Top prospects Young, Ford invited to Spring Training

February 8th, 2024

SEATTLE -- One of the Mariners’ final transactional events before Spring Training arrived on Wednesday when the club announced its non-roster invitees to Major League camp, this year headlined by top prospects Cole Young and Harry Ford.

Those two were among 33 players -- 15 pitchers and 18 position players -- on Minor League contracts and not on Seattle’s 40-man roster who will descend upon Peoria, Ariz., beginning next week. Pitchers and catchers report for physicals next Wednesday, and the first full-squad workout is Feb. 20.

The NRI group consists of touted prospects like Young and Ford seeking to accelerate their path to the Majors, as well as others with MLB experience looking to make the team.

Young, Seattle’s No. 1 prospect in its MLB Pipeline rankings (No. 37 overall), will be of particular intrigue given that this is his first big league camp. Though he won’t make the team and isn’t expected to debut in 2024 after the Mariners’ offseason overhaul that added significant talent, such as former All-Star second baseman Jorge Polanco, he’s expected to see significant reps.

Young slashed .267/.396/.429 (.825 OPS) last year with Single-A Modesto, which led to a mid-July promotion to High-A Everett, where he hit .292/.404/.479 (.884 OPS) with six homers, two triples, 14 doubles, 23 RBIs and five stolen bases in 48 games. Despite being in just his age-19 season, the 2022 first-round Draft pick drew praise from scouts both within and outside the Mariners’ organization for his strike-zone awareness, plate discipline and batted-ball ability.

Those skills, paired with the simplistic nature with how he describes his approach, illustrate Young's potential for sustained success as an everyday contributor in the Majors. There’s a clear path for him to become the club’s long-term second baseman, though he’s primarily played shortstop in the Minors.

Ford is ranked No. 2 in the organization and No. 38 overall, and he’ll be in his second big league camp after wowing last year for his acumen despite being just 20 years old. He was also a fan favorite for Team Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic, which took place in the middle of Spring Training.

Ford hit .257/.410/.430 (.840 OPS) with 15 homers, four triples, 24 doubles, 67 RBIs and 24 stolen bases in 118 games last year, all at High-A Everett, which included a selection to the All-Star Futures Game at T-Mobile Park. He’s expected to begin the year with Double-A Arkansas.

Ford has exclusively played catcher defensively since being selected in the first round in 2021, but he’s expected to begin seeing action in the field this season, likely as early as this spring. That’s not to say the Mariners believe he won’t remain behind the dish, but they are cognizant that Cal Raleigh has established himself with All-Star potential and is under club control for another four seasons.

Other notable invitees include first baseman Tyler Locklear (Seattle’s No. 10 prospect) and second baseman Ryan Bliss (No. 13), both of whom were standouts in last year’s Arizona Fall League and are expected to be in the Majors this season. This will be Locklear’s first big league camp.

Outfielder Jonatan Clase (No. 7), who is coming off a historic 20-70 season, will also be in camp but isn’t an NRI because he’s already on the 40-man roster. Scouts have indicated that Clase still needs more polish at the plate with Double-A Arkansas but could make his MLB debut in 2024.

Outfielder Lazaro Montes (No. 11), who took a huge leap forward last season, won’t be in camp given that the Mariners will want to allocate his preparation on the Minors side, with much left in his development as he prepares to exclusively play in the Minors this season.

Some among the group of 15 arms have MLB experience, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see Seattle’s pitching braintrust discover a reliever who could eventually be a legitimate contributor, similar to Paul Sewald and Drew Steckenrider in 2021 and Matt Festa in '22.

Here's a full list of Seattle's NRIs for 2024:

Pitchers (15):

  • Cory Abbott, RHP
  • Ty Buttrey, RHP
  • Jhonathan Díaz, LHP
  • Heath Hembree, RHP
  • Jimmy Joyce, RHP
  • Joey Krehbiel, RHP
  • Travis Kuhn, RHP
  • Casey Lawrence, RHP
  • Holden Laws, LHP
  • Darren McCaughan, RHP
  • Tyson Miller, RHP
  • Marcelo Perez, RHP
  • Sean Poppen, RHP
  • Kirby Snead, LHP
  • Reid VanScoter, LHP

Position players (18):

  • Jake Anchia, C
  • Ryan Bliss, INF
  • Michael Chavis, INF
  • Harry Ford, C
  • Isiah Gilliam, OF
  • Tyler Locklear, INF
  • Spencer Packard, OF
  • Michael Papierski, C
  • Kaden Polcovich, INF
  • Rangel Ravelo, INF
  • Leo Rivas, INF
  • Brock Rodden, INF
  • Alberto Rodriguez, OF
  • Matt Scheffler, C
  • Nick Solak, INF
  • Cole Tucker, INF
  • Hogan Windish, INF
  • Cole Young, INF