Image credit: Jose Corniell
The Mariners have scored impact talent out of the Dominican Republic from their 2017 and 2018 signing classes, with outfielder Julio Rodriguez joining the organization in 2017 and shortstop Noelvi Marte signing last year. In September 2018, the Mariners changed international scouting directors, hiring Frankie Thon Jr. to lead their department after he had been an assistant international director and crosschecker with the Angels.
Seattle’s top international bonus in 2019 went to 17-year-old Dominican outfielder George Feliz, who signed for $900,000. Feliz is an athletic player with a lot of bat speed and raw tools. He’s flashing over-the-fence power now, with the bat speed and physical upside still in his body (5-foot-11, 160 pounds) to develop 25-plus home run power down the road. Feliz isn’t a pure hitter, so it will probably be a power-over-hit profile with some swing-and-miss to his game. He had some unorthodox components to his swing as an amateur, with his hands set up low and wrapped around his body. He has since raised his hands and created a more efficient load with better rhythm, an adjustment he has taken to quickly. Feliz shows his athleticism in center field with slightly above-average speed and a plus arm. He’s not a pure burner or an elite instincts defender in center field, and while some scouts think he might end up in right field, but he will develop as a center fielder. Feliz trained with Amauris Nina.
The biggest bonus the Mariners gave to a pitcher in 2019 was $630,000 for 16-year-old Dominican righthander Jose Corniell, who trained with Jose Marmolejos. Corniell has a strong, sturdy build (6-foot-3, 180 pounds) with room to project more on a fastball that has already reached 93 mph. Corniell throws hard, but he hasn’t been a huge swing-and-miss pitcher, relying on the natural sink of his fastball and downhill plane to generate grounders and weak contact. He showed good feel for a changeup for his age as an amateur that was ahead of his breaking ball, though he has made progress with his curveball and could develop three average or better pitches to go with his improving control.
The Mariners signed 17-year-old shortstop Andres Mesa for $500,000 from the same program as Feliz. Mesa (5-foot-11, 170 pounds) is an excellent athlete and a plus runner. He has a huge arm as well, conservatively grading out as a 60 with a chance to be a solid 70 tool. Mesa has the tools and athleticism to play somewhere in the middle of the diamond, with plenty of range for shortstop. While some scouts looked at him as a future center fielder or second baseman who would need to slow the game down and play under more control defensively, he has made encouraging defensive progress over the past year, increasing his chances to stay at shortstop or at least in the infield. Mesa mostly stands out for his raw tools and athleticism, with a flat swing path from the right side and good bat speed, though with inconsistent contact and doubles power.
The Mariners signed 16-year-old Dominican outfielder Carlos Jimenez out of the Mejia Top 10 program for $480,000. Jimenez (5-foot-10, 170 pounds) doesn’t have quite the raw tools and athleticism of Feliz or Mesa, but he’s another good athlete in the middle of the diamond and shows more advanced instincts for the game. He’s an above-average runner underway who moves around well in center field, getting quick jumps off the bat and tracking balls in the air well to run them down in the gaps. He makes accurate throws with a solid-average arm. At the plate, there are times when Jimenez can get too quick with his front hip and cuts himself off early, but it’s a compact stroke from the left side with quick bat speed. As he’s gotten stronger, Jimenez has added more juice and sometimes sacrifices contact chasing that power, but when he stays with his strengths, shows the ability to be an on-base threat.
Dominican shortstop Edryn Rodriguez signed with the Mariners for $430,000 after training at the MB Academy. He doesn’t have loud tools or flashy, acrobatic defense, but he’s a steady, even-keeled player on both sides of the ball with a promising bat. Rodriguez (5-foot-9, 160 pounds) has good bat control and plate coverage. He’s a high-contact hitter who can handle pitches up or down, in or out, with a loose, handsy swing and a line-drive approach with gap power. An average runner, Rodriguez doesn’t have the first-step quickness or range of other shortstops, which might ultimately move him elsewhere in the infield, but he should continue to develop there. He doesn’t make as many mistakes in the field compared to other young shortstops, with good hands and the ability to play under control with an average arm.
For a while, 17-year-old Venezuelan righthander Kristian Cardozo was expected to sign with the Dodgers. That never ended up happening, and after July 2 passed, Cardozo ultimately signed with the Mariners in August. Cardozo is a little trickier to write up because he didn’t pitch in any games after signing and just started throwing in November, with strength and conditioning his focus since turning pro. Cardozo has a big frame (6-foot-3, 210 pounds) that he will have to work to maintain, and when he was throwing, he showed a fastball with heavy, tailing life that reached 92 mph. He showed good pitchability for his age, mixing a curveball he’s shown feel for spin and a changeup that isn’t as advanced but flashes good fade at times. Cardozo was training in the Dominican Republic with Hector Evertz.
The early returns so far have been promising with Luis Suisbel, a 16-year-old Venezuelan third baseman who has performed at a high level since signing, both in terms of getting on base and hitting for power. At 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, Suisbel is a physical switch-hitter who went deep multiple times from the left side during Dominican instructs, with better power lefty and more contact hitting righthanded. His swing gets uphill, which may leave some holes, but he drives the ball well in the air when he connects with more power than he showed as an amateur, and his ability to recognize pitches help him as well. He has a patient approach and should hit for more power as he gets stronger and learns which pitches he should be looking to drive for extra-base damage. Suisbel has the attributes to develop into an average to above-average defensive third baseman, with soft, secure hands and a 55 arm. Suisbel is represented by Felix Olivo.
Dominican shortstop Axel Sanchez, who trained in the same Mejia Top 10 program that also had Jimenez, signed for $290,000. Sanchez, 17, has a wider build for a shortstop (6 feet, 170 pounds) but he has soft hands and good defensive instincts with a strong arm for the left side of the infield. He’s a 45 runner whose range might be stretched at shortstop, so if he gets much bigger, he could end up at third base. As an amateur, Sanchez showed solid contact skills. As he’s developed a little more strength, his swing has gotten longer as he’s sacrificed contact to get more leverage in his swing, so he will have to shorten up to find a better balance against live pitching.
Yoander Rojas is a 17-year-old Venezuelan catcher the Mariners signed on July 2 from Javier Mendoza’s program. He’s an offensive-oriented player and a switch-hitter, showing a flatter, more direct swing with good bat control from the left side, while his righthanded swing has a little more impact. It’s a hit-over-power profile with doubles pop now, and he performed well during Dominican instructional league. Rojas has an average arm and should be able to stay behind the plate, but his defensive game will need more time to catch up to his offense.
The Mariners signed Emmanuel Marcano out of Venezuela on July 2. At 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, Marcano isn’t a hard thrower but stands out because of his ability to command his fastball. He has a long arm swing in the back but he throws a lot of strikes with good angle on a fastball in the mid-to-upper 80s. He mixed in a curveball and a changeup, with his breaking ball a little further along at this point. Marcano trained with Tony Armas Jr. and Steve Torrealba.
Joaquin Tejada is a righthander from Panama who signed with the Mariners for $200,000 when he turned 16 on July 16. His profile has changed since signing following a velocity pop. Tejada as an amateur was an athletic pitcher with an aggressive, high-energy delivery, but he was a solid-strike thrower, albeit with a fastball mostly in the mid-80s. As he’s gotten stronger, his arm speed has also improved and with that his velocity has gone up, with Tejada reaching 93 mph during Dominican instructional league. It’s a big jump, and with the bigger fastball his command hasn’t been as crisp, but he has plenty of athleticism to make adjustments and shows feel for spin on his curveball as well.
Dominican righthander Jean Muñoz, 17, signed with the Mariners for $195,000. At 6-foot-1, 155 pounds, Muñoz has good physical projection, an easy, athletic delivery with a fastball that can reach the low-90s and feel for a curveball that’s further along than his changeup. He trained with his uncle, Antony Muñoz.
The Mariners are one of the most active teams when it comes to signing Brazilian players. They added another one this year, signing 16-year-old righthander Pedro Lemos Da Costa for $190,000, the biggest bonus for a Brazilian player this year. He’s 6 feet, 180 pounds and was throwing mostly upper-80s fastballs with good movement when he signed, but his velocity has bumped since then to reach 93 mph. He hides the ball well in his delivery, so the ball jumps on hitters faster than they expect. While Da Costa’s control would come and go as an amateur, he has consistently had successful outings in games since signing. Making a mechanical adjustment to keep his delivery under control more rather than finish with an abrupt jump off the mound has helped Da Costa, who has shown feel for a changeup and an improved breaking ball since signing as well to give him a chance to remain a starter.