Hello and welcome to a special Stock Watch Edition of State of the Farm. This week, I wanted to dive and look at the bigger picture: which prospects have significantly boosted their stock and which prospects have significantly harmed theirs in 2017? Now, I’m not looking at this from a cookie cutter perspective. The biggest risers section doesn’t consist of players who’ve positioned themselves to be future stars. One of them couldn’t be farther away from being a finished product. Another might have only bought himself another couple years of those super sexy minor league paychecks. I simply wanted to look at the guys who have had their outlook change the most, for better or for worse.
Okay, the long and confusing part is out of the way. Let’s get to the prospects.
Braden Bishop, OF
After the 2016 season, it was hard to imagine Braden Bishop being anything more than a fourth outfielder. Unimpressive stints in Clinton (111 wRC+) and Bakersfield (70 wRC+) did little to inspire confidence in his bat, which has always been the key to him having a higher ceiling.
Flash forward to 2017 and Bishop has found himself in a much better light in the organization. His second trip through the California League–an 88-game tour that produced a 118 wRC+ and a .296/.385/.400 slash line–proved far more successful and his first taste of the Texas League (Double-A) has been all kinds of fun. Through 127 plate appearances (27 games) with the Arkansas Travelers, Bishop has slashed .358/.437/.459 with a 155 wRC+ and 5 stolen bases.
Has he turned into a legitimate offensive stud? Not particularly. The power has bumped up, but he’s still hovering around that .100 ISO mark and it’s so very hard to unleash a singles barrage consistently when you’re facing MLB-quality defenses. What’s important, though, is that the plate approach has improved (10.9 BB% at Advanced-A, 10.2 BB% at Double-A) and the bat looks good enough to not crater against advanced pitchers. His biggest selling points will always be his above-average glove and speed, but an improved bat really boosts his chances of being an everyday player at the MLB level one day.
Nick Neidert, RHP
I had Neidert ranked as the top pitching prospect in the system heading into 2017, so it’s not as if he’s boosted his standing within the organization. That being said, he spent the first half of the season creating a massive divide between himself and the rest of the pitching prospects. In 19 starts with the Modesto Nuts, Neidert posted a 9.40 K/9, 1.47 BB/9, and a 3.37 FIP. Here’s a fun reminder that he can’t even legally drink yet (20 years, 9 months). The performance earned him a promotion to Double-A, where he’s struggled in limited action: 5.21 FIP, 4.47 xFIP. His appearance in the Texas League puts him far ahead of schedule, however, and his emergence–along with the drafting of Sam Carlson–give the Mariners hope for their homegrown starting pitching pool in the coming years.
In recent news, Neidert was named California League Pitcher of the Year yesterday.
Alexander Campos, SS
Who is ready for an exciting Mariners prospect who was born in the year 2000?!?
Campos was signed by the Mariners out of Venezuela a year ago and has immediately placed himself on the organizational prospect radar in his first year of professional baseball. At just 17 years old, Campos has slashed .301/.424/.383 (143 wRC+) over 55 games with the DSL Mariners. He figures to come stateside next year, where he’ll have the chance to better showcase his slick glove and wheels.
He’ll need to prove the performance at the plate is legitimate over the next few years, but almost overnight, Campos appears to be one of the two or three best middle infield prospects in the Mariners organization.
Gareth Morgan, OF
Let me start this out by saying that Morgan still has a long ways to go. He strikes out nearly forty percent of the time (39.2%) and he hasn’t exactly been a nightmare in the Midwest League.
That being said, the sudden shift in the general perception of Morgan has to be one of the more drastic cases in the organization. This time last year, Morgan was on his third tour of duty with the AZL Mariners; he hit .216/.261/.344.
This was a player, long known for his raw power and on his third trip through a level, who was posting a slugging percentage lower than Chone Figgins’ career mark. He looked like he was on his way out of professional baseball–one last lighter lifted high to the Jack Z regime and all the disappointment that came with it.
Today, he’s a 21-year-old putting up a 118 wRC+ and a career-best 12.3% walk-rate in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. It’s not amazing, but it’s also not bad, which far exceeds the expectations anyone had for him heading into 2017. Morgan may never live up to the mini-Giancarlo hype he received coming out of high school, but he’s turned himself back into being kinda-sorta-if-you-squint-hard-and-shimmy interesting. That’s a massive leap when compared to a few months ago.
Honorable Mentions: Anthony Jimenez, Ronald Rosario, Ljay Newsome
Chase De Jong, RHP
When De Jong came to the Mariners, he was pegged as a polished righty who, despite limited appearances in Triple-A, was ready to serve as quality MLB depth.
Oh, how long ago that seems.
De Jong has been beat up at all three levels he’s pitched at this yearn and has lost all ability to strike hitters out. Even in his eighteen innings in the Texas League (Double-A) following a demotion, he’s surrendered 13 runs (12 earned) and struck out just 9. He was roughed up in Tacoma (6.19 FIP, 5.51 xFIP). He was thrown to the wolves in Seattle (5.88 FIP, 6.56 xFIP).
The curveball still shows potential, but at his current state, De Jong looks like nothing more than an organizational guy, an innings eater doomed to bounce from affiliate to affiliate. I’m sure the organization hasn’t given up on him and he may be able to bounce back next year, but going from Texas League Pitcher of the Year to this is brutal.
Rob Whalen, RHP
Like De Jong, Whalen was expected to be a valuable piece of depth for the pitching staff this year. He got hurt early, returned, got roughed up in Tacoma, got roughed up in Seattle, got roughed up some more in Tacoma, then was placed on the restricted list in early July for ‘personal reasons’.
Aside from the occasional tweet, he hasn’t been heard from since.
Bryson Brigman, INF
While defense and versatility will always be Brigman’s selling point, I’m sure the Mariners were expecting more than a 76 wRC+ and .303 slugging percentage in his first trip through the Midwest League.
The third round pick was arguably the best middle infield prospect in the system following the trade of Drew Jackson. The tools are still there, especially on defense, but until he can make something happen at the plate, he has played himself deeply off the map.
Tyler Marlette, C
The lack of catching prospects in the organization caused some to hold out hope that Marlette would make something of himself in 2017, but it just didn’t happen. The bat-first catching prospect, the highest-regarded catching prospect in the system prior to the drafting of David Banuelos, has slashed just .258/.313/.424 in Double-A this season. Sure, Arkansas is a poor environment for hitters, but this is his fourth trip through the level, and he’s still done nothing to show he can consistently perform against pitching above Advanced-A ball.
Honorable Mentions: Max Povse (admittedly more the Mariners’ fault than his own), Dan Vogelbach, Rayder Ascanio
Did I miss somebody you want to discuss? As always, drop a comment below and let’s get the conversation going.