SHANNON DRAYER

Jerry Dipoto Show: How farm system’s high ranking applies to Mariners’ plan

Feb 11, 2021, 2:57 PM
Mariners Jerry Dipoto...
Mariners GM Jerry Dipoto's farm system is ranked as high as No. 2 in all of baseball. (Getty)
(Getty)

From worst to second-best. Or third-best. Or 14th-best. What to make of the Mariners’ showing in the organizational farm system rankings put out by numerous publications?

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The Baseball America ranking, which put the Mariners second only to the Tampa Bay Rays just three years after ranking Seattle dead last, obviously catches the eye. On the other end of the scale, The Athletic’s Keith Law barely has the Mariners in the top half of MLB, rating their farm system just the 13th-best in baseball.

Different eyes, different criteria, and with the old scouting adage of all prospects are suspects until they have actually done something at the big league level, it might be tempting to say that these rankings really don’t matter in the big scheme of things for the Mariners. It’s all about the rings, baby – right?

For a long-suffering fan base, that’s an understandable sentiment. But in reality, to overlook the significance of the Mariners’ rapid fortification of the farm system would be to miss what is hoped to be an integral part of success for the team moving forward. Regardless of what they have not yet done, prospects have value.

“They do help, because it gives you a good feel about your system,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said about the rankings on his weekly show Thursday on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. “For instance, if we want to make a move from our system, be it a promotion or trade, we feel we have built up a fair amount of depth. If we call on a player (for a trade), teams aren’t hanging up because they know we have talent in our system.

“When you get to that point where you are that one or two moves away from really pushing over the edge and tipping the scales in your favor as a playoff club, they’re listening. You can pick up the phone and make things happen.”

Ultimately how those prospects are regarded by other organizations is what is most important, but with the rankings (Law’s aside) generally placing the Mariners among the the top five in baseball, it’s hard to imagine that most would view the talent dissimilarly. They may not agree on individuals but the talent would appear to be there. In that regard, the Mariners seem to be on pace for what Dipoto set out to do when he initiated the Mariners’ rebuild in 2018. That of course is only one part of the equation.

“While it’s very nice to be cited for the improvement in our farm system, we’ve always taken pride in how we develop our players and we believe internally this is some validation for what we have been doing especially over these last two years – but it’s not everything,” he said. “We still have a lot of work to do. Somehow we have to turn the good thoughts about our farm system into production at the major league level and we feel that’s something we have been good at, and we need to continue to excel in that area. Now we have the talent to make it meaningful and that’s exciting to us.”

Kyle Lewis and Justus Sheffield lead the Mariners’ current pack in going from minor league prospect to big league producer. Others will follow.

What we have yet to see are prospect trades that bring back significant contributors to the MLB team or the one to two moves that really push them over the edge in “tipping the scales in your favor as a playoff club.” Those moves should not be far off, nor should the “second wave” of talent from the farm system, a list that according to Dipoto includes outfielder Jarred Kelenic, starting pitcher Logan Gilbert, catcher Cal Raleigh and perhaps outfielder Taylor Trammell. Behind them, Dipoto sees an even larger wave headlined by outfielder Julio Rodriguez and pitchers George Kirby, Emerson Hancock and Brandon Williamson.

“The waves of talent are coming and now if we are doing our job well, those waves won’t really stop,” he said. “They may slow but you should always have a group of players that are encroaching upon the big leagues and supplementing that next roster or joining a core.”

Building up the farm system is anything but a one-and-done, with Dipoto calling the idea of seeking to replicate recent “prospect mass” as “daunting.” That said, the model has been set, the systems developed and in place, and most importantly the spark lit.

“We always have to be in the hunter-gatherer stage from here on out in gathering and developing young players,” he said. “That’s been one of the most gratifying things I have ever engaged in in my career with this group is being able to do that.”

You can hear the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below, and catch the weekly interview live at 8:30 a.m. Thursdays on 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant.

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