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.
(Photo of Isaiah Campbell courtesy U of Arkansas Athletics) As we work our way toward Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez, among others, let’s continue the countdown of the Top 50 Seattle Mariners Prospects entering the 2020 season. Down the page here, you’ll find prospects 11-50, including the update after the Mariners lost No. 31 Ricardo Sanchez on waivers to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday. Here are Nos. 6-10 in reverse order: To get the full scouting reports, including ETAs, pitch types & velocities, comps, and tools grades, subscribe to Baseball Things right here. 10. Isaiah Campbell, RHS HT: 6-1 WT: 185 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 20 Campbell did not debut last summer after pitching his Arkansas Razorbacks into the College World Series, ending the year with over 118 innings. The Mariners selected Campbell with their competitive balance pick, No. 76 overall, and were lucky to get a shot at him. He has had elbow soreness that concerned some clubs Campbell, a Portugal native, is a power arm with a bulldog mentality. The lazy scout screams ‘bullpen,’ but the right-hander is strong, has four projectable pitches and holds his velocity deep into games. Campbell will sits 91-95 mph and touch 98 beyond pitch 100. He creates good plane from a high three-quarter slot that enables good tunneling with his 82-85 mph slider. He did a good job in college keeping the ball in the yard. The curveball is fringe-average but flashes depth and good shape and the changeup is useful with a good chance to be more. There’s No. 2 upside here and a relatively elevated floor if Campbell ends up in the bullpen. He’ll have a swing-and-miss breaking ball — if he can tune up the consistency on the slower version of the pitch — and heavy fastball from Day 1, so I’ll take my chances he develops the command and changeup. Campbell could follow Logan Gilbert’s path from a year ago — which would mean a pro debut in Class-A West Virginia — though it’s difficult to see him match his predecessor’s product up the ladder in his first year. 9. Evan White, 1B HT: 6-3 WT: 210 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 24 White answered some questions many scouts had about the former first-round pick’s bat, but the developments can’t be properly measured by traditional statistics. White went from average hitter with average power potential to half-tick better, at least, on both departments. He’s unlikely to get much beyond the 18-25 homer range, but that could come with 35 doubles and solid OBP. He’s great athlete owning an elite glove at first base with a plus arm, and carries 60 foot speed that impacts games. At the end of the day, he’s likely — at least ultimately — an average offensive first baseman with a chance to be Matt Holiday lite if all goes well. White is expected to be the starting first baseman on Opening Day, though I have some question how much he’s going to hit early. 8. Justus Sheffield, LHS HT: 6-0 WT: 205 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 21 Sheffield opened the 2019 season without the top-range velocity or playable command he needs to thrive, and the juiced ball didn’t help him pitch through his time in the PCL. He then joined now-Marines pitching coach Pete Woodworth in Double-A Arkansas and began to look more like the arm the club hoped to get in the deal that sent James Paxton to the New York Yankees. Sheffield was inconsistent in multiple stints with the Mariners last season, but flashed mid-rotation or better stuff, including a fastball up to 95 mph and averaging around 93 — just not the command necessary to make it work for the long haul. The slider flashed plus, with sweeping deception and late bite. The lefty is a three-pitch arm who relies on deception and movement rather than overpowering velocity and pitch mix, and might benefit from more ways to attack right-hander batters. He’ll start 2020 in the club’s rotation where he’ll get a long look in order to determine his immediate future value. On the downside, Sheffield could be a very good multi-inning reliever. 7. Kyle Lewis, RF HT: 6-4 WT: 215 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 24 Lewis made strides in 2019 learning to generate consistent backspin and it showed well in his September call-up. But he continues to struggle to make contact and hit for average. He’s above-average athlete with a plus arm and good defensive range in a corner, and can spell the starter in center, too. If he’s to earn a regular role with the Mariners as early as 2020, Lewis will need to find his timing and stay off his front foot. Some of that will come with better chase discipline, all while maintaining his swing leverage so he’s not pounding ground balls into the dirt. The former first-round pick could open the season in the big leagues with Mitch Haniger out until at least May, but there’s a lot of work to do here with the bat in order to unlock the impact power. He’s Justin Upton meets Sammy Sosa if it all comes together, but the power will help him stay on the map if the hit tool takes additional time to develop. 6. Noelvi Marte, SS HT: 6-1 WT: 190 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 18 Marte acquitted himself quite well in his first shot at pro ball last summer in the DSL and he’ll make his stateside debut in 2020. At 18, Marte projects to hit and with power, and boasts speed grades ranging from 65 to 75, depending who is asked. As he fills out he may settle closer to 65 than the upper end of that range, but can run and has above-average skills on the bases. His power extends from his extreme pull side to straight-away center and projects above-average to plus. He’ll need some time to learn to get to it consistently without selling out, but all the tools are present be an impact bat. The questions come on defense, and not due to a lack of arm strength or athleticism, but he did go on a nice run last summer showing some consistency with his hands and with his footwork on throws. If he can’t stick at shortstop, second base, third base or even center field could make some sense. Marte could see West Virginia in 2020, but it’s uncertain if he gets there in April on a full-season assignment or stays back in Extended and earns his way to the Sally League in July or August. NO. PLAYER POS AGE BEST TOOL 2020 PROJ 11 Justin Dunn RHP 24 SL Tacoma (AAA) 12 Brandon Williamson LHP 22 FB West Virginia (A) 13 Sam Carlson RHP 21 FB Arizona (R) 14 Jose Siri CF 24 RUN Taoma (AAA) 15 Juan Then RHP 21 FB West Virginia (A) 16 Kristian Cardozo RHP 17 FB DSL (R) 17 Jake Fraley CF 25 HIT Seattle 18 Braden Bishop CF 26 FIELD Seattle 19 Taylor Guilbeau LHP 25 FB Seattle 20 Austin Shenton 3B 22 HIT Modesto (A+) 21 Joey Gerber RHP 23 FB Tacoma (AAA) 22 Aaron Fletcher LHP 24 FB Tacoma (AAA) 23 Yohan Ramirez RHP 25 FB Seattle 24 Wyatt Mills RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 25 George Feliz CF 17 FIELD DSL (R) 26 Jonatan Clase CF 17 RUN Arizona (R) 27 Sam Delaplane RHP 25 CB Tacoma (AAA) 28 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 20 SL West Virginia (A) 29 Art Warren RHP 27 FB Seattle 30 Brayan Perez LHP 19 CB West Virginia (A) 31 Carter Bins C 21 FIELD West Virginia (A) 32 Ljay Newsome RHP 23 CMD Arkansas (AA) 33 Jake Haberer RHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 34 Juan Querecuto SS 19 FIELD Arizona (R) 35 Raymond Kerr LHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 36 Ty Adcock RHP 23 FB West Virginia (A) 37 Adam Hill RHP 23 CH Modesto (A+) 38 Danny Chang LHP 20 CB Everett (SS) 39 Michael Limoncelli RHP 20 CB Arizona (R) 40 Dom Thompson-Williams OF 25 RUN Arkansas (AA) 41 Jorge Benitez LHP 21 SL West Virginia (A) 42 Tim Lopes UT 25 RUN Seattle 43 Levi Stoudt RHP 22 CH Arizona (R) 44 Donnie Walton UT 26 RUN Tacoma (AAA) 45 Elvis Alvardo RHP 21 FB Arizona (R) 46 Tyler Driver RHP 19 CB Everett (SS) 47 Tim Elliott RHP 22 SL Modesto (A+) 48 Gerson Bautista RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 49 Ryne Inman RHP 24 CB Modesto (A+) 50 Dutch Landis RHP 18 CH Arizona (R)
(Photo of Juan Then courtesy Eden Douglas/West Virginia Power) As we work our way toward Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Kyle Lewis, George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez, among others, let’s continue the countdown of the Top 50 Seattle Mariners Prospects entering the 2020 season. Down the page here, you’ll find prospects 16-50, including the update after the Mariners lost No. 31 Ricardo Sanchez on waivers to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday. Here are Nos. 11-15 in reverse order: To get the full scouting reports, including ETAs, comps,and tools grades, subscribe to Baseball Things right here. 15. Juan Then, RHS HT: 6-1 WT: 185 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 20 Then originally signed with Seattle in July of 2016 and was traded with J.P. Sears to the New York Yankees in 2017. He was re-acquired last summer in exchange for DH Edwin Encarnacion. Then was very good after the trade, making 10 appearances at Short-Season Everett and Class-A West Virginia at 19 years old. He’s put up good weight since being traded away and now sits 91-93 mph and touches 95. He also has a curveball and changeup, the latter of which is a better present offering. He’s made progress using his lower half in his delivery and locates the fastball better to his glove side than away from lefties. Then likely starts 2020 back in West Virginia. 14. Jose Siri, CF HT: 6-2 WT: 180 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 24 Siri was claimed off waivers from the Cincinnati Reds February 3, 2020 and joins a strong group of good defensive center fielders. He’s toolsy, including 70 speed and a 65 arm, and offers some promise in the power department thanks to good bat speed and strength. He’s still learning to get to the power in games and he’s a bit aggressive early in counts, but he’s a great athlete — maybe the best on the system — and if he can get to his pull power with loft there’s a Melvin Upton profile here. Siri likely spend lots of time in Triple-A, but he could see the bigs sometime in 2020. 13. Sam Carlson, RHS HT: 6-4 WT: 205 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 21 Carlson has lost a lot of development time to injury having faced just 13 batter in pro ball — and none since 2017 — but the physical tools and raw stuff cannot be ignored. The right-hander is an absolute beast with athleticism to burn and pre-Draft sat 91-94 mph with sink and plane, touching 95, and showing an average slider with shape and a changeup beyond his years. He’s likely to face workload restrictions in 2020, of course, but there’s also a chance his role is non-traditional as the club gets him time and avoids risk. He may be capable of facing Sally League hitters, but Seattle might be thinking a softer landing in the Arizona League, which means lots of time in Extended this spring to build up arm strength. 12. Brandon Williamson, LHS HT: 6-6 WT: 215 BATS: L THROWS: R AGE: 22 Williams was the club’s second-round pick last June and sat 91-93 mph for me in three appearances, but touched 94 and has been up to 96 in the past. He has two projectable breaking balls, the slider the best one at present. His changeup needs work if he’s going to max out his upside, but there’s a lot to like about the physical profile. The southpaw could be headed for West Virginia — likely joining a number of other high-ranked pitching prospects. 11. Justin Dunn, RHS HT: 6-2 WT: 205 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 24 Dunn hasn’t fallen as much as been passed up by those now ranked ahead of him, but I do have a little more concern about his future role than I did a year ago. With a power approach, Dunn’s fastball is 91-95 mph with life up in the zone, but late in the year he sat mostly 91-93 and the slider flattened — both of which can be chalked up as fatigue. But Dunn’s changeup did not improve to the point where it yet projects as even big-league average, and that’s a problem. If he ends up in the bullpen he could be 95-99 with a better slider than Edwin Diaz, but I’d like to see Dunn get 15-20 more chances, at least, to see if he can start long-term. Seattle is no hurry for the answer and banishing arms like Dunn’s to relief work this early is ridiculously shortsighted, which is why I don’t think Seattle makes the move just yet. NO. PLAYER POS AGE BEST TOOL 2020 PROJ 50 Dutch Landis RHP 18 CH Arizona (R) 49 Ryne Inman RHP 24 CB Modesto (A+) 48 Gerson Bautista RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 47 Tim Elliott RHP 22 SL Modesto (A+) 46 Tyler Driver RHP 19 CB Everett (SS) 45 Elvis Alvardo RHP 21 FB Arizona (R) 44 Donnie Walton UT 26 RUN Tacoma (AAA) 43 Levi Stoudt RHP 22 CH Arizona (R) 42 Tim Lopes UT 25 RUN Seattle 41 Jorge Benitez LHP 21 SL West Virginia (A) 40 Dom Thompson-Williams OF 25 RUN Arkansas (AA) 39 Michael Limoncelli RHP 20 CB Arizona (R) 38 Danny Chang LHP 20 CB Everett (SS) 37 Adam Hill RHP 23 CH Modesto (A+) 36 Ty Adcock RHP 23 FB West Virginia (A) 35 Raymond Kerr LHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 34 Juan Querecuto SS 19 FIELD Arizona (R) 33 Jake Haberer RHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 32 Ljay Newsome RHP 23 CMD Arkansas (AA) 31 Carter Bins C 21 FIELD West Virginia (A) 30 Brayan Perez LHP 19 CB West Virginia (A) 29 Art Warren RHP 27 FB Seattle 28 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 20 SL West Virginia (A) 27 Sam Delaplane RHP 25 CB Tacoma (AAA) 26 Jonatan Clase CF 17 RUN Arizona (R) 25 George Feliz CF 17 FIELD DSL (R) 24 Wyatt Mills RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 23 Yohan Ramirez RHP 25 FB Seattle 22 Aaron Fletcher LHP 24 FB Tacoma (AAA) 21 Joey Gerber RHP 23 FB Tacoma (AAA) 20 Austin Shenton 3B 22 HIT Modesto (A+) 19 Taylor Guilbeau LHP 25 FB Seattle 18 Braden Bishop CF 26 FIELD Seattle 17 Jake Fraley CF 25 HIT Seattle 16 Kristian Cardozo RHP 17 FB DSL (R)
As we work our way toward Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Kyle Lewis, George Kirby and Julio Rodriguez, among others, let’s continue the countdown of the Top 50 Seattle Mariners Prospects entering the 2020 season. Here are Nos. 16-20 in reverse order. Down the page here, you’ll find prospects 21-50, including the update after the Mariners lost No. 31 Ricardo Sanchez on waivers to the St. Louis Cardinals Thursday. To get the full scouting reports, including ETAs, comps, and tools grades, subscribe to Baseball Things right here. 20. Austin Shenton, 3B HT: 6-0 WT: 200 BATS: L THROWS: R AGE: 22 Shenton was the club’s 5th-round pick last June and he raked from Day 1, batting .298/.376/.510 at two stops, including Class-A West Virginia. At present, Shenton has a better hit tool than game power, but there’s enough bat speed to suggest that could change over time. He finds the barrel and can spread hard contact to left-center with doubles pop. I have as many questions about Shenton’s chances to stick at third as anyone — he’s not a great athlete — but I’m not sure where else he fits as an everyday player, which he may not be in the end for multiple reasons. But I like the chances the offensive profile changes in time because solid hit tools open a lot of doors in the development phase. Shenton likely heads to Modesto to start 2020. 19. Taylor Guilbeau, LHR HT: 6-4 WT: 230 BATS: R THROWS: L AGE: 25 Guilbeau came over in the trade with Washington last summer that also landed the club Elvis Alvarado in exchange for Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. At the time, I was told he was a fastball-slider southpaw with reverse split issues who touched 95 mph. What I saw in Tacoma — and what Guilbeau showed in the majors later that month in the big leagues — was a true power lefty up to 97, sitting 93-95 with a plus changeup and fringe-average slider. The fastball sinks and has run to his arm side, and the slider isn’t a lost cause, so there’s hope he gets better versus left-handed batters. He’s a good bet to see the majors early in 2020, perhaps as a member of the Opening Day roster. 18. Braden Bishop, CF HT: 6-1 WT: 195 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 26 Bishop had a great start to 2020 in Triple-A but injuries derailed his chance to see big-league pitching and make some adjustments. He looked over-matched in his limited chances. It remains a 70-grade glove and 60 speed, but Bishop’s ability to hit will dictate his future role, despite the defensive value at a premium position. He showed at least doubles pop last spring and has improved every year, so despite being 26 already, I have hope he can get to a point where he’s making enough solid contact to hit .260/.320/.400 and justify playing a lot. He’ll have a shot to win a job this spring, but he’s at least goo enough — today — to be among the 26 that go north with the club come the regular season, especially with the roster down Mitch Haniger for the time being. 17. Jake Fraley, CF HT: 6-0 WT: 195 BATS: L THROWS: L AGE: 25 Fraley battled a few nagging injuries last summer, too, but he showed he can get to his average pull power, showing a more complete profile than in years past. He will have to show better versus left-handed pitching, but he can handle hard stuff and is a plus defender himself, albeit with a below-average arm that over the long haul likely limits him to part-time play or a left-field gig. Like Bishop, Fraley, too, will have a shot to start the year with the big club with Haniger out til May or longer, but there’s a lot of competition and it could down to who makes the most consistent contact in March. 16. Kristian Cardozo, RHS HT: 6-2 WT: 185 BATS: R THROWS: R AGE: 17 Cardozo became available when the Dodgers had to back out of their agreement to use pool money elsewhere and the Mariners did a great job staying with the right-hander and getting a deal done. There’s physical projection to dream on but it’s not all wishing well on Cardozo, who was touching 89-90 last spring and the pitch offers movement to his arm side and natural sink late in its path to the plate. He also throws a low-70s curveball and firm changeup that flash some polish. He’ll spend all of 2020 as a 17-year-old, but is strong and sturdy in his lower half and shows good athleticism. He’s likely bound for the DSL come June. NO. PLAYER POS AGE BEST TOOL 2020 PROJ 50 Dutch Landis RHP 18 CH Arizona (R) 49 Ryne Inman RHP 24 CB Modesto (A+) 48 Gerson Bautista RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 47 Tim Elliott RHP 22 SL Modesto (A+) 46 Tyler Driver RHP 19 CB Everett (SS) 45 Elvis Alvardo RHP 21 FB Arizona (R) 44 Donnie Walton UT 26 RUN Tacoma (AAA) 43 Levi Stoudt RHP 22 CH Arizona (R) 42 Tim Lopes UT 25 RUN Seattle 41 Jorge Benitez LHP 21 SL West Virginia (A) 40 Dom Thompson-Williams OF 25 RUN Arkansas (AA) 39 Michael Limoncelli RHP 20 CB Arizona (R) 38 Danny Chang LHP 20 CB Everett (SS) 37 Adam Hill RHP 23 CH Modesto (A+) 36 Ty Adcock RHP 23 FB West Virginia (A) 35 Raymond Kerr LHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 34 Juan Querecuto SS 19 FIELD Arizona (R) 33 Jake Haberer RHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 32 Ljay Newsome RHP 23 CMD Arkansas (AA) 31 Carter Bins C 21 FIELD West Virginia (A) 30 Brayan Perez LHP 19 CB West Virginia (A) 29 Art Warren RHP 27 FB Seattle 28 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 20 SL West Virginia (A) 27 Sam Delaplane RHP 25 CB Tacoma (AAA) 26 Jonatan Clase CF 17 RUN Arizona (R) 25 George Feliz CF 17 FIELD DSL (R) 24 Wyatt Mills RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 23 Yohan Ramirez RHP 25 FB Seattle 22 Aaron Fletcher LHP 24 FB Tacoma (AAA) 21 Joey Gerber RHP 23 FB Tacoma (AAA)
The Seattle Mariners lack impact on the mound in the organization — though it’s not entirely void of it — but they do have depth and some long-term upside plays. Such talents are reflected in this set of rankings. MORE: Prospects Rankings Nos. 31-50 Friday: Nos. 16-20 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Saturday: Nos 11-15 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Sunday: Nos. 6-10 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 10: No. 5 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 11: No. 4February 12: No. 3February 13: Nos. 1-2 — Rankings — Abbreviated Report Get the full report right NOW, including tools grades by subscribing to Baseball Things here. February 14: Why 1 over 2 — The differences in the Top 50 February 16: The Next Group — Which prospects are on the brink of the Top 50 Here are Nos. 21-30 in reverse order, including their best tool, and 2020 projected starting assignment. NO. PLAYER POS AGE BEST TOOL 2020 PROJ 30 Brayan Perez LHP 19 CB West Virginia (A) 29 Art Warren RHP 27 FB Seattle 28 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 20 SL West Virginia (A) 27 Sam Delaplane RHP 25 CB Tacoma (AAA) 26 Jonatan Clase CF 17 RUN Arizona (R) 25 George Feliz CF 17 FIELD DSL (R) 24 Wyatt Mills RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 23 Yohan Ramirez RHP 25 FB Seattle 22 Aaron Fletcher LHP 24 FB Tacoma (AAA) 21 Joey Gerber RHP 23 FB Tacoma (AAA)
The Seattle Mariners farm system has been successfully rebuilt from one of the five worst in baseball over a 3-5 year stretch to one of the Top 10. Part of the reason the club’s system is strong again is depth. That depth led to an extended number of players in my rankings. This is the first year (of 17) I’ve been able to stretch it to 50. Thursday: Nos. 21-30 — Rankings only Friday: Nos. 16-20 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Saturday: Nos 11-15 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Sunday: Nos. 6-10 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 10: No. 5 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 11: No. 4February 12: No. 3February 13: Nos. 1-2 — Rankings — Abbreviated Report Get the full report right NOW, including tools grades by subscribing to Baseball Things here. February 14: Why 1 over 2 — The differences in the Top 50 February 16: The Next Group — Which prospects are on the brink of the Top 50 Here are Nos. 31-50 in reverse order, including their best tool, and 2020 projected starting assignment. NO. PLAYER POS AGE BEST TOOL 2020 PROJ 50 Ryne Inman RHP 24 CB Modesto (A+) 49 Gerson Bautista RHP 25 FB Tacoma (AAA) 48 Tim Elliott RHP 22 SL Modesto (A+) 47 Tyler Driver RHP 19 CB Everett (SS) 46 Elvis Alvardo RHP 21 FB Arizona (R) 45 Donnie Walton UT 26 RUN Tacoma (AAA) 44 Levi Stoudt RHP 22 CH Arizona (R) 43 Tim Lopes UT 25 RUN Seattle 42 Jorge Benitez LHP 21 SL West Virginia (A) 41 Dom Thompson-Williams OF 25 RUN Arkansas (AA) 40 Michael Limoncelli RHP 20 CB Arizona (R) 39 Danny Chang LHP 20 CB Everett (SS) 38 Adam Hill RHP 23 CH Modesto (A+) 37 Ty Adcock RHP 23 FB West Virginia (A) 36 Raymond Kerr LHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 35 Juan Querecuto SS 19 FIELD Arizona (R) 34 Jake Haberer RHP 25 FB Arkansas (AA) 33 Ljay Newsome RHP 23 CMD Arkansas (AA) 32 Carter Bins C 21 FIELD West Virginia (A) 31 Ricardo Sanchez LHP 23 CH Tacoma (AAA)
To get the rankings, you must be a Baseball Things subscriber or a PI 4-Ever subscriber. For Thingers, click here to get it. If you’re a 4-Ever subscriber, send a blank email to email@example.com. Starting Wednesday here, I will begin a countdown of the Top 50. Here’s the schedule for the next few weeks at Prospect Insider: Wednesday: Nos. 31-50 — Rankings only Thursday: Nos. 21-30 — Rankings only Friday: Nos. 16-20 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Saturday: Nos 11-15 — Rankings — Abbreviated report Sunday: Nos. 6-10 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 10: No. 5 — Rankings — Abbreviated report February 11: No. 4February 12: No. 3February 13: Nos. 1-2 — Rankings — Abbreviated Report Get the full report right NOW, including tools grades by subscribing to Baseball Things here. February 14: Why 1 over 2 — The differences in the Top 50 February 16: The Next Group — Which prospects are on the brink of the Top 50
This 2020 Prospect Rankings will be released in February. Here’s what the coverage will look like, when it will be available, and how to get it. What Top 50 Rankings Full Scouting reports Strengths & Weaknesses 2020 Outlook Overall Projection Tools Grades Pitch Arsenals Pitch Velocities Future Value Probability Assessment Scouting Scale Primer Projected 2020 Assignments Top 50 Demographics: By Position, Acquisition Path When The full guide via PDF will be available to Baseball Things subscribers February 3. Forever subscribers can request their copy on this date by sending a blank email to firstname.lastname@example.org. If you’re not yet a subscriber to the Baseball Things podcast, click here and gain access to all full-length episodes and the 2020 Prospect Rankings Guide. Simple rankings of the entire Top 50 will be posted here at Prospect Insider via the following schedule: *Note: The basic report is a short synopsis and does not includes tools grades, comps, ETAs, et al. February 5: Nos. 50-21 (ranking only)February 6: Nos. 20-16 (ranking only)February 7: Nos. 15-11 (ranking only)February 10: No. 10 (includes basic report)February 11: No. 9 (includes basic report)February 12: No. 8 (includes basic report)February 13: No. 7 (includes basic report)February 14: No. 6 (includes basic report)February 17: No. 5 (includes basic report)February 18: No. 4 (includes basic report)February 19: No. 3 (includes basic report)February 20: No. 2 (includes basic report)February 21: No. 1 (includes basic report)
(Photo of Jarred Kelenic by Mark Wagner/Arkansas Travelers) Seattle Mariners fans have endured enough, which is an understatement, and something that could have been said way back in 1988. And again in 1998, 2009, 2014, and every year since. There’s a faction of the fan base that is behind the rebuild, has spent the time to inform themselves and see it for what it is. There’s also a faction of the dwindling fan base that doesn’t want to spend time on a team that hasn’t won anything at all since 2001 and hasn’t even won 90 games since 2003, and that’s more than understandable. The latter group isn’t likely to react much, if at all, to small potatoes. They don’t care about the acquisition of Kendall Graveman or even the contract extension doled out to Evan White. They don’t want to hear about the improved player development or the draft or how the club is going about things the right way. This collection has fan’d through a constantly-rebuilding Mariners team. That’s their reality. It’s not true, but that’s been their experience for the last 15-plus seasons. They want more big-league victories. They want big-time player acquisitions. Money spent on good players. Meaningful performances in the major leagues and more telling evidence the Mariners are on the right track, because they’ve been told that very thing so many times before. So let’s discuss in general terms the top rebuild models, the most important players and when the club might start making moves that add winning players to the roster via trade or free agency. Models 1. Atlanta Braves The Braves’ model ranks No. 1 for me because the steps taken the first year-plus are nearly identical. Seattle, like Atlanta, has maximized current assets for future value yet have not moved their top proven players for the sake of it. The Mariners, as of December 31, 2019, still employ Mitch Haniger, Marco Gonzales and Kyle Seager, despite making several deals the past 15 months to acquire young talent and create future payroll flexibility. The Braves spent years acquiring young players through the draft, trade and the international market, but kept Freddie Freeman along for the ride. Now he’s a big part of a Wold Series contender. Atlanta, however, still has a lot of talent in the minors and available financial resources to supplement their big-league roster and are starting to use some of it, all while keeping a young group of players as the core. 2. Chicago White Sox The White Sox are a year or two behind Atlanta and a year or two ahead of Seattle. But we’re seeing the past two years — mostly this winter — the Sox are taking aggressive steps to better their major-league roster, including the signings of Dallas Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal, and Gio Gonzalez to add to their young talent that won 72 games in 2019. 3. Cincinnati Reds Similar to the White Sox, the Reds won 75 games in 2019 but see an opportunity and started that process last year with the acquisitions of Sonny Gray and Trevor Bauer. They’ve added Mike Moustakas and Wade Miley this winter and appear to be after at least one more bat. The Reds’ core, however, remains younger talents such as Luis Castillo, Eugenio Suarez, Nick Senzel and Asistides Aquino. 4. San Diego Padres The Padres started rebuilding after the 2014 season with GM A.J. Preller at the helm. They won 72 games in ’14, then 72 in 2015, 72 in 2016, 59 in 2017 and 65 in 2018. But the sword is out of its scabbard in San Diego, despite a 70-win campaign in 2019, thanks to the emergence of young players such as Fernando Tatis Jr. and the signing of free agents Manny Machado and Drew Pomeranz. The Padres have veterans, including Machado, Eric Hosmer and a handful of arms, but their success, immediate and future, is about the young core. It’s not as ideal and accurate a model as the first three, but the Padres have made a big-ticket free agent acquisition and Seattle will be able to do that, too, if the right free agent is available and has legitimate market-price (ish) interest, unlike the Braves, White Sox and Reds, at least so far. 5. Arizona Diamondbacks The Diamondbacks’ rebuild has been strange and only serves as a model for other rebuilds, including Seattle, in one way, and that’s the trading of quality veterans to acquire quality young talent and avoid the Astros-style rebuild that comes with inherently more risk and takes a lot longer to accomplish. Arizona won 93 games in 2017, but rather than simply build on that, they took a step back, were conservative for a year, then spent the following nine months trading a few key veterans for future answers. They went 82-80 in 2018, then 85-77 in 2019 and are staring at a chance to break through in 2020. The D-Backs 2017 club resembles the Mariners’ ’89-win 18 team in many ways. Some pricey veterans, a few quality young talents, but weren’t good enough to add complementary pieces and make a run at 100 wins to catch the Dodgers, so a quick retool was in order. Seattle, at the time in 2018, didn’t have the near-ready prospects or young impact players on the roster Arizona did in 2017, so the turnaround is going to take an additional year, maybe two, but while Seattle moved Robinson Cano and his contract, let Nelson Cruz walk, traded James Paxton and Mike Zunino and dealt Edwin Diaz off an elite reliever season, the Diamondbacks let J.D. Martinez bolt via free agency, traded Paul Goldschmidt for their immediate & future catcher and a mid-rotation starter, dealt Zack Greinke and his contract, and have spent the 2019-20 offseason looking to add pieces to a team that may be capable of 90 wins or more in 2020, not to mention a window of opportunity that may last 3-4 seasons. Key Players 1. Logan Gilbert Gilbert is currently the organization’s best chance at top-of-the-rotation starter and his floor as a mid-rotation innings eater is as important any floor in the entire farm system. But Gilbert ranks No. 1 here because his success in general is more important to Seattle’s rebuild and preferred timeline than any other individual prospect. Impact starting pitching is hard to acquire; it costs a ton in trade and metric ton to acquire via free agency, despite being the riskiest proposition in the game. But if the Mariners want to win anytime in the next three years, they’ll need multiple impact starters to emerge and they’ll likely need at least one, if not two, to come from within. Gilbert is not only their best shot among the current prospects, he’s the one closest to the majors. 2. Justus Sheffield Sheffield isn’t far off from Gilbert and comes with more pro experience and about a half season of big-league time. He also comes with more risk, both in terms of performance and role. But Sheffield proving to be a mid-rotation starter (or better, of course) would be an enormous development for Seattle moving forward. 3. Justin Dunn Dunn’s status here isn’t as vital as Gilbert or Sheffield, but if he reaches his ceiling he could end up replacing either of the aforementioned arms in the whole process. Dunn just happens to come with more role risk than either Sheffield or Gilbert, but he also projects very well in a bullpen role, having shown 95-99 mph velocity as a reliever in college. One could argue, and I’m one ‘one’ that is doing just that, Dunn has more value to Seattle in the bullpen than as a No. 4 or 5 starter, so if the mid-rotation upside isn’t looking realistic, the Mariners probably make the move they did with Diaz in 2016. And for the record, Dunn has a better slider than Diaz when the Mariners made that move, and has the same kind of upside in that role. 4. Cal Raleigh Catching is tough to find. Good catchers are nearly impossible to unearth, and if Raleigh ends up average defensively he’ll be a significant asset for the Mariners for years, one that could trigger a few more wins out of the 2021 and/or 2022 clubs than would otherwise be plausible. 5. Jarred Kelenic Kelenic carries the most overall upside of any of the club’s current players, prospect or not, though Julio Rodriguez, for me, has the most offensive upside. Kelenic may be able to handle center field for awhile early in his career and the bat likely plays anywhere. He’s 20, has Double-A experience already and he and Rodriguez both are overflowing with the kind of confidence and makeup that often end in stardom. Corner outfielders are much easier to acquire. The supply outweighs the demand in every market pretty much every year. But the middle of the field is a different story. Kelenic could be the regular in center for the next good Mariners club, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he made a Kyle Lewis-like plunge into the majors in 2020. When Should the Mariners Start Buying? While there are still nearly six weeks until pitchers and catchers report, and three months til the 2020 season opener, it’s been a quiet offseason for Dipoto’s Mariners, by any measure. So, the question ultimately becomes: When do the Mariners become buyers? The answer, or answers, may very well be layered with multiple driving factors, but the main one is that it depends on the developments in 2020. Does Gilbert prove he’s ready to take on a mid-rotation role or better in 2021? Does Sheffield OR Dunn show No. 4 or better potential for 2021? Does Raleigh take a step closer toward showing he’s a significant option behind the dish early in 2021? Can the club fill an additional everyday spot or two from within? If at least three of the above occur, with the third and fourth being an either/or scenario, Dipoto’s probably foaming at the mouth by the All-Star break this coming summer. Of course, I’ve been arguing the club should be more aggressive on starting pitching this winter than they have been thus far, but there’s still time to make a pretty cool upside play or two — Aaron Sanchez? Taijuan Walker? Alex Wood? Drew Smyly? While I continue to warn against any expectations the Mariners will push the luxury tax limits anytime soon — they won’t, since they’ll be so far under it they’d need to sign four or five $25 million-per-season contracts to get anywhere close — or be competitive for the elite free agents on any kind of regular basis, the time for extending the payroll and committing big-time dollars or significant assets in order to acquire big-time players has yet to arrive. Such efforts may not be far off, however, so fans that yearn for the exciting trade or signing that ultimately sets up the roster for a real postseason run may not be waiting much longer.
(Photo of Sam Delaplane by Mark Wagner/Travs) The 2019 Seattle Mariners All-Prospect Team *Acquired Key: D = Draft T = Trade I = Internationa Free Agent F = Free Agent / = Year POS LINEUP AGE LEVELS MLB ETA ACQUIRED 1B Evan White 23 AA 2020 D/17 2B Shed Long 23 AAA, MLB 2019 T/18 3B Austin Shenton 21 SS, A 2021 D/19 SS Noelvi Marte 17 R 2023 I/18 C Cal Raleigh 22 A+, AA 2020 D/18 OF Jake Fraley 24 AA, AAA, MLB 2019 T/18 OF Jarred Kelenic 20 A, A+, AAA 2020 T/18 OF Julio Rodriguez 18 A, A+ 2021 I/17 DH Kyle Lewis 23 AA 2019 D/16 BENCH B1 Tim Lopes 25 AAA, MLB 2019 F/18 B2 Donnie Walton 26 AA 2019 D/16 B3 Jonatan Clase 17 R 2023 I/18 B4 Joe Rizzo 21 A+ 2021 D/16 ROTATION SP1 Logan Gilbert 22 A, A+, AA 2020 D/18 SP2 Justin Dunn 23 AA 2019 T/18 SP3 Ljay Newsome 22 A+, AA 2021 D/15 SP4 Ricardo Sanchez 22 AA 2020 T/18 SP5 Penn Murfee 25 A+, AA, AAA 2020 D/18 BULLPEN RP1 Sam Delaplane 24 A+, AA 2020 D/17 RP2 Joey Gerber 22 A+, AA 2020 D/18 RP3 Wyatt Mills 22 AA 2020 D/17 RP4 Ryne Inman 23 A 2021 D/15 RP5 Art Warren 26 AA 2019 D/15 RP6 Raymond Kerr 24 A+ 2020 F/17 RP7 Jake Haberer 24 A+, AA 2020 F/18 RP8 Dayeison Arias 22 A, A+ 2021 I/16 Position Prospect of the Year: Jarred KelenicPitching Prospect of the Year: Logan GilbertBest Reliever: Sam DelaplaneBest Defensive Prospect: Braden Bishop, Evan WhiteBest Offensive Prospect: Julio RodriguezBest Starter Fastball: Justin DunnBest Reliever Fastball: Gerson BautistaBest Starter Breaking Ball: Logan Gilbert, Justin DunnBest Reliever Breaking Ball: Sam Delaplane, Jake HabererBest Starter Changeup: Ricardo SanchezBest Base Stealer: Connor KopachBest Outfield Arm: Kyle LewisBest Infield Arm: Juan QuerecutoBest Power Prospect: Kyle Lewis, Julio RodriguezBest Hitting Prospect: Jarred KelenicBest Athlete: Braden Bishop Short-Season All-Prospect Team POS LINEUP AGE TEAMS ACQUIRED 1B Ortwin Pieternella 20 DSL I/17 2B Cezar Izturis 19 Everett, West Virginia I/16 3B Milkar Perez 17 DSL I/18 SS Noelvi Marte 17 DSL I/18 C Carter Bins 20 Everett D/19 OF Jonatan Clase 17 DSL I/18 OF Arturo Guerrero 18 DSL I/17 OF Julio De La Cruz 18 DSL I/17 DH Nolan Perez 20 AZL I/15 BENCH B1 Robert Perez 19 Tacoma, Everett I/16 B2 Asdrubal Bueno 17 DSL I/18 B3 Carlos Fernandez 17 DSL I/18 B4 Antoine Mistico 21 AZL D/19 PITCHERS P George Kirby 21 Everett D/19 P Brandon Williamson 21 Everett D/19 P Danny Chang 19 AZL I/18 P Tyler Driver 18 AZL D/19 P Damon Casetta-Stubbs 19 West Virginia, Everett D/18 P Juan Then 19 Everett, West Virginia T/19 P Brayan Perez 19 AZL, Everett D/18 P Yeury Tatiz 18 DSL, AZL I/17 P Tim Elliott 21 Everett D/19 P David Morillo 17 AZL I/18 P Adam Macko 18 AZL D/19 P Holden Laws 19 AZL D/18 P Wilton Perez 17 DSL I/18 Short-Season Position Prospect of the Year: Noelvi MarteShort-Season Pitching Prospect of the Year: Brayan Perez, Tyler Driver, Damon Casetta-Stubbs
(Photo of Logan Gilbert by Mark Wagner/Travs) There was no argument for the 2019 Position Prospect of the Year, and there’s no sign of one at all for this one, either. Logan Gilbert was terrific every step of the way in 2019. Pitching Prospect of the Year: Logan Gilbert, RHS Believe it or not, Gilbert began the 2019 season in Class-A West Virginia and ended it about a step and a half from the majors. Believe it or not, 2019 was Gilbert’s first pro season. After being the No. 14 pick in the first-round of the 2019 MLB Draft, Gilbert got sick and was unable to pitch last summer, which is lost development time. Any concern over that is gone. Gilbert threw his fastball for strikes all year, improving his command of the pitch since the start of the year. He hit the bottom of the zone with plane and the top of it to both sides. Entering pro ball, Gilbert’s slider was his best breaking ball, and at times at Stetson University his changeup flashed plus. But his curveball was a real weapon in most of his starts. TEAM GS ERA IP H ER HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 West Virginia (A) 5 1.59 22.2 9 4 11 7 25 Modesto (A+) 12 1.73 62.1 52 12 6 10 17 Arkansas (AA) 9 2.88 50 34 6 6 3 8 3 Teams 500 .291 .364 .540 31 23 20 50 The changeup still needs a lot of work, but he’s already using three pitches effectively versus lefies and righties alike, often using the slider to get in on lefties. He’ll also backdoor the curveball to left-handed batters for called strikes, though the pitch is a solid swing-and-miss offering when he buries it. Gilbert sat 92-95 mph most of the season, but rarely dipped below that range and at times it appeared he was cruising 92-93 and would reach back for 95 and a few 96s here and there. He’s 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, relatively athletic and repeats his delivery well, as evidenced by his 6.3% walk rate and overall strike percentage of 65.3%. He induced 14.6% swinging strikes, an important measure for Gilbert since his stuff and general game plan suggest more of a fly ball profile than anything else. In the big leagues, the top arms generally land in the 10-13 percent range, with the elite strikeout pitchers often sitting in the 14-17 percent area. Gilbert is going to pitch his way to the majors in 2020 and is likely headed for a workload in the 170-185 inning range after throwing 135 at three stops this season. I see No. 2 upside in the John Lackey–Chris Carpenter mold, with a good No. 4 floor and little chance he’s not at least a 180-inning rotation piece. And if there’s another tick in velocity on the way, we’ll refresh this conversation. Summary What He Did Well 1. Pounded the entire strike zone with confidence2. Showed a lot of maturity, often appearing completely unfazed when he did have a tough inning or outing3. Generated swings and misses with entire arsenal4. Repeated delivery with consistency — there weren’t a lot of starts when it seemed to unravel, even later in the outing What Work Remains 1. Beef up the workload, both in individual starts and the season2. The changeup will be necessary in the majors and we haven’t seen it used as a consistent weapon yet, though he can get by fastball-slider-curveball3. Sharpen fastball command, which may be the biggest key to flipping the No. 2 starter card First Runner-Up: Justin Dunn, RHS Dunn finished the year with a 3.40 FIP, 28.6% strikeout rate and 7.0% walk rate. He was 92-94 most starts, with good life up in the zone and occasional armside run. He also did a very good job adjusting vertically with the pitch and pitching effectively away from right-handed batters. The slider was solid all year but at times, especially late-July through most of August, it was plus and a projectable strikeout offering. What was usually missing was a useful third pitch that would have answered the biggest questions surrounding Dunn’s future role. Dunn does everything else to big-league levels, but needs a way to combat left-handed power bats in order to keep hitters off the fastball-slider combo. There are starters that get away with 2 1/2 pitches, but in those cases Pitch 1 and Pitch 2 are plus to plus-plus and often the fastball comes with tons of value, and is usually a big swing-and-miss pitch. I don’t think that’s the case for Dunn, despite the present velocity. Dunn still is just 23, however, suggesting no reason to abandon hope he can start. Insert 45-50 grade changeup and Dunn’s chances to be a solid No. 3 starter increase quite a bit. But he does come wuith a high-leverage relief floor and he was up to 99 mph as Boston College’s closer. I imagine 2020 will provide answers to the role question, but Seattle has the leisure to wait and see for at least another season, especially since making the transition to the bullpen is an easy one, and even easier for the right-hander since it’s a role he’s handled in the past. There’s a caveat to that thought, however. The Mariners transitioned Diaz in 2016 and he was at his best in 2018. If the club believes Dunn will need a year to settle in, they could make the move sooner than later, as early as this winter or the first half of 2020. Where Dunn starts next season depends on this decision, and it may also depend on the expected environment in the Pacific Coast League after a disastrous 2019 for pitching development in Triple-A this season. Summary What He Did Well 1. Threw a lot of strikes (66.6%)2. Held his velocity range to the latter innings of most starts3. The slider took a step forward this season, and it appeared he was varying the speed and shapes of the pitch, essentially creatingseparate pitches4. Used his above-average athleticism to repeat his delivery What Work Remains 1. Find the changeup or move to a splitter, whatever gets lefties off the hard stuff2. A little more effort in the delivery could bring more velocity, which would make for an interesting profile-changing asset3. More consistent fastball command Second Runner-Up: Ljay Newsome, RHS Newsome began the year entirely off my radar. He was 84-87 mph with above-average to plus control and average command coming into the year. Early in 2019, Newsome touched 94 mph and had starts where he was consistently 89-92. That went away in May or June and when I saw him in July he hit 90 mph just once in two starts, and that’s where he sat most the rest of the way. But Newsome’s command showed better this season, too, and while I saw a very inconsistent, below-average curveball, the right-hander found ways to use it effectively by commanding that pitch well, too. I still see Newsome as a No. 5 starter, but six months ago he was an organizational arm with virtually no chance to see the big leagues. He’s now a potential up-and-down type starter with polish and probability. And who knows, maybe another year in the velo program adds another tick to the fastball. Summary What He Did Well 1. Redefined the term ‘pounded the zone’ with a 72.7% strike rate2. Used the cutter well to keep batters off the fastball3. Never shied away from throwing the fastball, despite how generally hittable it is & limiting looks to the cutter, curveball and changeup4. Repeated delivery as well as any arm in the system, using his lower half better than years past What Work Remains 1. More changeup development2. Continue to grow the fastball pitches, including the cutter — adding more ways to cut and sink the ball could allow enough fastball value to push Newsome up the ladder3. The curveball needs more depth to become a swing-and-miss pitch — it sometimes looked like a short slider but at curveball velocities, which is not a good idea versus big-league bats Honorable Mentions Ricardo Sanchez, LHS: Sanchez has more upside than Newsome, offering more playable velocity and a changeup that already flashes above-average and is consistently a weapon in Double-A. Sam Delaplane, RHR: Delaplane was flat ridiculous this season, striking out 45.8% of the batters he faced and posting a 1.99 FIP split between Advanced-A Modesto and Double-A Arkansas. It’s a fastball up to 95 and a tight curveball that is often referred to as a slider (call it whatever) that gets swings and misses with late break and at least average command. He throws from a higher arm slot, so staying on top and avoiding middle-middle fastballs is key for him, but he did it all year. Joey Gerber, RHR: Gerber fanned nearly 34% of the batters he faced in 2019, and while there were a few bouts with control problems, he posted a 2.56 FIP and yielded just two long balls in 48.2 innings. It’s a 92-96 mph fastball with life and a slider that projects as a plus pitch. Short-season prospects of the year will be noted later this week as part of the ‘All-Farm Team.’
(Photo of Jarred Kelenic by Mark Wagner/Travs) There’s no argument here, but that doesn’t mean several talents don’t deserve similar recognition, but it truly was a banner year down on the farm for the Seatte Mariners — and it’s been awhile since that could be said with any confidence whatsoever. I’ve been at this 17 years now and this was, by far, the most effective player development season yet, and it’s the best the farm system has looked in that span, too. While it wasn’t difficult to derive this year’s position prospect of the year, it was difficult to leave out a few names … so I won’t do that. Position Prospect of the Year: Jarred Kelenic, CF Kelenic began the year as a 19-year-old in Class-A West Virginia of the South Atlantic League. He had 251 professional plate appearances when the season started and now might not be much more than 251 plate appearances from the big leagues. He raked at West Virginia, posting a 181 wRC+ and a .309/.394/.586 triple-slash with 11 home runs in 50 games. He drew walks in 11.5% of his plate appearances and struck out 20.6% of the time. There were stretches Kelenic was far and away the best player in the league, while the rest of the time he was just the best player in the league. Kelenic’s time in Modesto was challenging. He missed some time with minor injuries, interrupting his timing at the plate somewhat, but he still managed a 129 wRC+ and a .290/.353/.485 line in 46 games. There’s wasn’t a dominant phase with the Nuts for Kelenic, but he rebounded every time there was signs of a slump, and finished strong there through August 9. At times, Kelenic was just a good hitter in Modesto. He struggled a bit, getting caught looking for breaking balls and perhaps being a bit too picky, but had six multihit games in his last seven full contests before being promoted, including two three-hit efforts. TEAM PA AVG OBP SLG 2B 3B HR SB BB SO West Virginia (A) 218 .309 .394 .586 14 3 11 7 25 45 Modesto (A+) 190 .290 .353 .485 13 1 6 10 17 49 Arkansas (AA) 92 .253 .315 .542 4 1 6 3 8 17 3 Teams 500 .291 .364 .540 31 5 23 20 50 111 The most important thing Kelenic did in Modesto was prove he could hit good velocity (saw him hit a couple opf 94s to the wall and a long ball on a 96 mph fastball on 1-2 count), and not let slumps get him out of his good habits at the plate. In his short time in Double-A he’s proven he belongs and that he can handle these jumps. He turned 20 while playing in the California League but might not be 21 when he hits the majors next season. I wouldn’t bet on that, but I wouldn’t wager against it, either. He’s a 55 runner with very good defensive instincts and has at least 60-grade arm strength tha plays in the corners and serves him well in center. He’s a good baserunner who reads pitchers pretty well and could end up a 15-bags per year base stealer early in his career. Coming into 2019, most underrated Kelenic’s power. I believe most other outlets handed Kelenic average power grades, but the day after the Mariners made the trade with the New York Mets, two scouts were adamant it was 60 or better, and his hit tool helps the probability in the power and for me upgrades it, too. There’s natural loft in the swing, above-average bat speed and good barrel ability all over the strike zone. He hit 23 homers in 117 games and 443 at-bats this season, despite not spending a day in a league where the home run rates skyrocketed for any reason. I fully expect a career-level Kelenic to hit for average — at least .270 when league average is around .250 and as high as the low .300s — get on base and hit for power, while being above-average defensively and a value on the bases. Prime Kelenic might be an MVP candidate with .300/.380/.600 upside in the current environment. He should make multiple all-star teams and is likely to be a great value for the first several years of his career, including his first ‘stick’ season, which I expect to be 2021 at the latest. There are areas on which he needs work — improved contact at the top of the zone, tighten up the zone control and avoid chasing (always a thing, even for elite talents and even major leaguers) and finding more contact and success versus left-handed pitching (which he did in Modesto and Arkansas), but this a King Felix-style prospect situation. Quoting a long-time scout when I asked in 2004 if he’d seen Felix recently: “There’s nothing else to see. Just give him water and watch him grow.” The same can be said for Kelenic. It was just 15 months ago the Mets made Kelenic the No. 6 pick in the 2018 MLB Draft — behind Jonathan India (Reds), Nick Madrigal (CWS), Alec Bohm (Philly), Joey Bart (SF) and Casey Mize (Tigers). He was the first prep player selected that year, despite being from a town without a lot of baseball in Waukesha, Wiscosnin. Kelenic is likely to beat most of the 2018 draft class — college players, too — to the majors, at least at his current developmental pace, and might beat one or twoMarine of the players selected ahead of him to the bigs, too. As loaded as the Mariners organization is right now, particularly with prospects that performed well in 2019, no player did more this season than Kelenic. The club asked. Kelenic delivered. Summary What He Did Well 1. Got to power naturally2. Hit the ball hard to all fields3. Closed a hole down and away What Work Remains 1. Consistency and added damage vs LHP2. Consistency in executing overall game plan First Runner-Up: Julio Rodriguez, OF Offensively, Rodriguez has an edge in upside over Kelenic and is no slouch in other facets of the game. He, too, accomplished a ton in 2019, performing well in the Sally League and in a short stint terrorizing the California League. Despite losing two months to injury, Rodriguez still lands here just behind Kelenic. A full season and this is a toss-up. The power is plus, perhaps beyond, and the 18-year-old has shown an advanced feel for hitting since Day 1 in pro ball. He’s cut time off his MLB ETA, too, after I began the year with ‘mid-2022 stick’ next to his name on my whiteboard. He’s now firmly in the 2021 column for me, albeit likely later in the season than some of the older, more experienced players also projected for 2021 (as their stick year), including Cal Raleigh and a group of arms. Summary What He Did Well 1. Used the field consistently, avoiding a pull-happy, power-focused game plan2. Cleaned up the swing path, is now more direct to the ball Where Work Remains 1. Generating more consistent loft from his swing Second Runner-Up: Jake Fraley, CF Fraley made some swing changes in 2018, the Mariners noticed and continued to help the LSU product take advantage of his physical skills, including good bat speed, and he went from four home runs in 2018 (a career high at the time), to 19 in 2019. It’s worth noting while Fraley did hit eight homers in the ball-infected PCL, he also hit 11 in 382 at-bats in Double-A where the ball is ‘normal.’ He’s at least a 55 defender in center and his arm strength has improved the past year, too, perhaps getting him closer to average ranges. Despite the power uptick, Fraley remains a hitter more than a power hitter, but he now possesses the ability to reach the gaps with relative ease and he creates enough backspin to hit 12-15 homers in the majors in a full-time role. This is espcially noteworthy since only six players in all of Major League Baseball that have 500 or more plate appearances this season have hit fewer than 10 homers, and just seven have slugged under .400. In this climate, regulars have to hit for some power. Fraley is equipped to do that. He’s a tough player, will get dirty and is athletic on the bases, too. While the scouting report still suggests Fraley is likely to me more an extra outfielder, he has a chance to play a lot and when the season started, there weren’t many believers in that theory. Summary What He Did Well 1. Maintined hitting and contact while developing power swing2. Erased questions regarding level of centerfield defense Where Work Remains 1. Contact versus LHP2. Finding his two-strike swing vs MLB pitching Honorable Mentions Cal Raleigh, C: Raleigh did exactly what clubs should hope a college player drafted in the top few rounds does in his first full season in pro ball, which is prove they were correct in taking him that high by performing in Advanced-A ball. Raleigh took it a little further by showing well at times in Arkansas, and proving he can catch. I think those questions are mostly answered at this point, but to what level remains to be seen. What goes unnoticed but shouldn’t is Raleigh’s work with top arms Logan Gilbert, Justin Dunn, Ljay Newsome, Ricardo Sanchez, Justus Sheffield and a slew of quality relievers, both in terms of his abilities, but the experience with good stuff, and specifically with some arms he will catch in the majors in a few years. Noelvi Marte, SS: Marte showed his physical gifts are more than that by flashing average or better hit and power tools. He’s probably going to end up at third (40%), second (25%) or in center (20%), but the error total isn’t anything at all to worry about at this stage. Bat speed, barrel prowess, and the baseball skills are just beginning to match the physical abilities. There’s all-star upside here, Adam Jones style. Evan White, 1B: White did a terrific job getting to his 55-grade raw pull power in 2019 without selling out for it. He might be the best defensive first baseman on the planet and despite just two stolen bases, could be one of the best five athletes and one of the five fastest runners in the entire farm system. I’m wondering what the power upside is here, but White took a step forward in 2019.
The Seattle Mariners farm system has completed its regular season. Double-A Arkansas begins its playoff run Wednesday. But there’s always time for reflection. Here are the offensive statistical leaders among prospects that either rank in my Top 40 or are just outside that group as the offseason approaches. For rate stats: 200 PA minimum NO PLAYER POS LEVEL AVG 1 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ .326 2 Noelvi Marte SS R .309 3 Tim Lopes SS AAA .302 4 Donnie Walton SS AA .300 4 Jonatan Clase CF R .300 6 Joe Rizzo 3B A+ .298 6 Austin Shenton 3B SS, AA .298 6 Jake Fraley CF AA, AA .298 9 Evan White 1B AA .293 10 Jarred Kelenic CF A, A+, AA .291 No surprised here other than rookie-ball sensation Clase. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL OBP 1 Jonatan Clase CF R .434 2 Arturo Guerrero OF R .397 3 Carter Bins C SS .391 4 Donnie Walton SS AA .390 5 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ .387 6 Milkar Perez 3B R .381 7 Austin Shenton 3B SS, A .376 8 Noelvi Marte SS R .371 9 Jake Fraley CF AA, AAA .365 10 Jarred Kelenic CF A, A+, AA .364 Clase had a great year, even slugging .444, and is a fun case to follow moving forward. Bins hit .208 and while he mashed seven homers, he managed just three doubles and piled up strikeouts. He also walked a lot. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL SLG 1 Jake Fraley CF AA, AAA .545 2 Jarrd Kelenic CF A, A+, AA .540 2 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ .540 4 Noelvi Marte SS R .511 5 Austin Shenton 3B SS, A .510 6 Cal Raleigh CF A+, AA .497 7 Evan White 1B AA .488 8 Tim Lopes SS AAA .476 9 Braden Bishop CF AAA .471 10 Shed Long 2B AAA .460 Fraley leading the way here might surprise some, and others might say “well, he was in the PCL.” But he slugged .539 in the Texas League in 61 games before spending 38 games in the ball-aided PCL. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL HR 1 Cal Raleigh CF A+, AA 29 2 Jarrd Kelenic CF A, A+, AA 23 3 Jake Fraley CF AA, AAA 19 4 Evan White 1B AA 18 5 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ 12 5 Dom Thompson-Williams CF AA 12 7 Donnie Walton SS AA 11 7 Kyle Lewis OF AA 11 9 Noelvi Marte SS R 9 9 Shed Long 2B AAA 9 Marte and Long didn’t play a full season (short-season schedule, injury), but the only surprise here is perhaps Donnie Walton, who also ranked in the Top 10 in average and on-base percentage. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL 2B 1 Jarrd Kelenic CF A, A+, AA 31 1 Tim Lopes SS AAA 31 3 Jake Fraley CF AA, AAA 27 4 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ 26 5 Cal Raleigh CF A+, AA 25 5 Kyle Lewis OF AA 25 7 Dom Thompson-Williams CF AA 24 8 Donnie Walton SS AA 22 9 Noelvi Marte SS R 18 10 Austin Shenton 3B AAA 17 Bishop, despite just 50 games played and 210 PAs, chimed in with 16 doubles, just missing the cut. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL SB 1 Jonatan Clase CF R 31 2 Tim Lopes SS AAA 26 3 Jake Fraley CF AA, AAA 22 4 Jarrd Kelenic CF A, A+, AA 20 5 Noelvi Marte SS R 17 6 Dom Thompson-Williams CF AA 15 7 Arturo Guerrero OF R 11 9 Donnie Walton SS AA 10 9 Luis Liberato OF A+, AA 8 9 Milkar Perez 3B R 8 Guerrero is going to end up more of a power player but is a good enough athlete to take a base when it’s there. One thing to remember about stolen bases is pitchers and catchers both are works-in-progress dealing with the running game The lower the level, the more work needed, generally speaking. NO PLAYER POS LEVEL wRC+ 1 Julio Rodriguez OF A, A+ 164 2 Jarrd Kelenic CF A, A+, AA 152 2 Austin Shenton 3B SS, A 152 6 Jonatan Clase CF R 147 4 Noelvi Marte SS R 138 5 Jake Fraley SS AA, AAA 136 7 Donnie Walton SS AA 134 8 Evan White 1B AA 132 9 Carter Bins C SS 127 9 Arturo Guerrero OF R 127 Bins lands here in the strength of that OBP, but how about Walton? Raleigh just missed here at 122 (he was amazing in the Cal League but challenged in the Texas League post promotion).