anyway? Do the mechanics hold him back once he begins to face better pitching?Status: Neutral Tyler O’Neill, OF — Tacoma (AAA) O’Neill has had his moments with the Rainiers, including four doubles and three homers in 93 plate appearances, but he’s piling up the strikeouts (24 in April) and remains in the early stages of making the adjustments.O’Neill’s swing appears a bit long at times, but that’s relative to when he’s at his best. His timing’s been off occasionally but his game plan has stayed true; O’Neill knows his power is up the middle and to right-center field and his swing matches.He’s a ways away from being ready for The Show but despite a slow April in terms of hitting for average, nothing that occured last month is cuase for concern, including a bout with defensive blunders the first week or two. Scout’s Take: Right now it’s almost all physical. He’ll need to learn to be more technical. He’s a lot better than he was two years ago. Consistent progress… you’re seeing that. Status: Neutral Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton (A) Rizzo got a late start as he fought away a minor injury but in his short time with Clinton has found the barrel (9-for-24, 2-2B, BB, 5 SO in 7 games). He just turned 19 and his polish at the plate has burst through in the early goings.He’s not the ideal defender OR bat for third base, but if Rizzo sustains solid performances at the plate at this stage his ETA and profile may need to be adjusted.Scout’s Take: I do think he’s gonna hit but I don’t see even projectable power to acceptable big-league levels for a corner position. (Daniel) Murphy had the long-term physical capability to get there, and obviously he has. Rizzo comes up short there. Status: Slighty Up Max Povse, RHP — Arkansas (AA) Povse’s a project of a different kind; at 6-foot-8 and about 195 pounds, he’s a physical project first and foremost. Meanwhile, he’s working on generating more horizontal movement to better combat hitters attacking fastballs to stay away from a fringe-average 12-6 curveball, below-average slider with inconsistent tilt and a big-league caliber changeup.Despite a fastball sitting 89-93, Povse’s strikeout numbers aren’t as good as they need to be and most of that stems the lack of opportunity to use his best pitch — the above-average change.He ranked here for me in February because there’s always the chance something pops and he adds a few mphs to the fastball; if you told me Seattle had a 6-foot-8 righty in Double-A pounding the zone with downhill heat at 92-95 with a plus change and overhand curve with a chance to be above average, I’d have Povse ranked No. 2 with twice the confidence he’s in the rotation by this time next year. Scout’s Take: He might be Mike Pelfrey; he’s got that high slot and with that he’s going to have problems creating run, mostly away from right-handed batters and in on the lefty. I don’t like the chances his slider becomes average but the curveball’s got real potential. Status: Neutral Nick Neidert, RHP — Modesto (A+) Neidert picked up in April where he left off last summer, throwing strikes with three pitches, including a fastball 87-90, though he’s been a bit firmer of late, sitting 89-91 and touching 92. He has three solid-average secondary offerings, led by his changeup, which has a change to be a legitimate plus pitch he can throw for called strikes as well as induce swings and misses.The curveball is average most of the time but I still wonder if he’s not a candidate for the Mike Leake Pitch Arsenal School. His pitchability is high and if he’s not going to throw 93 (he’s not) adding a slider or cutter and perhaps a two-seamer to better attack right-handed batters is ideal.He’s three years away and lacks ceiling, but his delivery is sound and he’s probably the smartest ‘pitcher’ among all the club’s pitching prospects, and that’s saying something considering who ranks right behind him. Scout’s Take: Not only do I worry he’s going to struggle versus better bats because his fastball doesn’t test anyone, but I wonder how he’s going to hold up if asked to handle a major-league workload. Status: Neutral Andrew Moore, RHP — Arkansas (AA) Moore is the most polished arm in the system, thanks to an average fastball he’s commanding better this year than last, and three useful pitches, including a slider he doesn’t yet throw much.Like Neidert, there’s no physical projection which to lean but his changeup is above-average and his curveball has flashed average in 2017, up a tick from a year ago, due to tighter spin and better command.He’s tough as nails, too, and is likely the first starter promoted from Arkansas later this season. Scout’s Take: Yes, I know, he’s a reliever. But he’s going to get a chance to start somewhere because hes Marco Estrada-esque; smart, uses his fastball all over the zone and has a pitch he can use with two strikes. The problem will be getting there. Status: Neutral Braden Bishop, CF — Modesto (A+)It’s only been four weeks but Bishop is the prospect I called on the most leading up to this piece.He’s still striking out too often for being a no-power 23-year-old in the California League, but he’s doing everything else, and I’m being nit picky.Entering May Bishop was batting .330/.418/.436 with eight doubles and a home run. He drew 14 walks versus 16 strikeouts in 111 plate appearances (14 percent) and has swiped eight bags in nine tries. Bishop’s value is his 65 speed and 65-grade defense in center, so getting on base and making contact are two critical factors for his development. But all’s well in 2017, so much that a promotion to Arkansas in June or July is not out of the question, and may actually be likely. Scout’s Take: He may just be a fourth outfielder but we thought that about Brett Gardner, too, and he’s found a way to hit for enough power to play everyday. I’m not saying (Bishop) is Gardner and the (swing) plane won’t allow for that kind of home-run pop, but I was impressed this weekend how well he’s finishing his swing and not being satisfied with a slap. Status: Up Thyago Vieira, RHP — Arkansas (AA) Vieira touched 100-plus last season but had problems throwing his best velocity for strikes. So far in 2017, he’s struggled to find the zone, walking nine of 49 batters — eight of the last 29.He’s sat 96-99 with some late zip, but the right-hander still has been inconsistent with the curveball, a pitch he tends to telegraph some and will occasionally finish high, cutting off the finish and robbing the pitch of the bite it needs.Pitching coach Ethan Katz has been big for Vieira’s mechanics, but it appears more adjustments are necessary to find consistency. The fastball is closer-level, but the control, command and breaking ball are not. He may need to give up some of the rocking in his delivery; I think that’s getting in the way of pitching from a balanced position. Scout’s Take: I’d like to see the delivery continue to be simplified. Anything but ‘check, turn, drive and release’ is probably too much. And what about a slider from that arm slot? The curveball doesnt do much for me. It takes special wrist action with that arm speed and not many have it. Status: Slightly Down Dan Altavilla, RHP — Tacoma (AAA) After struggling in the big leagues in April, Altavilla has been fine in Tacoma. He was releasing high a lot and the slider was flat, explaining his command issues, despite good strikeout numbers.He’ll be back in Seattle in a month, but he has to command the fastball better to stay there; while he can often get away with missing up in the zone, since he’s sitting 94-97, missing over the middle of the plate is another story.Scout’s Take: I like him. Needs a fine-tune but he’s aggressive, seems to have a nasty streak and from what I have seen down here that slider is a little better than down in Double-A. Status: Slightly Down Brandon Miller, RHP — Clinton (A) Miller, not 21 until mid-June, just missed the cut in February but looked solid in April, throwing strikes (7 BB), missing bats (23 in 24.2 IP) and staying away from the extra-base hit.Miller throws a fastball, slider and changeup but lacks ideal velocity to profile any better than a No. 4 starter. He does, however, have the frame to build on 88-91 mph and commands the pitch well.The slider is a 40-grade pitch, but has flashes fringe-average in 2017. The third pitch will determine his future. If he has a big-league caliber changeup he has a chance. With 6-foot-4, 215-pound pitchers, I always wonder if he could speed up the delivery, max out the velocity and eliminate the damage the lack of a third pitch does to a starter. Miller’s a candidate, but the M’s will exhaust all chances to start first. Scout’s Take: He has a nice foundation. Size, strikes, the slider is short but he commands that well, too. He gives away the changeup with his arm path but these hitters (in the Midwest League) aren’t going to catch that much. Status: Up Other prospects that returned positive notes from scouts: Marcus Littlewood, C — “I think he has a chance to hit but he’s still a work-in-progress defensively and he’s already 26.”Chuck Taylor, OF — “Does anybody talk about this guy? Nice little player.”Joey Curletta, 1B — “Big dude. Big Power. Big Whiffs.”Gianfranco Wawoe, 2B — Resourceful bat, instinctual player on bases and in field.Gareth Morgan, OF — Morgan’s batted .246 with a .329 OBP in April. That’s progress, but without the power it’s ultimately useless.Ljay Newsome, RHP — Keeps throwing strikes. Has walked one of 101 batters faced this season.Joe DeCarlo, 3B/C — “I only saw him catch a few innings, but he’s going to need a few years.”
Despite a less-than-ideal final pitching line, right-hander Taijuan Walker took another step toward the big leagues Thursday, showing progress in a few key areas en route to three great innings, one awful one and one so-so one. At the end of the night, he fanned eight and allowed five runs. Walker dominated the first three innings and flashed a plus curveball, perhaps the best two I’ve ever seen him throw, to compliment his 88-91 mph cutter and four-seam fastball that teased 97 and sat 92-96. The bad inning came in the fourth when Walker was up in the zone and lost some balance in his delivery. He hung a curveball that was hit out by former Mariners farmhand Mike Wilson in the third and then gave up several singles in the fourth that led to four more runs. He never lost his cool, however, and fought through some command issues in the fifth to get through the inning unscathed. Long ball aside, the curveball was better for the most part; he’s had a tendency to telegraph the pitch some, something he didn’t do in this start, and he also flashed a couple of solid changeups to left-handed batters. In the fifth, after issuing two walks and getting two outs, Walker worked Brandon Allen to a 2-2 count and struck him out on a hard changeup. Note: I had originally labeled the 2-2 pitch to Allen a cutter, but Walker alerted me that it was a hard change. Walker showed maturity, a better curveball and the same fastball life and use of his cutter that suggests he’s going to be very good, very soon. He had the bad inning — it happens, and he hadn’t had a hiccup in any of his first four starts in Triple-A — but there were still reasons to love what taking place at Cheney Stadium. Walker is likely to make his big-league debut next month. Robbie ErlinTucson left-hander Robbie Erlin made the start for the Padres Thursday. He sat 88-90 with his fastball, throwing from a high three-quarters arm slot but creating some arm side run that was effective versus right-handed batters. His curveball, clocked in the 72-75 mph range, showed well above average break, but he didn’t have good command of it in this start. Erlin’s best pitch was his 80-84 mph changeup, which he threw for called strikes and induced a few swings and misses. His fastball command did him in versus Tacoma, who stacked nine right-handed batters against him, which can be counterproductive versus a changeup left-hander. Erlin looked like a back-end starter Thursday, but if there’s a firmer fastball in that arm, he possesses the delivery and secondary stuff to be a solid No. 4 as early as 2014. NotesStefen Romero is figuring out left field fairly well, showing better reads on fly balls and better routes to the ball. His arm is fringe-average, but he threw a perfect strike to the place twice Thursday on single to left … Abraham Almonte is a popular question for me on Twitter because he’s putting up solid numbers. He’s a below-average defender in center — perhaps passable, though — but runs well (low 4’s up the line including 3.55 on a drag bunt earlier this homestand), which qualifies as 65 or 70 grade speed. He’s a decent switch hitter, but has well below average power and profiles as a fourth or fifth outfielder … Rehabbing big leaguer Franklin Gutierrez appears 100 percent healthy and is swinging a solid bat for Tacoma. He may not be activated anytime real soon, but he’s closer to being ready at the plate than Michael Morse … Morse’s timing is still way off, suggesting the long layoff has reverted him back to spring training. He needs a few more days, based on what I saw Thursday … Stephen Pryor threw Wednesday and topped out at 90 mph. I’m told that was by design, however, as he’s working through some mild soreness in his right triceps and was just working on his command. He did show off the curveball and slider. He’s still a little ways away … Carter Capps is commanding his fastball — he went Thursday and looked solid — but his breaking ball, as expected, will need more time. He’ll be back in September.
Seattle Mariners right-hander Taijuan Walker began the 2013 season back in Double-A Jackson where he spent all of 2012 because he needed to improve in several areas and the club correctly deemed the Southern League as the best place for him to take on such tasks. Tuesday, the 20-year-old showed how far he’s come in only four months and why he’s among the very top pitching prospects in all of baseball. Walker, a sandwich-round selection in 2010 (No. 43 overall), used his stuff, poise beyond his years and a maturity level necessary for the circumstances to toss six shutout frames at the Fresno Grizzlies, allowing three singles and two walks, while striking out four. He threw 87 pitches, 56 for strikes, and for all 87 he appeared to be every bit the phenom he’s been cracked up to be since he burst onto the scene three summers ago as a raw 17-year-old. The 6-foot-4, 210-pound Walker featured a four-seam fastball that sat 93-95 mph and touched 97, and came to the plate with ferocious downward plane, creating a very heavy ball, one extremely difficult to square up for hitters. He commanded the pitch down all night, missing only below the zone, not up, with some occasional arm side run and natural sink. He worked his 90-93 mph cutter in often, helping set up a much-improved 71-74 mph curveball that froze batters all night. He sawed off several bats with the four-seamer and cutter and used the curveball with two strikes or to keep the Fresno lineup off balance. He tossed a half-dozen or so below-average changeups in the mid-80s, but kept it down or away from left-handed batters and one in particular showed some fade, though each lacked sink. He maintained good arm speed on the pitch, but it’s still a ways from being more than a show-me offering. Walker’s velocity didn’t dip much from the stretch — he sat 93-94 with runners on — and did not let some bad luck get to him. There were 4-6 borderline pitches on which he did not get the call from the home plate umpire, but he went back to work, rather than allowing it to get to him and affect his approach. The four-seamer induced ground balls and the cutter forced poor contact that resulted in shallow fly ball outs and pop ups, and he did miss some bats with both pitches. His curveball is a full grade better today than in spring training or at any point a year ago, and he’s taken well to the cutter and seems to know how to use it. Walker’s delivery was very consistent with one exception: He drops his arm slot slightly and opens up early on the curveball, which could be an issue against better hitters and it’s something he’ll need to fix for general consistency purposes, if nothing else, but big leaguers will see it and exploit it. Walker’s velocity comes free and easy without much effort, which bodes well for his ability to hold that velocity deep — which he did through pitch 87 Tuesday and has done through the low-100s in the past — and if his high three-quarter arm slot can be maintained with the curveball, there’s no reason to believe he won’t max out and become a No. 1 starter. There may even be ace material here, though we’re likely a few years away from that kind of command from Walker. I came into this start with one objective, which was to remain as objective as possible. Even doing so, it’s difficult to suggest Walker is on a path that will lead to anything but future stardom. That isn’t likely to occur in 2013, and while he’s likely to see the big-league mound in 2014, he may not settle in and succeed at a high level right away. His stuff, athleticism and his apparent acumen for progress may prove me wrong there, however. He was very crude coming out of high school and in less than three years has gone from high-upside project to elite pitching prospect on the doorstep of the majors. He’s raised the ceiling on all of his grades since then — here’s my 2010 draft-day scouting report on Walker for subscribers — and now the sky is the limit. After four innings, M’s scouting director Tom McNamara tapped me on the shoulder. I looked back and he gave me a look as if to ask, “so, what do you think so far?” My response? “I’d be excited if I were you.” Taijuan Walker is a phenom, and it may not be long before he’s toeing the rubber at Safeco looking to back up a Felix Hernandez gem with one of his own.