When Jerry Dipoto latched on with the Mariners in 2015, he inherited a farm system ranked 25th in baseball by Baseball America. Following a series of drafts to restock the system followed by a clearly defined pattern of flipping low-level prospects for close-to-ready minor leaguers, there is once again a severe lack of talent spread across the M’s minor league squads. That isn’t to say there aren’t blue chip prospects in the system. Any team would be happy to flip some big-league talent Seattle’s way for the likes of Kyle Lewis, Sam Carlson, or Evan White, but after that, things drop off in a hurry.
Back in July, the Mariners restocked their system with some prospects that posted promising debut campaigns across multiple levels of the minors acquired via the First Year Player Draft. That said, the guys who posted some of the strongest numbers likely aren’t the guys you’d expect.
You won’t recognize any of these guys’ names from the Mariners’ Top 30 prospects list. You won’t recognize any of them from day one of the MLB First Year Player Draft. This group of Day Two and Three Draftees put up quite a season in 2017.
And how about the earlier-rounders?
For comparison’s sake, here that is condensed down to just the group totals:
Now it’s obvious that there’s a little variety in this sample size. For brevity’s sake, we selected fourteen later-round guys who had significant playing time or interesting numbers while picking all of the Day One draftees (rounds 1-10) to compare them to. Additionally, It’s common that the later-round draft selections will make their debuts at the Rookie level--in this case with the AZL Mariners--with nearly no restrictions on their workload, whereas many of the higher round draft picks were tested with the more challenging levels of Short-Season A or Advanced-A and are often handled with kid gloves, ensuring that their new big-ticket items aren’t damaged in production. Also note that for the pitchers being compared, almost all of the late rounders were given the benefit of pitching out of the bullpen, benefiting from the times-through-the-order penalty as well as the opportunity to pitch in favorable matchups. As far as the hitters go, the late-round guys collected more than twice as many at-bats as their more highly drafted counterparts despite having just one more player contributing to their sample size, as well as first-rounder Evan White missing a significant portion of the season due to injury. And don’t discount the fact that Billy Cooke took one for the team and basically made the jump straight from Coastal Carolina University to Full-Season-A ball with the Clinton LumberKings to prop up a depleted outfield.
All that considered, the late round picks still managed to best the top shelf talents—even in the rate stats—that collectively raked in upwards of 10 times more money in signing bonuses than these guys, all drafted between rounds 11 and 33.
Keep in mind, and I say this in bold letters because I mean it, this is not to say the top draft picks are inferior players or have less bright futures than this selected pool of late round picks. Minor league stats are volatile. Many of these guys are going to undergo tinkering and mechanical changes while they ascend the minor league system. And I’m as big a fan of Evan White, Sam Carlson, and the rest of those guys as anybody besides perhaps their immediate family members. But let’s not overlook the fact that despite being selected on the final days of the draft when even the most diehard of fans have stop paying any mind to who their favorite team picks, this bunch of guys just put up some pretty impressive numbers that should give Mariners fans, if nothing else, some exciting storylines to follow at the lower levels of the minors as our beloved team attempts to re-stock the system and produce some home-grown talent in 2018 and beyond.