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State of the Farm: One Final Harvest

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Please watch the crops when I go

Halloween Preparation At A Pumpkin Farm Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

On June 9, 2009, the Seattle Mariners drafted a sweet-swinging first baseman out of North Carolina by the name of Dustin Ackley. The draft has a way of presenting teams with seemingly endless options and possibilities with no definitively perfect choice, but using the second overall pick of the 2009 Major League Baseball draft on Dustin Ackley was about as easy of a decision as one could make.

His future position was cloudy, but the bat was not. Ackley’s swing was a picturesque blend of speed and might, slash and mash, patience and fury. His legend had grown to an immeasurable size in his three years at North Carolina, beginning with the breaking of an aluminum bat his freshman year and culminating in a 66-game campaign his junior season that saw him hit .417/.517/.763. If you were looking for offense in this draft class, it was Dustin Ackley, the moon and the sky and the earth and the core, and then everyone else. He was both a safe pick and an exciting one, a high floor with a significantly higher ceiling. When it came to Dustin Ackley being a quality MLB hitter, the question was always ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

Dustin Ackley was going to be a star, and he was going to burn so brightly while wearing the blue and teal. The show was coming.

The Mariners would draft again twenty-five picks later (Nick Franklin), and then again six picks after that (Steve Baron), and then again eighteen picks after that (Rich Poythress). It was an exhilarating stretch, one that saw the Mariners log four of the first 51 picks of the draft. The optimistic Mariners fan saw the future. The pessimistic Mariners fan saw reasons to be optimistic.

Thirty-one picks (and many lost attention spans) later, the Mariners picked one of Ackley’s North Carolina teammates–infielder Kyle Seager. There was disagreement over whether the stocky slugger would hit enough, whether he’d field enough, or whether he’d do Baseball Thing A or Baseball Thing B well enough to make it in professional baseball. His swing mechanics looked like this:

He certainly didn’t have the looks of a middle-of-the-lineup power hitter.

And we all know what happened. Ackley flew through the minors, had a monstrous rookie season, and then slowly slipped out of MLB existence over the next few seasons. Nick Franklin cruised through the minors, had a red-hot stretch his rookie season, hit two homers in one game against the Padres (yours truly was in attendance), and then slowly slipped out of MLB existence over the next few seasons. Steve Baron has 11 career MLB at-bats. He has been worth -0.3 fWAR. Rich Poythress never made it.

And then there was Kyle Seager, a shining beacon of goodness in a MLB Draft filled with shattered hopes and broken dreams, a balding beauty in a sea of hairy strikeout kings. His once compact-yet-powerless swing turned into this:

Kyle Seager, the man drafted long after that four-prospect haul the Mariners walked away with following the first 51 picks of the 2009 MLB Draft.

And I suppose, at the heart of it all, this is why I love prospects so much. There are no right answers and there are no wrong answers. They can break your heart and they can disappoint you and they can burn out so quickly that you forget they were ever there.

And sometimes, they fly.

Kyle Seager was never supposed to be a Gold Glove third baseman who routinely hit 25+ home runs. 13th-round picks aren’t supposed to become Albert Pujols. Guys who could barely earn an appearance on Cal State Fullerton’s pitching staff have a 99.999999% chance of never becoming Chris Devenski. The 1,390th player selected in a draft isn’t supposed to become one of the very best catchers to ever play the game and have a bat thrown at him by Roger Clemens in a World Series game, but it happens.

And it is beautiful.

As I mentioned, this is why I love prospects so much. There are countless reasons to doubt the vast majority of prospects, for it is only the very few fortunate ones who ever truly make it. And yet, deep down, there’s this small ember of hope that burns within all of us. What if Gareth Morgan puts it together in 2018? What if Max Povse gets back on track? What if somewhere, deep within the rows and rows of seeds on the farm, a forgotten or unknown seed is waiting to bloom? What if Kyle Lewis can actually be the Kyle Lewis that made me react like this on draft day:

The Mariners’ farm is bad. It is dry and it is burnt and it is bad, but until the day comes where a man in a suit shows up and declares the farm a parking lot, I will always hope. There are like 530,000 players in the system, a couple of them have to turn into fun players eventually. A Kyle Seager-esque surprise would be nice, too.

Surprise.

Sometimes it comes in the form of a lanky infielder turning into a five-win player. Sometimes it comes in the form of Edwin Diaz converting to a reliever one day and popping up to Seattle just a short while later. Sometimes it shows up in the form of canceled plans, which leads to you having more free time after work than anticipated, which leads to you popping into your school district office for a presentation from a nearby college for a recently greenlit grad program you’re not really considering, which leads to you realizing you actually want to be a part of this program, which leads to you being a part of this program, which leads to, well, you get it.

This will be my final post at this lovely website.

I get to go out on a State of the Farm and a LEGO recap. I will never be as on brand as I am right now. This was never the plan, of course. I would’ve called you a moron if, back in March, you told me I only had seven months left at LL. I would’ve assumed there was something involving a mass internet seizing or a dungeon or a shark attack or something of that variety. But here we are, surprised and accepting of the fact that I no longer have the time necessary to bring this great website the quality writing it deserves.

I remember finding Lookout Landing as a kid. I was in a Mariners-related Myspace group and people kept bringing up the existence of three sites: USS Mariner, BleedingBlueAndTeal, and Lookout Landing. I checked out all three and enjoyed all three, but I found myself gravitating more and more towards Lookout Landing due to A) Jeff’s never-ending creativity and wisdom and B) the phenomenal, ever-present community. I lurked for years before I gathered the courage to comment, but I read everything. I remember the frustrations of waiting for the site to load on my Motorola Razr and I remember that time Jeff made the fake “Mariners won the World Series!” posts and I remember the feeling that overcame me as I realized what “Lookout Landed” was actually about. Oh, and I remember how much my hands were shaking when I pressed ‘submit’ on my first ever Fanshot–a tweet mentioning that Matt Tuiasosopo had been claimed by another team (or something of that nature). It got two comments.

For nearly ten years now, this site has been a part of my life. I was in love with it long before I ever typed up a single word for it. It taught me to love baseball writing and sabermetrics and it gave me a community to belong to during a time in my life where I lived in a small town and was unsure about everything. There was never a moment in my life where I actually thought I’d ever be good enough at anything baseball-related to be able to contribute to this site as a writer, so I think I smiled for a solid two hours straight when I got the official offer from Nathan to join the staff.

My time here as a writer was short, but it meant the world to me, and I hope I was able to make you laugh or learn or wonder or hope just once during my time here. It was my pleasure.

Thank you to Jeff Sullivan, who built this beautiful thing and inspired me more than any other sports writer ever has. I will read It Dawns on Miguel Olivo until the end of time and the very first If It Goes Right will forever be my go-to Opening Day read.

Thank you to Nathan Bishop, who gave me a chance and refused to let me be anything but myself when I started writing here. Trusting me with overseeing the vast majority of the minor league coverage at this site meant a ton, and he never showed anything but the utmost confidence in me.

Thank you to Kate Preusser, who encouraged me to apply to be a writer here when I was having moments of doubt when the position opened up. It was an honor working so closely together as we navigated the difficult waters of the managerial switch. Seriously, supporting others can mean so very much and we should all definitely do it more often.

Thank you to David Skiba, Matt Ellis, Peter Woodburn, Andrew Rice, Meg Rowley, Patrick Dubuque, Jake Mailhot, Zach Sanders, Eric Blankenship and holy crap I’m gonna forget someone here and feel so very badly, but basically everyone who was here when I first joined LL as a writer who helped guide me. I had nothing but questions and ideas, and they had nothing but answers and support.

Thank you to Jose Rivera, who greeted every ridiculous idea I ever had with a “Hahaha” and an “I can do that”. He is one of the most talented people I’ve ever met, and I love that dude.

Thank you to Gotty and Miltank for putting up with nicknames and hysteria after we made the ridiculous decision to hire like 50 Zachs in a single hiring cycle, but especially to Miltank for not only letting me call him Miltank but embracing it. Thank you to Ben Thoen for his endless enthusiasm and willingness to learn. You will do well if you take over SOTF next year, my friend. Thank you to Tee Miller for every insane creation he gave us this year. Thank you to Grant and Olivia, who were both hired at the same time as me and are both wonderful people (especially Olivia, whose school was a fantastic host this year on CSUF’s run to the College World Series).

Thank you to Anders Jorstad for being Anders Jorstad. That dude works his butt off and I hope you all appreciate him. He is the best. I wish I could cover the links for you one last time, Anders, but alas. Thank you to Eric and Luke and Amanda for everything they gave to this site and their relentless energy when we brought them aboard. Thank you to Isabelle Minasian, whose love of candy corn has taught me that we can all go on to do great things despite massive obstacles.

Last but not least, thank you to John Trupin, who is one of the very best human beings I have ever had the pleasure of knowing. I wish just one of our video game-based LL posts found the light of day. We spent so very many hours attempting to build the worst possible Mariner team in OOTP based on the worst individual seasons in Mariners history. Maybe one day. Maybe one day. Thank you for being my partner in crime.

We’re almost done, I promise.

I also wanted to say thanks to all the organizations in the Mariners’ farm system, every single one of them was so very pleasant and so very supporting of LL. The AquaSox putting some of my work into their team program this year will forever be one of my favorite accomplishments. Also, thank you to Brandon Liebhaber and the Jackson Generals, who together form arguably the best gosh darn group of individuals to be found in baseball.

And finally, thank you to the community. Your high standards have consistently been making me a better baseball fan and a bigger Mariners fan since I was 15 years old, and I will always hold that against you. It has been a pleasure being a part of this community for so very long, and I look forward to being a part of it for the many years following the posting of this article. Thank you for putting up with my farm pictures and arguing with me and discussing with me and watching this team be this annoying team with me. There is no community like this community. It is an honor.

I love this game so very much. I love this team so very much.

They’re gonna get there one day.

They will.

GOMS.