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Shortstop becoming a strength in the system?

Shortstop becoming a strength in the system?




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With Julio Rodriguez and George Kirby in the big leagues, and well-known top prospects such as Noelvi Marte already in mind, you might be wondering who else you should be excited about down on the farm for the Seattle Mariners.

In this month’s Prospect Report, I’m here to make a few suggestions.

The biggest standout in the system in 2022 through May 8 has been Edwin Arroyo.

The shortstop was the club’s second-round pick last July and has wasted no time this spring putting his name on the map. He impressed the club in spring training and was sent out to Single-A Modesto at 18 years of age, where he’s three years younger than the average player and the average pitcher is nearly four years his senior.

Arroyo, a switch hitter, is not a big, strong power bat like Marte. He’s more of a line-drive hitter who projects to stay up the middle. That was the consensus last July for the draft, and as this season began.

Apparently, Arroyo would like a word.

He started the season a bit slow, going 8-for-46 with just two extra-base hits. Since then he’s been one of the best performers in all of the minors. Arroyo has 21 hits in his last 51 at-bats (.412 AVG), including five home runs, three doubles, and two triples. He’s cut his strikeouts in half, and has doubled his walk rate. All while playing above-average defense at a premium position.

Let’s look at that 13-game slash together, now:

AVG OBP SLG
.412 .478 .833

(shudders)

In addition, he’s doing it from each side of the plate, though his right-handed swing remains ahead in development. It’s been an incredible run for Arroyo the past three weeks.

In the video below, it may seem like two homers total, with the first one on repeat, but it’s actually Arroyo taking former 2nd-round pick Matt Mikulski deep twice in three innings as a right-handed batter, then a shot to center as a lefty.

G AVG OBP SLG HR BB SO
24 .299 .389 .557 5 12 21

His season line now is quite notable, but the fact he’s doing it versus competition that averages more than three years his senior makes it all the more fun and promising.

For the record, a full season of .300/.375/.450 likely vaults Arroyo into Top 100 MLB prospect consideration, and it may not be out of the question he sees High-A Everett with more stretches like the one he’s on right now.

State of the Farm

With a lot of the Mariners’ top young talents in the big leagues now, some having graduated from prospect status altogether, the organization lacks prospect depth in the upper minors.

Matt Brash is really all that’s going on in Tacoma in terms of prospects, and in Double-A Arkansas it’s Levi Stoudt, Taylor Dollard, Zach DeLoach and Kaden Polcovich, plus a few relievers.

Eliminating those in the majors right now, prospects No. 1, 2, 4, 7, 8, and 9 are all under 21 years of age, Nos. 9 and 11 are exactly 21, and eight of those 10 are teenagers. The average age of the Mariners’ top 20 prospects, minus the three in the majors right now, is 20 years and seven months. If we also eliminate Brash, who is likely to be back in the big leagues in 2022 and likely to exhaust his prospect status, that number drops to 20 years and three months. It’s a pretty young group.

But Seattle’s top 10 doesn’t have the shine it did just two months ago, and as a result, the always-useless farm system rankings will soon begin to reflect this.

But if you’re starting to fear the farm well is starting to dry up for the Mariners, go stand in front of a mirror, smack the left side of your face with your left palm, then your right side with your right palm and repeat after me: Stop it. Stop it. Stop it.

While the lack of depth in the minors is usually a real worry, there’s absolutely zero cause for concern. The big-league club is very young, full of players with several years of club control remaining, and they’re flush with payroll flexibility to fill holes with proven veterans.

It’s really interesting to see how the top of the system is changing, not just in terms of the names, but what the new names have in common, and if one considers the Mariners’ 2021 draft class and recent international talents, you’ll see what’s happening is the group is just getting younger, more inexperienced. And age and experience, as we all know, is merely temporary.

Next spring, this may be my Mariners Top 5 (age right now):

1. Noelvi Marte, 3B (20)
1. *Felnin Celesten, SS (16)
3. Harry Ford, C (19)
4. Edwin Arroyo, SS (18)
5. Gabriel Gonzalez (18)

*Celesten is expected to sign during the next international signing period, likely in either September or January.

A healthy Emerson Hancock, as well as Levi Stoudt and the club’s 2022 draft class will have say in that, but the above five are all easy Top 10 prospects.

The rest of the top 10 could be filled out by the likes of Adam Macko (21), with names such as Jonatan Clase (18), Lazaro Montes (17),  Juan Pinto (17), George Feliz (18), and Michael Arroyo (17) threatening.

The presence of younger, less-advanced prospects at the top of the system may suggest the club will favor college players in the 2022 draft, though I don’t expect their Round 1 decision to be based on anything but the best opportunity on the board, regardless of position or experience level.

So, while the system is changing, it’s not losing its luster. It’s just a new crop of high-end talents. That potential Top 5 above looks a lot like the top 5 from a few years ago when Rodriguez and Kelenic were teenagers.

Justin Dunn and Logan Gilbert were Top 3 prospects in an improving yet still average system. Justus Sheffield was No. 5. Marte was No. 7.

What we’re watching isn’t the fade of a flash-in-the-pan farm system. It’s the churning of talent through a good one.

PLAYER NOTES

4. Harry Ford, C

Ford, on the IL since May 2, hasn’t hit much this season, though he has shown the ability to work deep counts and draw walks. His swing decisions are inconsistent, but as a 19-year-old in the California League that is to be expected.

He has, however, flashed the tools that made him a first-round pick, including a plus arm and plus speed. Scouts see a swing that needs works, but aren’t seeing a defender that worries them for the long haul.

“This is build-up time, he’s a kid getting the experience that will mold his tools into skills. He just needs the work back there,” said one scout.

Ford has started 11 games at catcher and thrown out four of 13 runners attempting to steal. He’s committed two passed balls and a pair of errors.

“Yeah, sneeze at it,” the scout added. “He will be more than fine if he’s willing to put in the work. There’s too much strength and agility there. It’s Buster Posey at Florida State from a physical gifts standpoint.”

Posey, for the record, was an All-American shortstop for the Seminoles his freshman year, then switched to catcher. There’s been a lot of wondering where Ford might end up on the field if his bat advances quickly or his development at catcher hits a major snag.

I don’t see how shortstop can be part of that conversation — and for the record, Posey was never going to play shortstop in the majors — and I really don’t love the chances he sticks at second base, either, though I’d like to see him try. If i were betting, here’s where I’d rank Ford’s big-league position chances:

1. C
2.
3B
3.
LF/RF
4.
2B

He’ll have to hit a ton for the middle two above to work, but, yeah, there’s a chance Arroyo and Ford form the Mariners’ double-play combination in, say, 2027.

11. Bryce Miller, RHP

Miller, 23, was last year’s fourth-round pick, and he’s done nothing this season to deter his fans, of which I am one, he doesn’t have a future in the majors.

There are plenty of detractors that see 45 control and dot he lazy “RELIEVER!” thing, but Miller is athletic, has three quality pitches including a promising changeup that may end up being his best secondary offering, and he’s gone at least five innings in all four of his starts (he went four April 10, but the game was washed out).

He’s even hit 100 pitches in a start (April 16), suggesting the org has few concerns about his mechanics.

Miller will sits 92-94 mph with 50 control, but can dial it up beyond the mid-90s with less command. The pitch has life and run and his delivery offers some deception. His best breaking ball is an average slider that teases plus. He also has a curveball with good shape, but it tends to get a little loopy.

In a relief role, Miller could sit 95-100 mph with two above-average secondaries, but for now his chances to start are good good enough to keep him on that path.

26. Sam Carlson, RHP

Carlson, 23, began the season in extended spring training with no official word why he wasn’t sent on full-season assignment to open the year — as he did a year ago.

But I can tell you this: He started throwing to live hitters last week, so it appears he’s nearing a return to game action, just not anytime real soon.

This could be due to some kind of medical setback, or about managing his workload, but I’m more interested in what role Carlson is asked to take on once he does get sent out this season.

At 23, he has just 103 innings under his belt after being the club’s second-round pick in 2017.  All but three of those came a year ago, his first full season as a pro, after losing 2018 and 2019 to UCL replacement surgery, and 2020 to the pandemic.

I have no inside info on this and there’s been no word from the organization they might, but it’s plausible the club considers moving Carlson to a relief role to see if his raw stuff can move him through the minors quicker and offer some value to the 26-man roster.

Otherwise, he might be another three years from the majors, at which time he will be 26 and have gone through minor league free agency, and a tougher Rule 5 decision than this past winter would have been.

At his best, Carlson has touched 97 mph in games, but his velocity was inconsistent a year ago and mostly down. I know he’s making specific efforts to get it back and perhaps even add to it. Throwing 88-91 mph isn’t likely to get him to the big leagues — 92-95 as a starter might, and 95-plus in a relief role is another possibility.

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 and spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio. He now serves as the Executive Copy Editor at Data Skrive, a tech company that manipulates data to provide automated content to clients including the AP, BetMGM, USA Today, and ESPN.
Find Jason’s baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.

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