In case you missed it: with new additions to the farm system and some improvements to familiar faces, we decided the All-Star Break was a good time to re-evaluate the farm system rankings we did back in the off-season. Read all about our methodology in the introduction to this series, and catch up with any other articles in the series you might have missed in the main article hub.
We’re at the end! Our Sixth tier (aka Orange) is the widest net, as it includes either players with fringiest MLB talent, most severe risk of never sniffing the bigs, and/or the least information available between public reporting and our limited network of SourcesTM. By breaking these groups into tiers we hoped to convey the interchangeability of most of these rankings within their groups, but nowhere is that truer than this gumbo of youths. Moreover, many have little and less information available, so we’ll have an assortment of sub-groups to hopefully lend these groupings maximum usefulness.
High-Risk (Injury or Age) Starting Pitchers
Max Povse - AAA (Tacoma), 25y, 10m (INJ)
Brandon Williamson - A- (Everett), 21y 3m
Damon Casetta-Stubbs - A-, 19y, 11m
Jorge Benitez - A-, 20y, 1m
Deivy Florido - A-, 18y, 9m
Adam Macko - AZL, 18y, 6m
Blake Townsend - AZL, 18y, 3m
Brayan Perez - AZL, 18y, 10m
Dutch Landis - AZL(?), 18y, 0m
Anthony Tomczak - AZL(?), 18y, 10m
Jing-Yu (Danny) Chang - AZL, 19y, 5m
Holden Laws - AZL, 19y, 7m
Michael Limoncelli - N/A, 19y, 1m (INJ)
Levi Stoudt - AZL, 21y, 7m (INJ)
Jose Corniell - N/A, 16y
We weren’t exaggerating when we said there were a lot of names. A year ago, the majority of these fellas would’ve helped populate a top-30 list for Seattle. This year, several still could, but we’ve slotted them here, with plenty of chance for several to rise rapidly. Six of the 14 names listed are 2019 draftees, and their lack of familiarity/pro track record limits our ability to place them. Landis, Tomczak, and Macko weren’t sure bets to sign, but now that they’re within the fold both could easily slot in above this group with strong showings and a good offseason program. A few draftees have injury issues - Limoncelli and Stoudt both will not play this season due to Tommy John surgery, while in the past Williamson has dealt with a few hip issues that were a red flag for some teams on draft day. Povse has yet to pitch in 2019 with shoulder issues severe enough that no team claimed him when he was slipped through waivers this spring. He also probably should be a reliever?
Still, an easy appeal is the youth. Perez, Chang, Townsend, and Florido are all international signees, all under the age of 19. Chang owns a 14.21 K/9 in his first year of pro ball. Perez is a Marco Gonzales-type six-foot command specialist, while the other three work in the low-90s already and have the frames to dream on. The same is true of local big boy Casetta-Stubbs, and while the velo is a bit lower for southpaws Laws and Benitez, the offspeed is good and the velos have risen since joining the org. Of the youths in this group, DCS and Florido have the most higher-level experience; Florido was given a brief taste of Triple-A ball as a fill-in and both he and DCS spent significant time in West Virginia, an assignment designed to challenge them, before being re-assigned to Everett when the NWL started.
Do you like lefties with a nasty hook? Then let me introduce you to the AquaSox's 20-year-old LHP Jorge Benitez: pic.twitter.com/RjtCdjBhr0— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 6, 2019
Much of this group won’t make the bigs, and if they do, several won’t be starters when they get there. But this is the pool of talented, higher-ceiling young guys from which a healthy pitching crop could - could - be farmed.
Relievers With Question Marks
Gerson Bautista - AAA, 24y, 1m
Joey Gerber - AA (Arkansas), 22y 2m
Art Warren - AA, 26y 3m
Jack Anderson - AA, 25y, 6m
J.T. Salter - A+, 23y 1m
Dayeison Arias - A, 22y 6m
Benjamin Onyshko - A, 22y 8m
Kyle Hill - A, 22y 2m
Tim Elliott - A-, 21y 9m
Ty Adcock - AZL, 22y 5m (INJ)
It’s increasingly common to see full-time relievers work up through the minors and to the bigs with success, but typically it’s still a minor indictment of a player’s skillset if they’re a bullpen-only arm in the low minors. Still, dominating one inning is better than sucking over six, and that’s what most of these guys are capable of. The worry here is either consistency, command, or lack of work at higher levels.
Gerber is one of the more divisive players in the system per our voting, earning top-30 votes from several of us and slotting in far lower for others. What I (John) love about him is his unorthodox delivery and wipeout stuff, with a 35.6% K-rate across A+ and AA this year - 5th-best in the M’s system. What others worry about, and what keeps him below the Delaplane/Mills level, is a walk rate that has hung around 11-13% for his whole career.
Holy moly, what a comeback for Modesto, who were down 9-0 in the second inning but score 10 runs to complete the sweep against Lancaster. Joey Gerber closed it out with filthy nastiness. This was 97 with movement: pic.twitter.com/1GHQB7yiVk— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 8, 2019
As to the rest, Warren has been restrained by injury, but goes 95-99 with a couple solid breaking balls and could jump to the bigs soon. Anderson drags his knuckles on the mound as he releases and brings opponents’ contact abilities down with them. Salter is a goliath with heat on the mound that needs command refinement. The wiry Arias has dominated every level with good command and low-to-mid-90s heat. Onyshko has been durable and capable in multi-inning work from the left side. 2019 4th-rounder Elliott may work as a starter for a while, but a bullpen role is likelier in the long-term. Fellow 2019 draftee Adcock is listed on the 60-day IL, but has good velo and athleticism.
Hitters Who Can ___ But Can They ___?
Bobby Honeyman - A, 23y, 1m
Luis Liberato - AA, 23y, 6m (INJ)
Jake Scheiner - A+ , 23y, 11m
Connor Kopach - A+, 24y, 11m
Joseph Rosa - A+, 22y, 4m
Cesar Izturis Jr. - A-, 19y, 8m
Trent Tingelstad - A-, 21y, 1m
It’s a tough thing to be a one-trick pony in baseball. The hooves, for starters, are not conducive to gripping a bat nor spinning a breaking ball. The glut of talent league-wide and years-long push towards larger bullpens and shorter benches makes single-skill players few and far between. Every guy in this group has shown flashes of an MLB skill, but the rest of the profile is tenuous.
Much like Gerber, Honeyman is a prospect we had vast gaps in opinions on. He barely scraped the end of the list for a few, if he appeared at all, while others had him well within this tier’s upper crust. Scouts call him a strong defender at the hot corner, and he’s spelled every infield position and corner OF as well. The worry is a lack of pop in the bat despite a high-contact, low-K approach. He’d scuffled this year at the plate despite a great start in the Northwest League after being drafted in 2018, but has been red-hot over the last month and change.
2018 draftee Bobby Honeyman tore up the NWL last year with a 139 wRC+. Here he is flashing some leather in his first ST action: pic.twitter.com/BcmNEy6LRE— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) February 26, 2019
Filling out the rest of this motley crew are several players in disparate stages of their careers. Liberato was one of the toolsiest players in Seattle’s system prior to this offseason, but it’s been a slow grind. Libby initially signed with Seattle over a month before the John Jaso trade and spent parts of three years each at both A and A+. He’s been hurt a lot and finally cracked through to AA, but could well be a free agent at the end of the year unless he manages to get to his power more consistently. Scheiner was the return in the Jay Bruce trade, has played 3B and OF with Seattle, but isn’t setting himself apart yet in Modesto at the plate. Kopach has good speed and is one of the best infield gloves the system has, but there’s a lot of swing and miss for not a lot of power. He’s getting run in the outfield for Modesto this year, where his plus athleticism has made for an easy transition, and being a super-utility raises the profile somewhat. The switch-hitting Rosa is bouncing back from a down year in 2018 to handle Low-A West Virginia better than Clinton a year ago. In a thin system for middle infielders, he earns an eye, especially as he’s recently been promoted to Modesto. Hollywood and MLB both love sequels lately, but Izturis Jr. isn’t the talent Vladito, Tatis Jr., Cavan Biggio, or Bo Bichette are. He’s earned high marks for maturity and glovework, but even at a young age it’s worrying he’s only hit one professional HR in 2.5 years. Tingelstad was pegged a sleeper possibility by some in this year’s draft, but he’ll have to get the most out of a compact frame.
The Clock Is Ticking
Anthony Misiewicz, AAA, 24y, 8m
Tim Lopes, AAA, 25y, 0m
Chris Mariscal, AAA, 26y, 2m
Nick Zammarelli, AA, 24y, 11m
Jack Larsen, A+ (Modesto), 24y, 6m
Collin Kober - A+, 24y, 10m
Kyle Wilcox, A+, 25y, 1m
Penn Murfee - A+ (Modesto), 25y, 2m
Nothing distorts one’s sense of aging like prospect analysis. These young men are all old for their level of play, and/or are struggling to perform as hoped at this stage. Misiewicz probably deserves better, but I didn’t want to make a category called “Anthony Misiewicz”, so here he slots. Surprising absolutely no-one, after Misiewicz handled AA ably in his third go-around, the juiced ball has wreaked havoc on his first foray into AAA and the PCL. It’s not that it can be overlooked, but Misiewicz’s 6.20 FIP isn’t even a bottom-20 FIP for PCL pitchers w/over 50.0 IP. Maybe Misiewicz is just fine, but it’s hard to tell when he might as well be pitching on the moon most nights.
Lopes and Mariscal are a year apart, but facing similar struggles. They can each handle every infield position serviceably, but their hitting isn’t separating them. Staring up at a Mariners roster with Dylan Moore, Kristopher Negrón, and, once healthy, Shed Long, there’s little daylight for either unless the bats jump in a big way. Larsen is the rare undrafted free agent to make a third year in their organization. Zammarelli - Nicky Three-Sticks if you’re nasty - has shown some pop as he’s advanced a level each year, but has hit a major wall in AA and profiles like a poor man’s Jay Bruce defensively. Larsen’s been old for the level at each stop and his bat has unsurprisingly slowed at each level as well. He’s holding steady in Modesto but there’s little leeway for him unless he manages to get to more of his power and cut down his Ks. Kober and Wilcox are a couple of Modesto’s better relievers. Kober’s hair and arm slot make him fun to watch, and his strong numbers all around make it surprising he’s not gotten the call to join Arkansas yet. Wilcox is a converted starter with big-league heat and Cal League control who was called up yesterday to give AA his first go.
Collin Kober comes into a bases-loaded, one-out jam and strikes out both batters he sees to preserve a two-run lead. He also earns style points, doing it in high-water length pants to show off his hightop cleats. pic.twitter.com/jpEk5gPf9Y— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) June 28, 2019
Penn Murfee is a 2018 draftee in the 33rd round as a senior sign, William Penn Murfee didn’t post great numbers out of Everett’s bullpen last season, but the Mariners saw something they liked in the righty and kept him around for some of their off-season development programs. This year they’ve converted him to starting and he’s been dominant over 70 innings at Modesto, posting a K/9 of over 11 with a career-low walk rate, a miserly 1.57 BB/9. John and I (Kate) disagreed about where to put Murfee; John feels he needs to see the 25-year-old in the upper minors before saying there’s something here, while I think Murfee has unlocked something with Modesto pitching coach Rob Marcello and is positioned to take off.
New Batz on the Block
Austin Shenton - A, 21y 5m
Robert Perez - A-, 19y 0m
Luis Veloz - AZL, 19y 7m
Miguel Perez, A-, 18y, 10m
Antoine Carter-Mistico - AZL, 21y 0m
Nolan Perez - AZL, 20y 2m
Freuddy Batista - AZL, 19y 7m (INJ)
Arturo Guerrero - DSL, 18y 9m
Jonatan Clase - DSL, 17y 1m
Gunn Omosako - DSL(?)(INJ), 18y 2m
Edryn Rodriguez - N/A, 16y
George Feliz - N/A, 16y
Our final grouping! Does it feel like a relief to you? It does to me. This is, along with the first batch of pitchers, clearly the most exciting group, but also possibly the group with the best shot at not having a single player make the bigs besides the Hitters With Holes group. That’s the nature of things when every player on this list but two have yet to leave Arizona and/or the Dominican Academy.
Shenton probably is another player who could’ve been retrofitted higher had we made our selections a couple weeks later. The 2019 5th-rounder is a 3B who has a decent shot at sticking there, earns rave reviews on his work ethic, and absolutely obliterated Everett before casting off for West Virginia. Folks might recognize Robert Perez for his extended moonlighting adventures with the Rainiers this spring/early summer. It was... surprising, but Perez is now back at a more appropriate level, hopefully to address his gargantuan K%. Luis Veloz and Miguel Perez are a pair of high-energy, big-personality, athletically-plus OFs who both need to cut down their strikeouts.
The outlier on this list, aside from Shenton, is 2019 draftee Antoine Carter-Mistico, who has a mere 16 PA in the AZL so far but is a more advanced college bat who will hopefully hit his way to Everett before the end of the season. Nolan Perez is younger but gets the same age asterisk as he’s taking his second crack at the AZL after a shaky stateside debut last year. He’s here because of his power surge (slugging over .500) as a switch-hitter, but his strikeout woes are discouraging. Batista is a power-hitting catcher who incubated in the DSL for two seasons before coming stateside; an injury has limited him to just 5 PAs this season but he’s on his way back and should get some reps against AZL pitching soon.
The rest of this list is players at various levels of the DSL. Arturo Guerrero was a medium-profile signee last year with a rail-thin 6’4 frame and great numbers to start this year in the outfield. Fellow OF Brazilian Gunn Omosako should be stateside now but a torn labrum and ensuing shoulder surgery has robbed him of his season so far. OF Jonatan Clase is probably the most interesting prospect behind Guerrero and Noelvi Marte on the DSL team; a mere 17 years old and listed at an impossible 5’8”/150, Clase is still slugging .453 while showing solid plate discipline.
And that’s our updated list! Even within the past few weeks some of the names on here probably shifted a bit as we got a better sense of the talent at hand. That’s the nature of a midseason update. Seattle’s farm system has gone from a withering backyard pea patch to a bustling agrobusiness in a calendar year. Of course, it cost the watchability of of the big league club, and that’s no small price. But despite a few notable regressions/stagnations, this list is trending positively, and post-draft has the potential for depth to accentuate some top-heavy talent. Is that enough to turn the tide on the Mariners’ future? We’ll see.
We highlighted 80 players in total - far more than could reasonably be considered a “Top Prospects” list despite the title - but 50 of those are in this article alone. A great number of these players will never crack the bigs, but hopefully this will provide a frame of reference for the rest of this year when following the minors. As a reminder, particularly in the lower tiers, do not take the numerical placements as important - they pool together generally by tier, though their ceilings and floors may vary vastly.
July 2019 LL Prospect Tiers
|MLB Pipeline Top-100 Rank
|FanGraphs Top-100 Rank
|BP Top-50 Rank
|BA Top-100 Rank
|MLB Pipeline Top-100 Rank
|FanGraphs Top-100 Rank
|BP Top-50 Rank
|BA Top-100 Rank
|Jing-Yu (Danny) Chang
|Cesar Izturis Jr.
Thanks to everyone for engaging and offering your thoughts. Let us know if this format (tiers as opposed to explicit numbered rankings or something else) worked for you, even if you might agree or disagree with the tierings themselves. We’ll likely aim to have another re-assessment at the end of the season, and will of course take y’all’s feedback into consideration.