In case you missed it, we kicked off our 2021 rankings of the prospects in the Seattle Mariners system last week with the top ten prospects. This is somewhat of a departure for us, as we’ve released the lists counting down from 30 (or 40, or 20, depending on the year), but with the top level talent in Seattle so clear-cut, it made more sense to us to do it this way around. This section, specifically, is the one I (Kate) find most interesting in the system, full of high-variance but also high-ceiling players. There’s a lot to dream on here, which hasn’t always been the case when we’ve been doing these prospect lists.
If you missed the first installment of the Top 10, you can read that here.
11: RHP Andres Muñoz
Muñoz and Then, two hard throwers who project as back-end bullpen pieces, were neck-and-neck for the 10/11 spots. Muñoz technically has exhausted his prospect eligibility as far as we can tell, but he’s included some places, and we’ve never gotten to put him on a list before, so here’s his lone appearance before he’s full-time in the bigs.
We went back and forth about including Muñoz, who is more a big-leaguer than he is a prospect, and will likely never spend any significant time with a Mariners minor-league affiliate. But it’s worth remembering how young he is—just 22, younger than Cal Raleigh, Logan Gilbert, Austin Shenton and Zach DeLoach—and it’s always worth remembering how hard he throws. For as frustrating as it’s been watching the Mariners twiddle their thumbs during free agency this off-season, it’s fun to remember the team has a little triple-digit surprise ready to spring on the AL West somewhere around the middle of the season, assuming his TJ rehab continues apace. (KP)
Easily the slowest slider that Andrés Muñoz has thrown as a big leaguer (81.1 mph). As batters brace for his 100+ heat, he'll get a lot of silly swings with it. pic.twitter.com/HsWahCQfm6— Nick Pollack (@PitcherList) July 30, 2019
12: RHP Sam Carlson
Again there was a gap between the previous two names and the man we’ve nicknamed “Scarl” in the LL Slack. Projecting Carlson is as hard as anyone on this list as he’s yet to throw a professional pitch, but reports from the fall development league were good and the man has yoked himself up like he’s preparing for a role in a gladiator movie. Here’s to 2021 being the year of the Scarl.
I am as high as I can possibly be on a prospect Scarlson’s age who’s thrown zero pitches in games. The make-up is there, he’s shown maturity over the years since being drafted, and fighting his way back from Tommy John surgery seems to have both humbled him and given him a chip on his shoulder. And, then he found the weight racks, so I mean, how am I not supposed to be excited about a pitcher who looks like this?
Not to mention he dressed as Ivan Drago last Halloween and was extremely convincing! (ES)
Carlson suffers from a serious case of prospect fatigue. It’s easy to forget he just turned 22 years old. If he has a good year this year and finds himself pushing into AA, it’s not out of the realm of possibility he fights for a September call-up in 2022. At worst, 2021 represents a good opportunity for Carlson to reclaim some of his trade value. We’re talking about a 6-foot-4, 220 pound muscled-up build with a 95mph fastball, a hammer curve and an above average changeup. Those don’t grow on trees. (JD)
One blonde Midwesterner has been hoovering up all the prospect hype in Seattle for long enough; it’s time Sam Carlson got his turn. Reports from the fall development league on Carlson were encouraging, as his velocity seems to be on the rebuild after a particularly slow and grueling ride on the TJ rehab train. It’s still hard to pin too much hope on a guy who hasn’t really gotten his professional career off to a start yet at age 22, but Scarl has done everything he can to maximize that downtime, from studying for his degree when he couldn’t throw to helping other organization-mates navigate the rough waters of rehab. (KP)
13: OF Zach DeLoach
DeLoach was an easy call at 13, with the lone outliers on him being Grant (11) and Kate (15).
Zach DeLoach made a whole lot of noise in the Cape Cod League. pic.twitter.com/XzOkKYHJXm— Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) June 11, 2020
I love me some plate discipline, and Zach DeLoach has it in spades. Before the shutdown and being drafted in the second round of an abbreviated 2020 draft, he had walked fourteen times in 77 plate appearances at Texas A&M - while striking out only three times, which translated to a truly bonkers .547 on-base percentage. Be still, my heart! While the Alternate Site didn’t do us any favors in evaluating him, he was name dropped by Jerry Dipoto last week as one of two “under the radar” prospects in Seattle’s system, and he performed well in the fall league. Expect to see him start 2021 in Low-A Modesto, but if his strong on-base skills translate, it wouldn’t be a shock to see him moved up to Everett relatively quickly. (CD)
I’ve been high on DeLoach since he tore the everliving cover off the ball in the Cape Cod league in 2019 and carried that over to one of the best bats in college baseball in 2020. DeLoach does a little bit of everything well. He probably won’t blow you away with any one tool, but he could eventually play in the same mold as peak Seth Smith; a fourth outfielder with an advanced bat and an average defender. (JD)
Why don’t I like Zach DeLoach more? On paper he is absolutely my favorite kind of prospect: a professional at-bat-taker who doesn’t have light-tower power but will get on base with the ferocity of a thousand suns. I love that kind of player! But the downfall of a system loaded with noisy, sparkly things like Seattle’s is the DeLoaches of the world can get a little overlooked. I have a feeling once I actually get to see him contribute in game situations—moving runners over, picking up key hits, being the consistent lineup glue he projects to be—I will be DeLoving DeLoach. (KP)
14: 3B Austin Shenton
Shenton settles in comfortably at 14 on our list, although the range on him is larger than almost any other prospect, ranging all the way from 10 (Eric) to 19 (Joe).
Austin Shenton finishing off his big-league camp on a strong note with this well-struck single off Swanson: pic.twitter.com/VE0UhO2rmE— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 23, 2020
I admit to being very high on Shenton, probably too high, and it’s very influenced by the local boy angle and the multiple write-ups we’ve seen on his high character traits (a classic Jerry’s guys trademark). The other part of it is just that the org is super bare with legit third basemen (Noevli could potentially move there, but has yet to spend any real time at 3B), so we kiiiiinda need Austin here to pan out in the next 2-3 years in the post-Kyle Seager era. (ES)
Despite ranking Shenton no. 19, I actually really like the kid a lot. My concerns are the age, the lack of time above High-A, and the impending dilemma of where the hell is he going to play. Like Joe Rizzo before him, Shenton is going to have to really rely on his bat to carry his prospect ceiling. My best case scenario is a player not too dissimilar to Ty France, with a little more athleticism. Worst case for Shenton is, well, Joe Rizzo — a guy with a good bat, not a great bat, who struggles to find a permanent home thanks to limited positional versatility. Shenton will be 23 this season, so it’ll be important he makes a big splash at AA and pushes for time in Tacoma before years end. (JD)
I’ll join Eric in the “High on Austin Shenton” chorus. The guy can truly hit; yes, the Northwest League is a pretty hitter-friendly league, and short-season ball’s talent level isn’t exactly high, but you simply don’t slash .367/.446/.595 without doing a lot of things right. He also held his own in West Virginia, and I was looking forward to seeing how he’d do in a full season - likely split between Low-A and High-A - before the shutdown. Having celebrated his 23rd birthday last week, age isn’t exactly on his side, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move relatively quickly through the system, especially considering he’s one of just a few true third baseman on the farm. (CD)
15. RHP Isaiah Campbell
Despite being drafted in 2019, Campbell hasn’t made his pro debut yet; if he had, he’d likely be higher in these rankings. Kate was the high one on Campbell, at 12, while Eric had him just skating into the top 20, at #18. Everyone else pegged Campbell right around the middle of the Top 30, which is again impressive for someone who is yet to throw a professional pitch.
The loss of the 2020 minor league season makes it particularly tough to evaluate the Mariners’ 2019 picks - particularly when it comes to Campbell, who was shut down shortly after the draft after throwing 118 innings in his final college season. In my mind he has higher upside than just about any prospect outside the Top 5 on this list, and could easily move up in the rankings when we see him back on a mound. A Gas Camp and Mini Camp invite before Spring Training shut down last year, some might be tempted to push the 23-year-old into the bullpen but he has the pitch mix and endurance to survive - and even thrive - as a starter. (Isabelle)
It’s not that I’m particularly low on Campbell, I’m just higher on the guys I put ahead of him and that probably has a lot to do with what Isabelle pointed out - we just haven’t really gotten to see Campbell in action much since being drafted due to circumstances out of his control. Looking forward to getting a better look at him in the minors this year. (ES)
What’s there to say about Campbell at this point? The last we saw of him he was dominating the College World Series in 2019. He quite literally hasn’t thrown a pitch for the organization. Muddying the narrative even more, he hasn’t been hurt either. We’re just in a giant holding pattern. Campbell has pretty average stuff across the board, but he’s thrown a lot of innings and has proven he can start. He’s a pretty decent bet to stick in a rotation, but more than likely one would imagine Seattle is grooming him to be moved in a trade. (JD)
16. OF Jonatan Clase
Owing to his age and the fact that he hasn’t yet played stateside, Clase is another one with a wide range of outcomes, although most had him anywhere from 14-18, with the exception being Joe, who placed Clase outside the Top 20, at 24.
Here’s Mariners prospect Jonatan Clase playing in an exhibition game against a US-based team this past week (featuring CC Sabathia’s son!); watch the extra gear Clase hits around 2B pic.twitter.com/eFRW7n2MW2— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) December 29, 2020
I like Clase as much as the next person, but he having not played a game in the states, plus his defensive question marks in centerfield, it’s hard for me to throw such an aggressive ranking on a kid who tore up the DSL… a place where the average fastball is 84mph. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely excited to see what Clase can bring to full-season ball, but call me cautiously skeptical until he does. The prospect pedigree prior to 2019, plus the virtually non-existent signing bonus should act as marks for trepidation. (JD)
The climb to the majors from an unheralded international free-agency signing is one of the most difficult undertakings in any sport, but Clase has a few factors going for him: he has a carrying tool in his 70-grade speed, and that speed doesn’t just help him on the basepaths; it will help him in refining his routes as he learns more about playing a professional outfield, and it also shows up in his plus bat speed, making swing adjustments easier as he faces more and more advanced pitching. He’s also gifted with a frame that, while shorter than most, has allowed him to pack on muscle and add to his strength without sacrificing that speed, and he might be a surprising source of power. Finally, he has the most important tools in keeping a player afloat in the rough waters of the minor leagues: an inexhaustible supply of energy, curiosity, and passion for the sport, and the discipline and work ethic to make things happen. (KP)
Were there not reports on Clase praising his bat speed alongside his feet, I’d worry more. As it is, the Mallex Smith comps are easy, but Clase’s arm is solid and so is his build. There’s a wide delta on a guy this unproven, but a year should teach us a ton. (JT)
17. OF Jake Fraley
Fraley was another one with a large spread: Joe and John were the two highest and lowest on him, at 12 and 22 respectively.
With the organization seemingly doing nothing to address their need for a lefty outfield bat, it feels like Fraley has been handed the keys. Hopefully things will go better for him in a longer look where he’s not fresh off an illness that caused him to drop dozens of pounds of muscle or recovering from a thumb sprain that impacts his play, but there is a Jarred Kelenic-shaped countdown clock hanging in left field under whose omen Fraley will have to play, and succeed. (KP)
As I wrote in Fraley’s 40 in 40, injuries, trades, and other externalities seem to have waylaid the talented outfielder. I’m usually keen on proximity in my rankings, but I’m uncertain Fraley can put it all together physically and mentally for an extended period of time, and the slip in speed last year was worrying too following multiple lower body ailments. Hopefully clarity for him coincides with health and opportunity this spring. (JT)
18. RHP Sam Delaplane
Delaplane got a 10th place vote from Amanda and a 29th place vote from Joe, reflecting the difficulty in ranking pure relievers, especially those who are MLB-adjacent. Most of the rest of the staff slotted Delaplane in between 13 and 17 for what will likely be the last time he appears on our list.
I admit I have a bias for relief pitchers. They’re often a little kooky and when they’re successful it seems to be fleeting. Most pitchers move into relief roles because they don’t have enough pitches or stamina to make it through a starting gig. All of that appeals to my “root for the underdog” side. His great underdog story aside (he had little interest out of high school and went to Eastern Michigan for college, he’s under 6 feet tall, he’s a righty) I do genuinely think Delaplane will be good out of the bullpen for the Mariners. First of all, his strikeout numbers are staggering. In 2019, he split time between high-A and AA. In high-A his K/9 was 17.62 over 31.2 innings. In AA, it dropped to 14.11 over 37 innings. His walk percentage in high-A was 10.9%, but fell to 6.7% in AA while he put up an incredible 1.99 FIP over the course of 2019. Given the state of the Mariners bullpen heading into 2021, he’s nearly a lock to debut at some point. I think he’s got the stuff to stick around and pitch effectively. (AL)
My biggest fear with Delaplane will be whether or not the fastball-curveball combo will be enough at the big league level. Velocity was down at the Alternate Training Site in 2020; a year in which he absolutely should have been up with the big league squad. Delaplane will likely debut in 2021 where I hope to see him dominate. (JD)
19. RHP Connor Phillips
Another one who is yet to throw a professional pitch, Phillips leapfrogs other, longer-tenured prospects on this list thanks to high votes from Joe and Tim.
Phillips was graded by many evaluators to be the best JUCO arm in the entire 2020 draft class. Better than the more famous Luke Little who reportedly threw a ball 105mph. I’ve seen the pitch data for Phillips, and it’s loud. It’s a low release with a fastball featuring a ton of ride and secondaries that punch loud on Trackman. I’m really excited to see what Phillips brings to the mound for Seattle in 2021. He might be a Top 5 pitching prospect in the organization and nobody knows it. (JD)
20. LHP Brayan Perez
A long-time favorite of John’s, the diminutive lefty slides into the Top 20 thanks to a high vote from LL’s not-diminutive righty.
Perez has been a consistent performer at the lower levels of the minors and is still just 20 years old. It’s still a fringy profile for me, which is why I had a few of the more MLB-adjacent relievers ranked ahead of him. (KP)
The M’s aren’t short on intriguing arms, and we’ve not been privy to winter workouts or full fall data. But Perez has gotten great results with command and some funk, and has added muscle this year in a major way. This is a combination of confidence in performance thus far and Seattle’s ability to help him improve velocity to keep missing bats at higher levels. (JT)