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The Seattle Mariners struggled through the month of April and while it’s as clear as day the club’s greatest organizational weakness is the talent collection below the big leagues, there are some bright spots, and light at the end of the tunnel.

Seattle Mariners Farm Report
Preseason Top 25: LINK
Preseason Org Rank: 28

Here’s an updated Top 10 and some scouting and development notes.

Note: This is not a pure Top 10, it’s a combo Top-10/Power Rankings. Only rostered MiLB players are considered, which leaves out the likes of Brayan Hernandez (5), Chris Torres (6) and Greifer Andrade (15). Mitch Haniger  (3), Ben Gamel (13), Tony Zych (18), Emilio Pagan (25) , James Pazos (22), Boog Powell (20), Guillermo Heredia, Dillon Overton aren’t presently in the minors.

  1. Kyle Lewis, OF
    Lewis is getting closer to being ready to be sent out on assignment but the Mariners aren’t pushing it. He will play this summer, but at least check he was still ‘weeks’ away from playing in games.  He may serve as DH some early on to make sure the surgically repaired knee isn;t asked to do too much from the get-go, but all signs point to a full recovery for last year’s 1st-round pick.The two biggest questions for Lewis once he does get back on the field are where he ends up defensively and how he counters the suggestive issues of his deep hands load that truggers his swing. Does the knee injury push him into a corner outfield spot where it’s possible he would have ended up anyway? Do the mechanics hold him back once he begins to face better pitching?Status: Neutral
  2. Tyler O’Neill, OF — Tacoma (AAA)
    O’Neill has had his moments with the Rainiers, including four doubles and three homers in 93 plate appearances, but he’s piling up the strikeouts (24 in April) and remains in the early stages of making the adjustments.O’Neill’s swing appears a bit long at times, but that’s relative to when he’s at his best. His timing’s been off occasionally but his game plan has stayed true; O’Neill knows his power is up the middle and to right-center field and his swing matches.He’s a ways away from being ready for The Show but despite a slow April in terms of hitting for average, nothing that occured last month is cuase for concern, including a bout with defensive blunders the first week or two.

    Scout’s Take: Right now it’s almost all physical. He’ll need to learn to be more technical. He’s a lot better than he was two years ago. Consistent progress… you’re seeing that.

    Status: Neutral

  3. Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton (A)
    Rizzo got a late start as he fought away a minor injury but in his short time with Clinton has found the barrel (9-for-24, 2-2B, BB, 5 SO in 7 games). He just turned 19 and his polish at the plate has burst through in the early goings.He’s not the ideal defender OR bat for third base, but if Rizzo sustains solid performances at the plate at this stage his ETA and profile may need to be adjusted.Scout’s Take: I do think he’s gonna hit but I don’t see even projectable power to acceptable big-league levels for a corner position. (Daniel) Murphy had the long-term physical capability to get there, and obviously he has. Rizzo comes up short there.

    Status: Slighty Up

  4. Max Povse, RHP — Arkansas (AA)
    Povse’s a project of a different kind; at 6-foot-8 and about 195 pounds, he’s a physical project first and foremost. Meanwhile, he’s working on generating more horizontal movement to better combat hitters attacking fastballs to stay away from a fringe-average 12-6 curveball, below-average slider with inconsistent tilt and a big-league caliber changeup.Despite a fastball sitting 89-93, Povse’s strikeout numbers aren’t as good as they need to be and most of that stems the lack of opportunity to use his best pitch — the above-average change.He ranked here for me in February because there’s always the chance something pops and he adds a few mphs to the fastball; if you told me Seattle had a 6-foot-8 righty in Double-A pounding the zone with downhill heat at 92-95 with a plus change and overhand curve with a chance to be above average, I’d have Povse ranked No. 2 with twice the confidence he’s in the rotation by this time next year.

    Scout’s Take: He might be Mike Pelfrey; he’s got that high slot and with that he’s going to have problems creating run, mostly away from right-handed batters and in on the lefty. I don’t like the chances his slider becomes average but the curveball’s got real potential.

    Status: Neutral

  5. Nick Neidert, RHP — Modesto (A+)
    Neidert picked up in April where he left off last summer, throwing strikes with three pitches, including a fastball 87-90, though he’s been a bit firmer of late, sitting 89-91 and touching 92. He has three solid-average secondary offerings, led by his changeup, which has a change to be a legitimate plus pitch he can throw for called strikes as well as induce swings and misses.The curveball is average most of the time but I still wonder if he’s not a candidate for the Mike Leake Pitch Arsenal School. His pitchability is high and if he’s not going to throw 93 (he’s not) adding a slider or cutter and perhaps a two-seamer to better attack right-handed batters is ideal.He’s three years away and lacks ceiling, but his delivery is sound and he’s probably the smartest ‘pitcher’ among all the club’s pitching prospects, and that’s saying something considering who ranks right behind him.

    Scout’s Take:  Not only do I worry he’s going to struggle versus better bats because his fastball doesn’t test anyone, but I wonder how he’s going to hold up if asked to handle a major-league workload.

    Status: Neutral

  6. Andrew Moore, RHP — Arkansas (AA)
    Moore is the most polished arm in the system, thanks to an average fastball he’s commanding better this year than last, and three useful pitches, including a slider he doesn’t yet throw much.Like Neidert, there’s no physical projection which to lean but his changeup is above-average and his curveball has flashed average in 2017, up a tick from a year ago, due to tighter spin and better command.He’s tough as nails, too, and is likely the first starter promoted from Arkansas later this season.

    Scout’s Take: Yes, I know, he’s a reliever. But he’s going to get a chance to start somewhere because hes Marco Estrada-esque; smart, uses his fastball all over the zone and has a pitch he can use with two strikes. The problem will be getting there.

    Status: Neutral

  7. Braden Bishop, CF — Modesto (A+)
    It’s only been four weeks but Bishop is the prospect I called on the most leading up to this piece.He’s still striking out too often for being a no-power 23-year-old in the California League, but he’s doing everything else, and I’m being nit picky.Entering May Bishop was batting .330/.418/.436 with eight doubles and a home run. He drew 14 walks versus 16 strikeouts in 111 plate appearances (14 percent) and has swiped eight bags in nine tries.

    Bishop’s value is his 65 speed and 65-grade defense in center, so getting on base and making contact are two critical factors for his development. But all’s well in 2017, so much that a promotion to Arkansas in June or July is not out of the question, and may actually be likely.

    Scout’s Take: He may just be a fourth outfielder but we thought that about Brett Gardner, too, and he’s found a way to hit for enough power to play everyday. I’m not saying (Bishop) is Gardner and the (swing) plane won’t allow for that kind of home-run pop, but I was impressed this weekend how well he’s finishing his swing and not being satisfied with a slap.

    Status: Up

  8. Thyago Vieira, RHP — Arkansas (AA)
    Vieira touched 100-plus last season but had problems throwing his best velocity for strikes. So far in 2017, he’s struggled to find the zone, walking nine of 49 batters — eight of the last 29.He’s sat 96-99 with some late zip, but the right-hander still has been inconsistent with the curveball, a pitch he tends to telegraph some and will occasionally finish high, cutting off the finish and robbing the pitch of the bite it needs.Pitching coach Ethan Katz has been big for Vieira’s mechanics, but it appears more adjustments are necessary to find consistency. The fastball is closer-level, but the control, command and breaking ball are not.

    He may need to give up some of the rocking in his delivery; I think that’s getting in the way of pitching from a balanced position.

    Scout’s Take:  I’d like to see the delivery continue to be simplified. Anything but ‘check, turn, drive and release’ is probably too much. And what about a slider from that arm slot? The curveball doesnt do much for me. It takes special wrist action with that arm speed and not many have it.

    Status: Slightly Down

  9. Dan Altavilla, RHP — Tacoma (AAA)
    After struggling in the big leagues in April, Altavilla has been fine in Tacoma. He was releasing high a lot and the slider was flat, explaining his command issues, despite good strikeout numbers.He’ll be back in Seattle in a month, but he has to command the fastball better to stay there; while he can often get away with missing up in the zone, since he’s sitting 94-97, missing over the middle of the plate is another story.Scout’s Take: I like him. Needs a fine-tune but he’s aggressive, seems to have a nasty streak and from what I have seen down here that slider is a little better than down in Double-A.

    Status: Slightly Down

  10. Brandon Miller, RHP — Clinton (A)
    Miller, not 21 until mid-June, just missed the cut in February but looked solid in April, throwing strikes (7 BB), missing bats (23 in 24.2 IP) and staying away from the extra-base hit.Miller throws a fastball, slider and changeup but lacks ideal velocity to profile any better than a No. 4 starter. He does, however, have the frame to build on 88-91 mph and commands the pitch well.The slider is a 40-grade pitch, but has flashes fringe-average in 2017. The third pitch will determine his future. If he has a big-league caliber changeup he has a chance.

    With 6-foot-4, 215-pound pitchers, I always wonder if he could speed up the delivery, max out the velocity and eliminate the damage the lack of a third pitch does to a starter. Miller’s a candidate, but the M’s will exhaust all chances to start first.

    Scout’s Take: He has a nice foundation. Size, strikes, the slider is short but he commands that well, too. He gives away the changeup with his arm path but these hitters (in the Midwest League) aren’t going to catch that much.

    Status: Up

Other prospects that returned positive notes from scouts:

Marcus Littlewood, C — “I think he has a chance to hit but he’s still a work-in-progress defensively and he’s already 26.”
Chuck Taylor, OF — “Does anybody talk about this guy? Nice little player.”
Joey Curletta, 1B —  “Big dude. Big Power. Big Whiffs.”
Gianfranco Wawoe, 2B — Resourceful bat, instinctual player on bases and in field.
Gareth Morgan, OF — Morgan’s batted .246 with a .329 OBP in April. That’s progress, but without the power it’s ultimately useless.
Ljay Newsome, RHP — Keeps throwing strikes. Has walked one of 101 batters faced this season.
Joe DeCarlo, 3B/C — “I only saw him catch a few innings, but he’s going to need a few years.”

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. Find Jason's baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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