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Hoping to reshape the Seattle Mariners, GM Jerry Dipoto offloaded veterans this offseason with the express goal of turbocharging his farm system. Recent prospect rankings suggest Dipoto’s pivot is paying dividends.

Thanks to Dipoto’s maneuvering, MLB Prospect Watch now identifies six Mariners among baseball’s 100 best prospects.

Teams With Most Top-100 Prospects

Mariners cracking the Top-100 include Jarred Kelenic (23), Justin Dunn (66), Logan Gilbert (67), Justus Sheffield (77), Evan White (80), and Julio Rodriguez (86). It’s worth noting Seattle’s only 2018 entrant – Kyle Lewis – is no longer included.

The preceding table indicates the Mariners acquired three Top-100 prospects from other teams – the most in MLB. Eleven other clubs also found high-value minor leaguers elsewhere.

The outsiders Dipoto snagged continue developing in the minors, as do most of the names listed below. A few are major leaguers; injuries are slowing others.

Top-100 Prospects From External Sources
SEAJarred Kelenic / Justin Dunn / Justus Sheffield
CWSMichael Kopech / Dylan Cease
DETFranklin Perez / Isaac Paredes
MIASixto Sanchez / Monte Harrison
BALYusniel Diaz
HOUYordan Álvarez
NYYJonathan Loaisiga
OAKJesus Luzardo
PITOneil Cruz
SDPLogan Allen
TBRShane Baz

The White Sox sent Chris Sale to Boston for Michael Kopech and other prospects, including Yoán Moncada. Kopech appeared in four games last year before needing Tommy John surgery, which will sideline the 23-year-old until 2020.

Dylan Cease was a Cubs sixth round pick prior to a trade between crosstown rivals sending starter Jose Quintana to the North Side. Another 23-year-old; Cease is experiencing growing pains in the White Sox rotation as he adjusts to big league competition.

After missing 2014-15 due to injuries, Jonathan Loaisiga signed with the Yankees following his release by the Giants. Unfortunately, the injury bug continues plaguing Loaisiga. He’s currently on the IL with rotator cuff issues and out until at least August.

The A’s acquired Jesus Luzardo in the deal shipping Sean Doolittle and Ryan Madson to the Nationals. Arriving with Luzardo were Oakland’s number-nine prospect Sheldon Neuse and reliever Blake Treinen. Currently, a lat strain is idling the 21-year-old in the minors.

The Padres netted Logan Allen along with Carlos Asuaje, Javy Guerra and Manuel Margot by trading closer Craig Kimbrel to the Red Sox in November 2015. Allen made his MLB debut this year and is in San Diego’s starting rotation.

The prospect making the largest impact thus far is Yordan Álvarez, who’s already hitting tape-measure home runs. Houston acquired the 22-year-old from the Dodgers for former Mariners first rounder Josh Fields in a 2016 deadline deal.

Fun fact: During his lone 2017 World Series appearance with Los Angeles, Fields surrendered two home runs in six pitches to the Astros.

More Than Just Trades

Prospects the Mariners added via trades are generating considerable media attention both locally and on a national level. But there’s a homegrown element to Seattle’s rising farm system.

Notable Homegrown Mariner Prospects
Logan Gilbert
Julio Rodriguez
Noelvi Marte
Kyle Lewis
Cal Raleigh
Evan White
Braden Bishop

Braden Bishop already debuted with the Mariners and would probably be with the team, if he didn’t suffer a lacerated spleen. Expect to see the former Washington Husky often starting next month.

Gilbert’s stock is rising fast after being his team’s first round pick in 2018. Meanwhile, the power surge of battery-mate Cal Raleigh is making his presence known.

A serious knee injury profoundly affected Lewis’ development, although the Mercer alum can still deliver MLB value.

Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte are still teenagers, but demonstrate lots of upside. Time will tell whether either flourishes in the majors. For now though, their early performances are generating enthusiasm.

New And Improved?

Injecting new blood into the farm system can energize an organization and its fan base, but life teaches us new doesn’t necessarily mean better. Consider the sagas of two ballyhooed prospects acquired by former GM Jack ZduriencikJustin Smoak and Jesús Montero.

Smoak arrived in the deal sending Cliff Lee to the Rangers in July 2010 and was a Mariner for five seasons. Although the former South Carolina Gamecock could be productive, he struggled to consistently deliver results. Smoak never met lofty expectations in Seattle. Fortunately, he enjoyed a renaissance with the Blue Jays.

In January 2012, Zduriencik sent Michael Pineda to the Yankees for Montero. Pineda was an All-Star and top-5 finisher 2011 Rookie of the Year voting, but the Mariners willingly assumed the risk of dealing a budding star for a power bat.

In the end, it didn’t work out. Montero delivered 24 home runs and .383 SLG in 208 games.

But There’s More

Mariner fans are also familiar with homegrown prospects falling short – assuming they actually reached the majors. Here are high draft picks that delivered little-to-no value. Included in parenthesis is career WAR.

Lackluster Mariner Prospects Since 2009
Dustin Ackley (8.1)
Nick Franklin (1.3)
Steven Baron (-0.3)
Patrick Kivlehan (0.2)
Andrew Moore (-0.1)
Danny Hultzen
D.J. Peterson (N/A)

Dustin Ackley was the number-two overall pick in 2009 and made a strong 2011 major-league debut slashing .273/.348/.417 with 3.7 WAR. Ackley never matched these numbers during his final five MLB seasons.

MLB Prospect Watch ranked Danny Hultzen 13th in 2013. Unfortunately, shoulder problems have restricted the former Virginia Cavalier to just 23.1 innings since 2014. Despite multiple setbacks, Hultzen continues plugging away – he’s currently with the Cubs’ AAA affiliate. Wouldn’t it be great if the lefty’s long ordeal finally leads to the majors?

D.J. Peterson ranked 50th among MLB prospects in 2015 but has yet to reach the majors. After the Mariners waived him, Peterson spent time with the Reds and White Sox organizations. Unfortunately, Chicago released the 27-year-old in June after he slashed .185/.262/.362 with Class-AAA Charlotte.

Nick Franklin, Andrew Moore, Patrick Kivlehan, and Steven Baron have MLB time. However, all are minor leaguers with other clubs except for Moore. Seattle included the former Oregon State Beaver in a deal with the Rays to acquire Alex Colomé and Denard Span last season. Moore returned to the Mariners via waivers this year.

Although Seattle’s farm system has under-produced for decades, Dipoto did inherit some homegrown talent. Naturally, he’s dealt most of his inheritance receiving varying levels of value in return.

Positive Steps

On Thanksgiving Eve 2016, Seattle parted ways with Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker to land Mitch Haniger and Jean Segura. Marte is a 2019 All-Star this season with the Diamondbacks; Haniger and Segura were All-Stars last year. Additionally, Dipoto flipped Segura to snag J.P. Crawford – a potential long-term answer at shortstop.

When he Mariners sent Tyler O’Neill to the Cardinals for Marco Gonzales in July 2017, few fans were pleased. Since then, Gonzales has been winning over skeptics and was this year’s Opening Day starter.

This offseason, Dipoto traded Mike Zunino to the Rays netting Mallex Smith and Jake Fraley. Shipping James Paxton to the Yankees yielded Justus Sheffield, Erik Swanson, and Dom Thompson-Williams.

Robinson Canó was the established star, but the Mariners wouldn’t have pried away Kelenic, Dunn, and Bautista from the Mets without including homegrown stud Edwin Díaz last December.

When the Yankees acquired Shed Long from Cincinnati in January, Dipoto pounced on the opportunity to add Long sending 2018 second rounder Josh Stowers to New York.

Then Again

Not all JeDi deals of young players have proven fruitful. The fourth-year GM admitted to Seattle Times columnist Matt Calkins he “whiffed” trading Chris Taylor to the Dodgers for Zach Lee.

The jury remains out on sending Nick Neidert to Miami for Dee Gordon. Knee tendonitis is slowing Neidert, but the former second rounder is rehabbing and likely rejoins Class-AAA New Orleans soon. Meanwhile, Gordon’s production with Seattle has been disappointing.

Former Top-100 prospect Alex Jackson regressed in Seattle’s system spurring the team to trade the sixth overall pick in 2014 to the Braves for Max Povse and Rob Whalen. Still just 23-years-old, Jackson is with Class-AAA Gwinnett.

It’s plausible Jackson’s ceiling is backup status. Then again, that would position him to contribute more than the players the Mariners received. The team out-righted Povse to Class-AAA Tacoma; he’s currently on the 7-Day IL. Sadly, Whalen retired in February.

Understandably, the aftertaste from the Smoak and Montero deals and other misguided transactions compels some fans to feel angst upon hearing the Mariners are rebuilding. Oh and there’s the matter of not reaching the postseason since 2001, which continues to fuel pessimism.

Despite the Mariners’ underwhelming history of acquiring, drafting, and developing prospect talent, Dipoto deserves the opportunity to produce better results without having to answer for the club’s past mistakes.

Every ill-fated personnel move prior to September 2015 were the decisions of a bygone front office – not Dipoto and his staff.

Seattle Sea Change

Now, I’m not suggesting fans should forget previous missteps – just don’t dwell on them. Instead, let’s look forward starting with the changing complexion of the Mariners system.

A comparison of Prospect Insider’s most recent assessment of the team’s system to last year’s mid-season rankings suggests a sea change.

PI’s Mid-Season Prospect Rankings
Kyle Lewis
Jarred Kelenic
Noelvi Marte
Logan Gilbert
Logan Gilbert
Justin Dunn
Julio Rodriguez
Julio Rodriguez
Evan White
Justus Sheffield
Damon Casetta-Stubbs
George Kirby *
Josh Stowers
Jake Fraley
Sam Carlson
Noelvi Marte
Braden Bishop
Kyle Lewis
Cal Raleigh
Cal Raleigh
Juan Querecuto
Evan White
Bryson Brigman
Shed Long
Luis Liberato
Isaiah Campbell *
Joe Rizzo
Braden Bishop
Daniel Vogelbach
Brandon Williamson *
* 2019 Draft Pick
Bold: New

Over half the 2019 names are new to the organization. We already noted the swap of Stowers and Long. The team also traded Bryson Brigman for rental Cameron Maybin last July. The remaining newbies arrived via previously mentioned deals and the 2019 draft.

This year’s first round pick George Kirby debuts at number-six. The Elon product has just three starts with Short Season-A Everett, although he’s already receiving positive reviews from scouts.

Kirby’s teammate Brandon Williamson may evolve into a number two-three starter, but it’s too early to tell.

Isaiah Campbell arrived via a compensatory pick acquired from the Indians along with Edwin Encarnación in the deal sending Mariners icon Carlos Santana to Cleveland. A heavy workload with Arkansas this season likely idles Campbell until next season.

Several prospects fell out of our Top-15 for various reasons – Sam Carlson, Damon Casetta-Stubbs, Juan Querecuto, Luis Liberato, and Joe Rizzo. An explanation is available in our full rankings.

Next Gen Stars

Imagining a Mariners roster sourced by prospects we’ve discussed is an exciting proposition. Still, fans should temper expectations. Some youngsters are several years away from the majors even if they avoid injury or performance setbacks.

Remember, Rodriguez and Marte are teenagers, so is Kelenic. There are recent examples of notable stars debuting in MLB before their 20th birthday – Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Ronald Acuña Jr, and Juan Soto . But I haven’t seen any comparisons of the Mariners’ trio to these special players.

Still, help will arrive before the teen-aged wonders. We’ve already received a preview with the brief stints of Long and Bishop. By the end of next season, the results of Dipoto’s prospect should be on full display. Here’s a sample of players we may see by September 2020.

Potential Mariner Contributors By Late 2020
Justus Sheffield
Braden Bishop
Shed Long
Jake Fraley
Kyle Lewis
Justin Dunn
Evan White
Erik Swanson
David McKay
Gerson Bautista
Sam Delaplane
Wyatt Mills
Ricardo Sanchez
Tim Lopes
Art Warren
Matt Festa

Please note; the preceding list isn’t all-inclusive – just examples. Others may join the club, while some of those listed may encounter obstacles along the way or *gasp* be traded. Another realistic scenario; Dipoto acquires additional youthful reinforcements.

You Can’t Argue With Results

Okay, I’ve talked a lot about rankings. However, as Prospect Insider founder Jason A. Churchill astutely noted in December, prospects rankings won’t matter in the end.


Only results matter.

The improving stature of Dipoto’s system is encouraging, but the farm must eventually yield major-league talent. Otherwise, everything we’ve heard about prospects from the team and its broadcast wing amounts to bluster without substance – or results.

My assessment is the Mariners are on a path to building a sustainable winner. However, challenges await the front office and ownership that they must master to realize success.

First, the most obvious – the team must convert prospect capital into MLB talent. Whether minor leaguers produce join the Mariners or Dipoto flips prospects for established big leaguers, management must deliver value. At this early stage of the rebuild, the outlook remains positive.

Will the Mariners maintain organizational discipline and remain committed to Dipoto’s plan, even if the team isn’t competitive by the dates publicly suggested?

That answer should become evident by leadership’s actions between now and 2021.

Hopefully, for beleaguered Mariners fans, the response will be a resounding “yes.”

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