Less than a week remains before we find out who this year’s newest Mariners are. This year the MLB draft is June 3-5. If you check out the “MLB draft” tag you’ll find the plethora of info we’ve been compiling over the past couple months for you. Leading up to draft day, we’ll be doing a positional overview of the depth at each level of the system, surveying the shelves of the pantry as it stands now before the draft. We started off yesterday with the middle infield, which is maybe one of the position sets that’s changed the most over the past year. Today we look at the corner infield/catching positions. Last year the dek for this story was a disclaimer: “Contains less than 5% catcher.” We’re happy to report this year that number has gone up threefold.
Currently in the Majors/Majors Adjacent:
For the first time I won’t be writing Daniel Vogelbach up in this space, which is great news for both of us. Vogey isn’t a 1B so much as he is a DH, but we count him here anyway, or used to. Again, great job Vogey. Keep smashing ridiculous homers. Another name missing from this section is Joey Curletta, whom the Mariners tried to sneak through waivers in order to fire up their carousel of discarded relievers, but who was snapped up by the Red Sox and sent to Double-A (which must have been annoying to JCurl, having finally worked his way to Triple-A with the Mariners).
Dylan Moore isn’t so much a corner player as he is an “everywhere” player; he’s currently with Triple-A Tacoma while J.P. Crawford and Shed Long get reps at the big-league level, but he’ll likely replace Shed as soon as it’s clear he’s fully healthy. Both Crawford and Long can technically play third, although neither prefer it and ideally neither would.
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On the near-ish horizon:
Evan White’s trajectory through the minors has been mostly smooth and fuss-free, although some pesky injuries have derailed him at different points. He’s slowed a bit in Double-A, striking out more than he has, and his power mark isn’t what you hope it to be, even in offense-suppressing Dickey-Stevens Park. But he’s freshly turned 23, and the defense continues to be Gold Glove caliber. White has made adjustments before offensively and there’s no reason to believe he won’t make those adjustments again.
Joe Rizzo is, technically, a third baseman. In a deeper system he’d have already been moved off the position, but since the Mariners are deficient in Vitamin 3B, he’s being allowed to keep working there. Rizzo will have moments where he looks like a capable third baseman, and others where he boots routine plays. Time will tell if he can remain there; he is still just 21, although players don’t usually get defensively better as they go on through their careers (although hey, look at Marcus Semien). The good news about Rizzo is his bat; after struggling in the Cal League last year, he’s come out swinging this year, leading the league in hits while still being fairly young for the level, and has improved even more upon his already excellent plate discipline.
Just under Rizzo is the best defensive third baseman in the system, 2018 draftee Bobby Honeyman. I had high hopes for Honeyman after he laid waste to the NWL, but he’s gotten off to a bit of a rocky start in West Virginia. Things are looking up for Honeyman, though; after suffering through some bad BABIP luck to start the season, he’s maintained his elite plate discipline, and while his overall numbers don’t look great, he’s gone from slashing .149/.238/.230 in April to .270/.316/.360 in May.
Last year in this overview, I wrote: “I’d really like to see the Mariners get serious about drafting a legit catching prospect sometime soon.” The Mariners, sighing dramatically, drafted three college catchers in last year’s draft, all of whom offer intriguing upside. Third-rounder Cal Raleigh received an aggressive promotion to Modesto, where he’s started hitting the ball with more authority lately, tacking almost fifty points on to his SLG% from April to May. Raleigh has also showed he has the tools to stick behind the dish, throwing out would-be base stealers, showing soft but strong hands in his framing, and demonstrating surprising athleticism in his ability to scramble after wayward balls. Just under Raleigh, Jake Anchía and Dean Nevarez have 12 home runs between the two of them while showcasing strong defensive skills. Anchía is especially good at nailing would-be base stealers, with a caught stealing percentage hovering just under 40%. The Mariners have...too many catching prospects? How is this possible.
On the very distant horizon, so distant as to be nearly indistinguishable, but shining brightly nonetheless:
19-year-old Freuddy Batista just finished his first full season in the DSL and should be heading to join either the AZL Mariners or the AquaSox soon. He’s a solid receiver with a big, muscular body, and hit well in the DSL, with some gap-to-gap power.
Nick Zammarelli started at third, but seems to be more of a 1B/OF/DH option for the Travs. Like White, he too is experiencing the rough transition from the homer-happy Cal League to the chilling expanses of DSP. If he solves his strikeout issues and starts hitting for power again, there’s a useful profile here; he’s one to keep tabs on in Arkansas.
A year after posting a 114 wRC+ at the level, C Joe DeCarlo is off to a brutal start in Arkansas, suffering through some terrible BABIP luck, a total power outage with his bat, and a career-high strikeout rate. It’s a terrible stretch for DeCarlo, whose calling card is his bat, but he’s simply not this bad a player; he’s due a hot streak soon.
Yesterday I covered the triad of Logan Taylor/Jordan Cowan/Donnie Walton at Arkansas who are all more or less interchangeable across the infield. Taylor tends to play the most third of the trio, but one could distinguish himself. Austin Nola has cooled off some from his hot start, but he’s still enjoying something of a career renaissance with the Rainiers. If anything happened to Narváez or Tom Murphy, he’d be a logical fill-in.
Overall health of the positions:
First base is in fine shape, for now and the future, which is like solving the New York Times crossword in five minutes, but it’s a Monday. The biggest improvement, probably in the entire system, is at catcher: having three or four interesting players to watch feels like a luxury, even if most of them are all bunched up together. Third base continues to be vexing; if you could somehow combine Rizzo’s bat and Honeyman’s defensive aptitude you’d have a terrific prospect, but alas. Unfortunately, the crop of college third basemen isn’t particularly appealing this year, so we might have to wait even longer before shoring up this particular weak spot.