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Who Jerry Dipoto expects in the ‘next wave’ of prospects to join Mariners

Jerry Dipoto said RHP Logan Gilbert may be the first Mariners prospect to debut in 2021. (Getty)

The Mariners are entering the third full season of their rebuild, and 2020 saw the first group of top prospects get extended playing time, such as outfielder Kyle Lewis, first baseman Evan White and pitchers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn.

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In 2021, the next “wave” of top prospects to join those four at the big league level may include some of the best young talent in baseball.

Since starting a rebuild after missing the playoffs in 2018, general manager Jerry Dipoto has turned what was once the consensus worst farm system in baseball into one that’s seen among the five best. That’s thanks in large part to players who Dipoto says will likely make their MLB debuts in 2021. Of Seattle’s top prospects, four stand out to Dipoto as players who we could see in the big leagues in the near future.

“The obvious for us are (right-handed pitcher) Logan Gilbert, who among our group I think is the closest to major league preparedness just where he is emotionally, what he does physically,” Dipoto said Tuesday during a press conference as part of the Mariners Virtual Baseball Bash. “He was outstanding at the alternate site during the summer last year.”

Gilbert, the 14th overall pick in the 2018 MLB Draft, made it to Double-A in 2018, and if there had been a full 162-game season in 2020 he might have made his major league debut already. The same could be said for three other elite prospects that Dipoto is expecting to contribute at the MLB level soon.

“Logan stands out, as does (outfielder) Jarred Kelenic, (catcher) Cal Raleigh, potentially (outfielder) Taylor Trammell, who we are still learning a lot about, but he’s another of those we haven’t yet seen at the major league level,” Dipoto said. “Those four stand out as the next notable wave that’s coming, and then there’s another group that’s behind them that we don’t think is terribly far off … (But) we do need to be aware that the development may take some time.”

Trammel, it’s worth noting, joined the Mariners’ system during the 2020 season as the centerpiece of their return in a big trade with the San Diego Padres.

Though the team will “be aware” when it comes to potentially rushing prospects, Dipoto said that he expects those four names – especially Kelenic (Baseball America’s No. 4-ranked prospect), Gilbert and Raleigh – to see big league action in 2021 and get plenty of playing time once they get the call up.

“We expect those guys will have every opportunity to make their major league debuts at some point in 2021 and then start to put them in position to get the reps just as we did with the group that came before,” Dipoto said. “They’re super talented players and my guess is they’ll hit the ground running when given the opportunity.”

Impacted by COVID-19

The MLB season was cut from 162 games to 60 in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which also resulted in the cancellation of the minor league season. Instead, only a handful of prospects across the league were allowed to practice at an alternate training site with organization coaches.

Due to the lack of games and reps, Dipoto said it’s unclear what the overall repercussions of no minor league games will have on prospect development, but he did say that it should be seen as a setback overall. When it comes to the Mariners’ top prospects, however, Dipoto doesn’t think the setback is that major due to their talent.

“I don’t go into it, especially with the elite-level prospects, thinking that’s going to be a long delay,” he said.

Dipoto told reporters that he and the organization will be “open-minded” when it comes to how aggressive they move players up the system as long as it appears that it’s good for their development. They’re also open-minded when it comes to potentially moving prospects along at a slower than anticipated pace.

“We’re not in a rush. We’re playing the long game with our roster,” Dipoto said. “We believe this is an opportunity to open a window and keep a window open for the foreseeable future. We’ve built a lot of prospect cache, we’ve acquired and developed a number of young players for our roster and we still have a long way to go for that roster to be fully developed and ready to compete consistently at a championship level. We can’t rush those young players because we’ll do more harm than good in so doing.”

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