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State of the Farm: 11/29/16

A look at the outfielders in the system

Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

This week on State of the Farm, I'll be taking a look at the largest group of prospects so far in this position-by-position breakdown: the outfielders. I originally intended to split the group into center fielders and corner outfielders, but there are enough cases of "he plays a corner, but can shift over to center" and vice versa that I decided to just lump them all together in one big, beautiful group.

Without further ado, here are the more noteworthy outfielders in the system at the moment:

A few notes regarding this chart:

  • Top-prospect Alex Jackson was literally just traded last night. If this is how you're finding out, I am sorry. He was very brave about the whole thing.
  • For highest level, I didn't count a level if the player was only there to fill a hole for a couple of games. For example, Eric Filia had a one-game stint with the Tacoma Rainiers, but I have Everett listed as his highest level.
  • They are ranked by highest level. Please don't yell at me for having Kyle Lewis near the bottom. He is a treasure and my favorite.
Let's get on with it:

MLB-Ready Group

Guillermo Heredia, Ben Gamel, Mitch Haniger, Boog Powell

By now, most of you are fairly familiar with this group. All but Powell got their first taste of the big leagues in 2016 and all but Powell are good bets to receive a decent amount of playing time in Seattle at some point next year.

Haniger had the most successful debut of the group, posting a 0.6 fWAR in 34 games (123 PA) with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season. Changes in his swing vaulted his career forward, as he put up a 156 wRC+ in Double-A and a 185 wRC+ in Triple-A last year. Haniger brings to the table the always intriguing blend of speed and power, with a bit of defensive value out in center field sprinkled in. Steamer currently projects a 1.8 fWAR and a 98 wRC+ for Haniger next year.

Heredia had the second-best debut of the group, with a respectable 0.4 fWAR and 92 wRC+ in 102 plate appearances with the Mariners in 2016. He was a big unknown coming out of Cuba last Spring Training, but he immediately established himself as a stellar athlete with an advanced plate approach and a decent glove. In terms of a fourth outfielder (or even a starting left fielder), you could do a whole lot worse than Heredia.

Gamel, meanwhile, has probably received the most praise from GM Jerry Dipoto over the offseason. To be fair, Mitch Haniger only barely got here, but Dipoto appears to have a soft spot for Gamel all the same. Gamel is capable of playing all three outfield positions, although he's more of a "if you grit your teeth really hard you can probably live with it" type of glove in center field. He struggled at the plate last year, slashing .188/.278/.292 in 57 plate appearances between New York and Seattle. Tweaks in his swing over the last couple years have helped him drive the ball with more authority, but a subpar plate approach gives reason to doubt he'll be anything more than a 4th outfielder in the immediate future.

Powell enters 2017 with everything to prove after missing most of the 2016 season due to suspension. Even when Powell was playing, he performed below expectations, managing just an 84 wRC+ in 277 plate appearance with Triple-A Tacoma. Perhaps the most concerning part of his performance in Tacoma was the sudden decline of his walk-rate. After sitting anywhere from a 10.6%-17% BB% all throughout his career, he dropped down to 7.9% in 2016. His typically stellar OBP plummeted (.326) as a result. Still, he isn't very far removed from looking like a competent hitter who is capable of handling all three outfield positions. I don't expect him to have much of a shot to make the team out of Spring Training next year–in fact, I said on Twitter that he's actually my prediction for the PTBNL in the Jackson trade–but Powell is about as close to MLB ready as he can be and I expect to see him in Seattle at some point next year if the team hangs on to him.

On the Horizon

Tyler O'Neill, Ian Miller

O'Neill and Miller are both guys I could see the Mariners pulling up in 2017, albeit for very different roles.

O'Neill has all the makings of a valuable player. At the plate he possesses undeniable power and the developing ability to use all parts of the field. He also saw improvements in both his strikeout and walk rates, although the strikeout-rate is still a tad on the higher end, and his152 wRC+ in Jackson this past year was the highest mark of his career (over a substantial sample size). O'Neill will need to make one last stop in Tacoma to prove himself against Triple-A competition before moving on to Seattle. Regardless, Tyler O'Neill is coming to the Pacific Northwest next year. Ready yourselves, you poor, defenseless baseballs.

Ian Miller, meanwhile, closed out 2016 in impressive fashion, slashing .300/.375/.350 over his final 137 plate appearances. Miller's value lies in an improved plate approach (0.83 BB/K in 2016) and relentless speed; he stole 49 bases for the Jackson Generals last season. The bat will need to improve before he can stick on a MLB roster, but I'd be interested in seeing him take on a Terrance Gore type of role for the Mariners in September '17. There was an argument for him doing it this past year and the sentiment will almost definitely pop up next year.

Way Off in the Distance

Everyone else

Like most systems, the Mariners' farm is full of young, promising outfielders who give you some reason for intrigue. Braden Bishop has a stellar glove. Austin Wilson is built like a tank. Luis Liberato had his moments in Clinton. Eric Filia was far and away the best hitter in the Northwest League this season.

The biggest name of this group, and perhaps the entire system, is 21-year-old outfielder Kyle Lewis. During Lewis' brief time with Everett, he flashed every bit of that potential that had some predicting he'd go as high as first overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. He generates plenty of power on his 6'4, 205-pound frame, and the contact skills are adequate, as well. He has a big leg kick in his swing that worries plenty, but quick hands, bat speed, and athleticism allow him to use it effectively. In the field, he was already considered to be a somewhat limited center fielder, so the knee injury will likely just speed up the process. He projects well in the corner, with enough arm strength and range to excel in right field. He is the closest thing the Mariners have to a potential five-tool player at the moment.

The last name I'll look at from the outfielders is Brayan Hernandez. Hernandez was a highly regarded amateur prospect when he signed with the Mariners back in 2014, but it wasn't until this summer that he made his stateside debut. Just 19-years-old, Hernandez is still very much a raw prospect, but you can see hints of what he brings to the table. The speed and defensive ability are evident and there were flashes of potential at the plate. We're still a couple years away from knowing what kind of player Brayan Hernandez will be (and whether he's someone of potential future value), but he'll be someone to keep an eye on next year. I'm not sure whether they'll send him to Clinton or have him debut in the summer with the AquaSox, but we should see plenty of him.