While the Mariners’ current rebuilding plan still is in the process of achieving actual on-field success at the MLB level and securing that elusive postseason spot that’s been missing since 2001, the prospects accumulated through general manager Jerry Dipoto’s “step back” process have at least restocked a barren farm system while generating hope for a brighter future.
Monday, the Mariners’ farm system received more accolades for that young talent and depth in Baseball America’s annual preseason top 100 prospects.
Seattle had five prospects on the prestigious list with outfielders Julio Rodriguez ranked No. 3 and Jarred Kelenic at No. 4 headlining the selections. Top pitching prospect Logan Gilbert was ranked at No. 35 while fellow right-hander Emerson Hancock, who was taken with the No. 6 overall choice in the recent MLB draft, was at No. 57. Shortstop Noelvi Marte was listed at No. 71.
The Padres led all teams with seven prospects in the top 100 while the Blue Jays and Marlins have six. The Mariners were one of five teams with five prospects on the list.
Outfielder Taylor Trammell, who was ranked at No. 73 in Baseball America’s 2020 preseason top 100, did not make this top 100.
The outfield duo of Rodriguez and Kelenic is expected to be the cornerstone of the Mariners’ future success. Rodriguez was ranked as the No. 9 prospect going into Baseball America’s 2020 preseason top 100 while Kelenic was listed at No. 11.
While Rodriguez, who just turned 20 on Dec. 29, is ranked higher by Baseball America, his timeline to MLB is likely a year to 18 months behind Kelenic, who turned 21 in July.
Rodriguez suffered a hairline fracture in his left wrist while diving for a ball in summer camp last July. He missed most of the workouts and intrasquad games at the Mariners’ alternate training site in Tacoma. He returned to play in the Arizona instructional league and also played a month of winter ball in the Dominican Republic. Although he’s played only 17 games at the High-A level (Modesto 2019), there is some thought the Mariners might start him at Class AA Arkansas. But given the amount of time he missed, they also might start him at High-A Everett and move him to Arkansas a month into the season.
Kelenic dominated in the intrasquad games at summer camp and in Tacoma. But the Mariners decided to not call him up in the shortened season, opting to control his service time and prolonging his time before free agency. Kelenic will get a chance to compete for the starting left field job this spring. But it’s expected he will start the season with Class AAA Tacoma and play there for at least a month — delaying his free agency by another year — if not longer.
Under normal circumstances, Gilbert, who turns 24 in May, was scheduled to debut midway through the 2020 season. But the lack of a minor-league season scuttled that timeline. He will compete for a spot in the Mariners’ six-man rotation during spring training but is expected to start in AAA Tacoma.
The Mariners felt they were lucky to draft Hancock at No. 6 because he was considered a possible No. 1 overall choice going into his junior season at Georgia.
After experiencing some minor shoulder discomfort during his first bullpen session in summer camp, the Mariners were ultra careful with his throwing progression during the summer. He’ll likely start the season at Low-A Modesto with the expectation he will move up to High-A Everett quickly.
Despite being just 18 at the time, Marte was invited to participate in summer camp and at the alternate training site. With only 65 games of professional experience — all in the Dominican Rookie League — Marte looked overwhelmed at times going against older and more experienced competition during intrasquad games. But he did play well in the Arizona instructional league. Now 19, he likely will start the 2021 season with Low-A Modesto.