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LL’s Top Mariners Prospects 2020: 40-36

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A pair of pop-up pitchers and a couple of system stalwarts who need to find their ways forward

BASEBALL-JPN-USA Photo by KAZUHIRO NOGI/AFP via Getty Images

Prospect ranking season means it’s time for our own list, and since we pride ourselves at LL on bringing you the most in-depth, regular, free coverage of the Mariners minors system anywhere on Jarred Kelenic’s internet, we are back with a list that goes 50 players deep, plus a roundup of the players who didn’t make the list but are also names to keep in mind. If you missed any previous installment you can find the previous ten here and here, and an explanation of our methodology here.

40. C Jake Anchía

It was a little bit of an up-and-down year for Anchía, who was promoted to High-A Modesto to fill the spot vacated by Cal Raleigh when he moved to Arkansas with batterymate Logan Gilbert but who probably could have used a little longer seasoning against A-ball pitchers. Anchía is a true three outcome player with mammoth raw power who knows how to take a walk and will also strike out a fair amount, but currently isn’t getting himself into a position to do enough damage at the dish. He comes in this high on our list thanks to a set of plus defensive tools that include an ability to handle both velocity and movement on pitches with nice, soft hands and an absolute cannon behind the dish that cuts down any and all would-be base stealers. -KP

39. OF Luis Liberato

If there’s one player on the Top 50 that could truly transcend his expectations, it may very well be Luis Liberato. Blessed with buckets of talent, Liberato has struggled to stay on the field during his career, and while they’ve mostly been nagging ailments, the cumulative effect has cost him development time and the ability to only showcase 80% of his ability most of the time. When Libby is right, he flashes good pop at the plate with a violent left-handed cut. That being said, he drastically altered his stance and swing this past winter and it will be a wait-and-see this spring. Liberato will likely get a lot of time in Tacoma this season, and from this chair, it wouldn’t be surprising if he suddenly runs into a .280 average with 20 bombs. A Top 10 prospect for Seattle in 2017, Liberato finds himself on the outside looking in, but he’s far from off the radar. -JD

38. LHP Ray Kerr

Ray Kerr’s path to baseball has been unconventional, involving stopoffs at a JUCO, for the Peninsula Oilers in the Alaska Baseball League, and jobs at a 7-11 and a movie theatre. The Mariners signed Kerr as an UDFA in August of 2017 and used him as a starter in 2018 before shifting him into the bullpen in 2019 while in Modesto. Under the tutelage of Modesto strength coach Mikey Sadler, Kerr added twenty pounds of muscle to his lanky frame; under the tutelage of Modesto pitching coach Rob Marcello, he added heat to his fastball, eventually topping out in the triple digits. Kerr works from the left side with a deceptive delivery with movement on his pitches and still has a starter’s arsenal that allows him to work multiple innings; however, he might be best served but concentrating on the heater and one other pitch in a back-end bullpen role considering that he’s still relatively raw and can struggle with command. There’s more upside here than the numbers alone might suggest, though. -KP

37. 1B/OF Eric Filia

What do you do with a prospect like Filia? The 27-year-old is no longer at risk of suspension thanks to changes in testing rules, meaning the player on the field is the only thing needing scrutiny. He’s never run a double-digit strikeout rate in the minors, while walking in 14% of his plate appearances between AA and AAA over the past two seasons. Still, he’s scarcely altered his profile/only had success at every stage with his prior approach. That’s a dismissive way of speaking of good numbers throughout the minors, but the worries won’t dissipate until Filia either adds oomph or shows his stuff works in the bigs. A minute power profile that relies on elevated BABIP numbers despite an elevated groundball rate is a dodgy toolkit for a speedy middle infielder, much less a corner outfielder/first baseman. We got an encouraging glimpse of alteration from Filia in Tacoma, where he hit the ball on a line with great frequency, without sacrificing any plate discipline, and if he is to succeed, that’s where he has to live to keep pitchers honest in the bigs and get his contact past MLB defenses. There’s still a young Yonder Alonso/late-career Joe Mauer/2009 James Loney possibility here, and the 26-man roster is huge for Filia, but without MLB reps, at five months Daniel Vogelbach’s elder, Filia likely needs both to perform and to see some pieces move in front of him to get a shot in Seattle. ~JT

36. RHP Penn Murfee

Perhaps no player in the Mariners system improved his stock in 2019 more than Murfee, who began the year as organizational filler after an uninspiring start to his pro career in Everett and closed the year pitching for Team USA in front of 20,000 fans in the Tokyo Dome. Murfee doesn’t have overwhelming velocity, but worked with Modesto pitching coach Rob Marcello to start locating his fastball high in the zone; that, combined with his slider, helped Murfee strike out almost a third of batters he faced in the California League. Murfee carried his success into the Arizona Fall League, where he was a standout performer and earned himself selection to Team USA. Currently, Murfee is working on the shape of his changeup to give him yet another weapon with which to attack hitters, and that will determine whether his future is in the bullpen or more as a spot starter/backend starter type. Off the field, Murfee is both a poster boy and a vocal advocate for the organization’s pitching development, and is well-regarded by Mariners brass as a clubhouse leader. -KP