Hello and welcome to the first offseason post of State of the Farm. Today, we'll be spreading some love to the top performers at each position throughout the year for the Mariners' organization. Let the record show that I am not focusing on the best prospects here; I could give updates on the same guys we've been talking about for months, but they'll receive plenty of attention throughout the offseason. This is purely the guys who put up the sexiest numbers in 2016, age/career trajectory/sustainability be damned.
Ryan Yarbrough – Jackson (AA) – (128.1 IP, 3.30 FIP, 3.19 K/BB)
I was somewhat skeptical of Yarbrough's ability to succeed as a starter in the Southern League entering the season despite a pleasant 2015 campaign, but the big lefty did everything to make me feel as silly as possible. He rode his fastball-slider combo all the way to the Southern League Pitcher of the Year Award. He was a beacon of consistency for the Generals all year long and there's a growing (small, but growing) chance he makes a spot start or two (or, considering who had to pitch for the Mariners this year, ten) in Seattle next year.
Zack Littell – Clinton/Bakersfield (A/A+) – (w/ Bakersfield: 68.0 IP, 3.20 FIP, 8.07 K/9)
Of all the starting pitching prospects, none provided a bigger boost to their stock in 2016 than Littell. After putting up good but not great numbers in his first three years in the system, Littell piloted a jaeger into the Midwest League and proceeded to elbow rocket hitters into oblivion, posting a 2.96 FIP through roughly 100 innings. He earned a promotion to Bakersfield, where his numbers had a minuscule at most drop off. Look for Littell to do big things in 2017.
Luiz Gohara – Everett/Clinton (A-/A) – (w/ Clinton: 54.1 IP, 9.94 K/9, 2.61 FIP)
When I started planning out this list, I was hesitant to include short season guys (or, in Gohara's case, players who didn't start playing until short season ball started) due to small sample sizes and all that, but Gohara was so dominant that any list that didn't include him felt completely wrong. He looked untouchable in his first two starts with Everett and received a quick bump up to Clinton, where he was nearly as good. After a few years of being a guy who is all potential, no results, Gohara seems to finally be establishing himself as a legitimate pitching prospect.
Honorable Mentions – Tyler Herb, Osmel Morales, Pablo Lopez, Kevin Gadea, Andrew Moore, Nick Neidert
Dan Altavilla – Jackson (AA) – (10.32 K/9, 3.04 FIP)
Altavilla made the long-awaited transition to the bullpen to start the year and responded in a big way, turning into one of the more dominating relievers in the Southern League and eventually earning himself a promotion to Seattle. Altavilla racked up 65 strikeouts and surrendered just 12 earned runs in his 56.2 innings thrown with Jackson.
Ryne Harper – Jackson (AA) – (12.57 K/9, 2.10 FIP)
For seemingly the twentieth straight year, Harper posted fantastic numbers in Double-A without receiving any kind of promotion. Harper didn't do much this year, just struck out 95 hitters in 68 innings while posting one of the lowest FIPs in the system over a large enough sample size.
Matt Walker – Clinton (A) – (10.14 K/9, 2.26 FIP)
Walker was overshadowed a bit by the plethora of intriguing arms out in Clinton, but he turned in arguably the best year amongst relievers in the organization. A rough final outing skewed his stats a tiny bit, but let it not be overlooked: a 36th round pick last year killed it all year long in the Midwest League.
Honorable Mentions – Blake Parker, Thomas Burrows, Darin Gillies, Jacob Zokan, Kyle Schepel, Thyago Vieiera
Marcus Littlewood – Jackson/Tacoma (AA/AAA) – (w/ Jackson: .307/.404/.417, 143 wRC+)
Littlewood is one of those guys where it feels like they've been in the system forever and for the first time since 2012, Littlewood managed to put together a strong campaign at the plate. Was it BABIP-driven? Yes, but a .404 OBP across 225 plate appearances and a 143 wRC+ deserves the highest of fives.
Honorable Mentions – Mike Zunino, Steve Baron, Tyler Marlette, Juan Camacho
Four-way tie between Kristian Brito (A-), Dalton Kelly (A), Kyle Petty (A+/AA), and D.J. Peterson (AA/AAA):
Like hell I was ever going to manage to pick just one of the four players listed here. Brito massacred Northwest League pitching all summer long. Kelly was the heartbeat of the LumberKings' offense before Alex Jackson, Conner Hale, and a few other players got their season on track. Petty and Peterson both crushed their ways to promotions (Petty was later demoted back to High-A ball after struggling against Double-A competition). At one point in the season, Kyle Petty hit home runs off of an aircraft carrier. It was a fun year to be a first baseman in the Mariners' system.
Honorable Mentions – Dan Vogelbach
Chris Mariscal – Clinton (A) – (.301/.372/.408, 131 wRC+)
2016 was Mariscal's first season as a full-time second baseman in his professional career and it ended up being quite the year to remember. Mariscal finished with a strong 131 wRC+ in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. He managed to post a .412 BABIP in 384 plate appearances. I am not entirely sure how that is possible, but he did it.
Honorable Mentions – Jordan Cowan, Gianfranco Wawoe, Timmy Lopes, Greifer Andrade
Nick Zammarelli – Everett (A-) – (.329/.391/.467, 141 wRC+)
236 players were selected before Zammarelli in the 2016 MLB Draft and his Make 'Em Regret It campaign is out to a strong start, as the third baseman out of Elon crushed Northwest League pitching all summer long. In terms of coverage, he was overshadowed a bit by top pick Kyle Lewis and NWL POTY Eric Filia, but make no mistake, some serious Zammage was done.
Honorable Mentions – Logan Taylor, Zach Shank, Joe DeCarlo, Adam Law
Donnie Walton – Everett (A-) – (.281/.361/.421, 122 wRC+)
Fun fact: Donnie Walton was the only shortstop still in the organization (miss you, Chris Taylor) to post a wRC+ above 115. Rayder Ascanio will always be more of a defensive shortstop, Christopher Torres was promising in his first year stateside, and Drew Jackson caught fire towards the end of the year, but Walton was the only shortstop in the system to be any kind of a consistent threat, so he gets the win here. He was a little late getting to the Mariners due to Oklahoma State going on a deep run that ended in the College World Series, but he picked up in Everett right where he left off in Stillwater. I'm not sure where he ends up settling in defensively, but for now he is a shortstop.
Honorable Mentions – Benji Gonzalez, Rayder Ascanio, Christopher Torres
Tyler O'Neill – Jackson (AA) – (.293/.374/.508, 152 wRC+):
Did you really think I was going to make a minor league post that didn't somehow involve acknowledging the existence of Tyler O'Neill? O'Neill was a nightmare all year for Double-A pitchers, nearly winning the Triple Crown and ultimately pulling in league MVP honors. To make it all the more marvelous, he is just a hair over 21 years old at the moment.
Eric Filia – Everett (A-) – (.362/.450/.496, 168 wRC+)
Filia put up video game numbers during his stay in Everett, where he crushed his way to Player of the Year honors in the Northwest League. Things looked bleak for the AquaSox when Kyle Lewis was lost to a knee injury, but Filia immediately took over as the offensive juggernaut in the middle of the lineup. The 24-year-old out of UCLA will look to carry that momentum into 2017, where he'll likely start out in Modesto.
Stefen Romero – Tacoma (AAA) – (.304/.361/.541, 135 wRC+)
State of the Farm's favorite minor league player turned in a big year, putting the whole darn Tacoma offense on his back and carrying them to the PCL Semi-Finals. Joe Wieland on the mound today? No problem, Romero will just hit a couple homers. Justin de Fratus blew a game? Stefen will save the day. Donn Roach just Donn Roach'd all over the place? IT'S DINGER TIME!
Honorable Mentions – Chantz Mack, Guillermo Heredia, David Greer, Kyle Lewis (deal wit' it), Alex Jackson, Ian Miller (stolen bases and defense, baby)
Do you disagree with my list? That's fine! Let me know below which one of your favorite players I left off. With some positions, especially pitchers, there were so many guys who put together strong seasons who I wanted to mention, but I tried to keep from throwing 500 names at everyone.