Mariners Minor Leagues: 2023 Arkansas Travelers Preview

Canada v Seattle Mariners
Canada v Seattle Mariners / John E. Moore III/GettyImages

If the Tacoma Rainiers' strength is its bullpen, the Arkansas Travelers are fueled by an elite starting staff comprised of Bryce Miller, Emerson Hancock, Prelander Berroa, and Bryan Woo. We've written extensive pieces on the intriguing arms on the Mariners' farm. There's a Top 100 Prospect with an elite triple-digit fastball, a former first-round pick gaining momentum, the guy we stole from the Giants for Donnie Walton, and an easy gas-fueled right-hander who shined in the 2022 Arizona Fall League. Here are a few storylines to watch before opening day at Dickey Stephens Park (April 6).

Mariners Minor Leagues: Are the imported bats from Everett enough? 

Most position players with upside are in the lower levels, but a few exciting bats are headed to Arkansas. The first is Spencer Packard, who played 69 games in Everett to a 147 wRC+ and a .282/.397/.891 slash line. He followed up a solid 2022 regular season by turning heads in the Arizona Fall League.

The 24-year-old outfielder was a little long in the tooth for High A ball, so he should quickly move through the following two levels. Then, look for him to anchor the Travelers' lineup for the first half of the season and possibly end the year in Tacoma.

The 2022 Mariners Hitter of the Year, Robert Perez Jr., is another player to follow. He has always had elite raw power, but the swing and miss have held him back. However, Perez took a big step forward last year, slashing .288/.398/.921 across two levels. The most promising development is the strikeout rate decreased from 26% in Modesto to 22% in Everett. Another highlight is the 22-year-old's Arizona Fall League performance. 

“Bobby Bombs” should team with Packard to make a formidable middle of the order. 

Which pitcher gets the first call-up? 

Mariner's brass repeatedly mentioned the pitching depth behind the starting five in Seattle, and rightfully so. There is much to love about the guys on the bump in Arkansas, but how long will they be there? Marco Gonzales will miss a few starts late this spring (kid number two on the way), and Scott Servais might manage George Kirby's innings early on.

That means one of the Arkansas starters could debut. My odds are on Bryce Miller being that guy, but don’t sleep on Emerson Hancock. Both pitchers had strong showings in Peoria and could easily make the long trip to Seattle for a few spot starts. Either way, the next wave of arms is close to T-Mobile Park, which is exciting. 

This Traveler's squad has some significant upside in the pitching department. In addition, the team will likely be stronger offensively at season's end, as top prospect "Sir" Harry Ford and speedster Jonathan Clase could make the jump.