2021-22 International Reviews: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have added impact talent through their big-ticket Latin American signings in recent years, with Julio Rodriguez (2017) and Noelvi Marte (2018) and strong early returns from outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez in his pro debut last year. This year’s international class for the Mariners centered around three players who signed for bonuses north of $1 million, led by one of the most dangerous hitters in Latin America.
Top Of The Class
The Mariners landed one of the premier sluggers available when they signed outfielder Lazaro Montes for $2.5 million. Built in the mold of fellow Cuban slugger Yordan Alvarez, Montes is a physically imposing masher who can launch towering shots thanks to his plus-plus raw power from the left side. While power is Montes' standout tool, unlike other players his age who have big power in batting practice but struggle against live pitching, Montes separated himself with his hitting ability in games. For someone his age and size, Montes has a relatively compact swing with good path through the hitting zone and the leverage to drive the ball for impact in games, giving him a chance to be a 30-plus home run threat. Montes' offensive ability will drive his value, as he's a below-average runner at best who will likely slow down. He's going to develop as a corner outfielder, though he's so big that there's some risk he ends up at first base eventually.
Colombian shortstop Michael Arroyo was the top-paid player out of Colombia this year, signing for $1.375 million. Arroyo is an offensive-oriented shortstop with some of the best plate discipline in his international class. Not only does he recognize pitches well and not chase much off the plate, he makes good swing decisions to hunt for pitches in zones that are conducive to his swing path. With quick hands and a compact stroke, Arroyo makes frequent contact in games, using the whole field with what might always be a hit-over-power approach, but a chance to grow into average power. A shortstop for now, Arroyo's defense would be stretched thin there, but he could develop into an average defender at second or third base, with average speed and arm strength.
Seattle’s third seven-figure signing this year was Martin Gonzalez, a Dominican shortstop who got $1.3 million. Gonzalez brings more defensive value than Montes or Arroyo, projecting as a true shortstop and potentially a plus defender. He’s athletic with a quick first step, moving around well at the position with soft hands, solid range and a plus arm. At 5-foot-10, 165 pounds, Gonzalez isn’t that big, with an offensive profile that has shifted over the last couple of years. He had a short, flatter swing early in the tryout process, though as he’s started to get stronger, his path has gotten more uphill trying to lift the ball with some of his newfound power.
With a $5,179,700 bonus pool, the Mariners poured nearly all of their available pool space into signing Montes, Arroyo and Gonzalez, with the rest of the class lower-dollar signings. One sleeper to watch is Carlos Gonzalez, a catcher from Panama who was the MVP of Panama’s youth national league last year and has represented his country at international tournaments. He has good power for a catcher his age and projects to stick behind the plate with solid catch-and-throw skills. Among pitchers, Dominican righthander Frederik Jimenez has a lean 6-foot-1 frame with long arms and a heavy fastball that reaches the low 90s now and could be in the mid 90s with strength gains. He shows solid feel for a slider as well.