After the completion of the regular season and alternate training sites, most player development staffs have turned their attention to instructional league play. In the past, instructional leagues have been populated by new draftees, recent international signings and players at the bottom rungs of their organizational ladder. This year, in an attempt to make up for lost time due to the pandemic, it’s been expanded to include many more players. MLB Pipeline will be providing position-by-position reports from instructional league camps in Florida and Arizona.
Elvis Alvarado, RHP; Jack Anderson, RHP; Dayeison Arias, RHP; Jarod Bayless, RHP; Matt Brash, RHP; Kristian Cardozo, RHP; Sam Carlson, RHP (No. 15 prospect); Jose Corniell, RHP (No. 24); Luis Curvelo, RHP; Josias De Los Santos, RHP; Taylor Dollard, RHP; Tim Elliott, RHP (No. 26); Natanael Garabitos, RHP; Emerson Hancock, RHP (No. 3); Michael Limoncelli, RHP; Adam Macko, LHP; Brendan McGuigan, RHP; Wyatt Mills, RHP (No. 23); Connor Phillips, RHP (No. 13); Logan Rinehart, RHP (No. 30); Levi Stoudt, RHP; Devin Sweet, RHP; Juan Then, RHP (No. 14)
Juan Then originally signed with the Mariners back in 2016, was traded to the Yankees in 2017 and then re-acquired from New York in 2019. All of that happened before he even hit full-season ball, and he’s only made three starts at that level to date. His stuff has always been good, but it’s been getting better and better and he’s been turning heads in Peoria, Ariz., this fall as the decision looms to put him on the 40-man roster.
“He’s not a secret to people, but every time out he’s been 95-99 mph with a real slider,” Mariners farm director Andy McKay said. “He’s even better than people understand. He’ll have to be protected this year, that’ll make people understand how we feel about him.”
Logan Rinehart just joined Then on the Mariners’ Top 30 as a guy who opened a lot of eyes during his time at the club’s alternate site in Tacoma this summer. Rinehart had made strides this spring before the shutdown and then didn’t really get to show how that would translate in competition. That’s changed at instructs.
“It’s been more of the same, but he’s doing it with another team on the field,” McKay said. “It was an odd situation with the shutdown. Now you want to see if what you saw in the bullpen is there when the Padres or Royals are standing in there. The answer is yes.”
Right-hander Levi Stoudt also hadn’t been able to show what he could do against opponents. The team’s third-round pick in 2019 didn’t pitch last summer, so 2020 would have been the first year the three-year starter at Lehigh would have gotten competitive innings. He’s created as much buzz as any arm in camp now.
“He’s been 95-96 with his fastball, at the top of the zone, with a solid 65-ish changeup,” McKay said. “He’s the guy people are here to see. They don’t miss his appearances.”
Jake Anchia; Carter Bins; Cal Raleigh (No. 8); Matt Scheffler
After a huge first full season that saw Cal Raleigh hit 29 homers and reach Double-A, the Mariners were excited to see what their 2018 third-round pick would do as a follow-up. That, of course, never transpired, but he did continue to drive the ball in Tacoma. Typically, he wouldn’t be at instructs now, but the Mariners wanted to get him some more reps on both sides of the ball. He hasn’t disappointed.
“He continues to show real power from both sides of the plate,” McKay said. “All summer in Tacoma you saw what he did the year before, and he’s continued to do it here.
“He’s working on all aspects of catching, he’s a good catcher, he’s a very diligent worker in terms of his receiving, throwing skills, leadership. He’s committed to improve each facet of it.”
Noelvi Marte understandably scuffled when he was part of summer camp and then playing at the alternate site in Tacoma. As a 19-year-old who has yet to play in the United States, Marte wasn’t expected to produce; he was just expected to learn from that experience. It’s pretty evident he took those lessons with him to instructs.
“Going from the D.R. to facing Marco Gonzales at T-Mobile [Park] is like going from doing times tables to calculus,” McKay said. “He’s catching up now. He’s hit some home runs, hitting the ball hard, the swings and misses are plummeting. No one has walked away not being impressed by him on both sides of the ball. He hits second every day, right after Taylor Trammell and right before Julio Rodriguez. We’ve thrown him into the deep end and he’s starting to swim a little bit.”
Marte has been joined by fellow teenager Milkar Perez who is playing third every day while being in the States for the first time, though that hasn’t really bothered him.
“He’s a switch-hitter who has not had a lot of issues fitting into this level of play,” McKay said. “The left side of our infield has been fun to watch.”
It should come as no surprise that Julio Rodriguez has returned from injury with the same energy and potent bat he’s shown whenever he’s been on the field. He’ll be taking all of it with him to winter ball in the Dominican after instructs.
“He continues to hit the ball very hard,” McKay said. “He’s playing hard. He’s running better, he’s throwing well. He’s showing why he is who he is and how much he loves playing baseball. In my entire career I’ve never been with someone who genuinely loved competing the way he does.”
Rodriguez and Taylor Trammell have stood out, somewhat as expected as Top-100-caliber prospects who are ready for a higher level of competition. Zach DeLoach, the team’s second-round pick this year out of Texas A&M, has shown he belongs at least closer to the conversation about top outfield prospects in the system than anyone expected.
“He’s been hitting since the day we signed him,” McKay said. “He went from the Draft to hitting in Tacoma to hitting here. He knows the strike zone, puts together as good of an at-bat as anyone. We can’t be happier with how he’s shown in a very odd year one.”