Top 16 Prospects: Seattle Mariners

Below is an analysis of the prospects in the Seattle Mariners farm system. Scouting reports are compiled with information provided by industry sources as well as from my own observations. The KATOH statistical projections, probable-outcome graphs, and (further down) Mahalanobis comps have been provided by Chris Mitchell. For more information on the 20-80 scouting scale by which all of my prospect content is governed you can click here. For further explanation of the merits and drawbacks of Future Value, read this. -Eric Longenhagen

The KATOH projection system uses minor-league data and Baseball America prospect rankings to forecast future performance in the major leagues. For each player, KATOH produces a WAR forecast for his first six years in the major leagues. There are drawbacks to scouting the stat line, so take these projections with a grain of salt. Due to their purely objective nature, the projections here can be useful in identifying prospects who might be overlooked or overrated. Due to sample-size concerns, only players with at least 200 minor-league plate appearances or batters faced last season have received projections. -Chris Mitchell

Other Lists
NL West (ARI, COL, LAD, SD, SF)
AL Central (CHW, CLE, DET, KC, MIN)
NL Central (CHC, CIN, PIT, MIL, StL)
NL East (ATL, MIA, NYM, PHI, WAS)
AL East (BAL, BOSNYY, TB, TOR)
NL West (HOU, LAA)

Mariners Top Prospects
Rk Name Age Highest Level Position ETA FV
1 Kyle Lewis 21 A- OF 2019 55
2 Tyler O’Neill 21 AAA OF 2017 50
3 Nick Neidert 20 A+ RHP 2019 45
4 Mitch Haniger 26 MLB OF 2016 45
5 Andrew Moore 22 AA RHP 2017 45
6 Dan Altavilla 24 MLB RHP 2017 45
7 Dan Vogelbach 24 MLB 1B 2017 45
8 Ben Gamel 24 MLB OF 2017 40
9 Guillermo Heredia 26 MLB OF 2017 40
10 Max Povse 23 AA RHP 2018 40
11 Chris Torres 19 R SS 2020 40
12 Brayan Hernandez 19 R CF 2020 40
13 Thyago Vieira 24 AA RHP 2018 40
14 Bryson Brigman 21 A 2B 2019 40
15 Joe Rizzo 19 R 3B 2020 40
16 Braden Bishop 23 A+ CF 2019 40

55 FV Prospects

1. Kyle Lewis, OF
Drafted: 1st Round, 2016 from Mercer
Age 21 Height 6’4 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/45 60/70 40/60 45/40 45/55 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .395/.535/.731 with 20 home runs as junior at Mercer.

Scouting Report
Lewis crashed the national party on the Cape in 2015, distinguishing himself as the most talented prospect and youngest regular on an Orleans roster teeming with talent. (Half of the Firebirds roster were honest-to-god prospects.) His junior year at Mercer included 20 home runs, a Golden Spikes award, and questions about the quality of pitching he faced in the Southern Conference.

The power has never been in question, though: Lewis has plus, all-fields power right now, can hit balls out to right center with a flick of his wrists, and projects for plus-plus raw as his rangy 6-foot-4 frame fills out. He has terrific bat speed but also some excessive noise in his swing (an exaggerated and arguably superfluous leg kick, to start), and some scouts think he’s going to swing and miss in pro ball. He only struck out in 16% of his plate appearances as a junior at Mercer, but that’s obviously where the questions about SoCon pitching entered teams’ discussions.

Lewis was drafted 11th overall by Seattle and began his pro career at Everett. He tore his ACL as he attempted to avoid a violent collision at home plate in July, and he has been doing things like this in Peoria but has yet to get underway in games. He played center field at Mercer but was not a lock to stay at the position, and the ACL injury has further clouded his defensive prognosis. If Lewis is hitting 30-plus homers (which he has the potential to do), it matters not that he fits better in right than in center. If he somehow can stay there, though — and hits at the same time — then he’s a star.

50 FV Prospects

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2013 from Maple Ridge HS (B.C., Canada)
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 205 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 70/70 45/55 55/55 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .293/.374/.508 at Double-A, then produced nearly identical line at AFL.

Scouting Report
A dense pillar of meat, O’Neill — at a shredded 5-foot-10, 210 pounds — is the most muscular baseball player many scouts have ever seen. But unlike most players with similar measurables, O’Neill is an above-average straight-line runner, has good range in (but not great feel for) the outfield, and an above-average arm. He does have the sort of power one might expect from a walking bicep, arguably plus-plus raw, and most scouts think O’Neill’s combination of ball/strike recognition and minimalist swing will allow him to catch enough fastballs to hit 20-plus homers annually despite justifiable questions about the hit tool.

Scouts who saw O’Neill in the Fall League noted that he swung through or made sub-optimal contact with lots of hittable pitches in the zone, and they have questions about the hand-eye or bat control. But he should do enough to play every day even if the hit tool ends up below average and, if you just look at the tools and not the unique physique, O’Neill has a pretty standard right-field profile. He projects as an average regular.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 8.8 WAR

45 FV Prospects

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Peachtree Ridge HS (GA)
Age 20 Height 6’1 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Changeup Command
40/40 50/55 50/60 50/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 69 strikeouts in 91 innings.

Scouting Report
Neidert doesn’t throw especially hard (he was 87-91 for me this spring, from a low three-quarters slot), but he has mature command of two terrific secondary offerings and sequences them effectively. The best of these is Neidert’s potential plus changeup, which coasts in at around 82-84 with late tail and fade. He throws a lot of changeups and will do so in any count. It sneaks under the barrels of both left- and right-handed hitters and should be Neidert’s best pitch at maturity. He also has a tilting upper-70s curveball that plays up against right-handed hitters because of Neidert’s arm slot and cross body (but low-effort) delivery, but it’s at least average on movement and could be above average at peak.

Neidert was handled with care in 2016, starting the year in extended spring training purely to limit his innings. He was sent to the full-season Midwest League where he struggled to miss bats, but he likely never will if he keeps pitching with a 40 fastball. The command (which projects to plus) and secondaries should still allow Neidert to be an effective No. 4 big-league starter, but his upside is limited by a lack of heat, and he features little, if any, physical projection.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.2 WAR

Drafted: 1st Round, 2012 from Cal Poly SLO
Age 26 Height 6’2 Weight 215 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/40 60/60 45/50 60/60 50/50 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Has posted 24% strikeout rate over first 161 big-league at-bats.

Scouting Report
Haniger is an above-average runner with plus raw power. Players with that tool combination don’t exist in droves, but Haniger’s tools only began to play on the field after a significant adjustment. He was demoted to High-A as a 24-year old in 2015 after slugging a paltry .379 for Double-A Mobile. It appeared damning, on the surface, and looked as though the Diamondbacks were souring on him. In reality, though, Haniger had proactively told the D-backs he’d accept a demotion if it meant he could play every day which, with prospects Evan Marzilli, Socrates Brito and Gabriel Guerrero also in Mobile by mid-year, wasn’t going to happen at Double-A. Haniger made a swing change (profiled here and here by D-backs beat writer Nick Piecoro) and took off. You can see the old swing here.

Scouts are a little bit apprehensive about Haniger’s propensity to swing and miss and think there’s a good chance he ends up as either a platoon bat or power-first fourth outfielder who can play center field in a pinch. Given Haniger’s purported makeup and clear ability to make significant adjustments, I think there’s a non-zero chance he’s a late-blooming average regular, but it’s more likely he falls just short of that. The Diamondbacks acquired Haniger, along with Anthony Banda, from Milwaukee in exchange for Gerardo Parra and then Haniger was traded to Seattle during the offseason in the Jean Segura/Tai Walker blockbuster.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.3 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2015 from Oregon St
Age 23 Height 5’11 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
50/50 40/45 45/45 55/60 45/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded just 4% walk rate in 19 Double-A starts.

Scouting Report
A two-time All American at Oregon State, Moore (who signed for just under slot as a second-round pick in 2015) continues to buck traditional scouting tropes and had success at Double-A in his first full pro season. Moore is undersized, has a high-effort overhand delivery, doesn’t throw particularly hard (he was 90-93 this spring), and lacks an impact breaking ball. But he is athletic, has a potential plus changeup, and has never had issues throwing strikes despite the effort in the delivery.

Moore’s ability to work north and south with his fastball and mess with hitters’ eye level allows his changeup to play up. His loopy curveball doesn’t bite hard enough to miss bats in the zone, but Moore would throw it for strikes early in counts in college to get ahead of hitters. He worked more with a short, low-80s slider this spring, which might be effective if he can locate it to his glove side consistently.

Moore does enough to project as a big-league rotation piece of some kind, likely as a strike-throwing No. 4/5 starter whose bat-missing abilities are limited.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.7 WAR

Drafted: 5th Round, 2014 from Mercyhurst
Age 24 Height 5’11 Weight 200 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Command
70/70 60/60 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Averaged 96 mph on fastball last year.

Scouting Report
Altavilla’s stuff ticked up after he moved to the bullpen in 2016, and now he sits 93-98 with a fastball that will top out at 100 mph. Though his slider has inconsistent length, it’s exceptionally hard at 87-90 and touching 92, enabling it to miss bats when Altavilla is even just locating it near the strike zone. He has just 40 control but also possesses obvious late-inning stuff. He profiles as a low-risk setup man — and even perhaps as a starter, as the strong-bodied Altavilla has been remarkably healthy.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.7 WAR

Drafted: 2nd Round, 2011 from Bishop Verot HS (FL)
Age 24 Height 6’0 Weight 250 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 60/60 45/50 20/20 30/30 40/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .292/.417/.505 in 2016.

Scouting Report
Vogelbach won a 3-A state baseball championship in high school at Bishop Verot High School in Fort Myers, mostly playing third base. He tipped the scales at close to 280 pounds at the time and was asked to shed weight early in his pro career with the Cubs. He’s now listed at 6-foot, 250 pounds. He has issues with range, footwork, flexibility, and throwing accuracy. He’ll make the occasional, spectacular-looking, effort-based play but hasn’t shown enough technical refinement in his five pro seasons to convince scouts he can play a position.

Because Vogelbach has always been, at best, a first-base-only prospect, scouts have spent the last five years deciding whether or not he’d hit enough to make any kind of big-league impact. Vogelbach has plus raw power but it comes at the expense both of effort and swing-and-miss when he really cuts things loose. He’ll hit some impressive blasts to his pull side and muscle some balls out the other way but, in general, the game power plays beneath his raw because Vogelbach’s approach to hitting is often of the Take What You’re Given variety and he’s spraying contact all over the field. The physical tools for contact are here. Vogelbach has good bat control and hand-eye coordination. The bat speed is good, and he’s shown that he can recognize ball and strikes.

The issue here has been his footwork, which would get clunky and leave Vogelbach’s weight way out on his front foot against offspeed stuff. His feel for the barrel is good enough to mask this issue somewhat, but when Vogelbach has made weak contact this has been a cause. I’ve gotten recent reports that Vogelbach has simplified (or at least altered) his footwork and is getting his front foot down earlier, which may turn out to be a beneficial adjustment for him and a possible catalyst for his uptick in statistical output this season (though, that could just be the PCL, too).

The whole package looks like it will play as a 50 hitter with 50 game power, though I think there’s more volatility here than is typical for a prospect who has hit all the way up the ladder — both because (a) so much of what Vogelbach is and does is unique and because (b) there’s some evidence that a recent adjustment might make a substantive difference. The glove, arm, and speed are all comfortably below average.

The offensive profile closely mirrors that league-wide wOBA average for designated hitters: something in the .333- to .337-wOBA range is about where a .270 hitter with a solid approach and about 18-homer game power ends up. His overall contribution will be diluted by a complete lack of defensive or baserunning value.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 6.2 WAR

40 FV Prospects

8. Ben Gamel, OF
Drafted: 10th Round, 2010 from Bishop Kenney HS (FL)
Age 25 Height 5’10 Weight 170 Bat/Throw L/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
50/55 45/45 30/35 55/55 45/50 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .308/.365/.420 at Triple-A in 2016.

Scouting Report
Gamel made a minor adjustment to his footwork during the 2014 offseason and he had big years at Triple-A Scranton in 2015 and 2016 before he was dealt to Seattle for Juan De Paula and Jio Orozco (Yankees list is here) last season, during which he made his big-league debut. Of the bevy of hyper-versatile outfielders on Seattle’s 40-man roster, Gamel is the only one in the minors right now. He’s an above-average runner and capable of playing all three outfield spots despite occasionally late reads off the bat.

Gamel has excellent hand-eye coordination and has improved his timing at the plate. He laces line-drive contact from gap to gap and runs the bases well. While Gamel isn’t the defender Guillermo Heredia is, I think he’s more likely to contribute with the bat, and I prefer his handedness to Heredia’s, which is why I have them slotted as I do. They’re very similar players.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 4.4 WAR

Age 26 Height 5’10 Weight 180 Bat/Throw R/L
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
45/50 40/40 30/30 55/55 55/55 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 141 career walks, 143 career strikeouts in Serie Nacional.

Scouting Report
After signing in February for $500K, Heredia’s 2016 included a six-week cup of coffee with the big club (he’s still rookie eligible by about a dozen PAs) followed by some extra work late in the Fall League. He stands out for his abilities at all three outfield spots, where he’s an above average defender, but he also showed a surprisingly polished approach last year for a guy who hadn’t played in games since 2013, walking nearly as much as he struck out in about 480 plate appearances.

Heredia has fringey but playable bat speed and keeps things very simple at the plate. He’s unlikely to hit for any kind of power but, with his solid bat-to-ball ability and on-base skills, he could be someone’s low-end regular in center field. In a Seattle outfield loaded with similar glove-first profiles but louder tools, he’s going to be relegated to the bench and his value will be limited.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.5 WAR

10. Max Povse, RHP
Drafted: 3rd Round, 2014 from UNC Greensboro
Age 23 Height 6’8 Weight 185 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Slider Curveball Changeup Command
45/50 40/45 45/45 55/60 45/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 25% strikeout rate at High-A, just 17% at Double-A.

Scouting Report
Acquired from Atlanta in the offseason trade headlined by Alex Jackson, Povse is a gargantuan, 6-foot-8 righty with a deceptive overhand delivery that makes it look like the baseball is shooting out of his ear. He sits 89-92 and will touch 93 or 94 on occasion with more downhill plane than horizontal movement, which helps him generate ground balls. He has three average secondary pitches. His vertical curveball and tilty, two-plane slider are both thrown for strikes, but Povse doesn’t consistently get over his front side and has trouble burying them beneath the zone for swings and misses. If Povse is missing bats, it’s usually with his above-average changeup, his best pitch. He projects as an inning-eating ground-ball machine who pitches at the back of a rotation. His strikeout rate dipped significantly after a promotion to Double-A in 2016.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 3.1 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/40 45/50 20/40 50/50 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Recorded 10% walk, 23% strikeout rate in AZL.

Scouting Report
Torres was originally slated to be part of the Yankees’ huge 2014 signing class until this happened and he signed with Seattle for just shy of $400K. He was a monster during extended spring training in 2016 and early on in the AZL. He started swinging and missing more by mid-year, though, and ended the season with a 23% strikeout rate.

Torres is an average runner, but his actions and footwork are nimble, his arm is plus, and he fits at shortstop long term. Offensively, Torres hit for very little power last year, but he has above-average bat speed and a chance for average or better raw power. His strikeouts and high rate of ground balls last season weren’t a result of a light bat but of poor bat control, which had Torres swinging through lots of pitches or failing to strike them in a meaningful way.

When he connects, the ball jumps off the bat, and I’ve seen Torres double down both baselines and into both gaps. He has power, he’s just technically far away from unlocking it and making any sort of offensive impact. Based on what I’ve seen from Torres so far this spring, he’s lowered where he’s loading his hands which, theoretically, should allow his bat to get on plane with incoming pitches in a way that a creates lift more consistently. He’s a high-risk potential regular for me.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 1.1 WAR

Signed: July 2nd Period, 2014 from Dominican Republic
Age 19 Height 6’2 Weight 175 Bat/Throw S/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
20/50 30/40 20/30 50/50 40/50 60/60

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Hernandez signed for $1.8 million in 2014 and hit well in the DSL before making his stateside debut in 2016. Teams sent scouts in to see him ahead of the trade deadline in July and they left with mixed opinions. Hernandez is an average runner (above average underway) but his instincts in center field are good and he could be average there at maturity, but some scouts have him projected in right field (the arm is plus).

Offensively, Hernandez tracks pitches well and has a compact, low-maintenance swing that generates solid, pull-oriented contact. He struggled with breaking-ball recognition in my looks at him this spring, but no other scout with whom I spoke noted this and he projects as at least an average hitter. Scouts are mixed on the power and physical projection. Hernandez appears projectable on paper, but his frame is narrow and slight and there are scouts who think he’s always going to be rail thin, maxing out with something like 40 raw. If that’s the case, then Hernandez’s profile is heavily reliant on his ability to stay in center field, as it’s difficult for anyone to profile every day in a corner with that kind of pop.

If Hernandez stays in center field, he could hit his way to everyday duty. If he can’t then it’s more of a bench-outfielder profile, and obviously a high risk one at this point as Hernandez is still in extended spring training and ticketed for rookie/short-season ball again in 2017. Also of note, Hernandez is still listed as a switch-hitter in lots of places but had already given it up by last spring. He’s righty-only now.

13. Thyago Vieira, RHP
Signed: July 2nd Period, 2010 from Brazil
Age 24 Height 6’2 Weight 210 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Fastball Curveball Command
80/80 50/55 35/40

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Posted strikeout and walk rates of 28.0% and 9.5%, respectively, at High-A.

Scouting Report
Vieira has long been of note for his impressive arm strength, but he had significant strike-throwing issues and missed fewer bats than expected — until 2016, that is, when he broke out in the Cal League. Vieira was sent to Arizona for the fall and had the hardest fastball of the 2016 Fall League, sitting 97-100 and touching 103. His delivery is, predictably, of the high-effort and relief-only variety but has been cleaned up enough for Vieira to throw a passable ratio of strikes. He lacks a bat-missing secondary pitch, though his low-80s power curveball flashes above average and is currently his best bet for one. There are instances when Vieira decelerates his arm when throwing the curveball, which makes it easy for smart hitters to pick it up. At other times, though, it has good bite and shape and Vieira has shown some ability to throw it for strikes.

There’s still work to be done on the command and breaking ball but, even as we enter the Golden Age of Velocity, Vieira has elite arm strength. He’s most likely a middle-relief piece of some kind, but if the Mariners can coax a better breaking ball out of him, his upside is much greater than that.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2016 from San Diego
Age 22 Height 5’11 Weight 170 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
40/60 40/45 20/30 55/55 45/55 45/45

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Slashed .372/.428/.424 as junior at San Diego.

Scouting Report
Brigman’s amateur resume is impressive. He won championships on three separate Team USA clubs, hit .340 as a freshman at San Diego, then .333 in a limited run on the Cape, then .372 as a draft-eligible sophomore. His bat will probably have to max out if he’s going to have much of a big-league role, as he lacks the arm for shortstop, doesn’t hit for the power typical for second base, and has no physical projection. But Brigman has done nothing but hit since scouts started laying eyes on him, he’s an above-average runner, and should provide some defensive value at one or more up-the-middle positions. With enough bat-to-ball and defensive ability, Brigman could be a regular, but it’s more likely he grows into a utility role.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.8 WAR

15. Joe Rizzo, 3B
Drafted: 2nd Round, 2016 from Oakton HS (VA)
Age 19 Height 5’9 Weight 194 Bat/Throw L/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
35/60 45/45 20/40 30/30 30/40 50/50

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
None.

Scouting Report
Rizzo was one of the more advanced prep bats available in the 2016 draft, and he used the whole field beautifully in his pro debut in the AZL (he signed for an overslot $1.7 million), often slicing contact down the left-field line for extra bases. He has good hand-eye and feel for the barrel, projecting as a plus hitter at peak.
Rizzo is a boxy 5-foot-9 and is unlikely to grow into more than his currently fringey raw power. Barring a change in approach, Rizzo’s game power is likely to max out below average, which is a bit of a problem for scouts who think his defense at third base is fringey or have him projected to first either because of arm strength or lateral range. The maturation of the bat is essential for Rizzo to have any lasting big-league role, but he did nothing but hit as an amateur — both in Virginia and in showcase play against high-level pitching — so there’s reason to believe it will.

Drafted: 3rd Round, 2015 from Washington
Age 23 Height 6’1 Weight 190 Bat/Throw R/R
Tool Grades (Present/Future)
Hit Raw Power Game Power Run Fielding Throw
30/40 40/40 20/30 70/70 50/60 55/55

Relevant/Interesting Metrics
Produced just .300 OBP at Cal League in 2016.

Scouting Report
A plus-plus runner who projects as a plus defender in center field, Bishop is a slash-and-dash ground-ball hitter in the Peter Bourjos mold. Barring an unforeseen development on the offensive end, Bishop projects as a fourth outfielder or glove-only option in center field but he should have a long career in the big leagues as long as he’s swift-footed and sure-handed.

KATOH+ Projection for first six years: 0.3 WAR

*****

*****

Other Prospects of Note (In Order of Preference)

Chase DeJong, RHP, 2.0 KATOH+ WAR – Acquired this spring from Los Angeles (NL), DeJong is a high-volume strike-thrower with a deep repertoire of modest stuff led by a big loopy curveball and relatively new cutter. He sits 88-90 with the fastball and all of the secondaries are fringey, so there’s some doubt about how the stuff will play multiple times through the order, but DeJong throws enough strikes to profile as a competent sixth starter or swing man.

Taylor Motter, UTIL, 1.8 KATOH+ – Motter’s comfortably plus arm allows him to play anywhere on the diamond. (That’s why he’s on Seattle’s active roster: they’re carrying 13 pitchers and Nelson Cruz can’t play defense.) Nevertheless, he struggled mightily against big-league pitching last year, and most scouts view Motter as a depth option rather than a big-league mainstay.

James Pazos, LHP – Acquired last year from New York (AL), Pazos is a pretty standard lefty relief prospect with a low-90s fastball and above-average slider.

Dillon Overton, LHP – Overton’s velocity has never bounced back after Tommy John and he pitches in the upper-80s rather than the low to mid-90s as he did in college. He’s commanded an average changeup and fringe curveball all the way through the minors, but there’s doubt about whether his fastball will play in the big leagues at all. A new cutter gives some hope.

Luis Liberato, OF, 1.2 KATOH+ – Liberato’s swing-and-miss issues stem from excessive noise in his hands as he triggers his swing. He has a great idea of the strike zone, though, and his body has started to mature. If he grows into some power but retains the speed to pass in center, he suddenly becomes an interesting prospect, and he’s shown some glimpses of it this spring.

Brandon Miller, RHP, 0.5 KATOH+ – Scouts who saw Miller, a 2016 sixth rounder out of Millersville (a DII school in an the athletically underrated PSAC), in pro ball think he has a chance to make it as a back-end starter, largely due to his riding low-90s fastball and potential above-average slider.

Emilio Pagan, RHP, 1.9 KATOH+ – A righty reliever who works up in the zone with a fastball at 92-94 and throws an average slider, Pagan is in Triple-A but not on the Mariners 40-man and projects as middle-relief depth.

Rob Whalen, RHP, 2.8 KATOH+ – The other pitcher Seattle netted from Atlanta in the Alex Jackson trade, Whalen made his major-league debut in 2016. The Braves acquired him from the Mets the year before in one of history’s many Kelly Johnson trades. (Note: there have been more Kelly Johnson trades than Fast and Furious movies!) The thick-bodied 22-year-old has an upper-80s fastball that exhibits above-average spin rates up around 2400 rpms. He can cut and sink the fastball. He couples the heater, primarily, with an above-average, wiping slider in the low-80s. He can spin an average curveball and has a below-average changeup. Whalen could be a fifth starter or up-and-down arm if his command improves significantly, but his delivery features some effort and he’s a likely reliever or rotation depth arm.

Donnie Walton, UTIL, 1.0 KATOH+ – A prototypical grinder utility prospect, Walton does just enough to stay at short, runs well enough that a big-league club would be able to find use for his legs, and makes a little bit of contact. And of course no grinder is complete without sound fundamentals and high-effort play.

D.J. Peterson, 1B, 0.6 KATOH+ – Peterson’ long-projected move to first base finally occurred in 2016 but he has not, of yet, been able to recapture the bat-to-ball ability that led to his first-round selection in 2013 and (somewhat Cal League fueled) pro breakout in 2014. Peterson’s strikeout rate has inched up at each subsequent level of the minors and he’s been slowed by injury (most significantly an Achillies injury in 2015 and most recently a fractured finger late last summer). He now projects as a positionless bench bat.

Eric Filia, OF, 1.7 KATOH+ – Filia hit .444 in the postseason as a sophomore on UCLA’s National Championship team. He went to the Cape, hurt his shoulder, needed labrum surgery, and missed his junior year. Then he was caught plagiarizing a paper and was ruled ineligible for a second straight year. He returned to the program (he held down a number of odd jobs during his time away from school, including one at the Playboy mansion) before returning to the program. As a fifth-year senior in 2016 he hit well, including squaring up multiple mid-90s fastballs from Alec Hansen in Hansen’s best start of the year. He tore up pro ball after signing as a 20th rounder. Filia lacks a position, but I think there’s a chance he hits enough to be a big leaguer. He turns 25 this year and will need to move quickly.

Ian Miller, CF, 2.4 KATOH+ – A plus-running center fielder from Wagner College, Miller is very difficult to strike out and fine in center field but is already 25. He’ll likely wear a big-league uniform at some point.

David Greer, 4C – Greer hit .344 as a junior at Arizona State and has great bat-to-ball skills but very little game power. He played mostly third base in college but wasn’t great there and most of his time with Everett last year in the outfield. If he can find a way to pass, even just part time, at third base he could be a four-corners bench bat.

Joe DeCarlo, C, 0.1 KATOH+ – DeCarlo has only been catching for a few weeks but has taken naturally to receiving and has promising hands. He’s popping around 2.00-2.05 but there’s room for improvement once his footwork gets polished up. His ground game is, predictably, rough and the most obvious area he’s lacking in right now ,but he’s much farther along in general than I would have guessed.

Boog Powell, OF, 4.1 KATOH+ – Powell has tweener/bench-outfielder tools (he runs well but not well enough to be a no-doubt asset in center field, makes some contact but not enough to play in a corner), but his career has been sidetracked by off-field issues, including multiple drug suspensions, trades, and a fist fight in winter ball.

Nick Wells, LHP, 0.4 KATOH+ – A projectable lefty with some curveball feel, Wells is already a decent strike thrower for a 6-foot-5, 21-year-old, and could grow into more velocity in his early 20s.

Cistulli’s Guy
Selected by Carson Cistulli from any player who received less than a 40 FV.

Gianfranco Wawoe, 2B/3B, 0.3 KATOH+
On the one hand, Ty Kelly isn’t the ideal ballplayer. He’s a useful, but not excellent, fielder. He has limited offensive ability. On the other hand, he’s a former 13th-rounder who’s managed to produce a positive WAR mark in the majors. By at least one set of criteria, in other words, he’s a rousing success.

On the one hand, Gianfranco Wawoe isn’t the ideal ballplayer. He’s a useful, but not excellent, fielder. He has limited offensive ability. On the other, he’s just 22 years old and is already projected by Steamer to record similar numbers to Kelly by certain key measures like strikeout rate and isolated slugging.

Consider:

Kelly and Wawoe, Steamer 600 Projections
Name Age PA K% ISO DEF
Ty Kelly 28 600 17.0% .097 2.6
Gianfranco Wawoe 22 600 16.8% .091 6.0
Steamer 600 projections are the typical Steamer projections prorated to 600 major-league PAs.

Assigned to High-A Modesto, Wawoe has recorded an equal number of strikeouts and home runs (1) to begin the season.

*****

System Overview

This system is quite shallow now due to a series of trades executed by the front office over the last 12-15 months. The following players were dealt to other teams and covered on team lists during this series: Juan De Paula, Luiz Gohara, Daniel Missaki, Alex Jackson, Erick Mejia, Jio Orozco, Freddy Peralta, Carlos Vargas, Ryan Yarbrough. Other than Gohara (who was traded in part for non-performance reasons), none of these are elite prospects but all were of interest to scouts. Of course, this was done in effort to improve and compete with the big club this year.

If nothing else, the Mariners have one of baseball more fascinating rosters. I like to talk about identifiable player-acquisition trends in this space, but the sun has only just risen on the Jerry Dipoto regime. Also, Tom McNamara is no longer the amateur scouting director. As a result, we have little data on that end. Seattle picks 17th in the upcoming draft — typically an area where teams can scoop up a 45 or 50 FV prospect — so they should add a name toward the top of this list in June.

We hoped you liked reading Top 16 Prospects: Seattle Mariners by Eric Longenhagen!

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Eric Longenhagen is from Catasauqua, PA and currently lives in Tempe, AZ. He spent four years working for the Phillies Triple-A affiliate, two with Baseball Info Solutions and two contributing to prospect coverage at ESPN.com. Previous work can also be found at Sports On Earth, CrashburnAlley and Prospect Insider.

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Maverik312
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Member
Maverik312

Haniger as a 45? He hasn’t had a K% over 20% anywhere in the minors, I can’t imagine it would all of a sudden jump to over 30% (arbitrary number, but usually unplayable in the majors). Power, speed, decent to above avg walk rate, livable K%, someone who is able to play CF now playing corner OF?

slamcactus
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slamcactus

I’m a Haniger fanboy, but he’s 26. I imagine there aren’t many guys his age who grade at 50 or above. It’s easy to dream on his adjustments being completely real and him stepping in as a 3-win player or better this year, but that’s the fan side of the equation. Not that many guys make that jump at this stage in his career, so some healthy skepticism from a neutral evaluator seems more than fair.

Stevil
Member
Stevil

It’s not just a fan’s perspective. In fact, I brought up the details of his adjustments last season, questioning whether he was a star in the making flying under the radar. Everything you wanted to see was there: O swing, Z swing, contact, HR/FB, swSTR%, P/PA, Opposite/pull%, XBT%, exit velocity, launch angels, etc.

Fans typically look at batting lines, maybe wRC+, and a few other advanced stats. When you take a harder look and acknowledge that he’s done this beyond a small sample size consistently, it’s easy to see why some people are so high on him, myself included.

The early returns certainly haven’t done anything to tarnish his profile. He’s been on base in every game and has looked the part.

Stevil
Member
Stevil

Couldn’t believe Heredia has a higher Hit grade than Haniger. They say to take the KATOH with a grain of salt. A margarita would be more appropriate.

OddBall Herrera
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OddBall Herrera

It sure seems like there is an element of risk aversion in how people are talking about Haniger, doesn’t there? The amount of hedging I see makes it look like everyone’s afraid of being the high man on him and looking stupid (“Why’d you bet on the 26 year old rookie who got demoted to A-Ball??).

Here’s where I hedge too – not to say that I would *bet* on him being a star, but I do think the industry is selling him short by describing ‘average outfielder’ as his ceiling.

wily mo
Member

“The amount of hedging I see makes it look like everyone’s afraid of being the high man on him and looking stupid”

dipoto certainly doesn’t seem worried about this, does he

Stevil
Member
Stevil

On a local, Seattle area blog, I shared a detailed plan that was centered around the Mariners acquiring Haniger–in October. Nobody will look like a bigger goat than me if he busts!

But I have had every confidence in him and nothing’s changed. The process was correct, regardless of what happens.

This is a guy who, rather than give up, showed incredible determination to study and learn what was wrong, how to correct the mistakes, and how to improve upon those adjustments consistently ever since. I think one of the common mistakes made by some of the more skeptical fans and non-MLB personnel attempting to scout/assess players, has to do with character evaluation, though that’s one of the more difficult areas to research. That may very well be the case here.

It’s a little funny when we hear his age being a flag as well, considering Cruz didn’t break out until well into his 30’s.

Anyway, good comment. Couldn’t agree more.

JasonPennini
Member
JasonPennini

I don’t know if this is a large enough sample to draw any conclusions, but the statcast data loves Mitch Haniger. I downloaded data on Baseball Savant.

If you search for batters in 2016 then filter for over 100 ABs (Haniger had 109), Haniger ranked 228/428 in whiffs per swing (23.83%) Fairly middle of the road. I didn’t figure out the Z score…But his exit velo numbers were elite. 20th best in the sample of 428. 93.1 MPH.

Interesting to note when I sorted by exit velocity he had the same average exit velocity as Josh Donaldson, but a lower whiff/swing rate.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I think there’s an insidious heuristic going on here. People look at a guy with a high upside, like Lewis Brinson–who I like a lot too and I am high on and like a lot more than Haniger–and say “well, if he doesn’t become a star he’ll settle in as an average regular.” That’s not how it works, though. If Lewis Brinson struggles he could be an average regular, or he could be totally unplayable. We let our “best possible scenario” of a player influence our sense of likelihood they’re going to succeed.

Haniger doesn’t benefit from this. Nobody thinks he is going to make all-star games regularly. The most ardent supporters of him are going to say that he might occasionally make an all-star team in a career year. But he is already a 4th outfielder, at the bare minimum. He only struck out 22% of the time in his cup of coffee last year, and gave a ton of value with the glove. If he starts to hit–and Eric thinks there’s a really good chance he does–he’s a 3-win player, easy. If he gets even a little better with the bat, he’s a 2-win guy. If he gets noticeably better with the bat but not a star and regresses with the glove, he’s a 2-win player. But nobody thinks he’s going to become a prime Jose Bautista. We’re confusing the chance that he hits his ceiling with the likelihood he’s going to get there. His ceiling isn’t sky high but with good defense and good statistical indicators and good tools he’s a very safe prospect.

It sure seems like he’s an easy 2-WAR, 50 FV guy. And he’s got a much better chance of being a 3-WAR guy than anyone gives him credit for.

victorvran
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victorvran

I strongly agree with your first paragraph. I think we see it even more with pitchers than hitters. “Well if he doesn’t get that command/third pitch/whatever he’ll settle in as a mid rotation/back end starter”…except even that is a pretty good and unlikely outcome when you look at the vast majority of pitching prospects.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I agree, pitchers are even worse. Although part of the reasons why so many pitchers bust is because their arm falls off. But more importantly, it’s because the skills a pitcher has are linked together more than for hitters. For hitters, if someone is a wizard in the field, their hit tool doesn’t usually hurt that. On the other hand, if someone’s hit tool is terrible, then it does make it so they can’t get to their power. For pitchers, if the command/control isn’t there then that ruins everything. You might be able to say a similar thing about developing that third pitch, and that it ruins the pitch sequencing of everything else.

But it’s amazing how often we are wrong about pitcher upside too! Jacob deGrom was selected in the 9th round, Kluber in the 4th, Arrieta in the 5th, Dallas Keuchel in the 7th, Chris Archer in the 5th…someone went back and looked at the performance of the prospect rankings in predicting who turns into aces and it is just terrible. If someone can find that article I’d appreciate it. We spend a lot of time pretending we know about more about the ceiling of pitching prospects than we really do.

victorvran
Member
victorvran

Re ceiling or even talent – I think this is a pretty good point and ties into what you said about it being connected. A pitcher learns a new pitch or changes mechanics to improve command and all of a sudden it can just click for them.

Even with the few notable cases of recent hitters changing their mechanics to become successful, it still seems that they are more of a “known commodity” when it comes to evaluation than are pitchers.

slamcactus
Member
slamcactus

I want all of you to be right but let’s not get ahead of ourselves: we’re hoping that a 26-y/o career minor leaguer who put up gaudy stats in a hitters’ paradise last year is an exception to the general rule that non-relief, non-catcher prospects are pretty much known quantities by the time they hit this age. Let’s not assume the industry is systematically getting things wrong because Haniger looks to us to have a decent shot at putting up Casey Blake-type career numbers. There’s just as substantial a possibility that we’re all overreacting to one good year, or that MLB pitchers will expose him.

I’m rooting for Haniger bigtime, but his success, if it happens, won’t mean the prospect guys are doing it wrong. I’m not sure there’s a lesson that could be learned from Haniger that can reliably be applied to any other player any more than we can learn anything on the rare occasion that a “best shape of my life” ST story actually leads to a regular season breakout. Everyone works on their swings. Guys in their mid-20s put up monster seasons in the high minors all the time. And yeah, sometimes a guy truly breaks out in his mid or late 20s and becomes an above-average or even a star big-leaguer (C. Blake, M. Carpenter, B. Zobrist, etc). But even though it obviously happens, I don’t think the emergence of one such guy (whether it’s Haniger or the next guy who make sit) brings us any closer to finding the next one, and that’s what prospecting is all about.

Jerrytek
Member
Jerrytek

The question is: are ‘late bloomers’ that much less likely to work out than younger prospects?

You mentioned Blake, Carpenter, and Zobrist. But what about Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion (damn Blue Jays!), Justin Turner, Chris Davis, Michael Brantley, and Nelson Cruz, just off the top of my head. As an M’s fan, I gotta mention Edgar Martinez! Plus there are loads of guys who turned into good players (Kole Calhoun types).

I’m not saying that we should expect every player who gets demoted at age 23 to turn into a badass. But I don’t think this is as rare as we sometimes think.

Especially with Haniger. Its not like he’s a 30-year-old taking advantage of the PCL (e.g. Bucky Jacobsen or Justin Leone, for M’s fans). Haniger has tools, and there is substantive evidence that he’s made real adjustments.

I’d MUCH rather have Haniger than Nick Neidert. Thats a no-brainer to me. But the age thing seems to matter a lot in these lists.

slamcactus
Member
slamcactus

It’s a bit much to expect that kind of study here. for every guy who made it there is a similarly large list of mid and late-20s guys who broke out at triple-A and never stuck in the bigs. I don’t have an answer as to whether late bloomers are more likely to bust than traditional prospects. It’s an interesting question, but I don’t know how you’d control for opportunity.

I’d rather have Haniger than Neidert too. A big part of that is contextual – the Ms need a good right fielder today more than they need a reliable #4 starter in 3 years.

Last thing that I just can’t let slide: Edgar Martinez wasn’t a late bloomer. He was fully formed at 23 and the Mariners blocked him with Jim Presley. He improved with age, but that’s not the same thing. He wasn’t some nobody who suddenly learned how to hit. He always knew how.

Stevil
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Stevil

That’s fair. I’m probably higher on him than most, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he does become one of baseball’s elite. But the bottom line is that his floor really looks a lot higher than most seem to believe.

slamcactus
Member
slamcactus

It looks like Eric put a reasonable range at 1-2 wins. There’s definitely room in that writeup for acknowledgement that a higher ceiling is possible. A FV isn’t a statement that this is a guy’s ultimate upside. Some sites go that way, focusing on each player’s theoretical upside, but I think it’s the kind of analysis that leads to ridiculous HOF or All-Star level comps for every player — every speedy light-hitting OF is Kenny Lofton, every soft tossing lefty COULD be Jamey Moyer, every fireballing RHP from Latin America under 6’2 is guaranteed at least one Pedro comp during his career, etc. I, for one, am glad that FanGraphs isn’t into that kind of analysis.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t think that way as a fan. I know I do, and I’m looking forward to seeing Haniger suit up at the All-Star game this summer (before I turn it off because I find the AS game boring). I just don’t expect the national evaluators to see things my way on my guys.