With promising outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Brayan Hernandez out of the organization, the pool of top Mariners’ minor-leaguers comes mostly from the lower levels, led by outfielder Kyle Lewis at Class A Modesto.
With the recent trades of outfielders Tyler O’Neill and Brayan Hernandez — both prospects of merit — it was time to reassess the remaining top players in the organization.
There are multiple independent resources that provide analysis and rankings for every system in baseball. MLB Pipeline from MLB.com, Baseball America, FanGraphs and MinorLeagueBall.com — each provides a healthy amount of information on ranking prospects in each organization and leaguewide.
This list stems from compiling the rankings from those and also communications with multiple opposing scouts who have evaluated the Mariners’ system for their respective teams.
Prospect evaluation isn’t simple. There isn’t always a consensus. An example would be the recently traded O’Neill, which left many Mariners fans upset with the move. While his power potential is a given, two scouts felt like the swing-and-miss issues and swing construction have been exposed at the Class AAA level and would translate to even more difficulty in the big leagues. Another felt that O’Neill’s quick progression to Class AAA, his competitiveness and cage-rat mentality might help overcome it.
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One thing that was a consensus was that most of the Mariners’ coveted prospects are all at the lowest levels, starting with outfielder Kyle Lewis, who was the unanimous top prospect in the system. After the first five prospects, the remaining players varied. With one scout pointing out that many wouldn’t crack other organization’s top-10 lists.
1. Kyle Lewis, OF, Class A Modesto
The Mariners’ first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2016 draft is the most talented player in the system. It’s unfortunate that a gruesome knee injury last season has sidetracked his progression. Following a yearlong recovery and brief setback after banging the surgically repaired knee against a wall, Lewis is back playing in the California League. A stretch of good health and consistent playing time will be needed in his development.
ETA to MLB: 2020
2. Nick Neidert, RHP, Class AA Arkansas
Neidert made his Class AA debut Saturday night with the Travelers at the tender age of 20. His promotion was deserved after dominating the hitter-friendly Cal League. In 19 starts with Modesto, he posted a 10-3 record with a 2.76 ERA with 109 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 1041/3 innings. He was 5-0 with a 1.45 ERA in his last five starts. Neidert has a fastball that tops out at around 94 mph with solid offspeed pitches, which the Mariners hope he will increase with age and maturity.
ETA to MLB: late 2019, early 2020
3. Evan White, 1B, short-season Everett
The Mariners’ first-round pick (17th overall) in the recent MLB draft has been hampered by a strained quadriceps that has limited his first season as a professional. He’s currently in Arizona rehabbing the injury. In 14 games, he was hitting .277 with an .877 on-base plus slugging percentage, a double, a triple, three homers and 12 RBI. White’s athleticism — he can play outfield — should make him a quick riser.
ETA to MLB: 2020
4. Sam Carlson, RHP, Arizona League Mariners
The Mariners were surprised that the hard-throwing high-schooler fell to the second round of the 2017 draft. They figured out a way to select him with the 55th overall pick and give him first-round money. With a fastball already in the mid-90s and advanced offspeed pitches, he’s one of the most talented pitchers in the organization. Carlson has made two appearances, throwing three innings, allowing one run on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks.
ETA to MLB: 2022
5. Marco Gonzales, LHP, Class AAA Tacoma
Acquired from the Cardinals on Friday for O’Neill, Gonzales represents one of the most advanced starting pitchers in the organization with a five-pitch repertoire and big-league experience. The former first-round pick (19th overall) in 2013 out of Gonzaga has dealt with injury issues, including missing all of 2016 to recover from Tommy John surgery. But he’s expected to fill a rotation spot by the end of the year and beyond.
ETA to MLB: 2017
6. Thyago Vieira, RHP, Class AAA Tacoma
His story has been told often after last year’s breakout season. He was almost released from the organization until his talent, specifically a 100 mph fastball, was harnessed into a workable product. Vieira posted a 2-3 record and 3.72 ERA in 29 appearances in Arkansas. He will close out the season with the Rainiers in the tough Pacific Coast League. He is a potential September call-up.
ETA to MLB: 2017
7. Braden Bishop, CF, Class AA Arkansas
One of the fastest players in the organization, there is little question about his ability to play the outfield and run the bases. But will the former UW standout hit enough to get to the big leagues? He spent the offseason working out with Diamondbacks All-Star and former Husky teammate Jake Lamb, trying to retool his swing. This year he was hitting .296 with a .385 on-base percentage and .400 slugging percentage, 25 doubles, three triples, two homers, 32 RBI and 16 stolen bases for Modesto before being promoted to Arkansas on Saturday.
ETA to MLB: 2021
8. Greifer Andrade, LF, short-season Everett
A former shortstop, Andrade has been converted to outfield. To quote a scout, “he can hit.” Andrade, 20, was hitting .338 with an .850 OPS, six doubles, two homers and 14 RBI for the AquaSox before being placed on the disabled list after undergoing an appendectomy. He’s close to returning and likely to put up solid numbers. Andrade was signed to a $1 million bonus as a 16-year-old out of Venezuela.
ETA to MLB: 2022
9. Joe Rizzo, 3B, Class A Clinton
Rizzo, 19, has a sweet swing from the left side that allows him to spray the ball all over and hit for average. Scouts believe it will also produce power. The Mariners selected Rizzo, a first-round talent, in the second round of the 2016 draft and gave him a first-round signing bonus of $1.75 million. He jumped from the Arizona League to full-season Clinton this year and is hitting .236 with a .350 on-base percentage with nine doubles, five homers and 35 RBI in 75 games.
ETA to MLB: 2022
10. Christopher Torres, SS, short-season Everett
He’s considered one of the two best defensive shortstops in the organization. Torres signed as an international free agent out of the Dominican Republic at age 16 and received a $375,000 signing bonus. A switch-hitter and just 19, he’s batting .218 with a .317 on-base percentage with 12 hits, a double, three triples, an RBI and four stolen bases with the AquaSox. He’s been dealing with a shoulder injury dating to spring training.
ETA to MLB: 2023
• Donnie Walton, 2B-SS, Class A Clinton; Daniel Vogelbach, 1B-DH, Class AAA Tacoma; D.J. Peterson, 1B, Class AAA Tacoma; Max Povse, RHP, Class AAA Tacoma; Julio Rodriguez, OF, DSL Mariners.