On Monday, Baseball America dropped their Top 100 prospects list for 2021. The entire list is here and I encourage you to pursue it and subscribe; with the Mariners farm rising near the top of the ranks over the past couple of years, a Baseball America subscription—especially with regards to BA’s coverage of the DSL and Latin American prospects, which is unparalleled—is a wise investment, and some much-needed support for the outlet during this lean time, especially. Also, the 2021 draft will likely be one of the most difficult to glean information on given limited looks at the high school (and possibly college) classes; Baseball America promises to be a valuable resource for that, as well. Okay, ad over, onto the list.
The big question when addressing the Mariners farm is always how to rank Jarred Kelenic and Julio Rodríguez. BA was one of the most aggressive outlets last year in betting on Julio’s raw power, ranking him as the 6th best prospect in baseball; Kelenic came in at number 9. For contrast, MLB had Kelenic as #11 in 2020 and Julio as #15. This year, BA has again ranked Julio above Jarred, but barely, putting Julio at #3 overall and Jarred at #4, capturing the spirit of the “1A/1B” ranking often appended to Seattle’s twin teen titan outfield prospects. MLB Pipeline tends to pride minors performance while BA looks at ceiling a little more, but it will be interesting to see where the Twin Js wind up on MLB’s list when that’s released—and in what order.
The next Mariner prospect on the list is #35, RHP Logan Gilbert, moving up 20 spots despite not pitching outside of scrimmages anywhere but a brief—but brilliant—Spring Training stint in 2020. This is likely a nod to Gilbert’s impending graduation from the list as he stands at the precipice of beginning his MLB career, and a reminder that no MLB journey is built exactly the same. Gilbert missed pitching entirely in his draft year, recovering from a bout with mono and off-season foot surgery, and despite rocketing through three levels of the minors in his first full season of pitching, posting excellent results at every stop, only made it as high as 55 on BA’s Top 100 last year. MLB Pipeline has generally been kinder to Gilbert, but still only ranked him as high as #10 on their recent top RHP prospects list, just squeaking onto the list behind fellow Mariners prospect Emerson Hancock and another 2020 draftee in Max Meyer, both of whom are yet to throw a professional pitch.
Speaking of Hancock, he’s the next on BA’s list, at #57. That’s actually a fall for Hancock from where he ended 2020 (#47), which must be frustrating for him as he’s never thrown a professional pitch, and a less-than-stellar, abbreviated 2020 college season is seemingly being held against him. Hancock will have plenty of time to set the record straight, and maybe will be able to take this initial slight as motivation as he begins his ascent through the ranks.
The final Mariners prospect on the Top 100 is Noelvi Marte, checking in at #73. After a strong performance in the DSL, Marte was discussed as being a fringy Top 100 contender prior to last season, and eventually wound up sliding into BA’s final 2020 Top 100 after graduations, at #88. Even though he hasn’t officially played outside of the DR, Marte’s appearance at the alternate training site and then the more level-appropriate fall development league offered evaluators who hadn’t had a chance to see him a glimpse at a taller, leaner, more filled-out Marte. With a tantalizing speed-power combo, expect to see much more national attention given to the high-ceiling Mariners shortstop as he begins his first professional season stateside.
On Tuesday, Baseball America also published a list of their “prospects who fell just outside the Top 10,” and two Mariners prospects earned enough votes to make that list: OF Taylor Trammell and RHP George Kirby. Interestingly, the two players are on nearly opposite ends of the spectrum for prospects. Trammell is a known quantity in prospect circles; since being drafted 35th overall out of a Georgia prep school in 2016, he’s been an MiLB fixture who has won awards and been selected to some of the game’s most prestigious showcases (the Arizona Fall League, rookie development camp, two appearances at the Futures Game). As a Mariners prospect, he can get somewhat overshadowed by the Mariners’ twin star outfield prospects, but he has the best speed out of the three of them and the most minors experience, and the Mariners currently have a conspicuous hole in left field on their big-league roster. Kirby, on the other hand, is a relative newcomer from a small school (Elon University) who hasn’t pitched more than a couple dozen innings out in our frosty lil’ corner of the US, but has earned accolades for his legendary stinginess in giving up walks. Even with a limited pro sample, an uptick in velocity since draft day combined with that famous control earned Kirby, who might otherwise have flown under the radar, a spot in an elite group of prospects.