As if understanding the Rule 5 Draft isn’t complicated enough, there’s also a minor-league portion that goes on after the major-league portion that has a separate set of rules. We usually don’t get too far into the weeds talking about the minors side of the Rule 5, which is complicated enough to understand (also, read up on who the Mariners took in the major-league portion of the Rule 5 here). However, in this case it seems significant to do so, as the Mariners took a former first-round pick in the MiLB Rule 5 Draft: INF Logan Warmoth from the Blue Jays.
If you’re an intent follower of the MLB Draft, the name Logan Warmoth might twig something in your memory, as the UNC shortstop was a popular mock target for the Mariners in the 2017 draft, where the Mariners held the 17th pick. The Mariners ended up opting for a different college infielder, Evan White; Warmoth was taken five spots later, by the Blue Jays. Warmoth was a popular match for the constantly infield-poor Mariners as he was regarded at the time as one of the safest picks in the Draft, a plug-and-play infielder with solid skills on both sides of the ball who fit the Mariners’ contention cycle at the time.
The climb through the minors has been a slow one for Warmoth, however. Unlike many other college-experienced draftees, he didn’t jump into pro ball and start dominating competition levels immediately. A recurring hamstring injury limited him both in his draft year and in his first full pro season, and he was sent to repeat High-A Dunedin in 2019. It took 36 games to prove himself at that level before he was promoted to Double-A, where he again struggled, saying he went “down the rabbit hole” mechanically. Then came the cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season, and a year spent at home getting back to basics.
The Blue Jays sent him to Triple-A to begin 2021, where he fared decently thanks to an increased walk rate, more power, and a career-high 17 stolen bases, but a strikeout rate that leaped in Double-A stayed stubbornly high, climbing all the way to 33%. With some mechanical changes designed to clean up his swing path and help him make more contact, Warmoth was able to cut the strikeouts down drastically to begin the 2022 season; but again, that rabbit hole got him in June, and he struck out 32 times over the month, more than he did in April and May combined. Warmoth was able to right the ship over the back part of the season somewhat, but he’ll have to find a way to make those early-season changes consistent. Maybe working with the Mariners’ vaunted mental skills coaches will help the clearly cerebral Warmoth, who says he writes in a journal to track his progress and focuses on process over product, all things popular with the Mariners’ mental skills side.
Warmoth’s overall profile reminds me a lot of Dylan Moore—an infielder by trade, he can play outfield as well. He does have strikeout issues but is a right-handed bat with some pop, creating a potential power-speed combo but can use his speed to create hits. He even gets out of the box like DMo:
Warmoth was actually the Mariners’ second-round pick in the MiLB Rule 5 Draft; with their first selection they took 1B Francisco “Frankie” Tostado from the Giants. Despite a hand fracture ending his season early, Tostado put up some healthy numbers repeating Double-A as a 24-year-old in an offensively unfriendly environment and has walloped double-digit homers each of his past three seasons. He’ll either provide some much-needed offensive production for the Arkansas Travelers or, more likely, bring his impeccable flow game and power show to the deserving folks of Tacoma. Tostado was a huge fan favorite during his time in Richmond (check out this video of people waiting in line for his autograph), which speaks to his style of play and propensity for clutch hits and big tanks:
BACK-TO-BACK BIG FLIES— Richmond Flying Squirrels (@GoSquirrels) June 18, 2022
Frankie Tostado smashes a solo homer and our lead is now 5-2 in the 5th pic.twitter.com/zuGpP6DU9R
The Mariners lost two left-handed pitchers in the MiLB Rule 5 Draft. LHP Max Roberts was taken by the Astros, and LHP José Junior Aquino was taken by the Cubs. Aquino pitched two seasons in the DSL before coming stateside, and was limited by injury to just five innings in the ACL in 2022, but when he’s been on the mound he’s been impressive. Roberts was drafted in 2017 and has been close friends with Sam Carlson, the Mariners’ second-round selection that year, as the two have battled back from injuries together during their time in the system. The 6’6” strike-thrower doesn’t have a big fastball but is able to strike a ton of batters out nonetheless, but a series of injuries mean he’s not pitched above High-A as a 25-year-old. Of note, Roberts’s father, Randy, is friends with former Astros pitching guru Brent Strom, who might have put Roberts on Houston’s radar. The Mariners also lost utility player Riley Unroe to the Angels; the 27-year-old spent last year with the Travelers, and was one of the few reliable offensive presences on an Arkansas team that often struggled with offensive consistency.