In Tacoma, the current outfield options are slim. Ian Miller seems destined to make a MLB debut next year on the back of his speed and defense alone, but he’ll need to continue showing an improved bat in AAA before he receives an extended look. Kyle Waldrop has 24 MLB at-bats in his career already, but lacks the top-end defense of most of his fellow outfield mates, and while he’s a reasonable bet to be re-signed, he’s currently a minor league free agent.
Recently, kennerdoleman wrote a nice piece on Jacob Hannemann, the former 3rd-round pick who Seattle claimed off waivers in September. Hannemann Looks Like a Ballplayer™ and had plus defensive skills in the outfield, but his swing was not where it needed to be. Hannemann has since been waived and claimed back by the Cubs, leaving the Mariners with just three outfielders on their 40-man roster.
That means Andrew Aplin is next in line behind Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, and Guillermo Heredia. While he isn’t currently on the 40-man roster, his potential deserves some attention. Aplin is a KATOH darling, in keeping with the type of players who this front office has targeted for most of the last few years. Strong performance in the mid-high minors despite limited tools that cause scouts to have tempered expectations. Aplin drew rave reviews for his defensive prowess at every level, and the former 5th round pick seemed poised for an MLB call-up in Houston in 2015. It never materialized then, and it still hasn’t. After an abysmal 2016, he clearly fell out of favor, and the Mariners were able to acquire him midway through 2017 on waivers. This year in Tacoma, Aplin posted a 107 wRC+ in 175 PAs with a 14.9 BB% and his highest ISO (.182) since his first season in low-A despite the lowest BABIP of his career (.279).
At 6’0, 205, Aplin isn’t diminutive, per se, but he’s never showcased much home run power. This season, a slightly adjusted leg kick showed some improvements in Aplin’s pop, but as is evident in this clip of his walkoff triple to finish Tacoma’s home season, he’ll generate more Jarrod Dyson XBHs than Nelson Cruz ones.
Prior to 2017, Aplin posted at least 20 stolen bases every year in the minors. That took a surprising step back this year, as he was only 5/8 on stolen bases, but his speed score of 5.3 suggests he still was making positive contributions. Combine that with Aplin’s consistent plate discipline, and you have the makings of a balanced, reasonable MLB outfielder. Aplin ranked 8th overall in all of AAA baseball in BB%, evoking a comp to the man Seattle sent to Oakland for Yonder Alonso.
I don’t think Boog had many ardent advocates, but he was inarguably a reasonable 4th MLB outfielder. Aplin ran an insanely high infield fly ball rate (40.5%!) but still managed to put together a disciplined approach and a more powerful offensive approach than Powell. Aplin is at, or entering his physical prime, and likely won’t see dramatic growth physically, but even if he is what he is, Seattle shouldn’t be frantic about its immediate outfield depth. They just need to find their starters.