PEORIA, Ariz. -- The Mariners’ multiyear rebuild is entering a critical stage ahead of the 2021 season, with many of the bluechip prospects that general manager Jerry Dipoto has acquired over the past two years on the cusp of reaching the Majors.
The complete roster overhaul following the 2018 season has certainly come with its challenges -- a 95-127 record in the two seasons since, the sixth-worst mark in baseball, and the at times revolving door, with 61 pitchers and 35 position players used in that span. But with less than two weeks until Opening Day, Dipoto and Seattle’s front office have far more roster clarity, for the 26-man big league roster and the wave of key contributors that will be coming in ’21 and beyond.
On Friday, the Mariners received more validation for their rebuild, when MLB Pipeline unveiled its top farm system rankings and listed Seattle as No. 3 in all of baseball. In conjunction, MLB Pipeline also released the latest Mariners Top 30 Prospects list, which featured six players in the Top 100.
“We have accumulated a large group of talented players with high character,” Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said. “This effort is a credit to our collaboration across multiple departments -- scouting, high performance, front office, analytics and player development. But most of the credit goes to our players, who believe in our Player Plan process and want to win in Seattle.”
Leading that group is outfielder Jarred Kelenic, whose potential has been one of the key storylines the past month in Mariners Spring Training. In addition to his raw power, which he’s shown throughout camp, the uber-confident Kelenic’s compact swing and patient approach at the plate has many in scouting circles suggesting that he could also contend for batting titles.
Checking in behind Kelenic is fellow outfielder Julio Rodríguez, whose world-class bat speed has the Mariners drooling over his 40-homer potential. The 20-year-old is a little further behind Kelenic in his development, but he’s shown great strides in his at-bats this spring, working deeper into counts and showing major improvements against secondary pitches, which will be among the final hurdles he’ll need to clear before reaching the Majors.
Following those two, who are among MLB Pipeline’s Top 5 prospects in all of baseball, are right-handers Emerson Hancock, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby, all first-round Draft picks by the Mariners in recent years who possess high-end starter talent.
Gilbert will make his Major League debut in the coming months, with Seattle earmarking a chunk of his innings for the final months of the regular season. Kirby and Hancock are further behind, but they spent a ton of time with the big league coaches at last year’s Summer Camp, the alternate training site and in this year’s Spring Training.
“We believe in our players and think we have the foundation for long-term success,” McKay said. “Converting talent into sustainable Major League players is hard, but we trust our people and our process to get this job done.”
Here are the players whose ranks changed the most from the 2020 preseason list to the ‘21 preseason list.
Jump: Levi Stoudt, RHP (2020: NR | 2021: 14)
Stoudt wowed Mariners management with an impressive showing in the fall developmental league in Arizona last year, where his fastball was as high as 97 mph and his changeup took a huge step forward and showed potential to be a wipeout pitch at the big league level. If he continues to show this type of flair on the mound, there’s a good chance Stoudt could be pitching in professional games soon. He’s basically been sidelined since undergoing Tommy John surgery shortly after the club drafted him in the third round in 2019.
Fall: Braden Bishop, OF (2020: 18 | 2021: NR)
Bishop still has the chance to contribute at the big league level, and he entered Spring Training vying for the Opening Day left-field job. But his bat has proven to take longer than he or the club would’ve hoped to catch up to his elite glove. The 27-year-old played in just 12 games last year, hitting .167/.242/.233.
Players are graded on a 20-80 scouting scale for future tools -- 20-30 is well below average, 40 is below average, 50 is average, 60 is above average and 70-80 is well above average. Players in parentheses have the same grade.
Hit: 65 -- Jarred Kelenic
Power: 65 -- Julio Rodríguez
Run: 70 -- Jonatan Clase
Arm: 70 -- Milkar Perez
Defense: 60 -- Jake Fraley
Fastball: 65 -- Emerson Hancock (Logan Gilbert, Tyler Adcock)
Curveball: 55 -- Emerson Hancock (George Kirby, Brandon Williamson, Connor Phillips)
Slider: 60 -- Emerson Hancock (Sam Delaplane)
Changeup: 60 -- Emerson Hancock (Levi Stoudt, Logan Rinehart)
Control: 65 -- George Kirby
How they were built
Draft: 20 | International: 5 | Trade: 5
Breakdown by ETA
2021: 10 | 2022: 9 | 2023: 5 | 2024: 6
Breakdown by position
C: 1 | 1B: 0 | 2B: 0 | 3B: 2 | SS: 2 | OF: 7 | RHP: 15 | LHP: 3