Today we close out the high teens and dip a toe into the top 15, which is where this system, in particular, gets really interesting. If your eyes have been glazing over at the endless march of MLB-adjacent relievers, well, sorry to you, we’re not done just yet. But we also have
the first of the 2019 class cropping up on the board [is reminded of the DSL J2 signings] fine t he first 2019 draftee cropping up on the board at this point [is reminded of the existence of Austin Shenton] okay we have our first drafted 2019 pitcher on the board today [is further reminded of the existence of Mikey Limoncelli] THE FIRST ARKANSAS RAZORBACK ON THE BOARD, sheesh, fine, whatever.
Remember if you’ve missed any of the previous installations, which I promise aren’t quite so shout-y, you can catch up on previous lists and the introduction to the series in the main hub here.
18. RHP Art Warren
Reader, I will admit: I shed a tear when I saw Art Warren in uniform in Seattle’s bullpen for the first time. After battling injuries since his prep days—in college, Warren was once told by a doctor he’d likely never pitch again—the 23rd-rounder worked his way up to Seattle’s bullpen last year in one of the most tearjerking call-up stories we’ve heard in a while. Warren still struggles to command his big stuff, including a fastball that sits in the high 90s and can touch 101, a hammer curve, and a sweeping slider, and some scouts worry about how many bullets he has left in an injury-addled shoulder, but if he can put it all together at the big-league level this year, Warren will have a chance to pitch himself into the back end of Seattle’s porous 2020 bullpen. -KP
17. RHP Sam Delaplane
Delaplane has gone from a third day draft choice toiling in relative obscurity in the AZL to one of the system’s prominent relief arms thanks to an uncanny ability to strike batters out, posting Edwin Diaz-like strikeout numbers (he had a K/9 of over 17 in A+ Modesto in 2019). The difference is that Delaplane, who doesn’t even stand six feet tall, isn’t coming after batters with triple-digit heat and a wicked slider. His fastball sits more in the 91-93 range, occasionally 94-95, but he’s able to get plenty of ride and late life on it and isn’t afraid to throw it at the top of the zone for swinging strikes. But his real bread and butter is a pitch that has been described by some batters as “impossible to hit,” a curveball/slider hybrid (it’s thrown with a curveball grip but acts like a slider) that is so nasty it deserves a nickname of its own. Delaplane split 2019 fairly evenly between Modesto and AA-Arkansas, where he saw his strikeout rate tumble all the way down to a...14 K/9, so it’s likely the stuff will translate at higher levels (he also had a successful stint in the AFL this past season before biceps tendinitis shut him down, which significantly raised his prospect profile), but it still remains to be seen how his relatively softer stuff will play against big-league hitters with more discerning eyes. With the movement he gets on his pitches plus a deceptive delivery, however, we’re willing to bet on Delaplane. -KP
16. CF Braden Bishop
This is more than likely the last time Braden Bishop will appear on this list, on which he’s been a constant fixture since being drafted in 2015. The offensive improvements that made Bishop an exciting prospect in 2018 before he broke his forearm on an errant pitch at AA-Arkansas haven’t showed up yet in his brief taste of MLB action, where there’s been a good bit more elevating than celebrating (33% IFFB rate), but he’s the most talented center fielder in the organization with the exception of perhaps Luis Liberato and with the injury to Mitch Haniger, Bishop should still get a fair amount of run at the MLB level this year where he will [knocks wood, burns sage, lights candle, sets up grid of healing crystals, invokes the name of Dar’gunaaathung, ancient guardian of health] hopefully remain healthy long enough to show if his offensive improvements will translate to the big-league level. -KP
15. RHP Isaiah Campbell
It’s been some time since the Mariners took a high-profile pitcher from one of the nation’s top college programs, giving fans a chance to watch the nascent professional prospect conclude their amateur career in the College World Series. In an electric atmosphere, with a perfect camera angle on a high-quality broadcast, fans could see the 76th overall pick absolutely shove against a talented Florida State team. It was a fabulous teaser of the player the Mariners hoped they were getting, as he worked 7.0 shutout innings with 10 strikeouts, but it was also the last time Campbell pitched in a game for the year. There was no cause for concern - Seattle wished to focus on strength and conditioning in lieu of adding to Campbell’s already hefty workload from his college season, but it meant the Razorback is one of the more enigmatic prospects in the system. As a redshirt junior, Campbell is closer to Logan Gilbert in age than George Kirby, but that makes him a likely bet to start 2020 at the same level as Kirby and Brandon Williamson, quite possibly in High-A Modesto. Campbell comes in with four pitches that could be average or better with work, and a knack for working in the zone, evoking a similar toolkit to Logan Gilbert even as Campbell is a slightly thicker framed young man. There’s a lot to like in Campbell’s profile, even before talking about his enthusiasm for data analytics and highly-praised work ethic. He could easily shoot up this list, with the major question marks mostly coming down to health/durability and the progression of his off-speed pitches. ~JT