As we close out week three of LL’s Top 50 Mariners Prospects, we wrap up #’s 50-11, which you can catch up on here, with a pair of right-handers who if all goes well, could figure into the starting rotation during the next window of competition. Monday, we’ll kick off the Top 10 and switch to singular profiles, but today, we provide you some relief from Snowpocalypse 2019 with this final pairing.
Sam Carlson has thrown three professional innings. He has faced 13 batters, struck out three, walked none, and allowed one run. That has all been true for over a year and a half, and nothing (on the field) has changed. The scouting report—so far as anyone can know—remains the same: fastball topping out at 96, a good feel on his slider and changeup, a strike thrower, et cetera, et cetera. Unfortunately, the fears about his health that caused him to tumble from the top half of the first round (for some scouts) to Seattle at 55 came to fruition, and now we—and he—wait for him to come back after the spectre of Tommy John surgery.
The ol’ UCL injury used to be a literal death knell for a pitcher’s career. While initially the surgery allowed some pitchers to come back, results were certainly a mixed bag and rehab was a tricky process. Things aren’t perfect, but the medicine and technology surrounding recovery from Tommy John has made huge strides even in the last five years, to the point where clubs and pitchers expect a year off, then a “down year” back while a pitcher recovers mechanics and timing, then a pitcher who is often seemingly as strong as ever. Such as Marco Gonzales! Or Nathan Eovaldi. Or Yu Darvish. The point is, there is good reason to think Tommy John should not really have a significant impact on Sam Carlson’s MLB career. Just don’t look over there at that pile of Felix Doubront, Dillon Overton, and Homer Bailey.
Sam Carlson has got to be sick of hearing the words “Tommy John.” After being on top of the prospect world, practically before throwing a professional pitch, he’s had to sit around and do quite literally nothing for months. He’ll make his return to the mound at the tail end of the summer in the best case scenario, and I can only imagine how eager he is to start recapturing his talent. It’s true that the injury is a scary development for him and for us, and I think that has sort of obscured the excitement the Mariners had to even be able to get him. Pitchers with his size, power, and raw stuff are hard to come by at any age, and if he can recover fully from surgery he’ll probably give us ample reason to feel a little silly for ever having wondered about him. - TC
Y’all like Doug Fister? Me too. A pitcher with a solid career that started at age-25, built on a stellar fastball. That’s what the Mariners will be hoping to rekindle with Erik Swanson, the ostensible second piece in the James Paxton trade return. The burly right-hander beat back predictions of a bullpen role, putting together a career-best season between AA-Trenton and AAA-Scranton/Wilkes-Barre. Most importantly, he put together nearly a full season.
After injuries robbed parts of 2014 and 2015 from him, Swanson has shown greater durability and improved production, eclipsing 100.0 IP every year since 2016. He missed time in 2018, but merely with a groin strain, and when healthy looked good enough to do this:
I wrote up Swanson fairly extensively earlier this offseason, and little has changed. He’s shown flashes of well-above-average starter stuff, but can be dragged down by inconsistency. When he’s struggled, it’s rarely been with walks, but allowing his pitch count to climb with long at-bats can shorten his outings, and if your stuff isn’t quite dominant, it’s much more useful for a pitcher to at least be an innings eater. Among the starting pitchers acquired this offseason, Swanson has the best shot at breaking camp with the Mariners. His age disincentivizes the team from suppressing his service time, as they already get control of his entire pre-age-31 career. Whether he starts in Tacoma or Seattle, Swanson will be a starter until proven otherwise, and with a fastball that’s climbed as high as 98, it would be excellent to see him stick. -JT