Pipeline names Mariners Prospects of the Year

September 19th, 2019

SEATTLE -- For Jarred Kelenic and Logan Gilbert, the rise up the Mariners' Minors ranks was both swift and impressive.

In their first full season of professional baseball, the two youngsters began at Class A West Virginia and quickly played their way up to Class A Advanced Modesto and finally Double-A Arkansas.

In a vastly improved Seattle farm system, the two ascending stars have been selected as the Mariners’ 2019 Hitting and Pitching Prospects of the Year by the MLB Pipeline staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors and appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list.

Kelenic was installed as the Mariners’ No. 1 prospect by MLB Pipeline as soon as he was acquired from the Mets in the Robinson Cano/Edwin Diaz deal in November, and he did nothing to diminish that ranking with an impressive age-19 season, combining to hit .291/.364/.540 with 23 home runs and 20 stolen bases in 117 games.

Kelenic was the Mets’ first-round Draft pick (6th overall) out of Waukesha High School (Wisc.) in 2018. He played Rookie ball for his two months in their organization, but he quickly showed that he was ready for advancement this season.

“Whatever field he was playing on this year, you usually left thinking he might be the best player out there,” said Andy McKay, the Mariners' director of player development. “The combination of power and speed, the ability to really defend, it’s different. And to do it at his age.

“I think I saw 20 stolen bases, 20 home runs and 30 doubles. He was the only guy that did it in Minor League baseball that wasn’t playing in Triple-A with the loaded baseball. No matter how you break it down, it was a phenomenal year for him, and now he’s getting ready for the [Arizona] Fall League and we’ll see how it goes from there.”

Kelenic, who just turned 20, has moved up MLB Pipeline’s overall rankings as well, now listed at No. 22 overall after coming into the year at No. 56.

While Kelenic has garnered the most attention, the 6-foot-6 Gilbert put together an equally impressive season on the mound, going 10-5 with a 2.13 ERA and 165 strikeouts in 135 innings and finishing the year with nine starts at Arkansas.

Gilbert, 22, didn’t play any pro ball last year after coming down with mononucleosis following his selection as the Mariners’ first-round Draft pick (14th overall) in June out of Stetson University. But he, too, quickly showed that he was ready for an aggressive push up Seattle’s system as well as the Pipeline rankings, where he’s now No. 2 for the Mariners and No. 48 overall.

“He obviously exceeded every expectation we could have possibly had for him,” said McKay. “Coming off a year where he didn’t pitch, he dominated three levels. Many people will tell you that he was the best pitcher in the Sally League, the best pitcher in the Cal League and the best pitcher in Double-A.

“No matter how you break it down, he was one of the top starting pitchers in Minor League baseball. So we couldn’t be happier with it. Not only the way he pitched on the field, but the way he worked off the field, the work habits are exceptional, the focus is exceptional. He’s made a lot of people better.”

Having reached 135 innings in his first full season, Gilbert appeared to be tiring in his final outing, and the Mariners shut him down rather than push him further when Arkansas reached the Texas League North Division playoffs. But even that turned out to have a silver lining, in McKay’s eyes, as No. 10 prospect Kyle Lewis and several others were able to be promoted a week earlier to join the big league club.

Lewis proceeded to hit four home runs in his first six games with Seattle.

“Obviously it was tough, having to tell Logan we weren’t going to let him pitch,” McKay said. “It probably cost us the playoff series, but it was the right thing to do for him, clearly, and you try to find the positives. If he pitches, we probably win and Kyle Lewis isn’t here hitting home runs. The stars line up, and they give you positives somehow. So that’s the positive that came out of it.”