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LL’s Top 50 Mariners Prospects 2019: 34-31

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A few staff favorites make their appearance

Tee Miller

It’s prospect list season and this year LL is doing our own in-house rankings of the top 50 prospects in the organization. You can find further explanation and our methodology at the hub for the series. The whole list so far is there, but if you missed any, here are links to 50-47, 46-43, 42-39, and 38-35. Today we close out the 30s with a few staff faves.

I just need to point some things out here.

  1. As far as I know, I am the one responsible for coining the term Nicky Three Sticks, which has since been co-opted by his family. * Googles “how to collect royalty checks” *
  2. I, admittedly, have never seen Nicky Three Sticks play baseball.

Nevertheless, I have strong opinions about the Mariners’ low-level farmhand. I’m like a parent who doesn’t actually attend their child’s games but still knows that they should be first string. I just know what’s best for him, is all.

Three Sticks played a full season for the Modesto Nuts in 2018, poking .274/.336/.431 and bopping between right field and first base. While Zammarelli’s third base glove has collected dust since 2016, the foundation of a true 1B/3B/OF is certainly here, and that versatility should only help as he advances through the minors. In 469 innings in right field, the 24-year-old notched four assists and recorded just four errors, the same amount of goofs he had at his natural first-base spot.

Last year my Italian son posted the lowest batting average (.274), on-base percentage (.336), and wRC+ (107) of his brief career. Still, the numbers are encouraging, especially for an eighth-round pick out of itty bitty Elon University in his first year at a higher level. The 10 home runs from 2018 marked a new career-high, although some of that is due to the joy of playing in the homer-happy Cal League. One thing to note is the decrease in ground ball rate since his first season of pro ball, where Zammarelli pounded the ball into the ground 50 percent of the time. After being drafted onto team #ElevateAndCelebrate, last season with the Nuts that number plummeted to a palatable 37.9% while the fly ball numbers—and, troublingly, the infield fly ball numbers—soared upward.

Should he land in Arkansas this year as many expect, Nicky Three Sticks is in for another learning curve, but that’s nothing my hard-working, driven, talented boy can’t handle. If he puts it all together, Zammarelli III could become a modern-day Mark DeRosa. If he doesn’t, well, I’ll still love him all the same. -MR

(Shoutout to Tee Miller for creating our Nicky Three Sticks image from the header, based of course on this Andre 3000 mixtape:)

The Chris Mariscal Believer has logged on. I’m not sure why I’m attached to Chris Mariscal as a prospect, except that my favorite tool is hit. A guy who can hit for average and get on base might not get the accolades of the mighty power hitter, but he’s almost always putting his team in a better spot when he comes up to bat. Mariscal showed off his hit tool and on-base ability this year in the AFL, posting a .381//458/.476 line for the champion Peoria Javelinas. After cutting his strikeouts down to below 20% last season, Mariscal fell back to old habits this season at Double-A, although he did maintain his plus walk rate. Those strikeouts endanger Mariscal’s prospect profile, though, as he’s never shown a tremendous amount of power, and so will have to bring value in other ways. One of those ways is on defense, as Mariscal can play a variety of infield positions. -KP

Connor covered Gerson for our 40 in 40 series. He throws real hard and struggles with command. In other words, he’s a 2019 reliever.

Something I’ve been pondering fairly often this offseason is the Mariners’ precarious closer situation. The current bullpen doesn’t have the clear alpha that typically grabs the ninth inning role. If I had to put money on it, I’d guess Anthony Swarzak will be the first Mariner we see in a save situation this year. However, I’d bet that the internal discussions around Bautista have included the phrase “potential closer.” He surely won’t match the dominance, electricity, or fanfare of Edwin Díaz, who he was traded for, but like Díaz, Bautista is a hard-throwing converted starter who’s battled wildness. As the team approaches the magical 2021 season in which everything is supposed to materialize, I’ll be monitoring the back end of the bullpen with a keen eye on Bautista’s relationship to the group’s premiere position. -MR

When I asked Ian Miller in late-August about his increased walk rate and on-base percentage, he candidly said that “The key is not to swing at too much crap.” Trenchant.

The noticeable bumps in on-base numbers looked like a mini-breakout for Miller, who had never made headlines with his bat or plate discipline. Miller is known for his speed, which manifests itself in stolen bases and exciting defensive plays across the outfield. Had the Mariners stuck around longer in the Wild Card race last season, Miller would have been an ideal pinch run specialist to bring up in September, in the same vein as Terrance Gore with the mid-decade Royals.

As it stands now, Miller is almost certainly headed back to Tacoma for a third season with the Rainiers. He has an “always a bridesmaid, never the bride” vibe to him, forever leaving MLB grooms with something to be desired. I’d love to see Miller get a shot this season, but that likely won’t happen unless the organization wants to give him a courtesy September call-up to punch his Show card. -MR