It’s almost as if there was a method to Jerry Dipoto‘s madness. Huh.
All jokes aside, it’s hard to argue that Dipoto’s vision doesn’t appear to be coming to fruition. Last winter, Dipoto set out to relieve the Mariners’ organization of its financial burdens and pivot towards building a contender atop a foundation of youth. The only problem was that the Mariners’ farm system had been left in rough shape upon the previous general manager Jack Zduriencik’s departure, while the few pieces of value were used by Dipoto to try and capitalize on a team that he didn’t build but rather inherited.
Over the course of Dipoto’s tenure in Seattle, now in the middle of its fifth year, the Mariners have drafted several prospects that sit near the top of their organizational ranks. However, where they’ve really made their mark is through the trade and international free agent markets.
In a matter of roughly 15 months, the Mariners have turned one of baseball’s worst farm systems into one of its best with a little bit of everything. They’ve scouted the prep, collegiate, international, and minor league circuits well, and have made great strides in developing their own in-house talent (here’s looking at you, Ljay Newsome).
For once, it doesn’t feel like an impossibility that the Mariners will be able to produce quality MLB talent from within. And now, it appears that the rest of the baseball world has finally caught on.
Baseball America, one of the best publications in the sport for scouting, have released their highly-anticipated top-100 list of baseball’s best prospects (subscription required). The Mariners are tied for the fifth-most players on the list with five, trailing behind the Rays (8), Dodgers (7), Twins (6), and Padres (6).
Their top-ranked Mariners prospect comes as a bit of a surprise with Julio Rodriguez—not Jarred Kelenic—clocking in at eighth overall, the first time one of Seattle’s youngsters have ranked in Baseball America’s top-10 since Jesús Montero in 2012. You won’t have to scroll too far to find Kelenic, however, as the former Met makes the list in the 11th spot.
After that, it takes a little bit to find the final three Mariners on the list. Their third highest-ranked player, Evan White, comes in at number 54 with his MLB debut on the horizon after signing a six-year, $24 million extension this winter. Right behind him at 59 is Logan Gilbert, the Stetson alum who made his way from Low-A ball all the way to Double-A in his first professional season.
There are quite a few names that could realistically be the Mariners’ fifth-best prospect, but Baseball America has landed on a name that may come as a shock to some: Noelvi Marte. The 18-year-old has only played professional baseball in the Dominican Summer League but has already shown a ton of promise, including 70-grade (or better) speed and above-average bat skills. Last year, he hit .309/.371/.511 with nine home runs, 54 RBIs, and 17 steals in 65 games and could be poised for a Julio Rodriguez-esque breakout once he hits stateside.
It’s even more surprising that Marte made it in considering he wasn’t even in Baseball America’s organizational top-5 for the Mariners last week. Instead, that was George Kirby, who was excluded from the top-100 list, while Marte came in sixth. It’s also a bit curious that, following a magnificent season in Double-A last year, Justin Dunn was also snubbed and came in as low as eighth in the Mariners’ organizational ranks.
Nevertheless, this is not only a vast improvement from where the Mariners were at the start of the Dipoto regime, but even from where they were at this time last year when these players were already in the organization.
Some of the Mariners that made Baseball America’s list will graduate their prospect status sometime this season, though Seattle is set to continue to add to the top of their farm with a top-10 pick in the upcoming draft, as well as three other picks inside the top-100. There’s also the possibility of trading Mitch Haniger and what a prospect return may look like on that front, so it’s going to be very interesting to see where the Mariners stand come this time next year.