Today was the Rule-5 Draft and the Mariners, with free space on the 40-man roster and corner store money jing-jangling in their pocket from Uncle Stanton, selected RHP Will Vest from the Detroit Tigers. Vest was not among the targets we discussed in our Rule 5 draft primer, although to be fair, he wasn’t in much of anyone’s Rule 5 writeup; the numbers, on the surface, aren’t exactly sterling. Vest, selected by Detroit in the 12th round out of Stephen F. Austin University, a school I can only imagine was started by Stone Cold Steve Austin, dominated in the lower minors in 2018, bowling over opponents in the Midwest League and the Florida State League. The Tigers started Vest out again in 2019 at A+-Lakeland, but quickly advanced him to Double-A Erie, where his strikeout numbers dropped off significantly and he also struggled some with giving up the long ball.
Vest throws a lively mid-90s fastball that can touch 97 with armside run, a heavy changeup (87) with some significant drop, a curveball (84), and a new-ish slider (85-87) that’s reportedly already one of his better pitches. In the Arizona Fall League in 2019, he struck out 10 batters in 11.1 innings, but also surrendered three HR and walked six, adding to a troubling pattern of command issues. Vest pitches out of an overhand/high 3⁄4 slot which adds deception and also helps him make the most of a shorter six-foot-even frame, but can also leave him vulnerable to leaving the ball up, sailing out of the zone for balls and making his secondaries less effective.
Vest’s new slider and ability to throw hard apparently made him a popular target among teams—although not so popular that he wasn’t available when the Mariners picked at 14. As the major hurdle Vest seems to need to clear is consistency, one of Seattle’s development specialties, the outlook is good for him to be able to stick with his new team. Vest is the first player selected in the Rule 5 from Detroit since 2011.
Will Vest, worked 95-96 T97 w/ hard ASR. Both secondaries flashed AA. Hard SL @ 86-88 F good lateral. CH may better of the two, heavy fade, parachute in mid 80s. Pieces for potential hi lev relief role. #Tigers pic.twitter.com/ibreXjgD1Q— Kyler Peterson (@KPeterson813) October 17, 2020
In the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 Draft, the Mariners tabbed switch-hitter Amador Arias from the Tampa Bay Rays, who was on the Rays’ Rookie ball roster. Arias was announced as a 2B but is listed as a 3B on MiLB.com. The 20-year-old was signed out of Venezuela in August of the 2016 signing period, as soon as he turned 16, and spent both 2017 and 2018 in the DSL, and has yet to hit convincingly in pro ball. Per Baseball America, however, Arias is up from the 5’10” he’s listed at on most sites to more 6’1”, and 10-20 pounds heavier, to 165 from 145-155. The Mariners will likely start putting Arias through their strength and conditioning program, with the hopes that Arias’s bat will pick up as he fills out his lean and athletic frame. BA notes he has some doubles power and bat-to-ball skills, even if that’s not showing up in his statline yet. Arias is the son of White Sox scout Amador Arias, who is friendly with Cesar Izturis Sr., father of Mariners prospect Cesar Izturis Jr.
No players from the Mariners organization were selected in any phase of the Draft. Former Mariner Reggie McClain got picked up by the Yankees out of the Phillies organization in the minor-league phase of the draft, and former Mariner prospect Drew Jackson, with the Dodgers, was also picked by the Mets in the minor-league phase. Pittsburgh took pitcher Jose Siriano from the Angels with the first selection in the Rule 5, and AL West rival the Rangers took Brett De Geus, someone I had identified as a possible target, from the Dodgers. Buzzy pre-draft choice Garrett Whitlock went from the Yankees to the Red Sox fourth overall. Jordan Sheffield, Justus’s brother, went to the Rockies in the first round, so a Sheffield brother reunion will have to wait—for now.