Seattle Mariners roster moves prior to the Rule 5 Draft

SURPRISE, AZ - OCTOBER 17: Wyatt Mills of the Seattle Mariners pitches. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
SURPRISE, AZ - OCTOBER 17: Wyatt Mills of the Seattle Mariners pitches. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) /
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Juan Then of the Seattle Mariners throws.
SEATTLE, WASHINGTON – JULY 19: Juan Then of the Seattle Mariners pitches during summer workouts. (Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images) /

The Seattle Mariners selected four prospects to the 40-man roster to protect them from the upcoming MLB Rule 5 Draft

The Rule 5 Draft is somewhat of a confusing system hidden within the MLB, but it is a great system for minor league players who are eager to play or get a raise. The Seattle Mariners had five Top 30 prospects that are eligible for the Rule 5 Draft which is on December 10th, but the team can make them ineligible from being drafted by another team by adding them to the 40-man roster. So. Jerry Dipoto decided to add Sam Delaplane, Wyatt Mills, Juan Then, and Taylor Trammell to the 40-man roster.

To further explain the Rule 5 Draft, it allows players who are not already on the 40-man roster with certain age guidelines to be selected by other teams in the league for better opportunities. If a player is signed at 18 years or younger and spent five seasons in the minor leagues, they are eligible. If a player signed at 19 and older and have four years of minor league time, they are also eligible. And this season, the four players above were protected, but one prospect was left out.

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Joe Rizzo is listed as the 21st ranked prospect in the Seattle Mariners farm system, and he is no longer protected, meaning he could be selected by another team on December 10th. Rizzo is a 22-year-old third baseman and he has played reasonably well since joining the Mariners in 2016. He holds a minor league career .267 batting average, hit 23 home runs, and 190 RBIs in 406 games.

Rizzo also had a chance to prove his worth recently in the Instructional League where he led the team with a .357 batting average and 1.112 OPS. Rizzo also hit four home runs. Unfortunately, that was still not enough for him to warrant the final spot on the Mariners 40-man roster. With the additions of the four prospects to protect them, there is a total of 39 players on the 40-man roster.

Based on his minor league stats, I expect several teams to be interested in Rizzo. The former second-round pick in 2016 by the Mariners was a high school product, so he is still young. He is not one of those 24-25-year old prospect that is in the Rule 5 Draft. With a solid bat and average defense, I would bet that Rizzo will be selected in the MLB Rule 5 Draft. It is disappointing to let solid prospects go, but that is just the nature of baseball.

Letting Rizzo walk also says something about the importance of the players that were protected ahead of Rizzo. Taylor Trammell was protected and that was a no-brainer since he is the 5th ranked Mariners prospect and a former first-round pick. The speedy outfielder came over from the Padres in the deal for Austin Nola and is an exciting asset for the Mariners.

Despite Trammell’s struggles in the Instructional League, his tools are special and will fit well in the big leagues. He has the potential to be a really good leadoff hitter for the Mariners, which they have not really had in a while. Trammell is no 23-years-old and played Double-A in 2019 which is a good sign. 2020 did not allow him to play in Triple-A which would have really seasoned him well for the MLB, but he might make the jump from Double-A to the MLB as Evan White did.

The Mariners 20th ranked prospect, Sam Delaplane was another player added to the 40-man. The former 23rd round pick, out of Eastern Michigan University has been with the team since 2017 and was able to pitch a solid amount in Double-A in 2019. Delaplane is a relief pitcher and has had good stats in his minor league career. His career minor league ERA is 2.29 and has struck out 270 batters in 161.1 innings pitched.

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Delaplane is 25-years-old and could be considered a little more mature as a prospect because of his age and experience in the minors. This could bode well for the Mariners for 2021 because if Delaplane pitches well in Spring Training, he could even end up on the opening day roster. Dipoto wants to bolster the bullpen this offseason, but some of the help could come internally.

Wyatt Mills is another relief pitcher that was added to the 40-man roster and is the 23rd ranked Mariners prospect. You do not see many relief pitchers being protected from the Rule 5 Draft just because that is where teams tend to get relief pitchers from, and their value is somewhat capped as a relief pitcher prospect. For example, the Mariners picked up Brandon Brennan in the 2018 Rule 5 Draft.

But, the organization must really like both Mills and Delaplane to keep them around. Mills was a third-round pick in 2017 and uses a low 3/4 delivery. Like Delaplane, he has done a pretty good job while in the minor leagues. He spent 2019 in Double-A and was also able to get more practice during the 2020 Instructional League.

Last but not least, Juan Then was also added. Then was originally signed by the Mariners in 2016, but was traded to the Yankees in 2017, and then the Mariners brought him back in 2019. He is currently the 14th ranked prospect in the Mariners system. And based on how he has pitched in the minor leagues, it was a good idea to bring him back and protect him. Then has mostly been a starter in his career and holds a 2.76 minor league ERA. He has struck out 146 batters in 159.2 innings. Then is not quite MLB ready as he pitched a few games in Single-A.

Jerry Dipoto could easily have added Rizzo to the 40-man roster, but he opted to leave an open spot probably to have room to draft a player and keep him from the Rule 5 Draft. The draft is on December 10th during the Winter meetings, so there will be plenty more to talk about in the next couple of weeks.

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