It’s prospect ranking season, and it’s time for FanGraphs’ Top 100 list. This year, six Mariners made the cut, again a refreshing change from a few years ago, when there were [consults notes] zero. They are:
5th - Jarred Kelenic (60)
20th - Julio Rodríguez (60)
37th - Logan Gilbert (55)
57th - Emerson Hancock (50)
69th - Noelvi Marte (50)
76th - George Kirby (50)
Of course, at FanGraphs what’s more important than the numerical ranking is the “FV,” or “Future Value” rating, where the numbers are tied to the 20-80 scouting scale and represent a broader future projection for what kind of contributions a player will make at the major league level. (A 50 is an average big-league contributor; a 60 is an occasional All-Star; a 40, a role-player, and the numbers of prospects at each of those tiers are generally distributed like a bell curve.) So Jarred Kelenic ranking 5th on the list is less a reflection on him and more on the fact that he happens to share this iteration of the list with a rare 80-grade prospect in Wander Franco, and the numerical gap between him and Julio (5th to 20th) is less a talent gap—both are rated as 60 FV prospects, or potential perennial All-Stars—and more a reflection of Kelenic’s greater range of experience and production at higher levels of baseball. For a more in-depth explanation of Future Value, check out this explanation or this book co-authored by FanGraphs’ Eric Longenhagen and Kiley McDaniel, now of ESPN). It should be noted FanGraphs actually extends their “Top 100” list to however many prospects are considered 50+ FV; this year, that’s 133, and no additional Mariners appear among those 33.
Another note about FanGraphs’ FV rankings: sort of like big-league projections, the FV on a player isn’t primarily about his ceiling; it’s about the rough average outcome over a player’s first 6 years in the majors. So FanGraphs see Julio and Jarred, for example, as likely to put up an average of 3.4 to 4.9 WAR in those years—but that could be a couple of 2 WAR seasons while they acclimate, then some monster years, or just a steady level of production. Ditto Emerson Hancock: while you could see him posting some huge years as he comes into his own, with the development track of pitchers especially, it’s reasonable to think you’re going to see some lower-production years early in his team control. It’s not so much about tools and ceiling (though those are very important), but more what you can reasonably see them providing to the Mariners for those six years.
FanGraphs provides an interesting example of what prospect analysis is in 2020-21. Every publication has given Randy Arozarena a much-deserved boost, but FanGraphs skyrocketed him all the way from 107 pre-2020 to 4th in baseball—giving the Rays two elite prospect talents. It’s a combination of things: his MLB performance (including the playoffs, of course), plus the story about the physical transformation he managed while locked down in a hotel room during baseball’s shutdown. These things account for a significant boost, but Longenhagen notes that you have to pick out signal from noise here—ordinarily you could say “small sample size” about this type of performance, but instead you have to look a little deeper for the physical change plus his new max exit velocities.
As for the rankings themselves, what stands out is less the individual prospect rankings (although, we would like to pre-emptively start a GoFundMe benefiting the poor soul charged with telling Jarred Kelenic scouts project him as a 1B/DH type), and more the organizational depth the Mariners have assembled, They are one of just five teams with more than one 60-FV prospect (TB, ATL, DET, and MIN are the others), and their six prospects tie Tampa Bay for the most Top-100 prospects, although the Rays continue to have the edge by having the literal best prospect in baseball in Wander Franco plus three 60-FV prospects.
As for how the Mariners stack up against the AL West, there’s good news on that front as well, as they have more prospects in the Top-100 than the rest of the AL West combined; the Angels have two; Houston has one, as does Oakland (A.J. Puk barely squeaking on at 99 in what’s likely his last year of eligibility); and the Rangers have zero, although they do have three just outside the Top-100 in Josh Jung (109), Leody Taveras (121), and Yerry Rodriguez (124). Outside the Top 100, Houston adds Forrest Whitley at 106 (a far departure from the #29 ranking Keith Law gives him) and Hunter Brown at 120, and the Angels and Oakland add...no one. We won’t drain your bandwidth, but imagine the Grinch smiling GIF here.