POSTED: No. 3 — Emerson Hancock, RHP POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 2. Julio Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez has done nothing but hit since a Tim Kissner-led Mariners Lat Am scouting department signed him nearly five years ago out of the Dominican Republic. The only problem is he’s amassed just 547 at-bats between the DSL, Sally League and his 17-game stint in Advanced-A Modesto to end 2019. The tools are loud, starting with 70 raw power and evidence he’ll make consistent enough contact to tale advantage. He’s a bit pull happy entering 2021, but has hit searing line drives to the middle of the field in BP and occasionally in games. His hand-eye is high-end and there’s bat speed to spare. In favorable counts versus lower-level arms he’s destroyed velocity and shown an improved ability to stay back on soft stuff. But there’s still work to do in this department, and better pitching may give him fits early. Despite the propensity to get himself out, he was a teenager playing at both full-season Class-A leagues the last time there were minor league games, and he still found a way to rake, including more than one dominating tear. The right-handed hitter does have a ways to go to be considered a surefire impact bat in the big leagues, which is why it’s more difficult to project him as such as easy as it is for the club’s No. 1 prospect. Rodriguez’s tendency to leak out as he stalks pitches results in some front-foot swings, opening him up for offspeed stuff and a relentless attack of the outer edge. His swing has at least one or two unnecessary parts to it, but he’s already made similar fixes the past few years, so I’m not overly concerned by its existence after 143 professional games. Athletically, the now-20-year-old has lost a step or so as he’s filled out — he was 180 pounds when he signed and was up over 220 last spring — reducing his foot speed to about average, which pushes him to right field regularly where he’s shown instincts and a 70-grade arm with accuracy. He’ll likely end up a fringe-average runner, but he does a lot of things well defensively that should help him stick for years. His makeup is off the charts and the kid oozes personality, including a persistent smile, giving him a great chance to be the darling, fan-favorite of the club’s top young players. If you’d never seen Rodriguez before in your life — live, video or a simple photo, you could pick him out in a ballpark full of baseball players, because he’d be the one having the most fun and making sure everyone within miles know about it. If he can improve his ability to cover the whole strike zone and use more of the field, the ceiling here is very high, up to and including a non-zero chance at MVP-caliber seasons in his prime, led by tons of extra-base power. He’s still a few years away, most likely, but Rodriguez has the physical tools and fortitude to compete and develop in a league where he’s among the youngest players, which will be the case from the get-go this spring. Rodriguez is likely slated for Double-A Arkansas where he’ll see pitchers 2-6 years his senior, offering the kind of examination he needs to take the next steps. I’m not sure how likely it is he sees Tacoma before year’s end, but Rodriguez isn’t your typical 20-year-old. ETA: 2022 MLB COMPS CEILING: Jim Rice MEDIAN: Danny Tartabull FLOOR: Jonny Gomes Rice won an MVP in 1978 and finished Top 5 on five other occasions, posting five 5-win seasons, two of them 6-win efforts and a 7.7 fWAR campaign when he won the American League MVP. Rice also had a cannon in right field and used instincts and routes to provide value in the field. Rodriguez has tools and a skills trend that suggest something similar is at least plausible. His profile-changer is the hit tool. I project average to above-average ability to hit for average and get on base — .265-.270, .330-.340 OBP — to support the power, but there’s a path for .280-.290 and .370-plus on-base marks, which could get him into some MVP conversations down the line. TOOLS HIT POWER FIELD RUN THROW OFP 55+ 65+ 50 45 70 58.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 3 Emerson Hancock RHP 2023 SLIDER A+/AA 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
Former Seattle Mariners CEO Kevin Mather suggesting his team manipulated the service time of prospect Jarred Kelenic confirmed what the MLBPA long believed. Clubs intentionally exploit the service time of young players to delay arbitration and free agent eligibility. Even projected stars fall victim to this practice. “Because there was no chance you were going to see these young players at T-Mobile Park. We weren’t going to put them on the 40-man roster. We weren’t going to start the service time clock.” – Kevin Mather Mather’s revelation will undoubtedly have ramifications during CBA negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA later this year. The relationship between both parties was already acrimonious. Mather’s unprovoked admission to an unethical practice only worsens matters, assuming that’s possible. So what about Kelenic? Should the Mariners avoid further negative publicity by promoting him to their Opening Day roster? That depends on the answer to one question. Is he ready? To be honest, I have no idea whether Kelenic is ready for the majors. Nobody outside the Mariners does. Several national media members have advocated his readiness, while passionate fans have taken to Twitter doing the same. Still, most of these folks haven’t seen Kelenic play in a regular season game nor could they pick him out of a lineup. Instead of engaging in hyperbole about Kelenic’s current plight or connecting it to the Mariners’ 20-year absence from the postseason, let’s try something else. Have a rationale conversation based on recent history, available facts, and objective opinions. Maybe then, we can arrive at a conclusion regarding the sixth overall pick of the 2018 draft. History Lesson Although Mather’s comment about the service time of his former team’s minor leaguers was egregious, the MLB readiness of those players is debatable. That wasn’t the case with two prominent players, who seemingly had their service time manipulated in the last six years. In 2015, the Cubs started Kris Bryant in the minors after he led all of professional baseball (including MLB) with 43 home runs and a 192 wRC+ the year prior. Chicago promoted Bryant twelve days later guaranteeing an additional year of service from the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year. Bryant later filed a grievance against the Cubs over the perceived service time manipulation, but lost in judgement. Weighted Runs Created Plus (wRC+) quantities how a hitter’s total offensive value compares with the league average after adjusting for park effects. Every point above 100 represents a percentage point above average. League-average is always 100. The Blue Jays executed a similar maneuver with Vladimir Guerrero Jr., who had the highest AVG, SLG, and wRC+ among minor leaguers with 400-plus plate appearances in 2018. Despite his success, Toronto opted to leave Guerrero in the minors at the beginning of 2019 before recalling him a month into the season. The tactic assured another season of club control for the Jays. There are other instances of seemingly unethical service time decisions. However, the Bryant and Guerrero sagas are two of the most glaring examples of why players are fighting mad with ownership. Mather’s comments simply raised the temperature in an already simmering pressure cooker. Production Let’s review Kelenic’s offensive numbers from his last season in 2019. The left-handed hitter played with three teams – Class-A West Virginia, High-A Modesto, and Class-AA Arkansas. The following illustrates his combined production and its ranking against 686 players from all levels with 500-plus plate appearances. Also included, Kelenic’s standing among the 107 individuals under age-21. Overall, Kelenic’s numbers look great, particularly against youthful peers. After joining Arkansas on August 11, he slashed .253/.315/.542 with six home runs. Furthermore, his .857 OPS was higher than the output of other top Seattle prospects when the Wisconsinite was their teammate. Specifically, major leaguers Kyle Lewis (.526) and Evan White (.789), plus catcher Cal Raleigh (.761). Kelenic’s 133 wRC+ with Arkansas ranked fourth on the team for the season behind leader Jake Fraley (156). Fraley left the Travelers to play with Class-AAA Tacoma and then the Mariners in 2019. His situation is why minor-league stats don’t have much relevance to me. Despite the success in MiLB, Fraley has yet to establish himself in the majors. The 25-year-old has a .152/.200/.227 slash-line with a 16 wRC+ in 70 MLB plate appearances in 2019-20. To be fair, an injury derailed his first year shortly after he debuted and opportunities have been rare ever since. It’s also worth pointing out Lewis was slumping before his September call-up in 2019. He then took Seattle by storm with six home runs in 18 games. Honestly, the most relevant number to me is Kelenic’s playing time, which is very limited above Class-A level. His stint with Arkansas totaled 21 games with 83 plate appearances. Few players from this generation have reached the majors with less MiLB experience and at similar young age. Experience With this in mind, let’s contrast Kelenic’s MiLB career to other players recently debuting at an early age. How many spent more time in the minors than what the Waukesha West High School product currently has? The following illustrates all MiLB games played and at AAA/AA by 14 hitters debuting by their age-20 season since 2010. Two caveats; they had to play 40-plus games during their debut campaign and produce at least a 0.0 bWAR. We’ve sorted our list by games played at AAA/AA. Kelenic is included to aid with our comparison. As you can see, our list is teeming with recognizable names. Only two players – Bryce Harper and Juan Soto – debuted with less than 200 MiLB games. It’s worth noting both began with the Nationals and have been successes ever since. Harper won 2012 NL Rookie of the Year. Meanwhile, Soto has been so electric Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently drew a comparison between the 22-year-old and Hall of Famer Ted Williams. Based on Kelenic’s inexperience in the minors, it’s understandable why Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto insists his team hasn’t delayed his star prospect’s march to the majors. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t any monkey business going on behind the scenes. However, there’s a plausible explanation, based on precedent, as to why Kelenic has yet to join the big-league team. Evaluations Okay, we’ve compared Kelenic’s stats to peers and his MiLB experience to major leaguers debuting at a young age. Let’s now consider how four national outlets recently evaluated his future. The following are only snippets from their write-ups. All ranked Kelenic fifth or better on their top-100 list. He probably would have debuted in 2020 had there been a full minor-league season, and I expect he’ll be up by the middle of 2021. I know it pains Mets fans to read this, but I think Kelenic is going to be a superstar. – Keith Law, The Athletic I expect him to come up in 2021 and be an immediate impact player. – Eric Longenhagen, FanGraphs Kelenic has an all-star potential and his major league debut is on the horizon in 2021. – Bill Mitchell, Baseball America Kelenic performed well in a 21-game Double-A sample in 2019. He first stood out on the national stage after his sophomore year in high school, so he has a long track record of standout offensive performances that gives scouts some certainty that it will continue. – Kiley McDaniel, ESPN Obviously, these are subjective anecdotes. That’s how readers likely view them. My takeaway is all four assessors agree that Kelenic projects to debut in MLB this year. However, none states he’s ready to begin the season with the Mariners. Then again, they may avoid such language when discussing prospects. On the subject of evaluations, Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill is in the process of publishing his annual top Mariners prospect reports. Numbers 1-3 release on February 26-28. Spoiler alert: Kelenic’s name has yet to appear. You can click on Jason’s name to find previously published reports, including his most recent offering – number-3 prospect Emerson Hancock. Editor’s note: Kelenic’s report by Churchill has since published and can be found here. Well? Does Kelenic need more seasoning in the minors or should the Mariners play him on Opening Day? Even after our discussion, I still don’t know the answer. His production was excellent, but not the best in MiLB as was the case with Bryant and Guerrero. Moreover, both of those players spent time at AAA – Kelenic has not. I don’t see how anyone could rationally determine whether Kelenic should be on the Opening Day roster without personally evaluating him. For this reason, I’ll continue placing my faith in the assessments of Dipoto and his staff. I realize many of you won’t agree and that’s fine. However, Dipoto has been extremely transparent about baseball operations since his arrival in late 2015. More so than any GM in MLB and perhaps all major sports. Besides, he didn’t hesitate to recall top prospects Lewis and Justin Dunn in September 2019. Why? He and his staff deemed both ready to test the waters in the majors. Sure, Mather’s buffoonery gives us pause regarding the way the Mariners run their business and the organization’s culture. Still, we should separate the two issues at hand. Whether Kelenic is actually ready in the eyes of professional evaluators has nothing to do with Mather telling fans his former team was conspiring to manipulate the service time of its best prospects. As for the latter issue, Mather has resigned. Now, Mariners Chairman and Managing Partner John Stanton has the daunting task of repairing the serious damage done to his franchise’s reputation by his former CEO. I don’t envy Mr. Stanton. Regarding player personnel decisions, Stanton remains comfortable with Dipoto making the call on when to promote prospects – so do I. The sixth-year GM reinvigorated a farm system once considered the worst in MLB. Now, the Mariners’ system is both deep and full of top-100 prospects. They seem to have a handle on developing minor leaguers. Besides, I have no idea when Jarred Kelenic – or any prospect – deserves a promotion to the majors. And neither do you. My Oh My… [tipjarwp id=”2″]
POSTED: No. 4 — Logan Gilbert, RHP POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Saturday: No. 2, No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 3. Emerson Hancock, RHP Hancock has yet to throw a professional pitch but entered last spring as the favorite to go No. 1 overall in the draft. A few hiccups along the way pushed him down to the Mariners at No. 6, including two below-average starts of the four he made before his season was shut down in March. He also suffered a Lat strain in April his sophomore year, finishing unevenly. There are questions about his fastball, but not significant concerns; it’s a natural-sinking fastball he throws with plane and has yet to learn to attack the top of the zone in order to get more swings and misses from the pitch. But he’s comfortably 93-95 mph and up to 99 and generates some run to his arm side, which helps set up his secondaries. His best offspeed stuff includes an above-average changeup that flashes plus or better and can generate whiffs as he buries it off the fastball, and a sharp slider that darts down and away from right-handed batters and at the back foot of lefties. His curveball projects well, but like Gilbert it’s not likely to become an out pitch, instead a good weapon early in counts and versus left-handed bats to keep them off the straight stuff. Hancock is a superior athlete with a fluid, repeatable delivery, finishing strong and inline from a slightly-below three quarters arm slot. He stays closed and employs his lower half well, generating an aggressive, long stride toward the plate, yet stays on top well to keep everything on plane or with downward break. His sound mechanics help him throw strikes with his entire arsenal, and pitch effectively to both sides of the plate with the fastball. His plus control should lead to with plus command. Hancock profiles as a very good No. 3, but there’s a relatively strong chance he ends up a No. 2 with some dominant traits, including two out pitches and a fastball capable of generating ground balls as well as swings and misses when he attacks at or above the hands. If things work out right, Hancock is a strikeout pitcher with some solid-average ground ball tendencies, though some of the latter could be tempered by the club’s attempts to get more from his velocity high in the zone. Hancock probably headed for Everett to start 2021 and with some workload limits, but I expect him to move quickly through the middle of the minors and put himself in the big-league conversation in a year, year and a half, suggesting Opening Day 2023 is a real possibility, sans service time manipulation. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: Carlos Carrasco MEDIAN: Pete Harnisch FLOOR: Jeremy Guthrie While Hancock and Carrasco are built differently now, there are some similarities in body, style, and especially (potential) performance. Carrasco uses a two-seamer to mix up the fastball and gain varying movement, something Hancock does, at present, with the four-seamer, but both pitchers use slider-changeup before curveball, but have the slower of the two breakers in their hip pocket. Carrasco has three 5-win seasons despite being unable to remain fully healthy most of his prime, so keep that in mind when wondering if Carrasco is the right comp. There’s 6-win upside here with Hancock. His edge over Gilbert is minimal, but real, despite the No. 4 prospect holding edges in present probability and ETA, as well as projected fastball value. Hancock carries more ceiling, yet not a lot more risk in spite of all of the above. He’s a better athlete, too, and even with the 2020 MiLB season being canceled got deeper into his development sooner than did Gilbert. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (93-97) 60 (80-84) 50+ (76-79) 60+ (83-86) 60 56.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 4 Logan Gilbert RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: No. 5 — Noelvi Marte, SS/3B POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen 4. Logan Gilbert, RHP Simply put, Gilbert looks the part of a frontline arm capable of logging 120 pitches per start and covering 200-plus innings per season. He uses his 6-foot-6 frame to drive the ball downhill and pitch with life up in the zone, displaying a vertical attack unmatched in the system. The fastball is up to 96 mph, cruising 92-95 with armside run. His best secondary is a low-80s slider that flashes plus and works well off the four-seamer and in tandem with his average to above-average knuckle curveball which comes in at 74-77. Gilbert’s changeup is fringe-average at present, flashes above average and could end up a plus offering in time. His consistent arm speed and use of his lower half to finish strong out front helps everything play up, but the changeup may benefit most. His delivery is consistent, making him a safe bet to throw strikes consistently, and having come to pro ball nearly three years ago with average command there’s a good chance he ends up in the plus range. Gilbert won’t overpower hitters with velocity, but he should get good fastball value from its movement and his ability to fill up all quadrants of the zone. His ability to use his entire arsenal projects for some success immediately upon his arrival in the major leagues. He’s yet to show his best stuff for an extended period, since Gilbert has managed just 135 professional innings — thanks to an illness the summer he was drafted and the cancellation of the MiLB season a year ago — and they all came during the 2019 campaign across three levels. He’s 24 in May and around 225 pounds, so there’s no meaningful physical growth remaining, but the package of stuff, projectable durability, and command suggest a good No. 3 starter, with a chance for a little more depending on the further development of his changeup. The former first-round pick is ready to face big-league bats, and should get that chance early in 2021, whether it be in May or right from the get-go as a member of the club’s six-man rotation. ETA: 2021 MLB COMPS CEILING: Chris Carpenter MEDIAN: Andy Benes FLOOR: Trevor Cahill Pitch development and command can be improved, and both can be developed beyond present projections. If either happens for Gilbert his comps could change along with them, though Carpenter peaked as a 6-win starter and posted two other 5-win seasons and a 4.5-win campaign, so that’s a pretty darned good ceiling comp for the Mariners here. I do wonder, however, if there might be another tick of velocity coming, perhaps enough to get him more consistently into the mid-90s, which also can be a profile-altering development. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO OFP 60 (92-96) 55+ (81-85) 55 (74-77) 55 (85-87) 50+ 55.5 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 5 Noelvi Marte SS 2023 POWER A/A+ 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: 6-11 — Three arms, a speedy outfielder, and the catcher POSTED: 11-20 — Upside and heat POSTED: 21-30 — Highlighted by young CF, relief help POSTED: 31-40 — Five Arms and power upside Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Ben VanHouten/Seattle Mariners 5. Noelvi Marte, SS As Marte has added strength and now looks the part of a corner bar with plus power. While it’s not out of the question he sticks at shortstop — I’d put the chances at 10-15% — most signs point to the 19-year-old eventually moving to the hot corner where his plus arm, good footwork and projectable range fit the hot corner well. He’s still a ways away, but there’s a lot to like about Marte’s ability to get the bat head out front, use the middle of the field, and cover the zone both vertically and horizontally. The bat speed is plus and he generates natural leverage. The swing is free and easy and he’s developed a better two-strike swing since signing nearly three years ago, including simplified usage of his lower half. As a result, Marte’s ability to stay back on soft stuff, yet trust his hands suggests advanced hitting skills and a projectable hit tool. While I’m not quite as bullish on the hit tool as some, at lest not with so little experience and no live look for yours truly, I do buy the raw power and its chances to reach beyond plus levels and eventually show up in games, and from right-center to the left-field line. Marte projects to play everyday, likely at third base, and hit 20-30 home runs with above-average batting averages and on-base marks. Since he’s still maturing physically, the power grade is a bit fluid, and he may end up merely an average runner despite being scouted a burner at 16. He’ll likely start 2021 in Modesto to work on making more consistent contact versus better pitching. There’s a chance he earns his way to Everett this summer. Considering at least two of the club’s Top 5 prospects project to graduate in 2021, Marte likely ends the season in the Top 3. It’s not out of the question he’s the club’s No. 1 prospect by July, and a Top 40 prospect in baseball by September. ETA: 2023 MLB COMPS CEILING: David Wright MEDIAN: Bill Hall FLOOR: Willy Aybar As Marte gains experience, advances through the minors and becomes more skill-oriented rather than a tools-based prospect, his floor and median comps will increase in value, though both are relatively high considering his lack of experience at timeline. Marte’s ceiling comp could get better, too, specifically in the power department. Among the most optimistic and aggressive comps I’ve heard this winter include Matt Williams, Adrian Beltre, and Alex Bregman. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN OFP 55+ 60+ 50 60 50+ 53 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
Posted: Nos. 11-20 Posted: Nos. 21-30 Posted: Nos. 31-40 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20. Below is prospects Nos. 11-20. Important note: There’s a delicate balance between upside, risk, and ETA, but the difference between No. 10 and No. 5 or No. 6 isn’t as significant as it may seem in some cases. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 6 George Kirby RHP 2023 COMMAND A+/AA 7 Taylor Trammell LF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 8 Cal Raleigh C 2021 POWER AAA/MLB 9 Brandon Williamson LHP 2023 FASTBALL A+/AA 10 Isaiah Campbell RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 10. Isaiah Campbell, RHP Campbell has yet to throw a competitive pitch in pro ball but has size (6-4/230) and projectable command that should allow his four-pitch mix to work as a starter with a chance to move quickly. It might make sense for the right-hander to focus on one of his breaking balls in 2021, and the slider is further along than his slow, somewhat loopy curveball which might be better used as an early-count eye-level changer than an out pitch. He creates plane by staying on top of a high three-quarters slot and despite some barking about his long arm path throws strikes. There’s some tail to his fastball and he does a good job maintaining arm speed throughout his arsenal. Campbell is adept at attacking the entire zone. The cub’s comp-round pick from two years back could start 2021 at either Class-A affiliate but has a chance to move up once or twice this season. As a starter he carries mid-rotation upside. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 60+ (92-96) 50+ (80-83) 45 (71-75) 50+ (81-84) 50 9. Brandon Williamson, LHP Williamson has been up to 97 mph with his fastball and carries a better set of secondary pitches than does Campbell. If he had more experience and was a step or two closer to the majors I likely would have him ranked 2-3 spots higher. He’s athletic and uses his 6-foot-6 frame to pitch downhill with his fastball, curveball and slider, all of which project as big-league pitches. The curveball is above-average and has a chance to be the best in the organization. His changeup needs a lot of work but has flashed near average and should at least be useful in time. Williamson’s arm slot is around three-quarters, perhaps a bit lower, helping him create angles that prove difficult for both lefties and righties when he stays closed and explodes through release point. His fastball has life up in the zone and he uses it well on both edges to right-handed batters. Williamson has a chance to be a very good No. 3, with good fastball command and changeup quality his biggest hurdles. He should start 2021 in Class-A Everett with a shot to move up as the year progresses, and could easily speed up his ETA. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 65 (93-97) 50 (84-87) 55+ (78-82) 55 (83-86) 45+ 8. Cal Raleigh, C Raleigh is never going to be mistaken for Yadier Molina or Pudge Rodriguez defensively, but he’s answered a lot of questions with playable answers, and offers the kinds of intangibles clubs want from catchers. Raleigh is a tough leader, has improved his receiving and framing, and his above-average arm strength plays up with good accuracy and consistent mechanics. He’s worked hard to maintain his conditioning in order stay behind the dish. His calling card, however, is power, showing legitimate 60-grade pop from the left side and fringe-average, doubles power from the right. He has average bat speed, but the swing is a bit long, so he’s likely to swing and miss quite a bit, with home runs as the payoff. His left-handed swing is also his better side in terms of contact and hitting for average, though there hasn’t been any buzz about giving up switch-hitting, and it might be less than ideal to do it now when he’s so close to the majors. Raleigh projects as an average catcher led by power hitting, but if the hit tool catches up a bit with experience he could see some DH time when he’s not catching, perhaps extending his career that otherwise could be shortened by a lack of athleticism. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 40+ 60 45 55 30 7. Taylor Trammell, OF His plus to plus-plus speed jumps out and he’s always shown an above-average ability to get the barrel to the ball. The bat speed suggests raw power into the mid-teens or better, but the attempts to unlock it appear to have hurt his ability to hit for average in 2019. There’s still too much swing-and-miss in his game considering the more likely power production, which is the largest hurdle to his chances to hit big-league pitching. But he’s always drawn walks and provided value in the field and on the bases. Trammell’s swing is still a work-in-progress and as a result I don’t have as much confidence as some regarding his ETA. I do, however, buy his defensive value more than most, even if his below-average arm keeps him in left field. There’s some Starling Marte in Trammell’s upside, and some Jacque Jones in the median projection. It’s difficult to imagine he’s not a major-league player, considering the speed and defense. The exact role is yet to be determined. He’ll start 2021 in Triple-A Tacoma, probably playing both center and left, and likely gets at least a cup of java with the big club later in the season. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50 50+ 40+ 60+ 6. George Kirby, RHP Kirby’s best attributes lend tons of confidence in his ETA and floor, led by plus-plus control, plus command and athleticism that helps him repeat his delivery very well. The right-hander will cruise 91-94 mph but there’s more velocity to come based on the occasional 95 in college and his work at the alternate training site that produced a lot of 95-99 in the fall. The four-seamer has life and run, and his slider, an above-average, 84-87 mph breaker, is his best chance to be a true swing-and-miss offering. His changeup has flashed plus and I project it to land there in time, and he uses a 79-82 curveball effectively versus left-handed hitters, burying it below the zone or getting called strikes. It’s not as consistent or sharp as the slider, but should remain an early-count weapon. Kirby projects as a No. 3 starter for me, and the floor isn’t much of a drop. I think there’s a decent chance he’s better than Logan Gilbert or Emerson Hancock, perhaps thrusting Kirby into No. 2 status, though I fall quite shy of seeing a No. 1 starter or true ace. I think he’s ultimately more than a command-and-feel right-hander who wins with efficiency. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 60+ 60 50 60 65 NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carlson RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHP 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A
POSTED: Nos. 31-40 POSTED: Nos. 21-30 Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20. Below is prospects Nos. 11-20. Important note: There’s not a significant difference between 20 and 13, at least not as much as seven entire spots in a good farm system would suggest, but here’s a delicate balance between upside, risk, and ETA. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 11 Juan Then RHP 2022 FASTBALL A+/AA 12 Zach DeLoach CF 2023 HIT A/A+ 13 Jonatan Clase CF 2025 RUN A/A+ 14 Austin Shenton 3B 2022 HIT AA 15 Sam Carslon RHP 2024 FASTBALL R/A 16 Andres Munoz RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 17 Connor Phillips RHP 2023 FASTBALL R/A 18 Levi Stoudt RHP 2023 FASTBALL A/A+ 19 Jake Fraley OF 2021 HIT AAA/MLB 20 Milkar Perez 3B 2024 HIT R/A 20. Milkar Perez, 3B Perez is still raw and because he lacks athleticism is limited defensively. The Mariners believe his arm strength and hands allow him to work at third base, but there are questions as to whether or not his power will. He’s a switch hitter but is better from the left side and the difference may be stark enough to eventually abandon the efforts from the right side. For now, he shows above-average raw power as a lefty. Perez’s calling card is bat-to-ball skills that generate hard line drives thanks to good bat speed. But the power is critical here, as he’s not athletic enough to project to the outfield, though his arm would play, and a move across the diamond to first does nothing but add pressure to the bat. He’ll have to hit regardless, and if the power doesn’t come he’ll have to hit an awful lot to profile as a regular. The Mariners like a loot of the intangible, however, and a .280/.350/.450, doubles-driven bat isn’t that far from what Kyle Seager brought to the table in his prime, so… no sneezing. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 60 45 19. Jake Fraley, OF Like Bishop, Fraley is starting to run out of time to show he’s an answer to a question Seattle is asking. What we know is Fraley can run some and cover ground in the outfield. He displayed improved power in 2018 and 2019 after adding some bulk to his frame, but his game plan in his short stints in the majors was exposed and he wasn’t given a lot of time to make adjustments. The swing is short enough and the bat speed is above-average, but he’s had problems staying back on soft stuff and since he may not profile in center he’s unlikely to serve as anything more than a part-time option if he doesn’t piece together a hit + doubles package at the plate. He’ll be 26 in May and has a shot to break camp with the big club. His shot to show he’s more than an extra may be limited to a few weeks of at-bats, or come with another team. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 50 45+ 50+ 45 55 18. Levi Stoudt, RHP After Tommy John surgery two summers ago, Stoudt’s arm strength is all the way back as he touched 97 this past fall. He came to pro ball with an above-average split-grip changeup projecting to be plus or better in time. He’s going with the slider as his breaking ball of choice, but has a curveball in his pocket if he ever wants to go back to it; it was below-average at Lehigh, but flashed depth. I’m not as high on Stoudt at this stage as most others because he’s yet to throw a professional pitch and lacks physical projection at 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds — not to mention has the zipper on his resume now, and is already 23. I think there’s a very good chance he’s a reliever, but has a shot to be a good No. 4 or a light if things break right, and the fact he projects for average command lends confidence to the median projection. He’s at least two and a half years away in a rotation role, but if he’s transitioned could move rapidly to the majors as a legit three-pitch arm capable of pitching in high-leverage situations. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 55 (93-97) 50+ (82-86) 45+ (77-81) 60 (85-88) 50+ 17. Connor Phillips, RHP Phillips is certainly more of a project than is Stoudt, but there’s a lot more projection in the frame (6-2/190) and despite technically being a college draftee (McLennan JC, TX) he won’t turn 20 until May. He’s tagged 98 mph with his fastball and his cruising velocity is an easy 92-95 with some run. He added curveball last summer, but his hard slider has flashed plus and on occasion last spring showed an average change. He’s further away from his ceiling, but there’s probably another step for Phillips that isn’t there for Stoudt, and both come with there own risks. For Phillips, it’s inconsistent control and command, and a delivery that’s come apart with runners on base. TOOLS FB SL CH CB CO 65 (93-98) 55+ 45+ NEW 45+ 16. Andres Muñoz, RHR Muñoz is an easy scouting report. Prior to the injury he was 97-102 mph with an average slider that plays up because the velocity is essentially burning cheese. Muñoz is not afraid to throw in on right-handed batters, and his heat shows effective run to his arm side and tons of life at the top of the zone. The control problems stem mainly from his high-effort delivery yanking him hard to the first-base side of the mound at release point. If he can stay in-line more everything, including (as ridiculous as it sounds) the triple-digit heat. But there are also some arm path adjustments that could me made to help him with consistency. How much the Mariners want to mess with that with the righty coming off March, 2020 Tommy John surgery remains unclear, but a healthy Muñoz sees the majors this season and when he does it’s must-see TV, even though it would surprise no one if he wasn’t living in the upper-90s right out of the gate. One reason the Mariners might be aggressive in trying to clean up Muñoz’s mechanics is his history of arm issues, almost exclusively with the elbow. Seattle is hoping he can be their relief ace moving forward, and the stuff suggests that’s plausible. There’s just a ways to go for it to occur so I have a hard time ranking him higher than this. TOOLS FB SL CO N/A N/A 80 (97-102) 60 (84-87) 40 N/A N/A 15. Sam Carlson, RHP I’m high-man on the now 22-year-old Carlson despite the fact he’s coming off 2019 Tommy John and has faced just 13 batters in three and a half years since the Mariners selected him in Round 2 of the 2017 Draft and handed him $2 million. Why? He possesses a projectable starter’s repertoire, including an advanced changeup, sinking fastball up to 96 mph, and potential for an average or better slider thrown from a true three-quarters slot. He’s also an absolute beast, both physically and in terms of mental toughness. Carlson is one of the best athletes in the system and as built himself into a monster, adding good weight and maintaining an explosive lower half. This is the ultimate high-risk, high-reward for many, but I see No. 3 upside with a good middle reliever’s floor, and I think he’s going to move a little faster than one might otherwise think because he’ll get a lot of value out of his sinking fastball in the lower minors. I imagine Carlson has a chance to start in Modesto in May, but it wouldn’t be shocking if Seattle held him back a bit to easily manage his workload in what we all hope is his first full season in pro ball. TOOLS FB SL CB CH CO 60+ (90-96) 50+ (83-86) 40+ (76-80) 55+ (83-85) 45+ 14. Austin Shenton, 3B I may also he high-man on Shenton, but I believe in the hit tool and think his power will show up more after he gets to the big leagues, not unlike Kyle Seager, who managed just 22 homers in 1245 plate appearances spanning 269 minor leagues games. What Shenton doesn’t quite have — or at least hadn’t shown through 2019 — is Seager’s hands and feet at third base. I think he ends up fringe-average at best defensively at the hot corner, but there’s a chance the bat plays and then some, covering a move to a corner-outfield spot. He sees the ball well and might be the smartest hitter in the system. Shenton’s strengths also fit T-Mobile Park very well; he likes to use both gaps for doubles, can go line-to-line in contact situations and his pull power plays to Mobi’s right-field naturally. Shenton may be fit to start 2021 in Double-A Arkansas with a chance to see Tacoma by year’s end. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 50 45 13. Jonatan Clase, CF And I KNOW I’m high-man on Clase. The 18-year-old kid starred for the DSL club two summers ago, despite most of the attention going to his more famous teammate, Noelvi Marte. Clase swung and missed a bit too much during that stint, but has bat speed, instincts, can run for days, and has shown the organization a work ethic that makes player development staffers giddy. He’s actually grown a few inches and put on some good weight, but I’m told remains explosive out of the box and in the field. His speed and quickness give him a solid chance to stick in center field, though he needs a lot of experience and coaching, and a throwing program has helped him project to average arm strength. He’s years away, and is still raw at the plate, but won’t be 19 until late May, and when he’s anywhere near a field is as energetic as any player you’ve ever seen. He does nothing half-assed, and has a chance to impact the game in a lot of ways, though power isn’t likely to be one of them to a great degree. I’ll take a player like Clase over a high-probability back-end starter or a relief arm any day of the week and twice on game day. Clase is likely starting the season in extended awaiting the rookie season to start. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 50 40 60+ 50 70 12. Zach DeLoach, CF I warned on DeLoach three weeks after the draft when a team analyst told me DeLoach was the best ’20 Draftee he saw in 10 days watching fall ball. DeLoach has above-average raw power to his pull side, but otherwise is a better bet to use the middle of the field, make a lot of hard contact and get on base a ton. There may be 16-18 homers in the bat, but if there isn’t the bat may be light for a corner, putting pressure on his instincts to take over in center and make up for average speed and fringe-average arm strength. DeLoach, too, is a left-handed bat that profiles well at T-Mobile Park, and I’m a little more bullish on the power developing than some, explaining why I have him 4-10 spots higher. I’d like to see the Mariners ship DeLoach to Everett in May to get started. TOOLS HIT PWR FIELD THROW RUN 55 50+ 45 60 45 11. Juan Then, RHP Then, properly pronounced more like ‘Tayn’ (silent ‘h’) but likely to be Americanized to ‘Ten,’ is a bit undersized at 6-feet tall but put on some good weight over the past year-plus and his velocity exploded in instructs, reportedly touching 100 mph and living 95-plus in short outings. The lower slot he’s deployed might impact his ability to throw a legit, repeatable changeup in a starter’s role, but it’s added deception and movement to his fastball and slider. He has a chance to start, and the ceiling lies somewhere in the middle of the rotation, but the floor may be as a high as the next Edwin Diaz. He’s a good athlete and in years past has thrown enough strikes to believe he’ll continue to do so moving forward, despite the added effort and difference in release angle. Then should start 2021 in Everett, where play-by-play great Pat Dillon should have one of the best rosters in AquaSox history from which to create more audio memories for the rest of us. TOOLS FB SL CH CO N/A 70+ 50+ 45+ 45+ N/A
Saturday: Nos. 31-40 Sunday: Nos. 11-20. Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20. Below is prospects Nos. 21-30. Important note: There’s not a significant difference between 40 and 18, at least not as much as 22 entire spots in a good farm system would suggest, but here’s a delicate balance between upside, risk, and ETA. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 21 Ljay Newsome RHP 2021 COMMAND AAA/MLB 22 Anthony Misiewicz LHR 2021 CURVEBALL MLB 23 Will Vest RHR 2021 FASTBALL MLB 24 George Feliz CF 2025 HIT R 25 Braden Bishop CF 2021 FIELD AAA/MLB 26 Yohan Ramirez RHR 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 27 Joey Gerber RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 28 Adam Macko LHP 2024 CURVEBALL A/A+ 29 Wyatt Mills RHR 2021 FASTBALL AAA/MLB 30 Sam Delaplane RHR 2021 CURVEBALL AAA/MLB 30. Sam Delaplane, RHR Delaplane jumped onto the radar when he sat 95-98 mph for a bit in Modesto in 2019, but he was more 92-95 in Arkansas, with a reach-back for a bit more, rather than living in he high range. His plus breaking ball looks like a spiking slider, but it’s a curveball at 83-87 mph with legendary spin rates and late break that results in swings and misses. The right-hander is a strike thrower, but does struggle with location and when he doesn’t have his best fastball batters will lay off the breaking ball. I have some durability concerns along with questions about how deep into his appearances he can hold the mid-90s or better heat or I’d rank him 10-plus spots higher, but he can answer those question very quickly this spring where it’s not out of the question he makes the big club. 29. Wyatt Mills, RHR Mills is more projectable than Delaplane and while the last time we saw him pitch in games his raw stuff was merely average for a reliever, he’s shown improved velocity and breaking balls shape. Mills was essentially the consolation prize in Round 3 when the Mariners schemed Sam Carlson into their second-round and paid him $2 million. Mills has proven to be a fine choice for the under-slot play. He was essentially 91-95 mph in 2019 but in the fall was often 94-96 and touched 97. He throws from a true sidearm slot, adding deception and sink to the arm side life on the pitch, setting up a 55-grade slider that plays well off the fastball. Like Delaplane, Mills has an outside shot to break camp with the big club, and if not likely sees the big leagues at some point later in the season. 28. Adam Macko, LHP Macko is a fun left-hander to watch; he’s aggressive, very athletic, and works fast. He also has an above-average curveball that projects to plus, and if you know anything about me at all you probably know I love me some left-handed curveballs. Macko lacks the stature of the protypical, projectable arm at just 6-feet and 180 pounds, which is part of the reason he doesn’t rank 10 spots higher. He’s touched 93-94 mph, but in Everett two summers ago was mostly 89-90, and it remains to be seen how he handles the workload of a pro starter. On the flip side, he might be a four-pitch arm, and has separated himself as the best of the club’s prep arms for their 2019 draft class. 27. Joey Gerber, RHR Gerber offers size, some athleticism, deception from a three-quarters slot and a sinking fastball up to 98 mph. He was mostly 93-95 in the big leagues last summers, and at times struggled to stay above 92, and the slider was quite flat. He’ll have to finish better through his release point to get the bite on his slider and command both his pitches better. Doing so could lead him to a setup-style role with some chances in high-leverage situations, but there’s work to do here despite a lot of success in the minors, including a 112-30 K/BB ratio across four levels. Gerber enters camp with a chance to show he’s ready for a big-league role, but the better bet is he starts in Triple-A Tacoma and is one of the first handful of relievers to get the call as the season progresses. 26. Yohan Ramirez, RHR Ramirez’s raw stuff is pretty good, and it kept him from disastrous results in 2020 despite walking more than 21% of the batters he faced. He’s up to 98 mph with the fastball and he ditched the curveball for a plus slider in the low-80s. Ramirez has to throw more strikes to get back to the big leagues, and that means repeating his delivery and finishing through a consistent release point. I’m projecting he starts 2021 in Tacoma, considering the additions Seattle has made to the reliever corps over the winter. 25. Braden Bishop, CF The former UW standout still possesses the elite defensive chops and at least 65-grade speed, but he’s struggled in sporadic opportunities in the majors, showing shaky discipline and some timing issues. The swing isn’t clean, but he’s worked to kill a trigger tick that should allow his above-average bat speed to play better, which suggests a better shot to make consistent contact and take advantage of improved raw power. His raw speed has never resulted in a lot of stolen bases, but he’s a very good baserunner and can handle the bat in small ball opportunities. Bishop’s defensive instincts are terrific — the best I’ve ever seen from a prospect. He gets very good jumps, reads balls off the bat at an elite level and his routes are pristine. He also throws well, generally receiving above-average grades. If he hits even a little bit he’s a major leaguer, even as a fourth outfielder or platoon option, but he’s running out of time, both in terms of age (27) and chances in Seattle. He has an option left, but could earn a spot on the Opening Day roster as part of the at-least temporary solution in left field prior to the arrival of Jarred Kelenic. 24. George Feliz, CF The Mariners signed Feliz as part of their 2019 July 2 class for his athleticism, advanced hitting skills and legitimate chance to stick in center. He projects for a lot of above-average tools, with present plus speed, a plus arm and a hit tool reminiscent of a .300 or better hitter with good OBPs. He’ll get on the field for the first time this summer, so Feliz is a longer-term prospect. He has received comparisons to Nationals centerfielder Victor Robles from some, though I’d cut a bit shy of that, to be honest. At least for now. 23. Will Vest, RHR Vest was the club’s Rule 5 pick in December, plucked from the Tigers’ organization after his velocity ticked up beyond the mid-90s in the fall. A starter at Stephen F. Austin State, Vest has taken to the relief role and his arm speed has turned into 93-96 mph velocity and a slider that was sharper as he added velocity. He’s going to make the club out of camp barring injury, and has a chance to be a very good middle reliever, somewhat similar to Sam Dyson with better control, and therefore a better chance at consistency. 22. Anthony Misiewicz, LHR Misiewicz exhausted his rookie status in 2020 due to pro-rated service time rules, but his 20 innings pitched certainly doesn’t remove the prospect tag. The lefty was pretty good in those 20 frames, including a 30%-7% K/BB ratio and a 98th percentile barrel rate. But he still gave up a lot of hard contact and right-handed batters did almost all of that damage (.308/.386/.590), and all of it off his cutter and curveball. He can use the cutter more effectively in on righties, or use his 93-95 mph four-seamer more often. But command is a rather large part of the success in these situations, too. Misiewicz’s ceiling is multi-inning middle reliever — but he’s ready to take on a similar role immediately (since he did it fairly well last season), so his lack of reward is mitigated some by both ETA and probability. 21. Ljay Newsome, RHP Newsome is a fascinating prospect, partially because he wasn’t one at all until his arm took well to gas camp two years ago. Until then, the right-hander was cruising at 84-86 mph and touching 88, winning with volume strikes and fringey overall stuff. He also lacks physical projection at 5-foot-11 and a listed 210 pounds that might be a few kilos light. Newsome came out firing in 2019, however, sitting 91-93 mph and even touching 95. Later that summer the velo faded, but he was back at it last summer in the majors, averaging 91.7 mph on the four-seamer. He’s still a command-and-feel arm with fringe-average stuff, and lacks an out pitch, but I’m not convinced we’ve seen his best curveball or changeup, and he’s used a cutter in the past that might help him versus lefties (.379/.400/.724). The best news is the command is consistent, includes all of his pitches, and at least borders on plus. He has a shot to be a back-end starter and hang around the bigs awhile, but could also be effective in a long role. Newsome enters camps as the No. 7 or 8 starter, and falls behind Logan Gilbert on the ultimate depth chart for 2021, so there may not be a lot of chances for him to start for Seattle. Or is there? James Paxton isn’t necessarily finishing the season with Seattle, Justin Dunn may not be a starter OR a big leaguer, and injuries are always a consideration. Newsome likely starts in Tacoma, but he’ll be back at T-Mobile in 2021.
Sunday: Nos. 21-30, Nos. 11-20. Monday: Nos. 6-10 Wednesday: No. 5 Thursday: No. 4 Friday: No. 3 Saturday, Feb. 27: No. 2 Sunday, Feb. 28: No. 1 Monday, March 1: Best Tools Tuesday, March 2: How many Mariners prospects would be No. 1 elsewhere? Wednesday March 3: Projected 2024 Lineup, Rotation, Bullpen Thursday, March 4: Projecting the Top 10 Prospects after the season The Seattle Mariners farm system is as deep as it’s ever been. There’s big-league talent beyond the club’s Top 20, including right here with Nos. 31-40. Below is the start of the Top 40, broken into groups. NO PLAYER POS ETA BEST TOOL 2021 31 Carter Bins C 2023 FIELD A+/AA 32 Alberto Rodriguez OF 2024 HIT A 33 Aaron Fletcher LHP 2021 SLIDER AAA/MLB 34 Kaden Polcovich 2B 2023 HIT A/A+ 35 Damon Casetta-Stubbs RHP 2024 FASTBALL A/A+ 36 Michael Limoncelli RHP 2025 CURVEBALL R 37 Kristian Cardozo RHP 2026 CURVEBALL R 38 Starlin Aguilar OF 2026 POWER R 39 Tyler Keenan 1B 2023 POWER A/A+ 40 Taylor Dollard RHP 2023 CHANGEUP A 40. Taylor Dollard, RHP Dollard is an athletic sinker-slider starter who came to pro ball with underdeveloped changeup and some concern about fastball value. At Cal Poly in 2019, he sat 88-89 mph a lot, but touched 91-92, and has some 93s on the board for some scouts. There’s some physical projection left here, but he’ll need to answer some repertoire questions to stick as a starter. Seattle didn’t draft him in the 5th round last June because they thought he was the next great Mariners reliever, so he’s going to get a long look in the rotation, and the fact he throws a lot of strikes could go a long way. It doesn’t hurt that Poly is a pretty good school for arms. 39. Tyler Keenan, 1B/3B Keenan is a big, slugging left-handed bat with significant concerns about his ability to man third base, which puts pretty much every ounce of pressure available on his ability to hit and hit with power. He generates easy loft with a classic power swing but at Mississippi made consistent contact and proved adept at working counts and taking walks. He might be a three true outcome bat, but there are signs of more if given time to adjust to professional pitching. 38. Starlin Aguilar, OF Aguilar, just signed in January out of the Dominican Republic, is a sturdily-built left-handed hitter with a chance to hit for corner-type power thanks to a short swing and plus bat speed. Most project him to move from his listed position of second base over to third. I have him as an outfielder; there’s enough athleticism and arm to fit in left field and while he can field a ground ball, he lacks natural infield actions and likely outgrows both second and third, so I’m skipping that move, though Aguilar will be given every opportunity to prove he can handle it — and hit enough to profile there. 37. Kristian Cardozo, RHP Seattle swooped in late on the Venezuelan Cardozo after the Los Angeles Dodgers back out in July, 2019. The right-hander offers some projection from his 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame (at signing), and a fastball already into the low-90s without much effort. His 71-76 mph curveball has varied shapes, but projects as at least average, and he’s shown good feel for a tailing changeup. Cardozo has a legitimate chance to develop as a starter and sure looks the part physically. 36. Michael Limoncelli, RHP Limoncelli had Tommy John surgery before the Mariners made him their sixth-round pick back in 2019. He was up to 94 mph the previous summer with a projectable curveball. He’s a good athlete with foundational arm action, and should be jumping out of his sleeves to get pitching again this spring. He’s likely to start the year in extended spring training, and may not leave Peoria all season, but once he’s rolling he could move quickly through the lower minors with command of his top two offerings. 35. Damon Casetta-Stubbs, RHP Casetta-Stubbs, 21, was the club’s 11th-round pick in 2018 out of Vancouver, Wash., and has flashed four pitches and maturity in his 26 professional appearances. He’s touched the mid-90s with his fastball, but as a pro he’s been more 88-92 mph. He has two breaking balls, both of which may be big-league pitches. The slider is the better of the two right now, and the changeup should develop over time thanks to consistent arm speed and deception. DC-S, all 6-foot-4 and 230 pounds of him, remains a project and is future role is up in the air, but the physicality and projectable velocity suggest a strong chance of a valuable arm. 34. Kaden Polcovich, 2B Polcovich was overdrafted in Round 3 last June, but he’ll do a lot of things that could push him through the minors fairly quickly. First off, his only flaring weakness is power at the plate; he’ll make contact, draw some walks, he runs well and can play at least two infield positions — second base, third base — and should be able to handle at least left field, if not center if given the chance. He will reach the gaps, so don’t let his 5-foot-10, 185-pound frame fool you … well, not too much, anyway, since most scouts tell me he’s more like 5-8. But he performed in his short time at Oklahoma State and the plate skills are legitimate. 33. Aaron Fletcher, LHP Fletcher came over with Taylor Guilbeau in the deal with the Washington Nationals in July of 2019. He’s up to 96 mph when he’s right and the funk in his delivery offers deception, thanks to an aggressive from leg, a tucked front shoulder and a long slingshot-style arm path behind it all. His slider is below average, though it plays up some as a sweeper versus lefties, but it lacks depth. He’s flashed a fringe-average changeup that may be key for his chances versus right-handed batters. Fletcher is purely a reliever and made his debut last season, walking seven and striking out seven in 4.1 innings of work, showing off his profile in one simple line. If he throws strikes, he has a chance to stick this season and be a difficult at-bat, ala Tony Sipp. 32. Alberto Rodriguez, OF Rodriguez is a difficult profile, since he comes to Seattle with corner-outfield defense and an up-the-middle bat. He’s just 5-foot-11 and 186 pounds, but has a compact swing and has made a lot of loud contact in the DSL and Gulf Coast League. He should continue to show consistent contact rates, but the Mariners could view Rodriguez as a real candidate for some swing adjustments and a little more power, as scouts do like his quick wrists and ability to cover the strike zone. He’s just an average runner with a 50-55 arm, so left field seems about right, but even without much power there’s a chance the bat value grows through on-base skills and a high average. 31. Carter Bins, C Bins’ swing was a mess most or all his college career with aggressive rotation and too many parts, but he knows the strike zone and uses a lot of the field. Seattle made progress in Year 1 with the swing and he smacked seven home runs in 49 games in Everett just weeks after signing. His bat speed is fringey, but he’s worked to shorten it with good results. Bins has some defensive chops, and looked better late in the year in terms of getting his glove down and using his feet for lateral range. He has terrific arm strength, but his accuracy was inconsistent at UNLV and his first stint in pro ball. Bins profiles as a backup led by above-average raw power and the ability to draw walks.
Since we’re just days from pitchers and catchers reporting for spring training, let’s continue the discussions, preview-style. First, we talked pitchers — starters and relievers alike — so now let’s go over every position player. All players on the 40-man roster and others invited to camp are discussed below. The Mariners, as a team, ranked No. 22 in runs scored a year ago. They finished No. 24 in batting average at .226, No. 26 in on-base percentage (.309) and No. 28 in slugging at .370. The club’s 91 wRC+ ranked No. 23. Seattle was 25th in the league with 60 home runs, 13th in walk rate (9.5%), and struck out 25% of the time, good for 8th-most in baseball. On the bases, the club finished No. 2 in the entire league behind the Colorado Rockies by one measure — rankings seen here. Defensively, the Mariners ranked No. 9 in MLB in Defensive Runs Saved, but several other metrics grade them below average. Of course, they did all that without their best player, and over a small sample, so caveats apply in either direction. Projections below are subject to change with roster additions. Projected Starting Infield The starting infield is going to look very similar to start 2021, with three returning starters and a part-timer from a year ago likely taking over regularly. Evan White, 1B 2020: .176/.252/.346, 8 HR, 8.9% BB, 41.6% K, 66 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR White was quite literally hit or miss in 54 games last season, struggling to make consistent contact and landing on the extreme edges in terms of batted balls — 84.7% registered as ground balls or fly balls, just 15.3% line drives. Hitting the ball hard is not an issue, as evidenced by his average exit velocity of 91.7 mph, hard-hit rate of 52.5%, and barrel percentage of 14.1, and neither is generating loft anymore, thanks to adjustments made in the minors. But he whiffed on more than 15% of his swings, the 16th-highest rate in all of baseball among batters with 200 or more plate appearances. There was a hole at the top of the zone and above his hands where opposing teams attacked with velocity, and he struggled mightily versus any kind of offspeed stuff. He’s the best defensive first baseman I’ve seen — ever — and can make plays with his feet, eyes, arm, and instincts, but to serve in a regular role in the majors he has a lot of areas to improve at the plate. The good news is, they’re the types of things that come with experience — plate coverage, overall discipline, swing consistency — and his chase rate last season of 28.4% is acceptable for a run producer. Dylan Moore, 2B 2020: .255/.358/.496, 8 HR, 8.8% BB, 27.0% K, 138 wRC+, 1.4 fWAR Moore was very good in 2020, but his sample is even smaller than most everyday players. He spent a stint on the IL and ended up with only 159 plate appearances in 38 games. Still, the results were promising, led by pop one normally doesn’t expect for a middle infielder, and speed one does. Moore played a lot of outfield last year but should be the regular second baseman to start 2021 — he’s earned that, regardless of the diplomatic position-battle chatter the club will toss out to the public all spring. Moore’s versatility is helpful, however, especially since the club is anything but deep up the middle. His ability to handle shortstop gives the Mariners roster flexibility — they don’t have to carry another player that can play shortstop, just one that can handle second base, and they have no shortage of that. The 28-year-old Moore made his living last season on fastballs — .333 AVG, 6 HR, .693 SLG — and was dominated by anything softer. He’ll have to make that rather large fix or his .255 batting average is likely to fall through the floor, and his power potential will follow. On a World Series contender, Moore is probably a solid utility player that received 300 PAs per season and can fill in admirably over the long haul if a starter suffers a significant injury. For now, he has a chance to be an average regular, and 2021 is going to tell us a lot about his chances to achieve that. J.P. Crawford, SS 2020: .255/.336/.338, 2 HR, 9.9% BB, 16.8% K, 94 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR Crawford has a solid 2020, despite continued streakiness and a lack of punch. He’s an above-average to plus glove, and that’s not going anywhere, and is very good on the bases despite average speed. At 26, there’s still time for the Gold Glover to break through at the plate, but it’s my opinion the swing he’s employing limits his ability to maximize his bat-to-ball skills. The plane, one of the line-drive variety, is ideal, since Crawford lacks the kind of raw power to take advantage of consistently hitting the ball in the air. But he gets his swing started a bit late, and I believe his hands are a tad high and a bit too far back toward the backstop as the pitch is released .In addition, there’s a bit of a bat wrap — the top of the bat is angled back toward the field, creating a longer path to get to the ball. Considering Crawford’s bat speed is merely average, these are real problems. As a result, Crawford gets jammed too easy and is too often late with the head of the bat. This makes him susceptible to, well, everything. If he cheats on hard stuff, soft stuff eats him alive. If he anticipates offspeed, he has no chance on fastballs. These issues also impact Crawford’s strike zone coverage. He makes consistent contact, it’s simply not consistently hard contact (31.1%), and he struggles to find the barrel (1.8%). I also don’t see proper balance, but that’s a longer conversation for another day. Even small improvements with the swing could show up in another 10-20 points in average and OBP, and may even unlock a little bit more power. He’s already a 2-win player, so more offense could shoot Crawford toward three. Kyle Seager, 3B 2020: .241/.355/.433, 9 HR, 12.9%, 13.3%, 118 wRC+, 1.5 fWAR If it doesn’t break, Seager hits it and hits it hard. That’s about where the veteran is as a hitter nowadays. He hit .260 with six homers and a .488 slugging percentage versus fastballs in 2020, and .321 with two home runs and a .536 slugging percentage versus splitters and changeups. Sliders and curveballs gave Seager fits, however, and carved his season down to decent. Seager’s contact skills remain high, but it may serve him well to be a bit more aggressive — he offered at just 40% of the pitches he saw last season — to decrease the number of breaking balls he sees. He’s using the whole field more effectively the past two seasons — particularly the middle of the field — and that game plan and mechanical adjustments have given Seager a better ability to cover the zone and find a few hits he wasn’t back in 2018. Seager did struggle late last season after a hit start, but the whole sample is small, so the struggles in September (.189) shouldn’t be overstated. But it’s also worth noting he posted a .371 OBP during that stretch, an extension of his improved ability to judge the strike zone and limit swings and misses. Seager enters his 11th and final season in Seattle with 207 career home runs and 280 doubles, both 4th in Mariners history. He’s also 4th in hits (1,267), 5th in runs scored, 4th in RBI, 5th in total bases, 5th in games (1,321) and 5th in rWAR (33.4) among position players. He can move into 4th all-time in games this season, and his defensive rWAR could surpass Dave Valle, Alex Rodriguez and Harold Reynolds to vault the third baseman into sixth place. Projected Starting Catcher Tom Murphy 2019: .273/.324/.535, 18 HR, 6.8% BB, 31.0% K, 126 wRC+, 3.2 fWAR Murphy, 29, got to his plus raw power in 2019, and missed 2020 recovering from knee surgery. He’s expected to be the No. 1 catcher this season, however, perhaps catching 55-60% of the games. While the power is real, there are reasons to wonder whether or not Murphy can replicate his 2019 offensive output. is strikeout rate is high, his BABIP of .340 is high, and there is more of a book on him now than prior to that season when he had just 210 big-league plate appearances spread out over the previous four seasons. Whether Murphy can do it again and over a full season remains to be seen, but I do believe he can hit .250/.300/.450 (considering the ball has been altered to somewhat limit the bounce). That, paired with solid-average defense, and Murphy could easily post a 2.5-win campaign, or better. Projected Starting Outfield Barring further additions to the roster, the Mariners will start the season with just two ‘starters’ in the outfield and what appears to be a timeshare of sorts in left field. Mitch Haniger, RF 2019: .220/.314/.463, 15 HR, 10.6% BB, 28.6% K, 106 wRC+, 1.1 fWAR Haniger’s 63-game sample in 2019 was weird. He hit for power — paced for 40 homers — although he wasn’t hitting the ball in the gaps much and his strikeout rate was up nearly 7% from the prior season. He did pull the ball significantly more in 2019 than any other year, which may have been by design, but it also may explain some of the inconsistencies in his ability to make contact. A healthy Haniger is a big boost to the Mariners lineup — again, I’d bat him leadoff and stop miscasting Crawford into a top-of-the-lineup role — and I’d be willing to bet on a return to form. In back-to-back seasons 2017-18, Haniger batted better than .280, posted an OBP over .350 (.352, .366) and slugged .490 or better with very consistent, sustainable batted ball data. Haniger swung through more fastballs in 2019 than ever before and there is evidence the cause was his attempts to elevate the ball more. If he’s healthy and gets back to his pre-2019 game plan, there’s no reason he can’t put up a 3.5-4 win season. Maybe better. There’s also a chance he does it with two teams. Kyle Lewis, CF 2020: .262/.364/.437, 11 HR, 14.0% BB, 29.3% K, 126 wRC+, 1.6 fWAR Lewis had a very good 58-game rookie season, spraying the ball around the yard and staying competitive versus fastballs, breaking balls and changeups alike. But Lewis should be more explosive, and in order to do that he has to get to his pull side more. Nearly 70% of his batted balls went up the middle or the other way, tied for 6th-most in baseball. Here are the top 6: Raimel Tapia DJ LeMahieu Whit Merrifield Jackie Bradley Jr. Kolten Wong Trea Turner See the common theme here? Yeah, those hitters have little in common with Lewis. They’re contact hitters, doubles hitters, and in the case of LeMahieu, a doubles hitter with some HR power that fits his home ballpark well. For context, among the top 25 home-run hitters in MLB in 2020, only three had pull rates under 35% (Nelson Cruz, Nicholas Castellanos, Juan Soto) and only seven pulled the balls under 40% of the time. Considering Lewis’ home park, a severe pull strategy doesn’t make much sense, but hitting a lot of balls to center field isn’t ideal, either, especially when most of them are of the fly ball variety. Lewis has 70 raw power. I’d rather he took more chances hitting fly balls to left and left-center than to center and to the opposite field. Slugging .437 is fine for a small sample for a young player, but the 2020 American League Rookie of the Year is more than capable of 30-40 homers while batting .260 or better with strong OBPs. Projected Starting DH Ty France 2020: ..305/.368/.468, 4 HR, 7.1% BB, 23.9% K, 132 wRC+, 0.9 fWAR France had a better season at the plate than Moore in a similar sample size, and he’s two years younger. So if you’re optimistic on Moore — and I am, at least for 2021 — you have to be encouraged by what France has shown so far. He’s a 40-grade second baseman and at-best a 45-grade third baseman — though the trend here is up — but he can fake at either spot and all signs point to France hitting. It’s 60 raw power and a chance to hit for average, suggesting his bat could carry him to an everyday role despite the defensive deficiencies. France’s average exit velocity wasn’t all that impressive last season — 85.7 mph — naturally leading to a pedestrain hard-hit rate of 29.8%, but just 16.3% of his batted balls registered as soft contact. That will lead to a lot of hits and suggests barrel awareness. His barrel rate of 8.7% backs up such a theory. France is likely to DH a lot in 2021, but he’s passable at first and third and considering how Seattle plays the shift versus left-handed batters he could be situationally playable as a second base option. Projected Reserves Luis Torrens, C 2020: .257/.325/.371, HR, 9.0% BB, 19.2% K, 96 wRC+, -0.2 fWAR. Torrens is a bat-first catcher at present, but has all the physical tools to be at least average defensively. He may be a bit too undersized to catch enough to ever be a true No. 1 option, but projects as a terrific pairing with Cal Raleigh. Torrens has always been selective and showed solid strike zone judgment in his cup of coffee last summer. He’s short to the ball with a line-drive stroke that serves all fields, and he stays back on breaking balls, suggesting consistent contact. The bat speed is above average and capable of producing the kinds of exit velos that generate a lot of doubles and at least a handful of long balls. Shed Long Jr., 2B/3B/LF 2020: .171/.242/.291, 3 HR, 8.6% BB, 28.9% K, 49 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR Long wasn’t healthy last season from the get-go and finally succumbed to surgery. In a 42-game sample two years ago, Long batted .263/.333/.454, which was more in line with his trends in the minors. He’s a good athlete with at least above-average speed, and is capable at second base. He has bits of experience at third base and left field, both of which may come into play in 2021. When healthy, Long stays home versus left-handed pitching and uses the whole field, and his average or better raw power shows up mainly versus righties. The swing is generally terrific, sans a bit of a hitch at its trigger point. But he’s quite adept at staying with himself and getting to his power organically. He has gap power to left-center and his two-strike swing is sound. I think Long is most likely a solid, multi-position reserve, but I do think the bat plays enough to warrant semi-regular time. Sam Haggerty, 2B/OF 2020: .260/.315/.400, HR, 7.4% BB, 29.6% K, 100 wRC+, 0.4 fWAR Haggerty is average at second base and may be able to fake it at shortstop in short stints, but his work in the outfield is promising enough to suggest he can serve as a true utility defender. There are things to like about the potential at the plate, but he gets out front a lot and swings and misses too much for a player without power. Still, the versatility and plus speed give him an inside track to making the club. Jose Marmolejos, 1B/OF 2020: .206/.261/.411, 6 HR, 6.1% BB, 27.8% K, 83 wRC+, -0.3 fWAR The 28-year-old isn’t a true outfielder, so despite above-average raw power he’s essentially a backup first baseman who struggled to hit for average in his first taste of the majors. I’m projecting Marmlejos to make the club, as of February 15, because as a bench option there is offensive potential, and because he’s out of options while some of the other competitors are not. If it were me, I’d DFA Marmolejos and start the season with two of the next four players below. Braden Bishop, OF 2020: .167/.242/.233, 5.9% BB, 29.4% K, 37 wRC+, 0.0 fWAR Bishop is a 65 runner with a 70 glove in center. While one look at his big-league numbers from the past two seasons may appear worrisome, he’s never been given an extended look. It’s always been here and there, optioned, called up, and injuries have played a role. While he doesn’t project to hit a bunch of home runs, there’s enough gap power available and he uses the opposite field adequately. With his defense and baserunning (though he’s not a great base stealer), all Bishop has to do is hit .250 with a league average on-base mark. This season may Bishop’s last chance to earn a role with the Mariners, and it’s plausible the club parts ways with Bishop — and a number of other fringe-roster types — prior to the start of the season. Ideally, at least in my opinion and considering the current roster, Bishop and Fraley start the season as the left-field timeshare until Jarred Kelenic is ready, whether that be April, May or June (bet on sooner than later). Depth Donovan Walton, 2B/SS 2020: .154/.214/.231, 7.1% BB, 35.7% K, 25 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR Walton can handle shortstop in a pinch and projects as average or better at second base. He’s an above-average runner with enough athleticism to suggest he could make a transition to the outfield in order to increase his value. Offensively he’s limited. There’s no discernable power, and his ability to hit line drives is below average. Walton has thrived off a high-contact, ground-ball attack. He has, however, always worked counts and reached base. Walton should start the season as Tacoma’s starting shortstop. Jake Fraley, OF 2020: .154/.241/.269, 6.9% BB, 37.9% K, 45 wRC+, -0.1 fWAR Fraley, like Bishop, has struggled in massively sporadic opportunities, despite production in Triple-A. Fraley isn’t the defender Bishop is, but he has more power to offer and a better overall outlook at the plate. He’ll need to make more contact, but it’s petty to harp on performance without a larger sample. While I think he and Bishop should team up as the left-field combo to start the season — barring a veteran addition to the roster — Fraley may end up starting in center for Tacoma whenever the MiLB season gets under way this spring. Taylor Trammell, OF Trammell did not play in the big leagues last season, but starts 2021 as a top-10 prospect in one of the top 10 farm systems in baseball. He’s a hit, run and defend player, but there’s untapped power potential, and he may be ready for the show sometime this season. I’ll have comps and tools grades for Trammell, and 39 other prospects later in February. Cal Raleigh, C Raleigh, a top-10 prospect, may debut in 2021, but he’s starting the season in the minors as Tacoma’s No. 1 catcher. There’s above-average power to offset a below-average but playable hit tool, and he makes up for a lack of prototypical athleticism with smarts, framing and throwing accuracy. The arm is at least average in strength. He’s a better left-handed hitter but he’s had enough success from the right side to maintain an advantage and continue switch hitting, though there’s also more power from the left side. Except to see Raleigh at some point in 2021, but likely later in the season, perhaps merely a September call-up. The new roster rules, however, increase the chances Raleigh is summoned prior to the mandatory 28-man rosters the final month of the regular season. Sam Travis, 1B/OF Travis offers a chance to hit for average with average power, but at 27 he’s depth at first base, and might be Tacoma’s starter if he remains with the org throughout spring training. Brian O’Keefe, C O’Keefe, 27, is back with Seattle for Year 2 after spending six years in the Cardinals system. O’Keefe leaves a lot to be desired defensively, though there’s been progress the past two years. He offers 60 raw power, but a 35-grade hit tool has held him back. O’Keefe may be the frontrunner to start 2021 as Raleigh’s catching mate in Tacoma, though he does have competition. Jarred Kelenic, OF Kelenic has played 21 games above Advanced-A ball yet we’re certain to see him at T-Mobile in 2021. He won’t turn 22 until July, so he likely debuts at 21, and brings a little bit of everything to the table as a player. He can defend — he’s more than playable in center, though as he’s filled out he’s lost some first-step explosion — he can throw, he carries above-average speed into the season, and the hit and power tools are well above average. There’s great potential for the weirdest scenario to develop for Kelenic and the Mariners. Let’s say Seattle leaves Peoria with a plan to call up Kelenic once the service time threshold passes just over two weeks into the season. That would make it roughly the middle of April. The MiLB season isn’t likely to start until May at the earliest with current plans to limit the number of players at the complexes to the ‘big league’ camps. Kelenic could, in theory, stay back in Peoria for a little over two weeks, then join the Mariners somewhat cold, not having real games to play in the meantime. He’d essentially have an extended spring training. Either way, the club’s top prospect will be seen at The Mobi pretty early in the season. Carter Bins, C Bins is a defensive-minded backstop, but has bat speed and good strike zone judgment, suggesting there’s power to be found. He carries a backup profile into the season, and likely starts 2021 in Everett, oddly, where he’s played every game of his career thus far. Julio Rodriguez, OF He comes with star-level upside led by 65 raw power, but he’s a decent athlete and should be able to hold down right field where he has a 65 or 70-grade arm and likes to prove it. In many defensive regards, he’s very Jay Buhner-like. He has a lot of work to do, however, and represents one of the more intriguing player development decisions of the spring for the Mariners: Where does Rodriguez begin his 2021 season? He just turned 20 in late December, has just 97 games of professional experience and has just 84 games above rookie ball — 17 of those finished out the 2019 season in Advanced-A. He was hurt for much of last summer and his only real development time has come this winter, and without good results. The smart route is Double-A Arkansas to start, with an open mind as to how quickly he can move to Triple-A. The goal here should be to expose to him to the best pitching possible while giving him a real chance to have some success in the meantime. Let him make an adjustment or two, put it into play with good results for at least a few months, then move up a level. Dillon Thomas, OF Thomas, 28, was a fourth-round pick in 2011 by the Rockies and reached as high as Triple-A. He spent all of 2019 in Double-A with the Brewers. He’s a big swinger with above-average raw power. There’s been far too much swing and miss in his game, but he runs well and is a solid defender in the outfield corners. Jantzen Witte, 1B/3B Witte, 31, spent seven seasons in the Boston Red Sox organization and comes to Seattle as corner-infield depth. He has a shot to stick as an option in Triple-A Tacoma. Witte has never hit for power, however, so this signing and invite remain as puzzling as it was when the ink was damp. Josh Morgan, C Morgan just turned 25 and is a converted infielder, having just started to catch in 2018 (319 innings that year, nine in 2019). As a bat he has patience and discipline, but no real power, but his athleticism suggests a chance to catch. He’s been adding strength and good weight to his frame. Jordan Cowan, 2B Cowan, a product of Kentlake High School, doesn’t wow you in any manner, but after seven years has a career .270 average in the minors and is capable at second, short and third. Jose Godoy, C Godoy has shown big-league defensive abilities, including an above-average throwing arm. The swing needs a lot of work abut he offers legit bat speed, and bats left-handed, sometime a slight advantage for catchers when all else is equal. Godoy has a good chance to beat out O’Keefe for a spot on Tacoma’s roster to work with Raleigh. Eric Filia, OF Filia has hit for average at every level, but has failed three drug tests and served two suspensions. He also was suspended at UCLA for plagiarism. So, despite the hit tool, there are some off-the-field concerns. But personally, my concerns in regards to the failed drug tests are about Filia the person, not Filia the baseball player. They were drugs of abuse, not PEDs. On the field, I also have issues with Filia’s prospects. Yes, he’s hit everywhere, carrying a career .320 average and .412 OBP in the minors into spring training. But he’s also always been old for the level at every stop but one, and offers little to zero defensive value. He was 23 when he batted .362/.450/.496 in short-season ball in 2016. He was more than a year older than the average player the following season in Modesto when he hit .326/.407/.434. That trend continue until 2019 when he was exactly the average age of his peers in the PCL. Without power or defensive value, it’s difficult to project Filia as more than an up-and-down, part-time player. He’s now 27 and running out of time. Luis Liberato, OF There was a time Liberato was merely a good athlete that lacked instincts in all facets. While he doesn’t project to hit enough for the majors, he does offer plus speed and above-average defense in center. He also throws well, and with accuracy. Liberato isn’t much of a prospect anymore at 25 and having not hit above Class-A Modesto.
Unless regular-scheduled programming is preempted by an agreement between the owners and the MLBPA, the Seattle Mariners, and 29 other clubs, are due to report for spring training in the next several days. This suggests at least a near-complete list of report-date rosters, so let’s go through this group by group. Projected Starting Rotation With the Mariners sticking with a six-man rotation, much to the apparent chagrin of one Marco Gonzales, bless his heart (I agree with him), it looks like their six are already in camp — barring a last-second free-agent addition or trade that ultimately upgrades the unit, which isn’t a far-fetched possibility. Marco Gonzales SNK: 87-90 (45.3%) CUT: 84-86 (24.3%) CB: 74-77 (16.1%) CH: 80-82 (14.4%) One of the more underappreciated players in baseball, Gonzales is coming off 3.5, 3.7 and 2.0 fWAR season, the latter in just 11 starts. It’s plus-plus control, plus command and two above-average pitches, including a cutter that allows him to pitch effectively on the edges versus right-handed batters. His changeup is typically at least average and has flashed plus, but he didn’t even have it for most of 2020. It’s a unique skill set in 2021, but Gonzales induces weak contact by punching the entire strike zone with his variety of stuff, despite the lack of velocity. His sinker doesn’t induce ground balls (8.5% of balls in play in 2020) and he doesn’t generate a lot of swings and misses (8.4%) with anything. Gonzales is the left-handed Kyle Hendricks, and it’s about time folks start realizing it. UPDATE: The Mariners’ signing of Paxton changes the rotation projection. James Paxton (2019) 4FB: 93-97 (53.7%) 2FB: 93-96 (6.2%) CUT: 84-87 (20.2%) CB: 80-83 (18.6%) CH: 84-87 (1.2%) Paxton made just five starts in 2020 but was up to 94 in a workout in late December in front of several clubs. When hes right, he’ll live at 95-plus and dominate with a plus knuckle curveball and keep-honest cutter-slider. At times the cutter is plus, too, and he’s flashed a useful changeup. Seattle gave him $8.5 million guaranteed, so we can assume they believe he’s healthy and will start the season as one of their six rotations arms. Yusei Kikuchi 4FB: 93-97 (37.5%) CUT: 91-94 (39.9%) SL: 82-85 (16.0%) CH: 85-88 (6.3%) Kikuchi took a step forward in 2020, posting a 3.30 FIP in nine starts. While his control took a few step backs (10.3% walks versus 6.9% in 2019), his strikeout rate went up 50% to 24.2% and he posted a 12.1% swinging strike rate, up nearly four percent from the previous season. He also induced more ground balls by nearly eight percent, perhaps as a result of the increased use of the cutter, which was classified as a slider in 2019. The slider he used in ’20 was a better version, nearly three miles-per-hour slower, and he ditched the mid-70s curveball, which looked pretty but was a hanger waiting to happen. In general, Kikuchi needs to throw more strikes, particularly early un counts to avoid 2-0 and 3-1 counts, and if he could get a bit more from his changeup and slider we could look up at the end of the season and see an average or better 26-28-start season. Justus Sheffield SNK: 91-95 (47.2%) SL: 81-84 (33.5%) CH: 85-88 (18.4%) Seattle has essentially turned Sheffield from a thrower to a pitcher. He’s using a sinker instead of a four-seam fastball and it’s helped the lefty stay off the barrel and continue to generate ground balls. The slider is plus and a legitimate mid-level swing-and-miss offering, and the changeup had its moments and was regularly a part of his attack. The next step for Sheffield is command. He improved his ability to throw strikes with a more consistent, athletic delivery in 2020 versus 2019, but locating his fastball better, particularly versus right-handed batters, sets up the southpaw for a strong mid-rotation role. Chris Flexen 4FB: 91-95 SL: 85-89 CB: 77-80 CH: 82-85 Flexen spent 2020 in the KBO and enters 2021 as a rather large unknown in terms of how his stuff will play versus big-league bats. Flexen is built like a starter and has the delivery for it, bit in his time with the New York Mets (2018-19) he was used in relief and had problems throwing strikes in short stays. His numbers in Korea line up with his minor league performances, though, so it’s not entirely out of line with his abilities, at least in terms of throwing strikes. He used his curveball a lot more last season, which appears to be a big reason why he had success in 21 starts (2.74 FIP, 116.2 IP). Whether it’s a swing-and-miss pitch in the states remains to be seen, but Seattle is committed to giving him a chance to start for the long haul. The good news is, the raw stuff suggests it should at least be fun. Justin Dunn 4FB: 90-93 (53.8%) SL: 82-85 (15.2%) CB: 78-81 (23.8%) CH: 86-88 (6.0%) Dunn battled in 2020, but barely survived innings and starts. He ended the year with a FIP and xFIP over six, a 45% hard-hit rate and 19.2%-15.7% strikeouts-to-walks comparison. Too many walks and hard-hit balls, and not enough strikeouts, especially considering the flyball stuff. The lazy projection here is to banish Dunn to the bullpen, but I’m not sure that’s the answer for the right-hander, who saw his fastball dip a full tick, sometimes two, from mid-season 2019 to late-season 2019 and all of 2020. Velocity isn’t the only issue, however. Neither breaking ball looked better than fringe-average and there’s no semblance of a useful changeup. Not pretending to know what Seattle plans to do with Dunn, but unless there’s significant improvement shown in March he’ll warrant a trip back to the minors. Dunn’s stuff must become more consistently competitive to last in the majors. Rotation Depth Nick Margevicius 4FB: 88-92 (64.1%) SL: 83-86 (15.8%) CB: 69-72 (11.4%) CH: 81-84 (8.7%) Margevicius, who won’t turn 25 until June, and added two mphs to his fastball in 2020, touching 93 and seeing 91-92 just about every time out, starter or reliever. It’s a legit four-pitch mix with average command and above-average strike-throwing, but there’s no sign of an out pitch and the stuff has flyball tendencies. Essentially, Margevicius is a poor-man’s Marco Gonzales, but with some upside considering age and physical projection I like Margevicius as a sleeper if he’s given the chance to start consistently. He may get that chance from the outset in 2021 if Dunn is moved to the bullpen or shipped to Tacoma early. Ljay Newsome 4FB: 90-93 (49.4%) CB: 76-79 (26.7%) CH: 83-86 (23.9%) Newsome held his velo this past summer, which is a good sign it’s here to stay after the right-hander built up his arm strength and arm speed in 2019. The stuff was rather ordinary in 2020, but he focused on a three-pitch attack and pounded the strike zone. He’s shown a cutter in the minors which may be unveiled in 2021 in attempt to compete better versus left-handed hitters, who crushed him in 2020 (.379/.400/.724) in 30 batters faced. We also didn’t see the good changeup much, which impacted his ability to pitch to lefties, too. I don’t see a good chance the stuff ticks up enough for a high-value relief role, but a valuable swing arm or back-end starter remains within his projection. Robert Dugger SNK: 91-93 (10.8%) 4FB: 91-94 (42.9%) SL: 80-84 (26.9%) CB: 75-78 (16.5%) CH: 83-85 (2.8%) Dugger could find himself in a relief role where he may have a better chance to see the majors in 2021 for Seattle, but he’s primarily been a starter with mixed results, both in the minors and in the show. He has 45 big-league innings the past two seasons but ha shad problems missing bats and keeping the ball in the yard, a combo with which pitchers never want to be associated. Dugger is athletic with good arm speed. The curveball is above-average with two plane break and the slider flashes as a weapon. It’s a power arsenal but without the big fastball, though there’s good run to his arm side and he gets some ride up in the zone, too. As a full-time reliever we could see a bigger uptick in velo, so keep an eye on that this spring. Logan Gilbert (NRI) 4FB: 92-96 CB: 75-78 SL: 81-85 CH: 84-87 Gilbert doesn’t have great stuff, but it’s good, and it’s consistent, as is his present 50-grade command. The changeup still lags behind both breaking balls, but there’s a foundation there and it will flash above-average. He’s built like a frontline arm and despite less-than-elite velocity, he will touch 96-97 at times and simply needs to show he can stay out of the middle of the zone, both vertically and horizontally. He’s unlikely to make the club out of spring training, but as long as he’s healthy he’ll see a lot of innings in the majors in 2021. Roenis Elias (NRI) 4FB: 93-96 (50.9%) SNK: 92-96 (4.8%) CB: 76-79 (13.3%) CH: 85-88 (29.1%) Elias opted out last season and split 2019 between the Mariners and the Nationals. He was traded to Washington with RHP Hunter Strickland in exchange for RHP Elvis Alvarado, and lefties Taylor Guilbeau and Aaron Fletcher. His arm should be fresh and his changeup has been more of a weapon for him the past two seasons. Elias is the most likely NRI to make the club. Darren McCaughan (NRI) 4FB: 90-94 CB: 77-81 CH: 84-88 McCaughan’s stuff suggests relief work, as does the delivery. He throws a lot of fastballs and the secondaries need a lot of work from an aesthetic standpoint, but he hides the ball well and the movement on the hard changeup is late and to his arm side. He also throws from a lower arm slot — I’d call it slightly below 3/4 — and might offer a chance at a good sinker-slider combo if the club points him in the direction of relief work. Ian McKinney (NRI) 4FB: 88-93 CB: 75-78 CH: 81-84 McKinney is undersized but repeats his delivery well and owns what might be the best curveball in the organization — including the top prospects and current big-league arms. His fastball sits 89-91 mph, but will touch 93 with life, and plays up thanks to a deceptive delivery. McKinney’s changeup is useful, too, and he’ll live on the outer edge versus right-handed batters with all three pitches. He throws strikes and can locate the breaking ball. His severe reverse splits create some fog in his projection. Either way, the size and stuff suggest swing arm or multi-inning reliever, but there’s pitchability and playable stuff here if deployed strategically, and 2021 could be the year he gets a shot. Keep an eye on McKinney as a bullpen option. Projected Bullpen I’ll go eight deep here, even with a six-man rotation, since the roster will be at 26. We may even see times there are nine relievers, which is too many, but until the league adds a pitcher limit this is the world in which we live. Rafael Montero 4FB: 94-98 (49.5%) SNK: 94-97 (24.2%) SL: 85-88 (7.3%) CH: 88-91 (20.8%) Montero is a fastball-changeup arm, using two heaters in 2020 to mix up the movement and allow him to pitch to more areas of the zone effectively. He was very good versus both lefties and righties in 2020, though RHBs got him for decent pop (.452 SLG). This is where the below-average slider impacts the results and puts more pressure on Montero’s fastball command. He’ll get the first shot to serve as closer, though I sense the Mariners may deploy their bullpen a little differently in 2021 than in years past. If so, Montero will see more time in the 8th inning instead of being saved for the save. Kendall Graveman 4FB: 93-97 (8.5%) 2FB: 93-97 (59.6%) CUT: 89-92 (9.7%) CB: 78-81 (5.5%) CH: 87-90 (16.7%) I still prefer Graveman as a starter, but his injury appears to be the driving force to relief work. In order to make it work, we may see the veteran pare down his arsenal a bit, and could see an increase in four-seamers — or fastballs in general — up in the zone. The curveball is his worst pitch — and his least used — so unless there’s a plan involving improvement with that offering, it may be the first to go. Graveman is difficult to project for lack of experience in a bullpen role, but as a starter he’s been hit pretty hard, hasn’t missed bats, and his ground ball rate was down to 48.1% last season. I think of Graveman as the Wild Card for the Mariners; if his stuff ticks up and he’s able to find more whiffs, he could be Montero’s main setup man. Otherwise, and most likely, he’ll fit a multi-inning middle role who shouldn’t be asked to dig the club out of tough situations. Keynan Middleton 4FB: 95-99 (59.0%) SL: 86-89 (22.4%) CH: 87-90 (18.6% Middleton’s intrigue starts with the fastball, which is occasionally into triple digits with elite spin rates, suggesting there may be room to miss more bats with it. He does a good job avoiding the barrel and both secondaries produce swings and misses. He hasn’t remained health since 2017 thanks to Tommy John surgery and at least one significant setback in his recovery, but the velo was back in 2020. Control has held back the right-hander, too, starting with a career 10% walk rate. Anthony Misiewicz 4FB: 92-96 (24.4%) CUT: 89-91 (52.4%) CB: 81-84 (23.2%) Misiewicz has good enough stuff to turn into a Swiss Army Knife option out of the bullpen, covering multiple innings and dominating left-handed batters (.216/.256/.243 in 2020). He struggled versus right-handed hitters, however, enough to suggest he’ll need to be better to warrant such a role, or even more than a bridge in the middle of the game. Only five relievers in MLB used their cutters more than Misiewicz, but that’s certainly not a bad thing, in and of itself. Perhaps more curveballs — his best swing-and-miss pitch — can help, but this may be about fastball command. For now, he remains one of the more reliable arms in the Mariners bullpen, and carries some upside into the season — his first full year in the big leagues. Casey Sadler 2FB: 92-95 (35.3%) CUT: 88-90 (23.0%) CB: 79-82 (37.1%) Sadler flashed a bit the past two seasons split between four clubs, but saw a spike in swinging strike percentage to 12.9 in 19.1 innings a year ago and that rate held steady in seven appearances with the Mariners in September. The curveball is the out pitch, posting 44.4% whiff rate and 28% put-away rate in 2020. He’s out of options, so if it’s a close race for one of the spots, Sadler may win out as a result, but he might just be a solid middle reliever if he can get enough from his fastball and cutter to get the the curveball with two strikes. Yohan Ramirez 4FB: 94-97 (59.8%) SL: 81-84 (40.2%) Unlike a year ago the Mariners can option Ramirez to Triple-A for more work and there’s certainly a chance they do that from the get-go in 2021. The next veteran reliever signing to guaranteed dollars may very well suggest that’s the plan, if the club isn’t there already. Ramirez is athletic with a loose arm and he’s up to 98 mph with the fastball. There’s life on the pitch and enough of it to avoid the barrel, setting up a slider that carries plus upside (43% whiff, 27% put-away). Even fringe-average strike throwing likely turns Ramirez into a setup type, but he walked 21.3% of the batters he faced in 2020. Will Vest 4FB: 93-98 SL: 85-88 CH: 83-86 As a starter in the Florida State League back in 2018, Vest was 92-94 mph with a two-seamer, backed by a power slider at 84-86 and developing changeup, Since then, in relief and employing a more aggressive approach and delivery, the velocity has ticked up (mostly 94-96, but some 97-98, reportedly), the slider has more shape, and the changeup is more consistent with better velocity differential off the fastball. He’s athletic, and the delivery has become repeatable, suggesting there’s stuff and command growth to follow, which, in turn, suggests Vest has a good chance to not only stay up all season as a Rule 5 pick but help the Mariners bullpen and project well for the future. One scout told me if the slider keeps going in the direction it is, it’s plus, and Vest is a legitimate three-pitch option. Erik Swanson 4FB: 94-97 (74.5%) SL: 87-89 (17.4%) CH: 81-84 (6.7%) Swanson is a bubble arm to start the spring and has options left, but he flashed at 99 mph last summer to prove the arm strength is there for a successful transition. But he’ll need more than velocity to get there; the slider is well below average, the control is fine but the command is not and we’ve yet to see him string together consistent outings. I’m curious about the development of the changeup, which, even if not a plus offering, could help relieve the stress on everything else, but first and foremost on the lost of things to do has to be getting that slider up to par. Bullpen Depth Brandon Brennan SNK: 92-95 (31.8%) CH: 82-85 (38.5%) SL: 85-88 (37.6%) A healthy Brennan is a favorite to make the club, so he’s only down in here because, well, he missed most of 2020 part of 2019 with injuries. But he also has has issues throwing strikes consistently, rolling out a 12.2% walk rate in 44 games back in 2019, the last available qualifying sample. When he’s right, Brennan is consistently 92-94 mph with armside run and sink and a plus changeup that flashes plus-plus. Both pitches induce ground balls at a high rate. Brady Lail (NRI) SNK: 89-92 (20.0%) CUT: 84-87 (15.3%) CB: 78-81 (19.3%) CH: 85-87 (15.0%) Lail reminds me some of Nick Vincent, sans the high-zone four-seam fastball value that essentially made Vincent what he was. Lail’s mix is fringey, but the curveball, changeup, and sinker are average pitches. Considering the ordinary stuff, Lail’s control and command need to be better. He’s walked 10% of the batters he’s faced as a major leaguer, and with no swing-and-miss pitch it’s all about weak contact. Joey Gerber 4FB: 92-95 (27.5%) SNK: 92-95 (37.8%) SL: 83-86 (34.8%) Gerber’s stuff didn’t show well in the big leagues last season; I’ve seen him 93-97 with more arm side run and a better slider. If he’s going to make the club and eventually stay in the majors he’ll need the slider to pitch away from right-handed batters and induce whiffs. Gerber’s 9.7% strikeout rate screams the need for adjustments, but he did keep the ball in the yard, as he has in the minors, and there’s likely more of which to take advantage with his deceptive delivery, so I still think he’s a quality arm, he just happens to be one without high probability to start 2021 hot — or in the bigs. Domingo Tapia 4FB: 96-101 (38.8%) SNK: 97-101 (37.5%) SL: 85-88 (18.8%) Tapia, who also has a nearly-never used low-90s changeup, is all arm strength at this point. He does get some swings and misses from the heater, though, so it’s a great place to start. Problem is, he’s 29 and the slider as been stagnant for years, so it appears it will take a brand new idea to get a second pitch into the holster. Aaron Fletcher SNK: 92-95 (65.3%) SL: 80-83 (21.5%) CH: 79-82 (13.2%) Fletcher’s stuff outweighs his present ability to execute it effectively. In the minors, the lefty pounded the strike zone with his fastball and swept the slider for some whiffs and called strikes. There’s deception in the delivery but he needs to repeat to become a factor and ultimately use the secondaries more often. The bullpen may be comprised of a starter such as Newsome or Dugger if they don’t make the club as a starter, and Andres Munoz is expected to be back over the summer; Munoz was acquired from the San Diego Padres in the trade that sent Austin Nola to the NL West. Sam Delaplane Delaplane is a reliever-only fastball-curveball arm likely built for short outings. The four-seamer is up to 95 mph and the curveball is a tight spinner with downward break, potentially a swing-and-miss pitch. Wyatt Mills Mills is a sidearmer with a sinker-slider combo. He’s up to 97 mph and comfortably 92-94 with natural sink and run. Juan Then Then is still on track to see the rotation in Modesto, but could move quickly in a relief role. He was up to 99 mph in the fall and his slider has sharpened since the trade from the Yankees. Gerson Bautista (NRI) Coming off injury, Bautista is looking to get his velocity back, but also show vast improvement to his control. The slider is average or better and he misses bats with a 94-99 mph fastballs. JT Chargois (NRI) The sinker-slider righty is up to 98 mph and whiffed 31.8% of the batters he faced in 21.1 innings with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2019. If he’s healthy and throws strikes in March, he’s making the club. Nick Duron (NRI) The 25-year-old is a loose-armed right-hander up to 96 mph in relief. He has a low-to-mid-80s sider and a 40-grade changeup he doesn’t use much out of the bullpen. More likely to serve as depth in Triple-A. Moises Gomez (NRI) Gomez, 24, came over from the Twins organization. He’s 95-99 mph with an average slider, and has always missed bats. He’s a pure reliever likely set to start the season in the upper minors, but if he finds a way to throw more strikes he could find his way to the majors by year’s end. Taylor Guerrieri (NRI) Sinker up to 96 mph, curveball, and changeup, but the right-hander has battled injuries on his path to the big leagues. Spent 2020 with the Texas Rangers (5.38 FIP, 22% K, 18% BB), putting up good ground ball numbers. Matt Magill (NRI) At times, Magill was the Mariners best reliever in 2019, especially the second half of the season once GM Jerry Dipoto had traded away the seasoned veterans in July. Fastball up to 96, above-average curveball, average cutter. If healthy, good shot to make the club. Vinny Nittoli (NRI) Nittoli is now 30 and has yet to make his big-league debut, but he’s up to 95 mph and pitches well up in the zone thanks to some run and ride. The slider is at least average and breaks late, and the curveball flashes, too. Paul Sewald (NRI) The four-year veteran is 91-94 with a slider and changeup. He was serviceable 2017-2019, but struggled in five outings last season. Drew Steckenrider (NRI) The 30-year-old didn’t pitch in 2020, but lives in the mid-90s with a power curveball. He needs to find the zone more consistently, but the raw stuff is there. Jimmy Yacabonis (NRI) The right-hander is up to 95 with a two-seamer to set up a projectable slider and fringe-average changeup. Penn Murfee Murfee’s neither on the 40-man roster nor on the non-roster invitee list, but I think he should be. He doesn’t throw hard, but is another sidearmer with command and a good slider. In relief the fastball may tick up a bit.
When I was 10-years-old, my family was vacationing in the Catskill Mountains. While there, I plead with my Dad to take me to the Baseball Hall of Fame, which was relatively nearby. He finally relented and we made the trek to sleepy Cooperstown, New York. When we got to the Hall, there were so much to see, so much to learn. I fell in love with baseball that day. Still, one thought never entering that kid’s mind on that beautiful summer day: “I wonder who decided that these players deserved plaques.” Oh, how times have changed. Many years later, baseball fans are now laser-focused on the annual election of new Hall of Famers and the people filling out the ballots – not the Hall itself. The drama surrounding the ballot grows with each passing year. Also on the rise, animosity directed towards the process and the actual electors. There’s always been energetic, sometimes heated, debate on whether ballplayers merited inclusion in the sport’s very exclusive Hall of Fame. This type of banter used to be fun – at least I thought so. Not anymore. Vitriol weaponized by social media, particularly Twitter, has supplanted healthy discourse. Instead of using stats and anecdotes to make a player’s case, people are more apt to hurl insults and profanities – many times anonymously. It’s natural to want our favorite stars to achieve Cooperstown immortality. However, an increasing number of vocal fans equate Hall induction as validation of their team, their city, their fandom. That’s a peculiar correlation when you think about it. Perhaps a personal connection to a particular player and his accomplishments explains the passion displayed by fans. Still, nothing justifies the acrimonious behavior we witness in the months leading up to the Hall announcement each January. Candidates for baseball’s highest honor earned that distinction through hard work and a decade or more of sustained superior performance – not by playing in front of a specific fan base. Another factor fueling the Hall vote drama is the reality baseball writers are unintentionally becoming part of the story. That’s not good. I’m not suggesting the group electing Hall of Famers, the Baseball Writers’ Association of America (BBWAA), is responsible for the discord choking the fun out of debating Hall candidacies. Then again, writers publishing their ballot choices for public consumption well before the official announcement in January does add to the drama. Think I’m exaggerating? Check out the theatrics on display in this short docudrama produced by MLB Network. Acclaimed scribe Tom Verducci serves as leading man with his ballot appearing in a supporting role. Academy Awards, he we come. “The weight of history in your hands is heavy.” Tom Verducci takes you through his @baseballhall ballot… and the honor and responsibility that comes with it. pic.twitter.com/U6bnUfDiiE — MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) January 26, 2021 “The weight of history in your hands is heavy.” Are you kidding me? It’s a ballot used to select players for inclusion in a museum – albeit an exclusive one. Imagine the effort it must have taken Verducci to vote in our most recent federal, state, and local elections. You know, the elections with actual consequence. I’m not trying to single out Verducci, who has forgotten more about writing than I could ever hope to know. He’s the best of the best. But Verducci’s peers are increasingly injecting themselves into the story by publicizing their ballot selections prior to the official results announcement. Casting an even bigger spotlight on the process is the meticulous vote tracking undertaken annually by Ryan Thibodaux and his staff. Fans, the media, and even candidates can now monitor the progress of vote tallies from the time writers begin announcing their choices in early December until the official announcement a month later. Therefore, we basically know who will or won’t gain entry into the Hall before selections are made public. But is that a good thing? I’m not sure anymore. Perhaps Hall of Fame voting should be remain under a veil of secrecy until the official announcement. I realize that won’t be a popular sentiment with many of you. However, BBWAA members don’t divulge their choices for annual awards such as the Cy Young Award, Most Valuable Player, and Rookie of the Year. Wouldn’t it make sense to enact the same policy for baseball’s most prestigious honor? Will not disclosing Hall of Fame ballots until after the official announcement put an end to the on-line antagonism? No, of course not. Doing so likely generates a different set of controversies. However, the duration of hostilities should be much shorter, as it is with other major sports’ Hall of Fames. It’s probably a pie in the sky thought. But placing a renewed emphasis on the Hall’s mission, not the annual slugfest over the player vote, might reduce tensions. At the risk of sounding like a curmudgeon, I’d like to point out the official name of that wonderful place in upstate New York is the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. It isn’t simply a place to hang plaques celebrating baseball’s greatest players. So why the emphasis on just one section? The Hall of Fame’s mission is to preserve the sport’s history, honor excellence within the game and make a connection between the generations of people who enjoy baseball. Likewise the institution functions as three entities under one roof with a museum, the actual Hall of Fame and a research library. – Official HOF mission statement The museum celebrates so many aspects of the sport and those who played it, including many who’ll never be a Hall of Famer. Exhibits highlight topics such as the trials and tribulations of Black ballplayers, growth of the sport in Latino and Asian countries, and the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League. There are two permanent exhibits dedicated to a pair of American icons – Babe Ruth and Hank Aaron – plus memorabilia from the game’s biggest moments throughout its century-plus history. You can learn about the many records held in high esteem by fans young and old. The Hall also pays homage to the people who have brought the games into our homes – writers and announcers. So yeah, it’s not just about very small number of players enshrined in the plaque gallery. Although I wouldn’t recommend doing so, you could skip the wing with plaques altogether and still have a wonderful time at baseball’s Hall of Fame. To learn more about what the Hall offers to fans and students through its museum and education programs, visit its website. Perhaps focusing on the history of the Hall and baseball itself won’t resonate with the masses. Fine, call me a curmudgeon. But the current situation regarding the selection of Hall of Famers feels untenable. Just to be clear. When it comes to selecting players for the Hall of Fame, the BBWAA is the best choice for the job. Are the writers perfect? No. Who is? That said, they’ve done extremely well at selecting the right players. Still, the too public nature of the Hall selection process and the drama that’s increasingly consuming it are unhealthy for the sport. It’s draining the fun out of something that should be celebratory. And what is baseball without fun? I don’t want to know. My Oh My… [tipjarwp id=”2″]
While some Seattle Mariners fans are content with the grinding pace of the team’s rebuild, a vocal segment of its fan base is not. They want results now. It’s been nearly two decades since the Mariners appeared in the postseason and they’re tired of it. Enough is enough! Personally, I support the disciplined approach GM Jerry Dipoto and his staff are employing. That said; I understand and respect both side’s point of view. More so now after reading articles by Brent Stecker, editor of 710Sports.com and Dave “The Groz” Grosby, host emeritus of 710 ESPN Seattle. Brent preaches staying the course. Don’t rush young players, retain prized prospects, build from within, add premium talent from outside only when ready to contend. Naturally, long-suffering Mariners fans weary from years of mediocrity, who’ve grown accustomed to shifting their attention to the Seahawks in August, disagree. That’s where Groz enters the conversation. Groz believes the Mariners should act now. He’s not suggesting Dipoto should scrap the team’s ongoing rebuild. Instead, do something – anything – to excite the fan base before it’s too late. As Groz astutely notes, the Seattle sports market is highly competitive and likely to become more so moving forward. There’s the Seahawks, who’ve seemingly taken up permanent residence in the minds of local fans. Both the Sounders and Storm have earned their niche in the Emerald City thanks to their sustained superior performance. And then there’s the new kids on the block – the Kraken. In my mind’s eye, Seattle’s NHL entrant is the biggest threat to discretionary income currently spent on the local baseball team. The other franchises have already carved out their slice of the pie. But the Mariners’ lightweight status in MLB combined with diminishing fan interest leaves them vulnerable. Particularly to an incursion by a new and exciting organization determined to succeed immediately. Sure, there will always be “die-hard” Mariners fans. But we shouldn’t ignore the reality that college-age natives of the Pacific Northwest have zero recollection of the team’s last postseason appearance. They don’t remember “The Double” because they weren’t alive when it happened. Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Randy Johnson, and Jay Buhner were their parents’ favorite players. The best Mariner of their generation – Félix Hernández – is no longer here. They want something new and they want it now. That’s why those growing increasingly impatient with the rebuild’s pace are pining for top prospects Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh, Julio Rodriguez, Taylor Trammell, and even 19-year-old Noelvi Marte. After witnessing what 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis just did, they want more of that and less of what’s been going on at T-Mobile Park lately – losing. That brings us back to the Mariners’ current situation. Should Dipoto and crew remain laser-focused on their strategy regardless of fan blowback and the looming competition from Climate Pledge Arena? Would abandoning the rebuild for a win-now approach be better for business? I have a third option likely to resonate with some of you, but not others. What if the Mariners listened to both Brent and Groz instead? Continue developing the kids, as Brent suggests. But heed Groz’s warning. Add free agent talent capable of energizing the fan base this year and contributing for several more seasons. I’m not talking about premium free agents like Trevor Bauer or J.T. Realmuto, although that would be fun. Why not target an established name with recent success, not a reclamation project. How about former Yankee Masahiro Tanaka? I recently suggested Tanaka as a potential candidate to stabilize the Mariners’ young rotation as the club attempts to take the next step. The right-hander represents a veteran presence still capable of delivering results. Essentially, he could serve as a bridge to the organization’s heralded up-and-coming arms – Gilbert, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Juan Then, Sam Carlson, and Brandon Williamson. Former Mariner Taijuan Walker or Jake Odorizzi could serve a similar purpose, although neither possess the cache Tanaka does. In the end, the specific names may not matter as much as the team simply making a good faith gesture to reward fans for remaining patient. While my idea would buoy the team near-term, it wouldn’t necessarily guarantee a winning season in 2021. Still, it’d deliver the much needed dose of excitement Groz and so many others want and deserve. Moreover, this approach provides something Mariners fans are desperately craving – hope. Of course, the impatient among us will demand much more than what I’m proposing. I get that. But consider this stark reality. Even if Dipoto traded for Blake Snell and Francisco Lindor this offseason, the Mariners would still begin 2021 as a fringe contender – that’s it. The Mariners organization is deep with young, promising talent. Some of it arrived last season and more is on the way. But what the current team lacks more than anything right now is certainty. It’ll take a lot more than Snell and Lindor to change that. Other than Marco Gonzales, how much confidence do you have in the rest of the current roster? Although Lewis appears on a path to becoming a historically good Mariner, it’s plausible he takes a step back or at least stumbles a bit in 2021. Remember, the Mercer product’s career is a whopping 76 games since debuting in September 2019. Does Evan White take a big step forward or do we see more of the great glove, inconsistent bat on display in 2020? Like Lewis, White has very little MLB experience – just 54 contests. There’s a reason for both hope and concern with the Kentucky alum. Sure, he may flourish. But what if he doesn’t? The same applies to others projected to be in the Mariners’ starting lineup. Tom Murphy will be back after missing last year. But what is he, actually? The native New Yorker has 491 career plate appearances. Gold Glove shortstop J.P. Crawford has an 82 OPS+ through 218 games. Dylan Moore hits the ball really hard and may turn out to be a diamond in the rough. Ty France looks like he can hit anytime anywhere. But can the duo sustain previous short-lived successes over a full 162-game season? Perhaps, but it’s worth noting Crawford has more career plate appearances than Moore and France do combined. Justus Sheffield is another good news story from last year. Can he elevate to the next level in 2021? The 24-year-old seems primed to do so, but he too lacks a long record of success in the majors. And what about Yusei Kikuchi? It’s make-or-break time for the southpaw. Where does Kyle Seager stand entering the final year of his contract and possibly his Mariners career? Will he be a strong presence in the middle of the team’s lineup? Or does he end up leaving Seattle simply remembered as the last remnant of previous failed regime? Just to be clear, pointing out obvious blemishes and concerns with the 2021 roster doesn’t mean I’m souring on the Mainers’ direction. Quite the opposite. However, a lot has to go the team’s way for big strides – and a postseason berth – to become reality this year. Now, a word of caution for the fans okay with sticking with the kids until they develop. Sorry folks, they’re all not going to pan out. Consider for a moment the Astros, a team that blew up its franchise and started from scratch. The end product was a championship and a half-decade of dominance. Yet, not everything went as planned with their rebuild. It’s true Houston developed stars like José Altuve, George Springer, Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, and Lance McCullers Jr. But, as Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill recently noted, the same farm system yielded far less noteworthy names – Jake Marisnick, Hank Conger, A.J. Reed, Jason Castro, Matt Dominguez, Jordan Lyles and Jared Cosart. Haven’t heard of all of these players? That’s my point. Brent noted in his piece that rebuilds require optimism and that’s true. Thus far, Dipoto and ownership have demonstrated tremendous optimism and an inordinate amount of organizational discipline. That is something the Mariners have never displayed until now. It would be a shame to scuttle such a promising future for a possible whiff of fleeting success. And let’s talk about that infamous postseason drought for a moment. Dipoto can’t undo nearly two decades of mediocrity and disappointment. His tasking is to overcome prior misfires and transform the organization. At the moment, it appears he’s on the right track and should be permitted to continue. Even if the Mariners eventually reach the World Series or…gasp…actually win it, doing so won’t rewrite the team’s history. There will always be that long, barren period of organizational malaise and dysfunction in the record book. Sorry Seattle, nothing will ever erase that. The most logical method to achieve what Mariners fans are clamoring for – a true contender – is continuing on the course set by Dipoto. But giving Mariners faithful something substantive to hold on to until the franchise begins to turn a corner isn’t too much to ask for. Is it? I don’t think so. My Oh My…
Considering he’s reigning AL Rookie of the Year, it’s understandable why some fans may view Kyle Lewis as a future Seattle Mariners star. But is that a fair assessment so early in a young player’s career? Is Lewis a future Mariners star or something else? Just so that we’re clear, I’m not suggesting Lewis can’t be a centerpiece on Seattle’s roster when the club eventually exits from its rebuild phase. Just that we temper expectations for the Georgian until he gains more big-league experience. Only then can we assess what he’ll actually be for the Mariners. Remember, his MLB career to date consists of an 18-game September call-up in 2019 and 58 contests during a pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign – 76 games. That’s it. I realize suggesting anything but stardom for Lewis is tantamount to blasphemy in the eyes of some Seattle fans. Particularly, after the Seahawks just treated them to another early and disappointing playoff exit – sorry 12’s. Still, a closer look at the Mercer product’s season exposes volatility worth discussing. Stone Cold Finish By mid-August, Lewis established himself as a front-runner for the Rookie of the Year award. He was easily the best player on the Mariners leading the team in every significant offensive category through its first 30 games. Not only that, he paced the majors in OBP and was top-5 in wOBA, wRC+, and fWAR. Then, the bottom fell out. In the second half of the Mariners’ truncated season, Lewis’ offensive production cratered. The right-handed hitter’s batting average was worst in the majors, while his slugging and strikeout percentages were bottom-5. Another troublesome indicator; a sudden inability to make sufficient contact. After the Mariners’ thirtieth contest, 208 hitters attempted at least 150 swings. Only two had a higher whiff rate than Lewis. Whiff rate is the percentage of misses on swing attempts. Other notable names on the leaderboard include highly touted Angels prospect Jo Adell, teammate Evan White and AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Luis Robert. Highest Whiff Rates After August 24th Bobby Dalbec – 46.2% (BOS) Adalberto Mondesi – 42.7% (KCR) Kyle Lewis – 42.5% (SEA) Willy Adames – 42.2% (KCR) Jo Adell – 41.8% (LAA) Jorge Alfaro – 41.7% (MIA) Miguel Sanó – 39.9% (MIN) Gregory Polanco – 39.2% (PIT) Keston Hiura – 38.2% (MIL) Brandon Lowe – 38% (TBR) Franmil Reyes – 37.85% (CLE) Matt Olson – 37.4% (OAK) Evan White – 36.8% (SEA) Javier Báez – 36.5% (CHC) Luis Robert – 36.4% (CWS) We know current players are far more comfortable with striking out than their predecessors from previous generations. However, making adequate contact still matters and Lewis struggled to do just that for half a season, albeit a shortened one. Evan White Had A Better Second Half When we recently White’s 2020 season, the term used to describe his conventional stat line was “ugly.” For this reason, suggesting he was better than Lewis at any point of the 2020 season may initially come across as a form of comedy. It’s not. The Gold Glove first baseman’s overall production during the Mariners’ final 30 games wasn’t noteworthy – not even close. Yet, his numbers ranked ahead of the 2020 Rookie of the Year’s in nearly every category. As you can see for yourself, the bats of neither Lewis nor White were particularly productive during Seattle’s final 30 games. Lewis did manage to walk at a good clip during his prolonged slump. This helps reconcile the large gap between his AVG and OBP. White Was Also Better In 2019 Since the 2020 was so short, I decided to do another comparison between Lewis and White. This time, their 2019 season stats with Class-AA Arkansas. Some of you may be surprised to learn White was more productive at the plate than Lewis. In fact, the Kentucky alum’s .488 SLG as a Traveler was fifth highest among 131 AA players with 400-plus plate appearances. I have to admit that I previously missed that tidbit. Thanks to FanGraphs, we can quickly determine how minor leaguers stacked up against their peers across MiLB in multiple categories, included several advance metrics. Since a 100 wRC+ is always the league-average, White’s 132 wRC+ tells us he was 32-percent better than the average AA hitter was in 2019. Lewis was above average also, but not nearly as much at 109. It’s important to note I’m not suggesting White will be a more productive major-league hitter than Lewis. I’m only highlighting the disparity between their 2019 production levels and the subsequent similarity of their stats during the final 30 games of the 2020 season. For me, these factors establish the need to wait on more mature data before evaluating either player’s outlook. Reality Check Okay, I’ve demonstrated that Lewis struggled for half of the 2020 season, which may or may not be cause for concern. Perhaps some of you are now wondering whether he’s destined to suffer from the dreaded sophomore jinx in 2021. Although such an outcome is plausible, there are a few things to consider before you consider abandoning the USS Kyle Lewis. Teeny Tiny Sample I’ve said this so many times during the offseason I’ve lost count. Whenever we find ourselves fixated on 2020 stats, we have to remember an important reality. Last season constituted just 37-percent of a normal campaign. Therefore, treating a 60-game slate during a pandemic the same way as a normal year would be unwise. A Work In Progress We should bear in mind the combined major-league experience of Lewis and White is just 130 games. That’s a recurring theme with the Mariners. Only three Seattle hitters on its 40-man roster have more than 500 career plate appearances with any team in the majors. Career MLB Plate Appearances By Current Mariners Kyle Seager (5,534) Mitch Haniger (1,499) J.P. Crawford (853) Tom Murphy (491) Dylan Moore (441) Ty France (356) Kyle Lewis (317) Shed Long (296) Luis Torrens (233) Evan White (202) José Marmolejos (115) Braden Bishop (94) Jake Fraley (70) Sam Haggerty (58) Donovan Walton (33) For added perspective, consider this. The longest tenured Mariner – Kyle Seager – has more career plate appearances than the combined total (5,058) of the remaining position players on the team’s current roster. So yeah, we should give the kids a chance before passing judgement on them. Lewis Hits To All Fields A common solution fans suggest to combat defensive shifts is for players to “hit it where they ain’t.” Easier said than done in an era where so many pitchers thrown over 95-mph. Still, Lewis proved capable of spraying the ball around the field last year. Of the 88 players with 50-plus hits, only three had a higher percentage of balls hit straightaway or to the opposite field than Lewis. Highest % of Straightaway & Opposite Field Hits Raimel Tapia – 83.1% (COL) Jackie Bradley Jr. – 81.5% (BOS) D.J. LeMahieu – 80.3% (NYY) Kyle Lewis – 79.6% (SEA) Alec Bohm – 79.6% (PHI) Juan Soto – 77.8% (WSN) César Hernández – 75.8% (CLE) Nelson Cruz – 75% (MIN) Víctor Reyes – 75% (DET) Travis d’Arnaud – 71.7% (ATL) The names you see above are an impressive lot. Included are both league batting champions, four Silver Slugger awards, and a player Mike Petriello of MLB.com recently compared to a young version of the greatest hitter ever – Ted Williams. Lewis didn’t just slap the ball around the field for singles or doubles as we remember future Hall of Famer Ichiro doing. It turns out most of his home runs were hit straightaway or were opposite fielders. Last year, 68 other players and Lewis hit at least 10 home runs. Only four had a higher percentage of straightaway and “oppo” dingers than Seattle’s center fielder. Highest % of Straightaway & Opposite Field Home Runs Juan Soto – 84.6% (WSN) Dansby Swanson – 80% (ATL) Nick Castellanos – 78.6% (CIN) Eloy Jiménez – 78.6% (CWS) Kyle Lewis – 72.7% (SEA) Ronald Acuña Jr. – 71.4% (ATL) D.J. LeMahieu – 70% (NYY) Keston Hiura – 69.2% (MIL) Teoscar Hernández – 68.8% (TOR) Trea Turner – 66.7% (WSN) Christian Yelich – 66.7% (MIL) Considering so many notable names surround Lewis on our previous two lists, there’s a reasonable chance he can enjoy success in the majors. Improved Strikeout & Walk Rates We all remember Lewis bursting onto the scene in September 2019 with five doubles and six home runs in just 18 games. That said; he also had a 38.7-percent strikeout rate. Only Eric Hosmer (39.6) of the Padres and Toronto’s Teoscar Hernández (39) struck out more frequently that month. Despite the initial spike during his MLB debut, Lewis’ strikeout rate returned to a more normal (at least for him) level in 2020. While Lewis’ 2020 strikeout rate aligned with previous career norms, he did demonstrate significant improvement at earning free passes with a career-high 14-percent walk rate. Even when his strikeouts soared late last season, he still managed to draw walks at a 13.7 walk rate. Good enough for top-30 in the majors and well above league-average (9.2-percent). This is promising. Finally Imagine for a moment we flipped Lewis’ 2020 season splits. Instead of enjoying a torrid start, a stumble out of the gate occurred before a superb finish. Would he have won the Rookie of the Year award? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? For Mariners fans seeking recognition and validation for their team’s players, the answer is yes. However, Lewis would be the same player with or without the award. A potential foundational piece deserving more time to develop into the hitter he’s destined to be; whatever that is. For now, I suggest enjoying the sight of Lewis, White, and so many other of Seattle’s youngsters as they develop before our eyes. As Jason A. Churchill deftly noted recently, some Mariner prospects won’t develop as quickly as the team needs. Others will never fulfill the promise their prospect rankings once suggested was possible. In Lewis’ case, seeing his numbers plummet at the end of the 2020 campaign should give us pause. Especially when you consider his 2019 MiLB stats lagged behind White’s, who struggled mightily this year. Having said that, I do feel a degree of optimism that he puts his rough ending behind him and to good use as a learning opportunity. Assuming he continues to have a discerning eye at the plate, keeps his strikeouts at a reasonable level, and uses all fields, Lewis will be a valued contributor to the Mariners. But will he be a star? Time will tell. Considering what he overcame to reach the majors, I won’t bet against Kyle Lewis – ever. Instead, I’ll be rooting for him. My Oh My…
I’m sensing four things buzzing around the ‘sphere that is Seattle Mariners fandom. One, that the Mariners’ rebuild is very close to complete. Two, that the club’s efforts will go off without a hitch. Three, that successful rebuilds means a World Series, and otherwise it’s a failure. And four, that if the rebuild isn’t successful that it was a mistake in the first place. None of the above are true. Let’s chat. What Makes for a Successful Rebuild? Most in the industry would agree a successful rebuild can mean different things. Of course, a World Series appearance, win or lose, will certainly bear the aesthetics of a successful rebuilding project. For Seattle, it’s about opening an extended window of opportunity, and that opportunity should result in several playoff-caliber teams and at least one legitimate chance at a World Series — hopefully two or more — over the course of 5-plus seasons. Anything short of that and it would be fair to suggest the rebuild didn’t work. One can argue, however, a rebuild is successful if it simply improves the long-term health of the organization and paves the way for better times, or as one front-office exec said this winter, “are they better off, ultimately and for the long haul, for having gone through that process? If so, that’s healthy progress, and good process. That’s the floor, and a lot better than spending a $160 million, $170 million, for what amounts to a mediocrity … on the upside.” But there’s some gray area between success and failure. It’s really not plausible to believe the Mariners’ “reimagining” can end in failure, considering the foundation has unequivocally been set up for long-term success. But a true success? While this neutral patch includes a lot of subjectivity, it’s difficult to see tossing the ‘success’ label on it if there aren’t playoff appearances … plural. So, What if There Aren’t Multiple Postseason Berths? Whether or not the club’s rebuild ends in the kind of success that includes several playoff appearances, it was the right move for the Mariners after the 2018 season. The roster and payroll situation was on the fast-track to nowhere, and GM Jerry Dipoto took full advantage of the assets he had before they lost value by way of service time and/or performance. And at the very least, Dipoto has put together strong scouting and player development department, and replenished the farm system into near-elite status. What that does is reduce the risk of the rebuild itself — the exact opposite of running out pricey, aging veterans year after year and hoping for the best, which is what the club did the five season prior to Dipoto’s arrival, and to a lesser extent the first three of his tenure. But the Mariners didn’t just start a rebuild after the 2018 season, they changed their DNA, which may be the most underappreciated aspect of the entire process, and one that pretty much is never discussed by, well, anyone. Even once the club is no longer in what is often referred to as ‘rebuild mode,’ among other terms, they’re not going to conduct business in the same manner as before. We saw some of this in action prior to the 2018-19 offseason, but it’s clear Dipoto is capable of — and prefers — eating clean, so to speak. A safer, more organic manner in which to acquire high-end talent, and now with some evidence rearing it’s gorgeous face in the majors that it’s working. The way Dipoto has gone about things the past two years isn’t going to change. Sure, at some point soon — starting now, really, at least on some level — the club will start acquiring more proven talents rather than focusing on long-term impact and control years, but operational strategies will remain. The ‘what’ will be different, the ‘how’ will not, and that’s perhaps the most meaningful difference between Dipoto’s Mariners and the regimes that came before over the last 15-plus seasons. The yet-to-be-asked-or-addressed question now is “how long without ‘success’ markers, i.e. a few postseason berths, before the rebuilding efforts can be deemed unsuccessful?” When asked, a handful of assistant GMs and other front office types varied in response. “I think it depends on the expectations,” a Mariners rival exec said. “If you’re the Cubs right now, you’re not going to accept three or four losing seasons in a row, not in that market. So once all the revenues return, the clock starts ticking. With those resources, Jed (Hoyer) won’t get five years without winning some. It’s a different kind of rebuild — it’s more of a retool, and success means fighting in the heavyweight class. If you’re the Pirates, Ben Cherington is going to get time, he deserves time, and his job will be safe, and should be, if he gets them back to October at all.” A former GM agrees about expectations, but more specific to Seattle’s situation said “we should stop talking about (mid-market teams and small-market teams) like they shouldn’t have the same expectations, at least internally, and they all should act like it, so it’s apparent to the rest of baseball and the fans. But if you told me in five years Seattle (has home-field advantage in) a few playoff series, or better? That’s a success. Look at where they were, and you can build on whatever the results of their current efforts are, too.” Fans are always going to have their own standards, and the club’s own hopes certainly play a role, but I’ll stick with my ‘it’s already a non-failure’ tag until testing is complete and calls for more final grades. Is the Rebuild Almost Complete? Will it go off Without a Hitch? No, it’s not almost complete, and no it will not go smoothly. When the club set out on their path to rebuild pretty much from scratch, it had the look of a 5-year process. They’ve moved along a little faster than did the Houston Astros, who lost 416 games the first four seasons of their tear-down last decade and didn’t win more than 86 games until Year 7 when they started a three-year run of 101 or more victories. They got back to respectability for two years prior to that run, winning 86 and 84 games respectively in Years 5 and 6., and the Mariners’ pace appears set to get to this point by Year 3 or 4. But the resulting high-point of the process may not hit a the same level, and it may take just as long as it took Houston to get there. On the fast track, the Mariners’ ‘rebuild’ won’t be complete for at least two years, and there’s a decent chance it takes even longer. The hope, and it’s a reasonable one at that, is the club can win some during the latter years of the rebuilding stages, which may consist of 2022 and 2023, if not 2021 as well. And here’s where the “will not go smoothly” comes into play. A hurtful chunk of the young talent the club has acquired over the last two-plus years will either take longer than is ideal to develop into the impact players the club needs them to be, or they’ll fail to reach such levels altogether, which in turn can, and likely will, prolong the club’s efforts to turn into a contending club. In a perfect world, Kyle Lewis takes a full step forward and looks like a star, Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert hit the majors in 2021 and prove their worth, show flashes of impact performances and by the end of the 2022 season look like all-stars in their own right, while the next wave, Cal Raleigh, George Kirby, Emerson Hancock, Julio Rodriguez, start their own process toward similar outcomes. But that’s not the way it works. Prospects fail, they struggle, sometimes even the best talents take years to develop, and sometimes they just don’t turn out to be the core pieces clubs hope they will be. This is yet another reason why a club in Seattle’s current position, has no business moving potential high-impact talent — the Mariners need to throw as many darts at the board as they possibly can to land on a core they can build upon through such impact trades and/or free agent signings in order to get to where they want to be. Thus far, Dipoto has gathered quite the assortment of arrows in his quiver, and if one breaks there’s another behind it ready to be fired at the target. But there will be misses. Take the Astros, who reached the ultimate pinnacle, winning a World Series and getting to two as a result of the rebuilding process they began after the 2010 season. In 2015 they were hoping Jonathan Singleton would break through. They even gave him the Evan White contract two years prior. Singleton struggled so mightily he was DFA’d in November, 2016. Houston was also high on catcher Hank Conger, who didn’t pan out, 1B A.J. Reed, and catcher Jason Castro, who was good enough to stick for awhile but never became what they hoped he would. The same can be said for OF Preston Tucker, and 1B Tyler White. Add right-handers Jordan Lyles and Jared Cosart, 3B Matt Dominguez, and CF Jake Marisnick to the mix. At some level, and at some point between 2012 and 2016 when the club broke through, all of those players failed to reach the kind of impact status the Astros hoped. So rather than busting through in 2013, 2014 or 2015, it took until 2016 — Year 7 of the rebuild — for the Astros to do some damage. We can go through every legitimate rebuild of the last 20 years and come to the same results, and find even more glaring examples, but the Astros’ rebuild was highly successful, and was more recent than others, so it serves as perhaps the best precedent available for this conversation. So, since there will be misses along the way as Seattle moves toward competitive rosters and mostly organically, the path from bad to mediocre, mediocre to to good, and good to great, will be anything but a smooth ride. Now, if you asked me, right now, if I think Seattle wins 90 or more games before what would be Year 7 since the rebuild began — 2025 — I’d say yes, and I’d put my money where my mouth is. But keep your seatbelts fastened, because it’s unlikely to be right around corner, and it’s absolutely not going to come without potholes.
Evan White was arguably baseball’s best defensive first baseman in 2020. Regrettably, his offensive production was the polar opposite. These contrasting realities have a segment of the Seattle Mariners’ fan base wondering whether White can become a foundational piece for the rebuilding franchise. Fan apprehension about White is understandable. It’s hard to ignore a .176 AVG, which was the lowest among qualified hitters this year. Other than slugging eight home runs, all of the rookie’s numbers were significantly below MLB averages. Still, we should remember White’s ugly stat line was merely a short introduction to a bigger story yet to be written. With this in mind, let’s consider the former Kentucky Wildcat’s brief 54-game audition by reviewing several key points about his debut campaign. Some are good, or at least encouraging. Others are really bad, but need to be covered. Let’s start with the worst one. Historically High Strikeout Rate White’s 41.6-percent strikeout rate was second only to Miguel Sanó of the Twins in 2020, but it gets worse. The duo didn’t just pace the majors this year. They produced the two highest strikeout rates of any qualified hitter in MLB history. Highest Strikeout Rates Ever Miguel Sanó – 43.9% (2020) Evan White – 41.6% (2020) Chris Davis – 37.2% (2017) Joey Gallo – 36.8% (2017) Chris Davis – 36.8% (2018) Chris Carter – 36.2% (2013) Willy Adames – 36.1% (2020) Joey Gallo – 35.9% (2018) Mark Reynolds – 35.4% (2010) Joey Gallo – 35% (2020) Another indicator of White’s struggles was the high number of multiple-strikeout games. Even for a rookie, the right-handed hitter struck out at a near-record pace. Only Sanó and Javier Báez of the Cubs had more two-plus strikeout performances in their first 54 career games. Most Two-Strikeout Games in First 54 Career Contests Miguel Sanó – 30 (2015) Javier Báez – 30 (2014) Evan White – 26 (2020) Austin Riley – 25 (2019) Pat Burrell – 25 (2000) To be fair, White isn’t not alone in rapidly achieving a significant number of two-strikeout games. Stars such as Giancarlo Stanton (23), Trevor Story (22), George Springer (22), Kris Bryant (22), and Fernando Tatís Jr. (21) were relatively close to White’s total after their first 54 contests. Not Enough Contact Although White struck out at a record-setting pace, he wasn’t a free-swinger. Check out his plate discipline numbers found at Baseball Savant. Included are MLB averages for each category. Among hitters facing 750-plus pitches, White’s 43.8-percent swing rate ranked just ninety-first. Notable hitters swinging more often included Corey Seager, José Abreu, Freddie Freeman, D.J. LeMahieu, Bryce Harper, Trevor Story, Manny Machado, Nelson Cruz, and Tatís. Similarly, the Mariners’ first baseman wasn’t hyper-aggressive by chasing balls outside the strike zone. Although White wasn’t a free-swinger, his contact rates inside and outside of the strike zone were significantly lower than MLB averages. As a result, the Ohio native’s 38-percent whiff rate fell in the fourth percentile meaning 96-percent of hitters were better. Whiff rate is the percent of misses on attempted swings. The perfect storm of White’s below average swing aggression and low contact rates led to him putting just 12-percent of pitches he saw into play, which was one of the lowest rates among qualified hitters this year. Lowest Percentage of Balls Put in Play Miguel Sanó – 11% Christian Yelich – 11.3% Ronald Acuña Jr. – 11.4% Joey Gallo – 11.9% Niko Goodrum – 11.9% Gary Sánchez – 11.9% Evan White – 12% Yasmani Grandal – 12.2% Gregory Polanco – 12.6% Ryan McMahon – 12.7% A subset of White’s contact issues was the number of times he struck out on a called strike. On 253 occasions, the Lincoln High School product faced a two-strike. Once again, he led the majors in an inauspicious category by hearing a called strike three on 10.3-percent of those pitches. Now that we’ve discussed the really bad stuff, let’s look at factors suggesting White can improve upon his extremely difficult rookie campaign. Great Hard Hit Rate In November 2019, Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto told David Laurila of FanGraphs that White had the second highest exit velocity in Seattle’s minor league system behind only 2020 AL Rookie of the Year Kyle Lewis. This year, the 24-year-old validated Dipoto’s confidence with a 52.5-percent hard hit rate, which ranked thirteenth among qualified hitters. Hard hit rate is the percent of batted balls with an exit velocity greater than or equal to 95-MPH. The following list, which includes White, includes several of baseball’s biggest stars. Top Hard Hit Rates Fernando Tatís Jr. (62.2%) Travis d’Arnaud (57.8%) Miguel Sanó (57.3%) Ronald Acuña Jr. (57%) Corey Seager (55.9%) Eloy Jiménez (55.7%) Christian Yelich (55.6%) Mike Trout (55.1%) Marcell Ozuna (54.4%) Freddie Freeman (54.2%) José Abreu (53.3%) Teoscar Hernández (53.1%) Evan White (52.5%) Juan Soto (51.6%) Vladimir Guerrero Jr. (50.8%) Another indicator of White’s ability to produce well-struck balls was a 14.1-percent barrel rate, which placed him twenty-sixth among 257 qualified hitters. In 2020, MLB barreled balls averaged a 104.5-MPH exit velocity producing a .797 AVG and 1.373 wOBA. Moreover, 81.5-percent of all home runs in 2020 were barreled balls. Obviously, White’s proficiency at creating hard contact would be more beneficial if he put bat-to-ball more often. While his 14.1-percent barrel/batted ball sounds impressive, he had a more pedestrian 6.9-percent barrel/plate appearance ratio that ranked seventy-third in the majors and behind teammates Dylan Moore (8.2%), José Marmolejos (7.8%), and Seager (7.3%). Leading the majors was Fernando Tatís Jr. at 12.5-percent rate. Other Rookies Had Strikeout Woes Several other notable freshmen have recorded excessively high strikeout rates in recent years – Joey Gallo (46.3%) of the Rangers in 2015, current Mariner Tom Murphy (45.8%) with the Rockies in 2018, and Javier Báez (41.5%) as a Cub in 2014. Moreover, celebrated Angels prospect Jo Adell (41.7%) struck out as often as White did this year. Perhaps the most recognizable rookie with a super-high strikeout rate was Aaron Judge. Although he’d be the 2017 AL Rookie of the Year, Judge had a 44.2-percent strikeout rate at the end of the 2016 campaign. That’s the highest strikeout rate ever recorded by a player with 90-plus plate appearances during the final two months of any season. Since then, the Yankees slugger’s strikeout rate hovers around 30-percent. If you’re wondering why we didn’t discuss the high strikeout rates of Gallo, Murphy, Báez, and Judge earlier, they didn’t have enough plate appearances to qualify for the batting title. Thanks to COVID-19, White did this season with just 202 plate appearances. Just for fun, I compared White’s 2020 to the debut years of Judge and Báez. Coincidentally, their stat lines are from the final two months of the season indicated. Obviously, we’re talking about three completely different players. That said; both Judge and Báez have gone on to be an MVP runner-up after extremely high strikeout rates during their initial debuts. Perhaps knowing this fosters some measure of patience among Mariners fans concerned about White. Am I predicting White is a future MVP candidate? No, but the achievements of Judge and Báez suggests it’s too early to typecast White. No History Of Strikeouts Problems In 2019, there were 686 minor leaguers with 400-plus plate appearances. White’s 23-percent strikeout rate with Class-AA Arkansas ranked 303rd within this group. Furthermore, his overall career MiLB strikeout rate was 20.4-percent – very different from this year. Considering the large gap between White’s strikeout rates in the majors and minors, let’s review the MLB/MiLB strikeout and walk rates of the high-strikeout rookies we’ve been discussing. In every case, players struggling out of the gate eventually improved greatly once they gained MLB experience. With this in mind, please note White and Adell debuted less professional experience than anyone in our group. Each had just over 1,000 MiLB plate appearances prior to reaching the show. Could it be all the duo needs is more time to establish themselves as big-league hitters? A Respectable Six Weeks White’s overall offensive production numbers were undeniably bad. The again, he did manage to cobble together an encouraging 30-game span within the season (August 12 – September 21). During this time, his stat line was average-ish. During White’s decent six weeks, his .468 SLG led the team, while only Lewis (7) had more home runs. Similarly, the AL Rookie of the Year was the only Mariner with a higher wOBA (.337) than White, who also paced Seattle with a 15.1% barrel rate. Yes, I’m cherry picking. However, 30 games was half the regular season and 55.6-percent of White’s MLB experience. Again, maybe all time is what he needs to prove his value to the team. The Contract Isn’t A Big Deal When the Mariners signed White to a six-year/$24 million extension in November 2013, the news caught the attention of the baseball world. Per Baseball Prospectus, the deal was the largest contract awarded to a U.S. player, who hadn’t played above Double-A. Naturally, the contract received scrutiny from fans, local media members, and several scribes on the national stage. During the season, Jon Heyman of MLB Network mentioned White’s deal in a tweet that riled some Seattle fans. Evan White is said to be a great kid and he’s obviously a really good defender, but to give $24M to someone who’s only played Double-A and hadn’t proven he could hit a breaking ball was a bit of a risk. He should be OK but is currently batting .114. — Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) August 15, 2020 Some Mariners fans came to White’s defense by attacking Heyman, although it’s important to note his comments were accurate. The 2017 first round pick was hitting .114 at the time and it’s true signing a player with just four games at Triple-A to a six-year deal is risky. The issue for the Mariners is how much risk the team is actually assuming. I believe the correct answer is not much. Let’s explore White’s contract through its six guaranteed years and the three club options afterwards. The following illustrates his projected annual salary and the running total throughout the deal. All contract data is courtesy of Sportac. In baseball terms, White’s pro-rated $481,481 salary this year was low. Assuming there’s a full 162-game slate in 2021, he’ll receive $1.3 million. Among the 23 first baseman with guaranteed contracts, White ranks last just behind former teammate Daniel Vogelbach ($1.4 million). Even at its guaranteed peak in 2025, White’s $8 million salary currently ranks twelfth among his positional peers. Per Sportac, the current average pay for a first baseman next season is $5,826,987. He won’t exceed that threshold until 2024 – not exactly a budget buster. On that note, let’s not forget the Mariners are paying the Mets $3.75 million in each of the next two seasons so Robinson Canó plays in Queens instead of the Emerald City. Even if White doesn’t develop into a centerpiece on the Mariners’ roster, his salary won’t deter the club from acquiring other major league talent. His paycheck would be a nothing-burger for a serious postseason contender willing to spend up to its market size. Reality Check The Mariners expected White to struggle this year and he most certainly did. Perhaps management would’ve dispatched him to Class-AAA Tacoma to re-cage himself, if there had been a minor-league season. That opportunity didn’t exist, so he learned on the job taking his lumps as a major leaguer. Enduring such adversity can potentially be a good thing. Realistically, White doesn’t have to be great at the plate to be valuable to the Mariners; average would be acceptable. Remember, his 7 DRS led the majors in 2020. Not only that, just two first basemen – Matt Olson (23) and Christian Walker (10) – had a higher combined DRS for the 2019-20 campaigns than White’s tally for this year. And average is exactly what we saw from White during the 30-game period we discussed. Similar productivity sustained over a full season is all Seattle needs for the Gold Glover to be a foundational piece for the team. Otherwise, he’ll be just another in a long line of Mariner busts at first base. Personally, I’m banking on White being much better than average next year and that he’ll become a cornerstone player for the Mariners. He hits the ball extremely hard and it’s highly likely his strikeouts drop significantly with additional MLB seasoning. Perhaps, someday, fans will consider Evan White the best first baseman in Mariners franchise history. After such a turbulent debut, wouldn’t that be something? My Oh My…