|Original Published Date: January 12, 2016|
After several years of ranking in the top half of minor league systems, the Mariners current crop of prospects have turned the system into a bottom five in all of baseball. While there is talent, most of their top prospects had poor seasons including Alex Jackson, the system’s number one prospect and D.J. Peterson, the system’s number three prospect. Jackson struggled to make contact and Peterson seems to be turning into a light-hitting first baseman. While both are young, particularly Jackson, adjustments need to be made if they are to become impact players at the highest level.
Edwin Diaz is the top arm in the system and did have a good year. However, his low three-quarters delivery might eventually force him to the bullpen. Nick Wells, who was acquired in the Mark Lowe trade has more upside than Diaz but is still very young and has not made it out of short season ball.
The Mariners have their work cut out for them. Their major league team is good, but it doesn’t have a Championship quality roster. With a down minor league system, their other option is to turn to the free agent market. To-date, they have yet to sign an impact player and historical, Cano aside, they have never really done that. That leaves them in a bad spot…an average team with few options to get better.
|2016 Age: 20||Ceiling: Solid Reg
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 215||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2018|
It was a bad year for Alex Jackson, the Mariners 2014 first round pick (6th overall). The Mariners started him off in full-season ball and after six weeks they moved him back to the Complex League to make some adjustments. In 28 games in the Midwest League, he hit .157 with 35 strikeouts and six walks.
Once the short-season games started in mid-June, the Mariners sent him to the Northwest League where he played better but did not set the world on fire. In 48 games, he hit .239 with eight home runs but it came with an alarming 63% contact. While statistics shouldn’t be taken too seriously in the lower levels of the minor leagues, they are concerning when they are as bad as what Jackson posted.
Scouting Report: I didn’t get a chance to see Jackson play in 2015 but reports from those that did were mixed. The bat speed was still as good as ever and at 6-foot-2 and 210 pounds, he has very good raw strength. While the swing is more line-drive oriented, the bat speed and raw strength still point to above-average if not plus future power.
Where he struggled the most was recognizing spin. While this can happen to young hitters, remember that he was facing young pitchers as well. Things will only get more difficult as he moves through the system and he will have to make adjustments. Will he? I still think he will but now that the Mariners have moved him to the outfield full-time, his bat is going to have to carry him as the defense will likely be average at-best.
Fantasy Impact: Dynasty League owners who selected Jackson early in their draft last year can’t be happy. From all indications, Jackson was going to be an offensive player and move quickly. At this juncture, you have to continue to believe in the scouting report; that he has enough hand-eye coordination to hit at the big league level and will figure out how to hit spin. At this juncture, if you own him, you need to stay the course. If you’re thinking about buying low, I would hold-off.
|2016 Age: 22||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 165||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016-17|
Edwin Diaz got off to a blistering start in the California League, dominating the league to a 1.70 ERA and a 5:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. After seven starts, the Mariners realized that he needed a greater challenge and promoted him to Double-A. While his surface stats were not great (4.57 ERA and 1.33 WHIP), he struck out 8.3 per nine and walked just over three per nine. The most important thing is that he solidified himself as the best pitching prospect in the system with the chance to help the big league club; possibly as early as next year.
Scouting Report: Diaz has good stuff as his fastball hits the mid-90’s regularly but generally sits 92 to 94 MPH. His slider is his primary out-pitch, although he’s throwing a lot more change-ups and consequently the pitch has taken a major step-up. While the arsenal is good, what makes Diaz effective is his low three-quarters delivery. Batters, particularly, right-handed batters do not pick up the delivery well. While there is deception, many times pitchers with a lower delivery wind up in the pen.
The Mariners will likely push Diaz to Triple-A to finish his preparation for the major leagues. While the PCL is a challenging environment, Tacoma plays neutral and should help normalize his statistics.
Fantasy Impact: Diaz is one of the players on the bubble in making our Top 100 list. He’s good but the delivery does bother me and that could ultimately hurt his upside if he’s moved to the bullpen. That said, he should be owned in all Dynasty Leagues that roster 100 or more minor league players.
|2016 Age: 24||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 210||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2016|
While we rated D.J. Peterson as a four star prospect last year, it did lack conviction. I wrote the following: “…I worry that the swing could be exposed as he moves through the development process” and “I continue to only have one foot on the Peterson bang wagon.”
Unfortunately, Peterson didn’t do anything to reverse my concerns. He played most of the season in Double-A, posting a .223 batting average with seven home runs and a 75% contact rate. It was a disappointing season, particularly in the power department and now that the Mariners have moved him permanently to first, it could be a real problem going forward.
Scouting Report: In an effort to cut down on his strikeouts, Peterson has lost his home run stroke. The swing is now more conducive to contact, but at a 75% contact rate, he’s turned into a .260 hitter with 10 to 12 home run upside. That’s not the player the Mariners thought they were getting when they drafted him 12th overall in the 2013 first year player draft from the University of New Mexico. I think they need to add more leverage back into the swing to see if they can make better use of his above-average bat speed.
Fantasy Impact: When Dynasty League owners drafted Peterson, they expected a power hitting third baseman with 20 to 25 home run upside. What it appears he’s turned into is a light hitting first baseman; which will just not cut it on your fantasy team. The good news is that he’s still young and has the bat speed, but he needs to change his approach to tap back into the power potential that owners hope they were getting three years ago.
|2016 Age: 23||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht: 5-10 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2016|
I really struggled with the Mariners system. In fact, it was one of my least favorite systems to write about as it lacks both impact talent and depth. While I think Alex Jackson will right the ship, I’m not sure anyone else has a chance to stick in the major leagues except for Boog Powell.
What sets Powell apart is that he can hit. His career minor league average is an impressive .308 with an even more impressive on-base percentage of .401. The problem is he has below average power and therefore profiles as a fourth outfielder. That said, guys who can hit can carve out a major league career and I believe Powell will.
Scouting Report: A scout gave me a comp of Sam Fuld after seeing Powell play in the Arizona Fall League. I saw a little more power in the bat, but after 294 games and six home runs, the scout is probably right. Powell’s best tool is his ability to control the strike zone and get on base. That will play at the highest level. He also has enough speed to steal 20 bases but hasn’t yet shown great acumen in the craft. In those same 294 games, his success rate is 59%.
Fantasy Impact: If you’re a long time Orioles fan, I understand the reason to own Powell in a Dynasty League; otherwise, it’s a pass. Sure, if he gets a roll for a couple of months, getting on base a ton, scoring runs and swiping a few bags, go get him on the waiver wire. But to take up a precious roster spot on a Dynasty League…it’s a no for me.
|2016 Age: 20||Ceiling: #3 starter|
|Ht: 6-5 Weight: 185||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2018|
Nick Wells was traded to the Mariners in the Mark Lowe trade and brings an interesting arm to a system in need of…well, interesting arms. At 6-foot-5, 185 pounds, Wells has a ton of physical projection and athleticism.
The Jays were moving him along slowly and he responded well in both stops in short-season ball to begin the year. Once he was traded, the Mariners moved him to the college heavy Northwest League and in 18 innings, he struck out 16, walked four and gave up only two earned runs.
Scouting Report: As Wells has been putting on weight, the velocity has in turn been increasing. It’s part of what we mean when we write – “there is physical projection”. It has to be good weight and in Well’s case, it is. As he continues to mature, the fastball has a chance to be plus. His best secondary pitch is his curve ball and one source I spoke with who had a chance to see him in Bluefield said…”it had monster potential.”
Despite a traditional drop-and-drive delivery, the ball comes out very clean. However, because he loses height on his delivery, he’s currently a fly ball pitcher. This could prove problematic as he works his way through the system. That said, the arsenal is solid and the athleticism is there for a ceiling of a number three starter.
Fantasy Impact: If you’re looking to speculate, Wells is a good place to make a bet on a young pitcher. While I would only draft him in a Dynasty Leagues that roster 400 or more minor leaguers, he’s definitely a pitcher to monitor.
|2016 Age: 19||Ceiling: #4 starter|
|Ht: 6-3 Weight: 210||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2019|
I’ve had a chance to visit Brazil a number of times and in a speech I gave two years ago, I asked the audience to name a baseball player. After a few seconds of puzzlement from the group, somebody yelled out “Babe Ruth”. WOW!!! Then again, if a Brazilian were to give a speech in America and ask the group to name a Brazilian footballer, the answer would probably be – Pele.
Baseball is not yet a known sport in Brazil. It’s somewhere after soccer, soccer, and soccer. That’s why I get excited about any player from the beautiful South American country. Sure, there’s Yan Gomes; but he was raised in Florida. There’s also Andre Rienzo, the Chicago White Sox pitcher who has yet to establish himself in the majors. However, the Brazilian player that most people have their eye on is lefty Luiz Gohara.
Scouting Report: Gohara is still very much a project and the Mariners have taken it very slowly with him. He’s still an arm-strength guy and hasn’t yet learned how to effectively control his arsenal and the five plus batters he’s walking per nine illustrate the point. The stuff is good though. He throws a low to mid-90’s fastball with a slider and change-up that both show promise. The hope is that as he matures and learns to pitch, the control will improve enough to allow him to progress through the system.
One concern that has been expressed is Gohara’s girth. At 6-foot-3 and a reported 240 pounds, Gohara is a big boy and not getting any smaller. While it’s easy to point to his young age, it can sometimes be harder to modify eating habits than pitching mechanics. It’s something to monitor.
Fantasy Impact: While there is clearly upside in Gohara, I’m still not drafting him in a Dynasty League. I like the arm and he’s a lefty, but there is still far too much risk to draft him on leagues that roster less than 400 minor league players.
|2016 Age: 21||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht: 5-11 Weight: 210||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
When you sort the statistics of the Mariners minor league system and see that Tyler O’Neill hit 32 home runs, it’s easy to get excited. While O’Neill has a ton of raw power, the 32 home runs were hit in the California League and the power came with a 30.5% strikeout rate and a 6.5% walk rate.
The real test will come next year when the sledding should get significantly tougher in Double-A. Will he be successful? Unless he improves his approach, I’m not sold.
Scouting Report: At 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, O’Neill gets tremendous pull-side leverage and is the reason he is able to hit home runs in bunches. While that will work in the lower minor leagues, he could be exposed as he moves through the system. Additionally, the contact rate has never been good and in general a sub-70’s contact rate in the lower minors foretells problems down the road. O’Neill did steal 16 bases last year but his pure speed suggest a player with a 5 to 8 ceiling in stolen bases annually.
Fantasy Impact: With power at a premium, I understand the desire for Dynasty League owners to draft O’Neill. For me, it’s a pass as I just don’t believe the approach is going to allow him to get to his power as he moves through the system.
|2016 Age: 22||Ceiling: 2nd Div
|Ht: 6-2 Weight: 195||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
If this list was based solely on performance, Drew Jackson would have been number one, and would not have been close. In 59 games in the Northwest League, he hit .358/.432/.447 with 47 bases while walking almost as much as he struck out. If you did a double-take, yes…that’s 47 stolen bases as in a 4 followed by a 7.
Scouting Report: Jackson is a classic slappy hitter. He’s up there to make contact and use his wheels to get on base. There are plenty of examples of that approach working but in general, you like to see all players use their lower half to drive the ball. The good news is that he understands the strike zone and could be a high on-base percentage guy.
Jackson should be able to stick at shortstop given his athleticism and arm strength. That combined with his interesting offensive game should allow him to have a floor as a utility player with a chance to be regular contributor if he can learn to hit with more authority.
Fantasy Impact: As fantasy players, we care about stats and it’s really easy to get excited about a Billy Hamilton-esque stat line. First, Jackson doesn’t have that kind of speed and his approach will likely limit him to a utility player. That said, if you want to take a flyer in your Dynasty League draft, I wouldn’t stop you. Of course, make sure your league rosters at least 300 minor league players.
|2016 Age: 20||Ceiling: Solid Reg
|Ht: 6-1 Weight: 175||Bats: Left Throws: Left||ETA: 2018|
The Mariners started 19-year-old Luis Liberato in the Midwest League in May where he hit .133 in 30 games, promoted him to Double-A for three games as a fill-in, before having him finish the year in the Northwest League. Once he got into an age-appropriate league, he played well. In 53 games, he hit .260/.341/.453 with five home runs, 10 stolen base and 47 strikeouts and 24 walks.
Scouting Report: Liberato is still very raw but is starting to show signs of putting things together. He has good bat speed with a very good understanding of the strike zone (11.2 walk rate). He does struggle to consistently pickup spin but that likely has more to do with his youth as opposed to a fundamental flaw in his approach.
Fantasy Impact: While he’s a long way off, Liberato’s tool set is very intriguing. The ceiling could be a power/speed guy with enough athleticism to play center field. However, the risk is extreme with a floor of a fifth outfielder.
|2016 Age: 24||Ceiling: Extra Bat
|Ht: 6-4 Weight: 250||Bats: Right Throws: Right||ETA: 2017|
Maybe I got caught up with his name, but my conclusion last year of Austin Wilson has not panned out. Here’s what I said…”Wilson has the classic five-tool profile. He can run, hit, hit with power, with a plus arm. While his speed has not translated yet, he has the ceiling of a .270 batter with 20 to 25 home run pop.”
It was a tough year for Wilson. In 109 games in the California League, he hit .239/.342/.374 with 10 home runs and a 3.6 strikeout-to-walk ratio. I expected more from the 23-year-old, but it just didn’t happen. His OBP was .342, but it was fueled by an unbelievable 29 HBP.
Scouting Report: Wilson still has the tools. He has bat speed with enough leverage that he should hit for above-average, if not future power. He’s also an above-average runner but the speed has not translated at all. From all accounts, he works hard and has excellent makeup. The problem is his approach. He’s striking out too much and when he does make contact, he’s rolling over on the ball and the result is weak contact.
Fantasy Impact: Wilson turns 24-years-old in February and hasn’t yet dominated. There’s a chance he’s a late bloomer but for now, Dynasty League owners need to fish somewhere else. Sure, keep an eye on him, but his age and performance together are too much risk for him to be owned in anything but leagues that roster 500 or more minor leaguers.
2016 Emerging Prospect:
The Mariners spent $2 million dollars to acquire Brayan Hernandez during the 2014 J2 signing period. For an 18-year-old, he has a solid approach, making very good contact and showing an ability to take a walk. He has plus speed and that translated into nine stolen bases but he also got caught six times. His swing is more geared towards contact and therefore he’s unlikely to develop much power. The upside is a dynamic leadoff hitter but with a lot of risk of him ever reaching that ceiling.
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