Two years ago, Kyle Lewis stood as the Mariners’ lone prospect worthy of high-level recognition by those who measure such things, specifically Baseball America’s Top 100 prospects in baseball. The Mariners’ farm system was so threadbare that it was considered the worst of the 30 teams in baseball by Baseball America and other outlets.
The ignominy of that situation led General Manager Jerry Dipoto and Director of Player Development Andy McKay to downplay the importance and validity of it all.
“I do respect Baseball America a lot,” McKay said at the time. “I don’t read it. I haven’t read it since I’ve been involved in professional baseball. The rankings in general, you look at what that job is, and it’s evaluate what happens in the past and predict what’s going to happen in the future. It’s not just really information I care a whole lot about, to be honest with you.”
But thanks to the organization’s step-back plan, which featured multiple trades of established players for prospects, and the last three amateur drafts under Scott Hunter, the team’s director of amateur scouting, those rankings might have a little more meaning to the Mariners.
On Wednesday, Baseball America released its Top 100 prospects going into the 2020 season, and the Mariners have five players on that list. Only four other organizations have more.
- No. 8 — Julio Rodriguez, OF
- No. 11 — Jarred Kelenic, OF
- No. 54 — Evan White, 1B
- No. 59 — Logan Gilbert, RHP
- No. 92 — Noelvi Marte, SS
Rodriguez’s climb into prospect notoriety has been meteoric. He was rated as the No. 33 prospect by Baseball America at the end of the 2019 season. Despite just turning 19-years-old, Rodriguez is regarded as the Mariners’ top prospect and is believed to be a future superstar.
In 67 games with West Virginia, he posted .293/.359/.490 slash line (batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage) with 20 doubles, a triple, 10 homers, 50 RBI despite missing six weeks with a broken hand. He was promoted to Modesto late in the season and put up video-game numbers in 17 games — .462/.514/.730 with six doubles, three triples, two homers and 19 RBI.
He received an invite to MLB spring training and is expected to start the season with High-A Modesto and should finish with Double-A Arkansas.
Kelenic, who was named the Mariners minor league hitter of the year, has moved up from the No. 23 ranking he had at the end of the season. He rocketed through the system last season, starting in Low-A West Virginia, moving to High-A Modesto and finishing the season in Double-A Arkansas. He posted a combined .291/.364/.540 slash line with 32 doubles, 23 homers, 68 RBI and 20 stolen bases. The 21-year-old outfielder will start the season in Arkansas, but the Mariners hope he plays well enough to be a late-season call-up to the big leagues.
After signing a six-year, $24 million contract this offseason, White is expected to be the opening-day first baseman March 26. The former first-round pick has been lauded for his maturity and work ethic to go with athleticism and defensive skill, which is why the Mariners decided to buy out his arbitration years despite White never playing an inning in the majors. Last season with Class AA Arkansas, White posted a .293/.350/.488 slash line with 13 doubles, two triples, 18 homers and 55 RBI in 92 games while helping lead Arkansas to the Texas League playoffs. He was rated as the No. 73 prospect at the end of last season.
Gilbert’s first professional season was outstanding. After missing the 2018 short season because of workload and a case of mononucleosis, he made his debut in 2019 with West Virginia, was promoted to Modesto and ended the season with Arkansas. He posted a combined 10-5 record with a 2.13 ERA in 26 starts. He struck out 165 batters with 33 walks in 135 innings and was rated as the No. 62 prospect in baseball. Gilbert is expected to start the season in Arkansas again, but he is expected to be make his big-league debut some time after the All-Star break.
Marte, 18, makes his debut in the Top 100 after a strong first professional season in the Dominican Summer League. He was the best player on his team, posting a .309/.371/.511 line with 18 doubles, four triples, nine homers, 54 RBI and 17 stolen bases in 65 games. His only downside was the whopping 30 errors in 63 games at shortstop. However, the Mariners and several opposing scouts believe that Marte will eventually move to third base.
Per Baseball America, the Mariners had multiple players who “just missed” the top 100 and received consideration — pitchers Justin Dunn, George Kirby, Justus Sheffield and Brandon Williamson and Lewis.
The last year the Mariners had five players in Baseball America’s top 100 was 2013: Mike Zunino (17), Taijuan Walker (18), Danny Hultzen (29), Nick Franklin (79) and James Paxton (87).