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Drayer: Mariners have a plan for prospects with no Arizona Fall League

Even with no fall league, the Mariners will conduct instructional games in Arizona. (Getty)

Baseball America broke two pieces of news Monday, reporting that the Arizona Fall League season has been cancelled but there will be Instructional League play in Arizona with all 15 Cactus League teams taking part.

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The Mariners have not participated in the Instructional League in recent years, electing to run their own development programs instead. This year they are jumping at the opportunity to get their young players games against others teams in what will not be a traditional, official Instructional League season, but rather an MLB-approved agreement between organizations to schedule games against nearby teams. Organizations will determine how many games they play and against who.

The Mariners will run a combination instructional/high performance camp which will include 20 games total against the Padres, who they share a complex with in Peoria, Ariz., plus the Rangers and Royals, who share a facility in nearby Surprise. The plan is to play games roughly every other day and limit travel by playing the majority of their games at home against the Padres and games in Surprise just once a week. The hope is that they will be able to get their best young position players another 60-80 plate appearances and their top young pitching prospects not only innings but more work on pitch sequencing.

“In so many of the cases with our best young pitching prospects, their lack of innings as pros, we can’t really make up for that but we can make up for what they are learning,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “A six-week program is generally to regain a lot of the developmental focus that has been missing, even for the guys down in Tacoma.”

While good work has been put in at the Mariners’ alternate site in Tacoma, there have been challenges in creating competition. Intrasquad games have only taken place a couple of times a week with each being limited by what they had in pitching, pitchers they needed to protect and losing players to the big league team. Add in a week of wildfire smoke and the work was just not as consistent as one might have hoped.

“So much of their season was disrupted,” Dipoto pointed out. “This is something to give them that we can go focus on these six weeks which can really benefit our young players.”

As for who is heading to Arizona at the end of the season, the roster has yet to be finalized.

“This one is going to range anywhere from our youngest, most exciting teenagers, kids that were playing in the DSL (Dominican Summer League) this time a year ago or the like, this year’s draftees, right up to the guys we feel are at the doorstop (of making the majors),” said Dipoto. “I would say that anyone who is not on the major league 40-man roster, we are doing the best we can to create a space for as many guys as we can. This is as much about the development of our young prospects as it is for the finishing aspect of our more advanced guys.”

The Mariners instructional/high performance camp is expected to run Oct. 5 through Nov. 15.

Follow Mariners insider Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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