All four of the Mariners’ full-season affiliates released their 2017 Opening Day rosters over the weekend. You can find the complete list below on this graphic from the Arkansas Travelers’ website:
Tacoma Rainiers – AAA
Top Prospects: OF Tyler O’Neill, 1B Daniel Vogelbach, RHP Chase De Jong, 1B DJ Peterson, OF Ben Gamel
I actually knocked this one out yesterday! Click here for some thoughts.
Arkansas Travelers – AA
Top Prospects: RHP Max Povse, RHP Andrew Moore, RHP Thyago Vieira
The main thing that stands out on the Travelers’ roster is the rotation. Andrew Moore and Max Povse are two of the three best pitching prospects in the organization and if the two of them pick up where they left off in 2016, they’ll form one of the better one-two punches in the Texas League. Tyler Herb, Lindsey Caughel, and Kyle Hunter round out the rest of the rotation.
Herb and Hunter both spent time in Double-A last season, with Herb posting a 4.46 FIP over 55.1 innings and Hunter managing a 4.28 FIP in 72.0 innings. Caughel, meanwhile, joins the Mariners organization after pitching for the Lincoln Saltdogs of the AAIPB in 2016. Lookout Landing writer Ben Thoen put up a pretty great in-depth interview with him a couple weeks ago, so check that out if you’re interested in learning more about the 26-year-old out of Stetson.
The bullpen will be another fun aspect of the team with flame-throwing Thyago Vieira and strikeout artist Zac Curtis headlining the group. Prospects Peter Tago and Darin Gillies will also be ones to keep an eye on after putting up strong 2016 campaigns, Tago with the White Sox Double-A club and Gillies with Clinton (Class-A) and Bakersfield (Advanced-A).
The intrigue has a bit of a drop-off when you transition to the position players. The infield group is full of guys who project to be organizational guys, with Jay Baum (90 wRC+ in High-A Bakersfield in 2016) being the only one under 25. Kyle Petty is a pretty fun masher at first base when he’s locked in, but he struggled mightily over 144 plate appearances in Double-A last season (.194/.271/.271, 59 wRC+) before being sent back down to High-A ball.
Ian Miller headlines the outfield group. The speedster will be entering his third tour of duty at the Double-A level and could be looking at a quick promotion if he performs early on. If things go according to plan, I won’t be shocked to see him brought up to Seattle late in the year to be their own personal Terrance Gore.
Marlette and Littlewood are perhaps the only two interesting catching prospects left in the organization, and they’ll both start out in Arkansas in 2017. Littlewood will look to build on what was his best year in professional baseball in 2016 (.307/.404/.417, 143 wRC+), while Marlette attempts to prove he can be consistent at the plate at this level.
Modesto Nuts – A+
Top Prospects: RHP Nick Neidert, OF Braden Bishop, RHP Pablo Lopez
The Nuts’ rotation will be boasting a talented one-two punch of their own in Nick Neidert and Pablo Lopez. Neidert is arguably the best pitching prospect in the system–depending on how you feel about Max Povse–and I have Lopez pegged as the 24th-best prospect in the system in my personal rankings. The rest of the rotation features the returning Misiewicz and two 2016 draft picks (Bannister, McClain) making the jump from short season ball to Advanced-A. Bannister is the most interesting of the trio due to the fact that he’s been off the radar since exiting the College World Series with forearm tightness last June. Overuse was suspected:
Nathan Bannister's postseason:— Michael Lananna (@mlananna) June 24, 2016
June 3: 7 IP, 96 P
June 6: 7 IP, 102 P
June 11: 6 IP, 86 P
June 18: 7 IP, 118 P
Left after 2.2 IP, 47 P today
The bullpen won’t have any big names in it, but Joe Pistorese and Matt Walker could emerge as two legitimate weapons for the Nuts. Pistorese’s fastball-curveball combination is legit and Walker was one of the Midwest League’s better relievers in 2016. 24-year-old Matt Festa, a 7th round pick last June, makes the jump from short season ball to Modesto.
The biggest names amongst position players are infielder Donnie Walton and outfielders Braden Bishop and Eric Filia. Walton is a switch-hitting utility player who’s drawn rave reviews for his makeup and general lack of weaknesses in his game. The one player comp I keep going back to for him is Willie Bloomquist. Bishop, meanwhile, will get his second tour of duty in the California League. The glove-first outfielder slashed .247/.300/.319 over 41 games with the Bakersfield Blaze last year, with injury issues mixed in. Filia arrives with plenty left to prove after hitting an absurd .362/.450/.496 in Low-A Everett last year. Filia, a 24-year-old UCLA product, will need to show he can have similar success against higher levels before he can make any sort of movement onto prospect boards.
Clinton LumberKings – A
Top Prospects: RHP Brandon Miller, 2B Bryson Brigman, LHP Nick Wells
It took much longer than expected, but former second-round pick Gareth Morgan has finally moved past rookie leagues and into full-season ball. For the moment, there’s no telling if he’s made legitimate strides or if this is some sort of last chance for the massive outfielder. I’m sure we’ll be finding that out very soon, however.
A lot of this squad is made up of members of last year’s AZL Mariners and Everett Aqua Sox squads. There’s a lot to sort through here, so I’ll switch to bullet points for now:
- Bryson Brigman is officially listed as a second baseman. Scouts always doubted his ability to stick at shortstop moving forward, and it appears the Mariners are making that switch sooner rather than later. Expect him to pick up outfield experience as he moves through the system, as well.
- Nick Thurman, who landed with the Mariners as an undrafted free agent last year, will be sharing catching duties with Johan Quevedo. Thurman enjoyed a decent year with the Aqua Sox in 2016 and it’s easy to root for a guy who didn’t even get drafted.
- Rayder Ascanio will repeat the level after a fairly solid 2016 season. It could just be a matter of Donnie Walton being a higher priority presence at Modesto and the M’s wanting to find at-bats for Ascanio, who needs a lot of work at the plate.
- Brandon Miller is the biggest name of the pitchers. A sixth-round draft pick a year ago, Miller is a control artist with three solid pitches. If things go according to plan, he may not be in Clinton for very long. He’s already a pretty polished arm.
- Luis Rengifo is making his full-season debut after spending the last three years in either the Dominican Summer League or Arizona Rookie League. He slashed .239/.325/.367 with the AZL Mariners in 2016.
Clinton is nowhere near the most prospect-heavy group of the affiliates, but there’s a lot of decent players out there and I expect them to be a pretty competitive club. They should have stellar infield defense between Ascanio, Brigman, and Hale, and the outfield brings some thump to the lineup.
- We likely won’t see Brayan Hernandez or Christopher Torres until short season ball, which was expected. Joe Rizzo is also noticeably absent.
- No word on Nick Zammarelli or David Greer yet. If you hear anything, pop it into the comments.