Mariners News: Tyler O’Neill goes Hitless in Futures Game

Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of a statue of former San Diego Padres player Tony Gwynn during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; A general view of a statue of former San Diego Padres player Tony Gwynn during the All Star Game futures baseball game at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports /

The Maple Ridge, BC product is having a rockstar season in 2016, but he failed to record a hit in Sunday’s Future Game.

The Seattle Mariners may not have many blue chip prospects, but Tyler O’Neill is quickly establishing himself as one of the best young offensive players in the game. The slugging right fielder earned a spot in the 2016 MLB Futures Game, and he fared reasonably well yesterday in San Diego.

O’Neill started in right field for the World side and batted cleanup. The fact that he hit cleanup goes to show how much people respect O’Neill’s talent with the stick. His first at bat came leading off the top of the second inning. Facing Amir Garrett of the Cincinnati Reds, O’Neill rolled over on the first pitch he saw, grounding out to Dansby Swanson at shortstop.

The 21-year-old had a golden opportunity to get the World team on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth, but failed to capitalize. O’Neill stepped into the batter’s box with Yoan Moncada standing on first base and two out. Moncada quickly got himself in scoring position by swiping second base, and he advanced to third base on a throwing error. O’Neill found himself down in the count 0-2 before yanking a ground ball to Alex Bregman at third base. Bregman was able to corral the grounder, and tossed the ball across the diamond in time to get O’Neill and end the inning.

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O’Neill was replaced by Eloy Jimenez of the Chicago Cubs following his groundout in the fourth. The ball was never hit in O’Neill’s direction during the first three innings, so he did not get an opportunity to make any plays on defense.

Despite being one of the youngest athletes in the game, O’Neill looked very comfortable playing on the big league field. I’m sure he was hoping to make a contribution on the stat sheet, but O’Neill held his own against the best in the game yesterday.

The MLB Futures Game is a true showcase of the best prospects in the league. Many of the players competing at the All-Star Game this week have participated in the Futures Game. Ketel Marte and Edwin Diaz both appeared in last year’s game, and they are already playing significant roles for the Mariners in 2016.

O’Neill certainly qualifies as a “top prospect”. He was the co-winner of the Mariners Minor-League Player of the Year award in 2015, and he is performing even better this year with the M’s affiliate in Class-AA.

The 5’11/210 lb. corner outfielder is slashing .308/.375/.545 with 16 home runs and 66 RBI through 312 at bats with the Jackson Generals. O’Neill is also a decent athlete, as demonstrated by his 20 doubles, 3 triples and 6 stolen bases across 80 games in the Southern League. O’Neill has singlehandedly carried the Generals to the North Division first half crown this season.

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 dingers led the California League. 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.

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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.

I still believe Jerry Dipoto and his staff will show patience with Tyler O’Neill. He has proven to be in a class by himself with the Generals, but rushing him to Seattle would not be a wise decision.

I expect O’Neill to finish this season in Jackson and get a long look next spring with the Mariners in Peoria. I believe he will begin next season with the Tacoma Rainiers before earning a mid-season promotion to the Mariners.

Next: One-Run Games Hurting M’s In First Half

Tyler O’Neill is one of the most exciting prospects in the Mariners’ system, and his development should be fun to watch.