’18 40-Man Preview Extravaganza

Jay Yencich · November 12, 2018 at 6:00 am · Filed Under Mariners 

Is anything better than last year? Is something better than nothing? Such philosophical questions as into the nature of being and non-being have plagued man since started thinking too much. Me, I just write the minor league baseball material.

Last November, I wrote 1500+ words and the Mariners added no prospects to the 40-man. “How dare you say our system ranked last in baseball!” said the Mariners. “None of these guys are worth using space over lol,” also said the Mariners. We utilized the Rule 5 Draft to select and then reject first baseman Mike Ford, who went on to have a “meh” season for the Yankees triple-A affiliate, restocked on minor league catchers—a far more efficient tactic than converting every infielder who wasn’t quite twitchy enough, and lost a talented but often injured left-hander who went on to pitch more in one season in the D’Backs season than he had in the two previous years combined, though it only got him to 76.1 innings total.

Now we have the same batch of dudes if they’re still around! We also have prep and international signings to consider from back in 2014 as well as college picks from 2015, the exciting last draft of the Zduriencik era. In some other weird alternate universe, we’d be talking about adding Alex Jackson to the 40-man, gosh, remember him? A lot of people remembered him all-too-much after he had an .808 OPS between advanced- and double-A last season for the Braves. I didn’t hear a peep about him this year and oh look, .647 OPS at double- and triple-A, whoops. Considering the college picks of 2015 is less depressing although that finds us in a familiar position of “we would more strongly consider adding him were he still a member of the organization.” Fingers crossed that this won’t remain the case as we get to next year and the first draft under DiPoto. Of course, these are the Mariners, and for all we know we’ll have a different GM next year who has limited appreciation for the previous paradigm etc etc. NOTE: I am not speculating, I merely default to gallows humor as a large-scale coping mechanism.

It was a bad year for recent Aquasox as Michael Suarez and Andres Torres were both injured and neither Ronaldo Rosario nor Joseph Rosa could figure out how to hit. I’m also going to discount Chuck Taylor who, like Curletta, needed to be re-signed but was without being added to the 40-man. Other omissions included: Bryan Bonnell (not a good relief profile), Adonis de la Cruz (K numbers fascinate, but is without buzz), Marvin Gorgas (bad command), Spencer Herrmann (weak double-A debut), Ryne Inman (remains a bit wild), Anthony Jimenez (hit worse in a more favorable league), and Matt Walker (needs to “prove it” as a deception guy). I also found out while writing this that there are three guys named “Logan Taylor” in the minor leagues. White people, amirite? Darin Gillies and Anthony Misiewicz were considerations, but they’re less likely as major contributors and I ought to cut myself some slack more.

ALREADY ADDED! But Still Included:
1B Joey Curletta, R/R, 6’4”, 245 lbs, 3/8/94, Trade 2017
(AA) 129 G, 556 PA, 70 R, 131 H, 24 2B, 23 HR, 94 RBI, SB, CS, 130/81 K/B, .282/.383/.482
Pros: Physical beast who turned in his best full-season, Texas League Player of the Year
Cons: Not super young, “slow bat,” Evan White lurking in middle distance

As returns go, the Mariners probably got more than they really expected from tossing away “amphibious pitcher” Pat Venditte. Curletta was regarded as a high-ceiling prep player, perhaps top 200 in the nation, but never put it together with the Dodgers, who tried to take advantage of his strong arm and solid footspeed by playing him in the outfield. The Mariners, by comparison, used him almost exclusively as a first baseman in his two years in the org and something appears to have clicked. Walk improvement is common in the move to double-A, but the 24-year-old also improved his K-rate slightly even while setting a new career high in home runs. The tricky thing is, evaluators are not eager to come back to him, even with the reputation he built as a teenager. It could be the “once bitten, twice shy” routine, but ask around and you’re more likely to hear that he has a “slow bat.” Well, Russell Branyan hit a bunch of slow dingers too, you know. I see some struggles with runners in scoring position in his line, but not some of the easier tells in the splits of messing up junkballers exclusively. Then again, for the record, I’m not looking at these things on the ground and others are.

CF Braden Bishop, R/R, 6’1”, 190 lbs, 8/22/93, 3rd round 2015
(AA) 84 G, 394 PA, 70 R, 98 H, 20 2B, 8 HR, 33 RBI, 5 SB, 2 CS, 68/37 K/BB, .284/.361/.412
Pros: Game-changer on defense, fan favorite, viable starting CF, U-Dub
Cons: Not young, tools but not skills on the basepaths, Jake Fraley / Mallex Smith

Understanding that more would just prefer not to see the offense flounder, I’ve long been charmed by Bishop’s defense as a loud calling card. What distinguishes him from other “gotta go fast” outfielders who have since stumbled out of the batter’s box is that he hits well enough that he seems like he could be a #1 or #2 in the batting order rather than someone you hide at the bottom of it. Sure, he’s more of a four-tool player, but he had been working with former teammate Jake Lamb on launch angles and hit a career high in home runs before getting his arm busted on a pitch inside. Well, okay, maybe three- or three-and-a-half tools is more apt: Bishop is plenty fast, but failed to build on his baserunning improvements in 2017 and slipped backwards in terms of overall attempts. It’s been a consistent disappointment that he hasn’t yet become the threat of distraction that he should, by all rights, be, but you know what baseball activity you don’t need two healthy arms for? That’s right, kid, now go out there on the diamond and practice.

RHP Art Warren, 6’3”, 230 lbs, 3/23/1993, 23rd round 2015
(AA) 1-2, 14 G, 2 SV, 1.72 ERA in 15.2 IP, 10 H, 7 R (3 ER), 22/14 K/BB, 4 WP
Pros: Plus velo on heater, arsenal of a former starter
Cons: Sore shoulder much of the year, high-effort leads to walks

Warren rounds out the seemingly safe picks to be added. The velocity helps make the case, as he’s touched 100 a time or two, but this year was more representative of growing pains than one might have liked. Last year, the D-II product walked 9.2%, not great numbers but passable perhaps, and this year he walked fellows at a rate that was… quite a bit higher. The Mariners don’t shy away from the big-time walkers so long as they can get Ks, but even so, Ryan Cook got DFA’d for a walk-rate identical to the one Warren had in 2017. Since he’s still young and relatively inexperienced, I figure Warren would be too tempting a pick on the Rule 5 market to some team that thinks that they can work out the mechanics while retaining the velocity, and too tempting for us with our newly integrated methods to want to tinker with.

C/3B/1B Joe DeCarlo, R/R, 5’10”, 210 lbs, 9/13/93, 2nd round 2012
(AA) 58 G, 236 PA, 39 R, 51 H, 16 2B, 8 HR, 30 RBI, 53/22 K/BB, .246/.339/.440
Pros: Peripheral stats have always looked good, improving defensive numbers, need
Cons: Likely never to hit for much of an average, challenges with full-time load?

The screening process took me through a few candidates mentioned last year, and within that, DeCarlo, who is back in the AFL for a second season. So, here’s the wacky thing, SSS caveats applying: DeCarlo had 49 defensive games as a catcher both in 2017 and 2018. That seems fortuitous for comparison: Whereas he had eighteen passed balled in the former, only seven in the latter; a 25% caught rate in the former, 35% in the latter, which is decent. I feel as if certain caveats should still be applied such as “double-A pitchers are better at finding the zone,” but it looks like progress overall and his hitting wasn’t much affected. It’s more that he missed the last few months that gives me pause, remembering that some players have tried donning the gear and then gone down with back issues. If we ended up with one success out of the attempts, I’d be cool with it.

RHP Kyle Wilcox, 6’3”, 195 lbs, 6/14/94, 6th round 2015
(A) 4-4, 32 G, 7 SV, 2.50 ERA in 54.0 IP, 33 H (2 HR), 16 R (15 ER), 89/26 K/BB, 3 HB, 10 WP
Pros: Third time in the MWL’s the charm
Cons: Third time in the MWL’s the charm

As a former live-armed, violent-motion starter moved to the bullpen, Wilcox has the feel of being a mid-Day Two pick by the Mariners, the major difference here being that while others are typically Texan, Wilcox hails from Connecticut. The early returns, even as they were meant to minimize his liabilities in relief, frankly sucked if you looked at walk-rate and runs allowed. Still, Wilcox was known for a fastball that touched the upper-90s while at Bryant and has posted a K/9 above 14.0 for two years running now. This year, he also trimmed his walk and home run rates, which goes a long way towards confirming him as some manner of prospect. That being said, his experience above the MWL is minimal and in 2017, he was on the DL quite a while with rotator cuff issues. A team looking to stash him in their bullpen would have to believe in his health and his ability to not walk the world. It’s not impossible, but safer bets are likely available.

CF Ian Miller, L/R, 6’0”, 170 lbs, 2/21/92, 14th round 2013

(AAA) 114 G, 478 PA, 60 R, 11 H, 16 2B, 3 3B, 2 HR, 41 RBI, 33 SB, 9 CS, 89/43 K/BB, .261/.333/.327
Pros: Name still Spoonerizes to “Man Iiller”, can actually steal bases
Cons: Not-so-coveted “OBP exceeds slugging” line, time’s wingèd chariot

Miller seems representative of the types of scraps I used to get into for my prospect advocacy, including with the site’s original founders. People mistake what enthusiasm I bring (admittedly less vocal these days) with genuine conviction in a player’s future success. The reality, as is the nature of reality, is more absurd: I root for players to so much as debut at all. Having any impact on a major league club is an improbable goal and something meriting of recognition and celebration. Ask me what I genuinely think of a player’s value and it may skew sunny, but I’ll still try to call it like I see it happening. Miller’s been on the fringe for a while and the factors working against Bishop are compounded for him as a young-player skills guy who is getting older. His triple-A follow-up also sucked. He could still be a guy who fills in as a fourth outfielder somewhere and I hope that he gets that shot. Yet, if he wasn’t a draw on the Rule 5 last year, it’s not likely to happen for him this year either.

RF Gareth Morgan, R/R, 6’4”, 220 lbs, 4/12/1996, Comp. B round 2014
(A+): 84 G, 334 PA, 42 R, 47 H, 7 2B, 2 2B, 19 HR, 39 RBI, 7 SB, CS, 180/30 K/BB, .158/.249/.386
Pros: Sit down, friend, and gawk at this statline with me
Cons: lol

One of the mystical things Jack Zduriencik sought out was right-handed power that could conceivably “shrink ballparks.” He found Nelson Cruz, and that worked out okay. He also found Tyler O’Neill, who is doing fine for the Cardinals. And then there’s Gareth Morgan, who was described as perhaps having 70 or 80 raw power. “In time, could he become Giancarlo Stanton?” some optimists asked on draft day. “Come back in a thousand years,” so media martial artists would reply. Morgan got 115 total bases with just forty-seven hits, and yet that’s somehow sixty-five fewer times than he struck out. That’s because 54% of his plate appearances resulted in Ks. Roughly 5.7% of his PAs resulted in home runs, so in some sense you’re looking at a tradeoff of ten straight Ks for each one dinger (moreso if you include rehab numbers in the AZL). He almost struck out in two-thirds of his at-bats in the first half. I mean, technically, he’s a three-true-outcome hitter, it’s just that most of those outcomes are the bad one. He’s even more extreme than fan favorite of old, Kalian Sams. I want him to keep playing because I need the spectacle in my life. He should not be on the 40-man.


2 Responses to “’18 40-Man Preview Extravaganza”

  1. LongDistance on November 12th, 2018 2:19 pm

    The moment I hit “gallows humor” and I was on board. Thanks. I needed this. Great stuff. If this was some social media site I’d have a ton of stupid likes, smileys and shares all over this thing.

  2. Westside guy on November 12th, 2018 11:39 pm

    It was nice to read this and have a chance to smile after the Lorena Martin **** hit the fan. Thank you Jay!

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