Don’t Panic Over Seattle Mariners Farm System Grade

PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 4: A hat and glove of of the Seattle Mariners is seen prior to the game against the San Diego Padreson March 4, 2015 at Peoria Stadium in Peoria, Arizona. The Mariners defeated the Padres 4-3 in 10 innings. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images)
PEORIA, AZ - MARCH 4: A hat and glove of of the Seattle Mariners is seen prior to the game against the San Diego Padreson March 4, 2015 at Peoria Stadium in Peoria, Arizona. The Mariners defeated the Padres 4-3 in 10 innings. (Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images) /

Today, Baseball America, the premier scouting organization in baseball, released their Top 10 Mariners Prospects list. In the article, they called the Mariners system ” the worst in all of baseball.” What does this mean and does it matter?

There should be no surprise in the Mariners low rating. They haven’t had a good farm system in 5 years, and some bad trades, an unwillingness to sell vets, along with mediocre drafts have run the system dry.

There are a few bright spots, namely Kyle Lewis and Evan White, who rank as the top 2 Mariners prospects. However, the Seattle Mariners are not in the same dire straights as most teams would be with the worst farm system in baseball.

It sounds odd to be sure, but the Mariners are actually in a good place now, and should be alright in the future. Never forget that a Major League farm system serves one purpose. That purpose is to help make the Major League team as good as possible.

Now, most will tell you that drafting and developing the talent to help you down the line is the easiest way for a good farm system to pay off. However, let us not forget that Major League teams can also improve via trade.

In other words, having a good farm system isn’t just about having good, cheap talent to one day be Seattle Mariners. It is also about having this talent to trade for players who help your big league team. Jerry Dipoto has taken the latter approach, and it has worked.

But why shouldn’t Mariners fans be panicked about the poor farm system? Well, there are actually several reasons.

To begin with, the Major League team isn’t as old as most believe. Sure, your household names like Nelson Cruz, Felix Hernandez, and Robinson Cano are “baseball old”, but almost all other major contributors are under 30.

Jean Segura, Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, Ryon Healy, Mike Zunino, Dee Gordon, James Paxton all are likely to be in the Opening Day Lineup and are all under 30 years old. Kyle Seager will play the entire 2018 season as a 30 year old player, as will #2 starter Mike Leake. The bullpen is anchored Edwin Diaz, who will play the entire 2018 season as a 24-year-old.

Simply put, the Mariners are not all that old. This isn’t to say they are young either, but looking at player who are strictly considered, “prospects” is not the best way to evaluate the long-term health of an organization.

How much better would you consider the farm system if Haniger, Gamel, Diaz, Pazos, and Zunino were all considered prospects? In addition, prospect rankings are a subjective science. Emilio Pagan wasn’t even a top 30 prospect last season, and flourished in the Major Leagues.

Secondly, building an above-average farm system is not a herculean task. It takes a commitment from the ownership group, and an understanding from the fan base. Currently, the Mariners could build a top 15 system in one season. With trade pieces like Paxton, Zunino, Seager, Cruz, Leake, Gordon, and Segura, the Mariners could completely overhaul their system.

While most fans will focus on the trades of Dipoto, it should not be ignored that his regime have brought in some highly respected prospects as well. Every major scouting service applauded the Mariners for snagging both Evan White and Sam Carlson in the 2017 draft.

In 2016, Dipoto’s first draft with the Mariners, he lucked out and landed Kyle Lewis at pick 11. Lewis was considered by many to be a Top 5 pick. Dipoto backed up that pick with top prep bat Joe Rizzo as well.

Dipoto also added a Top 10 international free agent in Julio Rodriguez. His system has turned Braden Bishop into a legitimate prospect, and added potential regulars like Dan Vogelbach and Eric Filia.

I will not try to convince you that the Mariners farm system is good. It isn’t. I will, however, disagree with anybody who believes that it cannot be fixed. However, the fix will require the stones on ownership to fully commit to a reboot, and for a fan base to understand that this tear down is in the best interest of their team.

Neither of these are easy things to admit. Nobody want’s to “tank” or not try to win games. However, it is that belief system that turned around perennial powerhouses like the Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and Houston Astros. And if you aren’t going to spend like the Dodgers, you need to hit the reset button.

Next: The Good, The Bad, and the Mariners

For now, the Mariners farm system is bad. But it won’t stay that way forever, and it might not hurt them in 2018, as youth may just be on the side of the Mariners. The rebirth is coming, hopefully sooner than later.