The light grows dimmer. His reign, it grows older. The gold sheen of his glove patinas, aging from what was. Twelve years Kyle Seager will have manned third base for the Seattle Mariners. His land, a small patch of soil — a corner, if you will, never haphazardly represented. In twelve years, just one man tried to lay claim to the throne, one (1) Ryon Healy. He was unsuccessful, furthermore, banished from the kingdom entirely. It was his corner, his soil, the fruits of his labor and real estate of the Seager name.
But his rule must end. As 2020 grows colder, 2021 draws near. His band, ‘Hawt Corner’, long-departed. His friends, exported in trade and through sale. Seager will host one (maybe two?) more cordial marathons of sport in his baseball kingdom. His exit will be grand.
“A coronation must be planned!” exclaimed Jerry Dipoto. “We must make arrangements for our new maestro of Kingdom 5.”
There are several qualified men in play, but maybe just one bearing the chops, the beard, the entire package necessary to carry such distinction.
Louisville Alex Binelas is that man. He’s chockfull of tools and on a potential collision course for Seattle.
The depth of the farm system as it pertains to infielders in Seattle is sparse, certainly lacking the depth at which other position groups currently find themselves with. Third base has some options long-term, but nobody you can label with confidence as the heir-apparent.
Noelvi Marte is just 18 years old and yet to play an affiliated game in the states. He’s got immense athleticism, and a bat that’s awfully easy to dream on. But Marte has never played third base. Not once. He’s still manning shortstop at the Alternate Site this summer. The ceiling in his profile is as big as the volatility in it.
Austin Shenton, the Mariners 5th round pick in 2018, has yet to play a game at High-A for Seattle. The hit tool and power potential are appealing, but he’s not an accomplished defensive third baseman by any means, and his performance at the Alternate Site doesn’t lead one to believe he’s going to rise up the charts with vigor in 2021. He’s also been receiving a good chunk of playing time at first and second base.
Joe Rizzo, the Mariners 2nd round pick all the way back in 2016, has yet to play in AA, but showed well in High-A Modesto in 2019. Not well enough, apparently. Seattle elected not to bring him to the Alternate Site for 2020. He’s also Rule 5 eligible after this season. He’s in a bit of limbo right now.
Guys like Tyler Keenan, Jake Scheiner and Bobby Honeyman remain options, but they’re down the pecking order a bit.
Binelas represents a tried and true third baseman with few holes in his game.
At 6-foot-2, 205 pounds, he’s certainly got the prototypical build of a big league third baseman. It’s a strong, sturdy physique, barrel-chested with a thicker lower half. Binelas is ready-built for the 162-game grind.
TOOLS (Future Value)
Binelas’ has been a mainstay in Midwest scouting circles since 2017, but he really burst onto the scene in 2019 after he hit .291 with 14 home runs as a true freshman for the powerhouse Cardinals. He’d walk at a 13.5 percent clip and strikeout just 23 percent of the time. His 33 extra-base hits and 59 RBIs in just 59 games were both among the league leaders for true freshman in the entire country. It would culminate in he being named a Freshman All-American by just about every publication you can find.
Unfortunately, Binelas missed all but two games in 2020 thanks to hamate bone surgery.
Like fellow left-handed hitter Jarred Kelenic, Binelas is a native Wisconsinite. Also like Kelenic, his operation at the plate is understated, quiet and mechanically-sound.
A squared stance with even weight distribution and a minor bat-wiggle is representative in his pre-load stature. Binelas hunches a little more over the plate than Kelenic does, but by and large, their resting posture is similar. Their loading mechanisms are also eerily similar. Binelas employs a mild leg kick with an even tempo. His weight remains centered through his back hip throughout his swing despite an exaggerated weight transfer at contact. He stays square through the ball throughout the entire process of the swing.
Binales has an ideal bat-path and it’s short to the ball. He does an excellent job of keeping his head still through the ball whilst using all of the field.
Because of his subdued, mature approach at the plate, coupled by his loud contact to all fields, it’s not hard to envision a .275 hitter at the next level. He should draw his fair share of walks and at this stage punch outs wouldn’t appear to be a concern.
You can’t just throw the term ‘Louisville Slugger’ out into the ethos unless you’re sure the shoe fits. Binelas’ carrying tool is probably his power stroke. Hitting 14 home runs against ACC competition as an 18-year-old is an awfully impressive feat. There’s a ton of raw power in Binelas frame and natural bat path, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone he tapped into so much as of with his advanced approach at the plate.
You’d expect Binelas’ batted ball profile to be among the best in the sport, and it certainly is. In 2019, Binelas (again, as an 18-year old, mind you) saw an average exit velocity of 95 mph on balls in play. That put him in the 97th percentile for all hitters in college baseball. His max exit velocity output was over 111 mph, again, placing him in the 97th percentile. Not only was he crushing the ball, his average launch angle was 13.5 degrees with a healthy standard deviation in either direction. In layman’s terms, this means he was squaring the ball up with authority more often than not.
The batted-ball profile as a whole should spark confidence in whichever team elects to take Binelas in next year’s draft. The entire package is advanced and should translate at the next level very well.
Binelas draws his power from fundamentals. His kinetic chain is showcased as he gets his front foot down early; well before the rotation of his swing begins. As soon as the foot is down, Binelas torques hard to clear his hips and create separation from his shoulders and core. This builds rotational bat speed and, well, power. As mentioned before, Binelas is short to the ball, but gets his arms extended out in front of the plate, driving the ball. The building blocks to a powerful swing are already very much in place. Thus, he’s getting into his 60-grade raw power in-game already.
The entire operation reminds me a bit of a Michael Conforto archetype.
There was a point in Binelas’ prep career where scouts were unsure whether or not he’d be able to stick at third baes. Those qualms, for the most part, have since changed. While Binelas may never win any gold gloves at the position, he should be a steady force on the dirt.
One of Binelas’ strengths on the infield is his footwork. He generally takes a good first step on balls hit his way. His step toward second on double-play balls is smooth and consistent as well. He’s got a good arm despite what some might consider a wonky throwing motion.
I haven’t had too much luck finding opportunities to scout his ability to charge in on balls on the grass, but the limited looks suggest he’s comfortable making the play and throw.
If teams decide the glove isn’t progressing at a rapid enough clip to man third base, Binelas’ other tools should allow him to move into left field where he’d be an average defender as well, maybe a tick above. At worst, his bat would profile just fine at first base, and could even be tested at second base in a pinch thanks to his mobility and sure hands.
Binelas has more than enough arm to handle third base long-term. In high school he clocked 90 mph across the diamond, indicative of a comfortably above average throwing arm. His throws can get a little off-line at times, but it’s not something I’d be concerned about as it’s been a point of emphasis in Binelas’ offseason training.
So long as an organization doesn’t ding him for the motion itself, the results will be fine. And as previously stated, the arm will play anywhere on the field just fine.
Binelas has never been a burner, but his speed has supposedly been ticking up since arriving to Louisville. As a high school senior, Binelas was usually in the 6.70 to 6.80 range in his 60-yard dash times. I interviewed him last week and he’s purportedly clocking times closer to the 6.50-6.60 range now. In a vacuum, you could make an argument he’s a plus runner with figures like, but as we know, that doesn’t paint a complete picture.
I was able to catch a few of Binelas’ games from 2019 and clock his ability from home to first out of the box. Most times were in the 4.16 to 4.22 range. That’s mostly an average runner. Because of Binelas’ weight transfer at the tail-end of his swing, he’s generally a little slower out of the box than other left-handed hitters. That being said, he really gets up-to-speed quicker than most other guys I’ve seen his size. He doesn’t lumber by any means.
Once underway, Binelas can really lock into another gear rounding the bases. Extra-base hits won’t be an issue for this kid whatsoever.
As it stands, he’s probably a solid average (55) runner now, but I do think the body and career archetype should lead him to settle in as an average runner at the next level.
Alex Binelas is one guy in the 2021 draft class I’d feel pretty comfortable taking if I was a big league general manager. I don’t think there’s necessarily a superstar ceiling here, but he could very easily become one of the top third baseman in the league, largely thanks to a pretty appealing bat. The ceiling is pretty high on this kid, but the floor is equally safe. I have no doubts Binelas is a big league hitter and strong enough on defense to stick. Better still, his legs should add some extra value on the base paths.
Thanks to his exposure to upper-tier competition in ACC play and his track record of success at every level, Binelas could move quickly and debut for whomever selects him at some point in 2023.