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 2018” 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.) Kate took a look at our catching and corner infield situation earlier this week, followed by Mario checking out the middle infield situation Tuesday and John delving into the state of the organization’s pitching on Wednesday. Today, we check out the Mariners affiliates outfield situation, which have been the beneficiary of a few pleasant surprises lately.
The recent Robbie Canó injury/suspension and subsequent transition of Dee Gordon from center field back to second base has opened up an opportunity for somebody in the Mariners outfield. As Shannon Drayer recently noted, Jerry has spoken to potentially adding an outfielder from outside the organization, but in the meantime, there’s a couple of intriguing options already in the M’s system.
The M’s were able to add some intriguing outfield prospects in the last year, in part due to Eric Filia making the transition to the outfield, but also via last June’s draft. After the departure of top outfield prospect Tyler O’Neill last summer, things were looking a little bleak, but a healthy Kyle Lewis and a slew of 2017 draftees has left things looking a little better, as 10 of the organizations Top 30 prospects per MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline are outfielders.
Knocking on the Door:
OF Ian Miller, 26, Triple-A
Noted speedster Ian Miller broke out offensively last season at Double-A Arkansas before scuffling upon a promotion to Tacoma to finish out the year. He’s righted the ship in 2018 and is running a 98 wRC+ while playing excellent defense in center field for the Rainiers and continuing to be a distraction on the basepaths.
OF John Andreoli, 27, Triple-A
Andreoli, who the Mariners brought in this past offseason on a minor league deal after he spent seven years as a Cubs farmhand, has brought an interesting power-speed combination to the Rainiers outfield. Other than missing two weeks with a dislocated pinky finger, he’s been a cog in the Tacoma lineup all season long, as displayed by his career-high 133 wRC+.
OF Cameron Perkins, 27, Triple-A
Following a rough go through 42 games with the Phillies last season, Perkins was scooped up by the M’s this offseason and has spent this season down in Tacoma, where he’s slashed .292/.364/.451. He likely falls behind both Miller and Andreoli (and probably Jayson Werth and Kirk Nieuwenhuis as well) in the pecking order, so don’t expect to see him any time soon.
On the Horizon:
OF Braden Bishop, 24, Double-A
Bishop hit his way into the hearts of Mariners fans last season as he earned a midseason promotion to Arkansas, where he posted a 146 wRC+ over 31 games with the Travs. Unfortunately, all signs of offensive output pretty much stopped right there, as he struggled through the Arizona Fall League season before reporting back to Arkansas this season, where he’s managed a 64 wRC+. Some good news for Bishop: he’s had poor batted ball luck, as he’s running a BABIP of .255 after never posting a mark below .310. He also showed an ability to adjust midseason in 2017 and will hopefully do so again soon.
OF Eric Filia, 25, Double-A
Filia, who is currently serving a suspension handed down to him over the offseason for smoking pot, should be eligible to return for the Travs near the end of May. He’ll look to build upon a strong 131 wRC+ sophomore season that he punctuated by taking the AFL by storm when he debuts with Arkansas. The lefty-hitting outfielder has demonstrated a keen ability to walk nearly twice as often as he strikes out, and if that skill is on display again this summer, he could wind up in Tacoma sooner than later.
Far, Far Away:
1B/OF Nick Zammarelli, 23, High-A
Kate touched on Zammarelli, who I have creatively nicknamed “Zammer”, earlier this week in the corner infield section, but I’m bringing him up again here because he’s actually been used primarily as an outfielder as of late. He’s been able to consistently post productive offensive seasons since being drafted despite running less-than-ideal K:BB rates of 67:25, 111:36, and 46:13.
OF Anthony Jimenez, 22, High-A
Since being signed out of Venezuela back in July of 2013, Jimenez has done nothing but produce, with the caveat of “when healthy”. The 5’11” 165lb outfielder has never posted a wRC+ lower than 126 at any level, but is currently running a mark of 52 as he’s struggled to get it going following a hamstring injury that shelved him for two weeks. Despite going on his fifth season in the organization, he’s still just 22 years old, and should benefit from extended opportunities to work with the M’s strength and conditioning team to hopefully keep him on the field.
OF Kyle Lewis, 22, High-A
Hallelujah! The Mariners #1 prospect finally made his long awaited return to live game action last week, and it’s been a mixed bag of results since. On the positive side, he’s collected three extra-base hits in four games. The downside? He’s struck out seven times and walked only once since making his return. His presence in the Nuts’ lineup right behind #2 prospect Evan White is going to be the most interesting and significant storyline to follow this summer as he attempts to re=establish himself as one of the game’s premiere prospects.
OF Jack Larsen, 23, Full-Season-A
I didn’t understand then how the Jack Larsen went undrafted at the time of his signing with the Mariners, and I sure as hell don’t understand it now. The lefty slugger has followed up an impressive debut in rookie ball last summer by stepping up his game upon a promotion to Clinton this season, and is well on his way to catapulting into the M’s top 10 prospects. The run he drove in last night brought his RBI total to 27, good for 2nd among all Mariners minor leaguers.
My Unborn Children Might Watch Your MLB Debut:
OF Julio Rodriguez, 17, Unassigned
The Mariners inked the Dominican youngster last summer, and he’s yet to be assigned to a Mariners affiliate, but still checks in as the Mariners’ #4 prospect. His power and throwing arm both grade as 55’s, but he grades well across the board.
OF Luis Liberato, 22, High-A
The Dominican lefty is entering his seventh season in the Mariners’ organization, and has yet to really “wow” us with any one standout skill. He’s shown above-average speed and defensive abilities, but will need to take a step forward this summer to keep his prospect status. He’s currently in extended spring training dealing with what we assume is an injury.
OF Ronald Rosario, 21, Unassigned
The Dominican outfielder made his stateside professional debut in 2017 after three seasons with the DSL Mariners. His 143 wRC+ through 40 games was a pleasant surprise, however the strikerout rate that hovered around 30% will need to be cut down if he intends to continue climbing the ranks. His 70 grade throwing arm is farm and away tops in the Mariners’ farm system, and the organization feels his defense can play in center, however he’ll need to continue developing to stick out there.
OF Dimas Ojeda, 22, Full-Season-A
The Mariners made Ojeda a 17th round selection out of McLennan Community College in 2016, and he’d shown flashes of potential before going on an absolute tear to open this season with the LumberKings. After his 4-4 night on Thursday, he’s now slashing .364/.406/.586 and has been stringing together multi-hit games at a ridiculous rate. He’s outside the M’s Top 30 for now, but he’ll find himself there if he keeps this up.