Seattle Mariners 2020 Top 10 MLB Prospects Chat
Bill Mitchell: Welcome to the annual Seattle Mariners prospect chat. This is my third year compiling the Mariners prospect report for Baseball America, and needless to say the minor league system has improved considerably during that time.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Any voices for Jarred Kelenic for #1 over Julio Rodriquez?
Bill Mitchell: I'm going to start with a question about the selection process for the first overall prospect. It was as close to being a split decision as possible. We write 450-500 word reports on the #1 prospect and around 250 words on the rest of the top ten. I wrote the full reports on both J-Rod and Kelenic so that we could make the decision at the last possible moment. I think that if I had asked 100 different industry observers, it would have been a 51-49 vote (although 3rd party candidate Evan White may have come in with some support, too). At the end, we went with the higher ceiling of Julio Rodriguez. But again, it was a tough decision. Quite frankly, it's a nice situation for the Mariners to have two such highly rated prospects.
- Is Julio Rodriquez a top 20 prospect right now? On his current trajectory, do you see him fighting for the top spot in baseball when the season is done?
Bill Mitchell: Jeff, I'm not involved in the Top 100 ranking process, but it wouldn't surprise me to see Rodriguez well entrenched in the top 20 and perhaps in the top 5 before long.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown,m Delaware):
- Of the AZL and Everitt hurlers who are moving to West Virginia, who do you like the best?
Bill Mitchell: Hi Karl. Assuming that George Kirby and Brandon Williamson start the year in West Virginia, they would obviously be the top guys in that rotation. However, as I mentioned in my report on Kirby, he'll likely get to Modesto pretty quickly. Isaiah Campbell will probably make his pro debut in West Virginia after sitting out the summer coming off a busy college season at Arkansas. Juan Then may return to West Virginia after getting three late starts there in 2019. And don't forget about Sam Carlson; if he's healthy he'll be a likely candidate for the West Virginia roster at some point in the season.
- What are the chances the Mariners get aggressive and start Marte in West Virginia?
Bill Mitchell: Matt, good question because it's one that I've asked in talks with Mariners personnel. Of course, the organization made that DSL-to-LowA jump with Julio Rodriguez, but I think it's doubtful with Noelvi Marte. He's got some improvement on defense at shortstop to work on, and it would serve him well to stay behind in extended spring training and then debut either in the AZL or in Everett.
- Noelvi Marte, Marco Luciano, and Orelvis Martinez are a trio of extremely high upside teenagers that have either already debuted stateside, or will do so in 2020 (Marte). How do you think Marte compares to Luciano and Martinez?
Bill Mitchell: Alex coming in with another question on Marte. I don't have a lot of background on Martinez except for what is in his prospect reports from the GCL and the Blue Jays top ten, but I can say for certain that neither Martinez nor Marte have the same kind of jaw-dropping power as Luciano. Marte and Martinez both ranked as the top prospect in their respective leagues and their scouting reports are pretty similar. Luciano is definitely the top-ranked player of the three.
- Who do you see as having more "ace" potential in the long run - Gilbert or Kirby - and why?
Bill Mitchell: Jordan, if by "ace" you mean a top of the rotation starter, I don't know that either Gilbert or Kirby will be aces but rather solid mid-rotation starting pitchers. Gilbert's stuff may be a bit more electric, but we haven't yet seen Kirby in a full minor league season. They are both very good pitching prospects, so that's good enough for now.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown,m Delaware):
- Cesar Izturis got over a decade in the majors. Any chance his son Cesar Izturis Jr. gets at least a few years?
Bill Mitchell: Cesar Jr. doesn't profile as a major league regular. He doesn't have the arm strength to play shortstop on a regular basis and he's got to get a lot stronger to have enough bat. But will he get some big league time at some point? I wouldn't count him out yet just because of his solid baseball instincts, work ethic and clubhouse presence. His ceiling is probably as a utility infielder occupying the 25th or 26th spot on a roster.
- I know that it's tough to say without knowing the exact player they will select, but where should the #6 overall pick in the 2020 draft, given it's a player mocked in the top 10 of the draft or so, slot in in the Mariners top 10 prospects?
Bill Mitchell: Ryan, I like this question although it's an impossible one to answer but still a fun exercise. Let's give it a try. First, we'll assume that three of the current top ten (Lewis, Sheffield, Dunn) graduate this year, and perhaps one or two other players. Last year's #6 overall pick was C.J. Abrams, who ranked as the third best prospect in a very good San Diego system and would probably slot in right around there if he was instead in the Seattle org. On Carlos Collazo's very, very early 2020 mock draft, he has HS pitcher Jared Kelley going with the sixth pick; Kelley feels to me like he'd be in the 6-10 range with the Mariners. Regardless, whomever they get at #6 will most assuredly be a top ten prospect next year.
Ken (Lakewood CA):
- Thanks for the chat. 25 year old Jake Fraley got over 400 AB last year and is no longer a prospect. With the excellent OF prospects that the Mariners have coming up, Fraley doesn't even make the projected OF line up. How do you and Seattle view Fraley? Is he just a 4th OF type talent or better than that and a starting OF with a different organization?
Bill Mitchell: I'll use Ken's question about Fraley to make my first pitch for the Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which you can order from this very website. Here's a slight spoiler --- Fraley is ranked just outside the Mariners top ten after a strong season split mostly between Double-A and Triple-A . The big key with Fraley was that he was healthy for most of the season, which wasn't the case in the recent past. He has the skills to project as a major league starting outfielder, but would be a very good fourth outfielder with projected plus defense at all three positions. Projected future lineups are just that --- projections. Give Fraley every chance to be a starting outfielder, either in Seattle or elsewhere.
Julio Rodriguez (Top 10 Prospect...in all of baseball?):
- Thanks for chatting with us today Bill. A 70 hit/70 power are some lofty grades for my offensive profile. Do you think a more athletic version of Eloy Jimenez is a good comp for me? Am I a top 10 prospect in all of baseball going into the 2020 season?
Bill Mitchell: I haven't yet answered a couple of previous questions on comps for J-Rod and Kelenic to give me a little more time to think about it, especially since making comps are hard. But I'm interested in this comparison and think you might be close when you say that Julio will be a more athletic version of Eloy. Will Rodriguez be able to get to as much power as Jimenez? I don't know but he may have a better overall hit tool and should be better defensively. As for Top 10, it wouldn't surprise me to see him there before long.
- Do feel that ranking Julio above Kelenic is going to be more common this year across the industry? Sickels the same in his top 100.
Bill Mitchell: David, as I said in my answer to an earlier question, it's so close between the two that I think you'll see Kelenic ranked #1 on other lists.
- Does Dayeison Arias rank your the top 30?
Bill Mitchell: Chris, despite his solid numbers pitching out of the bullpen in West Virginia there wasn't a lot of buzz about Arias, but I'll let you wait until the Prospect Handbook come out to see whether he's in the top 30. He's an interesting right-hander who gets so much spin on his fastball that hitters confuse it with his slider. He needs to get a third pitch and was working on a changeup in 2019. Definitely a bullpen arm all the way. I want to see how Arias handles more advanced hitters before getting too excited about him.
- Thanks for doing this Bill! Can you explain why George Kirby is ahead of Noevi Marte? I’m personally high on Marte. Thank you!
Bill Mitchell: Logan, it's sometimes difficult to settle on an order when players are so close but yet they are at different stages in their careers. Kirby ranks just ahead because he's older and likely closer to the big leagues (more of a safe bet). Give Marte a year in the states and he may jump past others ahead of him on the list. Ranking prospects is an inexact science, but it sure is fun.
Karl Of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware):
- Any love for Bobby Honeyman, who sure looked above average when West Virginia visited Delmarva the past year?
Bill Mitchell: Bobby Honeyman was Seattle's 29th round pick from Stony Brook in 2018, and spent his first full season at Low-A West Virginia. He's got good bat to ball skills and has enough range to handle third base, but hasn't yet hit for a lot of power. He'll turn 24 in May. He's more an organizational depth piece now with an outside chance of being a backup capable of playing multiple positions.
Justin (Tucson, AZ):
- Are we seeing a golden era of hitting prospects that are at least 60 hit and 60 power? With guys like Julio Rodriguez, Jared Kelenic, Andre Vaughn, Adley Rutschman, Wander Franco, Marco Luciano, Luis Robert (Correct me is his hit tool is 55)... I can’t recall a group of prospects this large that fit the criteria
Bill Mitchell: Justin, your question distracted me from what I'm supposed to be doing here and I started looking for other possible 60-60 hitters (Jo Adell comes close, too). OK, so I'm back. Yes, this is a very good era for premier hitters. Don't forget about hitters who more recently made their splash in the big leagues (i.e., Acuna, Soto, etc.). Baseball is sure a fun game.
- Encouraging notes on all the pitchers in the top-10. Beyond those named, who have you seen and gotten a strong sense of in the system? Ljay Newsome, Juan Then, and Devin Sweet in particular seem like they could play a MLB role.
Bill Mitchell: Troy from Troy, thanks for the question. Of the three pitchers you mentioned, Juan Then is the highest ranked prospect (now that the Mariners got him back from the Yankees org after trading him away two years ago for the since departed Nick Rumbelow). Then is a lanky right-hander with electric stuff. His fastball touches 96 and there's still room on his frame to add strength since he will be turning just 20 in a few weeks. If he continues to improve his secondary stuff, Then could be working towards a Top Ten ranking after this upcoming season.
- Seattle had one of the weakest minor league systems a few years ago. Dipoto has fortified it through the draft, splashy international signings, and trades. Is it safe to say that the Mariners now comfortably have a top 10 system littered with potential future perennial all stars and key contributors?
Bill Mitchell: Alex, this system has come a long way in a short time. Looking back at the BA organizational rankings updated in August, the M's checked in at #11. The big question for this time next year is how many of their top prospects will lose prospect eligibility before then. Certainly Sheffield, Lewis, Dunn and White, maybe Jake Fraley and Braden Bishop, and perhaps (dare I say it?) the likes of Kelenic, Gilbert and J-Rod. It's going to be an interesting year with so many players on the cusp. Fasten your seat belts.
Bae (Baetown, USA):
- Noelvi Marte: which level do you think he starts / finishes? Are you buying the hype? If so, how high does he ascend in prospect ranks? Love, Bae
Bill Mitchell: Checking in from Baetown on Noelvi Marte --- I'm pretty close to buying in on the Noelvi Marte hype, but I want to see him playing in the states first. I don't think he will have as much helium as Julio Rodriguez, but there's sky-high potential there. Ask me again in six months.
- Thanks for the chat. Who should I watch this year in Modesto? Any sleepers?
Bill Mitchell: Let's answer a question from Dan, who I assume is a certified Nuts fan. I mentioned earlier that I was pretty sure George Kirby will make it to Modesto at some point. The same goes with other 2019 draft picks like Isaiah Campbell and Brandon Williamson. Juan Then should get there at some point. I've only mentioned pitchers, as I don't see any real high profile position players there.
- I thought Cal Raleigh would sneak in the bottom of the top 10. Could you give a sneak peak at his scouting report? Do the Ms think he could be ready to be their starter in the second half of 2021?
Bill Mitchell: Bob, thanks for the question. Catcher Cal Raleigh ranks just outside the top ten. He had a strong year between Modesto and Arkansas, but scouts from other organizations are waiting to see how he handles better velocity at higher levels because of his below-average bat speed. But a switch-hitting catcher with his kind of power is a rarity, so Raleigh will continue to be an interesting prospect.
- I can follow contour of Justus Sheffield's experience going from struggling in AAA to performing in AA to getting the call-up. But I don't know what to make of his starts in the majors. Do you/people you talked to about it see improvement or reasons for optimism within those handful of starts? I wouldn't expect any pitcher to succeed right away, but I'm wondering if MLB experience still felt discouraging?
Bill Mitchell: While getting sent back a level is usually not a good thing, going to Double-A from Triple-A did wonders for Sheffield as he started commanding the fastball better and did a better job of establishing the pitch. The other positive development is that he believed in his changeup more this past year. I talked with one scout from another organization who liked what he saw of Sheffield in his big league time. Let's give him a fresh start in 2020 and see what happens.
- It really seems Eric Filia has disappeared from any sort of prospect status, and while acknowledging that he's old, do you see a realistic Pro path for him? He did just have a (albeit small sample size) 137 WRC+ in the PCL last year
Bill Mitchell: Troy from Seattle, Eric Filia did not really enter into the prospect conversations this year. The guy can still hit but with not much power, which isn't going to cut it for someone limited to corner outfield or first base. There is a path for him to get to the big leagues in a bench bat role, but that's about it. He'll be 28 by mid-season so it needs to happen soon if it's going to happen.
Ben T (Spokane):
- Any excitement starting to develop for Sam Delaplane?
Bill Mitchell: Ben, thanks for the question. Yes, there was a good amount of buzz for Delaplane this year, especially considering he never made a prospect list before. His strikeout rates were something more out of a video game (15 Ks per 9 innings!). As a RHP under six feet but with a fastball that touches 98, he's getting some comps to Greg Holland and Craig Kimbrel. Not saying he's going to match the career of those two veteran relievers, but you get the idea. It wouldn't surprise me to see Delaplane in the Mariners bullpen at some point in 2020.
- Broad question, but can you give some insight into Jonatan Clase? I keep seeing his name but don’t know much about him. Thanks
Bill Mitchell: Sean, thank you for asking about Clase because I can't wait to see this dude when he comes in for either spring training or extended spring. He's in the top 30, so order your Prospect Handbook now so that you can read all about him when it hits your mailbox. He's a plus-plus runner with some sneaky power. I've heard that his routes in the outfield can get interesting at times, but that improvement will come with experience. Check back with me in April after I've hopefully seen him a few times.
John Lucas (Pittsburgh, PA):
- Would you say any of the young unproven pitchers like Williamson, Then, and Kirby have a chance to be top of the rotation starters?
Bill Mitchell: John, top of the rotation is a lofty position. There aren't many of those types in MLB. All three of the pitchers you mentioned have potential, but I don't see any of them having the repertoire to be number one starters.
Thomas M (PA):
- What propspect has shot up the chart since drafted if any?
Bill Mitchell: Thomas is checking in from my home state. I mentioned Sam Delaplane a few questions back, but let's talk about Brandon Williamson. I penciled him in as more of a candidate for the 11-15 range when I was starting the process, but quickly found out from Mariners personnel that he belonged in the top ten. The Mariners got the TCU product in the 2nd round, but he would have been a 1st rounder if not for his injury issues leading into his junior year with the Horned Frogs.
- What can you tell me about two International Prospects - Jonatan Clase and Milkar Perez. They both performed well in 2019 for the Mariners DSL team.
Bill Mitchell: Steve, I talked about Clase in a previous question so let's zoom in on Milkar Perez. He's in the Prospect Handbook and ranked pretty highly for a guy who has yet to play in the states. He hit well in the DSL and shows the ability to take a walk. Defensively, Perez has a plus-plus arm and while he doesn't have a lot of range he should be able to stay at third base. NOTE: All of the databases list him as a right-handed hitter, but I confirmed with multiple sources that he switch-hits.
- Have you seen Sam Carlson pitch since return to full health? If so, how's he looking? What are your 2020 expectations for him?
Bill Mitchell: Anthony, I don't believe that anyone has seen Carlson pitch for a long, long time. He was projected to get back to bullpen sessions prior to spring training, but I haven't heard whether that has happened yet. Here's what I said in my last sentence of his prospect report: "His future won't be determined until he gets back on the mound to show that he's healthy and still has the same electric stuff as before." I've got my fingers crossed for him.
- Any chance the Mariners look at moving Evan White off 1st to another position where he can play plus defense (3rd, CF) and get another player that can only play 1st only?
Bill Mitchell: Tim - White is such an outstanding defender at first base that it would be a shame to move him off the position. I still recall what one of his short-season coaches said to me after White's first season in the organization: "He's like a ballerina at first base," or something like that. He could also be a plus defender in the outfield because of his athleticism, so I expect he could be a Bellinger-type defender playing where the team needs him. But it's a big No on third base since White is left-handed.
- Evan White's contract pretty much locks him in as the opening day 1st baseman. Do we have any other corner infield prospects to keep an eye on?
Bill Mitchell: Tyson, there's really no prospect close to the big leagues to consider for the corner infield in Seattle. Austin Shenton was just drafted this past year and had a nice debut in Everett then on to West Virginia. (I missed mentioning him when a previous question asked about players they could expect to see in Modesto --- Shenton probably makes it there and should provide some value at the plate as a good natural hitter). And then there's Joe Rizzo .... see the next question for more on him.
Kyle Seager (Atlanta Braves):
- Do you see Rizzo at 3B in 2022?
Bill Mitchell: .... and here's the scoop on Joe Rizzo. The short answer is no, he's not likely to be taking over for Seager in two years. But I really don't know what to think about Rizzo. He's probably the most divisive prospect in the system among rival scouts. He may not have even made the Top 30 this year, although you won't know for sure until your Prospect Handbook arrives. But he still has some believers, especially since he'll be just 22 for all of this season. One Cal League observer I talked with said he could see more power emerging later for Rizzo, and everyone likes his makeup and work ethic. Again, I don't see him as the Mariners opening day starting third baseman in 2022, but don't completely write him off as a prospect just yet.
- Do you see any big names beyond Marte playing with the AquaSox in 2020?
Bill Mitchell: Jeremy, we're still holding on to shortstop Juan Querecuto as a Top 30 prospect despite the multitude of injuries he's had the last two seasons. Also keep an eye out for RHP Yeury Tatiz, who delivers an electric fastball up to the mid-90s. He struggled with his command after being promoted to the Arizona League in the middle of the summer after being much better in the DSL, and I'm thinking he could be in Everett in 2020. Outfielder Antoine Mistico struggled with injuries during his first pro season in the AZL, but he's an athletic prospect with good feel to hit. Otherwise, keep your eye on the Mariners draft list in June to see who else might be headed to Everett.
Fred (Mechanicsburg PA):
- Will Kyle Lewis be in the mix for a starting outfield job in Seattle for 2020
Bill Mitchell: Here's Fred, another reader from my home state! I believe that Lewis is the front runner for the starting left field job in Seattle. It's his job to lose.
- Who is one the less well known arms in the system that people should keep an eye on.
Bill Mitchell: Caleb, keep a watch out for Elvis Alvarado. He was one of three prospects received from Washington in the trade that sent Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland to the Nats. A converted outfielder, he's got a big-time fastball who profiles more as a reliever. I missed seeing him during his AZL time so he's high on my list of pitchers to see in spring training.
Bill Mitchell: I'm just overwhelmed with the number of questions still in the queue. We've been going strong for nearly two and a half hours, but I've got to shut it down to make it to a medical appointment. Yeah, I know, I should have started sooner, but it's sure been fun chatting with the plethora of Mariners followers out there. I can see that having a much improved farm system has increased interest in following the organization's prospects. If I didn't get to your question, you may contact me on Twitter @billazbbphotog. Thanks to all for your interest and your support of Baseball America. Please order your Prospect Handbook today if you haven't already done so.