It’s time for another installment of our prospect overview for the Mariners system for 2024, and things are starting to get interesting. We opened this series with a general roundup of names to know on both the pitching and hitting sides before moving to our fringe-Top 30 tier, Tier 6. With this group, we’ve moved firmly into the territory of a traditional “Top 30” list, so instead of listing players alphabetically, we’re ranking them numerically from here on out. If you missed the introduction and overview, catch up here and here; for the previous tier, click here.
26. Spencer Packard, OF
Age: 26 / B/T: L/R / Drafted: 2021 / Final level in 2023: AA / MLB ETA: 2024
Simply put, the Campbell Camel is a hitter. Every level he’s played at, he’s hit. The 5’10 210 lb lefty isn’t exactly a difference maker in the field, but he makes the plays he should and can play a corner outfield, although due to his lack of range he’s probably better suited to 1B/DH. Packard walked at a 12.4% clip and only struck out 15.6% of the time, both well above average marks. His profile won’t blow you away by any means and he’ll play this upcoming season at 26 years old, but damn it, the man can hit. He’s not too dissimilar from former Mariner Seth Smith, a lefty bat with an exceptional eye, solid pop, and below average defense. With the sheer amount of outfielders the Mariners have in the AAA/AAAA profile, Packard may have a hard time breaking through into the majors, but at minimum, it’s not hard to see a Mike Ford-like path to playing time for Packard. At some point, if a guy hits, he’ll help the team. It’s as simple as that. It’s reasonable to expect him to contribute to the big league club in some capacity in 2024.
25. Ben Williamson, 3B
Age: 23 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2023 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2026
Coming out of mid-major William & Mary, Williamson was considered one of the top senior signs in the country and was selected in the second round as a “money saver” to help afford the four prepsters they took in the draft. Despite his lower signing bonus relative to his draft position, there’s a whole lot to like with Williamson’s game. A legitimate plus defender at third base, Williamson posted loud exit velocities in college and should make contact at an above average rate. He rarely chases outside of the zone and if he does decide to swing at a chase pitch, he makes contact with over 75% of them. That takes some serious barrel control and bodes incredibly well for his ability to impact the baseball at the next level. After a lukewarm start to his professional career, Williamson was hampered by injury and only made 44 plate appearances after being drafted.
Williamson is another guy that has a chance to move quickly through the system. He’s older for the level, (23) but produced some gaudy numbers in his final season of college (1.137 OPS, 22/40 K/BB ratio, etc.) and was one of the better performers in the Cape Cod league, a summer league filled with some of the top college players in the country that usually is a solid indicator for some level of professional success. It feels brash to send him up to Everett just yet and he’ll almost assuredly start the year in Modesto to get some added reps after his injury, but if Williamson sees early success and looks as though he’s holding his own, don’t be surprised if he’s one of the first promotions of the year. Definitely a guy to keep your eye on.
24. Reid VanScoter, LHP
Age: 25 / B/T: L/L / Drafted: 2022 / Final level in 2023: A+ / MLB ETA: 2025
VanScoter, drafted out of Coastal Carolina in the fifth round of the 2022 draft, had a phenomenal first year and was awarded the MiLB pitcher of the year in the Mariner system. Pitching to a 3.27 ERA and 2.94 FIP, VanScoter rarely walks batters and ended with a 26% K-rate, an above average clip. VanScoter is one of the few lefty starters present in the system and is a prototypical “pitchability” type. His four pitch mix features a fastball, slider, curveball, and changeup and isn’t going to overwhelm batters. Instead, he keeps hitters off balance and can throw any of his four offerings in any count. VanScoter will pitch the entirety of the year at 25 and was an older senior when he signed so his stellar statline needs to be taken with a grain of salt, but he’s an intriguing option to provide quality innings and has an outside chance to make his MLB debut later into the season if everything continues to go well at Arkansas.
SHOOTER VANSCOTER’S 6TH K!— Adam 'Khudak' Bressler, Man of Soft and Hardware. (@AdamBressler) April 12, 2023
Frogs down 1-2#FORTHENORTHWEST #WeHopHarder
@AquaSoxRadio @EverettAquaSox @MiLBMariners @Mariners @ProspectInsider @stevewillits @MsPlayerDev @LookoutLanding @SeattleSportsU
#SeaUsRise #SeaUsGrow#HowBoutThemFrogs #GoFrogs #AquaSox #Everett pic.twitter.com/PmWjG1BFEe
23. Darren Bowen, RHP
Age: 23 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2022 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2026
After being drafted in the 13th round out of UNC-Pembroke, Darren Bowen started his career a bit later than his fellow draftees after rehabbing an injury from college. Upon his debut, he took the league by storm and posted some eye-catching numbers out of the gate. With a mid 90’s fastball that gets ridiculous ride and a dynamite slider that makes batters look foolish, Bowen has some nasty stuff that tracks to play at the next level. He worked as a starter for Modesto, though much of the year was spent building up his innings and no start eclipsed six innings. He does walk a fair amount of batters, but it’s not an overwhelming problem that prohibits him from starting. Seattle seems to view him as a starter and he will be given the opportunity to do so, but an eventual move to the bullpen is not out of the question. Should this change be necessary, the stuff will absolutely play and he’d immediately be a potential leverage reliever. He’s an arm to watch for this upcoming season; he’s already attracting a lot of attention outside the system among pitching wonks for his pitch data. The one thing holding us back from ranking him more highly is needing to see if he can harness that command better in longer stretches.
Just wrote a glowing report on Mariners Darren Bowen. Throws an outlier 95 mph FF with 18 IVB/12 hMov and a very low VAA. Two-Seam plays well down. Low-to-mid 80s sweeper gets ugly swings. Throws a two-plan curve on occasion. 6’3” and highly athletic. pic.twitter.com/6n6boVRCCh— Chris Clegg (@RotoClegg) January 3, 2024
22. Aidan Smith, OF
Age: 20 / B/T: R/R / Drafted: 2023 / Final level in 2023: A / MLB ETA: 2027
The final of the four high schoolers selected by the Mariners in last year’s draft, Aidan Smith provides an intriguing mix of floor and ceiling for a high school bat. The 6’3 outfielder is lean and was considered one of the premier pure hitters in the entire draft. His frame has plenty of room to add strength and he projects to hit for some power when fully filled out. Additionally, he’s a plus runner with a plus arm in the outfield, enabling him to play an excellent outfield. There’s a shot he’s moved out of center field if he loses a step or two after filling his frame, but at present he’s able to play a plus centerfield with some scouts grading him out even higher into the 70 grade range.
Just 19 years old (he won’t turn 20 until late July, just missing the cutoff to not have his playing age bumped up for the upcoming season), Smith has a shot to be a complete player at the next level that’s able to do a little bit of everything on the field. Smith showed well in the ACL after signing but struggled in limited playing time in Modesto. With his advanced approach at the plate and physical frame, Smith has a chance to make this ranking look silly in a few months’ time and insert himself into the thick of the young talent at the top of this system.
Kate says: I was shocked Smith was available in the fourth round, and even more shocked the Mariners were able to sign him. I felt he was very overlooked as someone who didn’t play heavily on the showcase circuit, and think he has the potential to be an absolute steal in this draft. I love a zone-controlling, hit-tool-oriented prospect and that is Smith to a T.
One final note: While it wasn’t worth making micro-tiers, there’s a bit of a gap between the first group and the final two prospects on this list, Bowen and Smith, who both scored more highly in our rankings but don’t quite have the track record to jump a tier yet. Bowen has garnered a lot of off-season buzz in the prospect community, and Smith has tremendous upside. Next time we’ll dip into a larger grouping, Tier 4, which covers the players who fell just outside of the Top 10.