Saturday: Nos. 31-40Sunday: Nos. 11-20.Monday: Nos. 6-10Wednesday: No. 5Thursday: No. 4Friday: No. 3Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1Monday, March 1: Best ToolsTuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere?Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, BullpenThursday, 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. 6-10Wednesday: No. 5Thursday: No. 4Friday: No. 3Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1Monday, March 1: Best ToolsTuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere?Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, BullpenThursday, 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.
Yes, the title reads like a bit of an oxymoron, but that’s done purposefully in order to make sure we’re talking about talents with a high-percentage chance to show up in future MLB stories. The pool of players I’m working off is MLB.com’s Top 100 as of December 15, 2020. Here are the eight most underrated top prospects, and why. Ryan Mountcastle, 1B/DH — Baltimore OriolesMLB RANK: 90 Mountcastle raked in 140 plate appearances in the majors in 2020 (.333/.386/.492) and has a long track record off hitting for average and power in the minors. He’s limited to first base or DH thanks to a poor throwing arm that gets a lot of 30s and 35s from scouts, but he’s a decent athlete who projects to hit .280 with 25-30 homer power, and he’s clearly ready to face big-league arms (again). Reid Detmers, LHP — Los Angeles AngelsMLB RANK: 75 He’s yet to lace ’em up in pro ball, but Detmers should be a quick study thanks to plus command and control and a 65 curveball. He’s a good athlete, repeats a deceptive delivery, and the value in his ETA suggests 75 is a 10-20 spots low. Francisco Alvarez, C — New York MetsMLB RANK: 58 Alvarez has a traditional catcher’s build and is tooled up from a plus throwing arm to defensive instincts and an above-average hit tool that may end up plus. There’s some funk to his non-stride, but it’s conservative if anything. He’s 2-3 years away, but the profile itself is too unique and as risk averse as it gets for young backstops that 58 just too too low. Brennen Davis, OF — Chicago CubsMLB RANK: 72 Davis is a five-tool prospect with at least above-average grades across the board, including plus speed and projectable power that could end up his best tool. He’s still maturing physically, but showed an advanced skillset considering he was 20 years old posting a .305/.381/.525 slash in the Midwest League. He has a real chance to stick in center and the trends are all pointing sky high. Davis has big-time bat speed, generates easy leverage and loft, and covers the zone well for his age and experience. No. 72 is minimum 15-20 spots low. Sam Huff, C — Texas RangersMLB RANK: 69 Huff’s raw power and improved hit tool suggest a chance he’s an average first-base bat if he has to move off catcher, but despite his size — 6-foot-5, 239 pounds — he has good feet, soft, strong hands, has shown adept at framing and may be able to handle catching early in his career, a la Matt Wieters. Either way, there’s 30-homer power in there, and he’s short to the ball despite long levers. George Kirby, RHP — Seattle MarinersMLB RANK: 95 Kirby cruises at 91-94 mph, touching 97, with plus command and three projectable secondaries, two of which already flash big-league average or better. He used the downtime in 2020 to remake himself physically and now looks the part of 200-inning No. 3 starter. There’s so little risk here and the right-hander figures to move quickly due to his ability to throw strikes and locate the fastball that 95 is at least 20-25 spots too low. Luis Patino, RHP — San Diego PadresMLB RANK: 23 Ranking at No. 23 suggests it’s very difficult to be underrated, but at 20 years of age the right-hander competed in the majors and struck out nearly 25% of the batters he faced in 11 appearances. The stuff is undeniable, including a 94-98 mph fastball, a slider that misses bats and flashes plus-plus, and a changeup that’s already a useful weapon. He’s not as udnerrated as some others here, but right now Patino is ranked below CJ Abrams, Matt Manning, Drew Waters, and Forrest Whitley, and for me that’s a mistake. Edward Cabrera, RHP — Miami MarlinsMLB RANK: 80 Despite developing late, Cabrera is 22 and big-league ready after fewer than four years in pro ball. The fastball has plane at 93-97 mph, runs some to his arm side, and the slider is above-average with a chance to be plus-plus in time. He’s shown feel for an average changeup, too, and has at least average control at present. He’s built like an ace and those two potentially-elite pitches offer a high floor and ceiling, screaming ’80’ is far, far too low for the Marlins’ right-hander.
Every season we see dozens of prospects break through to the big leagues, including many who got a taste the prior season. The following is an introductory look at what may be the best rookies in 2021. A handful of these names were prominent rookies in 2020. Some haven’t even sniffed the majors yet, but have a great chance to next season. This is not an attempt to predict the best ROY candidates. This is not a ranking of prospects or rookies. It’s just an early thought on the the 50 best rookies for 2021, in no particular order. This also is not a projection of wins above replacement, where relievers or back-end starters who spend most or all of the season in the bigs outvalue a high-impact player that comes up in late August or September. NOTE 1: You may notice not every top prospect is mentioned, because of their chances to see the majors or to see enough time to serve in a prominent role. You also may notice there aren’t a lot of pure relievers on the list, for what should be obvious-to-all-of-us reasons. NOTE 2: Players maintain “rookie” status until they have surpassed 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched in the major leagues, whether it’s over one individual season or combined over multiple years. Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B — Pittsburgh Pirates Terrific in 24 games in 2020 (.376/.442/.682, 195 wRC+), the 23-year-old is primed to sustain that explosion next season. He’s a plus-plus glove, a good athlete, and carries the makeup of a true franchise player. Randy Arozarena, RF — Tampa Bay Rays Arozarena hit seven homers in 76 PAs in the regular season and then hit a thousand long balls in October. OK, it was ‘just’ 10, but he did so in just 77 PAs. He also batted .377 in 20 postseason games. He’s among the favorites for the American League ROY entering 2021, and potentially a major returning piece for the defending AL champions. Dylan Carlson, OF — St. Louis Cardinals Carlson spent all of 2020 as a 21-year-old and while the final numbers (.200/.252/.364) weren’t good, he flashed from both sides of the plate and showed solid defensive ability. The scouting report suggests a .280 hitter with above-average on-base skills and power, but he may just need a little more time to put together both swings. Joey Bart, C — San Francisco Giants Bart profiles as a plus defensive backstop with plus pop and a chance to hit .260. He’ll need to be more selective, but has all the tools to make a number of All-Star games and help propel the Giants back to where they want to be. Devin Williams, RHR — Milwaukee Brewers Williams won the NL Rookie of the Year in 2020 but has yet to surpass the innings threshold to DQ him for another run as a ‘rookie.’ His devastating changeup not only helped him strike out 53% of the batters he faced, but it also induced a 64% ground ball rate on the rare occasion batters made contact. That’s repeatable to a large enough extent to keep Williams high on your list. Ian Anderson, RHS — Atlanta Braves Anderson was very good in 38 frames in 2020, filling the void left by Mike Soroka who spent almost the entire season on the IL with an Achilles injury. If the right-hander wants repeat his success from 2020, however, he’ll need to throw more strikes, but he avoids the barrel consistently and misses bats. James Karinchak, RHR — Cleveland Indians Karinchak, like Williams, was great in 2020 and maintains rookie status into 2021. The right-hander used a mid-90s fastball with a lot of life up in the zone to set up an overhand curveball. The stuff produced a 49% strikeout rate to offset a severe fly ball batted ball profile and a 147% walk rate in 2020. Despite the high rate of fly balls, Karinchak kept the ball in the yard last season. Sixto Sanchez, RHS — Miami Marlins Sanchez was good in seven starts last summer, generating 58% ground balls and going at least six innings on four occasions. He’s consistently 95-98 mph with the fastball to go with a hard slider and firm changeup, all of which are quality big-league offerings. He’s still learning how to use his stuff, but when he does expect the whiff rate to spike from the 20.6% rate he posted in 2020. Triston McKenzie, RHS — Cleveland Indians McKenzie is a tall, lean, and athletic right-hander who’s been dripping with projection since he was a comp round pick in 2015. Since Day 1, however, he’s thrown strikes and missed bats, and he did that for 33 innings last season in Cleveland. The velocity is easy from 92-96 mph and his two breaking balls are average or better — the slider might be special. His changeup teases thanks to good arm speed and he repeats a deceptive delivery very well. Nate Pearson, RHS — Toronto Blue Jays Pearson debuted in 2020 but struggled to command his fastball (16% BB), something he rarely experienced in his two-plus minor league seasons. The right-hander can be absolutely filthy, however, with a 95-99 mph fastball that shows arm side run and life up in the zone, and three secondaries that project as average or better, led by a slider that’s already a swing-and-miss pitch. The difference-maker may end up being a plus changeup. Pearson has a shot to be a legit ace. Josh Jung, 3B — Texas Rangers Jung, 23 in February, may have a path to the majors early in 2021 with the Rangers moving Isiah Kiner-Falefa from third base to shortstop and transitioning Elvis Andrus into a utility player. Jung isn’t yet on the 40-man, but his best tool is his ability to swing at strikes and find the barrel. He’s not likely to hit for a lot of power just yet, but he’s always drawn his share of walks and made a lot of contact. He projects as average defensively. Wander Franco, SS — Tampa Bay Rays The top prospect in baseball possesses the best hit tool on a teenage prospect I’ve ever seen, showing plus ability now and a chance to be an elite 80. But the 5-foot-10, 190-pound switch hitter isn’t all contact, as he also brings above-average power potential to the batter’s box. He’s a 60 runner, too, and should be at least average in the field with a plus arm. He could end up a .330/.400/.500 bat with a chance to swipe 30-40 bags and be a value with the glove, and he might do it before it’s legal for him to have an alcoholic beverage. Shane McClanahan, LHS — Tampa Bay Rays The Rays know how to extract value from young arms and McLanahan may be next in line. He finished 2019 in Double-A and has pounded the strike zone all the way up through the minors. He’ll sit 93-96 mph and has one of the better left-handed curveballs in professional baseball, a true 60-grade pitch. His changeup still needs work, but flashes average. While he throws strikes, his fastball command could use a bump if he’s to reach his ceiling as a No. 2 starter. Jarred Kelenic, OF — Seattle Mariners Kelenic, 21, has ascended quickly since being the No. 6 overall pick in the 2018 Draft. He ended 2019 in Double-A and likely figures into the Mariners plans early in 2021 — with left field being filled by placeholders until then. Ultimately, it’s at least a 55 hit tool with 60 power, but I’m bullish on the power and see a chance he’s a 35-40 homer stick in his prime. He throws well and is at least an average runner. Logan Gilbert, RHS — Seattle Mariners Gilbert is the closest among Seattle’s top arms in terms of reaching the majors and likely sees the show by the midway point next season. He’s up to 97 mph with his fastball and cruises 92-94 with a plus slider, above-average knuckle curveball and a changeup that at times has been his best secondary. He’s a beast at 6-foot-6 and 225 pounds and figures to be a No. 3 starter — with a chance at more. MacKenzie Gore, LHP — San Diego Padres Gore, 22 in February, is pure filth with a 92-96 mph fastball and three 60-grade offspeed pitches in a 73-77 mph curveball, a changeup at 82-85 and a slider that may end up his most effective of the trio. He has 60 control and 50 command, but he’s athletic from head to toe, his arm work well despite a long path — it actually creates deception — and there’s a solid chance he ends up with plus command, too. Keibert Ruiz, C — Los Angeles Dodgers Ruiz isn’t the athlete Will Smith is, nor as polished as Austin Barnes, but it’s an average present hit tool with a chance to be plus and then some, and he’s already a gap threat with strength and bat speed to project for more power. He’s not a great receiver but can handle the position and has a high-floor offensive game to offer while he’s working out the wrinkles in the rest of his game. How he gets time in 2021 remains to be seen, but he’s ready. “He was ready in back in 2019,” said one AL scout. “He makes good solid contact with a line-drive swing, uses most of the field — uses the middle well — has a very good idea of the zone and doesn’t chase.” Josiah Gray, RHS — Los Angeles Dodgers Gray was under-drafted in 2018 when he fell to the No. 72 pick overall pick, likely for two reasons. One, he’s 6-foot-1 and at the time 180 pounds. Two, the competition he faced at Le Moyne College (NY) was the NFL’s equivalent to the NFC East. But Gray is a great athlete, is up to 95 mph and possesses three potential major-league quality offspeed pitches, including a slider that may be his best. He’s yet to build up the arm strength in the minors, so he’s unlikely to make 25 starts in 2021, but could be a combo or multi-inning relief arm for the Dodgers early next season. Forrest Whitley, RHS — Houston Astros Whitley’s scouting report far exceeds his production the last two years, but he’s also battled through some injuries and has managed just 197 professional innings in four seasons — not counting whatever unofficial work he received in 2020. The stuff is great — a 65 fastball at 93-96 mph, four, yes four above-average to plus secondaries, led by a plus curveball and changeup. Aside from the injuries, Whitleys bugaboo is control, where he’s issues 95 bases on balls in under 200 innings. A fine-tuning that gets him to 45-grade control and command makes Whitley at least a No. 3 starter — if he can stay off the IL, that is. He’s ready for the majors. Bryan Abreu, RHP — Houston Astros Abreu is an underrated arm, but his chances to start lean heavily on his ability to improve his control — he’s walked 174 batters in 287 innings in the minors. The raw stuff, however, is undeniable, including a plus fastball up to 96 mph, a plus slider, and a curveball that gets a lot of 65 and 70 grades from scouts. His changeup also shows some promise. Abreu, like Whitley, has had a few injuries along the way, too. At worst, Abreu has a shot to be a high-leverage reliever, but he’s ready to face major league hitters consistently. Casey Mize, RHP — Detroit Tigers Mize was the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 and reached the majors last summer. He didn’t have his best stuff in seven starts for Detroit, but he’s up to 96 mph with devastating cutter-splitter-curveball combo backed by above-average command. He’s had some issues staying healthy, which may be the biggest hurdle on his way to being the staff ace in Motown. Tarik Skubal, LHP — Detroit Tigers Skubal has great life on his mid-90s four-seamer and an above-average slider. His 75-78 mph curveball and low-80s changeup remain below-average, and his control and command are blocking him from consistent outings. He needs more seasoning in the minors, but can miss bats now so a relief role could be in the offing once the Tigers are ready to start winning. Lefties went 3-for-24 (.136) off him in the big leagues last season — all singles. Nolan Jones, 3B — Cleveland Indians Jones, 23 in May, is blocked at third base by Jose Ramirez, but may be best suited at first base, anyway — I get a lot of 40-grade reports from scouts on Jones’ defense, at least as of September, 2019. The power is very real, however, and could reach the 35-homer level or better if he can improve his bat-to-ball skills. He may be ready for a long look in the majors in 2021, and first base is wide open in Cleveland. Nick Lodolo, LHS — Cincinnati Reds Lodolo was the No. 7 pick in the 2019 Draft and may see the majors in 2021. I thought he was over-drafted a bit, but he has a starter’s repertoire and eventually should throw a lot of strikes. He can miss bats with his changeup and steal strikes with an above-average curveball he commands consistently. Tyler Stephenson, C — Cincinnati Reds Stephenson debuted in 2020 and while it was just an eight-game, 20-PA sample, the bat looked very good (.294/.400/.647, 2 HR), despite a lot of strikeouts. The main question on Stephenson is the glove, where he may be able to get to fringe-average in time, but has a chance to hit .270 with high OBPs and the bat speed to hit 25-30 homers if he can work a power swing into his game plan. He has a great arm, but may not have the feet to play anywhere else on the diamond. Andrew Vaughn, 1B — Chicago White Sox Vaughn mashed in college and while he’s a bat-first, nearly bat-only prospect who batted .252 with a low-.400s slugging percentage in his two full-season stops in 2019 (a 52-game sample), he walks, he makes contact a high rate and carries 30-40 homer pop — the upper range of that in the band box that is Guaranteed Rate Field — which should be called Guaranteed Rake Field, if you know what I mean. Garrett Crochet, LHS — Chicago White Sox Crochet, who started at Tennessee, including one start before the shutdown last spring, then pitched out of the bullpen for the White Sox in September and October. It’s a 96-100 mph fastball in either role, and the slider flashes plus-plus. He has a hard changeup with a chance to get to average over time, but he may not throw it much if the White Sox keep him in the bullpen. If he dialed down the velo a bit in a starting role, he may throw more strikes, and I think early in 2021 Crochet will get that chance in the minors. Brailyn Marquez, LHS — Chicago Cubs Marquez is up to 99 mph and cruises at 93-97, but his third pitch and command need a lot of work. He has thrown strikes at times, but generally doesn’t locate consistently, and has bouts of control problems that knock him out of games early. He’s just 22 in January, and the Cubs are retooling, so there’s no need to rush him out of the rotation right now. Because the Cubs are likely taking a step or two back, Marquez may get most of is work in the majors in 2021. Jeter Downs, 2B — Boston Red Sox Downs is a below-average shortstop glove but should be average or better at second base. He doesn’t do anything really well — there’s no lead tool — but he should hit .280 with solid OBPs and average or slightly above-average power. He’ll also swipe a few bags, despite fringe-average speed. The Red Sox have other options at second base in 2021, but none have the staying power of Downs. He’s not yet on the 40-man, but is due to touch down next season. Adley Rutschman, C — Baltimore Orioles My favorite prospect in baseball right now, and I think he’s closer to No. 1 than No. 3 is to the former Oregon State star. Rutschman is a very good defensive catcher with a plus arm and a chance to be the best in the game in short order. Oh, and he can hit for average and power from both sides of the plate, and brings championship makeup to the ballpark every single day. On the upside, we could see a .300/.400/.550 MVP-type prime from Rutschman. It’s unlikely he’s up early in 2021, but sometime over the summer isn’t out of the question. That’s how gifted he is. Cristian Pache, CF — Atlanta Braves Pache’s bat is going to need some time, especially in the power department, but he’s an elite glove in center — perhaps the best in baseball already — and has right-field arm strength. He’s also a plus to plus-plus runner capable of legging out triples, infield hits and swiping 30-40 bags if given the chance to run freely. In the long run, he should produce enough offensively to stick in the lineup, and there’s All-Star upside here. All that could start from the get-go next April. William Contreras, C — Atlanta Braves Contreras will be 23 this month and got a cup of java last season with the Braves. He’s been inconsistent offensively, but has 15-20 homer raw power and makes enough hard contact to suggest a playable hit tool. He has a plus arm and is about average in the receiving and blocking departments. Contreras has a great chance to be the No. 2 catcher to start 2021, and it may be more a time share if the kid hits. Drew Waters, OF — Atlanta Braves Unlike Pache, Waters isn’t yet on the 40-man, but he’s a five-tool prospect with a chance at four plus tools, including hit, power, speed and throw. Waters finished 2019 by batting .271/.336/.374 in Triple-A, and his power has yet to develop n games, but he does everything on the field, and should fit nicely in either corner once his bat is ready. Waters could very well be Ender Inciarte‘s eventual replacement, and that could be sometime next season. Alex Kirilloff, OF/1B — Minnesota Twins Back in July 2018, an NL assistant GM texted to ask if anyone was talking about Kiriloff in the same conversations as Eloy Jimenez, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Fernando Tatis Jr. “They should be,” he said. “He’s the best hitter I’ve seen all year down here.” Once he got to Double-A a year later, however, he began chasing a bit more — he hits a lot of pitches hard 4-6 inches off the plate, at least relative to the typical prospect — and big-league arms will take advantage with breaking stuff and significantly better command. The power is legit plus and some scaling back of his selectivity could unlock what may be a plus hit tool, too. He’s fringey in right field, but the bat may play at first base, and he’s ready to be tested by the Twins. Deivi Garcia, RHS — New York Yankees Garcia is five-foot nothin’, a hundred and nothin’, but touched 95 mph and misses bats with aa plus changeup. He’s pitched in relief just eight times in pro ball, but five of those came at Triple-A in 2019, which seemingly was a precursor to a middle-relief role in the big leagues in 2020. But the Yankees needed starter’s innings last season, and Garcia came through, averaging nearly six innings per start, pounding the strike zone and perhaps offering the Yankees more role flexibility than some believed he could entering last season. Spencer Howard, RHP — Philadelphia Phillies Howard, 24, is near-ready to grab a rotation spot with the Phillies and auditioned with mixed results in 2020. The fastball is up to 97 mph and dwells 92-95 with relative ease. He has three major-league quality secondary pitches, including a plus curveball and above-average changeup. He throws enough strikes at this point to warrant time in the bigs, but there’s room for more consistent fastball location, which pushes him from back-end arm to potential No. 3 starter. Luis Patino, RHS — San Diego Padres If he can keep his delivery together consistently, he may be a favorite for ROY in 2021. He flashed this past season in 17 innings, sitting 95-99 with an out-pitch slider and useful changeup. Luis Campusano, C — San Diego Padres Campusano may not get much of a chance in 2021 barring injury after the acquisition of Austin Nola last summer, unless he beats out Francisco Mejia in spring training, which is plausible, though not necessarily probable. Neither is more than a fringe defender, but Campusano brings more offensive upside and appears to be progressing with the glove while Mejia’s defensive development has been relatively stagnant. Seth Romero, LHS — Washington Nationals Romero is likely a big-league reliver but he might be a very good one in the mold of Sean Doolittle if he can settle into the role and avoid the off-field issues that have plagued him to date. He’s been up to 97 mph with the fastball but sat 92-94 last summer, albeit with an above-average slider that projects to plus. He also has a useful changeup and when he holds his mechanics together can throw a lot of strikes. Bobby Dalbec, 1B — Boston Red Sox Playable at third base, Dalbec fits best at first base, especially in Boston where Rafael Devers is settled at third for the time being. He has monster raw power thanks to bat speed and tremendous swing leverage. He’s adept at working counts and drawing walks, but hasn’t shown an ability to hit for average in the minors. He batted .263/.359 in 23 games for the Sox last summer, but his BABIP was .394. He ended the season with an xBA of .199. A minor adjustment or two could aid in his efforts to make more consistent contact, perhaps thrusting Dalbec into run-producing corner infielder for years. Adonis Medina, RHS — Philadelphia Phillies Medina’s name has been included in significant trade talks each of the last two winters, but he made his debut with the Phillies last summer, starting and lasting four innings. It’s an average fastball at 91-94 mph, plus a sinker in the same range. The three offspeed pitches all tease average to above-average, but the changeup is the best at present. Depending on what Philly does this winter with their roster, Medina could start spring training with a job to lose in the rotation. It’s a No. 4 profile, there may be a ground ball skill hidden in the profile, which could provide a bit more upside. Royce Lewis, SS — Minnesota Twins Lewis, 21, wouldn’t be buried in this section if it appeared he was the favorite to be the starting shortstop or second baseman for the Twins on Opening Day next season — but he’s not, at least not yet with Jorge Polanco and Luis Arraez projected to start up the middle. Lewis is a 60 runner with plus raw power that’s starting to show up in games. The arm is average, but the shortstop defense is fringey, despite the athleticism. Scouts don’t love the swing, but they still like the player quite a bit. Lewis probably belongs in left field on the current Twins roster, but he hasn’t played but eight innings in the outfield in games, so we may not see him do it in the bigs early in 2021. Julio Rodriguez, OF — Seattle Mariners Rodriguez was dinged up in 2019, rebounded quickly to mash at both Class-A levels. In 2020 he missed almost all of full workouts at the Alternate Training Site with another wrist injury, but returned to mash in the Winter League. He’s just 19, but it’s an average hit tool with upside, 65 or better raw power, and a right field defensive profile that includes a 65-grade arm. I wouldn’t put it past Rodriguez to force his way into the majors in 2021, and if Seattle is hanging around in the race for the No. 8 spot in the American League, that roster is going to be fun. Michael Kopech, RHP — Chicago White Sox After TJ surgery in 2018 and opting out of the 2020 season, Kopech should be all healed up and ready to go. The disadvantage here is the overall workload for 2021; the Sox may take it easy on him. When 100% healthy, Kopech has an 80-grade fastball that consistently hits triple digits and has tagged 105. The slider is plus with tilt and the curveball isn’t that far behind. His change has a chance to be average in time, as does his command. Matt Manning, RHP — Detroit Tigers Manning has been Detroit’s most consistent pitching prospect, but he lacks the raw stuff of either Mize or Skubal. He sits 92-95 mph and complements with an above-average changeup and curveball. He throws strikes and in 2019 showed improved ability to locate to both sides of the plate versus both lefties and righties alike. He’s athletic and the trends are all pointing up, suggesting his mid-rotation projection isn’t necessarily his ceiling. Max Meyer, RHP — Miami Marlins Meyer was the No. 3 overall pick last June and could be on the fast track to the show. The arsenal is very good — up to 100 mph and regularly 93-97, with a 70-grade slider — and Meyer’s changeup has a real chance to be average or better. He’s just 6-feet and 195 pounds, but is a brilliant athlete and comes with a high ceiling as a dominant high-leverage reliever available to the Fish whenever they want it. Meyer added strength each year at Minnesota to give him a chance to start long term, so the only chance we see him in relief in 2021 is in a pennant race or playoff run after Meyers logged too many innings in the rotation. Taylor Trammell, LF — Seattle Mariners If Trammell had a better throwing arm he might be the club’s centerfielder of the future (sliding Kyle Lewis to a corner or out the door as trade bait), but it’s a 40 noodle that fits OK in left. Trammell is a great athlete with contact skills that have been disrupted by a lot of tinkering with his swing aimed at unlocking legitimate power potential. He’s a 65 runner and 65 defender — think: Jacque Jones — but if the bat speed meets a better swing, there’s above-average power in there, too. He projects to get on base a lot and swipe some bags. On the upside he’s hitting at the top of the order but otherwise could be a 7-or-9-hole hitter in a very good lineup with no automatic outs. DL Hall, LHP — Baltimore Orioles Hall’s three above-average offerings start with a fastball up to 97 mph in a starting role. The curveball and changeup tease plus, too, and with more work his control and command should get close to big-league average. It’s the makings of a No. 3 starter with a high-leverage floor. He’s ready to face major league bats, but hasn’t thrown more than 94 innings in a season as a pro. Oneil Cruz, SS — Pittsburgh, Pirates Cruz is the tallest shortstop I’ve ever seen at 6-foot-7, and considering he’s 210 pounds at age 22, there’s a great chance he slides to third base sooner than later. He’s a left-handed hitter with plus raw power who offers average hitting skills sans some swing and miss, but since he’s still maturing physically we can’t close the door on the raw power grade, suggesting a 45 hit tool may play just fine, anyway. Brandon Marsh, OF — Los Angeles Angels If there were a minor league season, Marsh may have broken through to the majors last season. At the end of the 2019 season the power was all projection, but he showed average or better hitting tools and the bat speed backs up the raw power grades. Marsh has a good arm and runs well, especially for a 6-foot-4, 225-pounder, and hasn’t outgrown center field yet. Because he’s a better bet to hit he may end up a better player than org mate Adell, not unlike how Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar ended up solid major leaguers while Brandon Wood and Dallas McPherson did not.
Yeah, so, the Seattle Mariners are in contention in the American League by way of finishing No. 2 in the West. Entering play Monday, the Houston Astros held a 1.5 games lead on Seattle, which essentially extends to 2.5 games because the defending division champs already have clinched the tiebreaker: head-to-head. But the burning questions, plural, surrounds top prospects Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert. 1) Should the Mariners call up one or both to enhance their chances to catch Houston? 2) If they do, what are the service time ramifications? 3) Should those ramifications even matter? Should Seattle Summon Kelenic, Gilbert? This is a question only the Mariners can answer. Why? Because they are the only ones to have laid eyes on these players all year with any regularity. One can easily take a leap on Gilbert being more likely to help than one or more of the current arms residing in the big-league bullpen. He was close enough when 2019 concluded and the club admitted their original plan for the right-hander this season included a summer call-up. But we don’t know a thing about how things have gone at the Alternate Training Site in Tacoma. At least not the kind of stuff we’d need to even begin to make an assessment on how ready he might be to help a club in some role. Again, though, it’s reasonable to believe in Gilbert more than, say, Seth Frankoff or Aaron Fletcher. If only it was as simple as believing based on others being bad and how things were trending a year ago, the last time Gilbert pitched in a game. With Kelenic, it’s more difficult to reasonably suggest he’s ready beyond guessing, which is what some have done the past few weeks. Unfortunately, “well, he was in Double-A last year and has hit like 5 or 6 homers in Tacoma this summer” doesn’t qualify as practical evidence. My argument for calling up both players centers on how easy it would be to protect them from some kind of developmental disaster. Gilbert doesn’t have to be asked to go five or six innings. Use him out of the bullpen a few times. Kelenic doesn’t need to be asked to hit in the top 6 in the lineup and play center field daily. Use him in favorable matchups (versus right-handed pitchers), bat him seventh or lower and if the test looks rough early, curb his usage even further. The range of potential results for both players in the majors extends from one end to the other. Both could struggle mightily in the short stint, or they could both be very good, or somewhere in between. If handled properly, I don’t feel there’s a lot of developmental risk if the task proves to be a bit much for them right now. The Mariners are asking the same thing from inferior talents, and have all year, and it hasn’t worked. The minuscule downside doesn’t scare me at all. What are the Service Time Ramifications? There seems to be some confusion on how service time works, so let me start with some basics. First, players require 172 days to earn one year of service. Those 172 days can come all in one season or over parts of multiple seasons. Second, most MLB seasons are 184-187 days long, but players are maxed at 172 days. If a players earns service time for the entire season, they receive 172 days, not the pure number of days in the season. Yes, it’s dumb. For 2020, players are receiving prorated service time. For every day they spend on the 2020 roster, it means 2.8 days of credited service. This means if Kelenic or Gilbert were called up and spent 10 days with the big club it would count as 28 days of service. The impact of those 28 days, just for example, are as follows: Both would start 2021 needing just 144 days to earn a full year of service. The potential for eventual Super 2 arbitration status must be considered. Super 2 status is a when a player ranks in the top 22 percent (in service time) of all players with less than three but more than two years of service. These players get a fourth year of arbitration starting a year sooner. If both Kelenic and Gilbert earned 28 days of service in 2020, in order to hold them off from ending 2021 with a full year to their ledger — which means they get to arbitration and free agency sooner — Seattle would have to hold both players out for 45 days or more next season, suggesting a mid-to-late May call-up. If neither player gets a day in 2020, the club can wait as few as 14 days (depending on the exact length of the 2021 season). For the record, the Super 2 number is usually around two years and 120-135 days, though last season it was just 2.115. It would relatively easy to manipulate both arbitration and free-agent service time concerns for both Kelenic and Gilbert if they received 25-30 days of service for 2020. It may, however, disrupt the club’s roster plans if that is the case, and if GM Jerry Dipoto and staff decide not to make the move, that may be a significant factor. Should Service Time Even be a Consideration Right Now? Yes. If a big part of the club’s long-term plan includes starting fresh in 2021 with the players in question, it does matter, because not being able to do so right smack in the middle of a rebuild and right in the middle of offseason planning (yes, right now is the middle) is a pretty major issue. While the counterargument of “yes, but you have a chance to get to the postseason” carries a little bit of weight, let’s hash that out for a second here. It’s a small chance at the postseason regardless of who does or does not get called up this month. That matters. It’s also a very, very small sample for which these players would theoretically be upgrades. Entering Monday, Seattle has 16 games remaining. For context, the best player on the planet has been worth 1.3 wins over replacement to lead all of baseball over the last 16 games. Even if we assume the players Kelenic and/or Gilbert replaced were worth, say, a quarter-win below replacement level for those 16 games, that still requires the call-up to be worth as much as a top-10 player to make a difference. Of course WAR can’t account for the little things; a catch Kelenic makes that Phillip Ervin or Dylan Moore doesn’t. a batter Gilbert gets out that Fletcher or Frankoff may not. Those events, with specific context, are worth more than WAR accounts for in the grand scheme. So, yes, service time should matter. But it shouldn’t be the deciding factor in anything. Almost ever. There rare occasions when waiting a day or two more may serve the club down the road. As far as options go, there is an impact. There’s a great chance Kelenic starts 2021 in Tacoma regardless of what happens the final few weeks this season, call-up or not, perform or not. There’s also a chance Gilbert does, too. Not as good a chance as Kelenic, perhaps, but it’s there. If the two are called up this month, it means being added to the 40-man roster, which in turn means if they are optioned to the minors next year, even just prior to the season opening, it burns an option. It’s my opinion, however, options aren’t much of a concern in this situation. Players get three option years (or four in super-rare scenarios when a player has less than five season of pro experience — majors and minors — and hasn’t been on a pro roster for 90 days or more in any on season, and hasn’t posted a 60-30 active roster/IL split in any one season), so it’d be an upset if Kelenic or Gilbert ran into option issues down the road. In the End The Mariners are in no position to rush a prospect. There will be no need to start either player on the Opening Day Roster next spring, and it very well could benefit both from spending six or eight weeks in Triple-A. But there’s no reason to hold off on 2020 because of 2021. So if the Mariners believe 30-40 PAs and some outfield time from Kelenic helps them compete better to finish things this season, he should be called up for 10-14 days. If the club believes Gilbert has a better chance to get some outs than Frankoff, Fletcher or Brady Lail, he should be summoned, too. It may not make a difference in their chase of the Astros. Both players could play well and Seattle still may come up short. Both players could struggle, too But the same way the sample may not be long enough to make a meaningful difference on the club’s chances to make up 2.5 games, it’s also not enough to damage these players’ futures. Kelenic is probably at a point now similar to where Evan White was to start 2020. He’s struggled, but the club keeps running him out there. Gilbert is probably close to where Justin Dunn was in March, and he, too, has shown he can handle it and keeps getting starts, despite struggles. This is a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ scenario for the Mariners, and it’s not wrong to hold the players back. But not only does the upside outweigh the risk (development, service time, offseason & 2021 planning), I think the most likely outcome does, too.
Because there are no games, I’ve had to keep in contact with more folks that have seen the top draft prospects for this year’s class, so I thought I’d get back to putting together a board of sports. The following rankings are based on conversations only. I’ve seen a few of these prospects in small batches, but not enough for my own personal assessment to matter enough for rankings — without outside info. In the coming weeks, I’ll update expand this to 40. 20. Jordan Walker, 3B — Decatur HS (GA) The 6-foot-5, 220-pound Walker edged Pete Crow-Armstrong, Cole Wilcox, C.J. Van Eyk, Carson Montgomery and Jake Eder here, and you can argue for any of them, but I received slightly better reports on Walker. For Mariners fans, he might remind you a bit of Kyle Lewis in some of his early video at Mercer. He’s a bit raw and doesn’t run well enough to project well in the outfield, but the power is legit and he has the swing to back it up. He has a very good arm, and projects to third OK for now, though there are a lot of area guys penciling in a walk across the diamond. When I asked two checkers to rank Walker, Van Eyk and Crow-Armstrong, Montgomery, Wilcox and Eder, one had Walker No. 1, the other No. 3. Eder received the other No. 1 vote, but was ranked last in the group by the first scout. Crow-Armstrong was ranked No. 2 and No. 3 and would have been No. 21 had the rankings gone that far. 19. Garrett Mitchell, OF — UCLA There are a lot of folks that have Mitchell going in the Top 10 — I’ve seen him around the interwebs as high as No. 5 — but it’s not a Top 5 profile. Despite good size at 6-foot-2 and 200 pounds, Mitchell is a hit and run player. He defends well in center and should stick there, but scouts don’t love the swing when it comes to generating power. “I think he can make an adjustment and get to more,” said an area scout. “We see that happen. But yes, you read my notes on him and you’d think he was 5-11 and 180 pounds.” He has a good arm, so if had to move to a corner it works fine, and he makes good contact with his line drive swing. If Mitchell was a prep prospect, clubs might see him as the perfect Top-10 pick, since it’s easy to get value from his speed, defense and ability to make contact and hit for average, while you hope to instruct more power out of his physical tools by helping him make swing adjustments. He has shown decent power in BP, but one checker sees the swing changes as “pretty big, this isn’t an overnight thing,” so I see why he landed here. I noticed Keith Law had Mitchell at No. 23 in his first rankings from the middle of March, so it would seem he’s heard the same on the UCLA star. 18. Clayton Beeter, RHP — Texas Tech I was turned to Beeter by a former scout now coaching in the Big 12. “Just get a look at Beeter. Nobody’s talking about him out there.” So I started asking, and sure enough, area scouts like him a lot and a few were trying to keep his name out of the media in hopes they could get him after Round 1. I don’t know if that’s plausible. Beeter made four starts before the season was shut down, covering 21 innings and wiping out 33 batters against just four bases on balls. He’s built like a mid-rotation arm at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, sitting 91-94 mph and touching 96 on occasion. But his knuckle curveball is absolute fire, the best in the class without question, inducing tons of swings and misses, and he commands it well in and out of the zone. Beeter’s fastball-curveball combo is very good, and despite other college arms having a velocity advantage, the ball explodes out of his hand and with a lot of life up and to his arm side. 17. Ed Howard, SS — Mt. Carmel HS (IL) I’ve seen Howard ranked as high as the Top 10 and an area scout I spoke to thinks he’s Edgar Renteria, who peaked as a 6-win shortstop and posted four others season over three wins. He’ll be 19 in August, which is a bit of a ding, but he runs well and has a great shot to stick at shortstop. He keeps it simple at the plate and his current swing isn’t likely to produce more than fringe power, but he has the tool to create more torque and pop enough to warrant everyday work for years– like Renteria. 16. Jared Kelley, RHP — Refugio HS (TX) Kelley is kind of the tweener between the other two top prep arms in the class. He doesn’t offer the physical projection of Abel or Bitsko and he’ll turn 19 in October, but relatively speaking Kelley offers more probability. “He might be the safest of the three you’re talking about,” said one crosschecker. Love the fastball, the arm (action) is clean and he’s pretty aggressive with his changeup.” Kelley has the best velocity of the three at present, touching 98 mph and living 93-96. 15. Nick Bitsko, RHP — Central Bucks East HS (PA) Bitsko is intriguing beyond the frame and raw stuff, because he’s also a bit younger than most prep prospects — he won’t turn 18 until June 16. “I only saw Abel a little bit here and there, but from where we stand, if we want to add a kid with big upside, time to develop and now-stuff, this (Bitsko) is probably where we go.” Bitsko is up to 97 mph and has a plus curveball. He throws a lot of strikes and there’s promie with the changeup, too. 14. Robert Hassell, OF — Independence HS (TN) Hassell, a Vanderbilt commit, which is important here because Vandy keeps their commits as well as any elite program in the country, is an athletic outfielder with what might be the best chance to hit among prep prospects. It’s a sound swing offering above-average bat speed and at least average power down the road. Some see him as an average glove in center field, but I did find two area scouts who see him adding a little more weight to his 6-foot-2, 200-pound frame and developing into more of a corner player in the Nick Markakis mold. He has a good arm that fits right field and has the highest ceiling among prep position players in the 2020 class. He got some Top 10 thoughts, but going by the profile — risk, reward, timeline, signability — Hassell may not be Top 20 for me. I’d need to erase signability concerns altogether and buy either his chances to stick in center OR his chances to hit for the kind of power that fits in a corner. 13. Garrett Crochet, LHP — Tennessee Crochet could land in the top 10 and might be the No. 3 college starter in terms of projection, but he made just one start in 2020 and is lasted three-plus innings. He’s battled a bit of a shoulder issue, though a back injury is what kept him out until March. It’s not considered serious enough at this point to knock him too far down clubs’ boards. But they’re going to want to see him throw, even if it’s via video with radar readings, and if any more concerns pops up, all bets are off for Round 1. When he’s right, Crochet is up to 99 mph, but will need to clean up his command and find more consistency with his slider. The changeup was plus last season and at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, Crochet fits the bill as a frontline arm from a physical tools standpoint. Crochet might be an under-slot play in the Top 5 if the back and shoulder concerns and washed away. 12. Heston Kjerstad, OF — Arkansas Little surprised Kjerstad got this kind of love despite the “ranking” community running with this range from Day 1. Why? Because college players with hit tool questions should scare everyone, and Kjerstad is not a great athlete, so it’s his bat you’re leaning on for value. But Kjerstad was off to the kind of start to 2020 you want to see from a prospect entering the year with such questions. He went 30-for-67 with seven walks, five doubles and six homers. “I think of Kjerstad was a right-handed hitter we wouldn’t hear Top 10 talk about him. He’s not a first-rounder for me,” said one scout tasked with helping put his club’s board together. “Interesting player, yes, but some work to do there, and honestly I’m not certain I see a big enough payoff in the end. What’s the upside here? Ryan Klesko?” 11. Mick Abel, RHP — Jesuit HS (OR) All along, my preference among the prep arms has been Abel, followed closely by Bitsko and Kelley. But I didn’t get that sense from the industry until now, though Bitsko was a close second. “I see a lot more to dream on with him,” said one crosschecker. “Better athlete, too. I think it’s a better place to start with him than the other two, because of the room for growth.” Abel is 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds, offering a fastball consistently into the mid-90s. It’s a four-pitch mix, too, including a slider and changeup that project to plus and a curveball that should be good enough for him to keep for the long haul. 10. Reid Detmers, LHP — Louisville Detmers improved his stock over the short spring, showing a plus curveball — maybe the best in the class and certainly the best left-handed curveball in the group. Detmers is athletic, touches 95 mph and the fastball plays up thanks to deception created by the delivery. I’m not as sold on the changeup as some, but if scouts are asked to pick nits, it’s “he is what he is,” not the stuff. It’s true, Detmers doesn’t bring a lot of physical projection at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, but the floor is high and he might be the first of the 2020 class to get to the majors. 9. Patrick Bailey, C — North Carolina State Bailey might be the only catcher to go in Round 1, though positional scarcity could punch a Round-1 grade for Arizona’s Austin Wells and prep star Drew Romo. Also, I’m a big fan of Ohio State’s Dillon Dingler, but not in Round 1. Bailey is a sound performer with no significant weaknesses, led by above-average defense and arm strength and no issues with contact or swing mechanics. He’s a switch hitter with some power upside from both sides. Bailey’s unlikely to be a star, but the value of an average player at catcher is markedly more valuable than the description suggests. Plus, I think he’s a better player than Shea Langeliers, who went No. 9 a year ago, illustrating the dearth of catching in baseball. Scouts seem to love the idea Bailey leads with instincts and isn’t afraid to take charge. He gives up his body and has an accurate throwing arm. When I asked for a comp, I got Will Smith, Roberto Perez, Jason Varitek, Michael Barrett and Mike Lieberthal. 8. Cade Cavalli, RHP –Oklahoma If you’re a Baseball Things subscriber you got the full deal on Cavalli when I mocked him in the Top 10 last week. He’s a strong, sturdy, 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds and is 92-96 mph with an above-average slider, average curveball and a changeup that flashes. He’s a very good athlete — he was a two-way player until this season at Oklahoma and hasn’t take on a big workload since he didn’t pitch full-time before 2020 and didn’t start pitching until high school. The delivery is clean and allows for easy velocity and some deception. He lacks ideal control and command grades at present time, which could hold some clubs back, and he’s had a few injuries — albeit not as a full-time pitcher, and he hasn’t had any ‘pitcher’ type injuries — but everything else suggests a Top-10 talent with No. 2 upside. He reminds me a little bit of Kevin Gausman, who went No. 4 overall to the Orioles in 2012. 7. Max Meyer, RHP — Minnesota Meyer is listed at 6-feet but scouts believe he’s 5-11 at best. But pay no attention to that. Meyer has terrific arm speed and hit triple digits this spring to set up a power slider. It’s a clean delivery, and not one that uses tons of effort to the point of significant concern. He’s more Sonny Gray here than Tim Lincecum. There’s arm side run to the fastball and he’s flashed a solid-average changeup. I wouldn’t be shocked in Meyer went Top 5, possibly for a little under slot, since there are enough questions surrounding power arms of his stature he may take $5.5 million as, say, the No. 3 pick ,over full slot 4-8 picks later (all under $5.5M). 6. Zac Veen, OF — Spruce Creek HS (FL) While this may seem, to me, too, like a ‘Churchill’ ranking — I love Veen and think he’s easily a top 8 player in the class; if I’m KC at No. 4, he doesn’t get past me, no way — I was surprised to see him get this kind of support in my conversations this month. He’s likely to end up in left field, rather than center, thanks to his physical projection (6-4, 190) and the fact his arm gets average grades. but beyond the plus power, scouts believe in the hit tool and that’s generally the toughest tool to trust in prep players. He creates leverage with good bat speed and sound swing mechanics. There’s very little wasted movements and he does a good job maintaining balance in his weight transfer. One thing I like watching game video of Veen is the swing is the same as in BP; he gets his hands in good position early in the process and triggers without loading up aggressively. He’ll need to work on getting his front foot down early enough and it’s likely he’ll have to work on shortening up a bit if he wants to hit for average, but we all said that about Cody Bellinger, too, and he’s the best player in the National League right now. 5. Austin Martin, CF — Vanderbilt For me, Martin is probably a Top-3 prospect, despite the fact it appears his move to center is sticking with scouts. He’s a very good athlete who could easily handle third base, and his arm and speed play well anywhere. I’m not sure he’d be bad shortstop, but like Alex Bregman, he can be plus somewhere else. “For me he’s the best player in the class,” said one crosschecker. “Take the better athlete that also has a pretty high floor. That’s Martin this year.” Scouts love the projectable bat and the fact Martin controls at-bats well, rarely chasing and handling pitches in all areas of the strike zone. 4. Emerson Hancock, RHP — Georgia I was pleasantly surprised to hear Hancock get top-5 grades from checkers, because the small-sample that is the 2020 season shouldn’t rip the projection OR previous production from a prospect’s profile. Hancock did look a little off in his early-spring starts, showing less polish on the mechanics than late last season and lacking a feel for his changeup, an important aspect to his projection. These are all fixable and not necessarily significant concerns, however. Hancock, in four starts, threw a lot of strikes, posted a 34-3 K/BB ratio and at 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds of athleticism brings a frontlin physical profile with the mid-90s heat. I wouldn’t hesitate with Hancock at around slot anywhere in the Top 10, and I don’t think he gets past Seattle at No. 6. 3. Nick Gonzalez, 2B — New Mexico State If I trust the profile entirely of both players, personally I’d have Martin here and Gonzalez at No. 5, but that’s not the slightly-prevailing word from scouts. I do think GMs and scouting directors will swap the two enough to justify my preference, but both players could go as high as No. 1, each with a very solid shot at being the Orioles’ pick at No. 2. Gonzalez is the better bet to hit, and I think that’s the big draw to area scouts and checkers; its a very high floor. He’s a good athlete, but not a great one, but I think his defensive profile has been picked on too much by some; There’s no reason he can’t be Martin Prado defensively, with Paul Molitor offensive upside. Most public reports have Gonzalez’s power grade in the 45-50 range, which is probably spot-on, but don’t be scared away by his 5-foot-10, 190-pound frame. We’ve learned that lesson. Hitters who can square up good pitching consistently can learn to generate more loft and exceed their original power expectations. Jose Altuve did just that. Ketel Marte in 2019, too. Mookie Betts is 5-foot-10 and under 200 pounds and he hits for big power. I’m not comping Gonzalez to Betts, but let’s not sleep on the power. He’s got big bat speed and terrific hand-eye. 2. Asa Lacy, LHP — Texas A&M Lacy not only held up his pre-season ranking but seems to have hopped over Hancock as the best of good group of college arms. In the abbreviated 2020 season, Lacy was up to 98 mph with an average slider and changeup, both of which flash, and the breaking ball projects as a swing-and-miss pitch. He throws enough strikes, but fastball command is inconsistent. The Athletic’s Keith Law suggested he might be fine if he worked 92-94 mph, easing off the effort in order to finish with better and locate his pitches with more consistency. Perhaps that’s true, but there’s a No. 2 starter here and 93-98 with a plus slider and average command might be a No. 1. Lacy punched out 46 versus eight walks in his 24 innings of work this spring, allowing just nine hits. It’s a prototypical build at 6-foot-4 and 217 pounds, the delivery carries no red flags or significant concerns and he uses his lower half well. He creates some deception by staying closed from an angle, and stays in line to the plate well. He’ll work mostly from the third-base side of the rubber, If I’m the Orioles at No. 2 and Lacy is available for around slot, this is my pick, even if Torkelson is on the board. 1. Spencer Torkelson, 1B — Arizona State If Torkelson ends up going No. 1 he’ll be the first first baseman to do so since Adrian Gonzalez went No. 1 to the Florida Marlins in 2000. Before that, we have to go all the way back to 1977 when Harold Baines was the top pick of the Chicago White Sox. Ron Bloomberg was the No. 1 overall selection in 1967 by the New York Yankees. That’s the entire list of first basemen to go 1-1. The 6-foot-1, 225-pound Torkelson, however, would the first college first sacker to be the first pick. But Torkelson, while likely restricted to first base with the glove — he’s played a little left field, but is fringey there — he’s strong at first with a good arm, hands and feet, and is great bet to hit and move quickly through the minors. The power is plenty adequate to profile in a corner, but Torkelson’s ability to work counts, force pitchers to throw strikes and maximize his opportunities to fat-part the baseball is second to none in recent draft classes. “I’ve seen him take 10-12 pitches in three at-bats, then hit a rocket out to straight-away left, and a screamer out to straight-away right. Impressive.” There are scouts that think he’s Paul Goldschmidt. There’s a few that think he’s better. For the record, I’d rank Lacy No. 1, Martin 2, Torkelson 3, and Gonzalez 4 without outside influence.
External prospect rankings started when Baseball America nailed the concept in 1983. In the near-30 years since, it’s grown into an industry of its own. I’ve ranked Seattle Mariners prospects since 2004, so I can go back to that point using my own history and notes. But I wanted this project to be an all-time thing, so I spent hours researching, including dozens of electronic communications with scouts and other baseball personnel, to produce the Top 10 prospects in Seattle Mariners history. Each prospect will be graded on the peak of their prospect status and then compared to others. ‘All-time’ means from the start of the franchise, which was 1977, despite the fact there weren’t external prospect rankings at the time. Here’s my all-time Top 10 Mariners prospects. 1. Alex Rodriguez, SS — 1995 Rodriguez was 18 years old when he made his big-league debut in 1994, after starting that season in Class-A Appleton, which is the mid-90s equivalent of the West Virginia Power. Yeah, three minor league levels before the majors. But A-ROD returned to the minors in 1995 and tortured PCL pitching by mashing .360/.411/.654 with 15 home runs in 237 PAs. Of his 77 hits, 30 were for extra bases. He was also playing big-league caliber defense at shortstop. While pretty much no one will admit this, Rodriguez is the best player ever to play for the Seattle Mariners, even though he wasn’t in uniform for the club long enough to be deemed the franchise’s greatest. There’s an argument here for Nos. 2 and 3 on this list because each spent more time as elite prospects, neither quite reached the peak of Rodriguez in 1995 before the Mariners called him up for 48 games, plus the postseason. “Everything seemed to come so easy for him,” said a former GM. “You saw him up in Seattle early in his career. The swing produced huge power and it looked so smooth. And it was a big swing, but it was under control. He was a good athlete, too, and we don’t talk about how good he was out there at shortstop. That kid was a top-5 defender for awhile. Was a shame the Yankees moved him to third. He made (Derek) Jeter look like a child in comparison.” “He was the most complete player I’ve seen,” said a former scouting director now serving as a special assignment scout for an NL club. “We didn’t get the chance to take him, of course, but we went to see him anyway, because he was special in high school and I wanted to see it for the entertainment value. He was plus in every area of the game. Hit, power, run, throw, field. Until (Mike) trout, he was the most complete player we’d seen since at least (Willie) Mays, and he showed that off everywhere he went in the minors. He was a man child in A-ball. Didn’t belong. He was less than a year out of high school, and got a late start, too. Just a tremendously gifted player.” 2. Felix Hernandez, RHP — 2005 One can argue Anderson should be here at No. 2, but I saw both and while Anderson was as projectable as even Rodriguez, he came with more risk because of command and control concerns, and he was generally going five innings, rather than six and seven on a regular basis — partially due to higher pitch counts, partially due to general workload concerns that followed Anderson around after he competed in a prep league that employed abbreviated counts; every batter began his plate appearance with a 2-1 count. Hernandez, on the other hand, threw strikes and had a more complete arsenal that included a fastball up to 97 mph and a plus curveball. He had a slider in his hip pocket, too, that many believed was the best of his offspeed pitches, and he was on his way to the big leagues in short fashion. “There’s nothing more to see here, nothing to scout anymore,” said a pro scout and former big-league pitcher. “Just water him and watch him grow.” 3. Ryan Anderson, LHP — 2000 If the 2000 version of Anderson were a prospect today, he’s be very much compared to the likes of James Paxton and Forrest Whitley, among recent arms, and there would be talk of a relief role. Outings were shortened due to control problems and he had yet to show, even in Triple-A, a consistent third pitch. He was essentially 94-98 mph and a plus two-plane slider with depth, but remained raw, despite how quickly he ascended through the minors. Still, he was just 20 at this point, with promise of ace-like production in the near future, one often compared to the Big Unit Randy Johnson due to his tall, lanky build. “He’s a dream prospect,” said former major league pitcher and longtime pitching coach Roger McDowell in 2002. “That’s the kind of talent you want to coach. There’s so much potential there and it’s hard not to think about what he can be. Keeping him healthy is another story.” Anderson would experience arm and back problems that ultimately would derail his career, but he was an elite prospect until that point, overpowering hitters and flashing Cy Young stuff. Anderson was Baseball America’s No. 8 prospect after the 2000 season in which he pitched 104 innings, allowing 83 hits and punching out 146 batters. His ERA landed at 3.98. He was 20 and spent the entire season at Triple-A Tacoma. 4. Roger Salkeld, RHP — 1991 Salkeld was the Mariners top prospect for three years in a row, missing bats with his fastball and curveball and showing improved control and he moved up the minors. When he got to Calgary in 1991, he was just 20 years of age and looked like he’d be in a Mariners uniform in short order. But he’d have shoulder surgery and miss all of 1992 before making 16 appearances in 1993, including three with the Mariners. But the arm strength never came back all the way, nor did the command, and Salkeld’s once promising future was limited to 45 total games, including 29 with the Cincinnati Reds in 1996. By the end of the 2000 season he was out of baseball at age 29. At his best he was up to 95 mph and was athletic for a 6-5, 220 pounder. “I pitched against him a couple of times,” a current scout and former minor leaguer said. “He was damned good. He was in control. He was the guy we talked about as a team heading into the series. Were set to face him? What day? The stuff was good. It would play today. He was missing bats when it wasn’t all that common to do so.” In 1991, Salkeld, at the age of 20, made 27 starts, 23 at Double-A Jacksonville and four at Triple-A Calgary, and posted a 3.28 ERA over 173 frames. He struck out 180 and tossed five complete games. 5. Ken Griffey Jr., CF — 1988 It might seem crazy that Junior sits this low, but the reality is he wasn’t in the minors long enough to wow folks with production. He was highly regarded as the son of a quality major leaguer and the No. 1 pick in the 1987 draft, but didn’t get the chance to build on that much. Having said that, there’s not a big difference between Griffey here at No. 5 and Salkeld at No. 4. Griffey played 129 minor league games and only 17 above Advanced-A ball — Vermont in 1988 where at age 18 he batted .279/.353/.492. Impressive, but in such a small sample it was difficult to put much stock into it. He was a very good prospect, but not enough evidence to make him as elite as he’d become in the majors. One question baseball folks had was how much power he’d end up with in the big leagues and whether or not he would he stick in center. “The two don’t often go hand-in-hand,” one scout noted. “If he adds the strength to hit 30 or 40 (homers) it likely means he’s growing out the middle of the field. Unless he’s Willie Mays or Hank Aaron. And we found out very quickly that’s exactly what he was.” 6. Marc Newfield, OF — 1994 Newfield fits nicely between Nos. 7 and 10 here, offering a blend of both Kelenic and Rodriguez. Newfield was a five-tool prospect expected to offer plus right field defense, power and some speed. He might be one of the more perplexing prospect failures in team history, and while I can’t find evidence — let alone confirm — the club is to blame, I can’t help but wonder if things turn out better had Newfield been moved to another club earlier in his career. In 1994 at the height of Newfield’s status, a current scout and then-player thought we were looking at a right-handed Daryl Strawberry or an Andrew Dawson. In 1994, Newfield batted .349/.413/.593 with 44 doubles and 19 home runs at Triple-A Calgary. 7. Danny Tartabull, SS — 1985 Tartabull was given a shot to play shortstop thanks to a great arm and the fact his bat was expected to cover for any shortcomings. He’d ultimately outgrow the position, but in 1985 he was the closest thing to Cal Ripken Jr. and Alan Trammell the minors had to offer. Of course, Tartabull would get the majors and play 18 seasons, including three with the Mariners, and he blasted 262 home runs. One scout I spoke to recalls two mistakes the Mariners made in the handling of Tartabull. “I really thought the first move should have been to slide him over to third and give him a real shot to stay on the infield. He’d played a little third, a little second, a little short as he moved up, but they went from shortstop to the outfield, which made him a little less special. “Then, they traded him for what amounted, even at the time, to bulk.” The trade was to Kansas City for Scott Bankhead, Mike Kingery and Steve Shields. Of course, if Tartabull had been playing third base at the time, the Royals don’t make that deal, since they had a certain Hall of Famer named George Brett manning the position. Tartabull’s best year in the minors came in 1985 when he batted .300/.385/.615 with 43 home runs at Triple-A Calgary at age 22. Calgary was a smaller ballpark, but the numbers were still considered enormous and Tartabull a top prospect. 8. Jarred Kelenic, OF — 2020 Kelenic’s 2019 was one of the more impressive years a Mariners position prospect has had in 20-plus seasons and there’s a chance by the time he’s a mainstay in the big leagues he’ll be top five on this list. We’re a lot more informed in 2020 about how the minors’ performance translates and how to apply that to our analysis, but Kelenic checks all the boxes for probability, upside and ETA, which is why he’s a top 8-20 talent in all of the minors, depending on who is asked. 9. Jose Cruz Jr., OF — 1996 Cruz was the darling of the club’s system in 1996 and 1997 before being traded to the Toronto Blue Jays for Mike Timlin and Paul Spoljaric. Cruz was a very good athlete, similar to that of Kelenic, but he lacked centerfield instincts. He was, however, physically gifted and the Mariners believed they were giving up a future all-star when they moved him. His career was a disappointment based on his prospect status, especially in terms of the hit tool, but he was among the better prospects in baseball at the time. Cruz batted .293/.397/.474 with 48 extra-base hits and 13 stolen bases in 1996, split between three levels of the minors, including Triple-A. He was Baseball America’s No. 12 prospect entering the ’97 season. 10. Julio Rodriguez, OF — 2020 There’s a very good chance Rodriguez moves ahead of Cruz and perhaps Newfield before he hits the majors, but if there’s no minor league season in 2020, we’ll have to wait for his star to rise for a little while longer than we’d like. The 19-year-old has moved up the ranks quickly — both in terms of his value and the level in which he’s competed — and has a chance to continue that trend. He may not have the “status” ceiling Kelenic has, but he’s already on the fast track to a status that means a helluva lot more: Star major leaguer. Also strongly considered: Darnell Coles, Mark Langston, Adam Jones, Taijuan Walker, Gil Meche, Pat Lennon, Jeff Clement, Mike Zunino, Dustin Ackley, Mickey Brantley, Arquimedez Pozo, Dave Henderson, Tino Martinez.
Many are wondering where Jake Schneider is, or why Dayeison Arias wasn’t even noted in The Next 42. Well, ranking every player in the system is futile and merely a gesture, not a value add, so I didn’t do it. But I did save a small handful for this conversation. They didn’t rank, but they very well may see the majors at some point. Penn Murfee, RHP Low arm slot, crossbody action but he stays in line to the plate with his lower half, lots of deception, sinker, slider, with a four-seamer effective above the hands. Pounds the zone, but needs a better way to attack left-handed batters. He’s 26 in May and has just six appearances above the California League but in shorter-than-starter stints Murfee projects to be an effective option in the majors as early as 2020. It would be more than a mild surprise if Murfee didn’t see the big leagues. If Seattle likes the idea of a multi-inning Opener, Murfee fits the bill versus a right-heavy lineup. There are scouts who haven’t given up on Murfee staying in the rotation, and ‘given up’ is not a term I will use, either, but I will say it’s highly unlikely he’s a long-term starter. Several pure relief prospects landed in the Top 50. Fine them here, here and here. Others landed just outside the rankings. Here’s Murfee: Eric Filia, OF/1B Has always been able to put bat to ball well with a line-drive stroke. It’s average bat speed, but a short swing, though not much power has come of it, as Filia has slugged .430 for his pro career. He’s a fringey defender and 45 runner, too, but the on-base and contact skills should get at least a cup of coffee at some point, despite being suspended three times, twice for testing positive for drugs of abuse — which means he’s tested positive three times — and once in college for plagiarism. Sure hope the drug suspensions weren’t for a serious drug that affects his life on or off the field moving forward. He’ll be 28 in July, so ‘prospect’ doesn’t really fit, but that doesn’t mean we won’t see him in at T-Mobile in 2020. Here’s Filia from this winter: Joseph Odom, C When you’re a catcher that can frame, throw, and block, the big leagues are waiting. That’s it, that’s the write-up on Odom. David Ellingson, RHR Up to 95 mph with a power breaking ball suggests a half-tick better control and command and Ellingson moves quickly. He finished 2019 at Modesto and just turned 25. Brian O’Keefe, C He’s a 40 defender but has above-average power and some OBP skills. If framing remains a thing (electronic strike zone would eliminate the value of it), there’s no reason O’Keefe can’t become more valuable behind the dish and serve as a backup. Dark Horse Connor Hoover, UT2 Hoover isn’t a shortstop option, but has just enough arm talent to manage at third base and in the corners of the outfield in short stints. He runs well, works counts and packs a little more thump than his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame might suggest. Fun fact: Hoover played at all six stateside affiliates for the Mariners last summer, most of it with the two short-season clubs where he put up numbers at 23 years of age. Photo of Joseph Odom by Jason Ivester, licensed via AP Images
The Seattle Mariners farm system is filled with depth, mixed with impact and ceiling, but perhaps one of the more underrated aspect of the status of said farm is how many of the Top 50 prospects may very well see the big leagues in 2020. Here’s every Top 50 prospect with an ETA of 2020. One thing to note: Roster expansion in September will be limited to 28, just two additional active spots than the regular season. This could impact some of the ETAs below from coming to fruition. 48. Gerson Bautista, RHR Bautista made his MLB debut in 2018 with the Mets and pitched in eight game for Seattle a year ago. There’s a ton of reliever competition this season, but a stretch of fringe-average control may get Bautista a look. Top 50: Nos. 31-50 44. Donnie Walton, UT1 Walton made his debut last September, playing in seven games and receiving 19 plate appearances. The club is stacked with extra infielder and utility options, but Walton probably sees the majors again in ’20. 42. Tim Lopes, UT1 For me, Lopes is better than Dylan Moore, but the Mariners like Moore’s power potential and are likely to send both Walton and Lopes back to Tacoma to start the season, unless one of the two is the 26th man. Lopes is debuted last September. 29. Art Warren, RHR Warren made six appearances last September and looked solid, giving him a chance to break camp with the big club in March. Top 50: Nos. 21-30 27. Sam Delaplane, RHR Delaplane has ‘opener’ written all over him and may have a shot to start the season as one of eight or nine relievers. At worst, he sees he bigs over the summer. 24. Wyatt Mills, RHR Mills is another reliever likely to see the big leagues at some point in 2020. 23. Yohan Ramirez, RHR Ramirez was the club’s Rule 5 pick in December and enters Cactus League play looking to give the Mariners a reason to carry him to start 2020. 22. Aaron Fletcher, LHR He’s up to 95 mph with a 55 slider. Going to be tough to keep Fletcher from the major leagues this season. 21. Joey Gerber, RHR Among the higher-ceiling relievers in the system, Gerber’s combo of velocity (93-97 mph), fastball life, a plus slider and projectable command strongly suggest a 2020 debut. 19. Taylor Guilbeau, LHR Guilbeau is a reverse-split lefty with a 95 mph fastball and a good changeup. He made his debut last August and may break camp in the bullpen next month. Top 50: Nos. 16-20 18. Braden Bishop, CF Bishop saw the big leagues last year — he was on the Opening Day roster and returned after a strong stint in Tacoma — but injuries derailed his attempt to get his feet wet. Could make the club out of spring training for the second straight spring. 17. Jake Fraley, CF The injury to Mitch Haniger could help Bishop and Fraley both start 2020 in the majors. Fraley’s 2019 also ended with a stint on the IL, but he did get 41 plate appearances with the parent club. 14. Jose Siri, CF Siri has the biggest upside of the center field prospects but also needs the most work at the plate. Despite several options, the former Reds prospect should see the majors at some point this season. Top 50: Nos. 11-15 11. Justin Dunn, RHS Dunn debuted last September with a handful of short outings, but should get some starts with the Mariners in 2020, provided things go well enough in the minors early in the year. 9. Evan White, 1B White was always going to have a chance to earn his way to the majors in 2020, but the Mariners, perhaps somewhat unwisely, have already made the decision he’ll start the season as the regular first baseman. Top 50: Nos. 6-10 8. Justus Sheffield, LHS Sheffield debuted with the Yankees in 2018 and made eight appearances for Seattle in 2019. He’ll be in the bigs to start 2020. 7. Kyle Lewis, RF Lewis needs time to polish up his plate coverage, pitch recognition and … well, a lot of things, but he debuted last September and showed big power. He’ll see the majors in ’20 but the question is when. I do not believe it’s wise to start Lewis in the majors. 3. Logan Gilbert, RHS Gilbert almost certainly starts the year in Arkansas, but as long as he’s healthy will see Seattle at some point over the summer months. Gilbert Scouting Report These Five Have a Chance, Too I don’t have 2020 ETAs on any of these five, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if we see every one of them get the nod in 2020. 35. Raymond Kerr, LHR Power lefty up to triple digits with a 55 breaking ball sounds like a major leaguer already. Better command gets him there. 33. Jake Haberer, RHR Haberer has a big fastball up to 98 mph and a power breaking ball for swings and misses. He’ll need to find the strike zone more, but the stuff is unquestionable. 32. Ljay Newsome, RHS Newsome is a strike thrower whose stuff jumped last spring when he flashed a fastball up to 94 mph and more consistently into the low-90s, something he’d never shown in games before. He fell back to the upper-80s later in the season, but he commands everything and profiles as a No. 5 or swing man. 5. Cal Raleigh, C If Raleigh shows better contact rates in Arkansas he could pave his own path to Seattle by the end of the year, though he likely sees Tacoma for a bit before getting the call. Raleigh Scouting Report 1. Jarred Kelenic, CF Kelenic is probably on a faster track than Raleigh, so, do the math. Kelenic Scouting Report What About The Next 42? Believe it or not, there are quite a few from The Next 42 that also could see the big leagues in 2020. Some more likely than others. Sam Haggerty, UT2Darren McCaughan, RHRIan McKinney, LHSPhillips Valdez, RHRJack Anderson, RHRAnthony Misiewicz, LHRKyle Wilcox, RHR
Initially, I was planning to simply place a group of names here and explain why I think they could rank in the Top 50 next year, or perhaps even push through to the monthly Top 25 updates during the year (when prospects in the majors don’t count or may already have exhausted their eligibility). Instead, I thought I’d break it up into two sections: One, the most likely minor leaguers to reach the big leagues (whether it be in 2020 or not), and those with the most upside, offering the best chance to take the bigger leap forward in 2020 and beyond. To avoid listing pretty much every single minor league player in the Seattle Mariners farm system right now, there will be a few interesting players that go unmentioned here. It’s also worth noting I did not automatically list every recent international signing, though it may be warranted in a lot of cases. Reminder: These names are in >addition to the Top 50, and just because they aren’t noted here OR on the Top 50 doesn’t mean I think they’re bad player and/or cannot make the majors. One has to draw the line somewhere, right? 2020 Prospect Coverage All 2020 Prospect Rankings Get the FULL reports, including tools grades, player comps, ETAs, pitch types & velocities and more by subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast right here. Highest Probability Major Leaguers Luis Liberato, OF Liberato, 24, is a very good athlete whose tools suggest a chance to play a lot in the majors, but the development to game skills hasn’t taken off just yet. While it’s unlikely he ends up a regular, the physical gifts keep Liberato in pro ball and could get him to the big leagues in his mid-20s. Joe Rizzo, 3B Rizzo is the opposite of Liberato; he’s not a great athlete but the skill portion of his game is solid, and his defense has gotten better the past two years, perhaps making him playable at third base. The issue is the bat. While he rebounded from a bad 2018 (.241/.303/.321) to hit .295/.354/.423 — amid some swing adjustment, and in a repeat of the Cal League at age 21 — it’s still very difficult to project enough power to profile as an everyday third baseman. Maybe he’s Juan Uribe, but so far that’s all the upside I see. Darren McCaughan, RHR Easy low-90s, has touched 95 mph, slightly low three-quarters slot with an average slider that flashes better. It would not be a surprise if McCaughan saw the majors in 2020. Ian McKinney, LHP One of the more interesting arms in the system that narrowly missed the Top 50 and could easily have made the Top 40. The 25-year-old McKinney sits 88-91 mph with average command and control, but offers a plus curveball and good deception, inducing strong swinging-strike rates (12.6%) and a 4-1 K/BB rate in Double-A Arkansas in 2019. He’s undersized at 5-foot-11 and has not displayed a present average changeup, but if he were shortened up in a relief role, there’s probably room for him to sit 90-93 and get through multiple innings with the breaking ball. Sam Haggerty, UT2 Haggerty is a non-shortstop utility option with no power but has produced good OBPs in the minors. He also offers plus speed and has very good hands and overall defensive instincts that travels well to the outfield. Haggerty will have to make more consistent contact for the raw OBP skills to play in the majors. Phillips Valdez, RHR Valdez sits 92-94 with a four-seam fastball, setting up an average slider and changeup that each offer promise to be more. He’s already 28, so time is of the essence, but he’s started, relieved and has a chance to miss bats. He’s also on the 40-man roster, giving him a leg up on some others in the trek to the majors. Jack Anderson, RHR Anderson, 26, was dominant in Arkansas last year with a submarine slot, tremendous sink on the fastball and a slider that plays. I’d be a bit surprised if he didn’t see the big leagues in 2020. Anthony Misiewicz, LHR There’s enough stuff here to suggest a swing man role for Misiewicz and he throws strikes with three pitches. He’s 25, a very good athlete and there’s potential here for more than just a cup of coffee, up-and-down arm. Misiewicz, an 18th-round pick in 2015, is one of but a handful of players in the system worth discussing that were not acquired by the club with Jerry Dipoto at the helm. Kyle Wilcox, RHR Wilcox is another, however. It’s a power delivery, up to 98 mph and a power curveball, which sounds like a major leaguer until his command and control are brought into the equation. Wilcox issued 49 walks in 61.2 innings last year, but he also whiffed 91 batters. More strikes and he, too, probably sees the big leagues in 2020. Nolan Hoffman, RHR Hoffman’s 2019 was cut short in May when he had to undergo Tommy John surgery and it’s unclear when his 2020 will start — if at all — but a healthy Hoffman is interesting and likely hits the majors as a middle reliever. He’s sidearm up to 92 mph and the fastball has good sink, generating ground ball outs. His slider is above-average and he has a fringe-average changeup that could help him push his way north without a plus pitch. Upside Plays Anthony Tomczak, RHP The club’s 15th-rounder last June offers present strength and pitchability. He was up to 92 mph prior to the draft and there’s some physical projection left in his 6-2, 195-pound frame. Blake Townsend, LHP He’s still raw but flashed last summer in a few chances to throw in the Arizona League. He’s 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds, so while there’s projection, it’s mostly in experience and how he learns to use the physical tools he already possesses. Throws strikes and has life on the fastball. Ortwin Pieternella, C/1B Intriguing offensive skill set for a catcher in that Pieternella can run and offers a dream on the power. Whether or not he sticks at catcher remains to be seen, of course, but the athleticism is there for him to do the job, or move to a corner and be just fine. Arturo Guerrero, OF The swing is powerful, producing above-average pop and he generates good leverage, but his overall discipline needs work and the swing gets long quite often. He’s a good athlete and at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, there’s a lot on which to build here. Very interesting long-term project. Kelvin Nunez, RHP I think Nunez is a reliever long-term because he’s yet to show a potentially-plus offering, but he has consistent arm speed and 50-grade command of his fastball. He’s still just 20 and command opens a lot of doors. Axel Sanchez, SS One of the more interesting of the club’s 2019 international class, Sanchez is a very good athlete with quick feet and enough arm strength to stick at shortstop. He’s wiry strong and the frame should be able to handle 190 pounds. In the batter’s box the swing might remind some of Alfonso Soriano — but that’s not a player comp, Soriano has insane bat speed with a clean swing. Robert Perez, 1B Perez held his own in Triple-A Tacoma for a stretch last year and flashed at least an average hit tool in Everett. He’s a better athlete than his defensive display suggests, but if he’s stuck at first base his path to the majors is going to be tough because there’s not a lot of power upside in the swing and physical profile. Miguel Perez CF Perez stands out for his wiry, projectable frame (6-2/170) and while the numbers are ugly (.170/.277/.323) if you look closer the triple-slash told us more good than bad. He walked 29 times in about 250 PAs as an 18-year-old in the Northwest League where he was nearly three years younger than the average player. He hit five homers and the 150-point differential in his average and slugging percentage tell us there’s some pop to work with here. He played a lot of right field, but looks like a potential long-stride defender in center. Needs to shorten up some in order to make more contact, but this is a fun developmental opportunity. Connor Kopach, UT1 Kopach can handle shortstop and has the arm to play some outfield, too. He can really run and has shown legitimate stolen-base ability (41 of 50 as a pro) since being the club’s 25th-round pick in 2018. Kopach needs to make more contact for the bat to play but he works counts and takes walks. Kopach, for me, is Haggerty after a night’s stay at the Holiday Inn Express. Max Roberts, LHP Roberts has always intrigued me and I once called him a potential lefty/poor-man’s Doug Fister. Missed all of 2019 after Tommy John surgery. Downhill, solid athlete, projectable 6-foot-6 frame… Adam Macko, RHP Macko, Tomczak, Tyler Driver and Dutch Landis — all from last year’s draft class — all have a chance to be major leaguers and there’s not a huge difference for me between the group. Macko offers less physical projection but may have the best present three-pitch mix. Juan Mercedes, RHP Mercedes, 20 in April, pounds the strike zone, but the stuff is merely average at present. The breaking ball has a chance to sharpen and be average or better, but he does throw strikes to both sides of the plate. Osiris Castillo, 2B Castillo is another candidate for a UT1 role, but has shown some advanced skills at the plate in terms of pitch selection and patience. Gunn Omosako, RF Omosako has some tools, including above-average raw power and a plus arm, but he’s coming off shoulder surgery and a missed 2019 season. Like Guerrero, Omosako’s present strength and 6-foot-4 frame offes a good place to start. He’ll be 19 in May. Nolan Perez, 3B Perez plays a power position (has the arm and feet to stay there) and takes a big hack, but the swing and game plan aren’t matching up just yet. He showed barrel ability last summer, but he’s very aggressive and will chase. He’s 21 in May, so time is running out for him to stay on schedule, but the physical tools keep him interesting for another year. Cesar Izturis Jr., UT1 Another utility type, Izturis lacks strength, but runs well and has terrific hands. I’d like to see him start playing the outfield and even get some time at third base to broaden his defensive horizons, because there’s probably no chance to bat earns him a regular role. Josias De Los Santos, RHS De Los Santos will hit the Top 50 next year and he might go further than that. What kept me from ranking him there this year was the straight fastball and below-average control, but there’s profile here I like. He was up to 94 mph last year in West Virginia and is a far better prospect than Mariners Internet favorite Devin Sweet. JDLS is 20, there’s physical projection at 6-foot-2 and 175 pounds and the breaking ball is average at present. He’s very consistent with his arm speed, but his delivery needs some work. Jose Aquino, LHP One of the top two pitching prospects from the 2019 DSL roster, missing bats with a fastball-slider combo and showing a changeup and curveball. Solid athlete with arm speed that could end up sitting 90-94 mph. He’s 6-foot-3 and 180 pounds and will turn 18 in June. Luis Baez, RHP After a strong 2018, Baez’s command went backwards in 2019 and he ended up pitching out of the bullpen the final few weeks before being shut down. It’s a projectable frame (6-3/172) but the step back has to be a concern, whether it’s physical or otherwise. Baez just turned 19, however. Asdrubal Bueno, SS Bueno played just 21 games last summer but showed advanced plate discipline and an ability to use most of the field. He’s not real physical yet, but he’s 18 with good bat speed. Defensively he’s most likely a second baseman or utility option, but has the arm to stick at short. Jose Caguana, C Caguana’s power potential led me to him but I’m told there’s a good arm and athleticism to spare. The biggest problem is position. He’s a catcher now, but at 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, the chances he stays there aren’t good, despite time to add strength — he’ll be 18 in April. Caguana does a good job generating loft, but he digs in for power a lot, leading to strikeouts, and some overaggressive two-strike swings. Jose Corniell, RHP Signed last summer and will likely debut in the DSL in June. He’s 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds, and will be 17 all season. Has shown 85-88 mph fastball. Deivy Florido, RHS Florido has a great chance to land in the rankings next year and probably threatens the monthly 25s during the season. He’s mostly 86-89 mph, but the delivery is smooth, the velo is easy and he commands everything well, including a slurvy breaking ball and changeup. There’s projection left at 6-foot-2 and 165 pounds and he won’t be 20 until the minor league season is complete. Adbdiel Medina, RHP Just 5-foot-11, but the arm speed is above-average and he’s already spinning a consistent breaking ball. Turned 18 in January. Andres Mesa, SS Mesa is another of the club’s 2019 IFAs and there’s potential for four average tools here. David Morillo, RHP He’ll be 18 all season and posted a 41-14 K/BB ratio on the DSL last summer. He’s up to 90 mph with plane and sink, and there’s plenty of projection left. Joey O’Brien, RHP O’Brien was a two-way player at the same college that “produced” Bryce Harper, and showed well in six games in 2018 after he was the Mariners’ 6th-round pick. He missed all of 2019 after having Tommy John, but barring setbacks should get back on the mound this summer in the Arizona League. He’s been up to 93 mph with a cutter, a true slider and a hard changeup, and has toyed with a two-seamer. The biggest downside is he’s 22 with just two games of pro experience. Milkar Perez, 3B Milkar doesn’t look like a third baseman but has a chance to produce average power to go with an ability to hit for some average and draw walks. He’ll be 18 all season, and could be a right-handed Kyle Seager in time. Wilton Perez, RHP Projectable at 6-foot-3 and 175 pounds and hit upper 80s as a 17-year-old last summer. Good plane, some sink on fastball. Joseph Rosa, UT2 Rosa is a second baseman for me but has a chance at a big-league reserve type career thanks to 55 speed, contact skills from both sides of the plate, and the ability to work counts and draw some walks. He’s 22 and still needs to add strength, but may see Double-A Arkansas in 2020. Yeury Tatiz, RHP Tatiz received the rare mid-season promotion from the DSL and despite a 5.70 ERA battled fairly well in the AZL last summer, striking out 19 in 23.2 innings of work. The fastball often is straight but when he creates plane from his 6-foot-3 frame and high three-quarters slot, he gets a lot of ground balls. The secondaries all need work, but the changeup, while his rawest pitch, may have the biggest upside. Tatiz won’t be 20 until November. Luis Veloz, RF Veloz flashed in two years in the DSL and got a shot in the AZL last summer. He struggled to make contact, but the bat speed and strength are legit and more work with the swing plane could go a long way in his development at the plate.
The real-life equation goes beyond tools grades, scouting reports and statistics, and that’s an advantage the employer of Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez has on the rest of planet Earth. The rest of us will rely on the aforementioned factors … and historical trends. Kelenic is very good athlete, offering plus present speed and a plus arm to go with terrific instincts across the board that drive his tools toward refined skill and production on the field. He’s added a lot of physicality to his game since Draft day and it showed up in the power department in 2019. Get the full Top 50 Prospect Rankings with full scouting reports including tools grades, pitch types & velocities, best tools in the organization, ETAs, comps, Scouting Scale analysis & more by subscribing to Baseball Things for less than $1 an episode right here. Kelenic came to pro ball a five-tool talent, led by an advanced hit tool despite hailing from a northern territory where baseball is a tertiary sport. He’s now performed at four levels while being young for the league each time. Rodriguez is a solid athlete with well above-average strength and the best barrel ability in the entire Mariners farm system. He’s mature well beyond his years and already has forced an adjustment in his initial projections as a power bat. He remains at least an average runner and moves well laterally, while showing off a plus arm. There are a lot of similarities between Rodriguez and Kelenic in terms of physical tools, developing skills and all the upside in play. But there are three areas where I project potentially-significant differences. Power In terms of raw power — raw meaning not yet shown in game play, absolute upside — Rodriguez has a full grade advantage over Kelenic. The bat speed is a tick better and the swing naturally creates leverage and loft. Kelenic has worked to generate more leverage and proved it’s working with his pop last season. If nothing changed from here on out, however, we’re talking about the difference between a potential 40-homer right-handed stick and a 28-32 homer left-handed bat. Advantage: Rodriguez The Hit Tool Here’s where Kelenic gets even. Not to suggest Rodriguez has significant shortcomings in terms of making contact and hitting for average, but Kelenic has the edge in both strike zone judgment and plate coverage, and he’s shown both at higher levels of the minors, lending more present confidence in projecting the hit tool to the big leagues. Hitting — consistent contact, overall discipline, covering the strike zone, two-strike swing — allows the power to play to its full potential. Advantage: Kelenic Speed & Defense Rodriguez projects as at least an average right fielder — and I think above average — and he’s a smart base runner, showing an ability to make good reads. It’s far from a weakness for the 19-year-old. Kelenic, on the other hand, has superior speed by as much as a full grade, and is a better bet to steal few bases. Kelenic also offers more quick-twitch athleticism, allowing him noticeable better jumps and ultimately a chance to play some center field early in his career, making his offensive profile that much more valuable. Advantage: Kelenic Positional Value, Probability & Conclusion Both Kelenic and Rodriguez are big-league regulars and if someone tries to tell you Rodriguez is better, don’t argue. I wouldn’t. The gap between the two for me isn’t large, but I can rely on Kelenic’s profile more than that of Rodriguez for the reasons noted above. It basically comes down to a combination of a very similar upside — albeit different, since Rodriguez would lead with the power bat and Kelenic with more of an all-around profile — with probability, defensive value, base running and timetable favoring Kelenic. While the difference for me is more than a coin flip, it’s not a significant gap, and it’s one Rodriguez can overcome in 2020. The good news is, choose one and win, no matter which way you lean. The great news is, the Seattle Mariners have both. Advantage: Kelenic What About Logan Gilbert?The gap between Rodriguez at No. 2 and Gilbert at No. 3 is greater than the one between Rodriguez and Kelenic. But the gap between Gilbert and No. 4 prospect George Kirby is even larger, mainly because we’ve yet to see Kirby ‘start’ in pro ball, going through the lineup three times. Oh, a scout told me during this past week I was a tad low on Gilbert’s upside and a bit high on his floor, so there’s that. I’ll buy the former, but not the latter. No chance Gilbert is a reliever or No. 5 starter. George Kirby, et al vs. Evan WhiteKirby’s ranking at No. 4 — five spots higher than Evan White at No. 9 — is not indicative of either player’s value in comparison to the other. There’s some gap in upside, leaning Kirby, and a bit of a gap in probability, leaning White since he’s on the brink of the majors now, but Kirby makes up for it and then some with positional value. Cal Raleigh at No. 5 is a ranking I explained right here in Raleigh’s prospect profile. Evan White at No. 9 I would argue a bit on rankings of White in the Top 5 and as high as No. 4. There’s just not enough upside here. Prospect rankings shouldn’t be about ranking a player’s upside, or even ranking the players in order of their most likely end-result. I ask myself “would I trade this player for that one?” And if you ask me if I’d trade Evan White, on the cusp of the majors, for Noelvi Marte (No. 6), the answer is yes. You can have all the 50, 55 first basemen you want. I’d trade them all, individually, for shots at what Marte can be. And while it’s never purely an upside play, the point is to draft, sign and develop stars. Stars win World Series. Stars drag scrubs to the postseason. Stars carry 50-55 grade first basemen when they slump. It’s much easier to find average to above-average first basemen than, say, above-average catchers, No. 2 starters, or everyday shortstops. Where’s the biggest gap from one rank to another?It’s probably a 12-way tie, but doesn’t start until at least the mid-teens. The gap between No. 1 and No. 5 is significantly larger, however, than the gap between No. 5 and No. 10 or between No. 10 and No. 15. Best chance to jump more than 10 spots in 2020 There will be a lot of graduations in 2020, but there are several talents with the kind of raw tools which could make big pushes this season: George Feliz Elvis Alvarado Brandon Williamson Isaiah Campbell Jonatan Clase Danny Chang Feliz has Top-10 ability, maybe more. Clase’s hit tool will be under fire in the states, but he’s a burner with head-to-toe quick-twitch actions and added strength. Williamson and Campbell will get a shot to stretch out as starters. Chang’s fastball-curveball combo needs a friend, but he’s athletic and repeats his delivery. Monday: Future Top 50 Prospects Photos of Jarred Kelenic & Julio Rodriguez licensed via AP Images
1. Jarred Kelenic, CF HT: 6-0 WT: 195 BATS: L THROWS: L AGE: 20 Kelenic did three things in 2019 to more than live up to his scouting report, starting with turning raw tools into production at the plate. Bat speed and barrel awareness produced well above-average power, and despite moving from the Class-A Midwest League all the way to Double-A Arkansas by the end of the season, Kelenic’s advanced plate skills helped him avoid long slumps. The top prospect in the Seattle Mariners farm system took such a big jump in 2019 he’s likely closer to the big leagues than he is from the trade that shipped him west. More Rankings: Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-30 | Nos. 31-50 | No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 | No. 2 Get FULL Scouting Reports, Tools Grades, Pitch Types & Velocities, ETAs, Comps and Scouting Scale Analysis by Subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast for less than $1 an episode right here. Regardless where Kelenic ends up in the power department, he’s built a foundation at the plate strongly suggestive of an everyday major-league bat with the floor of a platoon option. His swing lengthens a bit at times but when he keeps it simple, he sprays line drives from the left-center gap to the right field, and with power. An adjustment in his setup – where he started his hands – seems to have made a significant difference. YR LEVELS PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB SO 2019 A, A+, AA 500 .291 .366 .516 23 50 111 The one concern is Kelenic will occasionally get overaggressive with the power swing and dig himself into pitcher’s counts against better pitching. There will be a few adjustment periods between now and the day he hits the majors, but mainly Kelenic simply needs to see good velocity and four-pitch mixes on a regular basis in order to prepare him for the cruel world of big-league pitching. I tossed a 65 grade on Kelenic’s power a year ago and while that may have been slightly aggressive at the time, he’s justified the long-term prognosis – for the most part. The bat speed and swing path project 25-30 home runs and 30-40 doubles a year, but how he incorporates the power into his game plan remains a work in progress. Defensively, Kelenic displays plus routes and average jumps in center field, and his arm grades out as plus. There are no wasted steps and he positions himself well without much assistance from the bench. He’s not a burner and may end up closer to an average runner as he continues to add strength, but he does show good instincts on the base paths and does a good job reading pitchers and getting good jumps on stolen-base attempts. Kelenic moved two levels in 2019 and may do the same in 2020. After some play in the Cactus League in March, he’s likely to return to Arkansas this spring with a chance to end the summer at T-Mobile Park. The 20-year-old projects as an above-average outfielder who may stick in center early in his career. His current offensive trajectory suggests a corner-worthy profile, however, so if he must slide to left or right the only thing that really changes is the first letter of his positional abbreviation. Aside from the solid-to-plus tools across the board, Kelenic is an intelligent player with an uncompromising work ethic, and continues to carry star-level upside. There’s a more-than-decent chance the Mariners’ top two prospects are two-thirds of the big-league club’s starting outfield in 2021. The bigger question is who the third piece is. If it’s Kyle Lewis, Kelenic is the starter in center. But it could also be Braden Bishop, Jose Siri or Jake Fraley, or even a player not currently in the organization, which likely lands Kelenic in a corner. When Jerry Dipoto took over as GM in September of 2015, Kelenic had just received his driver’s license and Rodriguez was three months from turning 15. Now both are on the brink of the major leagues, and potentially stardom. Photo of Jarred Kelenic by Darron Cummings, licensed via AP.
2. Julio Rodriguez, RF HT: 6-4 WT: 225 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 19 Rodriguez enters 2020 carrying the highest upside of any bat in the entire organization. Last season, the Dominican native displayed an absurd level of maturity when he performed well early, hit the IL for two months, only to return without skipping a beat and ultimately performing well enough to earn a promotion to Advanced-A Modesto by year’s end. At 18 years of age. In his first full pro season. And his first year in the states. Rodriguez is a solid athlete but does not possess great speed or lateral agility. He does, however, possess average or better tools across the board, including hitting, power and arm strength. His jump in 2019 – not the jump in levels, but the advancement in skills – suggests a little higher upside than I originally projected with a little less risk and a shorter path to the majors. And all of that adds up to… a lot. More Rankings: Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-30 | Nos. 31-50 | No. 5 | No. 4 | No. 3 Get FULL Scouting Reports, Tools Grades, Pitch Types & Velocities, ETAs, Comps and Scouting Scale Analysis by Subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast for less than $1 an episode right here. It’s plus bat speed and an aggressive swing that drives balls to his pull side. His improved plate coverage came at no expense of power or his ability to make hard contact, instead opening up more of the strike zone for him. YR LEVELS PA AVG OBP SLG HR BB SO 2019 A, A+ 367 .326 .390 .540 12 25 76 His setup and swing are loose and athletic and he uses his lower half well without disrupting his timing. His belligerent game plan hasn’t been challenged much yet, but eventually he will see quality pitching that forces him to be a bit more selective with steeper consequences. What sells me on Rodriguez most — outside his tremendous maturity and power potential — is his ability to adjust with two strikes, use more of the field and avoid wasting at-bats. Defensively, he profiles well in a corner and has enough arm to handle right field in a traditional alignment. He’s shown instincts, well above-average routes and jumps, and he tracks balls well. He’s also a solid base runner, making good reads, leading with aggression. Rodriguez likely starts 2020 back in Advanced-A Modesto and ends it in Double-Arkansas, which puts him on track for a big-league debut in 2021. If he stays healthy, the stay in the Cal League may not last but a couple months, but the Texas League projects to be a legitimate challenge for him at the ripe age of 19. Barring unforeseen bumps in the road, Rodriguez sticks in the big leagues by 2022, which lines up well with the organization’s timeline to contend in the American League. The power, hand-eye, maturity and instincts all suggest an all-star level talent, and Rodriguez has a chance to mash his way to stardom. Photo of Julio Rodriguez by Freek Bouw/Phrake Photography, licensed via AP
3. Logan Gilbert, RHP HT: 6-6 WT: 230 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 22 Gilbert did exactly what clubs should want from a first-round college arm in his first full season in pro ball, and that’s move quickly. But he may have moved a little quicker than most expected, ending the year in Double-A Arkansas after stop at both A-ball levels to start the year. Gilbert is a four-pitch starter – fastball, curveball, slider, changeup – and all four project as major-league offerings. He’s big, strong, athletic and has handled everything thrown at him thus far. His next developmental step puts him on the brink of the big leagues. More Rankings: Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-30 | Nos. 31-50 | No. 5 | No. 4 Get FULL Scouting Reports, Tools Grades, Pitch Types & Velocities, ETAs, Comps and Scouting Scale Analysis by Subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast for less than $1 an episode right here. The fastball comes easy at 92-94 mph, but he’s up to 95 often and touches 97. There’s good life on the pitch up in the zone with a touch of arm side run. He has two breaking balls, the curveball of which I tend to favor; it’s a spike curveball, or a knuckle-curve if you will, at 75-78 mph with sharp downward bite that comes late in its path to the plate. The slider (81-85 mph) may have the most upside as a strikeout offering, and Gilbert’s changeup has flashed average, though it’s a ways from being polished enough to throw to big-league bats with confidence. YR LEVELS G IP H SO BB HR FIP 2019 A, A+, AA 26 135.0 95 165 33 7 2.71 The right-hander does a good job filling up the zone with his entire arsenal, but gets good value from the fastball, moving it around the zone effectively and getting swings and misses at the top of the zone and in on right-handed batters. He’ll showcase above-average command at times, but will need more consistency finishing out front in order max out the raw stuff and physical tools. Gilbert, the No. 14 overall pick in 2018, projects comfortably as a No. 3 starter and has a chance to push that to No. 2 status with a jump in fastball command and added effectiveness of the changeup. He’s built for 220-inning seasons and a long career, and figures to get said career started sometime this coming summer. The second-year pro likely starts 2020 back in Double-A Arkansas, especially if there’s belief Triple-A and MLB will use the same ball used in the regular season a year ago. He may hit some bumps in the road this time around, but if not the Mariners could push him to Seattle before the All-Star break. Gilbert will be on some kind of workload limit after reaching the 135-inning plateau in 2019, but that shouldn’t slow down his arrival much. Photo of Logan Gilbert by Larry Goren/Four Seam Images, licensed via AP.
4. George Kirby, RHP HT: 6-4 WT: 205 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 22 Kirby was among the most efficient college arms in history at Elon in 2019, and rode that to first-round status and a solid first run in pro ball. More Rankings: Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-30 | Nos. 31-50 Get FULL Scouting Reports, Tools Grades, Pitch Types & Velocities, ETAs, Comps and Scouting Scale Analysis by Subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast for less than $1 an episode right here. He’s an athletic 6-foot-4 with a strong build up over 200 pounds. His profile seals out a lot of the risk that’s typical of a small-college starter, including a four-pitch arsenal, pitchability and mound presence to spare. Kirby sits 90-93 mph with an easy delivery he repeats well, touching 95 and manipulating movement like no other arm in the system. In fact, only Marco Gonzales can brag he’s better at it in the entire org. YR LEVEL G IP H SO BB HR FIP 2019 SS 9 23.0 24 25 0 1 2.04 Kirby’s two-seamer shows good sink and he stays on top of everything well to maximize spin and break. His slider grades about average and his curveball a bit better, but his changeup has flashed plus and should give him at least one above-average big-league secondary pitch, which pairs well with his fastball command. The right-hander doesn’t possess the ceiling of an arm like Isaiah Campbell, but his floor is higher and he’s likely to mow down low-level minor leaguers and hit the big leagues at similar rate as Logan Gilbert, who is likely to debut in 2020. Kirby likely starts 2020 at Class-A West Virginia as a future No. 3 starter, but the polish, command and ability to mix fastballs for additional value offer Kirby a shot to end up a No. 2 in the mold of a Rick Porcello or Chris Carpenter.
5. Cal Raleigh, C HT: 6-3 WT: 215 BATS: B THROWS: R AGE: 23 Cal Raleigh was a third-round pick by the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and came to pro ball a bat-first option behind the plate, one with significant questions surrounding his abilities to defend. Since then, Raleigh has hit for power, showed signs of an improved hit tool, and taken a full step forward defensively across the board. More Rankings: Nos. 6-10 | Nos. 11-15 | Nos. 16-20 | Nos. 21-30 | Nos. 31-50 Get FULL Scouting Reports, Tools Grades, Pitch Types & Velocities, ETAs, Comps and Scouting Scale Analysis by Subscribing to the Baseball Things Podcast for less than $1 an episode right here. YR LEVEL G AVG OBP SLG HR BB SO 2018 SS 38 .288 .367 .534 8 18 29 2019 A+ 82 .261 .336 .497 22 33 69 2019 AA 39 .228 .296 .414 7 14 47 Raleigh’s left-handed swing is more powerful but he does a good job staying within his limits as a right-handed batter, and could end up a better hitter for average from that side of the plate. As a lefty, the raw power is plus, and it’s shown up in games since he debuted in Everett in 2018 thanks to leverage, loft and what appears to be better bat speed. He has average, perhaps slightly above-average arm strength, he’s accurate, and has improved his footwork and overall technique from catch to throw. Raleigh is not a great athlete in the traditional sense, but he’s worked hard to greatly improve his chances to develop, and is strong throughout his lower half and torso. In 2019, he showed he can handle a projectable workload. Raleigh still has work to do controlling the strike zone and ultimately making more consistent contact, so he’s not likely to be on the fast track to Seattle, per se, but he’s come a long way defensively and now projects to land somewhere in the fringe-average to average range, with a chance at a bit more than that. I suspect the club’s top catching prospects heads back to Arkansas (AA) to start 2020, but as long as he’s healthy there’s a non-zero chance he sees the big leagues in September. In fact, I’d bet on it, even though he probably sees more minor-league development in 2021 before sticking permanently. On the upside, Raleigh is an average or so defender who is terrific handling a staff and game planning, with a power-first offensive approach that struggles a bit to hit for average but offers consistency and stability behind the plate. His peak years could border on All-Star offensive performances. Why Raleigh at No. 5, Ahead of Marte, Lewis, White, et al? While there’s little difference between No. 4 and No. 10 in these rankings, this one is easy for me. Considering the risk involved with Noelvi Marte and Kyle Lewis, among others, the relatively limited upside for Evan White, and the upside in value of Raleigh — despite some inherited risks with catchers — I’d trade the equivalent of more than one White, Marte or Lewis for one Raleigh. Here’s why: Catching is the most difficult position in sports to fill with a player that doesn’t have to be graded on a severe curve. In 2019, just 10 catchers played enough to receive 400 or more plate appearances. Not at-bats, plate appearances. Just eight of those posted a wRC+ of 100 or better — 100 is league average — and only five catchers with 400 or more PAs posted a 100 or better wRC+ in 2018. J.T. Realmuto is among the top 5 full-time defenders at the position in baseball, which is why his career 108 wRC+ is worth so much, and he’s generally considered the best all-around backstop in baseball right now. A 108 wRC+ is far from special — 103 batters with 400 or more PAs posted a 108 or better in 2019. Did You Know? Did you know only 13 catchers put up positive offensive runs above average metric via FanGraphs in 2019 (min. 200 PAs), and among those only nine put up positive defensive runs above average? Nine. Nine catchers in Major League Baseball had 200 or more plate appearances and didn’t post below-average runs on either side of the game. Again… NINE. That’s out of 42 catchers that had the 200 PAs to qualify. Despite merely above-average — and slightly at that — offensive production, Realmuto was highly sought after when the Miami Marlins opened up talks, and the Philadelphia Phillies paid a premium to get him. In offensive numbers alone, Realmuto is far from a star. He’s rather ordinary most of the time. But he’s also the rarest commodity in sports and is probably going to cash in on a large contract sooner or later. Yasmani Grandal is a bat-first catcher whose framing makes him above-average defensively, and he’s made $40 million in his career to date and will make $75 million more over the next four seasons ages 31-34. I’m not saying Raleigh is Realmuto or Grandal (he’s not), but the scarcity of the catcher position alone provides an easy path to Raleigh’s ranking, but the rest of it resides in Raleigh’s profile and the offensive upside that comes with it, not to mention his timetable to get to the big leagues. Corner outfielders with plus power and above-average athleticism are a dime-a-dozen in comparison to even league-average catchers. Same goes for even good first baseman, let alone those that project to the league-average range. White, specifically, is a lot more likely to get to and stay in the majors than is Raleigh, and more likely to be average or better. But isolated from organizational context, I’d trade more than one White for just one Raleigh any day of the week and twice on game day. And I bet Jerry Dipoto would, too.