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, 38-35, and 34-31. We’re into the Top 30 now, so if you’ve been struggling to keep up with some of the names, this is where things should start to get more familiar. We’re also shifting into profiling two prospects per day rather than four. Today’s names are an interesting pair, however: both RHPs, each player represents a drastically different stage in development. Max Povse was recently DFA’d to make room for Hunter Strickland, but assuming he clears waivers he still ranks highly in an organization that is paper-thin for upper-level starting pitching. Collin Kober, on the other hand, is a name you won’t see on many (any) prospect lists for the Mariners, but both Kate and Ben are high on the 2018 Midwest League All-Star and peg him as a quick-moving reliever who could fit nicely with the Mariners’ desired 2020 window of contention.
Note: Povse was recently DFA’d to make room for Hunter Strickland. If he does indeed get picked up by another team, Povse will become the second prospect I’ve written about to leave the organization by the time of publication Still, the large lad ranks highly because of the poor state of MLB-adjacent pitching talent in the Mariners’ organization, which Povse could still technically remain with if no other team is interested in his services.
Max Povse, perhaps best known for being the size of an NBA power forward, had a rough go in Triple-A last season. While the PCL is a notoriously hitter-friendly league, Povse’s career-high 15.8 HR/FB% in Triple-A raises eyebrows in the worst possible way. Povse began the season in Tacoma and was rudely greeted by PCL hitters, who took a lot of walks from the towering right hander, and knocked his pitches over the fence when they did cross the plate. In 36.2 innings for the Rainiers—all of which as a starter—Povse allowed six home runs, good for 1.47 per nine innings. He was then sent to Double-A, where he logged 10 effective starts before a shoulder strain in mid-July ended his season.
2018 marked his second stint in Tacoma, where Povse collected strikeouts at an encouraging rate (11.05 K/9), but also issued 6.87 (!!!) walks per nine innings, finishing the year with an 8.84 ERA. 2019 will be a massive year for Mad Max, and it will be interesting to see whether the Rainiers throw him in the starting rotation again, or transition him to a reliever role that would likely be his path to an MLB roster spot. With a fastball that sits around 94 MPH and an intimidating presence on the mound, Povse is undoubtedly the type of pitcher who could one day slot into Seattle’s bullpen, so long as he learns to get hitters out consistently. Right now, that’s a six-foot, eight-inch if. -MR
For all of their shortcomings, one area in which the Mariners organization has been able to draft and develop talent with regularity in recent years has been the bullpen. Kober—perhaps along with the previously mentioned David McKay—is the latest in a recent string of relievers who have excelled at the lower levels of the Mariners’ system and as such, have been able to ascend fairly quickly. A four-year relief arm at McNeese State University, the 27th-round draft pick made his professional debut at the ripe old age of 22 and found success in the Arizona Rookie League.
Kober opened his first full season of pro ball with the A-level Clinton LumberKings and flashed strikeout-ability he’d never displayed, even at the collegiate level. Working with a sidearm delivery, he was absolute murder on right-handed hitters, limiting them to a .165 batting average and 0.78 WHIP while racking up 13.2 K/9 against them. Left-handed batters found success fairly easily against him, but he’s been serviceable enough to warrant use as a valuable multi-inning arm out of the pen. While his nine saves in 2018 tied him for fifth-most among Mariners minor leaguers, don’t be fooled into thinking he’s a traditional closer. He averaged nearly 1.2 inning per appearance, working 2+ innings (18 times) more often than he worked a single inning (14 times) last season.
Despite tossing a career-high (including college) 60.0 innings, Kober only got better over the course of the 2018 season, his most dominant stretch coming from May 25 - August 5 when he fanned 45 and allowed just two earned runs over 30.2 innings spanning his tenures with Clinton and Modesto. He did, however, struggle slightly with the promotion from that point forward, allowing seven earned over his final nine outings, which could indicate some fatigue hampered the slender righty. With an offseason of rest and another spring to ramp up for his age 24 season, he just might join fellow sidearm/submariners David McKay, Wyatt Mills, and Jack Anderson in occasionally popping up in some spring training action over the coming months. Between the GQ flow and funky delivery, he’ll certainly be hard to miss. -BT