Seattle Mariners 2020 Top-25 Prospects
We’ve finally reached the end of our journey through the American League. And boy, are we ending with a good one. This top-25 Seattle Mariners prospects list was one of my favorite systems to write up so far. To start, I get to gush about two top-5 dynasty prospects and a third that I believe has top-10 upside as soon as 2021.
If Jarred Kelenic doesn't graduate in 2020, the #Mariners might have three top-10 dynasty prospects if Noelvi Marte rises like I think he will & a shot at Kelenic & Julio Rodriguez being 2-3 or maybe 1-2 if the #Rays get bold & call up Wander Franco. This system is 📈🔥. #MiLB
— Eric Cross (@EricCross04) December 27, 2019
This system truly has it all. There’s a beautiful mix of electric bats, high-upside arms, pitching depth, and 2020 contributors including two potential members of the 2020 opening day rotation. This system has been firmly on the rise over the last two years and now can be considered a top-10 system overall. But enough chit chat here. We need to save time so we can ramble on and on about one of the best 1-2-3 prospect punches in baseball.
Overall System Grade: B+
Minor League Affiliates
Triple-A: Tacoma – Pacific Coast League
Double-A: Arkansas – Texas League
Advanced Single-A: Modesto – California League
Low Single-A: West Virginia – South Atlantic League
Short Single-A: Everett – Northwest League
Rookie: Arizona League (1), Dominican Summer League (1).
All other team top-25 prospect rankings can be found here.
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Also, make sure to check out the Fantrax Dynasty Baseball Podcast weekly with Nathan Dokken, Van Lee, and Ron Rigney!
Top-25 Seattle Mariners Prospects – 2020
1. Jarred Kelenic, OF
These next two are more like 1a and 1b than one and two as they’re back to back in my overall rankings, both well within the top-10. Owner of one of the most beautiful left-handed swings in all of baseball, Jarred Kelenic was drafted 6th overall in 2018 by the Mets as the first high school player off the board. Right off the bat, I ranked him 2nd in my 2018 FYPD rankings behind Nolan Gorman, and now, there’s no player from the 2018 draft class or international crop that I’d want more on my dynasty teams. Marco Luciano is damn close though.
The reason for that statement is Kelenic’s robust all-around game. First and foremost, Kelenic has a plus hit tool with clean mechanics and a silky smooth swing. Seriously, this is a swing you teach your children. Everything is calm, fluid and synced throughout his swing with explosive bat speed thanks to his quick hands and strong hips. He’s not the biggest guy around, but his strong lower half, bat speed, and natural loft in his swing create plenty of raw power. Kelenic has put that power on full display already, combining for 41 doubles and 29 home runs in his first 173 professional games.
Mets fans look away.
— Céspedes Family BBQ (@CespedesBBQ) July 7, 2019
There’s not a ton of physical projection left, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Kelenic added a little more bulk either. Long-term, he’s a 25-30 homer bat with the contact skills to hit over at or above .300 annually with a high OBP as well. Not only does Kelenic make a ton of contact, but his approach is rock-solid as well. In 2019, Kelenic’s walk rate sat at 10% and he’s kept his strikeout rate in the 20-22% range.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to his offensive prowess, Kelenic is also a plus runner with good instincts on the bases. He should have no problems adding 25-plus steals to his offensive numbers, giving him one of the best all-around offensive profiles you’ll see in the minors. This is a bonafide top-5 overall prospect that has a chance to develop into one of the best offensive outfielders in the game and an early-round fantasy selection within the next few years.
2. Julio Rodriguez, OF
As I said, Julio Rodriguez is 1B to Kelenic’s 1A. After a strong start to the season, Rodriguez was hit in the hand by a pitch causing a hairline fracture in mid-April. The injury kept him out of action for nearly two months, but when he returned, it was like he hadn’t missed any time at all. Rodriguez might only be 18 years old, but he’s one of the most advanced and polished 18-year-old bats you’ll see with a plus hit tool, sound approach, and double-plus raw power. All those tools were on full display in the South Atlantic League and California League where J-Rod was facing competition mostly a few years older than him. In 17 California League games to end the 2019 season, Rodriguez hit .462 with 11 extra-base hits and drove in 19 runs.
A high average and plenty of power should be expected from Rodriguez moving forward. At the plate, he’s shown plus contact skills and the ability to make consistent hard contact to all fields with a swing that produces natural loft. His 6’4 frame is powerful and athletic with some physical projection remaining. With a little more added bulk, his double-plus raw power should become even more dynamic, giving Rodriguez the potential to hit 35-plus home runs annually.
In addition to his AVG/HR potential, Rodriguez can also add in some speed as well. He’s not the fastest guy around, but has average foot speed on the bases. Any speed he gives to his .300/35 upside is gravy, but don’t be surprised if he adds 5-10 SB to that each season. This is one of the best prospects in baseball that is still just scratching the surface of his potential. Get excited, get very excited.
3. Noelvi Marte, SS
Speaking of prospects you should get excited about, Noelvi Marte fits that mold very well. Marte was one of the top international prospects on the 2018 market, signing with Seattle for $1.55m out of the Dominican Republic. Although it was one of the highest figures for a 2018 international prospect, it still might prove to be a steal if Marte reaches his full potential, especially in the power and speed departments.
— Baseball America (@BaseballAmerica) July 2, 2018
What makes Marte such a special prospect is his ability to excel across the board offensively. His most notable tool is his elite speed with at least 70-grade run times. Even if he loses a step with added bulk, Marte should at least still be a plus runner with 30-steal upside. That speed has always been there and now his offensive tools are developing nicely as well. Marte has a quick right-handed swing that produces natural loft. He uses a bigger leg lick to time pitches and is able to explode through the zone with strong hip rotation creating solid torque in his swing.
He’ll never be the biggest guy around, currently listed at 6’1/180, but there’s physical projection remaining that should solidify plus power when his development is finished. There’s legit 30/30 upside here with Marte, but as of now, I still have some questions about how high of an average he hits for. While his contact skills are solid enough, Marte has a very pull-happy approach, pulling the ball 56.1% of the time in the Dominican Summer League last season. He’ll need to learn how to use the whole field or more advanced pitchers will just work him away, knowing there’s a good chance he won’t go the other way with the pitch. If those adjustments can be made, the upside here is enormous.
4. Logan Gilbert, RHP
Alright, let’s switch things over to the mound and talk about one of the top rising pitching prospects in the game. Stetson University might not be a well-known university, but you could make a case that two of the top-10 pitchers over the last decade have come from Stetson. That duo being Jacob deGrom and new Ranger, Corey Kluber. Not a bad duo right there and Logan Gilbert should soon be joining them at the Major League level. This isn’t me saying that Gilbert has that type of upside, but he’s definitely a pitching prospect you should be excited about having on your dynasty team.
Logan Gilbert starts his day with a K. pic.twitter.com/rlq59floRK
— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) August 29, 2019
In his three years at Stetson and one summer in the Cape Cod League, all Gilbert did was dominate. A big 6’6/225 right-hander, Gilbert will sit in the low to mid-90’s with plenty of run on his fastball out of a high 3/4 arm slot and can add a tick or two when needed. Out of his three secondaries, I consider the curveball to be the best of the bunch, thrown in the upper-70’s with sharp break. Both his slider and changeup have shown improvement as well and project as 50 or 55-grade offerings to pair with his plus FB/CB combo. Gilbert has had no issues locating his pitches or throwing strikes either. His control is a little ahead of his command, but both project to be above-average to plus when it’s all said and done. This is a high K #2 starter in the making.
5. Evan White, 1B
To be honest, Evan White is probably one of the most underappreciated prospects around. He possesses the type of all-around skill set that keeps players employed in the Major Leagues for a very long time. To start, White is a gold-glove caliber defender at first base. I know defense isn’t something people in the fantasy world care about too much, especially from a first baseman, but with defensive skills like this, White shouldn’t be in any danger of losing at-bats if he goes into a funk at the plate. But with White’s offensive tools, I don’t anticipate that happening too often.
Offensively, White projects as a 55-hit, 55-power first baseman than can also bring some speed to the table as well. He starts with his hands lower in front of his chest before loading back and up and exploding through the zone with plus bat speed and some natural loft due to a slight uppercut swing path. I’m lousy with comps, but I can see White turning into a poor man’s Paul Goldschmidt with .280/25/5-10 upside down the road. That road isn’t overly long either. The Mariners signed White to a contract extension earlier in the offseason, buying out all of his arbitration years. That paves the way for White to debut very early in the 2020 season, potentially even cracking the opening day roster as the Mariners starting first baseman.
Fellow prospect analyst, Alex Jensen of Prospects Live, is probably the highest in the industry on White. I reached out to him for a blurb on why he’s so high on White, and funny enough, he brought up Goldschmidt’s name as well.
“A rare potential five-tool 1B, white has five tools rating between 55-60. White played at the worst home park for righty power in the minors, but hit for a .940 OPS with 13 HR in just 48 games on the road. He also hit the hardest exit velo in the futures game (112.2 mph) and people greatly underestimate his power. Injury concerns are legit but it’s Paul Goldschmidt upside when he gets his first taste of the juiced ball this year.”
6. Jake Fraley, OF
Jake Fraley has been a prospect I’ve been higher on for the last year or two now. After struggling through his first two minor league seasons, Fraley broke out in 2018 to the tune of a .347 average, 11 steals, and 30 extra-base hits in 66 games. Then more power showed up in 2019, putting Fraley on a near 30/35 pace, ending the season with 19 home runs and 22 steals in 99 games to go along with a .298 average and .910 OPS.
Now, I don’t expect Fraley to ever threaten to join the 30/30 club, but as you can see above, his power has been trending in the right direction, even before hitting Triple-A. With the added loft in his swing and average to above-average raw power, I’m projecting Fraley to settle into the 15-20 home run range annually to pair with his 25-steal upside.
At the plate, Fraley starts with his hands shoulder high and slightly out away from his body. He’ll load directly back and his quick hands give him plenty of bat speed through the zone. His swing is fairly smooth without any glaring mechanical flaws. Fraley can get a tad pull heavy at times, but it’s not anything that I expect to hinder him longterm. Don’t let his rough first taste of the Majors deter you in any way. Fraley is a top-100 fantasy prospect with .280/15/25 upside that should get another chance at some point in the 2020 season. Just don’t expect that to be on opening day with how crowded Seattle’s outfield already is.
7. George Kirby, RHP
The temptation to move George Kirby higher than this was very strong. It’s hard not to get excited about a 6’4 pitcher with three above-average to plus pitches and plus command and control over his entire four-pitch arsenal. Size plus arsenal plus command equals excitement. That combination has allowed Kirby to dominate wherever he’s pitched. Kirby posted an ERA below three in each of his final two seasons at Elon University with a 1.38 ERA on the Cape in 2018 and finally a 2.35 ERA in his first minor league stint. What’s been even more impressive is his walk rate. Since the end of the 2018 NCAA season, Kirby has walked just seven batters in 124.1 innings while striking out 156. He walked six in his final season at Elon, one on the Cape, and none in his 23.0 minor league innings after the draft.
When you have that type of command and control over an arsenal like this, good things usually happen. Speaking of that arsenal, we might as well discuss it as I’ve been raving about it for five minutes now. The three above-average or better pitches I mentioned above are his low to mid-90’s fastball, big breaking curveball in the upper-70’s, and sharp mid-80’s slider. Both breaking balls grade as above-average and border on plus at times. Kirby will also mix in a changeup that is behind the rest of the arsenal but should serve as a serviceable 4th offering. With his arsenal and command/control, Kirby has one of the highest floors of any pitcher from the 2019 draft with the upside of a back-end #2 starter or high-end #3.
8. Kyle Lewis, OF
When the Mariners took Kyle Lewis 11th overall back in 2016, the masses were pretty split on him. Lewis dominated during his last two years at Mercer University, but against weaker competition in the Atlantic Sun Conference. That caused many, myself included, to wonder if he would be able to carry that success over to the minor leagues. After a solid start to his pro career, Lewis tore his ACL in 2016 and missed a massive chunk of time. The injury limited him to only 49 games the following season, in what was essentially a lost season. The 2018 season saw Lewis struggle to the tune of a .711 OPS and 2019 wasn’t a whole lot better. Although, Lewis still got the call when Seattle needed an outfielder late in the season and cranked six home runs in 18 games with Seattle.
That type of power has always been Lewis’ calling card, even if it hasn’t translated to big home run totals quite yet. A big reason for that has been a ground-ball heavy last two seasons. The raw power is easily plus and Lewis has a very strong frame, especially in his hips and lower half, but he’ll need to start elevating the ball more to take full advantage of his raw power. If he can, 30-plus home runs annually is a realistic expectation.
Kyle Lewis: Major League dinger hitter pic.twitter.com/R6dd8NPrle
— Minor League Baseball (@MiLB) September 11, 2019
How much average goes along for the ride is another story altogether. Lewis’ contact skills are below average and there are some swing and miss tendencies that need to be improved. On the bright side, at least Lewis improved his walk rate, pushing it up to 10.8% in 2019. As of now, Lewis projects as a .250/30 threat with a strong throwing arm, the prototypical right field profile. With how crowded the Seattle outfield is looking in 2020, it wouldn’t surprise me if Lewis started the season in Triple-A, a level he skipped entirely in 2019.
9. Justin Dunn, RHP
Jarred Kelenic might have been the prized gem of the Mets/Mariners swap, but Justin Dunn has fairly high upside of his own and can contribute right away for Seattle in 2020. A 2016 1st round pick, Dunn, like Kyle Lewis, skipped over Triple-A entirely in 2019. He made four abbreviated starts down the stretch for Seattle, totaling only 6.2 innings with mixed results. Only two earned runs were allowed for a 2.70 ERA, but Dunn walked nine batters during that time. Needless to say, that’s not going to work. Command and control have never been a strength of Dunn’s, but at the same time, they’ve never really been a detriment either. Long-term, he projects to have around average command and control.
Dunn was a reliever for most of his career at Boston College and pitched exclusively out of the pen during his time in the Cape Cod League back in 2015. The Eagles gave him a chance to start during his final season there and he showed enough promise for the Mets to draft him 16th overall in the 2016 draft. He’s done nothing to make them look foolish for doing so, even if they look foolish for trading him and Kelenic last year. Dunn mixes a low to mid-90’s fastball with run that he’ll turn over into more of a two-seamer at times. A mid-80’s slider is Dunn’s best secondary, bordering on plus, and he’ll also mix in a serviceable curveball and changeup as well. Throw it all together and Dunn projects as a #3 starter longterm that should get another chance in Seattle early in 2020.
10. Cal Raleigh, C
After a phenomenal final season at Florida State where Cal Raleigh hit .326 with 13 home runs and more walks than strikeouts in 62 games, the Mariners snagged the powerful backstop in the 3rd round of the 2018 draft. That plus raw power has translated early and often since the draft, with Raleigh hitting eight homers in 38 Northwest League (A-) games after the draft and 29 in 121 games last season. As a switch-hitter, Raleigh has shown plus raw power from both sides of the plate with a swing that generates natural loft no real split issues.
His contact skills are below average from both sides, but not to the point where his batting average should crater or approach the Mendoza line. And what he lacks in contact skills, Raleigh makes up for with his advanced plate approach that led to a 15.1% walk rate at Florida State and 9.7% so far in the minors. He’s also able to limit his strikeouts fairly well, striking out in 21.5% of his minor league plate appearances. Raleigh’s average might never get higher than the .250-.260 range in the Majors, but his strong OBP and 25-homer upside make him a catcher prospect to keep a close eye on moving forward.
11. Justus Sheffield, LHP
Oh, how the once mighty have fallen. But was Sheffield really all that mighty a couple of seasons ago when he was ranked well within the top-50 by multiple sites? I’ve long questioned if he was in another system outside of the Yankees if Sheffield would be ranked as highly as he was. He’s still a solid pitching prospect, don’t get me wrong, but doesn’t have ace upside like how he was once ranked.
After starting the season poorly at Triple-A with major command and control issues, Sheffield was actually demoted to the Double-A Texas League. The move helped in a big way with his control doing a big 180. The pitcher-friendly home confines in Arkansas were a nice aide too. His performances at each level represent the two ends of the spectrum for Sheffield. When he’s able to command his pitches and throw strikes, his arsenal is dynamic enough to dominate a lineup. But when his command escapes him and he gets wild, the floor is unsightly.
Justus Sheffield, Wicked 85mph back foot Slider. 🤢 pic.twitter.com/jI0fumeXSQ
— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 15, 2019
When you look solely at Sheffield’s arsenal, you’ll likely be pretty impressed. His fastball, slider, and changeup all project or flash above-average to plus, but Sheffield’s below-average command and control limit the effectiveness of his arsenal. Out of the trio, Sheffield’s slider is the best of the bunch for me. Thrown in the mid-80’s with sharp two-plane break, it’s a true out pitch for him and one he’s thrown over 1/3 of the time in the Majors. Both the 92-95 mph fastball and changeup flash plus, but the fastball consistency due to the command woes and the changeup can straighten up and become firm as well. With that being said, Sheffield’s fastball has some nice sinking action to it. Until he can improve his command, I can’t project him as more than a #3 starter longterm.
After getting time with Seattle in 2019, and not much else of note in the rotation, Sheffield appears to be penciled in for a rotation spot to start 2020.
12. Sam Carlson, RHP
If it wasn’t for all the time he’s missed, Sam Carlson would be a few spots higher on this list, maybe even ahead of Justin Dunn. That might seem bold with how highly-regarded Dunn has been over the last couple of years, but honestly, I like Carlson’s stuff more. After being selected in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft, Carlson has made just two starts for the Mariners. Those came back in the Arizona League in 2017. Since then, elbow woes have kept him off the mound and forced him to undergo Tommy John surgery in 2018. So, we don’t have a ton to go off of outside of the stuff he showed before going under the knife. However, that stuff was very intriguing.
Carlson was sitting in the low to mid-90’s with life on his fastball out of a 3/4 arm slot while mixing in a plus changeup and slider that flashed above-average potential with sharp break. He was able to command all three pitches well and didn’t get himself into trouble with too many free passes. Again, that was all over two years ago against high school and rookie ball hitters, but the combination of stuff and command/control give Carlson the upside of a high-end #3 starter moving forward, albeit, with plenty of risk as well. If he can put these arm issues behind him, expect Carlson to shoot up prospect rankings in 2020.
13. Brandon Williamson, LHP
A 2nd round pick this past June, Brandon Williamson is a big 6’6 southpaw with an intriguing arsenal. To start, Williamson sits mostly in the low-90’s with his fastball but can ratchet it up into the mid-90’s with a nice downhill plane from his tall frame, extension, and high 3/4 arm slot. That combination makes it a plus offering with room for improvement if Williamson adds bulk/velocity. Offsetting the heater are a trio of secondaries with his slider being the best of the bunch. Williamson will throw it in the mid-80’s with two-plane break, bordering on plus. A curve and changeup round out the arsenal, both of which project as at least Major League average pitches. If Williamson keeps his command and control in check, there’s mid-rotation upside here.
14. Jonatan Clase, OF
My fingers are literally incapable of typing “Jonatan” right the first time without putting an H after the T. With that being said, Jonatan Clase is very capable at the plate. You’ve probably heard my Dominican League stats disclaimer 100 times by now, but Clase’s performance is one you can feel good about. He flashed above-average to plus contact skills, double-plus or better speed, and an advanced plate approach, walking in 17.8% of his plate appearances while keeping his strikeout rate below 20%. His conversion rate on the bases was 75.6%, which is solid for a player his age.
While there are a lot of positives here with Clase, the one thing working against him is his smaller frame. At 5’8/150, Clase isn’t a zero in the power department, but I’m not sure there’s more than 8-10 HR power here. And while there’s still some projection left, it’s minimal. To make an impact in the Majors and in the fantasy world, Clase is going to have to hit for a high average and continue to wreak havoc on the bases. With his contact skills and elite speed, I believe he can do just that. This is a name on the rise to grab stock in now in deeper dynasty leagues.
15. Isaiah Campbell, RHP
A 24th round pick in 2018 by the Angels, Campbell didn’t sign and decided to remain at Arkansas for one more season. What a great decision that was. A 2.26 ERA, 0.92 WHIP, and over a strikeout per inning vaulted Campbell up into the 2nd round where Seattle swooped in and selected him with the 76th overall pick. A native of Portugal, Campbell has a four-pitch arsenal, with two of the four projecting as plus pitches in his low to mid-90’s fastball and sharp slider.
The fastball has nice riding life and a downhill plane from his high 3/4 arm slot and extension Campbell gets in his delivery. He’ll also mix in a splitter and curveball, both of which should be at least average Major League offerings for him. The splitter is still fairly new to him, so with some added development, that could end up as another 55-grade offering. The 2020 season will be Campbell’s debut in the minor leagues and he’s certainly an arm to keep an eye on.
16. Austin Shenton, 3B
After a strong 2018 campaign at both Florida International and in the Cape Cod League, the 2019 season was a little rockier for Austin Shenton. Mainly due to his mother being diagnosed with cancer and undergoing cancer treatments more than three thousand miles away. That’s going to be tough on anyone. So wipe away Shenton’s slow 2019 start and focus more on the second half of the season where he really turned it on to finish with a .330 average in 53 games. That plus hit tool of Shenton’s translated immediately to the minors after the draft too, hitting .298 with seven home runs between the Northwest League (A-) and South Atlantic League.
While Shenton doesn’t have a big power/speed profile, that hit tool is going to carry him far. Shenton’s swing is quick and smooth from the left-side with exceptional barrel control through the zone. He’s able to use the whole field well with a line drive oriented approach. While he’ll never be a big masher, there’s some pop here with the upside to hit 15-20 homers annually. The upside isn’t crazy high here with Shenton, but he’s a fairly safe prospect to project due to the hit tool.
17. George Feliz, OF
When digging into this Mariners system, and George Feliz in particular, I saw a comp for him that surprised me. It was Victor Robles, a universal top-10 prospect, and top-5 on some lists until he graduated early in 2019. The Mariners inked Feliz out of the Dominican Republic this past summer for $900K. For a prospect that has yet to take one single swing in the minors, throwing a Robles comp on him is a glowing review.
From what video I’ve seen on Feliz and the reports I’ve read, Feliz has a chance to make an impact in a variety of ways offensively. While he might not quite have the same speed as Robles, Feliz still projects as an above-average to plus runner with nearly as much power, especially if/when he adds bulk. His swing is quick from the right side with fairly clean mechanics and natural loft. Robles comparison aside, this is a name to monitor as he begins his professional career in 2020. With a strong debut campaign, Feliz should soar up prospect rankings.
18. Juan Then, RHP
Still just 19, Juan Then is already on his second stint with the Mariners after being traded to and then back from the New York Yankees. The numbers in the low minors have been consistently good, but Then’s smaller frame and lack of a true out pitch gives him a lower upside than the names above him on this list. Although, there’s still some projection left on his frame, so I wouldn’t be shocked to see him add a tick or two to his fastball. The arsenal runs three pitches deep with a low-90’s fastball, changeup, and curveball. All grade as average to above-average but none currently project as plus.
Even with added velocity, Then’s fastball tends to straighten out at times, causing it to lose effectiveness. It’s a nice little three-pitch mix, but I’m not sure Then is more than a back-end starter at the moment. If he adds velocity and develops one of his secondaries into a true out pitch, then we could be looking at a back-end mid-rotation arm. The small frame does worry me though.
19. Dom Thompson-Williams, OF
With every passing season, Dom Thompson-Williams (DTW) becomes harder and harder for me to rank. He’s flashed a nice little power/speed blend dating back to his collegiate days, but really only put it all together in 2018 when he hit .299/22/20 between the South Atlantic League (A) and Florida State League (A+). And as a 23-year-old at those levels, you always have to question the stats. Kevin Smith of the Blue Jays is a perfect example of that. The speed really isn’t in question, but how much average and power DTW hits for is.
In 2019, DTW was another victim (Evan White) of the pitcher-friendly new home ballpark in Arkansas with a .841 OPS on the road compared to a measly .525 mark at home. So, you can’t really fault him 100% for the dip in average, but that .299 mark in 2018 is a mirage when you factor in his swing and miss tendencies and below-average contact skills. DTW has solid bat speed from the left side, although his swing can get a tad long at times. As a 25-year-old for most of next season, 2020 will be very telling for DTW as a prospect.
20. Braden Bishop, OF
As someone pointed out to me on social media the other day, Braden Bishop was once one of the top prospects in this system. Not a crown jewel or anything, but a guy you’d slot in the top-10. Not anymore. That’s not to say Bishop doesn’t have value to offer, but it’s more of the real-life kind than fantasy. Bishop is a sound defender with a strong throwing arm that can cover a ton of ground in the outfield. His speed has been more beneficial to him there than on the bases, however.
After stealing 22 in 2017, Bishop hasn’t been running as much over the last two seasons, combining for only seven steals on 11 attempts. Granted, a neck injury and lacerated spleen have kept him out of action, but if Bishop isn’t running much, his fantasy value is very limited due to his lack of thump at the plate. And, adding to an unfortunate theme here, Bishop’s mother passed away in 2019.
He’s displayed average contact skills throughout his minor league career but possesses below-average raw power. Bishop will also drop his hands during load leaving himself susceptible to high-velocity up in the zone and his swing does get a tad long at times. This is a .270/10 profile, which when combined with his defensive skills, will give him a shot to start at some point. But unless he starts running more, Bishop’s fantasy value is limited. Seattle’s outfield is also overflowing at the moment, so don’t expect that shot at starting to come in the near future. After getting some time with Seattle to close 2019, Bishop is likely ticketed for a reserve role with Seattle or heading back to Triple-A to start 2020.
21. Milkar Perez, 3B
Signed for $175K out of Nicaragua in the 2018 J2 period, Milkar Perez wasn’t a big name from that class, but has put himself on the map after a strong debut in the DSL in 2019. In 64 games, Perez hit .274 with four home runs, eight steals, and a strong 13.2% strikeout rate. Those numbers don’t jump off the page at you, but there’s more raw power in Perez’s bat than the four home runs would indicate. The ceiling here is a 55-hit, 55-power third baseman that can post a solid OBP, keep his strikeouts in check, and add in a handful of steals annually. There might even be plus power in time if he adds some bulk. Don’t sleep on him. Perez is a more advanced bat than most in the DSL.
22. Kristian Cardozo, RHP
When it comes to international pitchers, I usually play it cautious with more of a wait and see approach. While I might think highly of some of these J2 arms, they usually don’t find their way into my top-25 initially. However, Kristian Cardozo is one of the exceptions. A right-hander out of Venezuela, Cardozo has the combination of size, stuff, command, and projection that you love to see from international arms. Or an arm this young in general.
While he’s not the biggest guy around, currently at 6’1, there’s still projection left on his frame and he might not be done growing either. He currently sits in the low-90’s with run and likely will add a tick or two before he’s done developing. Offsetting the fastball are a curveball and changeup, both of which flash above-average already. Cardozo has a good feel for his entire arsenal with better command and cleaner mechanics than most arms his age. Honestly, he doesn’t look like a guy that was 16 at signing. Cardozo is certainly one to watch as his professional career begins in 2020.
23. Jake Scheiner, 3B/1B/OF
A 4th round pick in 2017, Jake Scheiner is one I’ve been fairly high on. In my Philadelphia Phillies top-25 last offseason, I ranked Scheiner 11th and still think highly enough of him to included him in this talented Mariners top-25 following the Jay Bruce trade mid-season. He’s long been considered a power over hit prospect, but Scheiner has shown enough contact skills to keep his average respectable, likely in the .250-.260 range to pair with 20-plus home runs annually.
The power is legit to all fields, something Scheiner proved in the spring, clobbering a 99mph fastball from Nate Pearson over the right-field wall for an oppo-taco. There’s also average foot speed here with Scheiner and he’s been willing to run so far in the minors. Don’t be surprised if he adds in 5-10 SB annually as well. Now, a .260/20/5 profile would usually warrant a higher ranking, but Scheiner doesn’t have a concrete defensive home and I’m not sure how he fits into Seattle’s plans moving forward. If he can carve out a starting role or a high-leverage multi-positional role, there’s some value here.
24. Sam Delaplane, RHP
As you’ll see below, the Mariners have a ton of bullpen arms ready to contribute at some point in 2020. What makes Sam Delaplane stand out from the rest is the fact that his control doesn’t often get him into trouble and his command has also shown improvement as a professional. That’s gone a big way as his mid-90’s sinking fastball and high-spin slider combination give him the upside to pitch in a late-inning role. That combination dominated the California League and Texas League in 2019 with Delaplane posting a 15.7 K/9 between the two levels and a minuscule 0.49 ERA in 37.0 innings in the Texas League. He’ll likely start in Triple-A and should enter the Seattle Mariners bullpen before the all-star break.
— Mike Rosenbaum (@GoldenSombrero) October 20, 2019
25. Ljay Newsome, RHP
It’s not often you see a 26th round pick on these lists. But after a breakout 2019 campaign, Newsome sneaks his way into this top-25. While Newsome has always possessed exceptional command and control, his arsenal, outside of his slider, lagged behind in a major way. After previously sitting in the mid to upper-80’s with his fastball, Newsome got up into the 90-92 range consistently in 2019, topping out at 94 with solid life. Even with the added velocity, Newsome’s fastball is still merely an average offering. With only one pitch (slider) grading as above-average and both his curveball and changeup grading as below-average, this is merely a back-end rotation profile. Although, Newsome’s double-plus command and control give him a high floor and a good chance to reach that ceiling.
Others To Monitor
Joe Rizzo, 3B: 50-hit, 50-power third baseman with no speed. Profiles as more of a backup than a starter.
Brayan Perez, LHP: A smaller lefty that is more floor than ceiling, Perez has seen his stuff improve to the point where he has the ceiling of a back-end starter.
Juan Querecuto, SS: Defensive skills will likely carry him up the ladder, but doesn’t make enough impact with the stick.
Jose Caballero, INF: Plus or better speed with a solid plate approach, but I’m not sure he impacts the ball enough to be a Major League regular.
Ricardo Sanchez, LHP: Three average to above-average pitches, but doesn’t miss many bats and below-average command limits his overall upside.
Raymond Kerr, RHP: Triple-digit fastball and plus slider, but struggles mightily with his command. If he can improve there, there’s some intriguing late-inning upside here.
Joey Gerber, RHP: High-spin mid-90’s fastball and plus slider, but like Kerr, Gerber struggles locating his pitches. Upside of a set-up man.
Art Warren, Taylor Guilbeau, Wyatt Mills: In order to not sound like a broken record, there are a ton of reliever arms close to Major League ready in this system.
Media Credit: Robert Robinson, Cespedes Family BBQ, Baseball America, Minor Graphs by Prospects Live, Alex Jensen, Mariners Minors, Mike Rosenbaum, Rob Friedman (Pitching Ninja), Minor League Baseball.
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