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Mariners minors season in review: Rookie Level (DSL, AZL)

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The lowest levels of the system didn’t make the playoffs, but the DSL Mariners ended on a strong note

the DSL Mariners
Rob Benjamin (@riothitting) on Instagram

Editor’s Note: With the minor league season winding down, we’ll be giving a rundown of how each affiliate’s season went. We’ll start with the rookie ball teams, whose seasons ended this past weekend, and work our way up as different leagues come to a close. Currently, only the Arkansas Travelers are playoffs-bound, although Modesto is making a push.

The AZL Mariners

Overall record: 22-34, 7th in AL West

Season in Review:

Thanks to a draft position in the back third of one of the weakest drafts in recent memory, the Mariners weren’t exactly able to flood their lowest level stateside with impact talent. The Mariners went pitching-heavy in the draft and that was one of the strengths of this squad, but creating offense was a challenge. The Mariners like to keep their developmental projects close to home base in Peoria, so there’s a lot of intriguing young pitching talent on this roster.

Key promotions:

2017 IFA signee (Brazil), RHP Christian Pedrol was sent to the Power at the conclusion of the AZL season. July promotions: RHP Bernie Martinez (A+), LHP Brayan Perez, RHP Deivy Florido, RHP Fred Villarreal, all to Everett (A-). August promotions: C Anthony Lepre, SS Caleb Ricca, and RHP Robert Winslow; RHPs Luis Curvelo and Jarod Bayless to Everett.

MLB Top-100/Mariners Top-30 prospects at the level:

SS Juan Querecuto (#23 in the Mariners system per MLB Pipeline, #19 at FanGraphs, #21 at Baseball America), LHP Brayan Perez (#23 BA), RHP Isaiah Campbell* (#11 MLB, #18 FG)

*did not pitch after heavy use in final college season and was sent to Everett in July to spend time with the other first-round pitchers.

Top position player:

OF Antoine Carter-Mistico. The offensive numbers were positively grisly for the Baby M’s, averaging just 4.32 runs per game and a .232/.311/.345 slash where 5.47 runs per game and .258/.342/.376 were the averages. The 2019 12th-rounder was one of the few respectable performers at the dish, with a .250/.387/.333 line that doesn’t jump off the page but doesn’t sink through it into the sands of the Arizona desert either. He went 5/5 stealing bases and walked nearly as often as he struck out, which doesn’t tell us much in the AZL, but for a player with a speed+defense profile it’s a reasonable start.

Honorable Mention: 2B Cody Grosse, UTIL Connor Hoover

Top pitcher:

LHP Brayan Perez. The AZL is a place for piggyback starts and cautious treatment of teenagers’ arms, so the term “starter” isn’t all that firm here. Perez started just three of the eight games he appeared in with the Baby M’s, but worked 36.2 innings with a 3.44/3.99/3.35 ERA/FIP/DRA. He’s just a few days shy of his 19th birthday, yet the lefty earned his way to Everett’s green pastures mid-season and has continued to look sharp.

Honorable Mention: LHP Adam Macko

The left-handed, 18-year-old 2019 draftee from Slovakia by way of Ireland and Canada, who taught himself to pitch by watching YouTube videos of Justin Verlander is already one of the most intriguing players in the system before he throws a single pitch, but a K/9 of 13.08 in his professional debut makes him one to watch for sure.

Top bullpen arm:

RHP Robert Winslow. In 13 games of largely multi-inning relief, the 6’5 RHP worked 30.0 IP at a microscopic 0.90/2.90/1.79 ERA/FIP/DRA. Signed as an UDFA out of The Masters College in Santa Clarita, CA, which also produced fellow M’s MiLBers David Sheaffer and Anthony Lepre, Winslow struck out 43 while walking just 13 before being promoted to the West Virginia Power, where he’s yet to allow a run.

Honorable Mention: RHP Bernie Martinez, RHP Jarod Bayless, RHP Luis Curvelo

Pop-up performer:

RHP Elvis Alvarado was one of the three pitchers acquired in the deadline deal with the Nationals for relievers Hunter Strickland and Roenis Elías. He’s a 6’4 converted outfielder with triple-digit velocity and the command of, well, a converted outfielder. OR SO WE WERE LEAD TO BELIEVE! The 20-year-old issued just three free passes to the 49 batters he faced once joining Seattle, striking out 13. Despite Rule-5 eligibility, Alvarado should be safe and start next year in Everett.

Need to see more from:

SS Juan Querecuto. The 18 year old knocked just three XBHs in his first stateside work, struggling with rust and heightened competition after missing the the first few months of the season with a torn meniscus. He’s got plenty of time to improve, but it seems like a repeat at this level will be needed for Seattle’s other 2017 J2 splash signing that accompanied Julio Rodriguez.

Honorable Mention: OF Luis Veloz

Other performances of note:

Take your pick of pitchers. LHP Adam Macko had a very similar campaign to Perez, albeit a bit more TTO-dependent. RHP Bernie Martinez bounced around to several levels after dominating in the AZL with a pure C the Z approach. RHP Jarod Bayless took time between cultivating his musical tastes to run an 0.57 ERA and a 34.5% K-BB% in his first taste of pro ball.

Despite shaky final numbers, LHPs Holden Laws and Danny Chang (formerly known as Jing-Yu Chang) missed a bunch of bats as well, as did LHP Blake Townsend before being shut down for Tommy John surgery.

The DSL Mariners

Overall record: 35-37, 2nd in DSL Northeast

Season in Review:

Los Marineros Pequeños has approximately the opposite configuration of their AZL brethren. Despite one of the better offenses in the league and a late season surge, they could not outscore their inconsistent pitching. Fortunately for this group, Seattle under Dipoto’s regime holds all their top Latin American signees at the DSL complex for their full first season, meaning they got a full dose of Noelvi Marte this season just as they retained OF Julio Rodriguez all year in 2018. It is worth noting that after the Marineritos struggled mightily over the first month of the season, they finished with a bang, winning 9 of their final 11 games. They also had lots of fun together at the Academy, having movie days, playing FIFA tournaments, and working out on the beach as a group, and at least once stole hitting coach Rob Benjamin’s phone to live stream a batting practice, set to the soundtrack of one prospect singing “say something I’m giving up on you,” off-key and on repeat.

Key promotions:

The Mariners don’t promote often out of the DSL, and when they do, it’s players who are on their second year. INF Edwin Gil was at the DSL complex for mere weeks before being shipped off to to the AZL. LHP Raul Alcantara was sent to the AZL at the beginning of August, and RHP Yeury Tatiz and LHP Anderson Mercedes joined him in July. All four struggled in their first season stateside.

MLB Top-100/Mariners Top 30 prospects at the level:

SS Noelvi Marte (#8 BA, #10 FG, #13 MLB), CF Jonathan Clase (#33 FG)

It was a bit of a slow build, but by the end of the season, Marte had a coming-out party similar to fellow top prospect Julio Rodriguez, landing himself on MLB’s Prospect of the Week teams twice in a row, earning BA’s Prospect Hot Sheet designation several times (which makes him sound like a lunch special), and overall getting some buzz around his name.

Jonathan Clase didn’t come with the same prospect pedigree as Marte (and apparently changed the spelling of his name from “Jonatan” midseason, if you’re looking him up on FanGraphs), but his first season in the DSL was eye-opening as he stuffed the stat sheets night after night. Clase is a light, speedy, true CF who stole 31 bases but also posted a line of .300/.434/..444 while striking out under 20% of the time and walking 18% (!). He also won the end-of-season award for “best in weight room,” which is a good thing for a player currently listed at 5’8/150.

Top position player:

SS Noelvi Marte. This isn’t as cut and dry as it could be thanks to a slow July for Marte and some impressive seasons by his teammates, but Marte was chosen as the team’s MVP by the coaching staff and it’s difficult to disagree. He hit .309/.371/.511 playing all 63 of his games at SS. Marte was error-prone, but it’s difficult to know what to ascribe to poor play vs. subpar field conditions or simply mistakes a 17 year old is liable to make and grow out of.

Honorable Mention: OF Jonat(h)an Clase, 3B Milkar Perez, C Ortwin Pieternella

Top pitcher:

RHP Wilton Perez. This is a real toss-up since the DSL is notoriously full of essentially high school pitchers who either throw very hard right now or are still figuring out how this whole long limbs thing works. We’re giving it to the 17-year-old Perez, who led the team in innings and starts with 55.1 IP in 13 starts and 15 appearances. He was a groundball generator, earning a 2.44 ERA for his troubles despite strikeout and walk numbers that wouldn’t make anyone look twice. RHP David Morillo was the team’s All-Star representative for pitching, and has the better strikeout numbers, with 41 Ks in 39 innings.

Honorable Mention: RHP Abdiel Medina, RHP Elbis Alfanador, RHP Yeury Tatiz, RHP David Morillo

Top bullpen arm:

RHP Igor Januario. Much like the AZL, in the interest of developing these young pitchers in a healthy fashion, innings are spread around widely and starting vs. relieving roles are fairly fluid. Just two pitchers who worked exclusively from the bullpen stood out positively, and Januario was the best of them. The 6’7 winner of the team’s “Best Teammate” award was also their go-to bullpen arm. He worked a 2.79 ERA as the team’s closer in 19.1 IP.

Honorable Mention: RHP Natanael Garabitos

Pop-up performer:

OF Jonatan Clase. Wow. Signed for just $35k in the same 2018 class as Marte, the Lilliputian LHH broke out in a big way thanks to a .300/.434/.444 line that included going 31/41 stealing bases. Just three months past his 17th birthday, Clase is listed at 5’8, 150, but he’s a compact ball of muscle with the speed to turn 50/50 plays into hits.

Honorable Mention: OF Arturo Guerrero (who led the DSL in HBP, with 26!), 1B Julio De La Cruz, RHP Yeury Tatiz

Need to see more from:

Literally everyone. This isn’t a judgment on the team, just a statement of fact; the DSL is far away and there’s very little video except what the players and coaches themselves post. From here, all we can do is scout stat lines and dream. Hopefully we will get to see a few of the youngsters who have completed their first year in the DSL on the backfields this Spring Training, and maybe in the case of Marte, Januario, or possibly Clase, even more than that.