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40 in 40: Cade Marlowe is knocking on the door

In a farm system a bit thin on near-future bats, Marlowe has stood out, and should see time in Seattle in 2023.

Peoria Javelinas v Salt River Rafters Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

For much of the past four years, Cade Marlowe has often been overlooked on the farm. This isn’t super surprising on its face - despite being Grant’s favorite pick in the Mariners’ 2019 draft class thanks to his speed, he was picked all the way in the 20th round out of the University of West Georgia. As a Division II school, West Georgia is hardly a baseball powerhouse, producing just three major leaguers (none since Ricky Jones’s sixteen-game stint with the 1986 Orioles) and seventeen draft picks dating back to 1965. Add on the fact that Marlowe was drafted in his senior year, and you certainly would not be faulted at the time for sorting him into the “organizational depth” pile of new draftees.

Marlowe, though, hit the ground running. Despite a gaudy .389/.460/.548 slash line at West Georgia and his advanced age, the Mariners placed him in Everett - still a short-season club back then - after signing with the org. He bashed a home run in his first professional at-bat and kept his foot on the gas all summer, running a 129 wRC+ over 251 plate appearances. Sure, it came with a BABIP just a hair under .400, the ISO of .137 could have been a bit better, and the Northwest League had always been a bit hitter-friendly, but a fast start to a pro career is always worth keeping an eye on.

COVID wiped away the 2020 minor league season, but Marlowe opened 2021 with newly-aligned Low-A Modesto, and once again burst onto the scene. Barely two weeks into the delayed season, he smacked a dinger in four consecutive games, and by mid-June, he had put up a 15% walk rate, an ISO north of .250, and a 146 wRC+. After one final bomb for Modesto, he was on his way back to Everett - this time for High-A.

Marlowe didn’t slow down, either; finishing 2021 with Everett, he connected on twenty homers across 325 plate appearances en route to a 135 wRC+. Mix in eleven steals with Everett and a dozen with Modesto, and Marlowe had himself a combined 20-20 season. Not too shabby for the 20th-rounder! The M’s rewarded him with a trip to the Arizona Fall League, and while he didn’t go deep over 24 games, he flashed some excellent plate discipline (18.4% BB%) and was a perfect 7-for-7 in base stealing.

2022, however, was the real test, with Marlowe opening the year with Double-A Arkansas. Plenty of older bats have torn through the lower minors only to slam face-first into the wall that is Double-A, and Arkansas’s home field of Dickey-Stephens Park is notoriously a lefty hitter’s kryptonite. It was a slow start for him, too - in his first ten games with Arkansas, he hit just .135/.289/.216, with that OBP single-handedly held up by a four-walk game against Corpus Christi. From April 21st, though, he flipped a switch, hitting .305/.389/.507 over 473 trips to the plate, all while playing as Arkansas’s regular center fielder. He once again crossed the 20-homer mark, and really let his speed shine, swiping 36 bags while being caught ten times - good for a strong 78.2% success rate. In mid-September, with the big club right in the thick of a playoff race, Marlowe got the call to Tacoma, and speculation swirled that he might be added to the postseason roster. Through it all, he continued to hit with the Rainiers, adding six more stolen bases and a trio of homers.

Ultimately, Marlowe didn’t make his big league debut last year - neither in the regular season nor the playoffs - but he was named as a taxi squad member for both the Wild Card series and the ALDS, and was on-field before Game 3 in Seattle for player introductions. No matter how you slice it, that is a remarkable journey for a guy out of a Division II school. Perhaps you could be faulted for thinking he was org filler after all.

In Kate’s excellent profile back in January, Marlowe was well aware that this offseason is the most important of his career, having both spent time in a big league clubhouse and having the opportunity to compete for a job out of spring training. While Jarred Kelenic remains in the driver’s seat for the left field job, he should get a long look once Cactus League games start to get underway, especially with a pesky hamate bone injury sidelining Taylor Trammell for at least six weeks. Regardless of whether he makes the Opening Day roster, though, we should anticipate seeing Cade Marlowe in Seattle at some point this year, and his intriguing blend of power and speed could quickly make an impact with the big club.