The Next Wave of Mariners Prospects Could Make Big Impact in 2023
By Trevor Pedro
President of Baseball Operations Jerry Dipoto and General Manager Justin Hollander traded a few top prospects in 2022 deals that netted the team Jesse Winker, Eugenio Suarez, Luis Castillo, and most recently, Teoscar Hernandez. Outgoing youngsters Adam Macko, Brandon Williamson, Connor Phillips, Edwin Arroyo, Levi Stoudt, and Noelvi Marte. While each of those players was firmly in Seattle’s Top 20, the farm isn’t as barren as one would think; the next wave of Mariners Prospects is on the way.
Baseball America had the Mariner Minor League system in the top spot as recently as last year. However, the prospective graduations of George Kirby, Jarred Kelenic, Logan Gilbert, Matt Brash, Cal Raleigh, and Taylor Trammell, along with the 2022 trade-palooza, have slid their rating into the mid-teens, but there are still reasons for optimism.
Mariners Prospects: A Dynamic Athlete with Leadership Skills
Number one prospect, Harry Ford, spent the entire 2022 season at Modesto, where he stalled through May (.209/.370/.291), but his bat heated up in the summer months to the tune of a .274/.425/.438 slash line. Ford hits the ball with authority to all fields, possesses elite bat-to-ball skills, and knows the strike zone (88 walks). Additionally, he is one of the quicker runners in the system, and he displayed that speed in-game in the form of extra-base hits (42) and stolen bases (23).
Scouts are floating Craig Biggio comps out when discussing Ford’s future at the MLB level. Like the former Astro star, they see his athleticism all over the diamond. Considering the organization’s love for leadership, versatility, and controlling the zone, the 2020 draft pick should shoot through the system.
Mariners Prospects: Young Guns in Arkansas
The team has shown a high aptitude for drafting and developing pitchers like Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, and Matt Brash recent examples. The next group of young hurlers finished the year with the Arkansas Travelers, and each made some considerable strides in 2022.
Emerson Hancock experienced some ups and downs over the past few years due to injuries and the COVID season thrown into his lap. However, last year, he started flashing the plus control and an improved changeup that made him a first-round pick in 2020. According to Jason Churchill from Prospect Insider, the comp here is Kyle Gibson, who he could surpass with improvements to both the curveball and slider.
Another high-rising prospect is right-hander Bryce Miller. The former Texas A&M Aggie has a fastball that reaches 99 mph and two average to above-average breaking balls (slider, changeup). Since we are playing the comp game, scouts see some peak Garrett Richards in him, but I’d probably lean more toward Matt Cain.
After digging into the highlights, it’s easy to see a projectable number three starter. The Mariners could also bring him up to augment the bullpen a la Matt Brash in 2023. That depends on how the MLB squad chooses to round out the rotation.
A few more arms to keep an eye on this spring in Arkansas are Isaiah Campbell, Prelander Berroa, and the 2022 Texas League Pitcher of the Year, Taylor Dollard.
Don’t Sleep on These Mariners Prospects
This week, Jerry Dipoto spoke about the state of the farm system after the team earned the 2022 Organization of the Year Award from Baseball America. The following quote stood out to me.
"“We have a lot of good young players at the (Rookie) to Low-A levels that still need to have enough track record of developing the credibility to rise in the third-party industry rankings as individual players."
When looking at the team’s Top 30 prospect list and accounting for rumored international signings in 2023, one can see an apparent wave of hitters on the way. Along with Harry Ford, there’s an on-base machine, Cole Young, this year’s first-round pick.
The prep shortstop got his feet wet in Modesto and finished with a .367/.423/.517 slash line while bouncing between both middle infield spots.
Axel Sanchez is another name to watch as he made a significant jump in 2022 after the trades of both Marte and Arroyo opened playing time in Modesto. He played elite defense while flashing above-average power (13 2B – 8 HR) and a good understanding of the zone (.401 OBP).
He rounded out the season in Everett and will likely start there in 2023.
Fellow teammate and top-five prospect Gabriel Gonzalez and international signings Lazaro Montes and Michael Arroyo aren’t far behind, with the latter set to make their stateside debuts next year. Are you looking for the next big thing? Keep your eyes peeled for Felnin Celestin, who scouts say has a higher ceiling than any shortstop prospect in the past ten years.
The future certainly is bright down on the farm! Go Mariners!