2023 International Reviews: Seattle Mariners
The Mariners have seen terrific early returns on some of their big-ticket international signings from the last two years. Outfielder Gabriel Gonzalez, who signed for $1.3 million in 2021, reached Low-A Modesto last year as an 18-year-old. It wouldn’t be surprising to see shortstop Michael Arroyo, who signed for $1.375 million in 2022, do the same this year after the way he performed last year in the Dominican Summer League. Those two are already top 10 prospects in the organization, while outfielders Lazaro Montes and Jonatan Clase are two more young international signings to watch in the lower levels.
Top Of The Class
The Mariners signed shortstop Felnin Celesten out of the Dominican Republic for $4.7 million, the No. 2 bonus for an international player this year behind Padres catcher Ethan Salas. He came over to Arizona briefly for part of spring training, though he didn’t play in games and was just working out there, and he’s back in the Dominican Republic now before making his pro debut in the Dominican Summer League. He’s a lean but strong 6-foot-2, 175 pounds with an exciting tool set at a premium position with still more physical upside. Celesten is a switch hitter whose raw power grades out at least plus and shows flashes of a 70 tool on the 20-80 scale. It’s big power, especially from the right side, with a swing that has a little more length and leverage to drive the ball with loft and impact to the middle of the field and the ability to crush balls out of the park from right-center over to his pull side. He can hammer balls from the left side too, though his swing path from that side is flatter and more conducive to line drives in games. Some scouts thought Celesten would need to tighten his offensive approach to be a more selective hitter as he moves up, but he has generally performed well against live pitching. Celesten has also increased his speed and added arm strength to where both tools draw 70 grades from scouts. Where his footwork was shorter and more compact early on, he now has looser, longer strides to glide around at shortstop with good range and hands at the position.
Names To Know
Jeter Martinez, RHP, Mexico: Martinez is a former position player who moved to the mound a little under two years ago, but his upside prompted the Mariners to sign him for $600,000. He’s 6-foot-4, 180 pounds at 17 with wide shoulders and significant space left to fill out. He’s an athletic mover on the mound with a good delivery and a heavy fastball that’s been up to 92 mph with significant velocity gains that could come given his arm speed once he packs on more weight. Martinez doesn’t have much pitching experience, and that’s evident in his pitchability relative to his peers, but he shows feel for a changeup with a curveball rounding out his three-pitch mix.
Sebastian De Andrade, C, Venezuela: The Twins signed Venezuelan shortstop Danny De Andrade for $2.2 million in 2021. His 16-year-old brother, Sebastian, signed with the Mariners for $300,000 this year. He’s 5-foot-9, 165 pounds, and while he doesn’t have huge physical projection, he does project to stick behind the plate and defend his position well. He receives the ball well with quiet hands and moves well laterally with a solid-average arm. De Andrade is a defensive-oriented shortstop with a flat swing from the right side with solid bat-to-ball skills for his age and doubles power from the right side.
Kendal Meza, RHP, Nicaragua: Meza, a 17-year-old signed for $250,000, is 6 feet, 160 pounds with excellent arm speed on a fastball that’s already ticked up to 95 mph. Meza is a good athlete, but there is a lot of effort and moving parts in his delivery to generate that velocity, which he will either have to tone down or he might always be prone to erratic command. It’s a lively fastball, though, with the potential to throw in the upper 90s or better, and he has shown feel for a three-quarter breaking ball in his two-pitch mix that should morph into a slider.
Ruddy Navarro, RHP, Dominican Republic: The Mariners signed Navarro, 16, for $250,000. He’s a wiry 6-foot-1, 155 pounds, and is an athletic righthander with elastic flexibility and an extremely loose arm that generates low-90s velocity with ease. It’s a lively fastball that should be a plus pitch once Navarro gets stronger. His feel for pitching is still fairly raw as he learns to iron out his mechanics, but he has shown feel for a changeup that’s ahead of his breaking ball.
Dylan Wilson, RHP, Curacao: Wilson, a 17-year-old who got $125,000, has been an up-arrow pitcher who has developed into one of the more promising pitchers signed in 2023. He’s 6 feet, 160 pounds with long arms, an athletic operation and a fastball that has climbed from the low 80s when teams were scouting him to now touching the low 90s. There should be more velocity coming, but the separator with Wilson is his curveball. It’s a potentially plus or better breaking ball with tight spin and good shape to pile up whiffs. His experience pitching in tournaments both in Curacao and internationally is evident in his pitchability as well.
Mexican righthander Francisco Pazos, a $50,000 signing at 17, is a sturdy 5-foot-9 pitcher who doesn’t have much physical projection but he has feel for pitching that should translate to early success at the lower levels. He has been up to 90 mph with a fastball that he locates well, flashed a good changeup for his age and does a good job of mixing his pitches to keep hitters off balance.