Total 2017 signings: 19.
Top 2017-18 signing: OF Julio Rodriguez, Dominican Republic, $1,750,000.
The biggest power in the 2017 class belonged to Julio Rodriguez, a 17-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic who signed with the Mariners for $1.75 million on July 2 out of the MB Academy. Rodriguez has a tall, strong build (6-foot-3, 205 pounds) and the offensive upside to be a middle-of-the-order slugger. Rodriguez’s strength, quick hands and loose, rhythmic swing help him generate easy power from the right side. His raw power earns 60 or better grades right now and should be a solid 70 tool soon. Rodriguez doesn’t have to muscle-up to generate power, showing the ability to drive the ball out of the park to all fields without much effort.
At times, Rodriguez hit and hit for power in games, though there were others when he showed more swing-and-miss. He has good swing plane through the hitting zone with a stroke that should be conducive to hitting against live pitching, but some scouts thought he was a good fastball hitter who would have to improve his ability to hit offspeed stuff. Others thought Rodriguez was a good hitter and that his necessary adjustments were mental, getting away from jumping at the ball and trying to show his power in tryout mode. The Mariners viewed Rodriguez as a natural hitter, with his bat/power potential making him one of the most dangerous offensive threats in the class.
For someone his size, Rodriguez moves surprisingly well, showing average speed in the 60-yard dash prior to signing. Given his body type, that speed probably won’t last long, although for now the Mariners will have him rotate around all three outfield spots, but his long-term future is as a corner outfielder. While a lot of young sluggers with Rodriguez’s power just focus on what they do in the batter’s box, Rodriguez works diligently at his fielding, and it shows in his defensive instincts. He has the tools to be a good defender in right field with an above-average arm. While Rodriguez is advanced enough to play in one of the complex leagues in the United States for most teams, the Mariners start all of their first-year international signings in the Dominican Summer League, which is where Rodriguez and the rest of Seattle’s 2017 class are scheduled to debut.
For a $1.225 million bonus, the Mariners signed 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Juan Querecuto on July 2. Querecuto’s older brother, Juniel, signed with the Rays in 2009, played four games for them in the big leagues in 2016 and is now playing for the D-backs in Double-A. Their father also played in the minor leagues with the Blue Jays from 1990-95. No surprise, Querecuto’s instincts and overall game awareness were among the best in the 2017 class. While Juniel is 5-foot-9, Juan Querecuto is built more like his father with a bigger, more physically projectable frame at 6-foot-2, 175 pounds.
While a lot of young shortstops tend to play out of control, Querecuto has a knack for slowing the game down and playing calm, composed defense with a good internal clock. He’s not flashy but he’s a heads-up, fundamentally sound defender with good instincts, secure hands and the arm to stay on the left side of the infield. Querecuto is a fringe-average runner and doesn’t have the quick-twitch athleticism that some scouts prefer in a shortstop, so they saw risk that Querecuto would move off the position, while others thought his savvy and ability to limit fielding mistakes would make him a steady defender at the position.
Querecuto’s game performance hasn’t stood out yet, but he has the components to hit. He has a simple, righthanded swing, tracks pitches well and shows disciplined strike-zone judgment. Querecuto has a line-drive approach with gap power, and while he doesn’t have top-end bat speed, he has enough strength projection for some of his doubles to turn into home runs down the road. Even though he’s not fast, Querecuto is a smart baserunner for his age. He trained with Robert Perez.
The Mariners have shown a knack for signing wiry, physically projectable pitchers from Latin America whose stuff spikes in pro ball. Dominican righthander Yeury Tatiz, who signed with the Mariners for $425,000 on July 2, fits that mold. Tatiz, 17, is 6-foot-3, 170 pounds, with square shoulders and a lot of space fill out and see his velocity grow. That has already started to happen, as Tatiz went from throwing low-to-mid 80s to now parking in the upper-80s and touching 89-90 mph at Dominican instructional league. Tatiz is a strike-thrower with a calm, controlled delivery and easy arm action, delivering his fastball with good downhill angle. Tatiz shows feel for his curveball, though some scouts think his changeup is already more advanced than his breaking pitch. Tatiz trained with Alexander de Aza.
Brayan Perez is a pitchability lefty with a good breaking ball who signed for $350,000 on July 2. Perez, 17, has experience pitching for Venezuelan youth national teams, and it shows it his ability to throw strikes and attack hitters from a smooth delivery with easy arm action. At 6 feet, 170 pounds, Perez isn’t overpowering with his 86-88 mph fastball, but he has an out pitch in his curveball, which has tight spin and sharp break to miss bats as a potential plus offering. Perez trained with Yasser Mendez.
After the Mariners traded for extra bonus pool space to try to acquire Shohei Ohtani, they instead spent some of that money on a pair of Dominican outfielders in February. One was Arturo Guerrero, who trained with Amauris Nina. Guerrero has a tall, lanky frame (6-foot-3, 165 pounds) with above-average speed and arm strength in center field. Guerrero has good bat speed from the right side and hits hard line drives when he squares it up, though the length of his swing leaves him with holes. Given his frame, Guerrero has more power potential once he gets stronger and uses his legs more effectively in his swing.
The Mariners also signed 17-year-old Yeral Casilla, who showcased as an outfielder but is now at first base. He’s a blocky 6-foot-2 righthanded hitter who impressed the Mariners with his righthanded swing and consistent hard contact.