If you’re like me, you were either looking forward to or gladly surprised (or both?) by the occurrence of the Minor League version of the Rule 5 Draft that happened on December 8th. There wasn’t much fanfare around it for the Mariners, and it quietly popped up on Twitter and MLB.com.
“Hold on, there’s a lockout/labor stoppage. How are they doing that?”
You’re right. There is a stoppage. However, this isn’t the normal Rule 5 Draft that you are thinking of. The one where players who aren’t on the 40-man can be taken, and must play in the majors. Like Will Vest last year for the Mariners. That one can’t happen until the stoppage is resolved. The minor league one is a bit different.
Players not on the 38-man AAA roster can be selected. Here’s how the Mariners were involved.
First, don’t expect to see these guys in the majors anytime soon. Don’t even expect to see them in AAA. One of the caveats with the Minor League Rule 5 is that the players can be assigned to any level within a team’s system. The only requirement is sending $24,500 to the team that you made the pick from. Also, you cannot have a full AAA roster. If it’s full or once it becomes full, you are no longer allowed to make any picks.
The Mariners took three players in the Draft, and had two taken from them. Let’s start with those players that were selected away from the Mariners before getting to know the newest acquisitions to the team.
Round One: Pick One: Baltimore Orioles select Nolan Hoffman (RHP) from the Mariners
Nolan Hoffman was a 5th round selection in 2018 by the Mariners, and has spent the majority of his time throughout the A ball levels. 24-years-old, he threw well at Modesto (A ball) this year and posted a 2.17 ERA across 29 innings and 24 appearances. High-A was a different story, where he had a 5.32 in 22 innings. He’s got decent strikeout stuff, sitting down 55 across 51 innings.
Round One: Pick Seven: Detroit Tigers select Elvis Alvarado (RHP) from the Mariners
Only 22, Alvarado was an international pickup out of the Dominican Republic by the Nationals. He came to the Mariners in 2019 as part of the Aaron Fletcher and Taylor Guilbeau trade where the Mariners sent out Roenis Elias and Hunter Strickland. Like Hoffman, he is also a reliever. He flashed great strikeout stuff in 2019, but struggled mightily in a full season at A ball this year in Modesto with a 6.60 ERA and just 6.6 K/9, and an alarming walk rate of 6.4BB/9.
The Mariners definitely lost two strong players, as the Orioles and Tigers both spent top picks to get them away from Seattle. Here is who the Mariners went after with their selections to re-populate the farm system.
Round One: Pick 16: Seattle Mariners select Tanner Kirwer (CF) from the Blue Jays
Kirwer is 25 and could make a push for the bigs before you know it depending on the bat. He was hitting .285/.420/.474 at High A but struggled in AA with a slash line of .208/.324/.333. He’s got a bit of pop, but his main tool is speed. He stole 43 bases on 48 attempts in just 358 PAs this season. The speed plays, and he has good defense as well. Kirwer is a great pinch-run candidate, but if he can’t increase the batting average, he’ll stay in the minors. It’s a great low-risk pick.
Round Two: Pick Ten: Seattle Mariners select Walking Cabrera (OF) from the Rockies
Just 21-years-old, Cabrera has only played Rookie Ball so far, compiling 164 PAs in 45 games this year. He’s got an interesting offensive set of tools, hitting .252/.352/.460, with 7 2B, 2 3B, 6 HR, and 11 SB. He’s mostly a right fielder and packs a strong arm as well. He seems like a great candidate for the Mariners to put into A ball this year, giving a chance to prove himself at the next level.
He’s already a good-sized kid at 6-3″ and 185 LB. How he continues to grow will likely shape his game throughout the Minors.
Round Three: Pick Five: Seattle Mariners select Tommy Wilson (RHP) from the Mets
Like Kirwer, Wilson is 25 years old as well. He has an interesting delivery, as he hides the ball behind his leg while throwing, and it makes it hard to pick up. That’s not the most interesting thing about him though.
HIS DAD WAS BIFF IN BACK TO THE FUTURE!
Okay, back to baseball. Wilson actually threw in AA in 2019, accumulating a 4.96 ERA through 69 innings. Both he and the Mets were excited for 2020… but, ya know. He made the return to AA in 2021, but threw just 15.1 innings across 10 appearances. He pitched quite well though, striking out 18 (10.6K/9), and allowing only 15 baserunners (0.978 WHIP). His ERA was 2.35, and he looked like a great pitcher.
Part of the reason he lasted so long is the age and conversion to a reliever. He will be 26 in May, and this is going to be his most important season to date. It’s a great opportunity to hide in the Mariners incredible SP depth in the minors and work his way towards the bigs as a newly minted reliever.
There you have the Mariners moves from the Rule 5 Minor League Draft. It’s a light in the darkness, and even though we may never see any of these players suit up with a Mariners uniform, it’s nice to have actual baseball to talk about in December.