[The MLB draft this year is June 12-14. Leading up to the draft, we at LL will be doing a series of articles highlighting different needs in the Mariners system, profiling players who might be good matches for the team, and giving a general draft overview to help enhance your understanding/enjoyment of the draft. This week we will be doing a positional overview of the depth at each level of the system. Yesterday, we covered the pitching. Today, we take a look at the corner infield prospects.]
Yesterday I covered the pitching prospects in the system, which, while lacking any top-tier talent according to analysts, offers enough solid middle/back-of-the-rotation arms and innings eaters that I’m not entirely panicky about the state of the pitching. Now we move to looking at the infield and things are about to get a little grim.
Will be contributing soon (early 2018, possibly even 2017):
Daniel Vogelbach, AAA-Tacoma
“Will be contributing soon” feels hot-takey as Vogelbach’s path to the majors has been rocky, to say the least. After basically being promised a share of the 1B platoon, Vogelbach was instead assigned to Triple-A out of spring training, before being recalled a month later, only to be sent down again a few weeks later after just 17 PAs. I have no idea what the club is doing with Vogelbach—who’s sharing 1B duties with DJ Peterson—and I’m not convinced they do either. He’s slashing .287/.400/.471 in Tacoma right now, which is almost exactly a mirror image of his career minors slash line, and his BB% of 15% against a 20% K rate is also in line with his performance in the upper minors. At some point you just have to give him an extended look, because I’m not sure what else he has to prove, especially if he’s not playing first regularly.
Zach Shank, AAA-Tacoma
Seth Mejias-Brean, AAA-Tacoma
To be clear: these guys aren’t really prospects, but they are the closest to MLB-ready who have never yet put on a Mariners uniform. Both of these guys would only be called upon if something very very bad happened to Kyle Seager. Shank is a super-utility player who can play both infield and outfield and was the most consistent bat in the Rainiers’ lineup last season. He’s one of manager Pat Listach’s favorite players and if he doesn’t eventually get a callup to Seattle as a bench bat I think Listach is just going to drive to Seattle, leave Shank at Safeco in a cardboard box, and speed away. Mejias-Brean is a 26-year-old who was acquired out of the Reds’ organization this May. He’s been electric since showing up in Tacoma this year, slashing .360/.440/.550 while running his traditionally excellent K-BB ratio. At 26 he’s not exactly a prospect but if he can come even close to sustaining his performance at Tacoma he’s a useful depth piece.
On the horizon (2018/2019):
This is where things get grim. While there is some intriguing talent below this level, there isn’t a lot here that’s positioned to help the club out over the next two or three years.
Joey Curletta, A+ Modesto
Curletta, acquired in a trade this year with Philadelphia for switch-pitcher Pat Venditte, is a career outfielder who has been playing first base for the Nuts. He’s slashing about .250/.350/.400. Curletta is only 23, so there’s a possibility he figures something out, but those aren’t inspiring first baseman numbers, and he’s a good ways off.
Logan Taylor, A+ Modesto
Curletta’s teammate at Modesto, Taylor is also 23. Taylor currently looks like the higher-ceiling player as far as power goes and maybe the better potential first base candidate; he has biceps the size of small countries and has been enjoying his time in the Cal League, where he’s slugging .424. However, his BB% has shrunk down to a minuscule 4% while his K% has jumped to almost 30%. Please to stop giving in to the lure of smoking HRs in the homer-happy league and focus on getting yourself called up to AA, Logan.
On the distant horizon:
Nick Zammarelli, A-Clinton.
Zammarelli is a third baseman by trade, but has been playing first while teammate Joe Rizzo gets a look at third. Zamm might be the better third baseman, but the second-round Rizzo is going to get a look ahead of the eighth-round Zammarelli. Such is baseball. After lighting it up at Everett, Zammarelli is off to a bit of a slow start in Clinton after he got a late start with a DL stint, but he’s still working his walks even as he builds back towards the power he flashed last year.
Joe Rizzo, A-Clinton
Rizzo has transitioned smoothly from rookie ball straight into his first year of full-season ball, showing even better plate discipline at Clinton. He’s not hitting or slugging quite to where he did in rookie ball yet, but his improved plate discipline has helped him post an OBP of .370. He’s still just 19 years old.
But what about DJ Peterson?
I love DJ. You love DJ. We all want to root for DJ. This year, DJ has raised his walk percentage and lowered his K percentage. That’s good! But he’s had a slow start to the season and is suffering some crap BABIP luck, leading to a slash line that’s not quite where it was last year. That’s sad! That said, DJ is maybe starting to heat up, steadily pushing his average back up over the last ten games. Unfortunately, the Rainiers have sort of a logjam in the OF-1B-DH spots right now, which makes them a lot of fun to watch, but very frustrating for players, I would imagine.
So what have we learned here? The Mariners have some useful pieces at the upper and lower ends of the spectrum for corner infielders, but a big ole donut-hole in the middle level. Unfortunately, that’s not something they can address immediately in the draft, so look for more small-scale slight-upgrade trades like the Curletta or Mejias-Brean moves, or potential positional switches (yes hello Tyler O’Neill, first baseman) to try to shore up a very thin part of the organization.