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Last year's Mariners list

The State of the System: The tenth-best pitching prospect in the Braves system is the fourth-best prospect in this system. Draw your own conclusions.

The Top Ten

  1. RF Tyler O'Neill
  2. OF Kyle Lewis
  3. LHP Luiz Gohara
  4. RHP Max Povse
  5. RHP Andrew Moore
  6. RHP Nick Neidert
  7. 1B/DH Dan Vogelbach
  8. OF Mitch Haniger
  9. OF Brayan Hernandez
  10. SS Drew Jackson

The Big Question: Do the Mariners have the worst top pitching prospect in baseball?

Ask three evaluators what makes a good pitching prospect, and you may get three different answers. Many will naturally gravitate towards upside, and talk about size, arm strength, velocity, hammer breaking balls, and other terms you could associate with Noah Syndergaard. Some might bring up a pitcher’s ability to control his delivery, and to throw quality strikes with all of his pitches. Others will list a combination of stuff and mechanics, with a liberal dash of intangibles alongside.

Ask three evaluators to name the Mariners top pitching prospect, and you may get three responses that break down neatly along the lines described above. We tabbed Luiz Gohara as the top arm in the system, but he didn’t exactly run away with the title. He’s a teenage fireballer who flashes two decent secondaries, but between concerns about his size, effort level, and lengthy developmental path, there are plenty of red flags in the profile. Reasonable people might prefer Andrew Moore or Max Povse, safer alternatives with a lower ceiling but higher floor.

Ultimately though, none of them are an ideal headliner. At his best, Gohara flashes no. 2-caliber stuff but he’s more likely to wind up in the bullpen than on Cy Young ballots. Meanwhile, Moore and Povse will probably start more than a few games in the big leagues at some point, but even forecasting a smooth transition to the majors, it’s hard to imagine either becoming more than a no. 4. Are there any other teams with less compelling options at the top of their prospect heap?

Let’s break this down visually. Here’s a look at the 20 teams who clearly have a better pitching prospect than Seattle:

Atlanta

Sean Newcomb

Boston

Jason Groome

Chicago (AL)

Lucas Giolito

Chicago (NL)

Trevor Clifton

Cincinnati

Amir Garrett

Colorado

Jeff Hoffman

Detroit

Matt Manning

Houston

Francis Martes

Los Angeles (NL)

Yadier Alvarez

Milwaukee

Josh Hader

New York (AL)

Justus Sheffield

New York NL

Robert Gsellman

Oakland

Grant Holmes

Philadelphia

Franklyn Kilome

Pittsburgh

Tyler Glasnow

St. Louis

Alex Reyes

San Diego

Anderson Espinoza

Tampa Bay

Brent Honeywell

Texas

Yohander Mendez

Washington

Erick Fedde

All of those pitchers are safely on our top 101 list, and while there might be a scout who likes Gohara more than, say, Manning, you probably wouldn’t find many of them.

On the next tier down, you again have another group of pitchers who most evaluators would prefer over anyone in Seattle’s system. There’s a little more room for disagreement here, but consensus probably sides with the following five names over Gohara or Moore:

Cleveland

Triston McKenzie

Miami

Braxton Garrett

Minnesota

Tyler Jay

San Francisco

Tyler Beede

Toronto

Sean Reid-Foley

And now we’ve reached the muck. To end the drama early, Gohara’s profile is probably more enticing than anything the Angels have to offer, unless you really value back-end lefties. You could also slot Gohara ahead of Cody Sedlock, Baltimore’s top prospect, and a pitcher likely ticketed for a relief role. But he’s right there with Arizona’s Anthony Banda—a command and control southpaw on the brink of the big leagues—or Kansas City’s Josh Staumont, a power arm who walked over 100 hitters in 123 innings last season. To be sure, Gohara is an interesting arm to follow, but a glance at his relative standing among other top pitching prospects suggests that the Mariners probably don’t have a future all-star on the mound lurking in their system.

But even with one of the worst top pitching prospects in the league, Seattle’s pitching situation isn’t as dismal as it first appears. For one, the picture is much brighter than it was a year and a half ago, when Gohara ran a 6.20 ERA in the Northwest League, Moore was in short-season ball, Povse was an Atlanta farmhand, and a Google search for Nick Neidert retrieved this as its top image. Incumbents have improved, and new blood from trades and the draft have strengthened a once stagnant system. In Gohara and Neidert, the Mariners have two pitchers who could conceivably pitch in the middle of a rotation someday, and both are coming off strong years in Low-A. There’s work ahead, but promise on the horizon.

Seattle also has more young depth in the upper minors this season than they have in years past. In a year where the Mariners were eliminated from playoff contention on the season’s penultimate day, fans can only wonder what might have been if the organization hadn’t needed Cody Martin, Joe Wieland, and Wade Leblanc to take the ball down the stretch. In Moore, Povse, and, to a lesser extent, Rob Whalen and Ryan Yarbrough, Seattle has several potential back-end arms who can help as soon as 2017. Meanwhile, Dan Altavilla is still prospect eligible and he may see time in the eighth inning this season; fellow youngster Tony Zych could have a meaningful role in relief as well.

Taken together, there’s probably more pitching help on the way in Seattle than in Arizona, Kansas City, Baltimore, and Los Angeles, and possibly Miami as well. That doesn’t make this a good system for pitching, but the trajectory of the organization’s pitching depth is heading in the right direction. If Seattle’s development staff has another good year, the theme of this essay could look dated pretty quickly. —Brendan Gawlowski

***

1. Tyler O'Neill, RF
DOB: 06/22/1995
Height/Weight: 5’11” 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted in the third round of the 2013 MLB draft, Garibaldi SS (Maple Ridge, BC); signed for $650,000
Previous Ranking(s): #9 (Org.)
2016 Stats: .293/.374/.508, 24 HR, 12 SB in 130 games at Double-A Jackson

The Good: O’Neill’s carrying tool is his power. It’s 70 raw and if everything clicks, he has the pop to hit 30 homers in the big leagues. His power stems from his frame: he’s a big man, a workout warrior with thick wrists and forearms, and plus bat speed to go along with it. He’s capable of driving the ball out to all fields and he has a swing that lets him do it. He’s not the world’s most patient hitter, but it’s encouraging that his walk rate climbed in Double-A last season (while reducing his strikeouts, no less). While he’s not a burner, he’s an average runner, if not a tick better than that. He also has a very strong arm.

The Bad: The list of successful big-league hitters who ran a minor league strikeout rate north of 25 percent is short, and O’Neill flirts with the line between a strikeout-prone slugger and a guy who just swings and misses too often. He struggles with pitch recognition, and as an aggressive hitter, he’s particularly susceptible to spin down and out of the strike zone. He swings hard, and once he gets going, he struggles to make mid-pitch adjustments. These flaws won’t necessarily sink him, but there’s work ahead. Defensively, he’s playable in right but he won’t win any gold gloves.

The Irrelevant: O’Neill played for the same select baseball team as Brett Lawrie—the Langley Blaze—albeit several years apart.

The Role:

OFP 55—Above-average regular in right field.
Likely 50—Average regular in right field.

The Risks: There’s a decent chance that he won’t make enough contact for the bat to play in an everyday role. He has also (accidentally) injured himself out of frustration; make of that what you will.

Major league ETA: Late 2017 —Brendan Gawlowski

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: The risks are real, but so too is the power upside, and you’re best served gambling on someone as close to the majors as O’Neill is. Don’t count on him for a great average, but O’Neill could hit 20-plus bombs without sinking you in any other categories, sort of like Marcell Ozuna. That’d make him a solid OF 4/5, though if the swing-and-miss gets too bad we could be looking at more of a fantasy bench bat here. He’ll flirt with being a top-50 fantasy prospect.

2. Kyle Lewis, OF
DOB: 7/13/1995
Height/Weight: 6’4” 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 11th overall in 2016 MLB Draft, Mercer University (Macon, GA); signed for $3.286 million
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .299/.385/.530, 3 HR, 3 SB in 30 games at short-season Everett

The Good: Lewis is a five-tool talent. At the plate, he’s quick to the ball and he has enough loft in his swing to project at least above-average power at the highest level, provided that he fills out a bit more. He’s a patient and disciplined hitter who likes to work the count; he’ll strike out fairly often but also draw his share of walks. He’s an average runner with a plus arm, and if he comes back healthy, there’s a shot he sticks in center field. Unfortunately…

The Bad: …A brutal knee injury last summer casts legitimate doubt on his ability to hang in center. He was never a lock to stay up the middle and this setback could push him over to right field sooner rather than later. The bat should still play, but it projects as more “good” than “star” in a corner.

The Irrelevant: Lewis was the first player ever selected in the first round out of Mercer University. Pat Creech, the 32nd overall pick in 1973, is the only other MU Bear selected before the third round.

The Role:

OFP 55—Above-average regular in right field
Likely 50—Average regular in right field

The Risks: It’s difficult to project Lewis’s future role, given what we know about his knee. If everything went well in surgery and proceeds smoothly in his rehab, there’s a chance he’ll be the same guy who was drafted last summer. Sadly, we won’t know much until he gets back on the field.

Major league ETA: 2019 —Brendan Gawlowski

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Bret Sayre ranked Lewis as the fifth-best fantasy prospect from the 2016 draft, and his well-rounded skillset makes it hard to disagree. It doesn’t really matter for our purposes that Lewis might not be a center fielder so long as his glove is good enough to let him play somewhere in the outfield every day. His fantasy future actually doesn’t look too different from O’Neill’s, but Lewis has a slightly better hit tool and slightly less power. Hopefully he can still run a bit after the knee injury.

3. Luiz Gohara, LHP
DOB: 07/31/1996
Height/Weight: 6’3” 240 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: Signed in August 2012 out of Brazil for $880,000
Previous Ranking(s): #3 (Org.)
2016 Stats: 1.76 ERA, 1.65 DRA, 15.3 IP, 13 H, 3 BB, 21 K in 3 games at short-season Everett, 1.82 ERA, 2.61 DRA, 54.3 IP, 44 H, 20 BB, 60 K in 10 games at Low-A Clinton

The Good: Gohara’s fastball regularly reaches the upper-90s and comfortably sits in the 94-96 mph range throughout games. He’s strong and has a quick arm; the velocity isn’t the product of an overly-aggressive delivery. His curve flashes plus, but just as promisingly, it looked competent far more often than it had in years past. It feels like Gohara has been a prospect for a long time, but he’s still just 20 years old, and after struggling in short-season ball for a couple of years, he posted his best statistical campaign of his career down the stretch in Low-A last year.

The Bad: The Brazilian lefty has a boom-or-bust profile, and unfortunately, the deficiencies in his game are still quite apparent. His changeup is a clear third pitch, and while both of his offspeed offerings are much-improved, each requires considerable refinement. Gohara’s command comes and goes, and his delivery often falls apart in games. Part of that stems from his weight—he’s huge, especially for his age—and it’s fair to question how well his body will hold up in the long run. The cumulative weight of these concerns may eventually push him to the bullpen. Some evaluators have also questioned his effort level and commitment to his craft.

The Irrelevant: Billy Hamilton and Luiz Gohara are the only two baseball players I’ve ever seen drinking Mountain Dew in the middle of a game (to be fair, Gohara was charting that night).

The Role:

OFP 60—Mid-rotation starter
Likely 50—Late-inning reliever. If you think it’s just as likely that he never reaches the majors, you’d have a case.

The Risks: Where should we start?

Major league ETA: 2019 —Brendan Gawlowski

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: I’ve beat it into your heads by now that pitchers with upside are the only pitchers worth gambling on, but Gohara is too risky for me to recommend that you take the plunge. I get that he could be a high-strikeout starter in a (usually) good park, but it doesn’t seem like the odds of him reaching those heights are very good. Unless your league rosters in excess of 150 prospects, you can pass for now.

4. Max Povse, RHP
DOB: 8/23/1993
Height/Weight: 6’8” 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 102nd overall in the 2014 MLB Draft, University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Greensboro, NC); signed for $425,000; acquired from Braves for Alex Jackson and Tyler Pike
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 3.71 ERA, 1.46 DRA, 87.1 IP, 89 H, 17 BB, 91 K in 15 games at High-A Carolina, 2.93 ERA, 3.47 DRA, 70.2 IP, 61 H, 12 BB, 48 K in 11 games at Double-A Mississippi

The Good: Povse is an advanced, polished arm, with three potential major-league quality offerings. The fastball sits in the low 90s, but the pitch plays up due to the plane and boring movement he gets from it. There’s a decent amount of deception too. The curve and change both have a chance to be average or maybe a tick above.

The Bad: Povse throws strikes, but his length, limbs, and uphill delivery all give plenty of opportunities for the mechanics to go awry. He’s more control than command at present. We are at the start of the section of the Mariners list now where the arms may lack an out pitch in the majors.

The Irrelevant: 6-foot-8 is very tall for a pitcher, but he won’t be the tallest pitcher in the majors. That honor still belongs to Chris Young, who measures 6-foot-10.

The Role:

OFP 50—No. 4 starter
Likely 45—No. 4/5 starter

The Risks: Povse is a polished strikethrower, who is just a bit of command refinement away from being a back-of-the-rotation major league arm. It’s not super-exciting, but he’s close to the majors and relatively low risk. As long as you ignore that he is a pitcher.

Major league ETA: Late 2017

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: There are worse back-end starter prospects in the mid-minors to bet on. But there are so, so many better prospects. Unfortunately, this sentiment is about to become a theme…

5. Andrew Moore, RHP
DOB: 6/2/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 185 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 72nd overall in the 2015 MLB Draft, Oregon State University (Corvallis, OR); signed for $800,000
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: 1.65 ERA, 3.09 DRA, 54.2 IP, 36 H, 13 BB, 47 K in 9 games at High-A Bakersfield, 3.16 ERA, 3.41 DRA, 108.1 IP, 112 H, 18 BB, 86 K in 19 games at Double-A Jackson

The Good: Moore will go as far as his command takes him, and fortunately, he’s adept at locating all four of his pitches throughout the strike zone. As with most Driveline guys, he has an up-tempo delivery, but he repeats it extremely effectively and his motion makes him difficult to time. He also maintains his arm speed well on all of his offerings; taken together, the net effect makes Moore more effective than the sum of his parts. His changeup and curve both play within a tick of average depending on the day.

The Bad: I hesitate to say that any of Moore’s pitches are “bad” but if you watched a machine programmed to replicate his arsenal, you probably wouldn’t walk away overly impressed. He sits in the low-90s with his fastball, touching a bit higher, and he likes to work up in the zone with the pitch. Moore’s slider is behind his other off-speed pitches; it’s not clear whether he’ll have an out pitch against elite bats.

The Irrelevant: Moore is spending the off-season as target practice for Dan Straily.

The Role:

OFP 50—No. 4 starter
Likely 45—No. 5 starter/swing man

The Risks: Moore might not miss too many bats, and if Safeco plays like the launching pad it was last season, he faces an uphill battle to stick as a pitch-to-contact starter.

Major league ETA: 2018, possibly late 2017 —Brendan Gawlowski

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Fun fact: I work in SEO for my real-life job and I can tell you that Google hates duplicate content. This is the only thing that prevents me from writing the same exact thing about back-end starting prospects on every single one of these lists. Stay away.

6. Nick Neidert, RHP
DOB: 11/20/1996
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 60th overall in the 2015 MLB Draft Peachtree HS (Peachtree, GA); signed for $1.2 million
Previous Ranking(s): #10 (Org.)
2016 Stats: 2.57 ERA, 3.33 DRA, 91 IP, 75 H, 13 BB, 69 K in 19 games at Low-A Clinton

The Good: I could save us all some time by copy/pasting the Moore and Povse reports here, but there are some subtle differences I suppose. Neidert is a bit rawer, but the stuff is better on balance. Neidert can get his fastball up to the mid-90s and it is lively pitch when he can get it down in the zone. The curveball will flash solid-average. The change and the slider both have a chance to be major league offerings.

The Bad: Neidert’s delivery plays a little taller than his listed 6-foot-1, but the fastball can lack plane. There’s some effort in the delivery, and his control is better than his command, and he can be wild in the zone with the fastball. He doesn’t always get the fastball down and it is very hittable up in the zone. The curve can show early and get a little humpy. The change flashes, but is too firm at present.

The Irrelevant: Per TripAdvisor the most top thing to do in Peachtree, Georgia is “Golf Cart Paths.” It has 160 reviews as of publication.

The Role:

OFP 50—No. 4 starter
Likely 45—Back-end starter or good middle reliever

The Risks: The Mariners managed Neidert’s innings carefully in 2016, so there will be some questions to how the frame and delivery hold up to a starter’s workload until it…holds up to starter’s workload. There isn’t a clear out pitch at present, although I think the curve could get there. The fastball may get squared more in the upper minors without command improvements. The total package might end up playing better in short bursts. And oh yeah, he’s a pitcher.

Major league ETA: 2019

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Fun fact: I work in SEO for my real-life job and I can tell you that Google hates duplicate content. This is the only thing that prevents me from writing the same exact thing about back-end starting prospects on every single one of these lists. Stay away.

7. Dan Vogelbach, 1B/DH
DOB: 12/17/1992
Height/Weight: 6’0” 250 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 68th Overall in the 2011 MLB Draft, Bishop Verot HS (Fort Myers, FL); signed for $1.6 million; acquired from Cubs for Mike Montgomery and Jordan Pries
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .083/.154/.083, 0 HR, 0 SB in 8 games at major league level, .318/.425/.548, 16 HR, 0 SB in 89 games at Triple-A Iowa, .240/.404/.422, 7 HR, 0 SB in 44 games at Triple-A Tacoma

The Good: Vogelbach can really hit. He’s a disciplined hitter with excellent strike zone judgement, and his swing covers both halves of the plate. He’s a huge guy with loft in his swing, and above-average bat speed, all of which translates into plus raw power. He started tapping into it in games pretty regularly last season, and he has the potential to launch 25-plus homers as a big leaguer. He won’t win many batting titles—too many strikeouts and he’s not legging out many infield grounders—but he makes a lot of hard contact and should post a strong on-base percentage. Vogelbach has also earned a lot of praise for his makeup, and he’s a very high-effort player on the field.

The Bad: Despite the defensive improvements he’s made in recent years, Vogelbach’s best position is designated hitter. The Mariners plan to use him at first base, and he’s playable there, but he’s a 20 runner and his lack of range on grounders and pop ups will become apparent quickly. At the plate, the walks and power come with plenty of strikeouts, and he hasn’t hit quite as many homers as you’d think given his frame and raw power.

The Irrelevant: According to Kiley McDaniel, Vogelbach avidly reads critiques about his game; hello Dan!

The Role:

OFP 50—Average regular at DH
Likely 45—Bench bat

The Risks: There’s compelling evidence that the strike zone is bigger in the majors than in Triple-A, and that could make life difficult for a guy like Vogelbach. There’s also a bias against pure-DH types, as many managers prefer to cycle players through the DH slot to reduce wear and tear. Together, those factors could pinch Vogelbach’s value to a big-league team.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016 —Brendan Gawlowski

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: This ranking is a personal affront to the respective honors of me, Bret and Wilson Karaman. But for real, Vogelbach is the personification of the difference between fantasy value and IRL value. Sure, the ceiling isn’t elite here, but Vogelbach has a high floor as a modest source of power and AVG, even if he’s only eligible at UT. He’s probably the third-best (and maybe the second-best) fantasy prospect on this list, and he’s definitely a top-100 dynasty prospect as an MLB-ready bat who could hit .280 with 20 homers. He’ll be more valuable in OBP leagues, too. [ed. Note: whither C.J. Cron references?]

8. Mitch Haniger, OF
DOB: 12/23/1990
Height/Weight: 6’2” 215 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: Drafted 38th overall in the 2012 MLB Draft Cal Poly State-San Luis Obispo (and I’m five years old or six maybe); signed for $1.2 million. Acquired from Diamondbacks for Ketel Marte and Taijuan Walker
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .294/.407/.462, 5 HR, 4 SB in 55 games at Double-A Mobile; .341/.428/.670, 20 HR, 8 SB in 74 games at Triple-A Reno; .229/.309/.404, 5 HR, 0 SB in 34 games for the Arizona Diamondbacks

The Good: With the help of Bob Tewksbary, Haniger tweaked his swing in 2016 and the results were striking. He added a leg kick, lowered his hands, and then lowered the boom on the upper minors. Reno and the PCL may exaggerate the effects some, but there is legit above-average power in the profile now. He’s not a complete disaster in center field, and has the arm strength to slide over to right field if necessary.

The Bad: He’s a step or two too slow for an everyday up-the-middle role, and those swing changes may not be enough to carry a right field profile in the majors. The swing-and-miss has never been excessive in his pro career, but he was always over-age, and I do wonder if major-league arms will be able to exploit some of the new timing mechanisms in his swing. He will need to hit a lot to carry a corner outfield profile.

The Irrelevant: It took me at least a year to stop thinking that Bob Tewksbary the hitting instructor was Bob Tewksbury the pitching savant. Yes, it didn’t make sense to me even at the time..

The Role:

OFP 50—Mashing corner outfielder
Likely 45—Mashing bench bat

The Risks: We aren’t saying Haniger is a Quad-A player, but if he were a Quad-A player, his 2016 would be in line with that profile. He doesn’t qualify for the 25U list so banking on further improvement might be foolhardy.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2016

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If you play in a 16-team AL-only league with 40 man rosters, run, don’t walk, to pick up Haniger. Otherwise you’re good.

9. Brayan Hernandez, OF
DOB: 9/11/1997
Height/Weight: 6’2” 175 lbs.
Bats/Throws: S/R
Drafted/Acquired: Signed in July 2014 out of Venezuela for $1.85 million
Previous Ranking(s): N/A
2016 Stats: .285/.324/.400, 1 HR, 9 SB in 33 games at complex level AZL

The Good: Hernandez is a wiry-strong, twitchy athlete. His loose hands and strong wrists help create above-average bat speed which results in loud contact off the bat. He’s a plus runner with a solid second gear and the type of bouncy first step that creates the range necessary to track fly balls in the gap.

The Bad: His present feel for the barrel would get picked apart at the higher levels of the minors. He seems to cheat in order to keep up with velocity, resulting in ugly swings out on his front foot against fringe breaking stuff. Defensively, he split time between center field and right field in the AZL, signaling his ultimate positional destination is likely an outfield corner.

The Irrelevant: While age-appropriate for complex ball, Hernandez’s youth isn’t so extreme to make you contemplate your own mortality, but then again Event Horizon had just come out when he was born.

The Role:

OFP 50—Average major-league corner outfielder
Likely 40—Tweener bench outfielder

The Risks: Hernandez is your prototypical flame out candidate. He has the tools to be a big leaguer, but he hasn’t shown the bat-to-ball skills to make him a true top prospect. His offensive profile would play much better up the middle, as he may not hit enough to warrant an everyday role in a corner.

Major league ETA: 2021

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: Hernandez is a good one for your watch list, but that’s about the extent of his fantasy value at the moment.

10. Drew Jackson, SS
DOB: 07/28/1993
Height/Weight: 6’2” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired/Bonus: Drafted in the fifth round of the 2015 MLB Draft, Stanford University; signed for $335,400
Previous Ranking(s): #7 (Org.)
2016 Stats: .258/.332/.345, 6 HR, 16 SB in 124 games at High-A Bakersfield

The Good: Jackson is a quality athlete with a high waist and fluidity in his movements on the dirt. He breaks well on balls, and raw speed that pushes plus-plus translates well to above-average range at the six spot. His arm rates as a second double-plus tool. It’s a weapon from the left side, affording him cover to convert outs even when he lacks efficiency in his gather and transfer. He’ll show signs of an approach and stay in the zone, and there is bat-to-ball skill to produce consistent contact.

The Bad: The quality of that contact is not always the best, and Jackson’s swing is a complex flower. The load is long and stiff, with an arm bar and plenty of rigidity to where his timing is often compromised. He doesn’t engage his lower half well, and his flat swing path lacks for much at all in the way of ability to drive the ball with any authority. His reads and first step are both raw on the bases, and the foot speed fails to translate into quality breaks on stolen base attempts at present. He’ll struggle to read and anticipate hops in the field, leading to inconsistent footwork and body control in his fielding technique.

The Irrelevant: He’s a true “Drew,” not one of those Andrew Jacksons, though his middle name is Hamilton, so the moniker doesn’t lack for patriotism. Also, he’s the younger brother of former first-rounder Brett Jackson.

The Role:

OFP 45—Second-division everyday shortstop
Likely 40—Speed-and-defense backup infielder

The Risks: Jackson is a higher risk prospect whose game has enough holes—particularly with the bat—that there will be significant lag time and a longer developmental path than your typical college draftee.

Major league ETA: 2018 —Wilson Karaman

Ben Carsley’s Fantasy Take: If only defense were a fantasy category and AVG, HR and RBI were not. Jackson might be good for cheap steals some day, but that’s probably about it.

Others of note:

#11

Dan Altavilla, RHP
When writing about a marginal starting pitching prospect, my cohort will often fall back on the hoary cliché of “maybe his stuff will play up in the bullpen.” But hey, sometimes that really works. After two middling years in A-ball, as a short right-handed starter, the Mariners let Altavilla loose in the pen and it, uh, really worked. In relief Altavilla works off an upper-90s fastball with incredible armside life and a high-80s slider he can spot or chase. He has a better change than you’d expect from this type of prospect: it’s a bit firm at 90, but shows some arm-side fade and he isn’t afraid to throw it. The slide piece is a bit too inconsistent at present to project a closer role, but Altavilla could be an effective major league setup man as soon as this season.

The guy we’re bored with

D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B
Yeah, it’s not fair, but the epithet is a paraphrase of my response in our Slack channel when someone suggested D.J. Peterson was still a Top Ten Mariners prospect. 2016 was a nice bounceback after a disastrous 2015, but the Mariners aren’t even really pretending he’s a third baseman anymore. And at first base, the 50 hit/50 power combo isn’t all that exciting. Seattle has made rumblings that they might try him in a corner outfield spot as well, which…good luck to all parties involved I guess. The veneer of positional flexibility could make him a useful four corners righty bat, and there’s still some second-division starter upside here even at first, but I’m just bored with D.J. Peterson. Prospect writers can be fickle that way.

The fifth starter

Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
Yarbrough isn’t that far off the arms in the middle of the Top Ten, but he lacks even their fourth starter potential. Perhaps we are splitting hairs; a back-end starter is a back-end starter. But Yarbrough is what he is—there just isn’t much room for growth here. His fastball sits in the low 90s. He pairs it with a solid change and below-average curveball. He throws strikes with all three. He performed well in Double-A. You know this profile. Yarbrough may be a bit better prospect than your dime-a-dozen command lefty with a good change, but not enough to sneak into the Top Ten this year.

Matt’s Guy

Christopher Torres, SS
Torres is a scrappy switch-hitting shortstop with more feel for the barrel from the left side. He’s a plus runner with some idea for the strike zone, taking close pitches and spitting on marginal two-strike offerings. He struck out more than one would hope for complex-level ball, and he isn’t the type of natural defender that makes him a lock to stick at shortstop. Like most prospects who still haven’t celebrated their 19th birthdays, there’s quite a bit of risk to Torres’s profile. He lacks the upside of some of his AZL teammates, but there’s a reasonable path to becoming a big-league utility man. —Matt Pullman

The 2017 riser?

Joe Rizzo, 3B
The Mariners second-round pick this past summer, Rizzo is a cold-weather prep bat who is going to take some time to develop. He has the hands, instincts and arms to stay at third base for now, which is good because he would be an awfully short first baseman (he’s listed at 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-11 depending on the source). There’s a potential plus hit tool in here too, although he struggled with offspeed in his first taste of professional ball. When he’s right there is a classic smooth lefty swing here, and enough raw power to profile as a regular at a corner infield spot. You may be waiting a bit for it to all come together though.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/91 or later)

  1. Edwin Diaz
  2. Tyler O'Neill
  3. Kyle Lewis
  4. Luiz Gohara
  5. Max Povse
  6. ​Andrew Moore
  7. Nick Neidert
  8. ​Dan Vogelbach
  9. Brayan Hernandez
  10. Drew Jackson

As you can see from this list, the Mariners are very light on young talent. That’s not altogether surprising: with Robinson Cano, Felix Hernandez, Nelson Cruz, Kyle Seager, and Hisashi Iwakuma, this is a team with a strong core of veterans, built to win now—or perhaps more accurately, built to win two years ago. Seattle isn’t entirely devoid of young major-league talent; after all, Diaz is the closer, and Diesel Dan Altavilla could eventually handle the eighth. Boog Powell is hanging around in Triple-A as a fourth outfield type. Tony Zych and James Paxton are still in their mid-20s. Clearly though, this is an old team.

So what does an old team built to win now do with a 22-year-old gas-spitter like Diaz in the back of the bullpen? For now, he’ll close games for a team still hoping to sneak into the playoffs while the stars remain, well, stars. Provided that his command issues last September were the product of fatigue and not the onset of a serious control problem, he should thrive in the role. Relievers around the league dominated the sport with high-octane fastballs and tight sliders, and for a few months last summer, nobody epitomized the trend quite like Diaz. The electric right-hander touched 102 mph, sat pretty close to that number, and simply devastated hitters after a midseason promotion from Double-A. He struck out 88 batters in 51 innings last year, including 12 of the 16 men he faced in one memorable two-week stretch of June. He had a few bumps, but for the most part, Diaz was legit.

Long term, the answer to the above question is more complicated. The Mariners, whatever their merits now, will probably not be a good team in 2019. Almost all of their impact players will either be gone or in their 30’s, and while there are a few promising players on our top ten, the next great Mariners team will not feature many of the names above in prominent roles. To reset the organization, Seattle will probably have to rebuild in the coming years. We don’t know how much value they’ll be able to obtain in return for members of their soon-to-be-aging core but given the size of the contracts involved, the safe guess is “not a ton.” We’re dealing with hypotheticals on top of hypotheticals, but it’s not hard to project a situation where Diaz soon becomes one of Seattle’s most valuable trade chips, if he is not already.

Coming off of a postseason shaped by dominant relief pitching, the market for relievers is scorching right now. Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman both commanded large returns in midseason trades last year, while Mark Melancon and Kenley Jansen just signed $60- and $80-million contracts, respectively. Provided that Diaz stays healthy and effective and solidifies his reputation as an elite reliever Jerry Dipoto could soon find himself in a position where he can extract a king’s ransom for Diaz. And given that we’re talking about a young, hard-throwing pitcher—one who wore down in the second half of last season, no less—there must be a certain amount of incentive to move him sooner rather than later. Closers are a luxury on a bad team, and if Miller’s acquisition serves as any guide, the guess here is that an inexpensive talent like Diaz will return quite a package from a contender looking for a velocity injection.

Mariners fans should enjoy Diaz’s exploits while they can. Seattle has enough talent on the roster to give it a go in 2017, and if the rest of the team clicks, Diaz can be a valuable part of a winning ball club this year. In all likelihood though, his long term future lies elsewhere. He’s at the top of our 25U list this season; soon, he may be directly responsible for his replacement. —Brendan Gawlowski

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heterodude
12/15
Spoiler alert oh the Cubs list. I was expecting Cease as the top pitching prospect.
madjockmcferson
12/15
The Cubs have pitching prospects too? Oh boy....they may dominate for a while
Slappy
12/15
I'm surprised a well rounded prospect like Ben Gamel didn't get any mention at all.
lowguppy
12/15
What happened to Braden Bishop? Still in A ball but had a decent if unexciting year statistically.
TheArtfulDodger
12/15
He was 22 in Low-A and couldn't crack a .700 OPS, and then was worse in the Cal League.
jfranco77
12/15
I know it's just because Jerry DiPoto trades with *everyone* but I think it's interesting in an abstract way that he's traded a lot with a lot of teams that also have terrible pitching prospects (LAA, AZ, BAL, MIA)
oldbopper
12/15
It should not be difficult to accept that a mediocre pitcher is a renowned hitting guru when one of the great pitching coaches, Dave Duncan, was a catcher.
dsher84
12/16
Re: Haniger's comments ("He will need to hit a lot to carry a corner outfield profile."), do players really need to hit all that much better playing corner OF now rather than CF? League averages by position: LF .316 wOBA CF .316 wOBA RF .324 wOBA
huztlers
12/21
It seems odd to not mention any concerns about Kyle Lewis hitting mechanics. It seems that all pre-injury information was centered around that.
Tom9418
1/27
Mike Zunino is, I think, slightly too old for the under-25 list. If he was two weeks younger, where would he have been?