Pitchers and Catchers Report. With these four words, smiles are generated, thoughts of sunshine loom, the sounds of bats cracking and baseballs hitting landing in mitts ring in our ears. In major league cities and in the Spring Training complexes of Florida and Arizona optimism emerges, anticipation of successful summers and fall pennant chases develop. For Mariner fans there is optimism but it’s not because anyone believes their league leading 18 consecutive seasons without making the playoffs or even a winning record is on the horizon in 2020. Heck, this year’s team could quite easily lose 100 games and receive a top 5 pick in the 2021 MLB draft. This year’s hope is in the continued development of their farm system. Baseball America ranked the M’s system number 5 in all of baseball and the team has a couple of possible franchise altering players in Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. The dynamic duo are joined by 32 other prospects in Peoria this Spring, all with hopes of future major league careers.
Below is a breakdown by position group of the prospects spending some time in Peoria this spring.
The closest player to being an opening day lock from this group is first baseman Evan White. Since being drafted in the first round in 2017 White has done nothing but impress the team’s front office with his stellar defense while displaying some real talent at the plate. He has shown the ability to hit for average and has shown more power than the team originally anticipated. White does need to work on his strikeout rate which was on the wrong side of 25 percent with AA Arkansas in 2019.
Sam Haggerty and Jose Marmolejos were both acquired by the organization in January and after spending time in the Mets and Reds organizations respectively. Haggerty was a September call up for the Mets and has superb speed and impressive defensive acumen. The potential utility player has struggled at the plate with a minor league slash line of .249/.355/.376 and a strikeout rate over 28 percent from 2015-2019. Marmolejos has been impressive at the plate with a career slash of .288/.354/.448 and has shown signs of power, though a large amount of that was done in the hitter friendly PCL. Haggerty will battle homegrown Donnie Walton and major leaguers Patrick Wisdom, Dylan Moore and Tim Lopes for a roster spot. Walton was a September call up for the Mariners after an impressive year with AA Arkansas with a .300/.390/.427 and has a little pop in his bat with 11 HR and decent speed with 10 stolen bases. Though none of these players come in as favorites to break camp with the club, if any of the three make the roster, I would give a slight edge to Haggerty as a defensive replacement and pinch runner. Cowan, Hoover and Liberato are in camp to get a taste of playing with major leaguers and don’t seem to be a legitimate threat to make the opening day roster.
Outfield is the most talented group in the M’s system boasting high level MLB prospects Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodriguez. Both have the possibility of being future cornerstones for the organization. While neither are going to start the season in Seattle both will push to be up as soon as possible. My expectations is Kelenic will be up before the end of 2020 and Rodriguez looks to have a really good chance to make the club at some point in 2021.
This round of swings from Julio Rodriguez produced missiles off the bat pic.twitter.com/T9II8u64fd
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) February 20, 2020
Barring the unexpected, Kyle Lewis should be starting in Seattle’s outfield on opening day. The organization’s former number one prospect opened eyes when called up to Seattle last September. In 18 games he produced a .268/.293/.592 slash line while hitting 6 home runs in 71 plate appearances. The 24 year old needs to cut down on strikeouts however, as he had 29 of them in that time span.
The initial thought was that one of Fraley or Bishop would make the roster. However, with the injury to Mitch Haniger, both are now expected to be in Seattle on opening day. Fraley is the current favorite to be a starter and Bishop figures to be looking at being the team’s fourth outfielder. Jose Siri will likely start the year in AAA after being a casualty of the Reds outfield depth. The outfielder was claimed off of waivers earlier this month after spending 8 season’s with Cincinnati’s organization and has yet to make his MLB debut.
Logan Gilbert, Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield, Joey Gerber, Ljay Newsome, Sam Delaplane, Art Warren, Aaron Fletcher, Ian McKinney, Gerson Bautista, Penn Murfee, Yohan Ramirez, Jack Anderson, Darren McCaughan, Wyatt Mills, Anthony Misiewicz
Sixteen pitchers with prospect eligibility are in Peoria this year. Of this group only two will have a shot at the starting rotation in Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn with Sheffield favored to be in that group. Dunn initially looked to have a realistic shot at the rotation before the former Mariner Taijuan Walker rejoined the club as a free agent earlier this month. Barring injury, Dunn is likely to start the year with Tacoma and continue to work on being a MLB starter which should happen at some point during the 2020 season.
I would be surprised if more than two of the other prospects are on the roster come opening day, but those with the pest chance in my opinion would be Art Warren, Aaron Fletcher, Yohan Ramirez, Sam Delaplane and Wyatt Mills. The most intriguing of this group Delaplane who shined with AA Arkansas in 2019 after earning a promotion from Modesto. With the Travelers he posted a 3-1 record to go along with a 0.49 ERA and 0.59 WHIP striking out 120 in 68.2 innings pitched. While he isn’t favored to land a spot on the opening day roster, he does figure to see Seattle at some point in 2020.
Logan Gilbert is the organization’s top pitching prospect will likely start the year in Arkansas and have an outside shot to get a call up in September though is more likely to make his debut in 2021. Most of the players listed will have a shot at getting a call up at some point during the 2020 campaign with the exception being rookies Ian McKinney and Penn Murfee.
Logan Gilbert warming up for his live BP pic.twitter.com/x1Jj8xOj3u
— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) February 20, 2020
The catcher position is pretty much wrapped up with Tom Murphy being the starter and Austin Nola backing him up. The four prospect catchers in camp have little to no chance of ending up on the opening day roster. Cal Raleigh figures to be the catcher of the future, but will likely need another full season in the minors, starting 2020 with AA Arkansas. The 23-year-old impressed many in the organization last year with his development and will look to build on it further this year. Odom, Hudson and O’Keefe will try to position themselves as the next man up should a roster spot come open at some point in 2020. Hudson is the only one with MLB experience having had cups of coffee with the Angels and Cardinals the previous two seasons. Odom signed with the club in 2018 after spending his time with the Braves organization since 2013. He started the spring off right homering in the M’s Spring opener on Sunday February 23.
— Lauren Smith (@smithlm12) February 19, 2020