Many in the industry use ‘Future Value,’ or ‘FV’ rather than OFP, but those generally represent the current most likely result in the player, based on that particular analysts process and formula, and for me that’s just too subjective to provide real value to the fan. A player’s OFP tends to be closer to consensus without actually being so, suggesting it’s a more useful piece of information in the moment. It’s also worth noting both OFP and FV mean different things to different analysts.
5. Emerson Hancock, RHP | 5.31.99 | 6-4 / 215
Hancock brings a lot of prototypical tools to the mound, including size, athleticism, arm speed, velocity, command, and feel for the craft. There were questions about the fastball on draft day, despite the right-hander consistently touching 97 mph and topping out at 99 and throwing strikes with the pitch. But it’s natural plane is more of a sinking heater, which isn’t conducive to missing bats. Hancock and the Mariners have worked to combat that, and there were signs last summer of the fastball shape heading in the right direction.
His slider is the better of his two breaking balls and projects as plus, and he’s flashed a plus changeup since his freshman year at Georgia, occasionally drawing reports of overuse. But he was focused on the fastball and slider more in 2021, and received good results for the limited time he saw action.
That limited time, and why his 2021 was curbed, are concerns for his ceiling and ETA, and anytime a power arm has any kind of shoulder issue that requires time off, flags are going to fly. But the club has been consistently and abundantly cautious with their pitchers, and if that was the case with Hancock, he should still be able to slice through the upper minors in the next year-plus and see the big leagues by the middle of 2023.
If the fastball shape continues develop and it’s a legit 60-grade No. 1, the plus slider and changeup will play well in combo, and we’re staring down the barrel of a No. 3 starter with a chance to be a No. 2. His fourth best pitch is an average curveball with some upside, suggesting a very deep arsenal for a power arm up to 99 mph with average or better command and the body and delivery to kick up an old-school 200 innings per season.
4. Harry Ford, C | R/R | 2.21.03 | 5-10 / 200
Ford has an MVP tool set, led by bat speed and raw power suggestive of 30 homers and consistent contact. His general strength, foot speed, and arm, in combo with his instincts behind the plate are indicative of a plus defender. His agility and overall athleticism offer ample opportunities to find the field and allow the bat to play regularly, up to and including second base and center field.
It’s a helluva set of clay for the Mariners to mold, and those that like Ford as much as I do see it all adding up to a pretty high floor in addition to the star ceiling, despite the fact he’s a prep catcher, a demographic with a relatively poor track record in Major League Baseball.
Ford needs time, however, catcher or not, so we’re not likely looking at a debut before it’s legal for him to buy yours truly a whiskey. But 2022 should be a year we see production, and it’s going to be interesting to see how aggressive the club is with his initial assignment, but I’d be mildly surprised if he doesn’t see Modesto, at least by year’s end.
Ford is closer to No. 3 than No. 5, but he’s also the player in the Top 5 with the most varied possible results. That will change as he builds a resume, and I’d bet aggressively he sits atop these rankings before I finish my Ford-bought Lot 40.
3. Noelvi Marte, SS | R/R | 10.16.01 | 6-2 / 195
Marte is a power hitter with decent hitting chops, rather than the other way around, which is to say the power is real, unforced, and as pure as it gets in the system, including the club’s pride and joy at No. 1.
The 20-year-old has shown an ability to use the middle of the field and occasionally go to the backside, particularly with two strikes, and I’d like to see more of this and fewer at-bats ending with aggressive pull-side efforts. The power simply will happen. Just hit, NoMa.
And I believe he can, and believe he will.
He’s not quite the hitter Rodriguez was at the same stage, but it’s close to enough to look ahead and buy the notion Marte ends 2022 in Double-A after putting up numbers in High-A Everett for two or three months. It’s probably just a matter of time with the bat.
Defensively, there are some mixed reviews, but I’m not buying him at short for the long haul — in fact, I’d split his time between short and third in 2022 fairly equally — but it’s mostly about the trend with his frame, as he’s gone from 6-foot-1, 180 pounds and 70-grade speed entering 2019 to 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and 55 speed entering 2022, and he’s still just 20 — and won’t be 21 until October.
Size alone doesn’t dictate the abilities of a defender, even at short, but his lateral range has taken a hit, as has his footwork, though it’s still plenty good to man the position in the minors, and projects well at the hot corner, where his arm and bat should play above average, too.
I don’t buy Marte seeing the majors until at least the second half of 2023, and it wouldn’t surprise if he didn’t stick until 2025.
The power uptick and consistency of it a year ago has changed things for me on Marte. Among the potential outcomes with this profile are above-average, all-star, star, and, yes, superstar.
2. George Kirby, RHP | R/R | 2.4.98 | 6-4 / 215
Kirby is the most underrated of the Mariners’ top prospects. There’s more ceiling here than is being allowed by many; Kirby is no longer merely a strike-throwing artists, he’s touching triple digits and commanding 93-98 mph heat with improving life.
His offspeed stuff is led by a changeup flashing plus and two useful breaking balls, the best of which I believe is the slider. Kirby is just more physical than some seem to realize, so blame any industry underrating on the pandemic.
Kirby’s breaking stuff is more projection than is ideal for an elite pitching prospect, which is the biggest reason why he’s left out of that conversation right now. But if he repeats his progress in that department for 2022 he might be the game’s best overall prospect by mid-season. That is, if he’s not in the majors at that point.
I’m less concerned than others about whether or not Kirby can handle a full workload, but acknowledge the uncertainty surrounding his added velocity. Can he maintain such velocity over a ‘full’ season? Can he maintain command if 95-plus for a full season? We’ll see.
1. Julio Rodriguez, RF | R/R | 12.29.00 | 6-3 / 215
Rodriguez has plus to plus-plus raw power and terrific barrel awareness. He’s an above-average average runner and may end up closer to average once he’s physically matured. But he has solid instincts in the field and a 70-grade arm that’s nearly as accurate as it is strong.
He’ll have to fix a few things at the plate, including a tendency to leak out early, and at least part of that is his preference to get to his pull side. But he’s consistently shown a line-drive stroke to the middle of the field, the power is easy thanks to natural leverage, and his makeup is off the charts. Rodriguez is a face-of-the-franchise type talent and personality, and there’s not much standing in his way as the 2022 season nears.
Jason A. Churchill
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