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Mariners lose RHP Nolan Hoffman to first overall pick in MiLB Rule 5 Draft, select three others

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The Mariners also lost RHP Elvis Alvarado from Modesto

The MLB Rule 5 Draft remains on hold as the MLB lockout continues, but today brought a small bit of hardtack to gnaw on during these cold and baseball-less months in the form of the minor-league portion of the Rule 5 Draft. The MiLB portion of the Rule 5, which follows the MLB portion, happens to somehow even less fanfare, and with somehow even more occluded rules. This year, those rules got even more complicated, since the flipping of orders (usually the MLB Rule 5 precedes the MiLB Rule 5) meant a new roster restriction: teams were only able to take part in this draft if they had free space on their Triple-A rosters. The flipping of orders also means that, since the MLB Rule 5 trumps the MiLB version, any player selected in today’s draft is still eligible to be taken in the MLB portion of the draft. However, the selecting team would still be required to pay a higher selection fee (100K as opposed to the 25K of the MiLB portion) and, more saliently, keep that player on the 25-man roster all season. A couple of other notes: after the draft has concluded, a team is able to assign a player to any level, not just Triple-A; and players can be selected from any level of the minors, as long as they’re Rule-5 eligible/haven’t been added to the 40-man roster.

The Mariners had the most available Triple-A spots, so were able to be fairly active in the draft. Unfortunately, they also lost a couple of players who were well-regarded in the organization. RHP Nolan Hoffman was selected first overall in the draft by the Orioles, which is great for him and a smart pickup by the Orioles; Hoffman, Seattle’s fifth-rounder in 2018, missed most of 2019 with TJ surgery and obviously didn’t pitch in 2020, but bounced back in a strong campaign in a 2021 split between Modesto and Everett. A true sidearm reliever and polished college arm with excellent command and a truly funky delivery angle, Hoffman should advance quickly through the O’s less-robust system and could even see a late-season call-up if he’s able to arrive in Double-A and replicate his performance at the low minors. Good for him, bad for us.

The Mariners also lost RHP Elvis Alvarado, who came to Seattle in the Hunter Strickland/Roenis Elías trade with Washington back in 2019. Detroit took the 23-year-old as the seventh player off the board (the 11th pick in the draft). Alvarado’s numbers don’t exactly jump off the page from Modesto this year, but the converted outfielder has a ton of arm strength that translates to a fastball that flirts with triple digits. There’s a lot of refinement yet to do in the profile, but the upside is tremendous. Unfortunately, that’s now Detroit’s upside to develop.

But! The Mariners picked up a few projects of their own, making three selections with all their luxuriant Triple-A roster space. Surprisingly, only one of those selections was a pitcher, which speaks some to the depth of pitching in the organization (as does the Mariners having two pitchers poached from the org).

The Mariners added a center fielder with speed with their first selection (20th overall), OF Tanner Kirwer from the Blue Jays. Kirwer is...fast. He holds the Fisher Cats’ (Toronto’s AA affiliate) record for most bases stolen in a game (4). Over two levels this season he swiped 43 bases in just 83 games, only getting caught five times. He also did this:

Detractors will point to the fact that he’s 25, only just reached Double-A this season, and ran into a bit of a wall there, striking out about a third of the time. Pro-tractors will note that he hit almost as many homers at Double-A in a roughly equal number of plate appearances, and also, he’s so so fast, did you know that. Tractors (which are inherently neutral) will note that, inferring from his Twitter likes, he is good friends with fellow Canadian and now fellow Mariner Matt Brash, so will provide a bit of home comfort as young master Brash navigates his first year on a 40-man roster. Hey, it worked for Noelvi Marte and Alberto Rodríguez.

In the second round, the Mariners selected Walking (said like “Joaquin”) Cabrera, an outfielder from the Colorado Rockies rookie-level roster. How is someone still in the complex league eligible for the Rule 5? By having never progressed out of Rookie ball, apparently. That’s, uh, not great, but Cabrera showcases some pretty solid plate discipline (put your Walking puns away, I promise they’ve already been made, and also, as seen above, his name isn’t even pronounced like that, and also he calls himself “Alex” on his insta account, please, just stop with the puns) with some noisy exit velocities—like, 113 noisy.

The Mariners’ final selection of the day was RHP Tommy Wilson from the Mets (AA), because the Mariners have a type, and it is former Mets pitchers. Wilson is 25 and on his second tour of Double-A, where he was dominant this year but missed some time with injury, as he did in 2019 as well (MiLB transactions aren’t specific about what type of injury). He’s a fastball/changeup-dominant pitcher with good size (6’4”) who added some heat to his fastball during the shutdown, getting up to 95-96.

A fun fact about Tommy Wilson is that his dad played Biff in the Back to the Future movies, and his dad also made this vlog about him. (Here is his dad cheering him on at a Fullerton game during his college days.) Another fun fact about him is he’s a digital artist in addition to being a baseball player. And another fun fact is that he decided to pose for his official MiLB portrait for the RumblePonies like this, so, lots to unpack there to keep us busy even as the lockout drags on.