Kelenic, Rodriguez lead M's into new era
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.After a scorching start to the 2019 season at the big league level, the Mariners
Each offseason, MiLB.com goes position by position across each system and honors the players -- regardless of age or prospect status -- who had the best seasons in their organization. Click here to locate your favorite club.
After a scorching start to the 2019 season at the big league level, the Mariners faded. As of April 26, Seattle was 18-11, the best record in baseball, with a 1 1/2-game lead over eventual American League-champion Houston atop the Western Division. From there, things spiraled. The M's finished 68-94, last in the division and 39 games back of the Astros.
Help is on the way.
Seattle's much-debated rebuild bore immense prospect fruit in 2019 with virtually all the organization's top talent posting career years. From the offseason trade that netted the Mariners a budding star in
Mariners Organization All-Stars
First baseman --
"I think we made some real progress with Evan coming out of our high-performance camp last fall in terms of understanding his body," Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said. "We had the injury issues the first two years, and we still dealt with some this year, but we were certainly on a good trajectory that way. Him being able to be on the field fairly consistently was one of our real goals for him."
White spent the entire season at Double-A and posted an impressive .293/.350/.488 slash line with 18 homers -- seven more than he hit over 28 more games a season prior -- for Arkansas. His sure-handedness in the field continued with a .993 fielding percentage and five errors in 88 games.
The reward was a six-year, $24 million contract at the end of November.
MiLB.com Organization All-Stars: Team by Team
Second baseman --
Third baseman --
"Anytime you can move across three levels, I think people underestimate the difficulty," McKay said. "That's three apartments, three managers, three hitting coaches, three totally different clubhouses, and he was able to do all of that and fit into each environment pretty quickly and also kind of pick up where he left off on the field. We felt like he was the best player in the South Atlantic League. We felt like he was the best player in the Cal League. He goes right into one of the best teams in Minor League Baseball in Double-A, and he fits right in with the Evan Whites and Logan Gilberts and that group. The flexibility, the adjustability, the ability to move from place to place and still walk into the batter's box and put together a really good at-bat, it's pretty impressive when you think about the age he did it at."
Across the three stops, Kelenic hit .291/.364/.540 while starting the season as a teenager.
"He walked in with a maturity level and some real skills that I guess you'd have to attribute to his parents and his family because it certainly wasn't something that we taught him all of a sudden," McKay said. "He's a very unique person in terms of his drive to be great. He doesn't hide how he feels. He's pretty clear when he communicates. He wants to be great. He wants to play in the big leagues as soon as he can. He wants to be in the Hall of Fame, and I commend him on having the guts to be so honest about those things and then deal with the looks and the eye-rolling and the reactions to those things."
"We came into Spring Training not really knowing what we had in terms of where he would play," McKay said. "When we came to Spring Training, in my mind, he was going to play in the [Rookie-level] Arizona League. He quickly showed that he was above that and he was above Everett."
Rodriguez put himself on a full-season roster to open the year with West Virginia before getting hit by a pitch and injuring his hand. Still, his overall numbers were stellar. The 18-year-old batted .326/.309/.540 with 12 homers and 69 RBIs in 84 games and built an organizational foundation with Kelenic.
"Obviously, Julio and Jarred have created a friendship that I think is very mutually beneficial to both of them because they're both really good kids and really good players, but they go at it very differently," McKay said. "I've seen the best parts of Julio rub off on Jarred and I've seen the best parts of Jarred rub off on Julio, and it's been a wonderful friendship for two kids who obviously didn't know each other and then because of the acquisition of Jarred from the Mets, their paths are now intertwined. They really do build off of each other."
"He's just a guy that we had to continually remind that he could've been a junior in college last year," McKay said. "He's had some ups and downs -- this year was clearly a lot more up -- but the most important thing he's done is just continue to get better. He's really changed his body and the evolution of the bat continues right in front of us. I think he's that guy that may not be the first guy out of the blocks in the sprint, but when the race is over, he's going to be right there. He made huge strides defensively this year, not only at third base but getting to move around, playing second, playing first. He's creating a lot of flexibility for himself, not only with the bat but with the flexibility in the field."
Right-handed starting pitcher --
"He missed the first year with the mono, and we thought we knew what we had, but we really didn't know because we didn't really even know him," McKay said. "Then, as you got to know him in Spring Training and really just kind of getting your eyes on him on a daily basis, the diligence and attention to detail in his work routines was what we thought we were drafting when we did. Then to see him work with our analysts, it doesn't mean it's the only way, but he's definitely a guy that can process a lot of information and input it into his game pretty quickly. That's been helpful for us to see and it's been helpful for some other players to see how to use information to your advantage."
Gilbert soared through three levels, going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 165 strikeouts against 33 walks over 135 innings.
"West Virginia, OK, this is not the right league for him; Modesto, OK, this is not the right league for him," McKay said. "Even many nights in Double-A, it's like, 'OK this may not be the right league for him either right now.' All of that's good. It is what it is. You see it with your own eyes. Trackman's great, but you can trust your eyes with what you see with Logan."
Honorable mention: Justin Dunn recorded a career-high 158 strikeouts while walking 39 over 131 2/3 innings for Arkansas and made his big league debut on Sept. 12.
Offseason MiLB include
Left-handed starter --
Relief pitcher --
"It didn't come out of nowhere," McKay said. "What he'd done the year before is quite impressive as well. Sam is one of those guys that's been slow to catch on to any type of industry awareness, I guess. Within the walls of the Mariners, we've been seeing it and the consistency of it. He throws an invisible fastball. Guys just don't hit it, and they never really have. Even when he took it to the [Arizona] Fall League, they really didn't hit it, either. You just see somebody who understands how to elevate a fastball and how to take advantage of vertical ride. He's not the only one in baseball doing it, but he has that knack. I've been telling everybody all year, go find somebody with better numbers because you can't, and he's just equally as impressive as a person."
Honorable mention --
Tyler Maun is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @TylerMaun.