Welcome back to Lookout Landing’s overview of the 2024 Seattle Mariners farm system. If you’re just joining us now, we opened this series with some names to know, both on the pitching and position player side.
Looking this deeply into the system, numerical rankings aren’t so important at this point; rather, we’re approaching these groups in tiers. While the previous two installments of this series were a general roundup of intriguing names in the system, we’re now narrowing focus onto players who project to be major players in the farm system. We’re still below the threshold of players who easily project to be everyday contributors (a 50 FV, if you follow FanGraphs), but these players have mostly showed a little more than the previous group and thus get more detailed writeups than their predecessors. For example, the line between Jared Sundstrom and Brock Rodden—both college sluggers picked in the 2023 draft—is relatively very thin at present, but Rodden gets a bump for demonstrating better plate discipline in his time at Modesto last season.
Blake Hunt, C
Age: 25 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2017 / Final level in 2023: AAA / MLB ETA: 2024
It’s weird to have a prospect in this tier who also gets the 40 in 40 treatment, but Hunt is a tricky case. Once seen as having a clear pathway to an everyday job, he found himself squeezed out of a role in Tampa Bay after being part of the Blake Snell trade. As the elder statesman of this group in age and experience, Hunt is definitely on the higher end of this tier due to both his early track record of success in the minors and prospect pedigree. There’s a chance Hunt can ascend to a level higher than “organizational catcher” but at the bare minimum, he provides more upside at the emergency catcher position than his various predecessors in Tacoma. For a more detailed look at Hunt’s career, check out his 40 in 40.
Michael Morales, RHP
Age: 21 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2022 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2026
Michael Morales is a tricky prospect to pin down. While he still earned votes towards the back end of our Top 30, he’s backslid from where he was ranked last year. On the one hand, he’s a 21-year-old right hander that has good feel for his pitches and a complete arsenal in a projectable 6’2 frame. On the other hand, his arsenal features little velocity, he’s repeated Modesto with middling results, and has yet to truly break out as a professional. A lot of Morales’ issues would be alleviated if he could just throw the ball a little bit harder, but up until now, the velocity is yet to take a step forward and it’s tough to bank on it emerging going into year three. Far from an impossibility, but certainly not a formality.
His breaking ball has flashed well and his results are respectable, but to rank him higher we really need to see him change his development trajectory to show some higher upside and consistency. Right now, he’s more of a back-end starter type that relies on pitch mix to get guys out, but even then you’d still like some better pure stuff to play in the majors. Morales should start the year off in Everett and will get his first taste of High-A ball, where he’ll need to prove he’s got what it takes to continue his ascension through the system.
Kate says: As the staff believer in Morales, even I have to admit there was a disappointing lack of consistency for “Moose” this season, some of which might have been impacted by a late-season injury. Still, he’d have great stretches of three or four games only to suddenly run into a wall, which is typical of young pitchers but not something you want to see in a repeat of a low minors level. Still, when Morales was going good in Modesto this year, it’s not hard to believe in the upside; he just needs to showcase that more consistently.
Michael Morales was awesome tonight. Final line: 6.2IP, 5H, 1R, BB, 9K, 104-66. Lowers ERA to 3.33. pic.twitter.com/fRsXuxbMPB— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) June 9, 2023
Brock Rodden, 2B
Age: 23 / B/T: S/R / Drafted: 2023 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2026
Brock Rodden is one of the more under-the-radar pickups from last year’s draft and showed incredibly well in his run with Modesto. Putting up an .841 OPS in 157 plate appearances for the Nuts, Rodden was a spark plug at the top of the order, frequently acting as a table setter for the rest of the mashers to drive him home. He can play all over the infield and was drafted as a shortstop, though he’s likely to have to switch off the position and profiles best as a second baseman. Though somewhat undersized, Rodden has plenty of power in his bat and posted excellent batted ball data in college. He’s never going to be a guy that tops prospect lists, but he’s far from org filler and has a legitimate shot to contribute at the big league level. Don’t be surprised if the 23-year-old Rodden moves quickly through the system, likely starting off the year in Everett to avoid the glut of younger infield talent.
Im a big fan of Brock Rodden, the Mariners 5th rounder this summer. Big-time sleeper in FYPD's. Data darling out of Wichita State, posted very strong contact and EVs in college.— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) August 25, 2023
Here is his second double of the night.#SeaUsRise pic.twitter.com/NO1iP107Hz
Axel Sanchez, SS
Age: 21 / B/T: R/R / Signed: 2019 / Final level in 2023: A+ / MLB ETA: 2026
This was a stepback year for Sánchez after his electrifying full-season debut in Modesto last season. The slight righty struggled to make contact in Everett before missing most of May with a shoulder injury, which was possibly the cause of his dip in power production after smacking the ball with authority in the Cal League; he’d go back on the IL in August, ending his season early. Sánchez has been training hard this off-season to build more strength and durability, which will be key in carving out a role for the defensively-plus, versatile infielder going forward. But don’t sleep on Sánchez’s power potential, either, as he packs a lot of punch into that 5’10” frame, especially with his Machado-inspired stance.
As if on cue, Axel Sánchez rips a home run of his own two batters later. pic.twitter.com/tCLHz2xkVI— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) July 17, 2023
Luis Suisbel, INF
Age: 21 / B/T: S/R / Signed: 2019 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2027
By far the biggest breakout player in the system last year, Suisbel was largely an afterthought in the system prior to posting an OPS of 1.044 in the complex league this past season. This success continued after a promotion to Modesto, posting an .867 OPS across 144 plate appearances. There’s legitimate power from either side of the plate and decent plate discipline to boot. While these numbers are inarguably a positive sign, a K% a hair under 30% is far from ideal and raises some concerns as to if his contact ability will stick as he ascends through the minors. Suisbel is able to play a bit of shortstop, though he’s ticketed to end up on the corners of the dirt moving forward, and likely at first base. He doesn’t have a long track record of production and has the irreversible stamp of having had to repeat the DSL (not a good sign), but last year’s results are impossible to ignore. Only time will tell whether or not his hot hitting was a marked change in his profile or just a flash in the pan.
Troy Taylor, RHP
Age: 22 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2022 / Final level in 2023: A+ / MLB ETA: 2025
If it wasn’t clear that the Mariners liked Troy Taylor coming out of Cypress College in 2021 after they selected him in the 20th round, they made their interest abundantly clear when they selected him in the 12th round of the following year’s draft after he decided to remain in school and pitch for UC Irvine. Armed with a mid-90’s fastball and a sweeping slider, it’s easy to see why the M’s scouting was so high on him. The fastball gets plenty of arm side run at the top of the zone and the slider is a legitimate out pitch for him. It’s nasty stuff.
Troy Taylor strikes out the side in the 8th. pic.twitter.com/7pVhJvv2JQ— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 30, 2023
Taylor started off the year with the same control problems that plagued him during his college years, but after a brief adjustment period to professional hitters, Taylor really took off. From the beginning of July to the end of the year, Taylor pitched to a 1.48 ERA and walked just 5.3% of batters while striking out a hefty 28.4% of batters across both Modesto and Everett. He followed this excellent performance with a trip to the Arizona Fall League and dominated, pitching to a 1.74 ERA with a K/BB ratio of 12/2 across 10.1 innings. For his troubles, Taylor snagged a spot on the Fall League All Star Squad, a well deserved honor. He may be strictly a reliever, but Taylor has been lethal for the better part of his career and should be a big leaguer sooner than later. If you’re PNW-based and want to see Taylor in person this season, get to Everett early, as a swift promotion to Arkansas seems more likely than not.