Dipoto: A wave of Mariners prospects is about to arrive in the big leagues
Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto made four additions at Wednesday’s MLB trade deadline to the farm system that has been his No. 1 focus since he and the organization hit the ‘re-imagine’ button last offseason. Dipoto said fans should expect to start seeing those efforts to build up the farm come to fruition pretty soon here in Seattle.
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“The next step for us is very likely the first wave of young players that start to arrive, and that’s going to happen very likely the final week in August and as we head into September,” Dipoto told 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore Thursday on the weekly Jerry Dipoto Show.
One of the players Dipoto picked up on Wednesday, 26-year-old left-handed reliever Taylor Guilbeau, should be part of that wave. But so should some names that have become very familiar to people watching the Mariners this year.
“A few players that will be obvious additions for us will be Jake Fraley (and) Justus Sheffield,” Dipoto said, adding that a number of prospects on Double-A Arkansas’ roster, which includes 2019 MLB Futures Game participants Justin Dunn and Evan White, will also join the M’s in September after the Travelers’ run in the Texas League postseason.
Dipoto said what the Mariners look like during the final month of the season should provide a glimpse into the franchise’s near future at the big league level.
“(There will be a) chance over the last two or three weeks of the season to see these young guys play and and give us something to look forward to in 2020. That’s all about experience,” he said. “I think you’re seeing now with guys like Daniel Vogelbach and J.P. Crawford most notably – and I guess you could say the same in 2018 about Marco Gonzales – when you give the opportunity for playing time to talented young players, it really doesn’t take them very long to turn into productive major leaguers.
“So we’re excited about what happens not just in these next two months but between now and midseason next year. It really should be an exciting time to watch a lot of good young players grow.”
Sheffield back on track
Sheffield, a 23-year-old left-handed starting pitcher and one of the more hyped prospects Seattle acquired last offseason, hasn’t had the 2019 season he or the Mariners had hoped for. But after a demotion to Double-A from Triple-A, where the Pacific Coast League has been using the same ball as the MLB and have seen similarly inflated offensive numbers, Dipoto said the prize of the Mariners’ return from the Yankees in the James Paxton trade has gotten back on track.
“Sheff had a terrible start to his season in Tacoma. It’s been really three different seasons for Justus,” Dipoto said, pointing to the excitement of Sheffield’s performance in spring training, the disappointment of his time with the Rainiers and now a bounce back in Arkansas. “There’s no question he had a really tough start to his season, particularly his command. I think he was trying too hard to impress and show us that that he was worth the value of the trade, so to speak, and he just got outside of himself. We thought it was best to send him back to Arkansas and let him gather himself and save his season because it was trending in the wrong direction.”
Things look a lot better now. Sheffield made his ninth start for the Travelers on Thursday, allowing just one run on five hits and a walk over seven innings while tying his season-high with nine strikeouts. That lowered his numbers with Arkansas to a 1.64 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and .219 opponents batting average.
“He’s been phenomenal,” Dipoto said. “He has regained command of his pitches. We’re seeing that same kind of high-end velocity (we saw in spring training) – he sits around 93-94 mph, touches 96-97 on most nights. He has done a phenomenal job in refining his slider and introducing his changeup. In short, I think Justin Dunn is probably the front-runner to be the Texas League’s Pitcher of the Year this year, and there’s no question that Justus Sheffield has been the best pitcher in that league over the last month and a half since we sent him back from Tacoma.”
Dipoto said there’s really only one question about what’s next for Sheffield.
“His next move is very likely to be to Seattle; it’s just a matter of whether that happens in August and September.”
Mariners trade deadline coverage
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• Video: Mike Salk & Curtis Rogers on M’s deadline deals
• Mike Leake traded to Arizona for prospect Jose Caballero
• M’s trade relievers Elías, Strickland to Nats for 3 pitchers