Seattle Mariners Top 20 Prospects for 2018
The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. All of these grades are subject to change as the winter progresses. The final grades will be finished sometime in February when all 30 teams are complete.
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS
Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don’t intervene. Note that is a major “if” in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don’t make it at all.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
1) Kyle Lewis, OF, Grade B: Age 22, first round pick in 2016 from Mercer; pro career has gotten off to a slow start due to serious knee injury; hit .257/.329/.412 in 187 at-bats between rookie ball rehab and High-A, seven homers, 19 walks, 52 strikeouts; played two games in Arizona Fall League until knee pain recurred; best tools are 60-grade power and arm strength; used to be a 55 runner but injury has knocked that back; needs playing time to iron out his swing mechanics and hone plate discipline; high ceiling power bat but remains to be seen exactly how complete a player he can be. ETA late 2019.
2) Evan White, 1B, Grade B: Age 21, first round pick in 2017 from University of Kentucky; hit .277/.345/.532 in Northwest League over 47 at-bats, small sample but successful; outstanding defensive first baseman who can also play the outfield; Gold Glove ability at first if he hits enough to play regularly; projected as high-batting-average/OBP hitter with moderate power by most observers, although in the NWL he showed more isolated power (and a lower average) than expected, again the sample is small; will likely make short work of A-ball, watch his power production when he hits the high minors. ETA late 2019.
3) Sam Carlson, RHP, Grade B-: Age 19, second round pick in 2017 from high school in Minnesota; prototype pitcher’s body with athletic 6-4, 195 frame; fastball as high as 96-97 MPH, mixes in very good change-up and erratic but promising slider; makeup and mound presence also positives; threw three innings in rookie ball until being shut down with vaguely-described arm soreness, not supposed to be a big deal but he’s a pitcher so caution is advised until we see what kind of workload he can handle; not everyone likes his mechanics but Carlson is certainly the highest-ceiling arm in the system; personally I like him but I have a Midwestern bias; ETA 2022.
4) Braden Bishop, OF, Grade B-: Age 24, third round pick in 2015 from University of Washington; hit .306/.393/.413 with 34 doubles, 60 walks, 22 steals in 480 at-bats between High-A and Double-A; best tools are speed, throwing arm, and overall athleticism; excellent defensive outfielder who handles center field well; main question is power, he has gap pop and gets on base but will need to show there’s sufficient zip in the bat to play regularly in the majors; at worst a strong fourth outfielder due to glove, speed, and OBP ability; ETA late 2018.
5) Dan Vogelbach, 1B, Grade C+: Age 25; hit .290/.388/.455 with 17 homers, 76 walks, 98 strikeouts in 459 at-bats in Triple-A, .214/.290/.250 in 28 major league at-bats; mashing Triple-A for two seasons now, no mystery here, he can hit with power and high OBP skills but is very limited defensively, basically a born DH at this point; ETA 2018 (he’s ready now, but no obvious place to put him).
6) Julio Rodriguez, OF, Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of the Dominican Republic in July 2017 for $1,750,000; hasn’t played yet; wouldn’t rank this high in most organizations due to lack of data but lack of system depth moves him up; scouting reports say he has at least 60-grade power and a strong throwing arm, right field profile; reports on hitting polish are mixed but given his age that’s understandable; basically we need to see him in action before saying anything more; ETA 2023.
7) Max Povse, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, third round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2014 from UNC-Greensboro, traded to Mariners in November 2016; 3.46 ERA in 39 innings in Double-A, 32/14 K/BB, but 7.39 ERA in 32 Triple-A innings, 29/12 K/BB; appeared briefly in majors; lost time due to hamstring issue; works in low-90s as a starter, mid-90s as a reliever, mixing in average curveball and change-up; 6-8 body gives some intimidation potential; could be fourth starter or more dominant reliever if command and mechanics are in gear. ETA 2018.
8) Joe Rizzo, 3B, Grade C+: Age 19, second round pick in 2016 from high school in Virginia; hit .254/.354/.346 with 63 walks, seven homers, 113 strikeouts in 410 at-bats in Low-A; lefty hitter, good feel for the strike zone; work ethic and game feel draw positive reviews, but lacks speed and his power production was much less than advertised; needs more polish at third base but hasn’t shown the power that would be needed if he has to move to left field or first base; still young enough to develop. ETA 2022.
ANALYST NOTE: At this point things get mushy, as spots nine through 20 could be ordered in any number of ways with valid logic. I highlighted the set of bullpen arms because they could get to the majors quickly.
9) Nick Rumbelow, RHP, Grade C+: Age 26, seventh round pick in 2013 from Louisiana State University by the New York Yankees, traded to Mariners in November 2017; posted 1.12 ERA in 40 innings between Double-A and Triple-A with 45/11 K/BB, just 21 hits; pitched pretty well in major league trial back in 2015 (4.02 in 16 innings, 15/5 K/BB) but went down with Tommy John and got buried in New York; fastball in mid-90s, also has a solid curveball and split-change and he usually throws strikes, ready for a job in the bullpen. ETA 2018.
10) Matthew Festa, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, seventh round pick in 2016 from East Stroudsburg University; posted 3.23 ERA with 99/19 K/BB in 70 innings in High-A; outstanding strikeout rate stands out; mid-90s fastball with wicked slider, also has a cutter and curveball, should be a fine middle reliever and it isn’t impossible that he could close someday. ETA 2019
11) Art Warren, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 23rd round pick in 2015 from Ashland; posted 3.06 ERA with 67/25 K/BB in 65 innings in High-A; burns radar as high as 98 MPH, also has plus breaking ball; pure stuff may be a bit better than Festa’s but his command is not as advanced; like Festa and Rumbelow he’s got a shot at being a very useful middle reliever, maybe more, if his command holds. ETA late 2019.
12) Seth Elledge, RHP, Grade C+: Age 21, fourth round pick in 2017 from Dallas Baptist; posted 3.24 ERA with 42/8 K/BB in 25 innings between Northwest and Midwest Leagues; another hard-throwing fastball/slider guy, can hit mid-90s, good combination of plus stuff and ability to throw strikes so far; ETA 2020.
13) Wyatt Mills, RHP, Grade C+: Age 22, third round pick in 2017 from Gonzaga, posted 1.77 ERA with 29/9 K/BB in 20 innings between Northwest and Midwest Leagues; doesn’t throw quite as hard as Elledge, working in low-90s, but has a good slider and deception ability; yet another bullpen arm who could be quite useful down the line. ETA 2020.
14) Ronald Rosario, OF, Grade C+: Age 20, signed out of Dominican Republic in 2013; hit .294/.355/.516 with six homers, 11 walks, 40 strikeouts in 126 at-bats in Northwest League; solid production for this league, shows solid-average power potential and a good throwing arm, runs pretty well despite just one stolen base, although fits best in corner outfield spot; destroyed right-handed pitching (.320/.377/.567), quite worthy of notice in a thin system although strike zone judgment needs more work; ETA 2021.
15) Anthony Jimenez, OF, Grade C+: Age 22, signed out of Venezuela in 2013, hit .298/.362/.482 with 19 walks, 73 strikeouts, 24 steals in 228 at-bats in Low-A; like Rosario, Jimenez has some interesting tools and put them to good use in ’17, although he’s two years older and thus has less projection; 60-runner, surprising power in 5-11, 170 frame, though contact issues will need to be ironed out as he moves up; tools fit well in center field; ETA late 2020.
16) Juan Querecuto, SS; Grade C+: Age 17, signed out of Venezuela in 2017 for $1,225,000; hasn’t played yet; scouting reports credit him as a slick-fielding shortstop and a switch-hitter with above-average game speed and good strike zone judgment; makeup is also a reported positive; and yes we need to see him play, so grading is problematic; ETA 2023.
17) Joseph Rosa, 2B, Grade C+: Age 20, interesting sleeper who has received little notice but has always played well, hit .296/.374/.531 in Northwest League after hitting .305/.345/.455 in rookie ball in ’16; New York native signed as an undrafted free agent in summer of 2015; switch-hitter listed at 5-10, 165, holds career slash line of .298/.369/.436; rough with the glove, limited to second base tools-wise and has been error-prone so far, but the bat bears close watching. ETA 2022.
18) Ian Miller, OF, Grade C: Age 25, 14th round pick in 2013 from Wagner College, hit .307/.355/.393 between Double-A and Triple-A with 33 walks, 102 strikeouts, 43 steals; excellent speed on the bases and a good glove as well, lacks power and aggressive approach cuts into his OBP production; fourth outfielder type with some speed value. ETA late 2018.
19) Mike Ford, 1B, Grade C: Age 25, selected from Yankees system in 2017 Rule 5 draft; Princeton product hit .270/.404/.471 with 20 homers, 94 walks, 72 strikeouts in 429 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A; very good power with good eye for the strike zone, mediocre defender at first base; like Vogelbach he could be a useful power bat/DH type. ETA 2018.
20) Oliver Jaske, LHP, Grade C: Age 22, sixth round pick in 2017 from University of Michigan, ugly numbers so far with 6.82 ERA in 30 innings in Northwest League, 43 hits, however K/BB was pretty good at 33/13; was effective in college with 3.77 ERA over 93 innings, 119/31 K/BB; 6-3, 210 lefty with 89-93 MPH fastball, plus change-up, and a slider that needs more work; could advance more quickly than expected if he can keep command in gear. ETA 2021.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Johnny Adams, 3B; Greifer Andrade, OF; Nathan Bannister, RHP; Bryson Brigman, INF; Ryan Costello, 3B; Jordan Cowan, 3B; Joey Curletta, 1B; Joe DeCarlo, C; Chase De Jong, RHP; Eric Filia, OF; David Freitas, C; Darin Gillies, RHP; Eugene Helder, INF; Spencer Herrmann, LHP; Cesar Izturis Jr, INF; Luis Liberato, OF; Mike Marjama, C; Reggie McClain, RHP; Anthony Misiewicz, LHP; Sam Moll, LHP; Gareth Morgan, OF; Ljay Newsome, RHP; Joe Odom, C; Cameron Perkins, OF; Max Roberts, LHP; Tommy Romero, RHP; Chuck Taylor, OF; Andres Torres, RHP; Zach Vincej, INF; Jamal Wade, RHP; Donnie Walton, 2B;Nick Wells, LHP; Rob Whalen, RHP; Nick Zamarelli, 1B-OF
As everyone says, this is a thin system; conventional wisdom is correct in this case. That said, it isn’t completely empty and even some of the Grade C types have a bit of intrigue to them.
I will be around in the comments and will have some additional snippets for a few of the Cs.