Wyatt Mills Takes His Stuff To A New Level
The Mariners thought they pretty much knew the book on Wyatt Mills, their 26-year-old sidearm reliever.
Then they saw the righthander throw during instructional league, when Mills flashed a fastball that touched 97 mph after previously operating between 89-93.
Mills was just coming off of what he felt was a snub after he was not one of 60 players invited to the Mariners’ alternate training site in Tacoma during the summer. Instead of sulking, he got to work and jumped into throwing and strength programs.
He had impressed the Mariners staff so much when he arrived in Peoria, Ariz., for instructional league play that he earned a spot on the 40-man roster and thus protection from the Rule 5 draft.
“Wyatt did not come to the alternate site this summer, mostly due to a numbers crunch," Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said, "but he showed up in the fall instructional league program . . . and he couldn’t have impressed any more.
"Wyatt has always been a solid performer, but his stuff went to another level.”
The alternate site setback might have been a blessing in disguise for Mills. Maybe if he had been thrust into consistent game action in Tacoma, he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to solely focus on building his arm strength and pitch command.
Dipoto said he was as surprised as anybody to see Mills’ velocity jump, as well as marked improvement with his slider and his team-tracked location scores.
“We weren’t expecting it, to be frank,” Dipoto said. “As I said to him on the phone, I admire the fact he went and did it on his own. Not every player who wasn’t selected to the alternate site attacked it the way Wyatt did. Fortunately for us, we were able to get a look at him in Peoria.”
Mills was the Mariners’ third-round pick in 2017 out of Gonzaga. He spent 2019 with Double-A Arkansas, where he recorded a 4.27 ERA with 66 strikeouts and 17 walks in 55.2 innings.
— Mills was one of four prospects added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster on Nov. 20, joining righthanders Sam Delaplane and Juan Then as well as outfielder Taylor Trammell. Each of them would have been eligible for the Rule 5 draft had they not been added to the 40-man. Joe Rizzo, a corner infielder and second-round pick in 2016, was the Mariners’ lone notable prospect who didn’t get protected.
— The Mariners canceled the remaining two games in their instructional league schedule in Peoria, Ariz., because two players had tested positive for Covid-19. The organization said one of the players who tested positive had two subsequent negative tests and the other began immediate quarantine while the rest of the players on the roster were sent home. The Mariners’ facility in Peoria remained open to players who need access to the training room and facilities as needed.