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Seattle Mariners 2023 Top Prospects List: 5-1

Top of the top.

San Diego Padres v Seattle Mariners minor leaguers Photo by Chris Bernacchi/Diamond Images via Getty Images

We’ve reached the pinnacle of our list of the Seattle Mariners top prospects at the outset of 2023. This final five pack includes three arms all but certain to be big leaguers (including one who already is!) and two of the most talented young bats in the system. To catch up on the first installment (Nos. 45-31) as well as our grading rubric, click here. To read about group 30-21, click here. Group 20-11 can be found by clicking here. Group 10-6 is here.

Tier 2

5. Taylor Dollard, RHP

Age: 24 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2020 / Highest level in 2022: Double-A / MLB ETA: 2023
2022 stat of note: 2.25 ERA at Double-A Arkansas (.248 BABIP)

Familiarity breeds contempt, but consistency breeds growth, what are we to make of this? Dollard’s performance at Double-A Arkansas last year was record-setting, including a striking (albeit evaluatively meaningless) 16-2 pitcher record that is pleasant and soothing to look at like a print of a Norman Rockwell painting. This does a disservice to Dollard’s repertoire, however, which is a classic No. 4-5 starter kit. Top notch command? Check. Four pitch mix? Check. Fastball in the low-90s that is placed well but doesn’t typically miss bats? Naturally. One truly above-average pitch that might just be enough to keep big leaguers honest? Slide to the right because you best believe it. Dollard’s slider is a sweeper that is well-located and clearly tough for hitters to pick up. He mixes in a slower 12-6 curve and a changeup as well, though lefties still trouble him. Pitchers with this profile often see their walk rate climb as they are forced to nibble further and further off the edges of the plate at higher levels, but Dollard hasn’t hit that wall yet.

While he’s been on the IL for a chunk of this year that likely had something to do with his poor performance, the reality is that Dollard has the type of profile that screams high-floor, low-ceiling. Do you remember how exhilarating Erasmo Ramírez starts were? Of course not, but many of them kept injury-riddled M’s teams in the realm of contending while offering roster flexibility. If Dollard can consistently dodger bats with his slider, he may find himself more up than down.

FV - 45 - Dollard is all but certain to be a big leaguer. More than that, he’s all but certain to start some games for Seattle in the next year or two. Contending teams are often decimated by uncompetitive outings from their depth starters, and Dollard should at least ensure Seattle has fewer of those than many clubs for the next few seasons. That may not be thrilling, but it is impactful. -JT

4. Emerson Hancock, RHP

Age: 23 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2020 (1st) / Highest level in 2022: AA / MLB ETA: 2024
2022 stat of note: 5.31 FIP

Emerson Hancock was supposed to be the ace of this rising wave of Mariners. At the time he was selected 6th overall in the 2020 Draft, he was projected as a polished, fast-moving starter who had potential to dominate the league with an upper-90s fastball and a vicious slider, paired with above-average command that might let his repertoire sing. That potential is still in there, and is what keeps him high on lists and in evaluators appraisals when it appears in flashes.

Unfortunately, that has not been the consistent path so far for Hancock. He was limited in the 2020 “Summer Camp” with shoulder fatigue. The same shoulder limited him to 12 starts in 2021, where he posted some shiny numbers with some less shiny peripherals - a 2.62 ERA belied a 4.20 xFIP, buoyed by a BABIP in the .240s. 2022 was a better season healthwise, but results regressed for him, even in the pitcher friendly AA Texas League, as he posted a 3.75 ERA with a 5.31 FIP underneath it. His 22.3 K% was good, but his nearly 10 BB% rate verged on unacceptable.

FV: 45 - I’ll be honest, I’m grown pretty low on him, compared to most evaluators out there (though he’s a divisive player - we had him ranked from 2nd to 8th in our individual rankings). I worry that his injuries have irreparably derailed his trajectory, and that his previous ceiling of a top of the rotation starter is gone. I think he has the potential to still be a viable starter in this league - just think more Chris Flexen than George Kirby. -NV

3. Cole Young, SS/2B

Age: 19 / B/T: L/R / Drafted: 2022 (1st) / Highest level in 2022: Low-A / MLB ETA: 2025
2022 stat of note: .961 OPS in A ball as an 18 year old

Cole Young is not Adam Frazier. Stop it. Stop doing that. While many a Mariner fan cringed at the draft day comp for the 2022 first rounder, that does a disservice to the upside of Young as a complete prospect. Though the approach is assuredly contact oriented, Young is capable of tapping into some pull side power and smacking hard contact into the gaps. After reportedly adding 15 pounds of muscle over the offseason, we’re already seeing a more powerful performance at the plate. He shows a great propensity at getting on base, rarely strikes out and swats the ball into the gap on a line like it’s his job (it is actually his job). He’ll hopefully be an average shortstop at the big league level though a shift to second base could be in the offing eventually. Wherever he ends up, the middle infielder is going to hit, and do so very, very often. J.P. Crawford may think he’s looking in the mirror if he checks out many of the traits that Young displays at the plate.

FV: 55 - Young is going to hit, and he’s going to stay up the middle. Whether or not he has considerable power or not is somewhat irrelevant to me, though it does keep him out of the top tier for now. His motions on the dirt are smooth and I tend to believe he can be a serviceable shortstop at the big league level. For how young he is, he is an incredibly advanced prospect that could hit .300 and steal 10 bags a year on the regular. -ME

Tier 1

2. Bryce Miller, RHP

Age: 24 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2021 / Highest level in 2022: Double-A / MLB ETA: 2023
2022 stat of note: 11 K/9

The Golden Boy of the Mariner Pitching Lab, Miller has emphatically put himself near the top of prospect lists from nearly every outlet out there. A fourth round selection in the 2021 draft out of Texas A&M, Miller has always had the excellent stuff needed to dominate in the bigs, however locked polish and stamina as an amateur. Now fully acclimated to a starting role and well equipped with an elite fastball that sits in the upper 90’s with excellent ride, Miller was dominant for all of 2022 across three levels. With two different sliders, one a firmer gyro style and the other a true sweeper, as well as a changeup, Miller has a full starters arsenal and should be able to make his MLB debut sometime this spring or summer. Off to somewhat of a slow start to 2023, expect his results to normalize to his career averages as the season progresses. Surprise! Bryce Miller is here, and in his big league debut he put on display exactly why he has what the Mariners and outside observers have repeatedly praised as the best fastball in the minors. When people talk about the Mariners pitching development as one of the league’s best, it is because of the strides players like Miller keep making once they join their system.

FV: 55 - Miller has a truly special fastball that works very well with his offspeed and breaking pitches. Having already shown an ability to have success at the AA level, Miller is a high floor prospect given how well his stuff would work in high-leverage bullpen work, with considerable upside in the rotation. -ME

1. Harry Ford, C

Age: 20 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2021 / Highest level in 2022: Low-A / MLB ETA: 2025
2022 stat of note: .425 OBP in A ball at 19

Selected out of North Cobb High School in the first round of the 2021 draft, Harrison Michael Ford is an exceptional athlete and leader that would likely excel at almost any position on the diamond. Ford boasts plus run times, an excellent eye at the plate, good contact skills, budding power, and as much athleticism as you can find in all of minor league baseball, particularly for a backstop. While he’s a catcher at the moment, if the bat were to considerably outpace the defense (at the moment it’s not, the defense has been just fine) then he has the speed and athletic ability to play second base, third base, perhaps even centerfield. Posting an excellent slash line in A ball as a teen and becoming a cult hero for the Brits in the World Baseball Classic, Sir Harry is expected to be a major piece within the Mariner organization and oozes potential. Players and coaches throughout the organization gush about Ford’s leadership and organizational skills, traits prized in catchers that likely encourage the M’s to continue letting the youngster develop behind the dish.

Still several years away at this point, Ford has a long way to go. Ford started slowly last year while playing through an injury but rebounded in a big way, and is off to a torrid start with the AquaSox that could see him advance to Double-A Arkansas this year, which would make him the second-youngest position player to lastingly reach that level in the Dipoto era, behind only Jarred Kelenic. If there is one prospect to remember the name of in this system or to try to get your more casual baseball-following friends and family familiar with, it is Ford. The talent, personality, and level of commitment he’s already receiving from the organization speaks to a player Seattle believes they can fold into their current core in a lasting way.

FV: 55 - With the tremendous upside and the ability to catch, Ford could wind up being a foundational player in Seattle. That said, developing as a catcher takes time and lots of it. While we aren’t close to seeing him suit up in Seattle, Ford remains the top dog in the system thanks to his track record, work ethic, and pure upside. -ME