Mariners Prospect Ryan Bliss Draws Praise for Performance in AFL: What Does it Mean for 2024?

The Mariners added speedster Ryan Bliss in the Paul Sewald trade. After drawing praise for his performance in the AFL, what does it mean for 2024?
SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game / Tim Nwachukwu/GettyImages

When the Seattle Mariners traded relief ace Paul Sewald at the trade deadline over the summer, the real prize of the trade was Ryan Bliss. He is a fast middle infielder who had been on an absolute tear in Double-A before being traded to Seattle. Bliss just finished up a strong 2023 regular season with an impressive showing in the Arizona Fall League and that has some wondering how the soon-to-be 24-year-old factors into the Mariners plans for 2024.

In the Arizona Fall League, Ryan Bliss hit .239/.368/.296 in 87 plate appearances with two doubles and a triple. He also went 10 for 13 on stolen base attempts and struck out 24% of the time and walked 11.5%. The interesting thing about his time in the AFL is that he played second base exclusively in his 19 games. This came after splitting time between shortstop and second base after joining the organization this summer. We've got Bliss ranked 13th in our prospect rankings.

Bliss also earned high praise from MLB Pipeline, here is an excerpt about his AFL performance, "Coming off a season where Bliss was one of three players to reach the 20-50 plateau, the No. 14 Mariners prospect used his opportunity in the desert to flash the leather. Playing exclusively at second for the Javelinas, Bliss was nearly perfect in the field, committing just one error over his first 18 games (66 total chances), good for a .985 fielding percentage while racking up 10 steals. The Auburn product even got the start for the AL squad in the Fall Stars Game and played four clean innings at second base. He also played a big part in the Javelina’s epic comeback in the Championship play-in game on Friday, connecting on a grand slam to kick-start the rally."

The great defense that Bliss played at second base won him the Defensive Player of the Year award for the Fall League.

So after this AFL performance and a strong 2023 campaign, it begs the question, what are the Mariners plans for Ryan Bliss in 2024? The jaded Mariners fan response would be to assume that this unproven young guy is going to start the season on Opening Day and the fate of the season will rest on his shoulders. That just isn't going to be the case. Bliss has not made his Major League debut yet and the Mariners will not throw him into the fire if he isn't ready for it yet.

As of November 22nd, it looks like there is a path for Bliss to make the Opening Day roster and platoon with Josh Rojas at second base. This would mean that Bliss is going to play almost exclusively against left-handed pitching. This would allow for Rojas, the more proven and experienced big leaguer to play more often because there is more righty pitching in baseball. This gives Bliss the opportunity to continue to develop at the MLB level and gain valuable experience and he could be a good contributor off the bench because of his speed.

After the surprising trade of Eugenio Suarez and the recent trade of Isaiah Campbell, it is likely that Luis Urias is the current in house option to start at third base for Seattle in 2024, with a Rojas and Bliss platoon at second base. There could beother players that Mariners President of Baseball Operations acquire to play an infield spot and that could allow for Bliss to start the season in Triple-A and be a mid-season call-up if he is hitting at a high level.

Ultimately, it is still a mystery what level Ryan Bliss starts 2024 at. If the club wants to see his upside and speed at the big league level there is a path for him to start the season in the majors. But if they decide he isn't quite ready yet, the Mariners could use Dylan Moore, Sam Haggerty, Jose Caballero, Luis Urias, or Josh Rojas there in some role. Regardless of the level Bliss starts at he is certainly an exciting young talent for this organization going forward.