Seattle Mariners

Any system that starts with Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte is going to be good.  The Mariners system is indeed strong.  In addition to J-Rod and Marte, the Mariners have one of the best pitching tandems in the game in Emerson Hancock and George Kirby.  There’s also a ton of young players that are a long way from the Major Leagues but could serve as trade chips as the Mariners begin their run.

While the Mariners might have overachieved in 2021, it’s all set up for them to start their run as soon as 2022.

Prospect Quick Shot

  • Top Prospect: Julio Rodriguez
  • Biggest Mover: Jonatan Clase
  • Emerging Prospect: Lazaro Montes

1. Julio Rodriguez (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 OF
  • Tools Summary: All-star potential with significant power and with his improved contact rate, he now has a chance to post better than average on-base numbers

J-Rod spent much of last season playing as a member of the Dominican Republic National Team.  Not only did he play well there on his way to a Bronze Medal, but he also had an impressive season in the minor leagues. In 63 games across High and Double-A, he slashed .343/.445/.543 with 10 home runs and 16 stolen bases.  Based on his slugging percentage, most of his power is still doubles-power.  That will change over time as his swing and bat speed indicate significant home run power in the future.  As he fills out, he’s not going to be stealing a ton of bases.  The most significant skill increase he made this season was his ability to make contact and control the strike zone.  His strikeout rate was 21% while his walk rate was nearly 14%. 

Finally, most people forget that Rodriguez is still very young.  He didn’t turn 21-years-old until December and yet he’s one of the more accomplished players in the minor leagues and one of its best.  Let that settle in for a moment.

2. Noelvi Marte (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Low-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 SS
  • Tools Summary: One of the highest upside players in the minor leagues

Noelvi Marte played the entire season in Low-A as a teenager and was arguably the best player in the league.  In 99 games in Low-A-West, he slashed .271/.386/.462 with 17 home runs and 23 stolen bases.  He’s extremely athletic with plus bat speed and foot speed.  He also continues to show an excellent understanding of the strike zone showing great plate coverage and patience.  I expect the Mariners to start to accelerate his path through the minor leagues with a potential Major League debut in mid-2023.  The upside is substantial with a chance to be one of the better players in the league.  If you’re looking for a downside, he’s already a big kid and will likely only get bigger.  His size could eventually move him off short as well as reduce his stolen base output.

3. Emerson Hancock (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 30 SP
  • Tools Summary: Has the size, arsenal, and control to pitch at the top of the rotation

Hancock was the Mariners’ first-round pick in 2020.  He finally got on the field last year and looked liked the first-round pick the Mariners thought when they selected him #6 overall.  He’s everything you want in a front-line pitcher.  He has the size (6-foot-4), the plus arsenal consisting of a mid-90s fastball, plus slider, and solid-average change-up, and he throws strikes.  He flashed all of that in 12 starts across High and Double-A last season.  Unfortunately, he developed shoulder discomfort over the summer and was shut down in mid-August.  Assuming he comes back healthy, he has at least a number two starter ceiling.

4. George Kirby (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 40 SP
  • Tools Summary: His arsenal is highlighted by an upper 90s fastball with secondary pitches that should miss plenty of bats

Last year, I expressed concern about Kirby’s ability to throw consistent strikes and ranked him lower than many readers would have liked.  Well, after only walking 15 in 67.2 innings last season across High and Double-A, the concerns I had have been alleviated.  The arsenal is highlighted by an upper 90s fastball that can scrape 100+, but it’s not a high spin pitch.  The slider is his best secondary pitch with the change-up still needing work.  Assuming, health, the ceiling is at least a number three starter and likely higher.

5. Harry Ford (C)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 10 Catcher
  • Tools Summary: Athletic with plus bat speed and a feel to hit.  There are concerns that he stays behind the plate

All teenager catchers are risky.  It’s such a hard position to master and the injury risk is much higher than any other position except for pitchers.  Therefore, when a high school player is selected high in the first round, it says a lot for the upside of the player.  Harry Ford was taken 12th overall last June. 

He’s athletic with plus speed, great bat speed with a feel to hit.  People I spoke with were mixed on whether he could stay behind the plate, but one person told me that it didn’t matter, the offensive upside was so good, that the Mariners would find a place for him to play.  As an 18-year-old in the Complex League, he did everything you’d want to see.  He showed a mature approach, made solid contact with solid power and speed.  Should you acquire him in a Dynasty League?  The upside could be high, but the risk is as well.

6. Zach DeLoach (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary Intriguing power-speed potential.  He has changed his swing to add more pop and the consequence has been more strikeouts.

When Zach DeLoach was drafted in 2020, he was a hit-over power guy.  However, the Mariners have added loft to his swing and while the power has started to develop, the strikeouts have increased.  This is to be expected.  Hopefully, he’ll be able to find a happy medium so that he makes enough contact to be a full-time regular. He also has a little bit of speed, maybe a 55 runner, so expect 5 to 10 stolen bases. I’m not sure of his ceiling because he’s a bit in transition.  This transition could lead to some bumps and bruises as well. 

7. Brandon Williamson (LHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2022-23 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 SP
  • Tools Summary Has the size and growing control to be a mid-rotation starter

At 6-foot-6 with a fastball that can touch the mid-90s, there’s a lot to like in Brandon Williamson.  He also pitched well last season.  In 19 starts across High and Double-A, he struck out 153 while only walking 33.  That’s an impressive strikeout-to-walk ratio in only 98.1 innings.  With his size, there was concern about how many strikes he would throw, but that seems to be answered.  It feels like a starter profile and now that he’s had success in Double-A, he could see Seattle sometime next season or in 2023 at the latest.

8. Matt Brash (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  Double-A ETA: 2023 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 SP but likely a Closer
  • Tools Summary: Size and control point to a high-leverage bullpen role

Brash was a fourth-round pick in 2018 by the Padres before being acquired before the 2021 season by the Mariners.  He split his time between High and Double-A last year, posting a 2.87 ERA in 97.1 innings.  He also struck out over 13 per nine while walking a few too many at 4.4 per nine. His signature pitch is his fastball that he can run-up to the upper 90s and he compliments that with a slider that is his primary out pitch.  He’s only a little over six feet and that coupled with his stuff and lack of control, likely points him to a bullpen role long-term.  With his arsenal, it could be in the role of a closer.

9. Jonatan Clase (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 45 OF
  • Tools Summary: Game-changing speed who loves to run.  If he can hit enough and stay healthy, there is fantasy goodness here

Clase is a 70 runner and that immediately should pique fantasy manager’s interest.  He only played in 14 games last season due to a variety of soft tissue injuries.  I didn’t hear that it was anything serious but when he played, he was electric.  It was only 57 plate appearances, but he showed a mature approach at the plate, hit two home runs, and stole 16 bases.  Given that he only got on base 18 times, that’s kind of crazy!  He’s an interesting guy to roster in deeper fantasy leagues as there is fantasy goodness there.  He’s only 5-foot-8, so don’t expect a ton of power.  If that sounds a lot like Roman Quinn…well…  Did I mention he missed most of the season with injuries?

10. Starlin Aguilar (3B)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 3B or Top 15 1B
  • Tools Summary: Has a chance to be a plus hitter with power

If you believe that teenagers who demonstrate an ability to hit eventually make their way to the big leagues, then Starlin Aguilar is your guy.  He played the entire 2021 season as a 17-year-old in the DSL and showed a mature approach at the plate with great contactability.  In 220 plate appearances, he struck out 41 times and walked 29 times. There’s plenty of size and bat speed to also project future power.  He’s not currently fast and the speed will only regress as he matures.  The net result is not only few stolen bases but a potential move to first base. 

11. Edwin Arroyo (SS)

  • Highest Level:  Complex League ETA: 2024-25 Fantasy Ceiling:  Top 15 SS
  • Tools Summary: Intriguing power-speed profile that if he can hit enough, has significant fantasy upside

Arroyo was the Mariners’ second-round pick last June and has an intriguing fantasy upside.  He’s a plus runner with plenty of bat speed to point to future double-digit power.  He’s also a switch hitter with a feel to hit even though he struck out 30% of the time in the Complex League.  I’m not too worried about that as he only turned 18 in August and the sample size was all of 86 plate appearances.  If he hits enough, he could start to rise quickly in the rankings.

12. Juan Then (RHP)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2024 Fantasy Ceiling:  Bullpen Arm, maybe a Closer
  • Tools Summary: His fastball-slider combination will get guys out but he has poor location on his pitches and given his size, is homer-prone

Juan Then has two plus pitches in his fastball and slider and a change-up that he’s still learning to throw, but it will also flash plus.  The problem is he doesn’t always throw strikes and he’ll go through stretches on the mound where nothing is working.  It’s part of the reason that despite striking out nearly 10 per nine and walking 3.2 per nine, he pitched to a 6.46 ERA in 14 starts.  He also gave up nearly 2 home runs per nine and that shows his lack of location and at 6-foot-1, he’s just going to be homer-prone.  I like the arm, but he might be better suited in the bullpen.

13. Victor Labrada (OF)

  • Highest Level:  High-A ETA: 2023-24 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF if he can hit enough
  • Tools Summary His carrying tool is his speed with enough bat speed to be a full-time regular.  He needs to become more selective at the plate

Labrada is not a big kid at 5-foot-9, but he’s athletic with plus speed and plenty of bat speed.  He split his time evenly between Low and High-A and hit 7 home runs with 32 stolen bases.  He has a patient approach at the plate but strikes out too much – 27% K/9 rate between both levels.  If he is to be that dynamic leadoff hitting for the Mariners, kind of in the role of what Cedric Mullins is for the Orioles, then he’ll need to learn to be more selective at the plate.

14. Gabriel Gonzalez (SS)

  • Highest Level:  DSL ETA: 2025 Fantasy Ceiling: Top 15 SS with extreme risk
  • Tools Summary Had one of the more impressive seasons in the DSL showing power, speed, and the ability to hit

The Mariners signed Gabriel Gonzalez last January and he tore up the DSL in 2021.  Evaluators thought he would hit for power, but not only did he do that, he hit .306 with a .392 OBP in 46 games.  Want more?  He also added 8 stolen bases?  The best news is that his strikeout rate was 16% while walking 11% of the time.  It’s important to note that the DSL can produce wildly inconsistent stat lines for who the player ultimately will be.  But, what Gonzalez did in 2021 was impressive at any level and consequently, he should be owned in all deeper Dynasty Leagues.

15. Lazaro Montes (OF)

  • Highest Level:  Int’l Draftee expected to sign ETA: 2025+ Fantasy Ceiling: Top 45 OF or Top 15 1B
  • Tools Summary Large human with a feel to hit and significant power upside

Like Yordan Alvarez, Lazaro Montes is another massive Cuban 16-year-old who can hit with the chance for significant home runs power.  He’s expected to sign with the Mariners in January.  He’ll likely be a target in Dynasty League supplemental drafts in the mid rounds.

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