As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an
As part of the new rules for the 2020 Major League season, each of the 30 organizations will maintain a 60-man player pool for the duration of the campaign. Some members of the player pool will feature on the active Major League roster while others will work out at an alternate training site in the hopes of staying fresh for a potential callup or getting in much-needed development time.
The MiLB.com staff is rounding up the notable prospects in each organization’s 60-man player pool and analyzing what the new system will mean for their 2020 seasons.
Perhaps no team in baseball has revitalized its farm system in a shorter period than the Mariners. International signings, shrewd trades and strong Draft picks have restocked the organization to the point at which it soon will reap the rewards. The unpredictable nature of a 60-game season allows teams with flaws the chance to dream big. Although some of Seattle's more heralded prospects might not be ready for showtime yet, others could find themselves in the Pacific Northwest by the time September rolls around ... if not sooner.
Jarred Kelenic, OF: The crème de la crème of not only the Mariners' top prospects but in the sport, Kelenic has moved at lightning speed through the Minors since he was taken sixth overall in the 2018 Draft by the Mets. The much-talked-about deal that moved Seattle's top prospect west has been dissected every which way. MLB.com's No. 11 overall prospect has bullied his way through the Minors and could be the first member of the Class of 2018 to reach the bigs, despite graduating from high school barely two years ago. The Wisconsin native has an advanced approach at the plate and consistently barrels up the ball. Kelenic blew through three levels in 2019 and finished with a .291/.364/.540 slash line with 59 extra-base hits, including 23 homers, and 68 RBIs in 117 games -- much of that as a 19-year-old.
Julio Rodriguez, OF: If Kelenic is on the expressway toward the Majors, Rodriguez is about to enter the on-ramp. The club's No. 2 prospect jumped from the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League in 2018 to Class A West Virginia and Class A Advanced Modesto last season. There was no adjustment period for Rodriguez. Even a broken hand early in the season didn't slow him down, as he batted .326/.390/.540 with 42 extra-base hits and 69 RBIs in 84 games in 2019. The only attribute keeping the 18th overall prospect from being labeled a five-tool player is his speed, but everything else grades out well above-average. A Major League debut in 2020 is an extreme long shot, but an outfield duo of Kelenic and Rodriguez rightfully has Mariners fans salivating at the thought.
Logan Gilbert, RHP: Seattle couldn't be more fired up about Gilbert, its first-round pick in the 2018 Draft. The 23-year-old hopes to follow in the footsteps of fellow Stetson University alum and reigning two-time National League Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom. The Mariners will gladly take a fraction of that type of performance from Gilbert, whose professional debut was exceptional. Seattle's third-ranked prospect dials up his fastball to 97 mph and it sits regularly in the mid-90s. The ability to maintain his velocity deep into starts is a distinguishing attribute for Gilbert, who features a four-pitch repertoire. The Winter Park, Florida, native overpowered hitters in 2019 when he moved across three levels, finishing with Double-A Arkansas. At season's end, Gilbert was 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA, a 0.95 WHIP and a 165-to-33 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 135 innings.
Evan White, 1B: Seattle was confident enough in White's potential to sign him to a six-year contract in November, even though he had only played 92 games -- all in 2019 -- at the Double-A level. The M's first-round pick in 2017 was thought to be an advanced hitter coming out of the University of Kentucky and he's done nothing but back up that notion. Like most Minor Leaguers, White's power didn't manifest itself upon his introduction to pro ball, but the anticipated uptick came through in 2019. Despite two separate stints on the injured list, White batted .293/.350/.488 with a career-high 18 homers and 55 RBIs in 92 games for Arkansas. Sweetening the pot for Seattle is White's defense, which is already Gold Glove-caliber thanks to strong footwork, soft hands and a strong arm. He should enter 2020 as the Mariners' first baseman.
George Kirby, RHP: Kirby finds himself in the enviable position of having the opportunity to impress the Mariners firsthand while retaining an outside shot of reaching the Majors one year after his debut. The 22-year-old was Seattle's first-round pick last year and made a good showing in his first taste of pro ball with Class A Short Season Everett. Kirby has four pitches that flash above average, headlined by a fastball he pumps up to 97-98 mph. Like Gilbert, the fifth-ranked Mariners prospect throws two distinct breaking pitches, a slider and a curve, as well as a sinking changeup. At 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds with an intimidating presence on the mound, Kirby posted a 2.35 ERA in nine 2019 appearances, including eight Northwest League starts.
Justin Dunn, RHP: The other big name in the Kelenic trade, Dunn has more than one foot in the door when it comes to a spot in the Majors. Seattle's No. 7 prospect put up nearly identical numbers in the Minors last year as he did in 2018, averaging nearly 11 strikeouts per nine innings while slashing his walks per nine innings from 3.5 to 2.7. The Freeport, New York, native was rewarded with a jump from Double-A to the Majors and posted a 2.70 ERA in four late-season starts. Although many have speculated Dunn eventually will settle into a relief role, the Mariners believe his future lies in the rotation. The 24-year-old is likely to be on the bubble for a spot in this year's starting five, but he will definitely see time in the Pacific Northwest in 2020.
Jake Fraley, OF: An unspectacular cup of coffee in the Majors last year notwithstanding, Fraley's time as a big leaguer has come. The 25-year-old provides a different look than the slugging, dripping-with-superstar potential duo of Kelenic and Rodriguez, but he's no slouch with the bat. Fraley batted .298/.365/.545 with a career-high 51 extra-base hits, plus 19 homers, 80 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 99 games between Triple-A Tacoma and Arkansas. Injuries have been a concern for the club's ninth-ranked prospect, who was traded to Seattle from Tampa in November 2018. Including his 12-game stint in the Majors, Fraley went over the 100-games-played mark for the first time in his four-year career last season.
Kyle Lewis, OF: One of the more heralded prospects after being selected 11th overall in the 2016 Draft, Lewis' career had barely started when a torn ACL ended his debut and setbacks limited him to 49 games the following season. Seattle's No. 10 prospect has the goods to consistently launch the ball over the fence, but an inability to stay on the field until 2019 hampered his development. Although Lewis' numbers with Arkansas -- .263/.342/.398 with 11 homers and 62 RBIs in 122 games -- were less than eye-opening in 2019, the 24-year-old earned a promotion to the Majors and made an immediate impact. Lewis homered in each of his first three games and slugged six roundtrippers in 18 contests as a Mariner.
Justus Sheffield, LHP: The 2014 first-round Draft pick seems to have been around forever, but he's only 24 and ready to be penned into Seattle's rotation. Sheffield struggled mightily with Tacoma in 2019, but an assignment to Arkansas seemed to get the southpaw back on track. Despite a 6.87 ERA in 13 appearances (12 starts) in the Pacific Coast League, Seattle's No. 13 prospect finished a respectable 7-9 with a 4.13 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 133 1/3 innings across 25 overall outings, including 24 starts. Sheffield enjoyed two Major League stints with the Mariners last year, posting a 5.50 ERA in eight appearances -- seven of them starts. The Tennessee native has more than enough on his 93-mph fastball to get by thanks to a swing-and-miss slider he utilizes as his strikeout pitch. Sheffield's changeup is still a work in progress, so while he may have a spot in the rotation, the development of a third pitch will be vital to him staying there.
Braden Bishop, OF: Bishop's status as one of Seattle's top prospects has shrunk the past few seasons, although it's through no fault of his own. While the organization has loaded up on promising sluggers in the outfield, Bishop rode his style of play -- solid average, little pop and exceptional defense -- into a Major League debut last summer. The 18th-ranked Mariners prospect carries a career .291/.365/.396 slash line into 2020. His defensive prowess and ability to make contact lends credence to the thought Bishop will be a fourth-outfielder type in the bigs.
Other notables: There certainly isn't a lack of young depth when it comes to Seattle's 60-man player pool. All told, 22 of the organization's top 30 prospects will be available if needed: Noelvi Marte (No. 6), Cal Raleigh (No. 8), Isaiah Campbell (No. 12), Juan Then (No. 13), Austin Shenton (No. 17), Joey Gerber (No. 19), Aaron Fletcher (No. 20), Sam Delaplane (No. 21), Taylor Guilbeau (No. 23), Donovan Walton (No. 24), Art Warren (No. 26) and Ljay Newsome (No. 28). ... Seattle also added three of its 2020 Draft picks to its player pool: first-rounder Emerson Hancock, second-rounder Zach DeLoach, third-rounder Kaden Polvovich and fourth-rounder Tyler Keenan. More than most organizations, a large of Mariners prospects will work out with the big leaguers at T-Mobile Park while the rest tune up at Tacoma's Cheney Stadium.
Michael Avallone is a writer for MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @MavalloneMiLB.