Last Updated on June 15, 2019 by Jason A. Churchill
- Unlike the May update, I included players currently in the big leagues, or on the IL in the big leagues. I did not include Connor Sadzeck or Brandon Brennan (they both still qualify as rookies, but not as prospects for me because they’ve spent the entire season in the majors.) I did not include Austin Adams (technically he’s a rookie, too, but he’s appeared in the bigs in three straight season and is out of options, so for me he doesn’t qualify as a prospect in the spirit of the idea. I have never included veterans from Japan in my rankings. Yusei Kikuchi wouldn’t qualify now, anyway.
- For many of the rankings, there isn’t much difference between players ranked 5-10 spots apart, sometimes more. So if you see a player at 17 you expected to be at 12, maybe the only difference there is microscopic.
- Like always, I prefer upside to high probability, so if the risk factor is within two points (2-8 scale) I’m taking the upside play every time.
- Positions matter. Catchers and shortstops are inherently more valuable than first basemen and left fielders.
- Handedness matters, albeit a lot less than positions and other factors. If all else is equal, a lefty usually gets the nod.
- Arms with a chance to be a No. 3 or better starter will always rank higher than a pure reliever, based on value and how difficult it is to find them. This goes back to the ‘positions matter’ note.
- I included some of the draft picks, but not all. I did the best assessment I could with all the information I could muster through Saturday to determine a player’s signability. If some I left out end up signing and they belong in the Top 40, they’ll be in it in a month.
- Michael Limoncelli I considered signable, albeit not highly likely, but left him out because he just had Tommy John surgery on top of the signability concern.
- The movement you’ll see below is based on performance, scouting reports, injuries, and timelines; if a 24-year-old was ranked No. 33 in April but isn’t ranked now it could be for many reasons, including the draft depth pushing the player out or the player simply not performing enough to keep him in. Some players have a shorter shelf-life because they have less time to make enough progress, which is why you see a lot of players 22-24 years of age in West Virginia or Modesto drop off quickly if they get hurt or don’t perform enough.
- Click HERE for the scouting scale in real life, updated for the current MLB environment, flush with what the grades looks like in MLB terms. For example: How many home runs in the majors results from 60-grade power?
- These rankings are not about the players most likely to make it to the majors. They’re also not a ranking of the players with the most upside.
- Since someone will ask, understandably so, I asked nine in the industry about where the Mariners’ system ranks right now. The highest: About 12-15. The lowest: Late teens, early twenties. The median: 14-17. I strongly agree with the median — 12 is too high for me. But below, you can see the difference.
- Below the following Top 40 you will find a list of those no longer on the list that were before and those that are ‘next,’so to speak.
- Seriously, click HERE first.
Kelenic has done nothing but impress since being drafted No. 6 overall by the New York Mets in last summer’s draft. He’s a grinding worker in the gym and on the field and understands his swing as well as can ever be expected of a 19-year-old in his first full season in pro ball.
He torched the South Atlantic League and was doing the same in the California League before he jammed his wrist stealing second base June 6.
Kelenic’s projections from my pre-season rankings haven’t changed; 65 hit, 65 power, 55 run, 55 field, 65 arm, and he’s the best prospect the Mariners have had since Felix Hernandez in 2005, and the best position-player prospect since Alex Rodriguez in 1995.
Kelenic’s long-term position isn’t set in stone but unless another, far superior defender sits in center, Kelenic should be fine there the first half of his career.
His peak years could provide MVP-contention value and the floor here is… well, irrelevant, to be honest.
In other words, Kelenic is a star. We’re all just waiting for him to come visit.
Gilbert has been impressive almost every time out, sitting 92-95 mph and touching 97 with his four-seam fastball that’s shown life up in the zone and some armside run.
His slider is his best secondary offering but in several outing this season his spike curveball has been his most effective offspeed pitch.
He’s starting to mix in the changeup a little more in Modesto, a pitch that flashes average and has plus potential.
Dunn has pounded the strike zone all year with a 92-96 mph fastball and two different sliders. His changeup still needs a lot of work but occasionally you’ll see him mystify a batter or two with a solid one after a 95 mph.
Dunn is repeating his delivery well and owns a 29% strikeout rate and 6.5% walk rate through 11 starts in 2019.
The slider flashes above-average but it’s not consistent yet, hence the relatively pedestrian swinging strike rate of 12%.
Dunn still has a chance to a No. 3 starter, perhaps more, and there’s no reason to start thinking bullpen with him just yet. In fact, he throws so many strikes with everything, he could buy himself an extra year or two as a No. 4 while he polishes the secondaries.
Rodriguez has played just nine game — he’s missed the last two months after taking a Jake Wong fastball off the bone below his middle finger. But he’s back Sunday.
Rodriguez has shown a little more athleticism than expected since the spring, but it’s the bat speed, sound swing mechanics and energy with which he plays that has scouts loving him.
He’s not likely to end up in center, but he’s handling it now and his arm works in either corner — as does his bat. Rodriguez has a chance to hit for average and power.
Despite the fact he’s played less than two weeks stateside, there’s a lot of confidence he’s a big-league outfielder, and probably a very good one that sits Top 3 on this list inside a year.
Sheffield has slid hard due mostly to well below-average control — levels of struggles he’s never experienced. He’s sitting 92-93 mph mostly, touching 94 in some starts. His slider is above-average when he can get to it. He has weapons for right-handed batters, including an ability to come inside with the fastball, but his work away from them has been a disaster through his first 12 outings.
But this is absolutely NOT a “OMG he’s terrible and the Mariners got sacked in the James Paxton deal, woe is me” situation. It’s more of a “Sheffield isn’t going to help as soon as everyone hoped because he needs help getting back to where he was a year ago” kind of scenario.
Disappointing, yes. Remotely conclusive evidence the Mariners lost the trade? Not at all. The Yankees will have Paxton through 2020 and pay him more than $25 million. Sheffield, Erik Swanson and Dom-Thompson Williams have a collaborative 18 years to provide that much value to the Mariners. Want a gambling tip? Bet on the Mariners here. Hard.
Kirby brings tons of probability thanks to command and control that ranks at or near the top of the 2019 MLB Draft class and now the Mariners organization. But Kirby brings four big-league pitches, too, including a fastball that consistently brushes 95 mph and has touched 98. He’s 6-foot-4 and 205 pounds, offering some projection, too, suggesting more velocity could be on the way.
Kirby’s not a future ace he offers a high floor of a No. 4 starter with a great chance to be a No. 3. Ruling out more than that wouldn’t be wise, either.
Lewis’s numbers have been downright bad, but there has been more production of late as Lewis continues to make swing adjustments to help him generate more consistent backspin and take advantage of plus bat speed.
He’s running better-than-average and his arm is plus. He’s likely to end up in left or right but manages in center.
He’ll turn 24 this summer, though, so the clock is ticking a bit, but despite his place in these rankings, there’s no reason to consider giving up on the former first-round pick. Not when the payoff is a .260/.350 hitter with 30-35 homer power.
Initially, Marte’s defensive abilities were questioned, but the Mariners signed him to hit and after a week he’s done nothing but. There’s plus power to his pull side but he’ll find gaps to right-center field. He’s a burner on the bases and has an above-average arm with a quick release.
Word is, Marte has made enough progress with his hands that he’s improved his chances to stick at shortstop. He’s long been a natural at maintaining balance and making accurate throws.
Long is flashing the hit tool in the big leagues right now as well as average defense at second base. The doubles power has shown, too, but once Long gets his timing we’ll see some home run pop.
He’s a plus runner and all-around good athlete who showed well at 3B and at least playable in LF in Tacoma, where the arm plays just fine.
Bishop and Jake Fraley are nearly interchangeable prospects, though Bishop has a slight edge with the glove and a full grade advantage in arm strength.
Bishop is a grinder and has found a fringe-average power stroke to supplement his game. The hit tool is close enough that even at 25, he’s a major-league outfielder with a chance to be more than a part-timer.
From the Pre-Season Rankings: “The bat speed suggests average power but the swing isn’t designed to tap into it. There’s still time to get there in the upper minors, however.
Jerry Dipoto has publicly commented on how the club helped Fraley make a swing adjustment before the season started and the result has been the Texas League’s best player.
The hit tool remains average or better, the power grade goes from 35 to 50. He’s still a 60-65 runner with a 60 glove. His arm is firmly below average, however, suggesting he may not be a long-term option in center, at least in a perfect world.
There’s almost zero doubt he’s a big leaguer and he might be an average regular in the end.
Raleigh’s numbers don’t inspire but he’s basically been a league-average hitter in his current environment and the defense continues to progress. He’s an above-average thrower and his blocking and receiving have ticked up at least a half grade since signing last summer.
Campbell, who went No. 76 overall, brings a floor as a solid high-leverage reliever but the pitches are there for a starting role over the long haul, including a 93-95 mph fastball that’s touched 98. He also throws two breaking balls and a changeup, all of which project as big-league average, and while the slider shortens (cutter-like) it doesn’t lose its effectiveness.
It’s not that I don’t like Evan White. I don’t like the profile, based partially on how he’s being used. Yes, he’s a plus to plus-plus glove at first base, which may not matter at all if he doesn’t develop enough value with the bat to get to the big leagues in the first place. Defensive value is felt over long periods of time. A part-time White is not valuable. He must hit and hit for some power.
I’m not sure why he’s not being used some in the corners of the outfield where his arm and footspeed project very well, if for no other reason but to build additional value with defensive flexibility. Until then, he’s a right-handed hitting first baseman who’s yet to show even average big-league power, let alone the kind of pop that plays at first.
The good news is, he’s found some rhythm the past week and a half and the power has come with it. But it needs to be displayed over longer periods of time to become believable. White does allow for some hope since he works very hard and understands where his swing is at and where it needs to be. Long ways to go, though.
Williamson was the Mariners’ 2nd-round pick and can almost be treated like a prep pick in some ways. He’s already up to 96 mph with a power slider at 83-86, but the velocity isn’t consistent and that’s where the development begins and ends.
If he can find a way to sit 92-96 as a starter, there’s a chance he’s a No. 2 or 3 starter, and with just a little slider development the floor is relatively high here, too — late-inning reliever, assuming the velocity plays up in shorter stints. But the Mariners didn’t draft Williamson to kick him into the bullpen right away. Or at least one hopes.
Newsome is still a command and feel starter, but he does offer average velocity that flashes up to 94 mph to compliment the cutter and changeup. He has a curveball he doesn’t use a lot, that offers shape and depth but is a bit loopy and lacks sharp break. The upside here is probably No. 4 starter, but Newsome now brings a lot of probability with him thanks to 60 control and at least 55 command.
Carlson’s a year off Tommy John and could pitch a bit this summer, but it could go either way. When healthy, it’s a sinking fastball dwelling at 92-95 mph and an above-average changeup. If he proves healthy and all the former stuff and command are back, he’ll shoot up these rankings as far as the Top 10.
Bins was the Mariners’ best draft pick in terms of value in 2019, the same way Damon Casetta-Stubbs was a year ago. Something about 11th-rounders, I guess.
Bins could catch in the big leagues right now and projects as above average to plus in most areas defensively. There’s promise in the bat, but he’s going to need time to develop better use of a line-drive swing so he can close some holes above his hands and away.
Querecuto has yet to play in 2019 but is a good athlete with hands, feet and contact skills. Most scouts believe he has a solid shot to stick at shortstop but the bat is key here. He’ll have to make a swing adjustment to hit for any game power but there’s plenty of time for that.
Sanchez cruises at 89-92 mph but has been up to 94 and offers an average curveball and changeup. He will remind some of Marco Gonzales right now — he needs to hit his spots or suffer the consequences of the resulting contact — but there may be a little more velocity there to go get.
Thompson-Williams was having a strong year (.313/.396/.539) then went 1-for-34 from May 16-20, 26-28. It’s 60 speed and 60 raw power to go with fringe-average centerfield defense and a 55 arm. He’s a plus defender in left and an above-average base-stealing threat.
Swanson’s been on the IL a few weeks now, but despite his struggles that led to him being optioned to Triple-A, he showed he can battle big-league lineups. His slider is firmly below average and the changeup needs a lot of work. He’s likely headed for a permanent role in the bullpen but until that time comes he can work on the breaking ball in the rotation.
Stoudt was the Mariners’ 3rd-round pick. He’s not a projectable arm but at present he offers a low-90s fastball that’s been up to 95. His slider is below-average but has been effective in college. He’s relied on an average changeup that will play well if he commands his fastball.
Shenton brings at least 60 raw power and a chance for a playable hit tool. If he ends up sticking at third base, Shenton has a chance to be an average regular.
Casetta-Stubbs has struggled to keep batters off his mistakes lately. The stuff is above average and he’s handling the struggles well, despite being just 19.
Bautista sits 95-97 mph and touches 99, but with 40-45 control and 40 command. When he gets ahead he’s lethal and can offer an average slider to put cheaters on TV.
Haberer is in Tacoma now but probably needs some time in Arkansas where the mistakes aren’t magnified quite as much. He’s touched 98 mph this year but has sat 93-96 of late. The slider is thrown with average or better command. Love the delivery, most upside of any pure reliever in the system.
Gerber hides the ball well, is up to 96 mph with life up in the zone from a slightly lower than 3/4 slot. His 82-86 mph slider flashes plus, but he sets it up well by moving the fastball all over the zone to get ahead. Still think he sees Arkansas this season.
Perez’s calling card right now is long-term upside and he’s up to 90 mph with a slurve he throws for strikes and a decent feel for a straight change. He’s grown an inch or two since signing (he’s at least 6-foot-1 now), offering some projection as he matures. Whenever he starts his season he’ll be 18 for all of it.
McKay’s stuff says solid-average middle reliever or better, but his command is keeping him from it. He sits 92-95 with a plus power breaking ball with late two-plane break.
Adcock could move quickly through the system. He’s a pure reliever, up to 97 mph and a chance to sit 95-99 with a small adjustment. His slider a vertical breaker he throws for strikes and buries down in the zone for swings and misses.
Lopes can hit and has at least playable power to the gaps. He’s a fringe-average shortstop at worst and can play second and third. He’s a 60 runner and a smart baserunner. He might be better than Dylan Moore right now.
Macko was the Mariners’ 7th-round pick. He’s up to 88 mph comfortably and has touched 90. He’s projectable despite a lack of ideal height (6-feet).
Elliott was the club’s 4th-round pick. He’s up to 94 mph but pitches comfortably 89-92. As a starter he offers an average changeup to his fastball-slider combo.
Mills creates deception with the low arm slot and his fastball-slider combo plays up as a result. His command and control have been below-average.
Listed as a starter. He’s starting for West Virginia. I see Inman as a two-inning reliever. In the rotation he’s shown 92-96 with an above-average 78-81 mph curveball that flashes plus.
Good chance Benitez starts his season in Everett. Strike thrower, up to 92, but his arm is clean and quick and he throws strikes with everything.
Solid-average run, hit, glove tools, showing more than gap power, but needs to get healthy then get out of the Cal League and show more of the same.
Delaplane has induced a 25% swinging strike rate in 22 games and struck out half the batters he’s faced, including five over a two-inning stint in his Double-A debut Saturday. He’s up to 95 but it’s the breaking ball and deception that are fooling hitters.
Anchia’s defensive development and consistency at the plate have pushed him past Dean Nevarez on the catching chart. Nevarez has more upside, but Anchia’s hit tool is a full grade better at this point, and neither player is young for the level.
Off the Board/Next Group
The following players are off the Top 40 for various reasons, mostly due to the depth added from the draft. Some of the players below have been impacted by not playing due to injury or their short-season leagues not getting underway until June.
Art Warren, RHR — Injuries and now age (26) are cutting into Warren’s chances to contribute. Fastball up to 99 mph. He returned June 8 after missing most of the first half.
Connor Kopach, UT — Like the player but would like to see production in Double-A. 65 runner. Manages at SS, plus at 2B, has been playing left and center, too.
Max Roberts, LHS — Hasn’t started his season, but has some upside. Needs to show progress in 2019.
Nolan Hoffman, RHR — Status is stagnant, but not a down trend.
Luis Baez, RHS — Yet to pitch, upside play.
Joe Rizzo, 3B — Needs to show power to go with above-average hit tool. Hasn’t improved enough at 3B.
Joseph Rosa, UT — A great start to ’19 put him on the radar but he’s been chasing the last month. Rosa is among several thin-thread prospects.
Dean Nevarez, C — Nevarez is a 40 defender at present but has the arm and power to produce.
Elias Espino, RHR — Likely a pure reliever, which makes it tough to rank in an average system.
Freuddy Batista, 1B — Still listed as a catcher in many spots, but since he isn’t one, he has to rake huge. Season hasn’t started.
Gunn Omosako, RF — Solid athlete, average or better raw tools. Season starts this month.
Nick Rumbelow, RHR — Command and control are down a tick and a half.
Matt Festa, RHR — Start him or there’s zero staying power.
Dylan Moore, UT — I don’t see the hit tool, but he does handle three positions fine.
Darren McCaughan, RHS — Solid Double-A starter thanks to 55 command and 60 control. Might be a No. 5/swingman or a strong three-inning relief option.
Donnie Walton, UT — 45 shortstop and no outfield experience or he’d rank.
J.T. Salter, RHR — When he throws strikes with 95 anf the curveball, he’s nasty. Still working on control.
Deivy Florido, RHS — Long-term prospect with command and feel. Fringey present stuff, but he’s 18 and competing well in Sally League.
Robert Perez, 1B — Another long-term prospect but he’s generated some buzz but showing well in a handful of games in Triple-A Tacoma. Potential average hit tool and 55 power are his strengths, but right now no clear position. If he keeps playing, he’ll have a chance to be ranked in July.
More players will sneak into this area or into the Top 40 as the season progresses, particularly once the short-season leagues have been under way long enough to factor.
- CHURCHILL: Kelenic, Gilbert, Contending & Service Time - September 14, 2020
- BASEBALL THINGS PODCAST CLIP: What’s Jarred Kelenic’s Floor? - September 3, 2020
- PODCAST: Trade Buzz, Keys for Ljay Newsome - September 3, 2020