The Mariners’ system was once one of the best in the majors. Now it’s a bit murkier. However, that’s not due to prospect regression or anything negative, rather, it’s due to the natural ebb and flow of farm systems.
I’m starting this with a spoiler Mariners fans – there’s not a Tier 1 prospect on this list. I want to be clear, it’s not that there aren’t top notch prospects. I just think most of the clear-cut elite talents have all graduated or been traded, which is fine.
The M’s farm did exactly what it’s supposed to, graduating MLB superstar Julio Rodriguez, along with George Kirby and Matt Brash. In addition, a lot of the farm’s depth was moved in various deals to help the major league team as they acquired talents like Luis Castillo from the Reds. Beyond that, Taylor Trammell, Logan Gilbert, Cal Raleigh, and Jarred Kelenic also moved up from the farm’s ranks the year prior.
All of this is to say, the Mariners farm did its job well. While the farm may be leaner now, it’s not empty just yet either, as there are some exciting prospects, as you’ll see in this column.
Tier 1: Players with high expectations of both making the majors and playing at an All-Star level for a number of years
Tier 2: Players with an above-average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 3: Players with an average expectation of making the majors and being a solid contributor
Tier 4: Players who have the potential of making the majors, or have a high likelihood of making the majors but providing minimal impact (e.g. middle reliever, low-ceiling UT guys)
Tier 5: Players of interest, worth keeping an eye on, who have an outside chance of making their team’s 40-man roster
Levels listed for each player are the highest levels player reached in 2022
None. As mentioned above, the highest echelon of the Mariners farm right now have great ceilings, but too many questions for them to have me put them in this first tier just yet.
1. Gabriel Gonzalez, OF, 19, Single-A
There were three prospects fighting for this top spot, but Gabriel Gonzalez’s ceiling might be the highest in the system. In 63 games between the Arizona Complex League and Single-A, Gonzalez compiled a .321/.410/.468 slash line with 7 HR and 9 SB. Over his 150 PA in Single-A, Gonzalez maintained a 116 wRC+, not bad for a player almost 2 years younger than the average age for the level.
Gonzalez has a stockier build, so he’ll definitely need to tap into his power more for there to be a an All-Star here. The upshot is that Gonzalez has maintained elite plate and contact skills despite being young for every level he’s played in. Calling him the next JRod is probably hyperbole, but there’s also a lot to like.
2. Harry Ford, C/OF, 19, Single-A
First things first, Ford is really really good. He hit 11 HR and 23 SB across 104 games at Single-A. Those counting stats came with a .274/.425/.439 slash line which amounted to a 132 wRC+. Prep catchers are a notoriously tricky profile to stick the landing on, but Ford seems to be crushing it so far.
3. Cole Young, SS, 19, Single-A
Every year prospectors go into their first-year player drafts looking for the next quick riser. The talent who will be acquired toward the back end of the first or second round who will shoot up lists. Previous examples include Nick Yorke in 2021 and Jackson Merrill in 2022. Cole Young is that prospect. Picked #21 overall, young isn’t particularly “sexy” but the overall profile has pretty much everything you could want.
Standing at 6’ & 180 lbs, Young has a solid frame. With a solid arm and gold range, Young has a good shot to stick at shortstop, but a move to the keystone could happen. He’s also a solid but not elite runner. Young makes contact at will. He posted a 8.9% K-rate in Single-A. Granted it was a small sample size, but an 8.9% K-rate combined with a .385/.422/.538 slash like is pretty gaudy. Young will probably be at Single-A to start the year, but don’t be surprised when the calendar reaches May and he’s flirting with a 3/4/5 slash line.
4. Tyler Locklear, 3B, 22, Single-A
Locklear was drafted in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft #58 overall out of VCU. He had some of the best EVs of this draft class maxing out at 114 MPH. That would put his max exit velocity in line with noted company such as some guys you may have heard of: Mike Trout and Bryce Harper. A 114 max EV would have ranked within the 20-30 range of all major league players last year. Locklear can smoke baseballs.
Tyler Locklear has a Max EV of 114. He chased just 15% of the time over the last two years. He plays in the A10 which isn’t the stiffest competition but even against Power 5 competition it’s just an 18% whiff rate in his career. Contact and power at first base. Some mishits. 😍😍
— Tieran (@Tieran711) July 18, 2022
But that’s not all. In addition to pummeling baseballs, he also doesn’t swing at bad ones all that often. In 31 games, Locklear put together a .285/.366/.504 line with 7 HR. Granted he was old for both levels and it was a small sample size, so he SHOULD do well, not all debut college draftees hit the ground running (see: Berry, Jacob).
5. Bryce Miller, RHP, 24, Double-A
This list first started with Emerson Hancock in this spot as the top pitching prospect in the organization, but as I did more research, I found myself liking Miller more and more. Across three levels last year (A-AA) Miller put together a 3.16 ERA, with a 1.04 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9. Miller’s bread and butter are his 70-grade fastball and his slider. The fastball isn’t triple digit in nature, rather it gets his high marks for pitch shape and the difficulty that hitters have registering the pitch from Miller’s release. The slider sits in the mid-to-high 80s and can be absolutely devastating when it’s on.
6. Emerson Hancock, RHP, 23, Double-A
The former Georgia Bulldog hasn’t had the perfect start to his MLB career. After being drafted #6 overall in 2020, many expected Hancock to shoot through the minors as a very polished college arm. That hasn’t happened, as Hancock has battled some injuries and hasn’t demonstrated particularly strong strikeout stuff.
There are reasons for optimism. First, Hancock was shut down in 2021 due to shoulder fatigue, this year Hancock doubled his workload to just under 100 innings thrown. Second, pitching is hard, but pitching hurt is even harder. Entering 2023 Hancock will be even further removed from his shoulder issues in 2021. I think the tools are there for Hancock to become a SP3-4.
7. Michael Arroyo, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
Not to be confused with former Mariners farmhand Edwin Arroyo (who was moved to Cincinnati along with Noelvi Marte and others in the Luis Castillo deal), Michael was a seven-figure international signing out of Colombia from the 2022 J-15 ranks. He stood out among his peers in the Dominican Summer League. He hit .314/.457/.484 with 4 HR & 4 SB. Even more impressively Arroyo had a 13.6 BB% against just a 16.6 K% in 49 games.
Arroyo probably won’t be sticking at SS in the future, but his bat shows the early signs of being good enough for 3B should he need to slide down the defensive spectrum.
8. Felnin Celestin, SS, 17, International
One of the biggest names in this year’s signing class, Celestin signed for a large $4.9 million dollar bonus. Best case is an athlete with plus speed and power who can stick it at short. The number one question is whether or not he’ll hit enough for it to matter.
— Héctor Gómez (@hgomez27) January 15, 2023
9. Lazaro Montes, OF, 18, Rookie (DSL)
Much like Celestin, Montes was near the top of his J-15 class in terms of signing bonus and acclaim. There’s one thing that needs to be discussed immediately: Lazaro Montes hits nukes. He is a LARGE dude. He’s allegedly 6’3” and 210 lbs, but I’d be shocked if both of those numbers weren’t bigger. The power is far and away the carrying tool here, as he hit 10 home runs with a .301 ISO and .585 SLG in 55 games in the Dominican Summer League.
Let’s all wish Lazaro Montes a very happy birthday! 🥳 pic.twitter.com/q0iIc7Ldy6
— Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) October 22, 2022
The downside is clear, Montes had a 33.2% K-rate which is not what you’re looking for if you want to develop into a full time major league regular. The elevated K-rate is paired with a very high.421 BABIP. While Lazaro’s exit velocities will give him more leeway there, his speed won’t help it stay elevated. If Montes can keep his power+contact and elevate the walk rate, there’s a lot to like, but those are both big ifs given his lack of defensive value.
10. Jonatan Clase, OF, 20, Single-A
Clase could be Billy Hamilton, if Billy Hamilton could get on base. In 107 games for Class-A Modesto, he stole 55 bases on 65 attempts. Clase also chipped in a respectable 13HR, as part of a .267/.374/.463 slash line. Clase is allegedly 5’8” and 150lbs, but he looks much more compact and sturdy. The speed will definitely stick as it’s top of the spectrum stuff. While he’s fast he’s also not a particularly elite defensive OF with an average arm there. We’ll get more clarity regarding Clase’s when he probably starts the year in High-A.
11. Walter Ford, RHP, 18, High School
The Mariners selected Ford with the 74th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft. Ford was a two-way player in high school, so you know he’s very athletic. Unlike the Pirates’ Bubba Chandler experiment, Ford will be developed as a full time starter. Ford’s fastball can touch 97 mph, and with a 6’3” 198 lbs frame and the Mariners player development staff helping him he may add even more velocity in the coming years. His slider is his best off-speed pitch for now. It has good diving action while being thrown in the low 80s.
12. Bryan Woo, RHP, 22, High-A/AFL
Woo wasn’t particularly on my radar until the Arizona Fall League. Woo was a 6th rounder in 2021 out of San Luis Obispo, coming off Tommy John. He pitched well to start the year, and struggled a bit upon a promotion to High-A Everett. But then in the AFL, Woo came to party. He smoked the AFL and was one of the best pitchers to take the mound in the prestigious post-season league.
Bryan Woo brought the heat with 8 Ks 🔥 pic.twitter.com/UbdpMx6s4u
— Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) July 27, 2022
13. Axel Sanchez, IF, 20, High-A
14. Michael Morales, RHP, 20, Single-A
15. Ashton Izzi, RHP, 19, High School
16. Prelander Berroa, RHP, 22, Double-A
17. Starlin Aguilar, 2B, 18, Rookie (ACL)
18. Taylor Dollard, RHP, 23, Double-A
19. Ricardo Cova, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
20. Cade Marlowe, OF, 26, Triple-A
21. Zach DeLoach, 2B/OF, 24, Double-A
22. Hogan Windish, 2B, 23, Single-A
23. Tyler Gough, RHP, 19, High School
24. Carlos Jimenez, OF, 19, Rookie (DSL)
25. Gabe Moncada, 1B, 21, Single-A
26. Kaden Polcovich, 2B/OF, 23, Double-A
27. Isaiah Campbell, RHP, 25, Double-A
28. Josh Hood, SS, 22, Rookie (ACL)
With Sanchez, I think more glove first, but his ACL and Single-A stats as a 19-year-old present a boatload of potential. Slashed only .235/.235/.265 in 34 PA at High-A so expect him back in Modesto to start 2023. Morales was a former Vanderbilt commit with a whole lot of tools to like, but it hasn’t come together just yet. Izzi was the Mariners 4th round draftee, and was signed to an over slot deal. He has a big heater paired with a good secondary and a developing change. Berroa came over to the Mariners from the Giants. He had a 13.93 K/9 in 52.1 IP with the Aquasox. Marlowe had 23 HR and 42 SB mostly in Double-A but he’s 25, turning 26. The slash line was great, but he was almost a year older than league average. Polcovich and DeLoach are good OBP prospects of decently high pedigree from the 2020 and 2021 drafts.
29. Juan Pinto, LHP, 18, Rookie (DSL)
30. Marcelo Perez, RHP, 23, College
31. Reid VanScoter, LHP, 24, College
32. Martin Gonzalez, SS, 18, Rookie (DSL)
33. Robert Perez Jr., 1B, 22, High-A/AFL
34. Victor Labrada, OF, 23, High-A
35. George Feliz, OF, 20, Rookie (DSL)
36. Sebastian de Andrade, C, 16, International
37. Kendal Meza, RHP, 16, International
38. Roiber Talavera, RHP, 18, Rookie (DSL)
39. Yeury Tatiz, RHP, 22, Single-A
40. Edryn Rodriguez, SS, 19, Rookie (ACL)
41. Logan Rinehart, RHP, 25, High-A
42. Milkar Perez, 3B, 21, Single-A
43. Travis Kuhn, RHP, 24, Double-A
44. Jeter Martinez, RHP, 16, International
45. Dylan Wilson, RHP, 17, International
46. Chris Clarke, RHP, 24, Double-A (Cubs)
47. Jean Munoz, RHP, 20, Rookie (DSL)
48. Stephen Kolek, RHP, 25, Double-A
49. Natanael Garabitos, RHP, 21, Single-A
50. Kelvin Alcantara, OF, 17, International
51. Delfry Carrasco, 2B, 18, International
Rodriguez and Feliz had excellent debuts in the Dominican Summer League but failed to replicate that success stateside this year. Pinto was the top international pitching prospect in his class, but he put together a 4.75 ERA in his first taste of professional action in the Dominican Summer League. Labrada has legitimate 70-grade speed though his hit tool needs quite a bit of work if he wants to be a first division regular. De Andrade is one of the Mariners’ top signings from this most recent J-15 class after Celestin. He’s the brother of Twins prospect Danny de Andrade.