Bill Mitchell: Happy Friday and welcome to the Seattle Mariners chat session. We’re not scheduled to start yet, but I’m ready now so let’s get going. This was my first year doing the Mariners list, although I’ve been around their complex and many of their minor league teams for a lot of years. Finalizing this list with the plethora of trades that were made by GM Jerry Dipoto in the fall made the completion of their top 30 quite the wild ride.
Frank (Indianapolis IN): How many of these guys are likely to make the BA 100 list, if you had to guess?
Bill Mitchell: Kyle Lewis. That’s it.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Thanks for chatting. How close did Eric Filia come to making the list, and did his recent suspension play any part in your rankings?
Bill Mitchell: Filia is in the top 30 and you can read his report when you get your copy of the Prospect Handbook. The book went to press well before Filia’s suspension for a “drug of abuse” was announced last week, so it won’t affect where he’s ranked in the organization. He’ll be nearly 26 before he gets back into a regular game, so this isn’t a positive move forward.
Harry (Seattle, WA): Dan Vogelbach - prospect or suspect?
Bill Mitchell: Both? Vogelbach still owns a solid hit tool, but didn’t hit well in spring training when he had a good chance at earning a big league job and then didn’t match his 2016 production in his return to Tacoma. The “suspect” part comes from observers who question whether he’ll be able to get to his power enough for a regular role. While he works hard on defense, he’s never going to be more than a well below-average defender at first base. Right now his ceiling is as a platoon DH, and he’s going to have to really, really hit to provide value in that role.
Ben (Portland, OR): What can you tell us about Greifer Andrade? Will he be in the handbook?
Bill Mitchell: Andrade was at short-season Everett all last season, where he hit .295/.304/.420 in 55 games. Originally signed as a shortstop from his native Venezuela, Andrade’s body has thickened considerably and he moved to left field last year. He doesn’t have the arm for right or the speed for center, so the bat will REALLY need to develop. There are enough questions about his aptitude to hit that he ranked outside the top 30.
Grant (NYC): Is DeJong's future role likely to be as a starter or reliever?
Bill Mitchell: Chase DeJong is the right-handed arm that the Mariners acquired from the Dodgers for Drew Jackson and Aneurys Zabala. He’s more of a spot starter / long reliever type, a finesse pitcher with average stuff. He needs to get better extension than he had in 2017 for his average fastball to play up.
J.P. (Springfield, IL): Where would Neidert, Vieira and Banuelos have ranked, had they remained?
Bill Mitchell: Nick Neidert was slotted in at #2 in the org before being included in the trade for Dee Gordon. Thyago Vieira was considered for the top ten before he went to the White Sox. Catcher David Banuelos, a 2017 draft pick from Long Beach State, would have been in the high teens.
Ken (St. Louis, MO): How confident are you Kyle Lewis can get back to 100% before April, and that he'll be assigned to full season ball?
Bill Mitchell: That’s not a question that I can answer, other than I know how hard Lewis and the Mariners medical staff are working to get the knee strong again. He’ll be in full season ball this year, probably in Double-A.
Taylor (Atlanta): Thanks be to Jerry DiPoto for sending us Luiz Gohara - we greatly appreciate it. Where would you have ranked him here?
Bill Mitchell: Gohara would be #2 in the organization for me, although a case could be made for him to be the top prospect.
Oscar the Grouch (Sesame Street): In your honest opinion, will these dozens of trades by DiPoto lead to a WS championship anytime soon?
Bill Mitchell: Most of the trades made in the last two years have been for support pieces. The Mariners are in the same division as the current world champs who continue to use their farm system to acquire front-end talent (i.e. Verlander, Cole). Any near-future championship runs for the Mariners will need to be on the back of good seasons from their veteran regulars.
Zac (New York): Given his athleticism, does White have the power to stick at 1B or do you see a move to the outfield?
Bill Mitchell: Evan White is a plus-plus defender at first base, perhaps not far from getting an 80 grade on his glove (he’s at least a 70). My most reliable and trusted source in the Northwest League just raved about how smooth and effortless he is around the bag. As for the power, he has the bat speed to get good exit velocities and has a good eye and a very high aptitude for hitting. He should develop enough power for the position, and I think he’ll stay at first base.
Sam (NYC): When will the updated top 10 lists be released? When will the Top 100 Prospect list be released? Thanks -
Bill Mitchell: This is the last top 10 list for the year, but I expect that we will do mid-season updates again. The Top 100 list is coming soon.
The Hope (South Africa): Can Dylan Unsworth become a #5 starter?
Bill Mitchell: It’s good to get a question all the way from South Africa, which coincidentally is where Unsworth is from. He doesn’t have the velocity to get through the lineup more than two times, but a plus changeup and an ability to get swings & misses on pitches out of the zone indicate that he may have a role as a future middle reliever. Good character and makeup will help, too.
JY (Chicago): The introductory summary takes inventory of all the starting pitching that the Mariners have traded away since DiPoto took over. Were they still around, how many of those names would have ranked in the Mariners top ten, outside of the easy picks of Gohara and Neidert?
Bill Mitchell: I mentioned in a previous answer where Neidert, Gohara and Vieira would fit. One other likely top ten pitcher would have been Juan Then, who was part of the package to the Yankees for reliever Nick Rumbelow. I got great reports on the right-handed Then from Mariners sources, so much so that I was really surprised when he was included in that deal.
Chris O'Day (Nooksack, WA): Which pitcher could you see making an impact on the team in 2018?
Bill Mitchell: Max Povse could earn a rotation spot now that it looks like he’s recovered from the hamstring injury that affected his 2017 season. While he’s not a real high profile guy, Nick Rumbelow should earn a bullpen job out of spring training. Reports that I got on him indicate that his pre-TJ velo was back (touching 98) and the stuff looked good. As I indicated in my answer to the previous question, the Mariners paid a pretty high price for Rumbelow so he’ll get every chance to contribute in 2018.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Re: Art Warren fastball? slider? cutter? change? curve? Are all five plus pitches? That would be a "wow"!
Bill Mitchell: Pull back on the reins a little bit, Karl. Warren has a 70 grade fastball, but the breaking balls are average to above-average and his changeup is below-average. I like his chances to be a solid bullpen contributor, but not with four or five plus pitches.
Zac (New York): That 2021 projection looks mighty old. With the Astros poised to dominate and the Angels getting stronger, at what point do the Mariners start to bail on the current roster and make trades to restock for the future?
Bill Mitchell: Zac, I kept skipping over your question because I’m just not sure how to answer it. Too many variables in play, but I think the Mariners are going to be good enough to contend at least for the wild card for the next few years. I guess that’s my way of saying that I don’t see a total teardown coming anytime soon.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): What are your thoughts about the wisdom of having a guy (Evan White) with plus speed and a plus arm tied to the 1st base position?
Bill Mitchell: See my previous answer about White’s defense. He can be an elite defender, so keep him at first base.
Senator Bullworth (Columbia, SC): Our argument on why Rizzo is too low... 1) In A ball, he slashed .311/.396/.462/.858 on the road with 7 HRs, but at home he slashed .184/.305/.205/.150 with 0 HRs. Number of games played about the same. I've never seen splits like this. 2) Then he moves to high A Modesto very late in the season, and in the playoffs, he slashes .421/.500/.684/1.184 with 1 HR both home and away (with little difference between the two). This further validates performance when away from Clinton. I have to believe that something was wrong with the Clinton home field that precipitated his low slash. After all, have you ever seen such a discrepancy? Thoughts?
Bill Mitchell: Senator, those are some crazy home/road splits. Without spending too much time on it, I found a Baseball America article from a few years ago (https://www.baseballamerica.com/minors/minor-league-ballpark-effects-2014/#pdl6tdyYD1yd727E.97) that show Clinton’s park as more friendly to pitchers. As for Rizzo, the scouting community has very diverse opinions on Rizzo’s future and some evaluators are probably raising an eyebrow over his inclusion in the top 10. His late-season run in Modesto is encouraging and I’m eager to see how he does on his return to the Cal League.
Justin (Tucson, AZ): After busting his knee during his debut, taking a while to recover, then leaving the fall league after only a couple games, am I pessimistic to think Lewis won't stay healthy or will never be the player he's projected to be? He feels like a future, "what could've been" kinda guy
Bill Mitchell: Keep the faith, Justin. Lewis is an extremely hard worker and is doing everything to get the knee back to full strength.
Ryan (Seattle): Will Seattle alternate Evan White between 1B and OF at all in the big leagues?
Bill Mitchell: It’s too soon to tell. It’ll depend on the Mariners needs at the time. He certainly should be capable of handling both roles.
Tyrell (Bellevue): Have you heard anything about international FA Stir Candelario? He was expected to sign with SEA, but hasn't signed yet.
Bill Mitchell: There’s no current news on the unsigned Venezuelan outfielder Candelario, and reliable sources don’t concur that he was linked to the Mariners.
Eric (Tacoma, WA): Will Seattle bring back MILB FA Tyler Marlette next year?
Bill Mitchell: Marlette, Seattle’s 5th round pick in 2011, is a 6-year free agent after spending all last season with Double-A Arkansas. He’s listed in the MiLB database as a free agent. No word yet on where he’ll surface this year, likely somewhere as organizational catching depth.
Owen (Duvall, WA): What does Julio Rodriguez need to do next season to emerge as a top 100 prospect?
Bill Mitchell: Rodriguez just turned 17 and has yet to play an official game, so for now he just needs to play ball and develop his raw skills. It’s too early to talk about whether he’s a future top 100 prospect.
Wyatt Mills (Clinton Lumberkings): Aren't I just as good as Festa and Warren? Do you see me as a future MLB reliever?
Bill Mitchell: Mills, the Mariners 3rd round pick from Gonzaga, had a nice pro debut and doesn’t rank that far behind the more advanced Festa and Warren. With a fastball touching mid-90s, an ability to throw strikes and a funky submarine-ish delivery, Mills is expected to move quickly through the system. Could we see him in Seattle by the end of 2018? Probably not, but it’s not an impossible scenario.
Jerry D. (Seattle, WA): Any prospects Seattle shouldn't trade/untouchables?
Bill Mitchell: There are no untouchable prospects in baseball, Jerry. I was just at a White Sox mini-camp earlier this week and saw Yoan Moncada & Eloy Jimenez, two of the top prospects in the game. (OK, I know Moncada no longer has prospect status, but you know where I’m going with this). Both of these highly-rated players have been traded in the last year, which supports my assertion that there are no untouchables.
Max (Merced Island, WA): What do you think of Max Povse's chances of developing into a big league quality starter?
Bill Mitchell: Some observers believe in Povse to be able to slot in as a back-of-the-rotation starter, while others see him more as a long reliever. I lean more towards him being able to stay in the rotation. While it’s not overpowering stuff, he gets good angle on his fastball and can use the breaking ball for swings & misses.
Who is better? (Tacoma): Mike Ford or Dan Vogelbach?
Bill Mitchell: Here’s my first plug to be sure that everyone gets their order in for the Prospect Handbook and, remember, if you order it directly from BA you will get the 31st prospect for each team (spoiler alert – the Mariners 31st guy is the son of a long-time big league infielder). But now, back to Vogelbach and Ford. We ranked Vogie higher, but they are both in the book. Ford is a different type of first baseman altogether. I’ve never seen the latter so I’ll be watching for him in Peoria this spring.
Craig (Spokane, WA): Why did Chase De Jong struggle last year? Any chance he bounces back and eventually develops into a backend starter?
Bill Mitchell: De Jong broke camp with the big league team because of injuries to other pitchers. After a couple of rough outings with Seattle, he just never got settled back in Tacoma and then later at Double-A Arkansas. With a finesse, flyball pitcher there’s a thin margin for error, and De Jong just didn’t get it done last year.
Matthew (Vancouver, WA): Is Joe Rizzo's only above average took his hit tool? Can he be anything more than a potential bat-first 3B?
Bill Mitchell: Rizzo’s arm grades as above-average. If you factor in attitude and work ethic with the 5 tools, then we’ll put checks in those boxes. He’s still got a lot of work and conditioning to do to be able to stay at third base. But keep in mind that he played all last season as a teenager and won’t turn 20 until just before the end of spring training.
Jorge (Portland, WA): Why is there so much hype surrounding Julio Rodriguez when he hasn't made his debut yet?
Bill Mitchell: Plus-plus raw power, above-average hit tool, plus arm. With any teenager who has yet to play an official game in the states, there’s plenty of risk but he’s got a high upside if it all comes together for him.
Bryan (Portland, OR): Any reason to believe Sam Carlson fell to Seattle at 55 was due to an injury concern? I didn't think he'd be available at 17.
Bill Mitchell: There were no injury concerns that were reported. It was more the depth of the high school pitching class plus probably some signability concerns. Whatever the reason, it’s a good get by the Mariners who need young talent like Carlson in their system. I know that they were thrilled that he dropped to their second round pick because they and others certainly saw him as a first round talent.
Juan Querecuto (WA): Who is he? Why are scouts excited about him?
Bill Mitchell: Querecuto is thought of highly because of his feel for the game and advanced instincts, and the fact that he projects to stay at shortstop. The bloodlines from his father and brother likely help his stock, too. He doesn’t have the loud tools of Julio Rodriguez, but I’d bet that his floor is higher.
Greifer (Everett): Who else was considered for the top 10?
Bill Mitchell: This system thins out really quickly, so I’ll instead mention a few names of players that would have had strong consideration for the top 10 if they hadn’t been traded: Chris Torres, Juan Then, Alexander Campos.
Craig (Salem, OR): Are you buying the statement that Dipoto hasn't depleted the farm system? Making a bottom 5 system worse is basically depleting it right?
Bill Mitchell: Craig, it depends on your definition of “depleted.” There are still enough players in the system to fill the rosters of six minor league teams (plus a DSL team). I like the talent at the very top of the list. But, yes, the overall talent in the system is really down because of trades and promotions to the big league team. I don’t believe that many players outside the top 10 would make it on most other organization’s top 30 list.
Owen (Kirkland): Highest upside prospect outside the top 10?
Bill Mitchell: Owen, once you get outside the top 10 you’re looking at a lot of bullpen arms and utility players. With that said, I like the potential of Wyatt Mills (I talked about him in an earlier answer) and Seth Elledge, a power relief arm from Dallas Baptist. Those are the guys outside the top 10 that I’m most eager to see in spring training.
J (Sacramento): I thought Bryson Brigman was an interesting prospect coming out of the draft-is he still considered a prospect?
Bill Mitchell: Marginally, yes. He’s really athletic and is a plus runner. He profiles as a super utility type of player who can handle second base and outfield, but he needs to get a lot stronger to be able to hit well enough to advance through the higher levels. And the bat is a big IF for Brigman. He should get back to his home state with an assignment to the Cal League, so let’s see if that helps him.
Kyle (Seattle): how would you rank the following relievers outside of the top 10? Wyatt Mills, Seth Elledge, Nick Rublelow, Darren Gilles
Bill Mitchell: Mills, Rumbelow, Elledge, Gillies. But Elledge could jump up higher with a strong performance in 2018.
Jason L (Sherwood, Oregon): Would center fielder Herschel Powell have ranked close to the Top 10 had he not been traded for Yonder Alonso? He was batting .340 in Triple A.
Bill Mitchell: Gosh, I had to think for a moment who Herschel Powell was … I haven’t heard anyone call him that since his draft year. We all know him as Boog, not to be confused with the former Orioles first baseman. Powell had a nice partial season with Tacoma, but don’t read too much into a small sample from the hitter-friendly PCL. He was not on the top 30 last year, but I’m sure we would have found a spot for him this year if he had remained in the organization. He still has prospect eligibility.
Monte (Tacoma, WA): What exactly went wrong with DJ Peterson? Very difficult to give up on a First Rounder so soon.
Bill Mitchell: Peterson didn’t adjust as he progressed through the minor league levels and pitchers’ breaking balls got better. He was likely going to have to play first base so the bat would have had to really stand out. I’ve also heard multiple concerns with his makeup. Take your pick on the reasons that he hasn’t made it.
Warren (New London): Has there been any talk of trying to make Joe Rizzo into a catcher, as they did with Joe DeCarlo, who had not only a similar name but also a similar profile?
Bill Mitchell: Teams had Rizzo work out behind the plate during pre-draft evaluations, but he didn’t profile well there because of a long arm action. I haven’t heard any recent scuttlebutt on a position change, and quite frankly he needs to focus on being the best possible hitter he can be right now.
Michael Stern (Rochester NY): What can you tell me about Ian Miller. Any future in Seattle for the speedy outfielder? Thanks for the chat!
Bill Mitchell: Miller was one of the most improved players in the Seattle system last year, but there’s a ceiling above him. At best, he’s a fourth or fifth outfielder in the big leagues, and will likely get there because of his plus-plus speed and above-average defense. The hope is that he’ll hit just enough to fill that role in a year or two.
Brett L. (Twin Cities): Despite a slightly different swing, would Eloy Jimenez be a solid Julio Rodriguez comp? I might even like Rodriguez’s swing at 17 a tad more than Eloy. It seems like Rodriguez has the best odds of becoming a star amomg the bats in his class. His swing screams stardom. J2 history suggests skill is more reliably projectable than athleticism, yet Kristian Robinson got nearly $1 Million more than J-Rod with a $150K swing bc he had football athleticism, which doesn’t always translate well in a game predicated on quick twitch/short burst athleticism. It felt like Trent Deveaux, who got 1/2 of Robinson had better baseball athleticism.. Why do bonus differences seem so arbitrary among top tier J2 guys? Is this bc the media & MLB scouts rate players differently or is it bc of some unseen aspect of a system that’s less structured than the MLB Draft? It just doesn’t feel like bonus sizes are 100% driven by an easily visible free market system like MLB veteran FA is. Thanx!
Bill Mitchell: Wow, Brett, that’s a question (or series of questions) that would take a long time to answer and better handled by an international expert like our own Ben Badler. Because the Mariners haven’t been playing games in instructional league the last couple of years, Rodriguez hasn’t been to their Peoria complex yet so I have not yet laid eyes on him. I wouldn’t put an Eloy comp on him because that’s pretty heady, but I like the reports about his ability and aptitude to make adjustments at the plate. That’s encouraging and a trait that we don’t see from 16-year-old kids very often. As for how bonuses are determined for international players, it’s the wild west down there when it comes to signing players and allocating bonus money from the restricted pools.
Tim (San Dimas, CA): Thanks for the chat, Bill...I know you guys don't like to comp guys, but...Evan White: Right Handed Christian Yelich? Piscotty with Bellinger glove?
Bill Mitchell: I think it’s too early to put a Yelich comp on White, at least until we see how he progresses in full-season ball. I believe he’ll be a better contact hitter than Piscotty, but the 2016 version of Piscotty might be a nice target for White. Comparing his defense to that of Bellinger is fair; I could see both winning Gold Gloves in five years.
Tim (San Dimas, CA): I've sounds like Carlson has the plus fastball, potentially plus change and above average breaking ball. I've heard he's got above average command as well. Sounds like at least a #3, maybe even a #2 starter if things break right. Am I being too optimistic? He was ranked as high as 15th on some pre-draft boards. Did he fall in the draft due to sign-ability? Cold weather state inexperience? Something else?
Bill Mitchell: I previously discussed the possible reasons that Carlson fell out of the first round, but I’ll add that there may have also been a slight bias against players from cold weather places. As for his upside, a 3rd or 4th starter projection is fair. As you said, we can dream on a #2 starter upside if everything falls just right.
Jacob (Dallas, TX): Was Ian Miller OF close to making the top 10? What can you tell me about him?
Bill Mitchell: I talked about Miller a few questions back, but I’ll add that he’s in the Prospect Handbook. You can read all about him when the book hits your mailbox in a few weeks.
Chris O'Day (Nooksack, WA): Do you see any of the pitchers in the minors making an impact in the majors in 2018?
Bill Mitchell: I’ve already talked about Povse, Rumbelow and De Jong, but I’ll add Rob Whalen as a possible spot starter / reliever if he’s back to health this year.
Kyle (Seattle): how much separation do you see between the top 2 relievers and the next group? Warren/Festa compared to Mills, Elledge, Rumbelow etc?
Bill Mitchell: As you can see by the report, Festa and Warren are both top ten prospects in the organization. The other guys are not that far below them.
Tom (Portland, OR): Any hope for Gareth Morgan?
Bill Mitchell: In four minor league seasons, Morgan has yet to get his strikeout rate below 40 percent. That’s your answer.
Kyle (Seattle): With two 2017 IFA signings in the top 10, does that speak more to the thinness of the system than their ability? do either of them reasonably project to above average regulars?
Bill Mitchell: While both Rodriguez and Querecuto are intriguing talents, they would not have ranked in the top ten in many other systems. That shouldn’t dampen your enthusiasm about them … it’s just a fact.
Grant (NYC): In the hypothetical category, where would Tyler O'Neill have ranked on your list?
Bill Mitchell: Probably right where we had him last year — #2 behind Lewis.
Jim (Modesto): Having seen both Warren and Festa, Warren seemed like the guy with a better chance to become a Major Leaguer. What factors pushed Festa over Warren?
Bill Mitchell: We juggled the order between those two as we were finalizing the ranking. While Warren has the plus-plus velocity, Festa’s secondary stuff grades slightly better. It’s an either-or scenario for me. I like them both.
Johnny (Seattle): Festa and Warren both got ST invites. What do you see as the timeline on those two?
Bill Mitchell: I could see both of them getting into the Seattle bullpen before the end of the season, but 2019 is more likely.
Kyle (Seattle): Can Braden Bishop be more than a 4th OF? or is the bat too light?
Bill Mitchell: In case you haven’t noticed, I’m now in the lightning round of giving shorter answers so that I can answer as many questions as possible in my remaining time. As for Braden Bishop, he still needs to get stronger but he made some good strides last year. Some evaluators have him as a fourth outfielder, but the indicators that he can be a regular are more positive than before. He really worked hard to improve his swing prior to the season.
Johnny (Seattle): Modesto had some interesting under the radar starters last year in Reggie McLain and Nathan Bannister. Did you hear anything about either of them?
Bill Mitchell: Not enough on either right-hander to consider them for the top 30.
Johnny (Seattle): Where do things stand with Luis Liberato? Still a potential big leaguer?
Bill Mitchell: Yes but with a ceiling as a fourth outfielder. He still has a lot of work to do to get his swing workable. But he’s can certainly handle the role defensively.
Bryan (Charlotte, NC): What do you think about Seattle trying to use Sam Moll as a starter? Do you think he might have some untapped potential in that kind of role?
Bill Mitchell: Scouts that I talked with who saw him in the Rockies organization said he needs to be in the bullpen.
Bill Mitchell: That’s all for today, folks. Thanks for the many great questions on this system. I know it’s not a deep, rich organization full of great prospects, but at least you can keep dreaming about a future with Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Sam Carlson and others on the way. If you have more questions on the Mariners organization, you may find me on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Don’t forget to order your Prospect Handbook directly from the Baseball America online store so that you can the addendum with every org’s 31 st prospect. That wraps up this phase of prospect season at BA.