Notes: OF prospect pop, Paxton, Gilbert

March 4th, 2021

MESA, Ariz. -- Top prospects giving Mariners fans encouraging glimpses into the future has been the most prominent on-field narrative early in Spring Training. Jarred Kelenic and Taylor Trammell poured more fuel on that fire of promise with opposite-field homers in Seattle’s 8-8 tie against the Cubs on Wednesday.

Kelenic -- who is Seattle’s No. 1 prospect and the No. 4 overall prospect in the Majors per MLB Pipeline -- lifted a middle-in fastball from Brandon Workman in the fourth inning that kept carrying in extremely windy conditions and landed on the lawn beyond the left-center-field wall. Trammell’s solo shot an inning later landed a little bit further and was delivered with more authority.

“Off the bat, [I] thought I didn't get it. I was kind of frustrated with myself,” Kelenic said. “And then I just glanced up there, happened to see [Cameron] Maybin going back to the wall, and it went over.”

Kelenic, who has already been crushing home runs in camp during batting practice, entered the day 1-for-4 in Cactus League play. The 21-year-old had just one homer in 26 Cactus League at-bats last season, when he hit .231/.310/.385 in 13 games.

Trammell, the club’s No. 5 prospect, has caught more and more attention in camp for his size and athleticism. In Tuesday’s 6-1 loss to Cleveland, the 23-year-old doubled to the right-center-field gap and was praised for his attempt to leg out a triple, which came up short.

“He's starting to open some eyes, and he's got a really good swing to start with,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said.

Paxton sharp in sim game

James Paxton’s delayed Cactus League debut was by his own request in order to better polish his secondary pitches and create more consistent direction and timing down the mound. So instead of starting against the Cubs, Paxton threw a three-inning simulated game to catcher Tom Murphy in Peoria.

“I’ve been pulling off just a little bit early here in camp and then trying to work out when to get my explosion towards the plate,” Paxton said. “I was a little late on my explosion early [today], but I got better as I went on.”

Beyond solidifying his mechanics, this is the stage in camp where Paxton hones in on what the data is telling him and responds with necessary adjustments. It’s somewhat different to his strategy from his previous stint with Seattle.

“Since I left, I feel like the game has gotten even more analytical,” Paxton said. “There’s definitely some pitch-shape things, spin-direction things we're talking about; just goals for what we're trying to get me to. And we're just continuing to keep an eye on making those little adjustments to try and get there.”

Paxton anticipates that his next scheduled day to pitch -- aside from a bullpen session -- will be in a Cactus League game. That could be as soon as Monday against Cleveland.

Gilbert to start Sunday

Prized pitching prospect Logan Gilbert will make his much-anticipated Cactus League debut Sunday against the division-rival Angels. The right-hander represents the seventh turn through the rotation, behind those that will break camp in Seattle’s six-man rotation and Nick Margevicius, who is on the outside looking in.

That positioning makes sense, given that the Mariners won’t fully stretch Gilbert out this spring to the typical five-to-six-inning length that most starters build up by Opening Day. Instead, they’d like to keep some tread on Gilbert’s arm for late summer, when he’ll likely be needed for innings.

Coincidentally, Gilbert’s last big league outing was in a Cactus League game against the Angels on March 10 last year, when he struck out Jo Adell and Shohei Ohtani and was on a strong track to reaching the Majors.

Here are Seattle's updated probables:

• Justus Sheffield, Thursday vs. COL
• Chris Flexen, Friday at CWS
• Justin Dunn/Nick Margevicius, Saturday vs. OAK
• Logan Gilbert, Sunday at LAA

Up next

Left-hander Justus Sheffield will face opposing hitters for the first time since his standout rookie season last year when he takes the hill Thursday against Colorado. First pitch from Peoria Sports Complex is at 12:10 p.m. PT, and fans can listen to a free audio webcast. Seattle went 6-4 last year, including 4-0 in September, when Sheffield took the hill. He compiled a 3.58 ERA and 118 ERA+ during 2020.