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Mariners release 44 minor leaguers before 2020 season (updated list)

It’s never fun seeing players released, but this year it feels especially rough

Houston Astros v Detroit Tigers Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

As we reported yesterday, the Mariners announced they were committed to paying their minor leaguers through August, but would be doing so at the expense of multiple players’ careers.

Today more names are trickling out; we will be updating this list until it’s complete. All listings are drawn from one of two sources: an official transaction listing, or an announcement from the player via social media. We’ve arranged the transactions by level and provided some basic info on each player below:

Update, 6/1/20: We now have what seems to be a complete list and are updating the player names below. In total, 44 players have been released so far; 6 from Triple-A, 2 from Double-A, 5 from A+, 8 from A, 4 from short-A, and 19 from the DSL/AZL. The heavy cuts at the low-A level are perhaps anticipating the loss of the West Virginia Power, but the majority of cuts are in the lowest level of the organization, including recently drafted players and signees, some of whom had as little as five innings to show what they could do in pro ball.

Pacific Coast League (Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers):

LHP Manny Bañuelos - Bañuelos, a former top prospect in the Yankees system, was signed as a free agent by the Mariners prior to spring training this year. He was Joe’s pick for an intriguing fringe prospect to watch through spring training as a potential long reliever or opener-type.

RHP Darin Gillies - Gillies, one of the longest-tenured Mariners minor leaguers, announced his release on social media yesterday.

OF Rymer Liriano - Liriano never suited up for Seattle in a game, Spring Training or otherwise, but was a possible expanded roster candidate thanks to two years of partial big league experience with the Padres and White Sox.

INF Chris Mariscal - Few players had as much experience in the Mariners system as Mariscal, who has gone further than most 14th round picks ever can hope to. Though he struggled greatly in AAA last year after shredding AA at last, Mariscal was a skeleton key every step of the way. He snagged time at every infield position throughout his Mariners career, a number of games in the outfield, and even taking the hill on multiple occasions.

RHP Louis Head - Seattle picked up Head as a minor league free agent from the Dodgers this Spring. He was slated for a role in Tacoma’s bullpen in hopes of turning his fourth crack at AAA into a big league stint.

LHP Dietrich Enns - The 29 year old LHP was another minor league free agent like Head, who had a tougher task at wedging his way into a contentious Rainiers rotation.

Texas League (Double-A Arkansas Travelers):

OF/1B Nick Zammarelli III - This one caused me genuine pain to type. Nicky Three Sticks has long been a site favorite and was the first player in the Elon University-to-Seattle pipeline. He is also close friends with Jake Fraley, Justin Dunn, and the rest of the group that was together at Arkansas this past season and a foundational part in helping set the culture for the group that’s coming to Seattle soon, so his influence will be felt long after he has left the organization. We wish him the best. #NickyFreeAgent

3B Mitch Nay - Nay was drafted as a comp round pick back in 2012 by Toronto and was getting a solid look in spring training with Seattle before things shut down.

California League (Advanced-A Modesto Nuts):

OF Eliezer Alvarez - Alvarez is only 25, but he’s a long-time veteran of the minors, having been signed by St. Louis back in 2011. The Mariners signed him to a minor-league contract prior to the 2020 season.

RHP Clay Chandler - Few players embody the way unheralded prospects make minor league clubs tick like Chandler. The undrafted free agent ran a sub-4.00 ERA from rookie ball through Low-A West Virginia, and gobbled up innings in the Cal League last year upon promotion. Always old for the level, Chandler was rarely given much shrift as a prospect himself, but gave a pitching-thin Mariners organization 293.0 capable innings over the past two seasons.

RHP Michael Koval - Koval was part of an impressive 2018 Nuts bullpen that included Wyatt Mills, Seth Elledge, Jack Anderson, Collin Kober, Jake Haberer, and others. The 25 year old has a knack for getting grounders when healthy and could very well see himself picked up elsewhere if he’s fully recovered from Tommy John Surgery, which kept him out all of 2019.

OF Billy Cooke - Cooke’s 2019 transaction log looks more like an indecisive food critic’s than a prospect. In the month of March he went from Extended Spring Training to Tacoma, back to Arizona, then Tacoma once more in late May. After less than a month, he dropped down to Everett, before two weeks later jumping to Modesto for three days. Three weeks later it was up to Tacoma yet again, then Everett, West Virginia, Modesto, and West Virginia once more over the course of 10 days in August. Though he struggled in 2018, the energetic outfielder held his own at the plate despite >10 and <100 plate appearances at four levels in 2019.

SS Johnny Adams - The Boston College senior sign spent three years in the Mariners system, topping out with 118 games between SS and 3B for the Nuts in 2019.

South Atlantic League (Low-A West Virginia Power):

LF Ryan Ramiz - A 2018 23rd-rounder from the magical town of Neptune, NJ, Ramiz spent all of 2019 with the West Virginia Power, where he slashed .230/.327/.340, which doesn’t look that great on its face but was actually right in the middle of the pack for a Power team that really struggled with hitting.

2B Matt Sanders - Sanders, a 2018 draftee, actually spent a good part of 2019 with Modesto, but was re-assigned to West Virginia in August after struggling with the more advanced Cal League pitching. In his short time with the organization, Sanders played with five different affiliates, as his plus glove and versatility in an organization thin on infield prospects helped compensate for any shortcomings with the bat.

RHP Jamal Wade - This one hurts. Wade was recovering from TJ surgery and has recently begun throwing again and if the season doesn’t get canceled, there’s a good chance he’s still in the organization. Hopefully another team will give the power-throwing righty a chance.

1B Onil Pena - Pena is the longest-tenured player on this list, having been signed in the July 2 period of 2013. He’s also an enormous loss from a cultural standpoint, as the friendly, mischievous first baseman was well-loved by his teammates in West Virginia. Unfortunately, Pena struggled to hit for power in full-season ball, which is something you need your first base types to do.

RHP Sal Biasi - The Mariners as an organization don’t like their pitchers walking people, but they especially don’t like relievers walking people, and Biasi did a little too much of that with West Virginia. Last April, the Mariners liked Biasi enough to trade David Freitas to the Brewers for him and now have nothing to show for the loss of that delightful human, and yes I’m still mad about it.

OF DeAires Moses - I was pretty sure Dee Moses had retired prior to the start of spring training, but he pops up on the list here anyway. Moses was for a long time the fastest Mariner in the organization by a lot, but speed ages the most poorly of the tools and the 24-year-old struggled with the bat in 2019. The title of Fastest Mariner will be passed on now, likely to speedster Jonatan Clase.

OF Charlie McConnell - The epitome of a cold-weather kid, the Massachusetts-born McConnell was taken by the Mariners out of Northeastern University in the 13th round in 2018. After a solid start to his pro career in Everett, the bat couldn’t warm up in West Virginia this season.

LHP Steven Moyers - Like Clay Chandler above, Moyers is the kind of player who won’t be known by most fans except those who turn up at minor-league ballparks to see him reliably toe the rubber every fifth day. Moyers threw over 160 rock-solid innings last year across West Virginia and Modesto, and the loss of a minor-league season is depriving him of his chance to test his mettle in Double-A—although with his solid numbers and ability to throw with his left hand, there’s a good chance he catches on elsewhere.

Northwest League (Short-A Everett Aquasox):

SS Utah Jones - Jones was a 2019 29th-rounder the Mariners used primarily as a multi-level fill-in player, bouncing him from Everett to Texas to West Virginia. That might not sound impressive until you remember that was essentially the role Penn Murfee played his first year in the organization before settling into a role and eventually working his way up to a star turn in the Arizona Fall League and for Team USA this fall. Jones hasn’t showed up on the transaction wire yet, but he tweeted this:

RHP Garrett Westberg - Westberg was a 2019 draftee out of Central Florida but is a Northwest native and grew up a Mariners fan. It’s disappointing we didn’t get more of a chance to see the Decatur HS (Federal Way) grad grow into the system more.

RHP Cody Mobley - Another victim of injuries waylaying a pitcher’s career, Mobley was hoping to make an impact at 2019 spring training, but his elbow had other plans and he missed the entire 2019 season.

RHP Joey O’Brien - Few names on the list caused a greater rendering of garments around LL HQ than that of Joey O’Brien, one of the most interesting draftees in 2018. Unfortunately TJ threw a wrench into Joey’s career, so while we wait to see where he goes next, we’ll be following along with the career of his brother Richard Sunagawa, member of the Fukuokwa SoftBank Hawks in the NPB.

Rookie League (AZL, DSL):

OF Luis Veloz - Tall, athletic, projectable, and fast, Veloz was listed as MLB Pipeline’s 25th-best international prospect in the 2016 class and the Mariners signed him to a significant bonus (600K). Unfortunately, Veloz struggled in his first year stateside after two middling years of production in the DSL. A team, especially one that’s thin on outfielders, might want to take a chance on the raw potential in Veloz’s 6’4” frame, especially as he’s just 20 years old.

RF Cesar Trejo - A 2018 17th-rounder, Trejo had a rough beginning to his pro career when he missed most of his first pro season with an injury. The Mariners sent him straight to West Virginia, where he struggled, then re-assigned him to extended spring training and then eventually the AZL, but he was never quite able to get his footing under him in 2019.

SS/2B Jery Hernandez - Hernandez was signed in 2018 but never made it out of the DSL, hitting under the Mendoza Line each of his two seasons.

C Geury Pena - Pena was signed in late August last season and did not appear in any games for the DSL Mariners.

3B Edwin Gil - Gil was signed in the December period in 2017; he got off to a solid start in 2019 in his second trip through the DSL but the bat fell flat once he made it stateside.

SS/2B Osiris Castillo - A little older as a signee in 2018, Castillo had a strong debut season in the DSL but struggled in the AZL this year.

C Ortwin Pieternella - This one came as a bit of a surprise; even though Pieternella is older for an international prospect, he was outstanding in the DSL on his first full season there, slashing .327/.430/.465. Pieternella was also a “good culture” guy who had been working hard throughout quarantine pushing cars up hills and making his own batting net out of discarded items, epitomizing the Mariners’ “DMGB” (Doesn’t Matter Get Better) philosophy.

RHP Leo Rodriguez - Rodriguez was signed in 2019 as an undrafted free agent from Florida Southern and threw .2 innings as a member of the Mariners organization.

RHP Matt Mogollon - Mogollon was an undrafted free agent signed in 2019 out of California Baptist, the same school as 2019 draftee Jarod Bayless. Mogollon appeared in four games as a reliever totaling 5.1 innings, striking out six, walking two, and allowing one hit. Hopefully that will not be the limit of his professional career.

RHP Cristhopher Marte - A combination of a slower learning curve, shaky command, and injuries caused Marte to wind up on this list, despite being one of the longer-tenured players in this category, having been signed back in the winter of 2016.

LHP Anderson Mercedes - A winter 2017 signee, the 6’0” lefty couldn’t translate his strong K/BB numbers from his second tour of the DSL when the Mariners moved him to the AZL last season, although he only had 29 innings stateside before being cut loose.

1B Julio De La Cruz - Second chances are unfortunately difficult to come by in the DSL; De La Cruz was given one when the Mariners picked him up after the Padres released him midway through the 2019 season. De La Cruz was one of the better hitters on a DSL Mariners team that often relied solely on the offensive contributions of Noelvi Marte and Jonatan Clase, but his journey with the Mariners, at least, has come to an end.

SS Caleb Ricca - Ricca was a 2019 draftee in the 23rd round from Northwestern State. A dinged-up shoulder affected his ability to swing and he initially struggled to find his footing in the AZL, but once he did the Mariners immediately sent him all the way up to West Virginia when they were short on players. Athletic and versatile on the infield, Ricca is yet another player who wasn’t afforded a fair opportunity to show what he could do in pro ball with a full, healthy season.

C Anthony Lepre - “Little Lep” was drafted in 2019 in the 28th round from The Masters in California. Post-draft, the Mariners used him as a warm body, sending him from the AZL to West Virginia to Modesto as a fill-in player, so it’s unsurprising that he never really found his footing with the bat, but disappointing he was never given an opportunity to do so.

C Daniel Santos - Bilingual catchers don’t exactly grow on trees, but after three seasons Santos hadn’t progressed past the DSL until a brief but unfruitful stint in the AZL this past year.

LHP Nate Fisher - Fisher was signed after the 2019 draft as a free agent and the Mariners sent the Nebraska grad to Everett, where he performed well, before sending him to West Virginia as a fill-in (with a couple stops off in Tacoma along the way). Fisher’s numbers weren’t great in A ball but a semi-decent FIP of 4.28 suggests some promise for the pitchability lefty.

3B Nolan Perez - A July 2 signing from way back in 2015, Perez is one of the longest-tenured players on this list; as a 21-year-old in the AZL, his batting average improved significantly last year, but unfortunately his BB/K ratio somehow got even worse: .11 in 2019.

OF Antoine Carter-Mistico - I’m pretty bummed we don’t get to see more of ACM, whose dad is Michael Carter (and his half-brother is Michael Hermosillo, and his cousin is Roosevelt Brown); Mistico posted perfectly respectable numbers for a center fielder in 2019 while showing good plate discipline and is yet another example of a promising player having his pro career either interrupted or cut short entirely.

RHP Kipp Rollings - Rollings was a 24th-round draft choice in 2019; as a reliever for the AquaSox, he struck out 24 batters in just shy of 30 innings.