The Seattle Mariners farm system reminds of the 1989 Cleveland Indians. Not the actual baseball team, but the one portrayed in Major League.
About mid-season, Harry Doyle proclaimed the Indians were “threatening to climb out of the cellar.” While I don’t believe at any point the Mariners had the worst farm system in baseball, they were closer than they’d ever like to be. But they’ve improved and even jumped a few spots in the rankings — perhaps into the high teens or low 20s.
It started last June when the club drafted Kyle Lewis. It continued over the winter when the player development staff fully adopted their new ways. Last month, the Mariners added two legitimate Top 10 prospects, and over the weekend added two more long-term prospects with upside, and a third may be on the way.
Here’s my updated Top 30, not including Dominican outfield prospect Stir Candelario, for whom the Mariners have been the favorite to sign, since he hasn’t signed yet.
Note: Rank/Player/Position, Team/Age. Age is of July 15, 2017.
Kyle Lewis, CF — Arizona (rehab)/21
Lewis is the one potential star in the system with a chance to stick in center while hitting for average and power. The club is taking their time with his secondary rehab — in his first game back with Modesto he banged his surgically repaired knee on the outfield wall.
3. Julio Rodriguez, RF — NA/16
A future corner outfielder that comes to pro ball with a lot of future 55 and 60 grades on the hit tool. The power will develop as he matures. He’s a right-handed batter with an above-average arm.
O’Neill has shown defensive progress and the power still is showing up, but Triple-A pitching has predictably given him some problems. He just turned 22, however, and won’t be outworked.
5. Sam Carlson, RHS — NA/18
Carlson hasn’t — and may not — pitched since being selected in Round 2 last month but brings plus velocity and a chance for two above-average secondary pitches. Shot at No. 2 starter with higher probability as a stuff-led No. 3.
6. Nick Neidert, RHS — Modesto/20
Neidert’s ceiling remains a mid-rotation arm but he’s probably raised his floor a little bit this season, as well as his probability to reach the majors as a lite No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
7. Brayan Hernandez, CF — Everett/19
Hernandez is an upside play. He runs well, projects as average or better in center field and has the tools to project as an average big-league bat. If the hit tool allows for it, there’s 12-15 homer pop in the bat speed.
8. Juan Querecuto, SS — NA/16
Querecuto has a shot to stick at shortstop but he’s not a good runner and likely profiles at second or third base, or even the outfield where his 60 arm strength plays well. The Mariners will hope the power develops beyond most present projections if he has to move out of the middle of the diamond.
9. Greifer Andrade, LF — Everett/20
Andrade isn’t the athlete the Mariners hoped he’d be when they signed him — strictly a corner fielder now — but the bat has shown up, with some power. In a lot of ways, he’s Juan Uribe.
10. Chris Torres, SS — Arizona/19
Torres is tooled up as a top-of-the-order menace who sticks at shortstop long term. But at some point he’s going to have to perform or the confidence in his future will begin to fade. He doesn’t make consistent contact and makes too many mistakes with the glove. Center field?
11. Joe Rizzo, 3B — Clinton/19
Rizzo’s current swing plane won’t allow for much power but he’s one of the more natural hitters in the system and is holding his own in the Midwest League at 19.
12. Max Povse, RHP — Tacoma/22
As a reliever, Povse projects as a middle innings type, perhaps in a multi-inning role. There’s a non-zero chance the club revisits the right-hander as a starter, however, so he’s ranked accordingly.
13. Emilio Pagan, RHR — Tacoma/26
Pagan has been lights out this season, including two highly-effective, long-form outings in the majors before his current run in Tacoma. Fastball is up to 96, setting up a plus slider.
14. David Banuelos, C — Everett/20
Banelos has enough bat speed, but the swing mechanics aren’t ideal, which is why he lasted as long as he did. In time, he’s a big-league catcher defensively, led by a plus arm and good instincts. If he hits, he’s a starter.
15. Braden Bishop, CF — Modesto/23
Bishop is having a terrific season in Modesto and needs to be challenged with a promotion before the year is out, in my opinion. He’s making contact, reaching the gaps and working counts. Floor: fourth outfielder.
16. Thyago Vieira, RHR — Arkansas/24
Vieiera’s control and command have been inconsistent this season but he’s still sitting 95-99 mph with a developing power curveball.
17. Daniel Vogelbach, DH — Tacoma/24
He can’t play first and may not hit for ideal power but Vogelbach knows the strike zone and hits a lot of line drives.
18. Tyler Smith, SS — Tacoma/25
A legit shortstop glove and a quick trigger for fastballs keeps Smith on the list.
19. D.J. Peterson, 1B — Tacoma/25
Peterson is an average defender at first base and will need to hit to play regularly. He’s running out of time but has made progress this season, using more of the field and covering a hole at the bottom of the strike zone.
21. Brandon Miller, RHS — Clinton/22
Miller sits 89-92 mph with an above-average slider that has flashed plus. His changeup is below average but shows some promise. If he’s moved to the bullpen, perhaps the velocity ticks up into the mid-90s and his slider lives in the plus range.
22. Anthony Jimenez, OF — Clinton/21
Jimenez has four solid tools and more power than his 5-foot-11, 175-pound frame suggest. He has good bat speed but the swing can get long and he’s still learning to lay off pitches above his hands and breaking balls down and away. Potential center-field defense.
23. Ronald Rosario, OF — Arizona/20
Rosario is a long-term upside play, but I much prefer this route to the low-ceiling, medium-risk talents such as Bryson Brigman. Rosario, a left-handed bat, creates good leverage and possesses above-average bat speed. The swing is lengthy and can get loopy, creating a lot of swings and misses. He’s a good athlete and ultimately fits in a corner outfield spot.
24. Rob Whalen, RHS — Tacoma/23
Whalen throws strikes with three pitches, touching 92 mph, and when his command is at its best he’s a No. 5 starter with a chance for a little more.
25. Ryne Inman, RHS — Everett/21
The 6-foot-5, 215-pound Inman — a 15th round pick two years ago — is a strike thrower who is developing stuff to go with it. The changeup is the most intriguing pitch, but he came to pro ball with both a slider and curve, the slider being the most promising.
26. Tyler Marlette, C — Arkansas/24
Marlette is developing the hit tool while he continues to work on his defense but the intrigue here is the power. He’s not hitting a lot of home runs right now, but 15-18 homers is not out of the question.
27. Luis Rengifo, 2B/UT — Clinton/20
Rengifo has been one of my favorites short-season watches for two-plus years since a Lat Am scout told me he had outstanding on-field instincts. He’s showing that now by playing multiple positions regularly. He’s a fringy shortstop at best, but could play second base and the outfield at average or better levels.
28. Chuck Taylor, OF — Arkansas/23
Taylor just keeps hitting and shows more power potential than teammates Ian Miller, who is two years older. Taylor profiles better in left field, but he, too, is a high-instincts player.
29. Osmy Gregorio, 2B/SS — Arizona/19
Like Rosario, Gregorio is a pure upide play that is more valuable for me than taking a chance on a player with little chance to be a regular, but a greater chance to reach the high minors or a part-time role. The arm works fine on the left side of the infield and he runs well. Gregorio’s swing needs some work, but the bat speed is there and he’s shown some solid strike zone judgment in Arizona.
30. Jorge Benitez, LHP — Arizona/18
Benitez offers projection, including future velocity, suggesting a high-leverage bullpen role as a potential floor. If he wants to start, he’ll have to add to his 160-pound frame, but he’s just 18.
Others: Alex Campos, SS — DSL/17; Juan Then, RHS — DSL/17; Joseph Rosa, 2B — Everett/20; Christopher Marte, RHS — DSL/18; Nolan Perez, 3B — DSL/18; Jepherson Garcia, 1B — DSL/18; Bryson Brigman, 2B — Clinton/22; Andres Torres, RHS — Everett/21; Billy Cooke, OF — Clinton/21; Kyle Wilcox, RHR — Clinton/23; Ljay Newsome, RHS — Clinton/20; Nick Wells, LHS; Clinton/21; Gareth Morgan, OF — Clinton/21; Lukas Schiraldi, RHR — Modesto/24; Pablo Lopez, RHS — Modesto/21; Matt Festa, RHR — Modesto/24; Joe DeCarlo, C — Modesto/23; Eric Filia, OF — Modesto/25; Ian Miller, CF — Arkansas/25; Marcus Littlewood, C — Arkansas/25.
The Mariners remain the favorites for 16-year-old Stir Candelario from the Dominican Republic. He offers plus raw power and a chance to hit for average, but isn’t as athletic as Rodriguez and may end up at first base, despite a good throwing arm. He hasn’t signed yet, so he’s not ranked above, but he’s fit somewhere in the 15-25 range.
Boog Powell and Andrew Moore retain their rookie status, for now, but are on the big-league, 25-man roster, so they weren;t considered for the Mid-season Top 30. Powell would have ranked just ahead of Vogelbach and behind Bishop. Moore would have ranked No. 7.
I did get some useful information on the other three international signings — LHP Brayan Perez (Venezuela), RHP Joseph Hernandez (DR), RHP Yeuri Tatiz (DR), but it was difficult to place them in the top 30 at this time. All three are considered particularly raw with heavy projections and not enough present ability.