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MLB Draft 2018: Seattle Mariners Middle Infield Depth Overview

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The middle is a weird place to be, no?

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB draft is less than a month away! Soon we will know which 25-ish new prospects will be running down to the local Lids for a Mariners hat for that all-important Instagram post. If you check out the “MLB draft” tag you’ll find the plethora of info we’ve been compiling over the past couple months for you. As we get closer to the actual date of the draft (June 4-6), we’ll be ramping up our coverage. This week, we take a look at what’s in the system already, position by position, to get a sense of what needs the Mariners might have three to five years down the line. (Hint: it’s all of them. It’s all the needs.)

Yesterday Kate kicked us off with the grisly business of investigating corner infield and catcher depth in the system. Today, Mario brings us the similarly garish details on middle infield, which is in the spotlight more than usual following this week’s news.

Can contribute soon (early 2019, possibly even 2018):

Taylor Motter (SS), Triple-A Tacoma

Though not entirely a prospect in the full sense of the word, Taylor Motter encompasses a major (minor?) problem that faces the Mariners at this point; that they don’t have many players who are ready to contribute any time soon at this level. Of course, Motter has demonstrated he can contribute to the team in the middle-infield (and apparently on the mound), but hasn’t been able to keep those numbers consistent while up in the majors. His best season numbers came from his short stint in Tacoma in 2017, but after last year’s plague of injuries, his Triple-A season was cut short and he wasn’t able to sustain his numbers at the major league level.

Zach Vincej (SS), Triple-A Tacoma

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Vincej just turned 27 a couple weeks ago, and is the only other shortstop in the minors with any MLB experience. An above-average defensive reputation has followed Vincej despite limited speed, but the bat is a question mark. His bat has lagged so far this season with a 68 wRC+ in Tacoma as he’s struggled with pop-up-itis. Vincej lacks a 40-man spot, making him unlikely to reach Seattle before September barring a breakout or a catastrophe.

On the Horizon:

Chris Mariscal (2B), Double-A Arkansas

Drafted in the 14th round out of his hometown Fresno State University, the California-native Chris Mariscal may have been flying under the radar, but his numbers show that he’s been flying in the right direction. The 25-year-old has managed to post solid numbers throughout his four years in the system. Though Mariscal’s promotions between minor league levels have at times been shaky (his 2015 promotion from Everett to Clinton, saw a drop in production of 20 wRC+ and his 2017 promotion from Modesto to Arkansas saw his wRC+ fall by 50), he’s shown the capacity to swing the bat well for a utility middle-infielder. This year, encouragingly, Mariscal is currently slashing .282/.401/.410. If he can put his current 31% strikeout percentage in check, Mariscal may represent the closest “prospect” to the majors in the middle infield, despite his age.

Donnie Walton (2B), Advanced-A Modesto

Other than having a primetime baseball name, Donnie Walton also has primetime skills. Walton was drafted in the 5th round by the Mariners in 2016 and has shown consistency and reasonable improvement throughout his two-year term with the Modesto Nuts. He sustained decent numbers last year with the Nuts despite an injury and currently holds a 153 wRC+ with the California League club. Walton is, as is a theme in this group, older for the level, just a few days shy of 24, so to capitalize on this fiery start he’ll need to carry it forward to AA and beyond.

Bryson Brigman (SS), Advanced-A Modesto

If you seek to find another minor league player with potential big league chops and a star-power name to boot, look no further than shortstop Bryson Brigman of the Modesto Nuts. Other than being bestowed from birth with a stellar name, Brigman has also made a name for himself as he’s come through the Mariners’ system. Since the Mariners drafted him in 2016 from the University of San Diego, he’s been promoted every year and keeps getting better. In Everett and Clinton, Brigman posted reasonable numbers (some might even go as far as to say he struggled through his time with the Lumberkings), but since his promotion to Modesto, Brigman has been nothing short of fantastic. With multi-hit games and a triple slash of .376/.477/.511, if Brig Man On Campus can sustain this production, he’ll find his way back on to Seattle’s top prospect lists. Bonus: he is only 22.

Kevin Santa (2B), Advanced-A Modesto

The 23-year-old boricua drafted last year from the University of Tampa has spent most of his short pro-ball career in Modesto and his numbers show that he does have quite a bit of a gap to get over if he wants to reach the levels of his Advanced-A counterparts. His current triple slash is .207/.281/.247 for the Nuts. Interestingly enough, after a quick eight plate appearances in Triple-A last season, Santa went 2-for-7 with a walk and two strikeouts. His stellar SS defense is his calling card, although he’s had to split duties with the hot-hitting Brigman there.

On the Distant Horizon:

Louis Boyd (SS), Single-A Clinton

Louis Boyd is the prime example of what I call a good dude. He’s struggled to make his way through college and pro-ball but has since flourished into an all-around fun player to watch. There is much improvement to be made in the batter’s box with his 4.8% walk percentage and 20.2% strikeout percentage (which has yielded a wRC+ of 59), but Boyd is the type of player who takes coaching and criticism well and will work toward bettering his approaches, which might be due to his maturity, since the Arizona product is almost three years older than most of his Single-A Counterparts.

Johnny Adams (SS), Single-A Clinton

Johnny Adams (23) was drafted in the 22nd round last year from Boston College in his home state of Massachusetts. He’s currently crushing the competition in Single-A with a slash line of .325/.395/.474, which on par with the numbers he posted last year in Everett. If he can work these numbers on all levels of the system, he just might make a reasonable utility infielder.

Joseph Rosa, Single-A Clinton

Despite being only 21 years of age, Joseph Rosa has seen his fair share of pro-ball at all levels. Though the sample sizes are small, Rosa managed to decently succeed at all levels save for his short four game stint in Triple-A, where he only managed to get a hit once in 14 at bats. His best numbers came during his 44 games in Everett last year, where he hit .296/.374/.299. From there, he was promoted to Clinton this season where his posted nearly identical numbers as in Everett, though with far fewer extra-base hits.

Cesar Izturis Jr., Double-A Arkansas (?)

Cincinnati Reds Photo Day
Just imagine this guy but twenty years younger and with a Jr. instead of a Sr. at the end of his name.
Photo by Rich Pilling/Getty Images

A recognizable name with a familiar utility profile to his father, the younger Izturis is just 18 years old, and spent most of his time in Rookie Ball last year. Most likely he will begin the season with Everett or Arizona, but he’s spent the early spring bouncing around to Tacoma and Arkansas as a fill-in on the bench.

On the very far away distant horizon, so far that if it were any farther it’d be closer:

Juan Querecuto (SS), International Amateur FA Signing

Juan Querecuto, the 17-year-old from Barquisimeto, Venezuela, is one of the more interesting and peculiar players the organization has signed. He has lots of room (and time) to grow as a player (at 6 feet 3 inches, he need not grow physically), and it will be fun to see how he makes his way through the system. Some believe that because of his below average running abilities, he might not make a good shortstop long-term, but his baseball knowledge will be able to make up for it. We’ll see as time progresses, and Querecuto is expected to make his Dominican Summer League debut this season.