No. 1: Thomas Burrows from the Atlanta Braves, 24th prospect
Thomas Burrows, shown above, might be the most ideal Rule 5 player out of all the available prospects because he happens to be a relief pitcher and the Mariners drafted him out of college. The Seattle Mariners drafted him in the fourth round of the 2016 MLB draft, but he was sent to Atlanta as part of the first Mallex Smith trade. Burrows is a left-handed pitcher who has a low-90s fastball from a low three-quarters slot, and a great slider to go with it.
He holds the lead for most career saves at the University of Alabama and was able to reach Triple-A in 2019. Burrows is 26-years-old and has spent four seasons in the minor leagues (not including 2020), with a career ERA of 2.96. On top of that solid ERA, Burrows has saved 27 games, struck out 278 batters in 216 innings, and kept his WHIP at a reasonable 1.21.
Burrow’s delivery makes it tough to pick up the ball and is extremely effective against left-handed hitters. Besides his outstanding minor league numbers, he is almost the perfect fit at the perfect time for the Mariners who are in need of bolstering the bullpen. He is currently the 24th ranked prospect in the Atlanta Braves farm system and I assume he will be a prized prospect by other teams as well.
Some of the available draft prospects have not pitched above Single-A yet, so Burrows is perfect for the Mariners who need someone they can trust beginning in 2021. He could go nicely alongside some of the Seattle Mariners left-handed arms in the pen. Thomas Burrows would be the perfect cinderella story, making his MLB debut with the team that drafted him in 2016.
No. 2: Joel Kuhnel from the Cincinnati Reds, 22nd prospect
Joel Kuhnel of the Cincinnati Reds was another player who was drafted in 2016. Kuhnel was the 11th round pick by the Reds and is another player like Burrows who has only thrown out of the bullpen in the Rule 5 Draft pool. The 6’4″ right-hander has accumulated a lot of experience since joining the Reds and is now 25-years-old. He is also currently the 22nd prospect in the Reds organization.
He is experienced, but still, young which is exactly what the Mariners bullpen is looking for. Kuhnel has played in every level of baseball including the big leagues. He made 11 appearances in 2019, and three appearances in 2020 with the Reds. Kuhnel has not pitched well in the MLB, but he has shown promise in his minor league career.
Joel Kuhnel has a 4.97 big league ERA, but a 3.28 minor league ERA. Although his small sample size in the MLB is not all that impressive, his measurables should be exciting for most MLB teams. He weighs in at 280 lbs which helps him throw a high 90s fastball with the capability of reaching triple digits. Kuhnel is trying to improve his low 90s slider and a work in progress changeup.
But with high velocity, control is always the concern for relief pitchers. In the minor leagues, he got better at limiting bases on balls as he went up the levels. When he reached the MLB in 2019, he walked five batters in 9.2 innings. Even then, his MLB career WHIP is 1.34, and his minor league career WHIP is 1.23. So his numbers are not as bad as it seems, and the hope is that his control only improves from here.
Both Burrows and Kuhnel would be perfect Rule 5 Draft players for the Seattle Mariners bullpen. They are both low-end prospects who have so much potential to help the Mariners in 2021 and the future. These are the top two prospects for the Mariners to go after on December 10th. In the event Dipoto cannot draft one of these players, there are a few more exciting prospects to discuss.