Seattle Mariners

Original Published Date: January 12, 2018

The Mariners have “wheeled and dealed” their way into an average major league baseball team.  You have to give them credit for trying but in the end, it really hasn’t worked.  Now, with a thinned minor league system, I’m not sure where Jerry Dipota turns next.

2016 first round pick, Kyle Lewis and Evan White, last year’s first-round pick lead the list.  While both are surefire major leaguers, I don’t see star power in either.  Lewis has impressive raw power but will likely always have some swing and miss in his game and while White can really hit, there are questions about his power upside.  Dan Vogelbach continues to be an enigma.  I think he’s a major leaguer and perhaps a very good offensive player, but as in Chicago, he appears to be once again blocked.

Kyle Lewis (OF)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 40 OF

After being the 11th overall player taken in the 2016 MLB Draft, Kyle Lewis had a major setback when he tore his ACL and missed nearly a year of playing time.  He did return last June and while he was limited to mostly playing designated hitter, he started to show some of the offensive upside that earned him a $3.28 million dollar signing bonus.

In 38 games in the California League, he posted a .255/.323/.403 slash line with six home runs and three stolen bases.  His timing was clearly off but nonetheless, he was able to post a 23% strikeout rate.

Despite only limited playing time in the lower minor leagues, I expect the Mariners to start Lewis in Double-A to begin next season.  I also expect that he will struggle given the time he has missed.  However, the skills are there and throw-in another 75 at-bats next fall in the AFL and I believe Lewis will stay on track to make his big league debut sometime in 2019.

Scouting Report: Lewis brings a lot of interesting tools to the table.  He’s got plus raw power, enough speed to play all three outfield positions, and a great arm to play the corners.  While the swing works, it can get long, so swing and miss will likely always be part of the equation.  He’s an average runner and his ACL tear could put an end to double-digit stolen base output.

Fantasy Impact:  The ceiling for Lewis is a 25 home runs bat with a .260 batting average and a .340 on-base percentage.  He’s a top 100 prospect in the game and should be a useful fantasy performer in the mold of Joc Pederson.

Evan White (1B)

Highest Level: Short Season, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B

The Mariners went with a controversial first round pick (number 17) when they selected first baseman, Evan White.  He was drafted as a first baseman and played there for most of his college career, but he doesn’t have the classic profile of what you see at first in the major leagues.  He’s athletic, an above-average runner but has only demonstrated below-average power.

He’s always shown the ability to hit and did again in his abbreviated debut in the Northwest League.  In 47 at-bats, he struck out six times and also walked six times.  He also managed to hit three home runs.  The Northwest League definitely favors power but it’s interesting to note that he did hit 10 home runs last year in college.  If he develops power, he has the potential to be an above-average regular.  If not, he profiles similar to James Loney or at best, Brandon Belt.

Scouting Report: White’s carrying tool is his ability to hit.  He’s got a mature approach at the plate and just an ability to make hard contact.  His swing path is more geared to line-drive power than over-the-fence power and therefore he doesn’t profile for more than average power.  However, as we’ve seen with other players, loft and leverage can be taught and if White adopts, his upside could be 20 to 25 home runs.

While he’s primarily played first base, he has the athleticism to move to the outfield.  If that happens, the profile gets a lot more interesting as he will not be expected to pop 30 home runs annually.  He also has enough speed to steal a handful of bases annually.

Fantasy Impact:  I look for players that can hit in my Dynasty Leagues.  I do pause though when those players are first baseman with average power.  However, I think White adds loft to his swing and becomes at least a 20 home run bat.  Therefore, I’m going to dip a toe in the water a next year’s draft table.

Braden Bishop (OF)

Highest Level: Double-A, ETA: 2019, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 50 OF

Drafted in the third round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Braden Bishop is starting to translate some of his talents into baseball skills.  He started the 2017 season in High-A where he posted a .785 OPS, hitting .296 and getting on-base 38.5% of the time.   He showed his plus speed by stealing 16 bases.  Over the summer, the Mariners promoted him to Double-A where he kept hitting.  In 31 games he hit .336, walking as many times as he struck out.  He also added six more stolen bases.

He’ll be 24 next season and should be poised to see some time in Seattle over the second half.  He’s likely a fourth outfielder but he can hit, has good speed and is a plus defender.  Sometimes those types of players are hard to get out of a lineup.

Scouting Report:  Bishop is athletic with plus speed and a knack for making contact.  While he has good bat speed, his swing path is very much geared to doubles as oppose to hitting home runs.  He also has a very good approach at the plate and will take pitchers deep into counts.

The ceiling is a second division offensive center fielder in the mold of Jon Jay.  He will play exceptional defense, get on base a ton and cause a lot of havoc once he’s on base.   The likely ceiling is a fourth outfielder.

Fantasy Impact:  Bishop’s fantasy asset is his plus speed.  The question is will he get enough playing time to make a difference.  If you fell in love with Charlie Tilson, you’ll likely fall in love with Bishop.  There could be value there but fantasy owners need to set their expectations.

Sam Carlson (RHP)

Highest Level: Rookie, ETA: 2021, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP or Reliever

At 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, Sam Carlson looks like he just walked out of central casting for pitching.  The Mariners thought the same thing and gave him a $2 million dollar signing bonus last June when they selected him in the second round.  It didn’t come without risk.  As a native of Minnesota, Carlson didn’t have the long season to show his stuff like many of the other top amateurs playing in warmer climates do.

In his first exposure to professional ball, he pitched well.  It was only three innings, but he struck out three, giving up four hits and a run and no walks.  Given he just turned 19 in December, the Mariners will likely hold him back in extended spring training and assign him to a short-season affiliate to continue his development process.

Scouting Report:  Carlson saw a spike in his velocity in his senior year and that gave him his big payday.  The velocity though comes from a lot of effort in his delivery with significant recoil in his shoulder.  I don’t believe Carlson can remain a starter long-term with his current delivery.  If the Mariners can smooth it out, then the calculus changes.  His secondary pitches still need a lot of work with his changeup currently ahead of his curveball.

Fantasy Impact:  I’ve gone back-and-forth with Carlson.  The delivery really scares me, but he’s got the size and athleticism that I love in pitchers.  Can the Mariners tame his delivery?  I honestly don’t know as they don’t have a history of developing pitchers.

Dan Vogelbach (1B/DH)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 1B/DH

After being blocked by Anthony Rizzo in Chicago, Dan Vogelbach got his wish and was traded to the Mariners in 2016.  After a cup-of-coffee in 2016, he started last season back in the minors but was only there for two weeks when he got the call.  He got six games to make an impression and went 2-14 and was sent back down.

As a fantasy owner, I was bummed.  I think he can hit and clearly he can get on base.  After his demotion, he played well.  He slashed .290/.388/.455 with 17 home runs, striking out 18% of the time while posting a 14% walk rate.  Yet, he only got 14 more at-bats the rest of the year in the majors.  At 25-years-old, the optimist is starting to say…” late bloomer” and the pessimist is saying…” see you in Korea”.

Scouting Report:  I’ve seen Vogelbach play many times over the years and the dude can flat out hit.  He has a great approach, makes excellent contact and is big and strong enough to hit for plus power.  On the negative side, he has 30-grade speed and is a below average defender at first.  He struggles with his footwork but if he can post a slash line of .290/.400/.450, the Mariners might just look the other way.  So far, like the Cubs, they are not.

Fantasy Impact:  I’ve always been a big fan of Vogelbach and still think he gets a chance.  Perhaps it will not be with the Mariners, but somebody will give him a chance.  The upside is a .290 batting average with 20 to 25 home runs.  For owners playing in OBP Leagues, the upside goes up as a .400 on-base percentage could be in the cards.  But for now, the Mariners are not giving him a shot as they just traded for Ryon Healy.

Julio Rodriguez (OF)

Highest Level: DNP, ETA: 2022-23, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 30 OF with extreme risk

I usually leave 16-year-old kids to the Emerging Prospect ranks but with a bad system, 16-year-old Julio Rodriguez makes the big boy list.

The Mariners signed the then Venezuelan 16-year-old (turned 17 on December 29th) to a $1.75 million dollar signing bonus last July.  He has yet to see any professional action and will likely start his career in the DSL next season before arriving in the states in 2019.  He’s at least five years away from smelling the major leagues, but he has big-time raw power with a feel for hitting.  While the risk is extreme, so is the upside.

Scouting Report:  Rodriguez carrying tool is double-plus raw power.  While he’s very raw at the plate, he has a good swing with a decent understanding of the strike zone.  He’s a long, long way away, but the upside is significant.

Fantasy Impact:  Rodriguez will be owned in a lot of very deep Dynasty Leagues and he should be.  The upside is very interesting but he’s also at least five years away and likely two to three years away from having any tradable value beyond…”hey, the Internet is saying this guy is going to be really good…”

Ian Miller (OF)

Highest Level: Triple-A, ETA: 2018, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 75 OF

Most players that are drafted in the 14th round never make it to the major leagues.  In fact, most players drafted after the fifth round never make it.  Ian Miller should make his major league debut next season and while his upside is likely a fourth outfielder, he has double-plus speed and makes enough contact that he could be a little more than that.

He started the season last year in Double-A and hit .326 in 83 games before being promoted to Triple-A later in the summer.  While he struggled in Triple-A, he continued to show solid contact and stole 13 bases in 14 attempts in 41 games.

Scouting Report:  Miller’s carrying tool is his plus speed that he demonstrated in stealing 175 bases in 461 games in the minor leagues.  He’s also had an 83% success rate.  He does make good contact but is very aggressive at the plate with well below-average power.

Fantasy Impact:  In fantasy, speed is at a premium and while Miller has that double-plus speed that owners crave, he doesn’t really provide much else.  That said, he should see the major leagues next season and it’s because of that, owners should put him on their radar, particularly in the later rounds of the NFBC Draft and Hold Leagues.

Joe Rizzo (3B)

Highest Level: High-A, ETA: 2020, Fantasy Ceiling: Top 20 3B

The Mariners signed Joe Rizzo in the second round of the 2016 MLB Draft and challenged him to a full-season assigned in Low-A to begin the 2017 season.  As one of the youngest players in the league, he held his own slashing .254/.354/.346 with seven home runs and three stolen bases.  While he struck out too much (23.5% K-rate) he also showed good plate patience walking 13% of the time.  The Mariners thought enough of his performance to promote him to High-A to end the season.

Scouting Report:  Rizzo’s ticket to a potential major league career will be his bat.  He can really hit with an advanced approach at the plate.  He hasn’t shown much power potential but sources I spoke with believe that he could eventually develop at least average power.  The problem could be where he plays defensively.  He’s listed at 5-foot-9 and nearly 200 pounds and in looking at videos, his lower-half is pretty thick.  If he can develop some power to go along with his ability to hit, the Mariners might look away on his questionable defense.

Fantasy Impact:  Rizzo is a name to monitor in Dynasty Leagues but should only be considered in leagues that roster 400 or more minor leagues.  He can hit and that’s the hardest tool to master so he could have some value down the road.

Wyatt Mills (RHP)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Reliever (Closer upside)

The Mariners drafted Wyatt Mills as a senior sign last June.  Given his college pedigree as a closer and his funky sidearm delivery, he should make quick work of the minor leagues with a chance to see the major leagues at some point in 2018, or at the latest, 2019.

He had no problem with the Northwest or Midwest League in 18 appearances.  He posted a 1.77 ERA striking out 29 batters in 20.1 innings, walking nine while posting six saves.

Scouting Report:  Mills is about throwing hard with a funky sidearm delivery.  If he can control his arsenal, he could have a long major league career as a bullpen arm and possible closer.  While fantasy owners will get excited about the “C” word, the history of pitchers who throw sidearm having long-term success as a closer is low.  That said, he’s a got a good arm with a sneaky good slider and assuming he can throw enough strikes, there could be something there.

Fantasy Impact:  Would I put Mills on a Dynasty League?  Probably not, but if you’re desperate for saves and have a deep bench, then he might be someone to target.

Max Povse (RHP)

Highest Level: Majors, ETA: 2017, Fantasy Ceiling: Reliever

Max Povse was used exclusively as a starter up until he was promoted to the big leagues where the Mariners used him in relief.  It didn’t go particularly well.  In three appearances, he posted a 7.36 ERA.  Granted, he pitched only 3.1 innings, but once he returned to Tacoma, the Mariners had him back in the bullpen and he continued to pitch poorly.

Reliever or starter?  I thought he would be a starter, but the Mariners decided to move him to the pen.

Scouting Report:  I still think Povse has the stuff and size to pitch in the rotation.  Given his height, he gets good plane on his pitches which have led to a very high groundball rate.  He has good stuff with his fastball sitting 93 to 94 MPH with a hard curveball that grades out as above-average.  He’s always had good, not great control.  If you add it all, it’s a profile of a number four starter.

Fantasy Impact:  Povse can be ignored in most Dynasty League formats.

2018 Emerging Prospect

Andres Torres (RHP)

Signed in 2013 out of Venezuela, Andres Torres had a very good season in the Northwest League where he posted a 3.65 ERA in 15 starts with a 3:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.  His stuff is average but everything plays up because of his plus control.  Even though he’ll be 22-years-old to begin the 2018 season, his advanced pitchability should allow him to move quickly through full-season ball.

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