The 2019 Draft: Days Two and Three, Open Thread

Jay Yencich · June 4, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

As with last year, I feel like the wiser approach for all of us would be to lump together Days Two and Three of the draft rather than come in with a dedicated one for each. Day Three is too madcap anyway to keep proper tabs on. I won’t even really be here to attempt it as I accidentally double-booked myself with a doctor’s appointment Wednesday afternoon, so I’ll probably come in after it’s all over to sweep up and see what’s happened.

To cite a helpful example, ep 51 of The Wheelhouse had some useful commentary on how a GM approaches the draft. Essentially, what Dipoto was told by other general managers is that it’s a real bad idea for the GM to do amateur scouting on their own, because said GM will then weight heavily what they saw and how they were impressed, then use their role as decider-in-chief to overrule members of their team who have a much longer track record to work with. I thought about this a lot during Day One because I know how thin the depth is internally on the infield and got attached to that idea with the good college and prep crop in that specific area. Thus, in private chats I was yelling about wanting to take this or that shortstop, seeing the pick, being confused at another college pitcher in an allegedly thin class, then doing my own poking around and coming to the conclusion that there wasn’t really anything wrong with the selection. I just have to accept that I have my own pet research projects and these dudes have looked at literally hundreds more players than I have. Also consider the fact that last Saturday, West Virginia lost by fifteen and the Rainiers lost by twenty. We need pitching.

If, however, you want your heart broken repeatedly and ride the weird adrenal ups and downs, I’d recommend looking up the “top available” Draft Tracker filter. Some of those dudes, probably more than you might think, are genuinely unsignable (the young Leiter, for example), but others might not be. It’s curious for me in that we’ve backed off the “college first, prep second” mode and now I don’t know whether I ought to expect more preps on day two or more “limited leverage college performers” so that we can scrape together some dollars and go on a real tear through the prep ranks on Day Three. But that’s the draft for you, all sorts of weird rules that keep you from picking the best players in the best order. How unpoetic.

Day Two:
Round Three: RHP Levi Stoudt, 6’1″, 195 lbs, 12/4/97, Lehigh
Round Four: RHP Tim Elliott, 6’1″, 200 lbs, 10/11/97, Georgia
Round Five: 3B Austin Shenton, L/R, 6’0″, 195 lbs, 1/22/98, Florida International
Round Six: RHP Michael Limoncelli, 6’2″, 185 lbs, 5/30/00, Horseheads HS (NY)
Round Seven: LHP Adam Macko, 6’0″, 170 lbs, 12/30/00, Vauxhall HS (AB)
Round Eight: RHP Ty Adcock, 6’0″, 205 lbs, 2/7/97, Elon
Round Nine: SS Mike Salvatore, 6’0″, 185 lbs, 12/27/97, Florida State
Round Ten: RHP Kyle Hill, 5’11”, 200, 5’11, 200 lbs, 5/12/97, Baylor


Again, I have been promised prep picks, for rebuilding. Again, deeply betrayed. I will not soon forget this, I will only forget this about twelve months from now.

As indicated above, my gameplan coming in was to look at infielders and we have instead done pitching, heavily, and I don’t know if we’re the worse for it. My main concern is that nearly all outlets were claiming the college pitching class was not good and that’s exactly where we’ve decided to invest. However, both a really smart org in the Astros and a not-so-smart one in the Giants were drafting only position players at one point, so who knows, really. There’s much to be interested by here, Limoncelli if he’s signable and willing to rehab his TJ with us, Macko likewise if he is willing to forego a college commitment (he’s Slovak and there was talk about him learning how to throw by watching videos of Verlander and mirroring it, I guess). Stoudt and Elliott are both right-handers with some good stuff who for the time being look the part of starters and have no major flaws pressing them into bullpen service. I’m curious what we intend to do with Adcock because we’d have a sense of him as another Elon guy, but he was a backstop in college and only started being a two-way type in his sophomore year. As a Carter Capps fan, I appreciate a dude who can fill in on both sides of a battery. Hill also, belatedly, comes in as your senior college closer, while Salvatore is the Sanders / Walton / whatever type of a lower-dollar shortstop. I suppose that the most interesting of the bunch to me is Shenton, but some of that is off-field as he’s from Bellingham and will presumably play for the Aquasox, is a photographer and an environmentalist, and was projected to be possibly round two or three if not for the fact that he played subpar this spring on account of his mother receiving cancer treatment, which, from personal experience, I get. I think that the kneejerk impression would be “oh, we went college-heavy, again,” but while true, the approach has changed. I would characterize earlier drafts as picking up sure signs on the cheap to make up money elsewhere. While I’m not worried about getting these ones under contract, I would say that the overall quality of this group from one individual to the next is not so wide a spread as we’ve seen in previous years. Except perhaps at the very end, there were no “overdrafts,” nor guys we expect to go far above slot that would keep us from making aggressive Day Three selections. I think that’s wise in that we need pitching depth and it would be better to spread some of that around rather than counting on a few choice individuals. Now if only we could apply the same philosophy to our infield depth….

Day Three:
Round 11: C Carter Bins, R/R, 6’0″, 200 lbs, 5/11/98, Fresno State
Round 12: CF Antoine Mistico, L/R, 6’0″, 180 lbs, 6/30/98, Gateway CC
Round 13: RHP Reid Morgan, 6’0″, 190 lbs, 3/24/97, South Carolina
Round 14: SS Patrick Frick, R/R, 6’2″, 200 lbs, 2/14/97, Wake Forest
Round 15: RHP Anthony Tomczak, 6’2″, 200 lbs, 10/17/00, North Broward Prep (FL)
Round 16: RHP Logan Rineheart, 6’3″, 185 lbs, 9/21/97, Cal Baptist
Round 17: RHP Dutch Landis, 6’2″, 185 lbs, 6/23/01, Liberty HS (NV)
Round 18: RHP Tyler Driver, 6’2″, 185 lbs, 2/4/01, Crossroads FLEX HS (NC)
Round 19: RHP Travis Kuhn, 5’10”, 195 lbs, 5/20/98, San Diego
Round 20: LF Cade Marlowe, L/R, 6’2″, 200 lbs, West Georgia
Round 21: RHP Reeves Martin, 5’8″, 180 lbs, 12/25/96, New Orleans
Round 22: RF Trent Tingelstad, L/R, 5’10”, 215 lbs, 6/14/98, Louisiana-Monroe
Round 23: SS Caleb Ricca, R/R, 5’8″, 165 lbs, 10/21/97, Northwestern State
Round 24: RHP Kipp Rollings, 6’2″, 190 lbs, 9/13/96, North Greenville
Round 25: RHP Fred Villarreal, 5’11”, 190 lbs, 4/7//98, Houston
Round 26: RHP Garrett Westberg, 6’2″, 210 lbs, 2/24/97, Central Florida
Round 27: RHP Brock Minich, 6’6″, 220 lbs, 9/29/96, Nova Southeastern
Round 28: C Anthony Lepre, R/R, 5’10”, 195 lbs, 5/29/97, The Masters
Round 29: SS Utah Jones, S/R, 6’0″, 165 lbs, 5/28/96, North Greenville
Round 30: SS Cody Grosse, L/R, 5’8″, 165 lbs, 12/30/96, Southeastern Louisiana
Round 31: RHP Jacob Meador, 5’10”, 165 lbs, 10/26/00, Centennial HS (TX)
Round 32: CF Jackson Tate, 5’11, 200 lbs, 12/7/98, Lawson State
Round 33: RHP Jarod Bayless, 6’4″, 225 lbs, 12/29/96, Dallas Baptist
Round 34: 3B Christian Encarnacion-Strand, R/R, 6’1″, 215 LBS, 12/1/99, Yavapai
Round 35: C Dominic Tamez, R/R, 5’11”, 195 lbs, 1/12/01, Lady Bird Johnson HS
Round 36: LHP C.J. Mayhue, 6’0″, 185 lbs, 1/22/01, Crest HS (NC)
Round 37: 3B Cole Barr, R/R, 5’11”, 190 lbs, 5/23/98, Indiana
Round 38: CF Jackson Lancaster, L/L, 6’1″, 190 lbs, 3/22/99, Itawamba JC
Round 39: CF Jacob Hurtubise, L/R, 6’0″, 180 lbs, 12/11/97, West Point
Round 40: 2B Perry McMichen, L/R, 5’10”, 180 lbs, 4/18/01, Wyoming HS (OH)


Well, I don’t know what to tell you. Nearly half of our last thirty picks were still pitchers. While looking at the returns somewhere around the late 20s, I thought, “you know, they still have to field eight other positions on the diamond. For two short-season teams.”

I’m not sure entirely where to start with this one. The impulse is generally to draft prep players early in Day Three and see what happens. There wasn’t so much of that here. Tomczak strikes me as the type of prep who doesn’t get scouted too heavily due to a college commitment (Stetson, in this case) and is thus ignored by outlets like BA despite throwing 90+ mph. Ditto Landis, who has better velo and could become more intriguing as he goes from being a two-way type to a full-time pitcher. They both seem to be possible signs. I know less about Driver other than he has a similar build with less velo and thus may benefit from college time. Meador may take too much to buy out of a commitment to TCU though his stuff / spin / command is supposed to be good for a shorter fella, and I’m not much expecting to get Tamez off the Arkansas campus either, nor Mayhue away from Eastern Carolina.

For non-preps, Bins is definitely interesting, and I would add that “Carter” is a good catcher name (or pitcher / catcher) and “Bins” is a good backstop name. He would have been an easy Day Two pick if he had performed at the same level as he did as a sophomore. As it stands, he’d become one of the better in-system backstops and the only “quirk” that leaves me curious is that he hasn’t called his own games yet, which I often forget when it comes to amateur catchers. Mistico, Tate, and Hurtubise are all speedsters who should cover outfield ground and make a mess of things on the basepaths, with Mistico’s combo of LH + speed + arm strength being pretty interesting for a 12th rounder. Perhaps the most fun of our late rounders would be Encarnacion-Strand, whose game overall resembles the guy with the parrot. Barr also has some pop in the bat, but as a draft-eligible sophomore, may not sign. Morgan, Reinhart, and Martin, whom I expect to struggle with getting his names in proper order, all have the look of interesting arms.

* Some surprising local angles came up with Tingelstad being from Marysville and Westberg being from Federal Way, though like Shenton before them, they play across the country. I don’t know if the team still organizes the Mariners Cup where local preps face off against a team of California preps, but I’ll assume that they still did in the range of time all three dudes were in high school.

* Should our 20th round pick do anything that’s unusually distinctive for a baseball player, we would have the opportunity to use an under-utilized adjective in “Marlovian.” God I hope he doesn’t get stabbed in the eye during a bar fight after being accused of being a spy.

* If Utah Jones doesn’t have “Banana Phone” as his walk-up music, wasted opportunity.

Game 63, Astros at Mariners – Draft for Hope, Play for Pride

marc w · June 3, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Cory Gearrin/Wade LeBlanc vs. Corbin Martin, 7:10pm

The M’s skid continues, with another 10-run loss yesterday, highlighted by Marco Gonzales’ 7-run 2nd inning. Marco’s free-fall continues unabated, and after the game, both he and manager Scott Servais talked about how the current trend can’t continue. To his credit, Gonzales assigned blame to himself and the starters, who clearly aren’t getting it done, and refused to say that his defense is hanging them out to dry. I love Marco’s attitude, I love his competitiveness, and I think he can help this team, but something in his approach has to change. He said it was mostly attitude, and having confidence in each pitch, but I worry that there’s something bigger at play.

People have pointed to his declining velocity, but that can’t explain his recent struggles. As I’ve detailed here, his velo was even lower when he started the year 5-0. More problematic is the fact that his May velocity (higher than April) was lower than his *lowest* velocity in 2018 (September). He’s now lost 3 MPH from his velocity in his 2017 call-up, and 2 MPH from May of last year. It’s a worry, even as his April shows he *could* be effective at this velocity.

The M’s trade of Jay Bruce for high-A 3B/1B Jake Scheiner figures to be the first of many “…and cash” trades the M’s make. I expected the M’s to add cash to the deal in order to pick up a prospect, but seeing the M’s send $18 M of the $20 M or so Bruce is owed and getting back a prospect who wasn’t in Philadelphia’s top 30 is…sub-optimal. A limited, platoon-slugging 1B/RF with a low average was never going to be a premium pick-up, but it makes you worried about the M’s adding to their impressive total of players whom the M’s are paying to play elsewhere, or not at all. From Carlos Santana to Denard Span to Anthony Swarzak, the M’s are paying tens of millions for future salary flexibility.

Before the year, I noted that the M’s had to both transform their player development, turning org guys into prospects and prospects into MLB contributors, AND hope that the player development work by Houston and others stumbled. The Astros are 40-20, but shockingly, the second part of that double seems to have come to pass, at least for a few months. No, Justus Sheffield is not ready, and looks further from the majors than when he was acquired, the shocking thing is how many Astros pitching prospects have scuffled. Forrest Whitley’s ERA starts with a 12, and he looks absolutely lost. Josh James has been fine, I suppose, in relief in Houston, but I thought he was a top-of-the-rotation arm, and has looked a lot more average, despite the velo and strikeouts. JB Bukauskas has walked way too many, as has Cionel Perez. Rogelio Armenteros and Brandon Bielak have been…fine, but nothing special. The best of the bunch by performance only is tonight’s starter, Corbin Martin, a former 2nd round pick out of Texas A&M. A righty who sits in the mid-90s, he walked a bunch in AAA, but stranded enough to post decent numbers. In the majors, those walks have combined with dingers to kill his effectiveness. He’s still young, and he comes in as Houston’s #3 prospect for 2019. He has a solid change and a curveball as well, and he could develop into a really good #3 starter (maybe even a #2), but he isn’t there at this point.

That’s not just schadenfreude, that’s helpful: it’s good to know that even the Astros can have an off month or two in PD, but when it’s combined with the M’s near-the-majors talent also scuffling (Swanson and Sheffield mostly, but also Kyle Lewis and Evan White), it’s less fun. It’s also more contained, as the Astros have maybe the best overall hitter in the minors in 2019, 1B/DH Yordan Alvarez, who’s crushing AAA. Jarred Kelenic is a much, much better prospect, and HIS development is something to crow about, but the Astros have solid hitting prospects in AAA who struggle to break into one of the league’s better offenses. This whole surpassing the Astros project is going to be a generational one, I fear.

1: Smith, CF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Encarnacion, 1B
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Seager, 3B
6: Narvaez, C
7: Santana, LF
8: Long, 2B
9: Moore, SS
SP: LeBlanc, after Gearrin opens

Deivy Florido, Ricardo Sanchez get the starts on a limited day in the M’s minors. The DSL M’s have started up, and they sit at 2-0 after a win today; SS Noelvi Marte’s the name to watch down there.
The M’s expect to bring up old friend Andrew Moore to take Yusei Kikuchi’s spot in the rotation, as the M’s will give the Japanese lefty some extra rest.

Yesterday’s slate was highlighted by Jarred Kelenic’s second Hi-A HR, and by Evan White’s first HR for Arkansas since May 12th…which was his last extra-base hit of any kind.

The 2019 Draft: A Day One Thread

Jay Yencich · June 3, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

I was talking with a friend the other day about epics and sagas and the tradition of catalogues of names within, and is there anything approaching that in modern life outside of sports drafts? On scale, I don’t think so. Unlike last year, we’re going to have minor and major league games alongside the draft but I have listened to an watched some recent Mariners games and I know what I would prefer to pay attention to. Pre-game starts at 3 pm where you can get various talking heads on and then the real draft gets rolling at 4 pm. There are supposed to be five-minute intervals between picks, but it never actually goes down that way. Maybe we call out our dude around 6 pm?

Last year was fun in that most mocks predicted us to pick a college outfielder and we ended up with a pitcher, and a very good one at that, because I don’t know, Logan Gilbert had mono. This year, the sense seems to be more that names are being listed because they have to be and you can’t disappoint after setting up such expectations. What I mean by that is no one seems to have a clear sense of where the draft is going outside of “let’s hope the Orioles aren’t cheap and actually pick the #1 talent.” The deeper into the first round you get, the weirder the analysts feel it will become as there are depth quirks and an absence of real consensus about talent. I can’t tell you right now which NCAA players may or may not have mono but my instinct is that it’s a good and potentially untapped market to be exploring.

Even as scouting departments differ, I’ve noticed an annual trend among journalism outlets to coalesce around one or two candidates as we hit the day of, perhaps because more information has become available, perhaps because no one wants to be “wrong.” The flavor of the day is Elon RHP George Kirby, who would be an infinitely more fun selection were the team still owned by Nintendo. As it stands, he fits conceptually into the framework. What could be briefly said about Kirby is that he controls the zone, has enough pitches to start, had a good Cape Cod League showing, has a track record, and previously demonstrated more velocity (topping 97 mph) than he’s recently shown (low-to-mid-90s). The major question with him is how to rate his competition, but the Mariners have gone to Elon somewhat regularly in the draft and I figure they should be able to account for that by now.

Analysts like to provide themselves with an out by noting other names in play as extra info. If local kid OF Corbin Carroll drops, most seem to think we’d snap him up readily. He’s probably the only outfielder that regularly gets linked to us as, if not pitching, outlets are often tying us to infielders such as college shortstops in Greg Jones, Logan Davidson, and Will Wilson or prep infielders like the aforementioned Anthony Volpe and Gunnar Henderson, with a new recent and intriguing addition of pop-up player 3B Keoni Cavaco. I’d be into it, but it would take a confident team to pull it off. Cavaco has plus tools all around and yet hasn’t had an especially strong track record despite playing in southern California and getting reps in against better-than-average prep competition.

Anyway, in conclusion, the last time the Mariners had the 20th overall pick in the draft, they selected right-hander Josh Fields from the University of Geo– (is tackled and dragged off stage) NO, THEY NEED TO KNOW! (kicks at air)

Round One: RHP George Kirby, 6’4″, 195 lbs, 2/4/1998, Elon
2017: 1-3, 16 G (5 GS), 4.84 ERA in 61.0 IP, 67 H (3 HR), 41 R (33 ER), 55/17 K/BB
2018: 10-3, 15 G (15 GS), 2.89 ERA in 90.0 IP, 88 H (3 HR), 36 R (29 ER), 96/27 K/BB
2019: 8-2, 14 G (14 GS), 2.75 ERA in 88.0 IP, 73 H (3 HR), 34 R (27 ER), 107/6 K/BB

I bought heavily into the middle of the first-round talk that it was going to be unpredictable and that we would have no clear notion of what was going to happen. Among the things that were regarded as sure, Carroll to the D’Backs and Kirby to the Mariners. Both have come to pass as other stocks have risen and fallen. Given that we rather like the mid-Atlantic college ranks and Elon is in North Carolina, this was probably a safe prediction.

Kirby is doubly regarded as a pretty “safe” pick, although that’s a phrase that I’ve been deeply hesitant to use post-Hultzen. To mitigate that somewhat, they brought in Trevor Bauer to talk about his mechanics a bit and Bauer was effusive, while adding that he thinks there could be more velocity in there with some small mechanical adjustments, at which point he’d sit 93-95. That, combined with the command, could be an intriguing combination. I’d like to see how he would stack up against our other C the Z favorite in Ljay Newsome, less for the stuff and more for the dart-throwing aspect, as Kirby’s heat on a bad day is better than Newsome on a good one.

Whereas Gilbert was a converted infielder who took to pitching later, Kirby’s been a pitcher throughout, first in Westchester County, NY and then in North Carolina. As something of a testament to his pitching smarts and command, his change-up is regarded as being highly advanced and something that he spots well to the bottom half of the zone. Kirby will throw both forms of breaking ball although neither has been especially consistent. The track record within the system suggests to me that player development might eliminate one in favor of developing the other, but that’s also going off a longer personal view and I don’t know with all the changes in coaching and player development recently whether we might approach him differently. “Gas Camp” seems like a given at the very least.

In a surprise to me given how everyone talks up the clean mechanics, I don’t know that I can find anything from PitchingNinja on how his release points look from one pitch type to the next, nor others. What I feel like I can say is that the Mariners have probably been on him for a while as they’ve drafted other Elon players, like Nick Zammarelli in 2016, Ryne Ogren last year, and further back have shown a fondness for scouting there with RHP Steven Hensley and 2B Donny Jobe in 2008. It’s not much, but with a non-powerhouse conference Colonial Athletic Association, which has names you’ll recognize although not necessarily for baseball, I would imagine that having more context would help the team develop a better sense of just what they’re getting in Kirby.

Round Two: LHP Brandon Williamson, 6’6″, 210 lbs, 4/2/1998, North Iowa Area CC / Texas Christian
2017: 4-1, 14 G (5 GS), 4.84 ERA in 49.0 IP, 43 H (5 HR), 34 R (21 ER), 47/25 K/BB
2018: 8-4, 12 G (12 GS), 2.89 ERA in 66.0 IP, 60 H (HR), 31 R (23 ER), 104/34 K/BB
2019: 3-5, 14 G (14 GS), 4.48 ERA in 66.0 IP, 72 H (4 HR), 47 R (33 ER), 73/33 K/BB

Can I be amused for a second that pick one was born on 4/2 and pick two was born on 2/4? Anywho…. Williamson spent the first two years of his collegiate career at a community college after a somewhat undistinguished prep career in Minnesota. He only started to become a guy people were following as he moved further and further south, which leads me to wonder a little about his background, specifically whether he’d latched onto any of the velocity boosting programs of his own accord. What we do know of him is that he’s had a bit of an injury history after having surgery on both labrums (labra?) in the fall. That’s HIP labra, not arm ones. Important distinction.

If you want something to latch onto, I’d suggest that Williamson seems to be getting out of the awkward phase in the pitcher’s lifespan and still has some potential a coaching staff could work with. The mechanics appear to be okay, but the feel for pitches and the velocity both come and go and he can either pitch in the low-90s and blow one by in the mid-90s on occasion or go through a full outing scraping 90. His secondary offerings– curveball, slider, change– also have need of fine-tuning and one would expect that as a pro, they focus on getting him a better change-up and likely nix the curve.

I don’t know if adding numbers will make this more or less abstract, but let’s play around with this and take his last five starts as a sort of “sample”:

5/5, @ WV, 6.0 IP, 5 H, 3 R (2 ER), 5/3 K/BB
5/12, vs. Kansas, 8.0 IP, 6 H, 2 R (ER), 11/3 K/BB
5/18, @ Texas Tech, 4.1 IP, 9 H, 6 R (3 ER), 4/3 K/BB
5/24, vs. Baylor, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 2 R, 9/1 K/BB
5/31, vs. Cal, 4.0 IP, 3 H, R, 7/2 K/BB

I feel like that helps get some sense of it. I’m looking at sixteen starts for him on the TCU website (is The Baseball Cube missing pre-season? Post-season?) and I see seven starts where he didn’t hit five innings, and nine of five or more. The same source shows eight starts of three or more walks, which means eight of fewer than that. He could be one of the best pitchers one weekend and a relative non-prospect the next. Despite being a “college pitcher” and therefore “safer”, Williamson is a real boom-or-bust prospect and one that you’d really have to trust your pitching staff with to select him this high.

Round Comp B: RHP Isaiah Campbell, 6’4″, 225 lbs, 8/15/1997, Arkansas
2016: 3-1, 13 G (6 GS), 3.69 ERA in 31.2 IP, 31 H (4 HR), 19 R (13 ER), 23/11 K/BB
2017: 0-0, G, 40.50 ERA in 0.2 IP, 3 H, 3 R, 1/1 K/BB
2018: 5-7, 18 G (17 GS), 4.26 ERA in 69.2 IP, 67 H (4 HR), 41 R (33 ER), 75/29 K/BB
2019: 10-1, 14 G (14 GS), 2.50 ERA in 90.0 IP, 71 H (3 HR), 33 R (25 ER), 97/15 K/BB

Comp picks are interesting to deal with, not that we have a great recent track record of the Mariners actually utilizing them. The gist is that they exist to help ease the loss of another draft pick or player, but unto themselves cannot result in a further compensation pick in the following draft, lest some bunch of aspiring goofballs decide to game it and TAKE ALL THE PLAYERS. Thus, you’re going mostly college unless you have a strong verbal commitment from a high schooler. In this case, the team went with the former.

Campbell has some similarities to Williamson, and some crucial differences. He was interesting enough as a prep player, but said interest was in his build and status as a physical specimen. The body intrigued as did the loose, but he was not always consistent mechanically and tended to telegraph a few of his offerings. He’s grown a bit into… I guess what the player development folks would term as “man strength,” but really it’s been about getting all the moving parts in sync and maintaining that for a full season. If you’re a believer in him, you would regard the 2019 line as what he looks like now that most of his issues have been ironed out. The trick will be maintaining it.

So, what is Campbell now? He throws in the low-to-mid-90s and has already eliminated the weaker curveball from his arsenal in favor of a hard slider. He’s also gotten himself a change that doesn’t have a long track record but looks pretty good. If you’re thinking about the zone existing vertically and that you need to be able to pound down as well as draw swings up (the vertical zone is something Dipoto talks about REGULARLY on The Wheelhouse), Campbell can do that. A development plan for him would be less about getting him to completely alter one part of his approach and more about learning what was successful for him this year and keeping him on it with minor improvements.

The live video got into this a little bit, but one of the more interesting things about Campbell is that he’s an Air Force brat, born in Portugal and doing time in other NATO countries like Germany and Turkey before settling in for high school in Kansas. I don’t know what all that means, but it makes for a fun story as there’s never been a major league player who was born in Portugal and I’m all about the international game.

2019 Draft Preview with Chris Crawford

marc w · June 3, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

The M’s have four selections in the first 100 picks, so let’s take a look at their options and how this draft class shakes out with draft expert and friend-of-the-blog, Chris Crawford of and NBCSports. This is now the *eighth* annual draft preview we’ve done, and we’re just a couple of years from watching some of the players we discussed back in 2012 hit free agency, which is pretty insane. So who are the future Carlos Correa and Alex Bregmans, and can they land somewhere else for a change? How do the M’s go about addressing the talent gap they’ve got with Houston and some of their other rivals? Once more, into the breach:

1: The M’s have four selections in the top 100. Set the context for us: is this an above-average draft class? Average-to-mediocre? Poor?

I think it’s somewhere between mediocre and poor, to be honest, but if I had to choose? I think I’d go poor. Part of this is because this might be the worst crop of collegiate pitchers I’ve seen; there just isn’t anything here to write home about; most of these guys are backend starter profiles. It’s got some good college bats and some interesting shortstops on both the collegiate and prep level, but it just doesn’t do anything for me.

2: Who should the M’s take at #20? Who WILL they take?

Once again, the Mariners are being extremely tight-lipped, but there are a few names I’ve heard bantered about; the most recent one being Tyler Calihan, a left-handed hitting third baseman who has a chance for a plus hit tool and decent pop. There’s also been some names like Anthony Volpe, a shortstop that projects as more of a second-to-third round talent to me than someone I’d be taking that high, but the Mariners apparently like him a lot. Texas Tech SS Braden Shewmake, Clemson SS Logan Davidson and a few other collegiate bats have also been mentioned. As for who they should take? Best player left. I think that’s going to be someone like Michael Busch out of UNC or Shewmake, but any of those names outside of Volpe would be solid value, to me.

3: The M’s have talked a lot about trying to contend in 2021. Does that change how they view the draft board?

It sure shouldn’t. The names we’re talking about — even the most advanced — are years away from competing. I suppose you could argue that taking a more advanced player is easier to trade — or maybe the opposite if someone falls in love with the upside — but I can’t imagine Dipoto drafts anyone thinking that they can help in two years.

4: Years ago, you mentioned that showcases, Perfect Game, travel ball, etc. mean fewer impact position players will hit college, tilting the balance (eventually) towards the HS ranks. A few years on, how do you view the situation? There are still huge, impact bats coming out of college, but are HS bats more polished now (cough Jarred Kelenic cough), and are teams opting for more of them?

Pretty similar. It’s just so much easier to scout players now than it was 10-15 years ago. They aren’t perfect scouting chances, but you do get a chance to see their swing and build and get to do some compare and contrasting. I hate them, if we’re being honest, but i do get their purpose.

5: I know you’re someone who’s been very down on the whole draft pool concept and slotting, but it’s governed the draft for a while now. Do you think teams have optimized how they work within its restrictions? Should we expect more underslot-and-spread-it-out stuff, or because research indicates that the earlier the draft pick, the better the chance of a superstar, have we – if anything – seen too MUCH of that?

It’s really hard to say. I think we’ve seen teams grow accustomed to it quicker than I expected, and to be honest? That’s a little disheartening. If I were a GM, I wouldn’t do as much spreading because I think this class is very top-heavy; I want the best guys, because behind it there are more questions than in previous years. And I would say we’ve seen too much of that, to be honest. The draft is not a crap shoot, but it’s volatile, it has to be volatile when you’re taking kids this young. I want the guys who look like the best bets and I would trust my scouting department to find diamonds in the rough later.

6: How much do you think teams adjust a draft ranking based on their own internal strengths/weaknesses in player development? Does a team look at a player and say, “we’ve had success with this type/pitchers who throw these pitches/teaching plate discipline” and bump him up (or the inverse)? Or is it always best available talent, no matter what kind of packaging or characteristics come with it?

I think there’s something to be said about taking a similar type of profile if it works for you — or being hesitant of that profile — but I think for the most part, teams believe in their player-development and just go with the guys they think are the best. I’m sure there’s some of that? But it’s probably not as common as some think.

7: The M’s also pick at #59. Who are some names they may want to look at for their 2nd pick?

There should be some quality names there. Matt Wallner is a guy I’d target; outfielder out of Southern Miss with plus power, cannon for an arm and should get on just enough to play everyday. Tommy Henry is a left-hander out of Michigan that I like. He throws three solid pitches and has good feel. A high-floor type. I also think Chase Strumpf from UCLA could be good value here. He wasn’t as good in 2019 as he was in 2018, but I think you could buy low at that spot and get a potential steal.

8: For the first time since, what, the Blake Snell/Josh Sale year, the state of Washington could see two prep players off the board on the first day. There’s Lakeside CF Corbin Carroll (a UCLA commit) and Selah/Yakima SS Carter Young (who’s going to Vanderbilt if he doesn’t sign). Carroll seems like a lock for the first round; what do you think his ceiling is? Where do you see Young landing? Who else is out there from Washington/Oregon/British Columbia?

This is the best Washington prep class I can remember, which is kinda funny in a down year. Carroll is my favorite prep bat outside of Bobby Witt Jr., he screams top-of-the-order hitter with a chance to hit for average and more pop than I think he’s being given credit for. Josh Mears would be next on that list for me, actually, he’s got ridiculous power potential from the right side and is built like a defensive end. Some questions about the hit tool but his power could make him a top 100 pick. Young is really interesting because he’s a divisive prospect that also has some signing concerns because Vanderbilt. I think on talent he’s a top 100 guy as well, but I could see him falling because of that concern. Oregon and BC are pretty down this year, unfortunately.

9: The college ranks in the Northwest are headed up by the presumptive #1 overall pick, C Adley Rutschman. What’s his ceiling, and how would you compare him to Joey Bart, who went #2 overall a year ago?

I think Rutschman is the best catching prospect since Buster Posey. I love him, and he’s what kinda saves this draft class, in a way. I think he’s a much better prospect than Bart — with all due respect to Bart, he’s good — but Rutschman is just as good or better as a defender, has a much better hit tool, and the power is at least comparable. Plus add in the switch-hitter thing. It would shock the heck out of me if he wasn’t an above-average starting catcher, and there’s well above-average potential there. He’s very, very good.

10: There are some huge pitchers projected to go fairly early in this draft. Not just tall pitchers, but like, NFL tight end size guys. Alek Manoah (6’7″, 270) is the poster boy here, but Jackson Rutledge works, too. Is this a byproduct of teams focusing on upside and velocity? Is this baseball keeping some talent that in prior years really WOULD have gone and played tight end/basketball? Or just some big dudes who happened to be really good at throwing things this year?

I think it’s more the latter. But, it’s interesting nonetheless. Manoah would be a guy I’d target if he falls to Seattle, but someone is probably taking him above. He’s really interesting. Jackson Rutledge is probably my favorite of the prep pitchers even though I have some real concerns about the arm action. But yeah, there are some big boys here, and I think their size helps more than hurts.

11: Besides Rutschman, the Pac 12 seems like it’s particularly laden this year, with Andrew Vaughn and Hunter Bishop also expected to go early in Round 1. Is the conference getting better talent/convincing local kids not to go east, or is there just a good group of coaches helping to get more out of roughly the same level of incoming talent they’ve always had?

It is a pretty good group — comparatively — in ’19, for sure. Really good chance we see all three of Rutschman, Vaughn and Bishop go top 10, and I think you can argue that Rutschman and Vaughn are the best players in the class. I think there are some good coaches in the Pac-12, for sure, but I think some of these kids just got slept on a little too hard coming out of high school. Tough to know for sure, but yeah, definitely a good group this year and a pretty good group next year, too.

12: If you were in charge of a draft room, what are some of the things you might want to change? I guess a big part of this is: are teams too similar in how they approach the draft? How can anyone innovate or do something different now, with all of the analytics and information they have before draft day?

Hard one to answer without going into a Russian novel. I think innovation is really hard right now, but I think innovation is really hard right now in the same way we thought the Nintendo 64 graphics would never be improved on. There’s going to be someone who comes up with something — if they haven’t already — that we’re not thinking about to stand out. But right now, I do think there’s a lot — a lot — of groupthink in the draft. Some of that is due to the financial implications put forward by this stupid system, some of it because it’s so much easier to get information. If I were in charge, I suppose the main thing I’d try and implement is more of a focus on trusting the scouts I have to find me those unsung heroes and really focusing on getting the very, very best talents early. I do not like treating the draft like I’m just hoping something sticks.

13: One thing I’ve been wondering in regards to prospects (pro and amateur) is if we’re TOO down on 1Bs. Cody Bellinger is the story of the year, and he went in the 4th round out of HS, and wasn’t on many top 100 prospect lists in 2016, before shooting to the top 20 the next year. Paul Goldschmidt is another example. Is the fact that Vaughn’s a darkhorse 1-1 candidate a sign that that’s changing, or is the industry right to demand otherworldly hitting if a player doesn’t have as much to offer defensively?

There is no question, but also, I think these might be exceptions to the rule. So many draft picks at the position have failed; particularly those who hit/throw right-right. There’s a couple of those prospects this year like Vaughn and Mike Toglia from UCLA among others, but I do understand the risk there; the bat HAS to max out for there to be value, and asking a player to max out is asking a lot. We should probably be a bit more open-minded to the position, but I also understand why scouts are sometimes hesitant to take them with high selections.

Thanks so much to Chris Crawford for breaking down the class of ’19 for us. Check out his weekly series on the top prospects in the minor leagues here, and follow him on twitter @Crawford_MILB.

Game 60, Angels at Mariners

marc w · May 31, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Mike Leake vs. Tyler Skaggs, 7:10pm

It’s a gorgeous Friday in the Northwest, it’s light out until quite late. It’s the perfect night for a ball game, but Tacoma’s out of town, and if I’m honest, I’d go to Safeco because it’s an awesome – if pricey – bar. Watching vets like Leake who’ve (fairly) chafed at being part of this step back get rocked isn’t entertaining, and while Shed Long and Seattle’s big boy, Dan Vogelbach, is still drawing walks, he’s in a tailspin, too. I’ll go to Safeco, I’m not swearing anything off. I’ve been with them through worse than this. But I think it’s fair to acknowledge that watching this rotation right now has the feel of watching the 2010 M’s attempt to hit.

Yesterday, the M’s most talented hurler, Yusei Kikuchi, got battered by a so-so Angels line-up missing Andrelton Simmons. In 3 1/3, he gave up 10 hits and struck out nobody. For this team, he throws quite fast at 93.5 MPH, but despite a deceptive delivery, hitters are teeing off on his fastball. The Angels knocked two HRs off the pitch, bringing his season total to eight, and giving him a .308 BA-against on heaters, with a .567 SLG%. There’s no reason for that. Unlike some other starters, Kikuchi has stuff, and while his FB doesn’t have impressive movement, the angle, deception, and speed of it are MLB-quality.

Mike Leake has the 2nd-slowest sinker in the league (among those who’ve thrown at least 200 of them), and it’s trending downward. Batters have an average of…I keep checking this to make sure I’m not seeing things… .490 off of Leake’s primary fastball this year. They are slugging 1.078 against the pitch. His usage of it is also trending downward, as you’d expect, but Leake’s a sinkerball guy. That’s been his bread and butter since college, and while his slider’s good, he’s got to get to it. It’s easy to say that 88 MPH is useless in this day and age, but the ONE guy with a slower sinker is Kyle Hendricks, who’s having a fine year, his sixth in a row. You *can* pitch with low velo; it’s hard, and you need great command and a deep arsenal, but at least on paper, Leake seems to check the boxes. But watch him pitch right now, and you wonder how long the M’s can keep sending him to the wolves.

The M’s say all the right things about using data to help pitchers maximize their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. I think they’re trying to do those things. But something’s clearly, clearly gone awry here. Everyone’s velocity seems to be down, and their average fastball’s among the least effective (both four-seam and sinker) in the game. I get why the M’s may want to focus on low-spin pitcher or not chase highlight-reel velocity. I get why, aside from Kikuchi, they wanted to stick with in-house options in a step-back year. But you still have an obligation to help them succeed, and at the moment, there’s very little evidence of that happening. The odds of them getting much for Leake are essentially nil, and with Gonzales scuffling (and with his own velo drop to puzzle over), even the M’s titular ace might not return enough to make them M’s consider it.

Things are never quite as dark as they seem in the midst of a long losing streak, but it’s becoming more and more clear that the entire coaching re-think on the pitching side has not produced the desired results. That could change, but unless it does, and does soon, it sets a troubling trend. The M’s know what they want to do, and don’t know how to do it, or who can help them do it.

1: Smith, CF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Encarnacion, DH
4: Santana, LF
5: Seager, 3B
6: Beckham, 2B
7: Bruce, 1B
8: Murphy, C
9: Moore, SS
SP: Leake

18 year old Robert Perez continues his hot start as an emergency fill-in for Tacoma. Just promoted from the DSL to make his stateside debut, he had 3 more hits in Tacoma’s double header sweep last night. It’s just 25 PAs, but his line is now .364/.440/.545.

So You Still Want Me to Write About the 2019 Draft

Jay Yencich · May 31, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

There are surely perils to having one’s team outperform the previous year. One is the inevitable step back, but when coupled with the idea that you’re not looking at top flight draft pick coming in either, it can make for a depressing midseason. But there are good bits of news? I mean, we probably won’t be drafting a college reliever like we did the last time we were in such a position, and we have three day one picks, which is 50% more than we usually have! WOW! Sure, it’s a down year, but what better way to feel like things are changing and in motion than adding 30+ names to the system after calling out 40+?

What times have they decided on for this year?
We’ll be starting Day 1 (Rounds 1 / 2 + Competitive Balances + Compensations) at 4 pm local time on Monday, June 3rd. From there, Day Two (Rounds 3 – 10) begins on Tuesday the 4th at 11 am, then we do the conference call on Day Three from 10 am until question marks. It proves a great time to spike your coffee and let it all happen. All of these are best found online through because try as they might, baseball draft coverage doesn’t make for sexy programming in the same way that the NFL or NBA might.

What selections do we have?
The hometown nine won’t be on the board until #20, then will have a long wait until they pick #59 overall in the second round and a shorter wait to the #76 we picked up from the Indians in the Santana / Encarnacion trade. That will do it for day one. Day two, our selections start at #97, then #126 because a pick got forfeited, and then in intervals of thirty thereafter.

What sense do we have from the front office?
Other than the excitement involved in “yeah! new toys!”, and presumably, “yeah! trade fodder!”, I was listening to The Wheelhouse, ep. 50 recently for insight. I definitely select for minor league materials and in the process picked up an interesting bit of the team’s scouting philosophy, which helps to explain the Logan Gilbert pick last year. Basically, I would describe them as being less volatile in their methodology and preferring to take a longer view into consideration. So, unless there’s a lot to back up a fast-riser, they won’t take one just because he’s done something lately, and neither will they eschew the guy who has fallen in esteem unless they can point to why. It seems rather basic, if not obvious, but it’s not a philosophy we’ve seen shared by previous front offices who preferred things like position switches, transfers, etc. There are merits to it, as well as drawbacks, I imagine, since you’re operating with a higher level of inertia. I don’t know on the whole if their team that finds weird stuff like “Brennan’s change-up” or “Fraley’s swing change” also spills over into the amateur scouting, but I would hope it does.

Having officially stepped back, I might also expect to see them take shots at prospects with longer development windows. This was initially what they were going to do last year, but then there was a run on high school players and suddenly the best players on their own boards were college types and so they loaded up there again. If we don’t do much of that on days one and two, the Mariners have recently had a pretty good sense for what high schoolers may be signable and were able to save money in rounds 1-10 to go grab “tougher sign” prep pitchers like Damon Casetta-Stubbs in the eleventh round and Holden Laws in the sixteenth. It’s enough of a pattern to where I’d expect to see it happen again unless we’re really breaking the bank to sign young guys earlier on.

What is the larger prediction of the scouting outlets?
This year, we seem to have a divided group of opinions. Some have all but typed us as a college-favoring organization and have tied us to names like Texas Tech 3B Josh Jung and Elon RHP George Kirby, maybe Clemson SS Logan Davidson, who has fascinating tools but is without a tight track record. Others want to link us to the prep shortstop ranks and see a selection like Anthony Volpe (NJ), Nasim Nunez (GA), Gunnar Henderson (AL), or Brooks Lee (CA). Both sound probable although I lean a little towards the latter as seeming more likely, since it fits the MO and there may yet be good prep infielders available. I’d rather go with a longer range project than thinking we’re going to compete so soon, though Davidson could split the difference there. That being said, as with every sport, draft stuff gets weird in a hurry and pick #20 is a bit far out for me to feel comfortable predicting anything all.

While there always ends up being some amount of hairsplitting– Dipoto cited numerically ranking all the players on their board and I DO NOT ENVY THEM– one sense that has emerged is that there won’t be a huge difference in talent from if you’re selecting in the early teens or down at twenty where we are, which is some solace to be taken. Available “impact bats” should be gone by pick ten or so. One overall question is where pitching will start to be selected as it’s regarded as an especially shallow college class. Thus, it will be interesting to see who blinks first and takes that college pitcher, as there’s a risk of artificially inflated value as well as “panic” spreading through draft rooms as teams try to scoop up what little depth there is. A potential side effect could be a run on players like Oregon’s Kenyon Yovan, a former prep pick of the Mariners who has been off the mound much of the season due to hand injury. I could see the team pursuing a few guys with high potential but present non-serious injuries rather than taking a healthier organizational guy. It’s another variable we’re playing with.

What local angles do we have to work with?
The likely number one overall pick will be catcher Adley Rutschman, who the Mariners picked out of high school three years ago in the 40th round, back when he was an Oregon prep kid and signed on to be both kicker for the Beavers football team and their starting catcher. His stock exploded last season and he’s now regarded as one of the best backstop prospects in years as well as a consensus 1/1. Locally, we also have Lakeside outfielder Corbin Carroll being set up as perhaps the highest draft pick in state history. He’s a plus defensive center fielder with a good sense of the strike zone, though he’s been up and down in esteem as some wonder how much power he has and DINGERS.

You don’t want to take the best of each group and type solely based on that, but it does work as being representative in this case. The Oregon class this year is almost entirely college players coming out of the big two schools, so pull up some NCAA stats and see what you like. The Washington class is more of a mix of prep players and college players, with the UW battery of C Nick Kahle and RHP Josh Burgmann being among the more interesting NCAA types. The wild card with the prep ranks is that there are a fair number of fancier college commitments. Carroll is set up to go to UCLA, yet the consensus second-best prep in OF Joshua Mears has a commitment to Purdue, and further down the listings you’ll see places like Vandy and Stanford associated. The addition of draft pools to the amateur calculus has made it trickier to buy out major college commitments, so anyone who pursues such players better know what they’re up to.

What’s the current state of system depth with the caveat that we shouldn’t be addressing it unless those circles overlap on the Venn?
Trades have significantly bolstered our ranks in terms of starting pitching and outfield depth. If you’ve been paying attention this season, nearly all of the outfields of the full-season affiliates are interesting in some way. We’re really, really lacking in interesting infield depth outside of the I-5 commuting duo of Shed Long and J.P. Crawford, and current top pick discussions would probably help with that in some small way. Catching is also a place we could stand to improve a little although the 2018 class has really added to the depth there. I would probably rank the overall charts as Outfield > Starting / Relief Pitching > Catching > Infield, but would probably be more inclined to add pitchers than catchers for reasons obvious to everyone.

What are you looking forward to from the draft?
Drafting a future Mariner.

Game 58, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · May 29, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Wade LeBlanc vs. Jose Leclerc/Drew Smyly, 12:40pm

It’s a day game on getaway day, as the M’s try to put the sour taste of last night, last month, all of…this behind them. The worst thing about last night’s 11-4 loss wasn’t the huge, early deficit or the costly error that gifted the Rangers their first two runs. Rather, it was the loss of JP Crawford, who rolled his ankle getting back to 3rd after a bizarre play on a fielder’s choice. Crawford had 2 hits and has been better at the plate after seeming to leave his patience in Tacoma for a week or two. The Ks are still a concern, but he’s showing he can be a legitimate MLB shortstop, which would be nice. He’ll head to the IL as there’s no reason he or anyone else should be playing through pain in this go-nowhere season. Dylan Moore’s been recalled to take his spot on the active roster.

The pitching continues to disappoint, as Marco gave up 8 runs (6 earned) through 4, and then the bullpen’s sole consistent performer, Brandon Brennan, scuffled and gave up a moonshot to Ronald Guzman. Gonzales slide has been the perfect microcosm of the M’s staff: their ERA is over 6 in May, and that clearly understates the problem. They’ve given up 21 unearned runs this month, and have a HR/9 over 2. This is not solely their fault of course, but the problems that seemed more limited in April have spread to the entire group. The bullpen’s always been a mess, but the starters have now lost the plot as well. They’ve been replacement level as a group in May, and you could make a straight-faced argument that Tommy Milone is their #2 starter at the moment. They are not *this* bad. This is a mediocre group with bad luck. But my goodness, are they rough to watch on a day-in, day-out basis. I know it’s frustrating for the players, as we heard in Matt Calkins’ column in the Times, but it’s pretty unpleasant for the fans, too.

That’s too bad, because the club really put a lot of effort into improving their coaching at the big league level. I harp on this all the time, but this is a league in which players take sudden leaps in performance rather often. Look at Derek Dietrich in Cincinnati, for example, or Lucas Giolito in Chicago, or Jake Odorizzi in Minnesota, or Gio Urshela in New York. Using data and cutting edge pedagogy or whatever the hell they do, teams are getting much more out of players than their prior record would’ve predicted was possible. The M’s know this, and have worked to improve how they do this, and have hired people from a variety of backgrounds to improve their work in this area. And none of it seems to be working. Sure, Dan Vogelbach’s hitting well, but after that first month, the team as a whole has faltered on both sides of the ball. They’ve made interesting, not business-as-usual hires, and things don’t seem to change.

To be clear: I’m not blaming any of the coaches. The team isn’t very good, which is why even the front office isn’t trying to sell the club as a contender. But it’s concerning when the FO identifies coaching at the big league level to be a key, and they have, going way back to the hiring of Scott Servais as manager, to see them make so little headway at it. Maybe it’s bubbling up under the surface, and maybe, I dunno, Shed Long’s going to go on a tear here real soon, but something isn’t working in the way information moves from baseball ops or field staff to coaches to players, and that issue has persisted despite changes in field staff and coaches and players. I have no idea how to fix it, but I worry that the FO doesn’t, either. And if they don’t, then the whole step-back thing is doomed.

Hey, cool, Mariners baseball comin’ at ya, let’s have fun and watch a ball game and not worry so damn much.

1: Smith, CF
2: Haniger, RF
3: Vogelbach, DH
4: Encarnacion, 1B
5: Santana, LF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Beckham, SS
8: Murphy, C
9: Long, 2B
SP: LeBlanc

Andrew Moore, Jon Niese, and Austin Hutchison start for the M’s affiliates today, with Moore looking to build on a great first start back in the M’s org back on May 23rd.

Game 57, Rangers at Mariners

marc w · May 28, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Marco Gonzales vs. Jesse Chavez/Adrian Sampson, 7:10pm

Sorry for the interruption in posting, but I was enjoying a wonderful Memorial Day weekend at Lake Quinault and wandering around the rain forest. It takes one’s mind off of the current state of the M’s, and it was a wonderful break from cataloguing this current slide. Luckily, the even ENDED that slide by winning last night as I came back to town from the Olympia Peninsula. I even find I miss baseball when I unplug from it for a few days, which I think is a good sign.

That’s not to say all will be rosier from here on out. Today, the Astros host the Cubs, and will give recent call-up Corbin Martin his 4th big league start. Behind him is what can charitably be described as a spring training line-up. This post at Fangraphs details how good the Astros line-up is even if you somehow benched their best players. Take away their top 2, both of whom are MVP candidates, and they’re still absurd. They only start to look human when you remove 6-7 starters. As if to prove the point, that’s exactly what the Astros are doing tonight. Carlos Correa, George Springer, Jose Altuve, Robinson Chirinos all start on the bench. Alex Bregman will DH, with Yuli Gurriel at 3B and Tony Kemp at 2B (his 5th-ever start there). 28-year old SS Jack Mayfield makes his MLB debut, and C Garrett Stubbs will make his debut as well. Michael Brantley’s still in, but this looks and feels like a September roster call-up game, and why not? The Astros’ playoff odds are essentially 100% now, and it’s still May. Even the A’s recent hot streak can’t really change the math here: the Astros are simply way better than this division, with the Rangers and M’s stepping back, and the Angels stepping all over themselves. I know the M’s are seriously trying to compete right now, but I think this sums up the state of the division pretty well.

Marco Gonzales had a solid start last time out against these Rangers, but lost to the same pairing of Rangers hurlers, Jesse Chavez and Adrian Sampson. The Rangers seem like a good match-up for Marco, given that they have a few all-or-nothing hitters who may be susceptible to a change-of-speeds game, but then you look and see the Rangers are actually the MOST successful team against change-ups. Last time out, he threw a bunch of sinkers, and the pitch worked very well for him, even as the Rangers hit his change. I’ve said it before, but it’s still odd that Gonzales’ change isn’t more effective. It looks like it should be, but the fact that it’s only average at best isn’t new. The development/rebirth of his cutter has been vital to his success, particularly now, as his velocity remains in the high-80s.

I don’t know why Adrian Sampson was so successful against Seattle, throwing 42 fastballs at them, and walking away with a win. We’ll see if playing in Safeco helps the bats; despite his success the other day, batters are slugging over .600 against Sampson’s FB in his career.

1: Smith, CF
2: Seager, 3B
3: Encarnacion, 1B
4: Vogelbach, DH
5: Santana, LF
6: Narvaez, C
7: Bruce, RF
8: Crawford, SS
9: Long, 2B
SP: Gonzales

Ljay Newsome has had an amazing season, and leads all of MiLB in Ks. He’s generally toyed with the Cal League, but even he has one weakness: the Stockton Ports. After a shellacking last night, Newsome’s given up 12 runs in 5 2/3 IP against Stockton. That means he’s given up 10 total runs in 55 1/3 IP. He has an ERA of 19 against Stockton, and an ERA of 1.30 against everyone else. 15 hits in 5 2/3 vs. Stockton, and just 41 hits in 55 1/3 against the rest of the league. Weird.

Justus Sheffield was pretty solid in a loss to Salt Lake, giving up 2 HRs, but only 1 walk vs. 6 Ks in a 5-0 loss. Today, Tacoma got their revenge on getaway day, beating the Bees 13-5. Ian Miller homered, and the R’s DH Roberto Perez drew 2 walks. That’s notable, as he’s just 18, and making his stateside debut this week. He’s off to a good start, getting 5 hits in 17 ABs, with 2 2Bs and a 3B. The walks push his OBP to .368. It’s absurdly early, and he’s more likely to finish the year with Everett or even the AZL M’s, but it’s interesting to see the M’s use DSL youngsters to fill in at Tacoma the way they have.

Game 54, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · May 25, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Yusei Kikuchi vs. Mike Fiers, 1:07pm

Kyle Seager’s back. Seager was activated off the 60-day IL, and Dylan Moore’s been optioned to Tacoma. To make room on the 40-man, Sam Tuivailala’s been moved to the 60-day.

The M’s defense figures to improve now that 3B won’t be manned by Ryon Healy and Tim Beckham. That said, the offense is struggling and a rusty Seager may not be what the club needs now, but who knows. He’s going to make the club better one way or another.

The M’s are facing Mike Fiers for the second time in a few weeks; we’ll see if familiarity helps them.

Whatever happens, I’m having a relaxing weekend on the Olympic Peninsula.

1: Haniger, CF
2: Vogelbach, DH
3: Encarnacion, 1B
4: Narvaez, C
5: Santana, LF
6: Seager, 3B
7: Bruce, RF
8: Crawford, SS
9: Long, 2B
SP: Kikuchi

Game 53, Mariners at Athletics

marc w · May 24, 2019 · Filed Under Mariners

Wade LeBlanc vs. Daniel Mengden, 7:07pm

After being swept by what most suspected was the division’s weakest team, the M’s head to Oakland. Oakland’s been hot, but then, the M’s have played them tough this year, and everyone’s “hot” when they get to play Baltimore.

Marco Gonzales’ spin rate seemed to be up when looking at the Gamefeed data from Baseball Savant, but it looks normal when you actually search for it the “normal” way… must’ve been measurement error that they correct later. In any event, Marco gave up his 10th unearned run, a fact I gawked at over in Baseball Prospectus’ Notebook series, which you should check out ($). He gave up just one solo HR, so he pitched pretty admirably, but I’m with the Dome and Bedlam crew in that it’s increasingly apparent that he’s not the kind of ace the M’s can build towards 2021 around.

In fact, that 2021 date is already looking shaky. Going back to the risks I talked about before (kind of) the season, for the M’s plan to really take shape, Marco and Mitch Haniger needed to grow into the kinds of players that justified the M’s belief in them. They needed to grow from very good to great, the kind of players that dominate irrespective of the context they’re placed in. Instead, by pitching even more to contact, Marco’s been the player MOST impacted by the team’s clown-music defense. They needed to see him develop a way to miss bats reliably, and instead he’s moved the other way. Mitch Haniger needed to turn a few strikeouts into balls in play (hopefully hard hit ones), and instead, his strikeouts are up. Both players are still good, and they’re obviously key contributors. But as we’ll still need to wait a bit for Jarred Kelenic and company to help out at this level, the M’s needed pretty substantial development from both players. Maybe that’ll come, but it’s harder and harder to see that it’ll come in time or in the required magnitude to change the math for 2021.

That brings us to the 2nd risk, which was that not only was the competition far superior (and Ginny Searle has a great piece up at BP about how far ahead the Astros are), but they’re younger. The M’s are going to need massive contributions from players who are either not on the roster, or who are kind of at the edge of it, and not contributing too much right now (JP Crawford). The problem is that Astros and A’s have those players contributing right now. They need to find new complementary pieces; everyone does. But Carlos Correa and Alex Bregman will be 26 and 27 in 2021. Matt Chapman and Frankie Montas will by 28, and Matt Olson 27. Haniger will be 30, and Marco 29. THIS is the big contention year? How was this chosen?

I’ve said probably too many times that to even make this semi-plausible, the player development group has to essentially work miracles. Kelenic has to shoot through the system and be good immediately, but they’ll need big contributions from guys that weren’t pegged as top-10 overall draft picks. The nice thing is that you can point to a number of breakouts – Vogelbach with the big club, minor league K leader Ljay Newsome or Logan Gilbert in high-A and Justin Dunn in AA. But they’re balanced by regression from Evan White/Kyle Lewis. The M’s can be interesting and not…whatever you call this current club, but that wouldn’t seem to close the gap with an Astros team that could conceivably *still* be younger and light-years ahead. The Twins show that a young team’s variance can occasionally pay off – they contended way earlier than expected two years ago, and look like a force now. They had a number of things go right, but just as they inspire a bit of hope, you realize they’ll be competing for playoff spots directly with the M’s in 2021, too. I’m glad a SS like Polanco can scuffle and then go nuclear like that, but I’m not happy that he’ll still be making the M’s pay (at age 27) in 2021.

The A’s have had little to no pitching, but their injury-plagued rotation’s received some really nice contributions from both Chris Bassitt and today’s starter, Daniel Mengden. Once known more for his moustache and his penchant for giving up dingers, Mengden tossed 115 IP with a decent ERA last year thanks to low walks and a very low BABIP. He’s got a deep repertoire that doesn’t really impress the tools scouts, but he can usually find the zone (not in his 12 IP thus far, but in his career) and limit BABIP thanks both to his defense and also a high FB%. That’s always going to make him susceptible to dingers, but playing at night in Oakland’s a decent way to ameliorate that risk. He throws a rising four-seamer at 93, and also mixes in a sinker. He has a change, slider AND a slow, high-spin curve as well. I wasn’t sure if it was a distinct pitch, but Brooks says he’s got a cutter as well, but it’s pretty slider-y. In any event, the curve is a decent pitch despite it’s looping nature. Joey Votto mentioned after facing Yusei Kikuchi that you don’t see as many real, old-fashioned, slow, 12-6 curves, and it’s been successful, as has Bassitt’s, another pitch that’s almost comically slow. The key’s getting to his fastball, and that’s something both righties and lefties have been able to do.

1: Haniger, RF
2: Vogelbach, DH
3: Encarnacion, 1B
4: Narvaez, C
5: Santana, LF
6: Crawford, SS
7: Beckham, 3B
8: Long, 2B
9: Smith, CF
SP: LeBlanc

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