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Mariners Spotlight: The 4 prospects Seattle protected from Rule 5 Draft

Taylor Trammell came to the Mariners just before the MLB trade deadline this year. (Getty)

While time will tell what kind of free agent and trade market develops in this most uncertain of an offseason, a Friday deadline afforded Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto and his counterparts no such luxury when it came to Rule 5 protection for draft-eligible players.

Mariners protect OF Taylor Trammell, RHP prospects from Rule 5 Draft

On a call with the media Friday afternoon, Dipoto admitted he had no idea how teams would approach the draft that will be held Dec. 10, and as such, it appears he is taking very few chances by placing four of the Mariners’ five eligible players on the 40-man roster.

Some quick thoughts and notes on the newest additions to the 40-man.

Taylor Trammell, OF

In a normal season, the Mariners would have had copious amounts of current information on a player they traded for before the move was made. This year, teams who traded for minor leaguers were flying blind as scouting other teams’ alternate sites was not permitted. Because of this, the Mariners have been learning Trammell since he arrived from the Padres, and fortunately had the opportunity to get extra time with their newest acquisition as they were able to participate in the Player Development League in Arizona.

While in Arizona, the Mariners got to know who Trammell is at the plate and saw his strikeout numbers improve as they got deeper into games. In the field, the one question surrounding him was arm strength, but according to Dipoto, Trammell’s arm scores jumped a grade and a half after he worked with the pitching coaches on a throwing program. The Mariners saw what they hoped to see from the former first-round pick when they acquired him, and putting him on the 40-man was not a tough call.

“He hits the ball hard,” said Dipoto. “Super athlete, he’s got excellent range in center field, very selective at the plate. We saw a lot of things we wanted to see from Taylor… Mostly a no-brainer here.”

Wyatt Mills, RHP

Mills perhaps has had the most eye-opening fall for the Mariners and has done so after not being invited to the alternate site in the summer. Dipoto said that decision was due mostly to roster crunch but believes it ultimately could have benefited Mills, who reported to Arizona for PDL with increased velocity thanks to work done while he was away from the club.

“Really couldn’t have impressed any more,” said Dipoto of the sidearm reliever. “Wyatt has been a solid performer but took his stuff to a different level. It was very clear this summer he spent a good deal of time working on a variety of different things that I’m not sure he would have had a chance to work on in terms of a normal game schedule. It’s a real big step for Wyatt.”

While Mills sat 88-93 mph with his fastball prior to this summer, in Arizona he sat closer to 95 mph and flashed 97-98. Dipoto reported that his slider showed improvement as did his location scores.

“I really couldn’t be happier where he is,” he said. “As I said to him on the phone this morning, I admire the fact that he went and did it on his own.”

Juan Then, RHP

While Mills was the surprise this fall, 20-year-old Then continued a progression that Dipoto called exciting.

“I’m not sure there is a young player in our system over the course of the last 12 to 15 months has taken a bigger step forward,” he said. “He’s very young but we have seen not just a creep in velocity but went from when we saw Juan as a 17 year old throwing 87-88, occasionally 90-91, to now he’s hitting 100 with some regularity sitting in the 96-97 (range) with his fastball. And we saw a lot of progression with his slider and he’s always had a good changeup.”

The question gets asked quite a bit: Is he a starter or a reliever? It’s probably far too soon to make that determination. Typically with this group they are starters until they show they are not. Regardless of role, if he finds success in the big leagues, there will always be the fun story of his transaction history with the Mariners trading him to the Yankees in 2017, then getting him back from the Yankees in 2019 for Edwin Encarnación.

Sam Delaplane, RHP

After a very rough summer camp and alternate site stay, it appeared there was a chance the Mariners could roll the dice on Delaplane and leave him off the 40-man roster. A year after showing a nearly unhittable slider at Double-A, Delaplane struggled to find any consistency in 2020. Dipoto believes Delaplane was a player who was hurt by the shutdown, and with his past performance was not about to expose him to other teams.

“Like so many guys he didn’t bounce back particularly well between spring training and alternate site summer camp,” he said. “Let’s call it a step in development we weren’t expecting but we’ve never doubted Sam’s ability to go strike ’em out. He’s been a fantastic performer throughout and we believe he’ll have a major league career in front of him and this is indicative of that.”

With the moves, the Mariners’ 40-man roster is now at 39. While in recent years Dipoto has left a spot open with the intent of picking up a player for the following year in the Rule 5 Draft, this winter he’s not fully committing to adding through the draft although he allows for the possibility if the right player is available.

Mariners notes

• News has been trickling out around baseball regarding minor league affiliates and league changes. Of particular local interest, it appears the Northwest League, which has been a short-season summer league, will become a full-season High-A league. If true, this means we should see more games with higher level prospects for the nearby Everett AquaSox.

“We anticipate that Everett will continue to be an affiliate of ours and we just have to determine what the setup is going to be once they pick the leagues and the levels, etc.,” Dipoto said, noting that he expects to have official word next week.

• A concerning tweet from Friday.

The Mariners do not have players on either team but do have players on teams that have faced the Tigres and Gigantes in recent days, including Julio Rodríguez. It is a situation that will be monitored closely.

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