The 2018 Draft: Days Two and Three, Open Thread

June 5, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 37 Comments 

As with last year, since the third day of the draft goes fast and is at times inscrutable, it makes more sense to lump it together with the second day when we have more to talk about. Not that we didn’t have enough to talk about on day one, boy howdy. It’s all fun in its own way, but your best approach is to be receptive and not too invested in any one player or group of players. Other sports can project full drafts whereas baseball can’t seem to get through fifteen selections before something bonkers happens (I did not have the A’s selecting Kyler Murray). There also appears to be a clearer sense of who can play where and when and why elsewhere, whereas baseball demands further skill development and all the variables and PB&J sandwiches therein.

One consideration I had coming out of Day One was the use of picks and money. Logan Gilbert has been spoken of as having a verbal agreement, and given his analytics background and humility in interviews, I’d be hard pressed to see him exceeding his bonus, given that he seems deferential to the team as a whole. Stowers, I know less of on a personal level, but he wasn’t expected to land here and was projected maybe more in the fourth or fifth round, at least from the earlier prognosticating, and moreover, later reports in the evening suggest that he also is in the same “verbal commitment” territory as Gilbert. Does this mean that both will come in under-slot, giving us more money to spread around among high schoolers on Day Two? It certainly seems possible, but it’s not something that we’ve done previously, so we’re in uncharted territory right now and waiting to see what happens. The Day One selection suggests the same college bias as other years, but SSS caveats still apply.

Such factors are not necessarily a given. We’ve been burned in past drafts by selecting guys who bonus demands we thought we had a handle on and turned out to be wrong about, such as Steve Baron. Yet, the general perception I’ve left with is that there’s a possibility here to spread around some money, if not in the third round then maybe in the fourth through sixth, among high school picks who may have interesting tools in their own rights but will take a longer development track. Whether that comes to pass immediately as selection #90 comes our way or in the longer term as we get beyond that remains a question. I’ll be disappointed if we appear to go more with perceived cost-saving picks on Day Two, and intend to remain quite pissed at the Astros for taking Jayson Schroeder in the second round. I’ve had enough of the Rays encroaching on our home territory but the Houston Astros? That’s just taking things too far.

Day Two:
Round Three: C Cal Raleigh, S/R, 6’3″, 215 lbs, 11/26/96, Florida State
Round Four: LHP Michael Plassmeyer, 6’2″, 200 lbs, 11/5/96, Missouri Columbia
Round Five: RHP Nolan Hoffman, 6’4″, 190 lbs, 8/9/97, Texas A&M
Round Six: RHP Joey O’Brien, 6’2″, 205 lbs, 11/28/97, Southern Nevada
Round Seven: C Jake Anchia, R/R, 6’1″, 205 lbs, 3/5/97, Nova Southeastern
Round Eight: RHP Joey Gerber, 6’4″, 215 lbs, 5/3/97, Illinois
Round Nine: LF Keegan McGovern, L/R, 6’3″, 200 lbs, 9/3/95, Georgia
Round Ten: SS Matt Sanders, R/R, 5’8″, 175 lbs, 6/7/96, Troy

Some time immediately after last year’s draft, I remember some talk from FO higher-ups about how we were now at a good place now and could now finally focus on rebuilding and longer development projects. I have been betrayed on a deep, deep level and will not soon forget it.

I mean, someone surely looked at the low minors and went “ew,” but what we got predominantly were guys who will be at Everett and higher and no one really who would solve the issue of running out of pitchers in extended. I can see some of these fellows like Gerber, a closer for the Illini, and Hoffman, who’s a quirk guy, moving quickly as bullpen arms, but this isn’t necessarily a spot of need anymore. We did well to grab a few catchers as well, which may put an end to the need to grab them wildly in the Minor League Rule 5 or convert any willing infielder. It’s hard to know which one to prefer, as both appear competent and more geared towards offensive production, although not with major concerns as to whether or not they can stick. Some of these dudes have interesting backgrounds or individual abilities. McGovern appears to have recently found his power stroke, and is a native of Willachoochee, Georgia, which I won’t soon tire of. Sanders can run and work a count. O’Brien is a sneaky fave as a fresh arm who can run it up there, was formerly a prep in Japan (and is eligible for the NPB draft), and was playing centerfield on his offdays. It’s cold comfort for those of us who wanted Ohtani, but he’s fun conceptually as a player. Otherwise, while the college guys picked weren’t all “okay, he’s maxed out, you know what you’re getting here,” there wasn’t really a starter among the pitchers outside of Plassmeyer and maaaaaybe O’Brien, who is a wild card here. What this draft looks like so far is yet one more attempt to restock low-to-mid minors ranks to fill in what we’ve traded away, which doesn’t inspire confidence as a long-term plan. We’ll see what Day Three brings, where we can toss around $125k bonuses without being penalized.

Day Three:
Round 11: RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs, 6’4″, 200 lbs, 7/22/99, Kings Way Christian (WA)
Round 12: 2B Ryne Ogren, R/R, 6’1″, 180 lbs, 4/11/97, Elon
Round 13: OF Charlie McConnel, L/R, 6’2″, 195 lbs, 1/7/96, Northeastern
Round 14: RHP Tyler Suellentrop, 6’3″, 215 lbs, 1/22/97, Indian River State
Round 15: RHP Matthew Willrodt, 6’4″, 220 lbs, 10/19/97, Cisco JC
Round 16: LHP Holden Laws, 6’2″, 165 lbs, 12/8/99, South Granville (NC)
Round 17: CF/SS Cesar Trejo, R/R, 6’2″, 200 lbs, 5/15/97, UNC Greensboro
Round 18: RHP Noah Zavolas, 6’1″, 190 lbs, 5/11/96, Harvard
Round 19: C Dean Naveraz, R/R, 6’0″, 220 lbs, 1/4/97 San Diego St
Round 20: RHP JT Salter, 6’8″, 285 lbs, 6/10/96, U West Alabama
Round 21: RHP Grant Anderson, 6’0″, 180 lbs, 6/21/97, McNeese St
Round 22: SS Nicholas Rodriguez, R/R, 6’2″, 170 lbs, 6/28/96, UNLV
Round 23: CF Ryan Ramiz, L/L 6’1″, 185 lbs, 1/13/96, Seton Hall
Round 24: LHP Benjamin Onyshko, 6’2″, 205 lbs, 10/18/96, Stetson
Round 25: 2B Connor Kopach, R/R, 6’0″, 170 lbs, 8/4/94, Southern Il Carbondale
Round 26: 3B Cal Hernandez, S/R, 6’0″, 185 lbs, 1/9/96, Oral Roberts
Round 27: 2B Cash Gladfelter, L/R, 6’4″, 200 lbs, 11/9/96, Shippensburg
Round 28: 2B Beau Branton, R/R, 5’7″, 175 lbs, 9/4/95, Stanford
Round 29: 3B Bobby Honeyman, L/R, 6’1″, 185 lbs, 5/25/96, SUNY Stony Brook
Round 30: LF Cody Staab, L/L, 5’10”, 170 lbs, 7/3/96, Rice
Round 31: LHP Rigo Beltran, 5’11”, 185 lbs, 9/1/94, Lynn
Round 32: 2B Zach Scott, L/R, 6’0″, 185 lbs, 4/27/95, St. Leo
Round 33: RHP Penn Murfee, 6’2″, 195 lbs, 5/2/94, Santa Clara
Round 34: LHP Nick Wegmann, 6’1″, 195 lbs, 4/26/96, Binghamton
Round 35: RHP Will Gambino, 6’2″, 205 lbs, 10/2/99, Paul VI (NJ)
Round 36: LHP Justin Wrobleski, 6’2″, 180 lbs, 7/14/00 Sequoyah (GA)
Round 37: RHP Parker Towns, 6’4″, 255 lbs, 11/8/96, Dallas Baptist
Round 38: 2B Jack Montgomery, L/R, 6’0″, 175 lbs, 8/28/00, Simsbury (CT)
Round 39: RHP Jacob Maton, 6’2″, 175 lbs, 9/22/99, Glenwood (IL)
Round 40: RHP David Rhodes, 6’2″, 180 lbs, 2/15/00, Langley (BC)

It’s nearly impossible to come up with smart things to say in the short-term about Day Three of the draft as it all goes on so rapidly. There are any number of prospects whom we’ve said “okay, who’s that?” in this period who have gone on to be just fine major and minor league players thanks to the efforts of scouting and player development. I’m not going to pretend here that I have anything profound to say about this draft class, but instead I’m going to make a couple of notes based off whatever interests me.

* After not spending a single pick in the high school ranks, the Mariners selected seven of them in the final thirty rounds. What I can tell you right away is that 11th round local guy Damon Casetta-Stubbs was a late riser talked about in the third to the eighth rounds who the Mariners bought out of a commitment to Seattle U. We also appear to have gotten 17th rounder Holden Laws, adding another prep pitcher. This carried on a sort of theme, insofar as six of the seven prep selections were pitchers. Gambino, Wrobleski, and Maton would be pretty big gets if possible, but seem less likely. Rhodes, who was also recognized as one of the better Canadian preps (he has a commitment to UW), could end up as a guy they do pursue, partly for the local interest and partly because the pick was dedicated to long-time Canadian scout, Wayne Norton, who passed away within the last year. We’ll see where that goes. I also suspect that Norton may have been on 24th-rounder Ben Onyshko, who was at Stetson, same as Logan Gilbert, but pitched for Vauxhall as a prep. Oh, and we had three fifth-year seniors, although for a while had more of them than we did preps.

* As far as the positional splits, sixteen picks on Day Three were pitching, ~four outfielders, one catcher, ~eight middle infielders (Trejo was listed at two spots), and two third basemen. Splits on S / L / R were 1 / 7 / 6, so, left-handed preference again.

* Two more guys named “Cal” after having no guys named “Cal,” one more “Ryne” who may soon play alongside the other “Ryne” we already have who was named a MWL All-Star today along with OF Jack Larsen, RHP Collin Kober, and 1B Ryan Costello.

* JT Salter is a large human being, and I hope we sign him.

The 2018 Draft: A Day One Thread

June 4, 2018 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · 14 Comments 

Well, here we are again, except this year, woooooo we don’t actually have major or minor league baseball to pay attention to simultaneous with the draft! Unless, of course, you want to stare at a DSL box score, which I always encourage people to do. Why, it’s like Major League Baseball wants to make the draft a spectacle or something despite only airing it on the MLB Network and because there’s less immediate impact and despite the fact that the only thing I really remember from the years of streamed-online drafts is Courtney Hawkins doing a backflip. He’s in indy league ball now. These are all old stories though, and we don’t need the distraction as badly as we did last year. We do, however, need the players more than I think we ever have in the perplexingly-long time I’ve been paying attention.

I’m not sure how thrilled I am about the first-round selection other than the most practical aspects of it adding talent. I have read a few dozen mock drafts in various iterations over the last few months and most of them have remained pretty static in their projections, expecting us to at Oregon State outfielder Trevor Larnach, an opinion that only seems to have solidified in recent weeks. It would be a good add to the system insofar as we don’t have a whole lot of projectable left-handed bats and Larnach would easily profile as the best of them. Of course, we could always end up with a pitcher instead hahaha wouldn’t that be wacky?

Where we end up from there is less clear, other than in recent interviews and articles, there’s been a lot of talk from the front office about the talent of the prep class in the outfield and starting pitching areas and how it could be an opportunity to add some athleticism. Drafts frequently go off the rails of even the most vetted of projections, and I’d expect this one to be little different on that front. That being said, there’s no way we could have predicted Sam Carlson being around when we were picking up our second-round pick last year and I’m not even going to try to drop names for this one until it happens.

Everything else, somewhat falls under the same general umbrella of how we’ve talked about the system for a while and the tendency to recruit capable college players for depth over long-term talent that could take more effort to develop. Even when things have broken right for us and we’ve developed a few unexpected performers, we’ve been using them to patch up the major league rosters in trades and the part of me that’s accustomed to bad stuff happening to competitive Mariners teams makes me wonder how far we’re off from needing a backup shortstop that isn’t Andrew Romine. That, of course, is beside the point.

I don’t know how much we can expect to learn about the team from Day One since it’s almost a given that it will be college first and high school second. What I think will be interesting from there, potentially, is how we manage the larger concerns of bonus pools, which have tightened up the operating parameters of a lot of teams in recent years. Given the harder pools, if the second rounder costs us too much, we could end up bouncing back to the college ranks and trying to pick up guys with less bargaining leverage, but that’s not 100% a given. We drafted a couple of interesting, less-experienced left-handers last year in 7th round pick Max Roberts and 9th round pick Jorge Benitez, and even among the “cost-saving” type players, we’ve gotten more out of Gonzaga right-hander Wyatt Mills than I think we initially expected to get. Since the bonuses are somewhat locked, it can turn into a game where you’re trying to out-hustle or out-scout the other organizations and I could see us maybe dipping into the Midwest and Puerto Rican ranks to play around with that, or our beloved D-II and D-III schools. We’ll only probably really start to get a sense of where we’re at in rounds eleven through twenty as we start to spread around the saved money. As the bonus pools beyond the tenth round don’t count anything below $100k, you can see a little bit freer spending there than you do on Day Two.

The preview show gets underway at 3 pm and then picks start happening for realsies at 4 pm, with the absolutely AGONIZING five-minutes between selections, so I’d expect us to pick around 5:30 pm or later, I don’t know? The clocks always seem to run over. I’d encourage baseball teams to do us a solid and stop dicking around as much with the bonus time, but I imagine that it’s an institutional thing where they need to allow a certain window for the talking heads to yell at each other.

Takes of varying levels of hotness to follow. Gosh, I hope I don’t end up having to post anything super spicy.

Round One: RHP Logan Gilbert, 6’6″, 225 lbs, 5/5/1997, Stetson
2016: 2-1, 21 G (5 GS), 2.74 ERA in 49.0 IP, 44 H (3 HR), 19 R (15 ER), 43/27 K/BB
2017: 10-0, 15 G (12 GS), 2 CG, 2.02 ERA in 89.0 IP, 65 H (HR), 23 R (20 ER), 107/26 K/BB
2018: 10-1, 14 G (14 GS), 2.52 ERA in 100.0 IP, 60 H (7 HR), 31 R (28 ER), 143/20 K/BB

This is a paradoxical one, in that on the one hand, it’s a name I’m fairly familiar with, having been mocked to us by most recently and off-and-on by evaluators throughout. On the other, I hadn’t anticipated Liberatore, Gorman, Singer, or various others to be among the available picks at the time, and was starting to think “What about Turang? What about Rocker?” Of course, the scouts themselves have their own preferences, and I had a notion that we might be looking in the direction of the SE, thus lining up with Rocker or Georgia prep Ethan Hankins. I’ll admit, I didn’t bother looking up where Stetson University was, which would have pointed me in the right direction being in central Florida.

Gilbert’s a peculiar one, in that he’s a college arm, but doesn’t fit the more moderate ceiling projections that we often tag on those guys, nor is he someone who had a late growth spurt and gained about a foot sometime after junior high. Instead, he’s a converted infielder who didn’t start pitching regularly until late in high school and on into college. It means less mileage on the arm, which is comforting, but it also means there’s more room for potential development in the offerings beyond the general pitching smarts and change-up that appear to already be there. One knock on Gilbert right now is that he’s yet to commit to one breaking ball or another, throwing both but neither as quite a plus. At the same time, I see it as a good match for us, in that we’ve had some success getting our guys to develop a true breaking ball. For whatever else you can say, you can look at the video overlay .gif and see the same basic slot producing both two distinct pitches. For a guy who hasn’t been pitching forever, you wouldn’t anticipate the mechanics being as good as they are.

You also wouldn’t really anticipate the numbers being where they are either. As you can see from the numbers above, the hits and the walks have steadily gone down (and the WHIP, for whatever use you have for that) and the Ks have kept going up. The only two real blips that you can see on there are that the home runs seemed a bit excessive this season and that the ERA (again, for whatever use you have for that) went up a little his junior year. As the numbers go, one issue mentioned is that he had some trouble getting going this season, and rather than throwing in the mid-90s, he was down to the low-90s earlier on. He still is a long-armed dude who spots the ball down well, so he was able to play just fine without it, but if the velocity comes back to the mid-90s, you can see where it could be a strong arsenal.

So, we didn’t pick one of the consensus top players left available, but Gilbert himself is in a fascinating position being both really good and, developmentally, somewhere between a college arm and a prep arm as far as his general track goes. He’s grown into his body and gone through the awkward phases, but possesses more room to improve on his offerings the likes of which can only come with more repetition and experience. This could end up extending his development time, but we’re getting the best of both worlds if we’re patient with him and confident in how we can get him to where he needs to be.

Round Two: CF Josh Stowers, R/R, 6’0″, 205 lbs, 2/25/1997, Louisville
2016: 20 G, 13 AB, 4 R, 3 H, RBI, 2 SB, 2/2 K/BB, .231/.333/.231
2017: 65 G, 201 AB, 50 R, 63 H, 15 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 22 SB, 6 CS, 33/31 K/BB, .313/.422/.507
2018: 62 G, 220 AB, 72 R, 74 H, 14 2B, 4 3B, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 36 SB, 7 CS, 37/52 K/BB, .336/.477/.559

Man, I wanted Kumar Rocker, but maybe that college commitment is a little firm.

Stowers was, admittedly, not a name that was much on mine with my rather minimal research done this season. However, on doing a bit of reading on him, you can see him fitting within a certain archetype. The summer before Dipoto joined the organization, we signed Braden Bishop. The following year, we picked up Austin Grebeck and DeAires Moses after we grabbed Kyle Lewis in the first round. Last year, we selected Billy Cooke and Johnny Slater, former track star. What this seems to indicate at large is that the Mariners want their outfielders to be able to play defense, and maybe have enough speed to make a mess of things on the basepaths. Stowers is such a dude.

As far as other affinities go, Stowers was probably a guy who jumped up on the Mariners subjective boards based on his C the Z ability. He’s an on-base machine, with a differential of .141 from his average in 2018 and .109 last year. In case you hadn’t gathered as much, he’s also a guy that gets plunked a fair bit. Once on the bases, he has proven disruptive in a way that makes him fun for your team and annoying for the other team. His speed perhaps isn’t elite, but it’s definitely above-average and combined with the on-base ability, makes him someone you could see at the top or bottom of a batting order, since he’s more at home making contact than slugging out of his shoes.

I’m still getting acquainted with Stowers as a player, but the immediate questions I would have would be how viable he is in center. Both Cooke and Bishop would likely grade out as better gloves, and I don’t hear Stowers as having either speed or an arm on a level that comps to either guy, even if the on-base ability and basepath acumen likely outpaces both (the dividends on Cooke have been lacking so far, highlight plays aside). It’s impossible to project out three, four years down the line, but if the presence of a superior defender– Bishop, Gordon, Heredia, whomever– pushes him to left field instead, what you’d have is someone with a left field profile that’s less traditional by at-large standards, but makes sense in a Gamel or Span or Winn sort of way, which is how the Mariners have preferred to use their left field position in the current stadium.

So You Still Want Me to Write About the 2018 Draft

June 1, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 12 Comments 

Hello. It’s that time of the year again, in which we spend forty rounds selecting amateur players to later be used as raw materials for Jerry Dipoto’s trade addiction. I mean, help reinforce our minor league system so as to be a service to our major league roster fungibility (in acquiring players, from other major league teams).

For the past few years, I’ve identified us at being at a crossroads where it was becoming increasingly necessary to invest in high upside picks rather than those from the college ranks and of moderate ceilings, merely to fill out minor league rosters. The Mariners then ignored that for one more year, selected mostly college guys, and traded three of them before a year had even passed. So that was cool. On the plus side, I do remember being promised in the weeks immediately following the draft that we had finally reached a supposed break-even point where the system was in good enough shape to where we can start focusing on building over maintaining the status quo. Sure, April and May continued to be pocked with scattered reports from Fangraphs’ Eric Longenhagen about how the Mariners kept on canceling extended spring training games due to lack of pitching and we even made a minor trade with the D’Backs to get us a least one complex league pitcher but hahahaha maybe this time will be different maybe we don’t have to trade everything that isn’t nailed down, right, you guys? You guys?

When is The Thing?
Day One, is Monday June 4th, starting at 3 pm Pacific, or 2 pm if you want to watch the preview show. It will span the first round, second round, and various compensation picks, which will take us through #78 selection. Day Two will start Tuesday, June 5th at 9:30 am for us and will carry us through round ten. Then and only then are we graced with the Day Three Conference Call, which will begin at 9:30 am on Wednesday June 6th and cover the back thirty with more and stranger players, onward and onward until we run out of baseball players or the fortieth round passes, whichever comes first.

When do the Mariners do Their Thing?
We’re selecting a bit earlier than last year and only have to wait until #14. The Mariners representative will be former first-rounder Mike Moore. As is typical, we didn’t bother with the Competitive Balance Lottery, neither gaining nor forfeiting anything, and will next select at #54 in the second round. Curiously, though we moved up in the first round from #17 to #14, we only moved up one spot in the second round, owning the #55 selection last year. Things begin to normalize after the third round, where the Mariners will select at #90 overall and then in intervals of thirty thereafter, which should be easy enough to remember. I can’t imagine that anyone will decide that they’re done early but it’s surely possible. I just don’t know that it’s happened since the draft was scaled back ten rounds.
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2018 Tacoma Rainiers Preview

April 3, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 1 Comment 

Tacoma write-ups are usually a little bit harder for me to do despite the proximity and accompanying interest. Part of it is fatigue by the time I get to this point, but in this case, you can look up and down the roster and see a lot of guys who have spent some time in the majors and are known commodities in that respect. There’s not much left for me to do in the way of projection or speculation and their value is mostly determined by the needs of the major league team over much that they’re able to prove individually. This proves especially true in thin systems, which is where the organization is at presently.

The rotation is certainly interesting for what it could provide in the near and longer terms, likewise the ‘pen, though that has a less prospect-oriented look to it. Still, where the depth looks to be right now is far better than where we were a season ago, much as we like to make fun of Jerry for his near compulsive trading. The look of the infield is likely to change a little in the coming days, but the outfield I imagine is pretty set and will feature more guys who can run things down. We’re quite far removed from the 2010 Rainiers and I can’t imagine our current front office putting up with playing first basemen in the outfield because dingers.

It’s the last preview and gets a little loopy in spots, but I remain composed during talking about the interesting starters and almost brand-new bullpen. Then it’s broken hitting stats, Batman, dogging on the Mets, and trying to ascribe a D&D alignment to some poor dude’s baserunning.
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2018 Modesto Nuts Preview

April 3, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 6 Comments 

Sure, after I stopped writing on a regular schedule, the Mariners hooked up with Modesto (they even put a ring on it the first year!) after I had been shipping them for years. All that time, it seemed like a perfect match: Pitcher-friendly park, west coast affiliate, but they just kept signing up with the Rockies who weren’t even particularly suited to that style of play. Well, now the Mariners finally have a legit Cal League affiliate, years after they were sent packing by San Bernardino, and with an ownership stake in the team, they’ll be around for a while. We’ll have baseball stats we know what to do with, all at the cost of occasionally having to look at an unsettling, California Raisins-inspired set of mascots.

This affiliate in particular looks a little snake-bit by injuries, and I don’t know how firm a lot of my immediate projections are. The starting pitching could run into some trouble if it’s not careful, but the bullpen will shut down the opposition if they’re handed a lead. The catching will be yet one more offensive void, but I can see the infield and outfield both producing on offense, so it wouldn’t surprise me if this team went to the playoffs for a second year.

I found a lot of vague and general comps to former Mariners players and farmhands, but the content was less wide-ranging and more focused than I’d often expect, although I can’t be expected to help myself around the puns.
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2018 Arkansas Travelers Preview

April 2, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 1 Comment 

Since early season roster news comes out somewhat erratically (really wish I had a full Modesto roster to talk about), I found myself writing about the Travelers immediately after the Lumberkings. Having never written about this affiliate before, I also took some time to familiarize myself with the mascot. I am informed that “The Arkansas Traveler” is a folk song and formerly the state’s official song. Good to know. Yet, to the original point, perhaps it was just the easy centerfielder comparisons, but I found myself thinking that the two teams seem to be organized under similar philosophies. The rotation is built out of flyball pitchers backed up by a likely elite outfield defense. Add in a bullpen with interesting components, and you’re looking at a team that would figure to be built around run prevention. Yet, looking at probable lineup configurations, I think that the lower you get on the card, the more trouble you find yourself in. Perhaps they’ll mitigate that by having an OBP-heavy guy at ninth, or having a non-conventional number three hitter with better contact skills than power, but there’s definitely some give to the projected six through eight spots.

Below the jump, I will hold forth on several guys known as Joe, namedrop Driveline a few times, make note of one aspiring second-generation baseball player and another third-generation one, talk up a local dude, reference one of Yahoo! Answers’ most famous questions, and nearly indulge in a Simpsons reference but stop slightly short.
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2018 Clinton Lumberkings Preview

April 2, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 3 Comments 

For the first time in a while, I found myself without a normal venue with which to collect baseball thoughts. Grand Salami, after twenty-two years, suspended operations and while I was grateful to not puzzle over a top ten with the system as it presently is, there was also the feeling that something was missing or lacking. I don’t expect this to be a great year for the system, but interesting things will be happening nonetheless and we’re in one of those “nowhere to go but up” spots. So, here I am again, writing too many words on a fair number of players in the hopes that someone finds it useful.

The Lumberkings this year are working with certain deficits we see system-wide, and some of the strengths as well. The rotation has the early look of being somewhat interesting and the bullpen looks to build on good returns from the previous season. As for the lineup, there are a handful of position players looking to build up prospect credentials, notably the second baseman and part of the starting outfield, though catching is once again a problem spot for the offense. I see this team as presently configured to be “pitching and outfield defense” and not really living up to what you would think from the mascot name.

Beyond this point lie too many words and wild speculation on a variety of topics, including overlaps between the Founding Fathers and baseball, who is suffering an allergy attack in their team photo, who aspires to be a Flow Bro, and a fair number of utterly preposterous AZL performances now getting vetted in a non-joke league.
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BA Locates Names of Ten Mariners Prospects

January 19, 2018 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 10 Comments 

Just before the holidays, fans of prospecting in general were gifted a tweet by Baseball America’s JJ Cooper which said what many had been thinking for a while:

Reading the back of the Mariners Top 30 for the Prospect Handbook. The back of this list is…..fascinating in a “Wow, we’re ranking this guy, and this guy and this guy and this guy.”

The Mariners have been in a precarious position for a while now, having traded off substantial amounts of lower minors prospects for near-ready depth with modest ceilings. Coupled with this, our draft strategy has been primarily to target competent and competitive replacements, and perhaps where we’ve had our greatest success is in selecting arms that we feel we can slot into bullpen work in short order. As such, the DiPoto era has almost excused itself from the trickier tasks of long-term development, as anything promising is quickly jettisoned and we’re left with an organization filled with organizational players. I said at the beginning of last draft that we were reaching a tipping point, beyond which was dangerous, in which we needed to focus on higher ceilings rather than replacement players. For a couple rounds, that was where our aims were, and then thereafter, not so much, which is part of why it’s not all that surprising to see a BA top ten list that has the first three names, the fifth and sixth, and then something of a free-for-all:

1. OF Kyle Lewis
2. 1B Evan White
3. RHP Sam Carlson
4. OF Julio Rodriguez
5. CF Braden Bishop
6. RHP Max Povse
7. RHP Matt Festa
8. RHP Art Warren
9. 3B Joe Rizzo
10. SS Juan Querecuto

Trending: DOWN Trades of eight players who ranked in the Top 30 Prospects a year ago have depleted the ranks.

I’m sparing you the next line which identifies as the non-coveted “worst farm system in baseball.”

If there’s anything promising that’s come out of listening into offseason conversations, it’s that DiPoto on the Wheelhouse podcast specifically stated that he thinks that we have finally arrived at the “tread water” point for our upper minors depth and can now comfortably focus on players that might take a little longer to bring along. He’s not wrong either in terms of how our depth is configured. Haniger, Gamel, Heredia, and Dee Gordon means that we can afford not to pressure Kyle Lewis or Braden Bishop. Ryon Healy, Vogelbach, and MAYBE Mike Ford mean that Evan White isn’t going to be counted on to be the first player of his draft class to hit the majors. For whatever else you think of Miranda, Erasmo Ramirez, and Mike Leake, they’ve at least got us fairly stable in the short term. One could also say that the fact that Jean Segura is locked into a long term contract makes it okay that we have traded away nearly every capable shortstop prospect we’ve had in recent memory.

In the longer run, sending away a lot of stuff leaves us with questions of resource allocation and whether it was worthwhile to, as some have characterized, make twenty moves only to still hover around .500. Hindsight makes such questions easier to answer, but in terms of prospecting, would you rather have Enyel de los Santos or what we got from Joaquin Benoit? Freddy Peralta or the Adam Lind experiment? Erick Mejia or Joe Wieland? Mike Montgomery and a quad-A starter or Daniels Valencia and Vogelbach? Zach Lee for Chris Taylor and the package that got us Smyly / Simmons were unexpected blow-ups, and had things worked out in the expected way, they would likely have been worthwhile. But the slow, untreated bleedout can ruin you just as easily as the bigger blow. Right now, I don’t feel confident in our ability to develop or to correctly evaluate more long-term assets.

It’s a bleak take on things, but then this is probably the thinnest, most top-heavy system I’ve seen in my sixteen+ years of following. There are positives to be taken away, such as the team continues to recruit Driveline guys as minor league free agents, has brought in Dr. Lorena Martin to help standardize conditioning practices, and has coaches that are increasingly savvy to how pitching and hitting mechanics are modeled. These are all great things to have to help you develop the talent that you have. We need more talent though. We need it badly.

’17 40-Man Preview Extravaganza

November 13, 2017 · Filed Under Mariners, Minor Leagues · 8 Comments 

Well, it’s that time of the year again. If you sense less enthusiastic intonations in my pixels this time around, you’re not wrong. As exciting… debatably exciting, as previous incarnations of the 40-man preview were, this year we find our cupboards more barren and the reasons are two-fold. One, as I’ve noted previously with some sneering, is that there has been some eagerness on our general manager’s part to send off risks for modest ceilings. Had we projected forward from the same time in 2016, then as 2017 40-man offseason additions, we likely would have been thinking about Tyler O’Neill and Zack Littell as prep draftees from ’13 and Luiz Gohara as an international signing as headliners. Heck, we could’ve even talked up the finer points of Pablo Lopez. Joke’s on us, it seems. The second reason is that our ’14 draft was not a major one for college selections (or any selections, really). The Rays will probably add Ryan Yarbrough and the Giants might add Tyler Herb, but we already have Altavilla on the roster and the rest have not much distinguished themselves. As exhaustive as I used to be in projecting guys who even had a ghost of a chance, I don’t think many losses from this group would come back to haunt us (rimshot).

I am duty-bound to report back on my findings, although I feel as if the acquisitions of Mike Marjama and David Freitas mean that we can safely overlook the coterie of catcher in the high minors, to say nothing of the fact that a lot of those fringe candidates are technically minor league free agents at the moment. The deadline we’re looking at for all additions would be Nov. 20th at 5 pm PT / 8 pm ET. Credit to Baseball America for providing that information as Major League Baseball’s own website doesn’t often bother anymore.

Omissions will include Jordan Cowan (faded after good start to end up sub-.700 in OPS), Adonis de la Cruz (reliever, walks, SSS), Anjul Hernandez (has some Ks, is youngish, great googly moogly walks and hits), and Chris Mariscal (older and exposed in double-A stint). Those I’ve mentioned in the past that haven’t really done much to make their cases since, I’ll also skip. Wow, sub-1500 words? I’m losing my edge.
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2017 Arizona Fall League Rosters Announced

August 29, 2017 · Filed Under Minor Leagues · Comment 

It says something, either about my habits, or attitudes towards the present season, or suspect mental state that I would have already narrowed down probable dates for Arizona Fall League rosters to be released to this Wednesday. And hey, what do you know? Headlined by first-round pick of yesteryear, center fielder Kyle Lewis, the Mariners will be sending eight players to fall ball. Joining Lewis will be RHPs Matthew Festa, Darin Gillies, Max Povse, and Art Warren, catcher Joe DeCarlo, utility man Eric Filia, and center fielder Braden Bishop. You may notice here that the AFL roster selection rules seem to have changed because that’s a lot of Cal League representation, if not currently, then earlier in the year. They’ll also have Yoel Monzon as a pitching coach on the staff, presently the pitching coach for the Peoria Mariners. Heck, he may not even bother with cleaning out his locker.

Lewis is probably where most people would start out, and rightly so. The 22-year-old probably still holds onto his spot as the system’s top prospect on athletic potential alone, but if you know the name, then it’s likely you also have a grasp on the history: A collision at the plate due to the catcher blocking the lane– the same type of collision now banned in the majors– resulted in him blowing out his ACL as well as his medial and lateral meniscus. For a guy who was hoped to be a centerfielder, that’s a big blow. Lewis didn’t get game action until June and then almost immediately banged up his knee again trying to play all-out defense on a play, and then disappeared for a couple of weeks. For much of the season, he’s been locked into the DH position to curb any Chris Snelling-like tendencies to hurt himself doing too much, but between the injuries and limited on-field performances, we’re only just now hitting a sample size in Modesto equal to what he had in Everett. August has been a lackluster month for him in the box as well, with an OPS in the mid-.600s, even as he is finally getting an opportunity to run around and play in the outfield. There are really two cases to be made here, the one that hopes that Lewis stands a better chance of getting back on track with rest and time, and the other that wants to see sustained offensive development. That being said, I’m not too surprised to see him here.

The second-greatest prospect of intrigue would probably be Braden Bishop. The one thing about having Bishop and Lewis on the same roster is that if they end up in the same outfield, whatever pressures are on Lewis to defend are scaled back dramatically. Based on .gifs and minor league video I’ve seen, Braden Bishop has a tendency to play defense as if he’s the only outfielder on staff and will routinely come out of nowhere to make plays. People have talked about him as a potential Gold Glove out there, perhaps in the Kevin Pillar mold, but for much of the season what we’ve talked about is Bishop’s offense. In college, he was a slap hitter, and a slap hitter he remained starting out. This past year, he trained in the offseason with fellow former Husky Jake Lamb and appears to have gotten stronger and is coming at the plate with a different setup. Baseball Census has an excellent side-by-side comparison of his two seasons in the Cal League and it’s my opinion that Bishop has probably done more to solidify his prospect status this year than anyone else in the system. The beauty of his skill set is that he can add a lot of value with the glove alone, but any increase however incremental in his hitting abilities means more stretch-doubles and runs scored. I could see him contributing, maybe not next year, but 2019 seems like a reasonable estimate.

Between Bishop and Lewis, those are two prospects that you’re potentially going to have in the top five, locked for the top ten minimum. Where Povse slots may depend on your opinion of him and how he’s used, but he may be a top ten as well by some reckoning and will retain rookie status headed into 2018. One of the stories of earlier in the summer was that Jerry DiPoto had the clever idea that the Mariners bullpen needed a Chris Devenski, a guy who could do short to medium relief and fill in innings with strikeout potential. Povse was initially tabbed as that guy and fast-tracked into debuting in late-June. Of course, since then, the Mariners have seen the emergence of another pitcher who can fill a similar role in Emilio Pagan, who has not started games in the minor leagues at all. Taking the pressure off Povse to be that guy may be good, as he’s the 6’8″, long-limbed Tall Wall who has had some difficulty getting his mechanics in order. As a reliever, the need for extra pitches would be minimized, but the boom-and-bust of “some days he has it and some days he doesn’t” is magnified, and moreover the team needs starting pitching in a bad way at the moment. For Tacoma, Povse has made three of his last four appearances as a starter and the most recent two embody that intriguing potential of his and the accompanying risk. One outing was four and two-thirds frames of no-hit ball with a 7/1 K/BB, the next, four frames with two runs allowed on three hits, a hit batter, two walks, and four strikeouts. It’ll be hard not to take what role he’s used in the AFL as indicative of Something, but give precedence to what’s said about him.

After Povse, who has already pitched in the majors, Festa might be the next closest. Festa was the smaller of our D-II selections in the first ten rounds of last year, but the stuff is very much real and he tops out at 96 mph. The repertoire is also deep enough to handle multiple innings, but then this is one of multiple notes about him that really make you stop and look at his statline and think, “wait, what?” The 24-year-old has kind of been a sleeper due to age and expectations, but he’s thrown 66.2 innings in thirty-nine appearances and over that span has a 96/19 K/BB. No, those aren’t typos, that’s nearly a K and a half every inning and a walk maybe every three or more. Given all the other happenings in system, the Mariners have demonstrated remarkable restraint in not pushing him to double-A. Still, he’s one guy that I wouldn’t be surprised to see next season, even if ideally, we won’t have to make as many calls out that direction as we have this year.

Speaking of interesting statlines and modest draft profiles, we also have another recent (current, actually) Modesto Nut on the roster in Eric Filia. You may know the story here, but to refresh, he had taken some time away from school and came back to UCLA looking like a bonafide prospect. The slugging this year has been lower than where he was in Everett, but he remains very difficult to strike out and has only done so about every eleven ABs this season. This leaves him as the rare bird with a lop-sided K/BB at 42/63. While some players with elite plate discipline end up going on to develop power later in their careers, such has not yet been the case for Filia, who has fewer dingers in the Cal League than he did in the NWL and in far more plate appearances. Putting aside the offensive profile aspects, the eye-catcher here is his listing as an infielder. Filia has played the outfield corners in the past, but has been increasingly seeing time at first. While he does swing lefty, the fact that he throws right-handed opens up more options for him on the field as a utility player. If Filia manages to show as much defensive versatility as say, a Danny Valencia, or worst-case, first and the corners, that still opens up more options for him where the bat can continue to do what it does well, namely slap the ball around. He’s another guy who has a fun little Baseball Census profile, so give that a look as well.

Warren has served as an off-and-on closer for Nuts and also boasts about a K per inning in his pitching lines. Yet, the advanced metrics don’t like him all that much. Statcorner has him in the red with a nBB% of 11 and a K% of 24, and that helps to explain some of it, as does the fact that Warren gives up hits a bit more readily. I know I’ve been plugging them a bit in this post, but I think it’s deserved because I wouldn’t really know much about Warren had I not read yet another Baseball Census profile on him. The story is fairly similar to any other you’d expect to find in spring training: A changed diet, a changed workout regiment, BSohL. These would be platitudes without the results, which Warren has, having gone from a high-80s starter to a low-to-mid-90s reliever. Like Festa, the arsenal is deeper than average as well. I’m wanting to see better command before I’m totally comfortable with him as a potential contributor.

For DeCarlo… well, one more Modesto Nut, one more guy you can find info on online? DeCarlo’s was one of the Mariners-like picks that I had grown accustomed to in that he was a second selection as a big-bodied prep infielder who played short in the past but hey so did Jim Thome when he was in high school. In DeCarlo’s case, he’s been following the same track as fellow farmhand Marcus Littlewood, another kid drafted at short who had good instincts and not-great wheels until the organization decided to try him out as a backstop. And why convert one shortstop to the Tools of Ignorance when you could convert TWO? Part of this is representative of a dearth in organization depth spurring the move. DeCarlo doesn’t look great out there yet. In forty-six defensive games, eighteen passed balls and a 26% CS rate. Yet he’s also doing an entirely new thing and his offense, while suffering, has not cratered, with a loss in average almost entirely accounting for the drops in OBP, SLG, and OPS. What’s been good about DeCarlo as a minor leaguer is that, while he doesn’t have the tools to hit for high-average, he absolutely can take walks and hit for power now and then. The secondary averages, as such, have been solid despite a high-K rate. More reps can only help him, yet I don’t find myself thinking that he’s a risk to be Rule 5’d just yet because of the SSS and lack of time in the high minors. We’ll muse on that next year, depending on how he takes.

Our last but not least is Darin Gillies, which is one R and two Ls for your reference there. Gillies is not much written about, being the guy in the tenth round of 2015 whom they threw $10k at in the hopes of saving top ten pool money elsewhere. That being said, you wouldn’t expect him to be in double-A and holding his own, and yet he is. Gillies has been on an aggressive track, but it’s double-A that has presented something of a challenge for him. Whereas last year, he had a .186 combined average and a 75/18 K/BB through 66.2 innings, he’s now at a .229 average against and a 44/24 K/BB in 56.2 innings in double-A. That’s not as impressive, but again, our data is limited. We know he was at ASU and in and out of the bullpen for his four years there. We know that he threw 90 mph or so in HS. If nothing else, the AFL selects for the willing, but Gillies may be a guy that we soon have more data on, and more data is always welcome.

The season will commence on October 10th, as the Javelinas play a day game against the Desert Dogs.

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