Mariners Top 20 Prospects: #7 OF Tyler O’Neill


This powerful Canadian is on the fast track to the Emerald City.

The Seattle Mariners may not have the flashiest of farm systems, but Tyler O’Neill represents a truly exciting prospect. O’Neill spent last season with the Bakersfield Blaze, and he was the co-winner of the Mariners Minor-League Player of the Year in 2015.

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Originally selected in the third round of the 2013 draft, O’Neill began his professional career with the Mariners’ affiliate in the Arizona Rookie League. He did a nice job in the desert, slashing .310/.405/.450 across 116 plate appearances. O’Neill also hit 1 home run and drove in 15 runs through 28 games. He struck out 27 times, but showed a mature approach at the plate, nursing 12 free passes.

The Langley, BC product played at three different levels in 2014, but he spent the bulk of the season in Clinton with the LumberKings. O’Neill held his own in the Midwest League, hitting .247 with 13 home runs and 38 RBI across 57 games. He posted a .322 on base percentage and slugged .466 in 245 plate appearances.

O’Neill was phenomenal last season for the Bakersfield Blaze. He tore apart the California League, posting a .260/.316/.558 slash line with 32 home runs and 87 RBI across 106 games. His 32 home runs not only led the California League, but it was also the highest tally in at any level of the minor-leagues in 2015. O’Neill also showed off some speed on the base paths, legging out 23 extra-base hits and swiping 16 bases.

Most remarkable of all is perhaps the fact that O’Neill missed nearly the entire month of July while he represented Canada at the Pan Am Games. He starred for his home country, hitting 3 home runs and stealing a pair of bases. O’Neill also was considered the best defensive left fielder in the tournament, posting a 1.000 fielding percentage and recording 1 outfield assist in 64 innings.

The 20-year-old was assigned to the Peoria Javelins in the Arizona Fall League after the 2015 season concluded. O’Neill fared remarkably well against the top young players in baseball. He led the Javelins with a .333 batting average while clubbing 3 home runs and driving in 5 runs in just 8 games.

Despite his strong showing in left field in the Pan Am Games, O’Neill is considered to be a work in progress defensively. He was a catcher in high school, so he is still learning to play the outfield. O’Neill may take some interesting routes to fly balls, but he has a strong arm and is more athletic than many would think. There is hope that he will develop into an adequate big league left fielder.

O’Neill bats and throws from the right side. He stands 5’11 and tips the scales at 210 pounds. O’Neill is built like a tank, and it’s clear he spends a lot of his free time in the gym. He is said to possess a very strong work ethic, and his impressive upper body is proof of his commitment.

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The only real concern about O’Neill is his extremely high strikeout rate. He has whiffed 249 times in 823 career plate appearances. 2015 was obviously a breakout campaign for O’Neill, but he did swing and miss 137 times in 106 games. His issues making contact are likely responsible for the Mariners opting not to issue him an invite to big league camp this spring.

Personally, I believe it was a mistake for the Mariners not to invite O’Neill to Peoria. It would have been valuable experience for him to get a few at bats in Cactus League play. O’Neill may still have areas of his game that need work, but he excelled everywhere he played in 2015. He was more than deserving of a look in spring training.

Next: Mariners Spring Training Recap: Day 8

Jerry Dipoto has been preaching patience with the Mariners top prospects since he took over as General Manager, but I expect Tyler O’Neill to rise quickly in the next couple seasons. Look for the powerful Canadian to spend 2016 with the Jackson Generals, before earning a spot in Tacoma with the Rainiers the following season. If O’Neill continues to mash at the plate, he should make his big league debut at point during the 2017 season.