While the big club looks to get healthy after a .500 month of May, the top talents in a very shallowly-stocked organization has changed quite a bit.
Here’s an updated Top 10 with scouting & player development notes. (A full re-ranking of the Top 25 will occur in four weeks in the Mid-season Report)
Only players in the minors on Jun 1 are eligible.
- Kyle Lewis, OF
Lewis is getting close to being sent out on assignment after spending the last 10 months rehabbing from knee surgery.
Depending on the timing, he could start out with some ABs in the Arizona League but will see a full-season assignment early in the proccess.
Lewis is capable of moving through Class-A and Advanced-A ball this season and setting himself up for a 2018 assignment at Double-Arkansas and ending the season in Seattle.
- Tyler O’Neill, OF — Tacoma (AAA)
O’Neill has had his moments this season but has had trouble making consistent contact. He hasn’t had a lot of problems with breaking balls but has found himself in a lot of pitcher’s counts, leading to higher strikeout totals.
It was always clear O’Neill was going to need time to run into walls and make the proper adjustments to climb over them, just as he did every other step of the way.
The power remains, the defense is being cleaned up and he’s a better runner than many think. O’Neill will turn 22 on June 22.
- Nick Neidert, RHP — Modesto (A+)
Neidert, unlike a year ago, has consistently sat on the firmer side with fastball velocity — 90-92, touching 93, rather than 88-90, touching 92) and has repeated his delivery and pounded the strikezone.
Neidert creates deception with his delivery and creates a bit of a cross-body effect — nothing like that of Danny Hultzen — and throws from a true three-quarters arm slot, generating horizontal movement and late life.
He’s been fairly dominant in the Cal League and may end the season in Arkansas.
- Andrew Moore, RHP — Tacoma (AAA)
Moore has pitched better in Triple-A than he did at Double-A Arkansas and should be one of the Mariners five starters right now — he’s better than Sam Gaviglio and veteran Yovani Gallardo.
He lacks upside — he’ll carry a No. 4 ceiling into the majors due to a lack of a strikeout pitch — but he’s safe and reliable.
There’s no reason for Seattle to wait based on service time and arbitration clocks, which should be and are reserved for premium prospects that threaten to cost clubs millions of dollars in additional payroll resources for hitting such status a year earlier than necessary.
- Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton (A)
Rizzo, who just turned 19 at the end of March, has shown well in the Midwest League, batting .278/.399/.365 and displaying improved actions at third base.
The initial scouting reports on Rizzo included both defensive questions and concerns he won’t hit for the kind of power that is typical of corner defenders.
He has just one home run and eight doubles and has struck out more than is ideal, but he’s young for the league and has performed admirably in his first full season as a pro.
Rizzo will develop more game power — he has average to slightly above-average bat speed — as he learns to create more backspin.
He’s currently rolling out a heavy dose of ground balls and low line drives, but he covers the plate, works counts and has drawn comparisons to Jose Vidro as a hitter.
This is a good thing.
- Anthony Jimenez, OF — Clinton (A)
Jimenez has come out of nowhere this season after spending the last three years rotating through the Venezuelan, Dominican and Arizona summer leagues, albeit with terrific results.
He’s more than held his own this season, posting a .306/.374/.529 triple-slash and the scouting report matches the performance.The swing possesses plane and bat speed, he covers the zone well and finds the barrel regularly. He’s a plus runner and defender in center field and will be 21 for the entire 2017 campaign.
Jimenez is the first batter in the following video:
He does tend to get too aggressive which causes him to chase balls out of the zone, resulting in too many strikeouts. But his track record suggests more consistent contact is an adjustment or two away.
- Braden Bishop, OF — Modesto (A+)
Bishop has had a strong, consistent season and projects as a big leaguer but needs to develop profile-changing power, and it appears he’s taken a step in the right direction.
He’s stronger this season and is swinging more aggressively when the count allows for it, using a very Jean Segura-like setup that’s different from last year.
Most importantly, he’s working counts in his favor and squaring up pitches more often than last season.
Bishop is a 65 glove in center and a terrific baserunner. If he can make contact and get on base, he’s a major-league quality outfielder.
If he can hit 6-10 home runs and 25-plus doubles on top of that, he’s a starting-caliber centerfielder in the mold of Denard Span.
- Chuck Taylor, OF — Arkansas (AA)
Taylor, 23, is a better prospect than fellow Travlers outfielder Ian Miller. Miller may be the fastest runner in the organization but Taylor is the better hitter and he’s a year and a half younger.
Taylor, a former fourth-round pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks, has hit well from both sides of the plate this season, but has more natural power as a left-handed batter.
He makes consistent contact from both sides and is more disciplined than Miller, both in terms of strike zone judgment and knowing his own swing.
He’s just 5-foot-9 but is sturdily built and has strong, quick hands that generate some pop, though he’s not likely to reach beyond the 8-12 range.
He’s an above-average left fielder and fringe-average center fielder but with more regular time in center — which he’s been receiving lately — he could reach average levels. Not bad for a Rule 5 pick.
- Max Povse, RHP — Arkansas (AA)
Povse pitched well in seven starts, reach the sixth inning in his first four outings and compiling a 21-8 K/BB ratio.
At 6-foot-8 and about 210 pounds, there’s projection left, but the Mariners have decided to try and get that projection in a relief role.
He’s currently on the DL with a hamstring tweak, but I’m interested to see whether or not shorter stints and a more aggressibe delivery create better arm speed and therefore more velocity.
As a starter, Povse typically pitched in the 90-92 mph range with downward plane. He’d touch 95-96 on occasion, setting up a 12-6 curveball and changeup.
The breaking ball lacks plane but the changeup is average to above average and he’s improved his arm speed with it.
In relief, Povse can max out his effort, ideally sitting mid-90s and developing the best version of his curveball, a sharper edition. If he continues to throw strikes in this role, he could see the majors by September — provided he’s healthy enough, soon enough.
I don’t believe the Mariners made the decision based on lack of performance. But at times pitchers hit a wall and a 6-foot-8 project doesn’t help the club for at least two years. Besides, Povse can always transition back if the opportunity arises.
Status: Down (role change)
- Luis Liberato, OF — Clinton (A)
Liberato has been on my radar since his 2015 year in Short-season Everett.
He lacks instincts but has five tools to fringe-average or better levels, including 55 speed and a 55 arm.He’s solid-average in a corner and at times looks the part in center. His swing allows his power to show up in games, as evidenced by his .455 slugging percent in 45 games this season.
But Liberato’s plate skills lack, including strike zone judgement and pitch recognition, and he tends to drop his hands and try to hit the ball in the air.
Liberato will not turn 22 until December and remains an intriguing talent, but he’s yet to put it together for longer stretches.
Photo: Tyler O’Neill, by Jim Oxley/HERO Sports
Jason A. Churchill
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