Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty—the core pieces of a revitalized farm system that has skyrocketed through league-wide organizational ranks.
The Seattle Mariners want to compete by the 2021 season. We all know this, but most don’t really buy it. A lot of that is contingent upon the next 10 players in our list developing into what the organization hopes are core pieces of a playoff contender some 180 games from now.
That starts with the two players we’ll be highlighting today, with both set to get some solid playing time as the 2019 season comes to an end. To get to this point, Colby and I were so far apart on three players that it ultimately came down to a three-way tie for the eighth, ninth, and tenth spots on the list. The winner of said tie will not appear in today’s article, but let’s get into the two that fell slightly behind him.
10. Shed Long, UTL
When Long was acquired from the Yankees following their trade of Sonny Gray to the Reds, the question on the 24-year-old was simple: can he stick at a position at the Major League level? That question remains, however, as Long hasn’t seen the field a ton in 2019. Long had two separate cups of coffee at the MLB level in the month of May and into early June, but the presence of Tim Beckham, J.P. Crawford, and Dee Gordon, as well as the return of Kyle Seager, blocked him from seeing any significant playing time.
Injuries tagged Long once he got back to Tacoma, forcing him to miss the majority of July and August. After playing just a handful of games towards the end of the Rainiers’ season, he’s back with the Mariners to finish out the year. Ultimately, our position on Long hasn’t shifted from where it was when they acquired him; the bat should play at league average or higher, but he’s a massive question mark defensively.
If the Mariners are able to trade Gordon this offseason, I suspect Long will be in line to be the team’s Opening Day second baseman next March. However, at this point, Long may be developed into something more—a super-utility player that can man both corner outfield spots as well as second and third. He has the arm to play these spots from his days as a catcher, but has never really jumped out in his three years playing around the diamond. Thankfully, he’s one of the more athletically-gifted prospects in the Mariners system, so there’s a good chance he can eventually find himself a home.
9. Kyle Lewis, OF
Jerry Dipoto’s whirlwind of moves over the last 10 months have helped gloss over Kyle Lewis’ potential as an everyday big leaguer. Lewis’ biggest and most documented hurdle, of course, is health. Following a gruesome ACL tear in his rookie season, Lewis struggled to get back to being the player that won a Golden Spikes Award and landed atop the Mariners’ farm ranks. Things took a turn for the better in 2019, however, as Lewis dominated the Cactus League during Spring Training then turned that into a solid season with a highly talented Double-A Arkansas team.
Fast forward to today and Lewis has completed his first fully healthy season of his young professional career and is being rewarded with a promotion to Seattle. Lewis’ numbers this year aren’t going to ‘wow’ anyone, but he did put up a solid .263/.342/.398 line with 11 home runs, 62 RBIs, and three steals. Most importantly, when you look at his splits away from Arkansas’ pitcher-friendly park, Lewis hit .319/.392/.504 with nine of his dingers and 43 RBIs, while slashing just .196/.282/.273 with two home runs and 19 RBIs at home.
Lewis should benefit from the more hitter-friendly environment of T-Mobile Park, and the power numbers should also look a lot better considering everything that’s been going on in Major League Baseball this year. While Lewis’ injury history will limit him to a role in a corner outfield spot, he still has the tools and athleticism to be an average or better defender.