Oh boy. I felt you cringe when you read an article that mentioned the Seattle Mariners and Player Development in the same paragraph. You are not alone. My hands are sweating just trying to type it. It’s no secret that the Seattle Mariners organization has been notoriously bad at churning out young, homegrown players that find success in the big leagues.
For years, fans have been trying to wash the image of Dustin Ackley weekly grounding out or Justin Smoak hitting lazy fly balls to right field. Mike Zunino‘s strikeout rate is burned into the walls of T-Mobile Park. Brad Miller baseballs are still lost in the rafters and Jesus Montero‘s ice cream sandwich wrapper is framed in the Mariners Hall of Shame.
It’s been tough. Now, the Jerry Dipoto administration is in charge of developing these young players. For the players that were drafted during his tenure, it is too early to definitively say how they have done. Kyle Lewis has been dealing with knee issues since his first year in pro ball. Sam Carlson ended up having Tommy John surgery and Logan Gilbert dealt with mono after being drafted.
Scenarios like these are not easy to control. What is controllable is the coaching players receive. Evan White is a premier defender and has developed some power throughout his time in the minors. Joey Curletta, Braden Bishop, Ian Miller, Art Warren, and many others have burst onto the scene under the Dipoto regime. Let’s not forget about that Edwin Diaz guy, who Dipoto moved from a starting role to a closer, which worked out pretty well.
And then there are players that were not drafted and brought up by the Mariners. Guys like Rob Whalen and Max Povse have both had their warts. Povse, a starter by trade, was moved to the bullpen in 2017 and pitched poorly in that role. Dipoto admitted that this was a mistake and that Povse would be moving back to his roll in the rotation moving forward.
Dipoto has been very vocal about his plans to keep the Mariners relevant, whether that be in his signing of Yusei Kikuchi or via “The Wheelhouse” podcast. Because of this, Dipoto is already ahead of the curve in terms of communication, which allows fans to better judge and understand how the player development side of things have improved during his regime.
Now, it will be important to see the progress made by Kelenic, Dunn, Sheffield, Fraley and the rest of the new prospect haul. There will be no need to rush them to the big leagues in 2019 as Zduriencik did with Mike Zunino. This will be Dipotos first and likely only chance to prove that this team is headed in the right direction.
Much like the grade Dipoto received for the trades he has made, this grade will be subject to change based on how the prospects fair over the next few years. The progress made by players like Evan White and Braden Bishop is encouraging but until we see them in the big leagues, we can’t know for sure.
For the first time in a long time, however, the Mariners seem to have a viable farm system and there seems to actually be a plan for it, so Dipoto earns himself a B- for the time being.