The Mariners' player developmental staff often uses the Arizona Fall League (AFL) to challenge top prospects and allow them to work on specific aspects of their game against top competition. Last season, the Mariners sent Bryan Woo to the AFL, where he promptly earned pitcher of the week honors and dominated the circuit. Eight months later, he was promoted to the big leagues and a key rotation member.
The 2023 Mariners prospects headed to the AFL include Harry Ford, Tyler Locklear, Ryan Bliss, Jimmy Joyce, Peyton Alford, and Troy Taylor. For this piece, we'll dive into the position players headed to the desert this fall.
Harry Ford C
Ford, Major League Baseball Pipeline's 39th rated prospect, is continuing the trend of taking part in 'off-season' baseball after a Northwest League all-star type season for Everett. The 20-year-old catcher authored a .257/.410/.840 slash line. Additionally, Ford showcased some elite "dominate the zone" tendencies, leading Mariners' minor leaguers with 103 walks. Although he has a hose behind the plate, Ford might move around the diamond in the AFL to increase his positional flexibility.
Ryan Bliss 2B/SS
The Mariners acquired Bliss in the Paul Sewald trade, and he quickly assimilated into the organization, starring atop the Tacoma Rainiers' lineup. The 23-year-old infielder slots in as the 14th-rated prospect in the system and offers an intriguing blend of power and speed at a premium position. This year, Bliss became one of three players in minor league baseball with at least 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases (23/55). His game has a little swing and miss (23.2%), but he increased his walk rate (12.7%) since joining the Mariners, showing his ability to adapt to the organizational philosophy.
Tyler Locklear 1B
Another player to watch is Tyler Locklear, a Northwest League All-Star (wRC+ 162) who finished the year in Arkansas with the playoff-bound Travelers. He's steadily adjusted to Double-A pitching while anchoring the Travs lineup (.260/.383/.786). The first baseman checks many boxes, providing 55-grade power and the ability to control the zone. Locklear has a lot of similarities to New York Mets' superstar, Pete Alonso, but he does one thing the Polar Bear doesn't, which is provide elite defense.
Locklear seemed destined to be the Mariners' first baseman of the future, especially with the prolonged struggles of Ty France. MLB Pipeline estimates a 2024 arrival for the former second-round pick.
With the offensive struggles of the big-league club, it is exciting to know high-end talent is on the way and primed to make an impact as soon as next season.