For as good as the Mariners’ farm system has become, it may get even better by the summer.
Despite the expectation of yet another season without a playoff appearance, 2020 is a big year for the Seattle Mariners. Several of the organization’s top prospects and other young players are set to take the spotlight by the end of the season, with hopes of finding success and momentum heading into Jerry Dipoto‘s intended window of contention, beginning in 2021.
While some of these players are anticipated to be key pieces in a future championship contender, others may play an important role in any potential success the Mariners may have as well. Simply put: the M’s not only have pieces to create a core unit at the heart of a Major League roster, but they also have an abundance of ammo to go out and find the remaining pieces to their puzzle when winter rears its frosty head once again.
Justus Sheffield, Evan White, and Kyle Lewis should graduate prospect status early on in the 2020 season, and it’s likely Jake Fraley, Braden Bishop, and Justin Dunn will as well. There’s also the slight chance Logan Gilbert joins them, depending on what the Mariners want to do with him after service time is no longer an issue. That’s possibly seven of Seattle’s consensus top-15 prospects graduating their status, which will surely temper the sudden rise to their farm system’s prominence.
But there’s still an abundance of ammo both inside and outside of their current farm system. Even if all seven of the aforementioned names do graduate before the June draft, the Mariners will quickly replenish the top half of their organizational rankings with four picks in the top-100, including the sixth overall selection and more bonus pool money with the addition of Milwaukee’s Competitive Balance Round B pick acquired in December’s Omar Narváez trade.
Under a month later, the Mariners are expected to sign 16-year-old Starling Aguilar out of the Dominican Republic when the next international signing period begins. Aguilar is considered to be one of the best talents in the upcoming class, often generating comparisons to Red Sox third baseman Rafael Devers. He may very well slot into the Mariners’ consensus top-10 immediately, and could quickly climb the ranks as Julio Rodriguez and Noelvi Marte have done in the past.
Last year’s draft picks will also participate in their first full season of professional baseball, which should lead to some players’ stocks rising. Hell, after an impressive limited stint in Everett last summer, George Kirby and Brandon Williamson are both receiving national praise, with the former even cracking MLB Pipeline’s top-100 prospects list.
There’s also Isaiah Campbell, who didn’t pitch in pro ball last year after carrying a heavy workload in his collegiate season. Campbell is an advanced arm who’s seemingly become the forgotten man of the 2019 class due to his absence last summer; he could quickly turn some heads and it looks like the Mariners will be aggressive and start him out alongside Kirby and Williamson in High-A Modesto this year, skipping Low-A West Virginia altogether.
In a year, the Mariners’ consensus top-10 could theoretically consist of Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, George Kirby, Nick Gonzales/Garrett Mitchell/Jared Kelley/Garrett Crochet/other, Noelvi Marte, Brandon Williamson, Starling Aguilar, Cal Raleigh, Isaiah Campbell, and Sam Carlson. That’s still a really damn good top of the farm, even with some of the noteworthy names set to graduate.
It’s also a possibility that some of these names may be used to aggressively pursue a trade for a Major Leaguer, similar to the Reds’ acquisition of Trevor Bauer this past July. Or perhaps more names could be added to the conversation if talks are picked back up on Mitch Haniger.
There are tons of possibilities and outcomes, but one thing is for certain: Jerry Dipoto and the Mariners have done an excellent job in setting themselves up for sustained success through the construction of a healthy and growing farm system.
Of course, not everything always goes to plan, and some of the names mentioned may turn out to be duds. It’s practically a certainty, unfortunately. But the process is sound and the Mariners could be in a position well worse than the one they find themselves in now.