Top 25 Prospects: Seattle Mariners by Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel March 5, 2019 Below is an analysis of the prospects in the farm system of the Seattle Mariners. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from our own (both Eric Longenhagen’s and Kiley McDaniel’s) observations. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of our prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. All of the numbered prospects here also appear on The Board, a new feature at the site that offers sortable scouting information for every organization. That can be found here. Top Prospects Team Lists 2019 2018 ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG ALBALCHWHOUBOSCLELAANYYDETOAKTBRKCRSEATORMINTEX NLATLCHCARIMIACINCOLNYMMILLADPHIPITSDPWSNSTLSFG Mariners Top Prospects Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV 1 Justus Sheffield 22.8 MLB LHP 2019 50 2 Yusei Kikuchi 27.7 MLB LHP 2019 50 3 Jarred Kelenic 19.6 R CF 2021 50 4 Justin Dunn 23.5 AA RHP 2019 50 5 Evan White 22.9 AAA 1B 2020 50 6 Shed Long 23.5 AA 2B 2019 50 7 Julio Rodriguez 18.2 R RF 2022 45+ 8 Logan Gilbert 21.8 None RHP 2020 45+ 9 Kyle Lewis 23.6 AA RF 2020 45 10 Noelvi Marte 17.4 None SS 2023 40+ 11 Cal Raleigh 22.3 A- C 2021 40+ 12 Erik Swanson 25.5 AAA RHP 2019 40+ 13 Sam Carlson 20.3 R RHP 2022 40+ 14 Braden Bishop 25.5 AA CF 2019 40 15 Wyatt Mills 24.1 AA RHP 2020 40 16 Jake Fraley 23.8 A+ LF 2020 40 17 Dom Thompson-Williams 23.9 A+ LF 2021 40 18 Juan Querecuto 18.5 R SS 2022 40 19 Gerson Bautista 23.8 MLB RHP 2019 40 20 Matthew Festa 26.0 MLB RHP 2019 40 21 Joey Gerber 21.8 A RHP 2021 40 22 Anthony Misiewicz 24.3 AA LHP 2019 40 23 Jorge Benitez 19.8 A- LHP 2022 35+ 24 Luis Liberato 23.2 AA CF 2020 35+ 25 Ricardo Sanchez 21.9 AA LHP 2019 35+ Reading Options Detail Level Data Only Full Position Filter All All C 1B 2B SS 3B OF LF CF RF LHP RHP 50 FV Prospects 1. Justus Sheffield, LHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2014 from Tullahoma HS (TN) (CLE) Age 22.8 Height 5′ 10″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/60 50/55 45/50 91-96 / 97 Sheffield has now been traded twice: once from Cleveland to New York for Andrew Miller, and then from New York to Seattle for James Paxton. Except for his 2017 Fall League excursion, during which Sheffield had the best stretch of command he’s ever had, he’s had issues throwing strikes. This, combined with some injuries (an oblique strain in 2017, shoulder stiffness in 2018) and the way Sheffield’s body has thickened, has led some scouts to conclude that Sheffield will eventually be a reliever, albeit a very good one due to the quality of his stuff. We don’t think his fastball is going to miss as many bats as you might expect given its velocity. It’s a mid-90s bowling ball sinker with well-below average spin rate. This should pair well with Sheffield’s changeup, but it may not effectively set up his slider, which on its own is excellent. He’s more likely to end up a league-average starter than a middle or top of the rotation type, and he might be a dynamic, multi-inning reliever. 2. Yusei Kikuchi, LHP Video (SEA) Age 27.7 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 194 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Splitter Cutter Command Sits/Tops 50/50 60/60 55/55 55/55 45/45 91-95 / 96 One could argue the 27-year-old Kickuchi doesn’t belong on a prospects list, but he’s not even the oldest player on The Board, and you’d probably like to know more about him, so here we go. MLB teams had interest in Kikuchi when he was a teenager and several of them courted him before he was drafted into NPB. Though minor ailments limited his early-career workload, he’s been one of the better starters in Japan for the last six years and has been especially good for the last two, before Saitama posted him. He started getting into pitch design after his parent club installed a TrackMan unit in 2016. Like a lot of Japanese pitchers, Kikuchi has a kitchen sink repertoire that features a splitter and various breaking balls. Everything is above-average, except for Kikuchi’s fastball. Mechanically, Kikuchi is similar to MacKenzie Gore, although his stride direction is more direct to the plate and his delivery has a brief intermission as his landing leg descends (pause) then everything comes home. His arm action is efficient and Kikuchi’s slot is vertical, something it seems that more analytically inclined teams prefer. He sounds like a mid-rotation starter who, for our purposes, will enter his decline phase earlier than everyone else on this list because of his age. 3. Jarred Kelenic, CF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Waukesha West HS (WI) (NYM) Age 19.6 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 196 Bat / Thr L / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/60 55/55 20/50 55/50 45/50 60/60 Kelenic was one of four prep hitters in the 2018 class — along with Brice Turang, Alek Thomas, and Mike Siani — who played together in the Team USA pipeline for years; all got top-two round money in the draft. Kelenic is the best of the group because he offers the best contact skills while also being tied for having the most raw power, speed, and defensive value. His well-rounded skillset enticed the Mets to take him sixth overall, but he was then traded by new GM Brodie Van Wagnen as the headliner to acquire Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz. Kelenic is an intense competitor who works tirelessly, to the point that some teammates and scouts think he should reel it back in a bit at times, though they point out they’d rather have a guy who’s too dedicated than one who’s not enough. He’s a plus straight-line runner but more of a 55 on the field, and thus isn’t a slam dunk to stick in center. But he has 55 raw power, so there’s enough thump to profile if he ends up sliding over to right field, where his plus arm would also fit. 4. Justin Dunn, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Boston College (NYM) Age 23.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/55 55/60 45/50 50/55 45/50 92-95 / 97 A college reliever until midway through his junior year at Boston College, Dunn’s repertoire has developed quickly and he now has four above-average pitches. Both of his breaking balls (a slider in the mid-80s and an upper-70s curve) work because he has terrific command of both, almost always locating them down and to his glove side in places that are enticing but unhittable. This wanes when he’s pitching from the stretch. His fastball command is below average but he throws hard enough to get away with mistakes, sitting 92-95 and touching 97. His changeup came on late in the year and will flash plus. It’s firm, 85-88mph, but some of them have a lot of arm side movement and will still miss bats. Dunn finished 2018 at Double-A and has a shot to debut next year, but more likely sees Safeco in 2020. 5. Evan White, 1B Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2017 from Kentucky (SEA) Age 22.9 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / L FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/55 50/50 40/50 60/55 60/70 55/55 We now have a full season of data to help us figure out whether Evan White’s weird profile is going to play. A plus-running, backwards guy (he bats right and throws left, a generally unfavorable combination due to the defensive limitations and platoon issues caused by both) who plays plus defense at first base, White was slugging .391 at the start of August, which is rather uninspiring for a college hitter in the Cal League. By the end of the month, however, White had 30 hits in 90 plate appearances and was slugging .763. He has made subtle changes to his lower half, drawing his front knee back toward his rear hip more than he did at Kentucky, and taking a longer stride back toward the pitcher. White is more often finishing with a flexed front leg, which has helped him go down and lift balls in the bottom part of the strike zone by adjusting his lower half instead of his hands. White looked good during the Arizona Fall League, too, squelching some concern that he was just a polished college hitter beating up on Cal League pitching. He’s one of the more bizarre players in the minors. 6. Shed Long, 2B Video Drafted: 12th Round, 2013 from Jacksonville HS (AL) (CIN) Age 23.5 Height 5′ 8″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr L / R FV 50 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 40/45 55/55 40/50 55/55 40/45 50/50 After a bad 42-game initial foray into Double-A in 2017, Long’s BABIP and overall statline rebounded in his 2018 full season campaign at Pensacola, where he hit .261/.353/.412 with 12 homers and 19 steals. A converted catcher, with rare straight-line speed for a backstop but the stereotypically excellent catcher makeup, Long is still not a very good second baseman and has below average hands and clunky footwork. He has now been playing there regularly for three and a half seasons, and his development has plateaued. We still have him projected as a 45 defender at second base but also think there’s an increased chance that he eventually moves to the outfield. It would be much easier for Long to profile were he to stay at second base, where big leaguers slashed a collective .254/.317/.395 (good for a 93 wRC+) in 2018. The outfield corners are not so kind. Ultimately, Long has some power and his thunderous uppercut swing is going to enable him to get to it in games, even if his contact profile is fringy. That will play everyday at second base so long as he can. Since acquiring him, the Mariners have used Shed at second, third, and in left field. He’s looked pretty good at third for not having played there and he’s hit well in big league spring training games. 45+ FV Prospects 7. Julio Rodriguez, RF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Dominican Republic (SEA) Age 18.2 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 205 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 25/55 55/65 30/60 45/40 40/50 55/60 It isn’t often that people in baseball begin recounting their thoughts on a player as talented as Rodriguez with fawning anecdotes about the player’s maturity, but that is almost always what happens when scouts talk about Julio. He is an old, reflective soul with an adolescent’s enthusiasm for baseball in the body of a Division I tight end. Because Rodriguez spent his 2018 summer in the DSL (which isn’t heavily scouted) and Seattle eschews game action during instructional league, if people in baseball wanted a look at Rodriguez they sought out the highlight clips he would upload to his Instagram account. He hit .315/.404/.525 in the DSL, so there were plenty of those. His feed is also full of group photos with other young prospects and several big leaguers, all of whom Rodriguez is taller than. The convergence of his physical, technical, and seeming emotional maturity have caused Seattle to publicly consider skipping Rodriguez over the AZL and Northwest League in favor of sending him right to their new Low-A affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia as a young 18-year-old. The cultural assimilation curve may be steep, but Rodriguez is talented enough to have on-field success there. His approach is quiet and would appear contact-oriented if not for his prodigious natural strength, which turns would-be flare singles into gap doubles, and causes mis-hit flyouts to threaten the warning track. He could end up with a plus bat and plus power, plenty to profile in an outfield corner, hit in the middle of a good order, and perhaps be a perennial All-Star. The Kelenic/Rodriguez duo is refined enough that they each might be promoted at a pace that more closely mimics college players than recently-acquired teenagers, which would enable them to have more big league overlap with the crop of twenty-somethings the org acquired in the Paxton/Diaz deals. 8. Logan Gilbert, RHP Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2018 from Stetson (SEA) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 5″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 50/60 45/50 50/55 45/50 45/55 87-92 / 96 We don’t typically project such a strong post-draft uptick in velocity for a college starter, but Gilbert was worked so hard during his junior year at Stetson that we believe the velo he showed last year was beneath what we’ll see with a more regimented workload as a pro. He was sitting 92-96 as a rising sophomore on Cape Cod, but often sat 90-94, and sometimes 88-91, throughout his starts the following spring. While we anticipate a rebound — and Gilbert has been 94-97 in bullpens and simulated environments this spring — college starters often experience a slight downturn in velo because they’re being asked to go every fifth day for five months instead of once a week for three and a half. While there’s a wide array of potential outcomes for Gilbert’s fastball, his command, breaking ball quality, prototypical frame, and mechanical consistency have been stable. He at least profiles as a quick-moving backend starter, but could be a mid-rotation arm if the velo comes back, and he’s a good bet to be on our mid-year top 100 update. 45 FV Prospects 9. Kyle Lewis, RF Video Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Mercer (SEA) Age 23.6 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 210 Bat / Thr R / R FV 45 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 60/65 45/55 50/45 45/50 60/60 We still know less about Lewis than is typical of a 23-year-old prospect, largely due to the significant time he missed because of a 2016 ACL tear suffered just a month after his pro debut. The injury washed away the rest of 2016 and essentially all of 2017, as a visibly hobbled Lewis stopped and started baseball activity several times due to ongoing issues with the knee. He even began 2018 with a month-long stay on the injured list because he wasn’t a full go when spring training began. He was healthy for the rest of 2018 but his performance was mixed, and his tools beneath where they were in college. He was clearly less explosive than most of his peers at the Futures Game were, but of course at that point he had only been playing healthy, regular baseball for about two months. This spring, the physical ability that had scouts calling Lewis the most talented prospect on Cape Cod — and that drove him to near the top of 2016 draft boards — has returned. That injured right knee looks healthy as it twists and bends through contact. It’s shouldering more of a mechanical burden now than it was in 2017, certainly, and Lewis is taking healthy but comfortable hacks with the same natural flyball loft he exhibited in college. He’s hit a few impressive spring training homers but has also swung through quite a few fastballs in the zone, some in the 90-92 mph range. Teams were concerned about potential strikeout issues in college, concerns that were exacerbated by the small-school competition he faced, which served to limit the confidence teams had in his performance. This year is not only important for Lewis’ development but for the industry’s understanding of his profile. He finally appears healthy and he has heart-of-the order offensive talent so long as he doesn’t have severe contact issues. 40+ FV Prospects 10. Noelvi Marte, SS Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2018 from Dominican Republic (SEA) Age 17.4 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 180 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/50 50/60 20/55 45/40 40/50 45/50 Marte, who signed for $1.5 million last July, was one of the more exciting power hitters in the class. For the second straight year, the Mariners’ top international signee was a strong-bodied prospect more physically mature than the typical teenager. With broad, tapered shoulders and a sizable lower half, he body comps to Jonathan Schoop and like Schoop, he projects to move off of shortstop at some point. His size prohibits projection at the position on its own, and Marte’s hands were also inconsistent as an amateur; some international scouts thought he might move to the outfield. But Marte has the thunderous, pull-side power to profile just about anywhere, especially if he can stay on the dirt. He should end up with plus raw power at peak, perhaps more. He has a long, slow leg kick that doesn’t add much to his swing efficacy right now, as most of Marte’s power comes from pure hand speed and strength, but that will likely improve with reps. He’s a volatile, exciting young prospect who may be on the Julio Rodriguez development track, which would mean we likely won’t see him play much in the U.S. until 2020. 11. Cal Raleigh, C Drafted: 3rd Round, 2018 from Florida State (SEA) Age 22.3 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 225 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/45 55/55 40/55 45/40 40/50 55/55 Raleigh switched his college commitment from Clemson to Florida State late when the Clemson head coach was fired after the season, freeing up signees to move. One other Clemson signee, current Royals right-handed pitcher Jackson Kowar, switched to Florida and cost the Tigers two solid three-year contributors. Raleigh had a big bonus number out of high school and was well-rounded, but had enough questions that clubs didn’t feel comfortable going well past the $1 million mark. At Florida State, he developed skills that work best in today’s game: he’s not seen as a lock to stick at a catcher but has above average arm strength to work with and is a plus framer according to some clubs’ metrics. He’s seen as a below average hit, above average power type at the plate and with the sorry state of big league catching, that adds up to a regular if things continue developing in this way. We’ve heard of at least two other clubs that attempted to get Raleigh to their pick in the draft for an overslot bonus when Seattle stepped in and ruined those plans — the best way to confirm that a player has industry trade value — so we’ve moved him up just a bit since our draft day 40 FV grade. 12. Erik Swanson, RHP Video Drafted: 8th Round, 2014 from Iowa Western JC (IA) (TEX) Age 25.5 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 235 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 45/50 45/50 50/55 91-95 / 96 Swanson’s fastball exhibits several of the nuanced traits that aid velocity in missing bats. For one, his heater has a 12:30 spin axis, which means it has nearly perfect backspin, better enabling fastball rise. It also has an approach angle that plays well at the top of the strike zone, which, in combination with the rise and velocity, makes it the archetypal modern fastball. His secondary stuff is quite average but as long as he is locating his mid-80s slider and changeup — something he has struggled with in his big league appearances this spring — he should at least be a good backend starter or multi-inning reliever, and it’s possible the secondary fastball characteristics are so strong that we’re underselling him a little bit. 13. Sam Carlson, RHP Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2017 from Burnsville HS (MN) (SEA) Age 20.3 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40+ Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 55/60 45/50 50/60 40/55 89-93 / 94 Carlson has thrown just three pro innings since signing, as the minor flexor strain that shelved him after his draft turned out to be a prelude to surgery. He was given a PRP injection in an attempt to avoid Tommy John, but it was unsuccessful and he went under the knife in early July of 2018. The timing of the surgery may keep Carlson out for all of 2019. When he finally returns, he’ll be a 21-year-old with less developmental polish than a lot of teenage prospects from year-round baseball areas like Florida and Texas, as a former a two-way, cold-weather high schooler who will have missed about 30 consecutive months of reps. The summer before his senior year, Carlson was 88-92 with better command and changeup feel than is typical for a northern prep arm. His velocity ticked up the following spring and he was touching 96, then sat 92-95 in his few pro innings before his injury. If his stuff comes back, he has No. 4 starter upside. 40 FV Prospects 14. Braden Bishop, CF Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Washington (SEA) Age 25.5 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 35/40 50/50 40/40 70/70 70/70 55/55 Bishop’s 2018 season ended in July when he was hit by a pitch and suffered a fractured forearm. Though he has made swing tweaks that have dropped his groundball rate from a whopping 60% to 48% (which is still greater than league average), he is unlikely to do much offensive damage, and probably not enough to profile as an average everyday player. But he can really go get it in center field, and could turn into a Kevin Pillar type of regular who ends up playing every day simply because of how good he is in the field. A plus-plus runner with expansive range at the position, Bishop is capable of turning would-be extra-base hits into outs, and his speed and instincts on the basepaths will make him a dynamic pinch running option if he ends up in a bench outfield role, which most teams believe to be his median outcome. He’ll likely spend most of 2019 in Tacoma but could be up in September. 15. Wyatt Mills, RHP Video Drafted: 3rd Round, 2017 from Gonzaga (SEA) Age 24.1 Height 6′ 3″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/60 60/60 45/55 50/55 92-94 / 95 Mills has several traits that are atypical not only of side-arm relievers, but of relievers in general. For one, he throws harder than most side-armers and will have outings where he sits comfortably in the 93-95 range with his fastball, while dropping down into the 91-94 range in others. He also throws an unusually high ratio of strikes for a bullpen arm; 70% of his 2018 fastballs went for strikes. In addition to his dastardly slider, Mills also has a pretty good changeup, which helps to mitigate platoon issues that might otherwise be worse given his arm slot. In our estimation, the strike-throwing and changeup give Mills a better chance of playing a high-leverage or multi-inning role than the other relief-only prospects in this system. A caveat here is that Mills did not throw on back-to-back days in 2018 and often had several days of rest between appearances, so we’re not sure how his stuff might respond to the more varied usage necessitated by the big league environment. 16. Jake Fraley, LF Video Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from LSU (TBR) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 45/50 45/45 35/45 55/55 50/55 40/40 Fraley went 77th overall in 2016, in the comp round after the second round. That’s right around the range in the draft where the college hitters come with some warts and project more as role players than potential regulars. Fraley was a plus runner who projected in center field as an amateur but he has lost a step in pro ball and profiles as more of a tweener now, with offensive skills that don’t overwhelm, so the outcome is most likely bench outfielder of some stripe. There’s a shot he can stay healthy, add some loft to his swing, maintain some contact skills, and end up as a Ben Gamel-esque soft 50 FV for a couple seasons, but he’s more likely to fall in the Jake Cave or Billy McKinney region where a swing change ensures a big league role. Seattle acquired Fraley from the Rays, their best friend from trade camp, in the Mike Zunino/Mallex Smith swap this winter. Needs lined up, as Seattle was looking for cheap potential MLB contributors in the next season or two, and Tampa has a never-ending 40-man crunch to manage. 17. Dom Thompson-Williams, LF Drafted: 5th Round, 2016 from South Carolina (NYY) Age 23.9 Height 6′ 0″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr L / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 30/40 50/50 35/50 55/55 50/55 50/50 In addition to his high school baseball stardom, Thompson-Williams was a good wide receiver and safety in Sioux City, Iowa. It’s rare that an athlete like this gets to college at all, let alone a junior college, but DTW spent the first two years of his college career at Iowa Western JC, then transferred to South Carolina, where he answered any lingering questions about whether he could translate his raw athleticism into on-field performance against pro-level competition. He had a breakout 20/20 season at Hi-A last year, albeit as a 23-year-old. He has big raw power but there are questions about how readily he’ll be able to get to it in games, and teams have varying opinions about whether or not he can stay in center field. There’s low-end everyday upside if things continue to come together at the plate the way they did in 2018. More likely, Thompson-Williams is a useful platoon at multiple outfield spots, or as a player who can provide some thump and speed off the bench. Given his shorter track record and age, that’s a 40 FV for now with a chance to turn into a 45 FV with upper-level performance, which would reinforce notions that his 2018 on-paper production was real. 18. Juan Querecuto, SS Signed: July 2nd Period, 2017 from Venezuela (SEA) Age 18.5 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw 20/55 40/45 20/40 45/50 45/50 55/60 Querecuto suffered a torn meniscus in February, but his physical immaturity almost certainly had him ticketed for the AZL, so while he may be brought along slowly as minor league spring training gets underway, he should be fine for game action during extended spring training, and when rookie ball starts in June. He’s a graceful but unexplosive shortstop, with a limber, projectable frame. His arm and body control are clean fits at short, though his first step leaves a bit to be desired. He may grow into some power as his body matures, which may enable him to play every day, but it’s more likely that he becomes a utility type. 19. Gerson Bautista, RHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2012 from Dominican Republic (BOS) Age 23.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 70/70 50/50 45/45 40/40 92-97 / 99 Bautista was part of Seattle’s return in the Diaz/Cano trade (the Mets acquired him from Boston for Addison Reed at the 2017 trade deadline). He’s an arm strength-dependent reliever who’ll likely lose list eligibility sometime this season. He throws really hard and has been in the 96-97 mph range in his big league outings this spring while showing a slightly improved slider. It doesn’t move much, but it moves quite a bit considering how hard it is, sitting in the 86-87 mph range this spring. It has mostly horizontal action when Bautista is locating it to his glove side but has more vertical action to it when it’s closer to the middle of the plate. The secondary stuff for high-leverage duty probably isn’t here, and we have Bautista projected as a middle reliever. 20. Matthew Festa, RHP Video Drafted: 7th Round, 2016 from East Stroudsburg (SEA) Age 26.0 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 195 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Command Sits/Tops 50/50 55/55 50/50 45/50 92-94 / 96 The movement profiles on Festa’s four and two-seam fastballs are sufficiently different that he’s one of the few prospects for whom we wish we had separate columns on The Board for each fastball classification. It’s imperative that Festa not only vary the shape of his fastball but that he work with his slider often because for a reliever, he doesn’t throw especially hard. His repertoire depth is a significant part of why he’s likely to be successful in the big leagues. Both his heavily-used slider and curveball are of big league quality and can miss bats when located, and Festa has a serviceable changeup. He’ll probably be the first East Stroudsburg University alum to log significant big league time in over a century and will likely graduate off this list in 2019. 21. Joey Gerber, RHP Drafted: 8th Round, 2018 from Illinois (SEA) Age 21.8 Height 6′ 4″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr R / R FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Changeup Command Sits/Tops 60/65 50/55 40/50 40/45 92-95 / 96 Gerber was 104th in our pre-draft rankings, and Seattle ended up popping him in the eighth round, 238th overall, in what looked immediately like a great value for a slipped-through-the-cracks prospect. Gerber was widely scouted, but clubs often start saving money by taking seniors around the fifth round, lining up 11th round picks to spend their savings on and scooping up the last signable prep prospects, or generally looking for upside and/or low cost players. In those situations, potential middle relievers who sign for about slot can sometimes be overlooked, although the 2017 version was Pirates seventh rounder Jared Oliva, a tools-over-performance corner outfielder, another demographic clubs are hesitant to take in the 5th-8th rounds. Gerber sits 92-95 and hits 96 mph with above average life, and mixes in an above average slider, a changeup that flashes average, and a combination of tempo and deception that keeps hitters off balance. He’s probably not a setup man or a closer but he’s not that different than Giants third rounder Jake Wong, who signed for $850,000, while Gerber went five rounds later and signed for $167,400, and may move even faster through the system. These are the kind of small edges a rebuilding system needs to grab when they’re available. 22. Anthony Misiewicz, LHP Video Drafted: 18th Round, 2015 from Michigan State (SEA) Age 24.3 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 190 Bat / Thr R / L FV 40 Tool Grades (Present/Future) Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command Sits/Tops 45/45 50/55 55/60 45/45 45/50 91-94 / 95 Part of the growing support group of players who have been traded and then reacquired by Jerry Dipoto, Misiewicz made just five starts for the Rays before they shipped him back to Seattle after the 2017 season. He’s an athletic lefty with a bevy of average or better pitches that should enable him to operate as a fifth starter or multi-inning reliever. Though his fastball plays up a little bit due to extension and occasionally has bat-missing movement, it’s fairly hittable when left in the strike zone and Misiewicz will likely have to make frequent use of his changeup and breaking ball. It’s unclear if he has two separate breaking balls or if Misiewicz is simply adept at subtle speed/shape manipulation of the same pitch, but the utility of each version is different enough that we have it graded as two different pitches. Regardless, there’s sufficient fifth starter stuff here, especially if there’s a way to alter his fastball shape and usage in a way that makes it less vulnerable in the strike zone. 35+ FV Prospects 23. Jorge Benitez, LHP Drafted: 9th Round, 2017 from Leadership Christian HS (PR) (SEA) Age 19.8 Height 6′ 2″ Weight 155 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ A good get for $150,000 in the ninth round of his draft, Benitez is a slightly atypical teenage projection arm with feel for spin. Similar to the way Triston McKenzie was viewed by a minority of teams, some clubs thought Benitez’s measurables were misleading as to his projectability and that his frame was so slight that there was nowhere to put extra mass. So far Benitez’s fastball is up a little bit from high school but still south of the average big league heater, and we now have quantifiable verification that he can spin his breaking ball well (about 2500 rpm on average). If the velocity suddenly pops, he’ll shoot up past the relief-only types on this list as Benitez will have a better chance of starting. 24. Luis Liberato, CF Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Dominican Republic (SEA) Age 23.2 Height 6′ 1″ Weight 175 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ Though he posted the lowest strikeout rate of his career in 2018 amid a minor swing change, Liberato still did not perform in a semi-repeat of Hi-A. His stance has closed off but there’s still a lot of noise in his hands and he only does damage on balls down and in; there’s a lot of work to be done if Liberato is going to hit enough to play everyday, despite his physical talent. He still has bench outfielder tools. There’s some pull-side power here, a plus arm, and the speed to play center when Liberato is healthy, which he really wasn’t last year. He was left back in extended spring training until late May with hamstring soreness and saw more time in left field than in center for the first time in his career. Never an efficient base stealer, Liberato was successful in just two of his seven attempts and didn’t even try to swipe a bag after June. He was running better in the Dominican Winter League and we still like his chances of bouncing back and finding his way onto a big league bench, though there are now several other left-handed hitting outfielders ahead of him in this system. 25. Ricardo Sanchez, LHP Video Signed: July 2nd Period, 2013 from Venezuela (LAA) Age 21.9 Height 5′ 11″ Weight 215 Bat / Thr L / L FV 35+ 21-year-old lefties who can spin a breaking ball don’t often end up in DFA limbo, but the Braves glut of talented young pitchers forced the developmentally stagnant Sanchez off the 40-man this past winter. He has been pretty much the same pitcher since he was 19-years-old, possessing enviable stuff but never the mechanical consistency to harness it. Sanchez has had a low-90s fastball (that will touch as high as 95 early in outings) and good lefty curveball since before Anaheim sent him to Atlanta for Kyle Kubitza back in 2015, and that combination drives a perfectly fine lefty relief profile, especially if Sanchez can air it out for an inning at a time and adds a few ticks to his fastball as a result. He’s only 22 and will have ample opportunity to make relevant tweaks and adjustments against big league hitters on a quickly rebuilding Seattle club. Other Prospects of Note Grouped by type and listed in order of preference within each category. Corner Hitters With Fringy Offensive Profiles Joe Rizzo, 3B Dan Vogelbach, DH Joey Curletta, 1B Eric Filia, 1B/RF Keegan McGovern, 1B Ariel Sandoval, RF We’ve never been huge on Rizzo despite his obvious feel for contact because his frame has been maxed out since high school and we weren’t sure where sufficient power was going to come from, especially if he were to ever move off of third base. He’s still just 20 and had respectable peripherals at Hi-A last year, so we’ll continue to keep tabs on him despite our skepticism. Vogelbach and Curletta might each see big league time this year. Vogelbach’s approach prioritizes contact over the type of selectivity he’d need to have to get to all his power. His bat control makes this approach viable, but it may not generate offense that clears the bar at 1B/DH. He may be a good buy low target for an NL team trying to get ahead of the universal DH implementation. Like a lot of Dodgers and ex-Dodgers, Curletta’s batted ball profile has shifted and become flyball heavy over the course of several years. He did have 23 dingers last year, though he was a 24-year-old in Double-A and struck out quite a bit. Those two are both younger than Filia, who has raked for his entire college and pro career amid several off-field issues and a trade that fell through due to a medical red flag. He may fall into a late-career Lenny Harris type role if a team has enough defensive flexibility elsewhere on its roster. McGovern was a high-priority senior sign who remade his physique and had a tool uptick. He’s 23 and will need to move quickly. Sandoval has big power and runs well, but the 33% strikeout rate is ominous. Sleeper Arms Sam Delaplane, RHP Deivy Florido, RHP David McKay, RHP Brayan Perez, LHP Delaplane has a 2700 rpm curveball and low-90s sinker, and he hides the ball pretty well and K’d 100 hitters in 60 innings at Low-A last year. Because he’s a cold-weather college arm, it’s a little more acceptable that he performed that way at 23, and we think he’s an interesting sleeper who might get pushed quickly this year. Florido will be 18 all year. He sits 87-89, has modest physical projection, advanced fastball control, and feel for spin. McKay was part of a group of minor league players the Mariners acquired from the Royals for cash early in 2018, presumably for minor league depth reasons. Seattle ‘penned him, and it turns out McKay is actually a decent fastball/slider middle relief prospect. Perez is an 18-year-old pitchability lefty who threw well in the DSL; his stuff is currently a bunch of 45s and 50s and his arm action is good, but the frame limits projection. Older Relievers Nick Rumbelow, RHP Art Warren, RHP Brandon Brennan, RHP These are all relief or depth types in the age 25-27 range. Seattle gave up Juan Then to acquire Rumbelow from the Yankees and he barely pitched last year due to a nerve issue in his neck. When healthy, he’s 92-95, and touches 97, with an above-average changeup and slider. Warren pared his repertoire down and is now a fastball/slider middle relief prospect of somewhat advanced age. Brennan was the team’s Rule 5 pickup; his report is available here. System Overview This list, of course, looks much different than last year’s iteration, which was arguably the saddest list we’ve ever done, the Charlie Brown Christmas tree of prospect lists. Of course, stocking this system with several of the high-profile names now present cost Seattle 2018’s best reliever, a shortstop with a 70 bat, a Dominican icon, an emerging if perhaps unassuming face of the franchise, and Mike Zunino. Most of the prospects Seattle acquired in return are relatively close to the majors, supporting the front office’s public assertions that this will be a short-term rebuild. Additionally, the two teenagers in the system most likely to be stars (Rodriguez and Kelenic) are quite advanced for their age, and could be on an accelerated developmental path that enables them to overlap for a while in the big leagues with the other 50 FV prospects in the system, even though they are about four or five years older than Kelenic and Rodriguez on average. There will be prospect entropy — J.P. Crawford, who doesn’t look so great thus far in the spring, is a great example of this. Not all of these guys will end up as good as we and the Mariners currently project them to be, and this system is still pretty thin beyond the names who were brought on this offseason. The structure of the rebuild indicates intelligent design, but chaos and entropy will play their role. Mitch Haniger (who looks like a star), Domingo Santana (who has the talent to be one), and the charismatic Mallex Smith (who may sneakily already be one) will be fun to watch while the kids grow up. We still don’t know a lot about this org’s player development. The swollen physiques of the Jack Zduriencik era seem to be a thing of the past as the strength and conditioning program has improved, but this group really hasn’t had much talent to mold, let alone enough to draw results-based conclusions about the player dev approach, and the cement is pretty dry on the 50 FV prospects listed above. How much better is this system now than at the end of the year? It was last by a good bit in Craig’s end-of-season analysis and, while we consider re-working our math, it has currently moved up into the 14-19 range in all of baseball.