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State of the Farm: 8/30/16

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Let's talk progress

Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

Over the course of the season, I've had the pleasure of covering several different aspects of the farm system. Between new players finding their footing, forgotten prospects plopping themselves squarely back on the radar, and just about every single affiliate clinching a playoff spot by late-August, the storylines have been, for the most part, overwhelmingly positive. Today, let's think big picture. What do those incredibly positive results add up to? How much better off is the farm system compared to where it was a year ago?

Performance

This is, to me, the biggest area of improvement in the farm system. Across the board, a vast majority of prospects are seeing better results. D.J. Peterson saw his wRC+ in Double-A climb 52 points from last year to this year. Tyler O'Neill developed into an all-around threat at the plate. Dan Altavilla was shifted to the bullpen, where he immediately transformed into a monster. Even Marcus Littlewood and Joe DeCarlo, long forgotten top draft picks, have experienced unseen levels of success this year.

It's not all sunshine and roses. Some players such as Austin Wilson, Gareth Morgan, and Austin Cousino either took a step back or failed to show any sort of improvement at all (Cousino so much so that he was gone before he even got 20 games in). The overall results are impressive, though, and we no longer have to live in fear of the Mariners ruining prospects one by one. Here's a quick look at the improvements:

2015

2016

Clinton LumberKings (A)

.239/.318/.330, 535 runs

.252/.329/.347, 555 runs

Bakersfield Blaze (A+)

.237/.307/.352, 570 runs

.261/.346/.388, 710 runs

Jackson Generals (AA)

.245/.323/.359, 510 runs

.266/.348/.379, 610 runs

Tacoma Rainiers (AAA)

.280/.340/.434, 745 runs

.275/.338/.419, 660 runs

2015

2016

Clinton LumberKings (A)

4.31 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 3.8 BB/9

3.09 ERA, 8.4 K/9, 2.9 BB/9

Bakersfield Blaze (A+)

3.86 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9

3.90 ERA, 8.9 K/9, 3.5 BB/9

Jackson Generals (AA)

4.50 ERA, 7.4 K/9, 3.9 BB/9

3.49 ERA, 8.0 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

Tacoma Rainiers (AAA)

4.85 ERA, 7.0 K/9, 3.1 BB/9

3.99 ERA, 7.8 K/9, 2.7 BB/9

Straight-up comparisons are tricky with minors because roster turnover can be so psychotic. That being said, the numbers being better across the board is very telling. Even considering the general uselessness of ERA, the vast improvement in the pitching department is grin-worthy. Pitchers and hitters alike are controlling the zone, and controlling it well.

Talent

Despite the pretty stats and improvements and steps forward, talent is still the big thing lacking in the farm system. It's easy to focus solely on the Mariners' organization and think of all the neat players they have, but it still appears barren when compared to an average, middle-of-the-pack farm system.

Are they better off than they were a year ago? Absolutely. The additions of Kyle Lewis, Joe Rizzo, Dan Vogelbach, and Paul Blackburn, along with breakout performances by Tyler O'Neill, Luiz Gohara, Zack Littell, Brayan Hernandez and others will likely have them out of the bottom-five in most system rankings. They still find themselves without an abundance of high ceilings, however. Gohara is the only pitcher in the system you could see being a No. 2 guy in the future, and a couple positions (C, 3B) are total wastelands in terms of prospects.

There is plenty to be excited about on the farm, but they're still either a couple drafts or a fire sale away from having a top-system from a talent perspective.

Where They're Heading

The farm system is key when it comes to maintaining a consistent winner. The Cardinals and Giants of the league seem to perpetually have helpful, MLB-ready prospects lurking on a yearly basis. The Mariners' lack of this has been one reason for their struggles this year, with Edwin Diaz (who was a starting pitcher until April) being the only rookie to make a significant impact.

With the current team's core being relatively old, success in development on the farm will be critical in avoiding another ultra long rebuild. The Mariners appear to have that part covered, now they just need to go out and get some talent. Judging from everything we've seen in the past year, they are in very good hands. This year has been an incredibly positive one. Here's hoping next year is just as big.

Goms.