Mariners Instructional League Helps Fill In The Gaps
At least the 25 prospects who populated the Mariners’ alternate training site in Tacoma benefited from some semblance of organized player development.
The rest, without a minor league season because of the coronavirus pandemic, were mostly left to fend for themselves. That left Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto in a precarious position of uncertainty in knowing just how 2020 affected the organization’s player development.
But he hoped the 24-game instructional league schedule over six weeks in Peoria Ariz.,, could help the organization regain some of the developmental opportunities erased by the loss of the minor league season, especially for players like top prospect Julio Rodriguez.
“They’ll get a lot of on-field work and try to gain some hold on the developmental reps required in the minor leagues,” Dipoto said. “But we won’t really know what 2020 did or did not do for our developmental prospects until 2021 when we get to see them on the field.”
Outfielder Jarred Kelenic, catcher Cal Raleigh and righthander Logan Gilbert were the three prospects who especially stood out at the Mariners’ alternate site, but even what they could do was limited. Often the games there were so disjointed, with two to three staff members playing positions because other players were traveling with the major league club.
Official stats weren’t kept, but the Mariners did track production internally. Dipoto said Gilbert was the only pitcher in Tacoma to average more than four innings per start.
But the Mariners did have another group of pitching prospects, including 2017 second rounder Sam Carlson, working out together in Burlington, N.C., Dipoto said.
The remaining players would have multiple check-ins throughout the week, typically via video. Many of those are the players now populating the Mariners’ 40-player instructional league roster in Arizona.
“For the minor league system and development in total, it’s such a gray area,” Dipoto said. “The thing I feel best about is I know our kids worked as hard as they could, given the circumstances. And our situation is no different than the other 29 teams in our league, and we all have to adapt to the same realities.”
— Dipoto said that the developmental timelines for first-round pitching prospects George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, as well as second-rounder Brandon Williamson, were likely pushed back because they didn't build enough of an innings workload at the alternate training site. He said Logan Gilbert is on the doorstep to a big league callup in 2021, but they’ll be cautious considering the truncated 2020 season.
— Outfielder Julio Rodriguez has been an everyday participant during instructional league play after fracturing his left wrist diving during the Mariners’ summer camp workouts. Dipoto said Rodriguez will also play winter ball in the Dominican League as long as the league will play as expected.