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LL’s Top 50 Mariners Prospects 2019: 24-23

A lefty with a deep repertoire and Buhner Junior

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. Check out 30-29 here, 28-27 here, and 26-25 here. Today we look at two new faces in the system: a fast-rising 2018 draftee and a former Atlanta Brave.

When you get past, like, the third round in any given MLB draft it gets increasingly difficult to find much of anything about your team’s selections. You end up with scattered Cape Cod League statistics, context-free college stat lines, and the occasional feel-good article from the player’s high school days (assuming it’s a college player). When the Mariners took Keegan McGovern, fortunately, the Georgia product had a good amount of internet content thanks to an SEC-quality media department in Athens.

By the 9th round of the 2018 draft it was pretty clear that the team believed they had a draft inefficiency to exploit: late breakouts from college bats. McGovern matched that perfectly, mashing 18 dingers in 255 PA as a senior after hitting just 8 in his previous two seasons combined. It wasn’t just a power breakout, either: his OPS jumped from .839 as a junior to a monstrous 1.075 as a senior in the difficult SEC. Unfortunately for him, this came late in his college career, and that, combined with a tricky positional profile (a large corner OF, McGovern basically has to hit and hit a lot if he’s going to have an MLB future), let him slide to the Mariners in the 9th round and sign for just $65,000, since he lacked leverage as a senior signee.

The bat, though. Oh, the bat. That 1.075 OPS? For comparison, Georgia Tech catcher/#2 overall draftee Joey Bart OPS’d 1.103 in his 2018 college season in the ACC. McGovern didn’t waste any time after turning pro: after just 17 PA in Everett (with a 123 wRC+) the Mariners decided he didn’t need to spend any more time there and promoted him to Clinton. McGovern promptly set fire to Clinton, too, torching the Midwest League over 271 PA for a 144 wRC+ with 15 (!) home runs. ROLL TAPE!

Do you need a double in the gap to stop a no-hitter? Because Keegan can do that.

Do you need a seemingly effortless opposite field home run to pad a lead? Keegan will help you out.

Ripped to deep center? RIPPED TO DEEP CENTER!

College baseball being what it is, I struggled to find junior year footage of his swing, which I was very curious to see because I had a strong suspicion what fueled the breakout. This footage from his senior year of high school, possibly filmed with a potato, increases that suspicion:

Then my fearless leader Kate used her superior internet prospecting skills to find this junior footage video and OH LOOK A SWING CHANGE GUY:

Let’s compare with Clinton one more time for good measure:

Let’s see: drop the hands, shift the stance upright, and suddenly an underhitting (by player size; though McGovern is listed at a trim 6’3”, 200 on Clinton’s website, he was listed at 245 as a junior at Georgia, and 220 as a senior) outfielder and non-draft prospect is going in the ninth round and murdering his first taste of pro pitching. And let’s be fair: while defensive reports on McGovern were generally negative, he’s already made a number of positive changes and the change in listed weight alone—combined with his arm strength—indicates he may well be better defensively than I or most scouts gave him credit for. Oh, you want some evidence about his arm?

Watching those gifs of McGovern’s new swing in Clinton, I am going to go with an aggressive but fun comp: Jay Buhner. There’s the batting stance similarity, but beyond that, McGovern’s 10.3 BB% and 24.4 K%, combined with some defensive question marks and a powerful hit tool, definitely make me think of the Mariner great. Already 23, McGovern should be slated to start 2019 in Modesto and prepared to move fast if he keeps hitting—let’s see if he shows up with a buzzed head and a pine tar smudge. - TC

Ricardo Sánchez was signed out of Venezuela by the Los Angeles Angels as a sixteen-year-old international free agent. He made his pro debut stateside a year later and opened tons of eyes as he racked up both strikeouts and ground balls against much older competition in the Arizona Rookie League. That strong debut caught the eye of the Atlanta Braves, who traded for him the following offseason. He worked his way through the Braves organization, showing enough promise to be added to the Braves 40-man roster in 2017 after posting a 4.06 FIP as a 20-year-old in High-A.

The Braves continued to aggressively promote Sánchez, sticking him in Double-A in 2018. Even though he was three years younger than the average age in Double-A, he continued to develop. He was able to lower his walk rate to a career low 9.3%, but that came at the expense of some of his strikeouts. He did miss three months of the season due to injury (shoulder tightness), the second season in a row where he hit the disabled list. Because the Braves are flush with young pitching prospects, Sánchez was designated for assignment after his injury-marred year. Seattle quickly picked him up and he’s now one of the better left-handed pitching prospects in the system.

Despite his small stature, Sánchez possesses excellent pure stuff. His fastball commonly reaches 94 with good arm-side movement. He also throws a nice sharp curveball and an above-average changeup that flashes plus at times. Because of his advanced repertoire, the biggest project for him is his command of all three pitches.

Because he’s moved through the minors so quickly, and has lost some development time to injury, he’ll likely be ticketed for Arkansas to get a full season of experience at Double-A. Sánchez will turn 22 just after the season begins so he’s still very young for that level. If he’s healthy and continues to work on cleaning up his delivery and repeating his mechanics, he could continue rising through the minors quickly. His ceiling is likely a back-end fourth starter, though he could raise his ceiling even further if his changeup continues to develop. -JM