The Seattle Mariners’ farm system has taken a hit the last couple of years with the graduations of the likes of Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, among others. Still, the organization boasts a solid collection of talent, despite the lack of pitching in the high minors.

The club has taken advantage of the strengths in the draft classes the past three years, adding right-handed hitting outfielders with power and more depth in the middle-infield. Seattle also has done fairly well internationally, even with the departure of Bob Engle and some of his scouts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.

A lot of the club’s top talents are more than a year or two from the big leagues, and many come with a high risk to go with the exciting upside.

The No. 4 prospect is …

No. 4 — Austin Wilson, RF
40/50+ 50/60 55/55 60/60 50+/50+ 51.5

Wilson has successfully shaken the Stanford Swing Jinx and ranks here at No. 4 as a result. Physically Wilson looks the part of a big-league all-star that profiles in right field thanks to a plus arm and at least average range. He tracks the ball well off the bat and despite being 6-foot-4 and nearly 250 pounds, gets solid jumps to cut liners off in the gap.

At the plate Wilson’s swing generates natural leverage and loft and his progress in terms of pitch recognition and plate discipline suggest he could move through the middle two affiliates (Bakersfield and Jackson) rather quickly. His 2014 was interrupted by a summer Achilles injury but he showed power, strike zone judgment and at times a shorter, more effective swing length.

This spring Wilson has been a beast; the former second-round pick looked in complete control in multiple plate appearances versus right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma that produced hits, including a pair of sharp line drives and one long foul ball that had easy home run distance.

He’s 23 without experience beyond the Midwest League but he’s more polished than is Gabby Guerrero. Wilson is a worker with good instincts and some leadership skills that should assist his path to the major leagues.

On the upside, Wilson may turn into a .275/.350/.500 bat with average value in the field and on the bases. He will need to continue to improve his contact rates and remain patient at the plate as he starts to face more advanced pitching, but on the floor of his skill set is a strong platoon bat.

If he starts the year in the California League he’s likely to hit his way out of town before the mid-way point. His present ability tells me, however, that he can handle the Double-A Southern League right now and that’s the route I’d go in order to properly challenge and further assess the player in question.

Wilson’s Career Statistics

MLB ETA: 2017

MLB Comps: Marlon Byrd, Yoenis Cespedes, Carlos Quentin

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at He 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 prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.


  1. Thanks for answering, I love reading your insight. I have seen the change in drafting Philosophy also and agree it was necessary. I do have a couple of follow up questions.

    1) Now that there seems to be a good prospect base in the Minor Leagues, should the Mariners try to take a few draft shots to “catch lightning in a bottle”?? Morgan last year may have been such a shot??

    2) It also seems to me that the prospect development staff do a much better job than in the past. In your view, is this solely because they are getting the better less riskier prospects (lower ceiling, higher floor), or has the development staff fundamentally changed (perhaps since Chris Gwynn took over)??

  2. They did select and sign a lot of high upside but very high risk types for about seven years. Lots of fun to dream on them but fewer of those types end up big leaguers. Doesn’t help that Bill Bavasi traded away the top three — Asdrubal Cabrera, Shin-Soo Choo and Adam Jones.

  3. Really good news to read, Jason! Austin is one of my favorite prospects to watch (even saw him play in person for Everett in 2013). It is amazing to me to watch prospects actually develop under the current Seattle Mariners guidance. For too many years it seemed to me that prospects hardly ever developed.

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