Seattle Mariners’ Top 5 Prospects Post-Trade Deadlineby Andersen Pickard August 18, 2021 0 comments
The Seattle Mariners have made some questionable moves over recent years, but general manager Jerry Dipoto has managed to put the team in a position where they can succeed in both the present and future. No stranger to criticism, the 53-year-old executive has constructed an MLB roster vying for a postseason spot while also solidifying one of the best farm systems in baseball.
In all seriousness, this is a farm system that is not only stacked but also balanced. There is talent all around and at every key position, including infield, outfield, pitcher, and catcher. With this growing core of top prospects, Seattle is in good shape for quite some time.
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1. Julio Rodriguez, Outfielder
Rodriguez has blossomed into the Mariners’ top prospect. Currently playing at Double-A, the outfielder has reached base in 40.4 percent of plate appearances this season while also adding nine homers and 30 RBI. His 23 walks and 44 strikeouts both represent decent clips and indicate the 20-year-old’s aggressive and advanced approach at the plate. Beyond his ability to put the ball in play, Rodriguez is a strong fielder with a phenomenal arm. For these reasons, he should eventually be an everyday right-fielder for the Mariners.
For now, the Mariners’ biggest focus has to be making sure Rodriguez can handle all levels of play. Once they choose to promote him to Triple-A (and the majors, eventually), it will be essential that his talent does not waver. Specifically, Rodriguez cannot afford to strike out much more than he already is (one strikeout per game). Summer 2022 represents a realistic target date for Rodriguez’s ascension to the majors.
2. Emerson Hancock, Starting Pitcher
Drafted sixth overall in 2020, Hancock has excelled in his first pro season. Through nine starts (31 innings) at High-A, he went 2-0 with a 2.32 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, and .178 OBA while issuing 13 walks and 30 strikeouts. His strong performance earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he has allowed just one walk and six strikeouts over 4.2 scoreless innings. He boasts a mid-90s fastball that has come close to triple-digits, as well as a very nice complementary slider with great effectiveness. Hancock’s third pitch is a changeup, which is also quite lethal. The pitch features both velocity and fade, challenging hitters to act quickly but also in control. His quaternary selection is a curveball, though it could probably serve as most pitchers’ No. 2 option.
While he hasn’t exactly pounded the zone at an elite rate, Hancock has demonstrated good control in limited pro action. He owns a 9.09 K/9 rate and an impressive 3.53 BB/9 clip. He is truly a talented pitcher with an incredible repertoire and an ability to pitch effectively. Hancock should make an impact as soon he steps on an MLB field, regardless of whenever that my occur.
3. George Kirby, Starting Pitcher
Kirby is another first-round pitcher in the Mariners’ system, but he was drafted one year earlier than Hancock. He has been similarly impressive, though, going 4-2 with a 2.38 ERA, 0.98 WHIP, and .214 OBA over the course of nine starts at High-A this season. Along the way, he logged a mere 1.73 BB/9 rate and an impressive 11.23 K/9 rate. He, too, was recently promoted to Double-A where he has thrown four scoreless innings so far. For Hancock, everything revolves around his fastball, which sits in the mid-90s and has touched 98 mph. He uses his tall frame to get extra velocity behind all of his pitches. He also has impressive breaking balls and a very effective sinking changeup. Naturally, his curve and slider best complement the heater, but the changeup is probably Kirby’s second-best pitch.
Kirby’s career is centered around his phenomenal control. If he can continue to hammer the zone and strike batters out so easily and often, he will have no trouble being effective at the MLB level. However, ascending the minors certainly isn’t easy. All eyes are on Kirby and his development; it’s more than possible the 21-year-old right-hander debuts sometime next season.
4. Noelvi Marte, Shortstop
A prominent middle infielder, Marte inked a $1.55 million deal with the Mariners in 2018. The now-19-year-old has made a huge mark in Single-A where he is slashing .274/.357/.476 with 17 homers, 61 RBI, and 20 stolen bases. He also owns a solid 10.6 percent walk and 22.9 percent strikeout rate through 83 contests this year. While he’s walking at a decent clip, it would be nice for him to strike out less. With that said, sometimes strikeout rates have to be sacrificed when it comes to a power hitter like Marte.
Defensively, Marte should stick at shortstop, though his offense is superior to his defense. He’ll get an opportunity to show off his ability throughout the minors before a decision has to be made in the majors. If Marte, who has an average glove, solid range, and an impressive arm, can’t stick at shortstop, he should have a fairly seamless transition to second base. At just 19 years old, it would not be surprising if we don’t see Marte in the majors until the second half of the 2023 season.
5. Harry Ford, Catcher
One of the best catchers in the 2021 MLB Draft, Ford found his way to the Mariners at pick No. 12. The North Cobb (Ga.) product is a very toolsy player who has impressed in all facts of the game. For starters, his offense has been solid. The 18-year-old is a decent hitter who has great bat speed from the right side of the plate. He can make loud contact and projects to have a modest impact in the power department. He’s also quick, logging better run times than most catchers (he ran a 60-yard dash in 6.42 seconds). Finally, Ford is decent defensively. At 5-foot-10 and 200 pounds, Ford can be quick and athletic. He won’t be slowed down by bulk or size, instead showing an ability to receive the ball and transition to his next task, whether it be moving around as a play develops or throwing out a base runner. Speaking of base-stealers, Ford boasts a great arm that both solidifies his status as a catcher but also offers versatility in the field on the off chance that a position change is ever needed.
All in all, Ford looks like a well-rounded prospect who instantly becomes relevant in the Mariners’ already strong pipeline. His selection comes at the same time as catching prospect Cal Raleigh‘s promotion to the majors, which leaves Seattle set behind the plate for at least a decade if all goes according to plan. With that said, the catcher position is tricky to predict and has the capability to feature plenty of turnover. The Mariners surely hope that Ford can buck that trend, instead offering stability at the MLB level in the future.
What Does the Future Hold?
Evidently, the Mariners have an incredibly stacked top tier of their farm system. While the pipeline does have a coincidental tier drop after Harry, that’s not to say that this top level is deceiving. There is clear depth and talent throughout the entire farm system, as well as in recent prospect graduates Cal Raleigh, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, and others. The Mariners are in a really good place to be competitive despite the strong nature of the American League as a whole.
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