SHANNON DRAYER

Mariners Hot Stove: How far ahead is M’s farm system in AL West?

Jan 26, 2022, 12:12 PM | Updated: 1:42 pm
Mariners Juilo Rodríguez...
Mariners prospect Julio Rodríguez reacts after his walk-off single in February 2021 spring training game. (Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

If you missed 710 ESPN Seattle’s Mariners Hot Stove at 7 p.m. Tuesday night, never fear – we have a podcast.

Can Kyle Lewis and Evan White contribute to the Mariners in 2022?

A Hot Stove podcast with a twist. With team broadcasters limited in what they can do during the lockout, we’re incorporating some of our Talking Mariners podcast into the weekly one-hour show, with myself co-hosting with James “Boy Howdy” Osborn.

This week’s edition of the show featured a conversation with Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser, who spoke about the Mariners placing five players on the recently released Top 100 list. As Glaser has made the rounds in the past week talking about Julio Rodríguez, George Kirby, Noelvi Marte, Matt Brash and Brandon Williamson, we were interested to get his insight on the competition – specifically in the American League West – in 2022 and beyond.

Related: Three M’s in top 20, five in top 100 of new Baseball America rankings

“The Mariners have far and away the strongest farm system among AL West teams,” said Glaser, pointing out that the Mariners set out to accumulate talent in their “step back” while others around them were focused on contending or trying to contend.

“They’re in a great place.”

As for the rest of the division, the Angels and A’s each have just one player on the top 100 list, the Astros have two and the Rangers have three. With the acquisitions of Marcus Semien and Corey Seager, Texas is attempting to build quickly, but according to Glaser it will take time.

“This is now really the first time they kind of have some of the horses on the major league roster or in their farm system where you can say, ‘OK, they are moving in the right direction,'” he said.

In recent years, Glaser has seen the Rangers tout what he called “dubious talent” in their farm system, and players at the big league level like Joey Gallo and Rougned Odor didn’t quite play up to the hype. What they are doing now is different, though.

“They have turned the page on that,” he said. “They traded a bunch of guys at the (2021 MLB trade) deadline, really brought in some interesting talented players. They’ve invested in some really good players in the draft – (third baseman) Josh Jung, (pitcher) Jack Leiter this year. I think really for the first time in years the Rangers are moving in the right direction, but it just started. It’s what they did at this trade deadline. It’s what they did in the last two drafts. It’s still a couple of years away from building up to a place where they are going to have both the major league talent and the farm system talent to really contend. Signing Marcus Semien, signing Corey Seager, signing Jon Gray, the start is strong but there are a lot of steps here before the Rangers are ready to compete in the AL West.”

The story of course is different from their Texas neighbors, the Houston Astros, who continue to sit at the top of the division despite key losses in free agency. Their strength in the minors, according to Glaser: development.

“They have done a good job of finding guys under the radar and turning them into something,” he said. “They had this run where they were drafting at the top of the draft, spending a bunch of money internationally, bringing up home grown stars. Now it’s more about finding gems that are maybe not that highly touted.”

The tide is turning, however. Slowly.

“They are staring to lose some serious talent,” he continued. “I will say this: The Astros are going to remain competitive. The bottom is not going to drop out here, they still have good players in the major leagues and they do a good job of developing some guys in the farm system that maybe you are not paying as much attention to. But again, it’s hard to replace (George) Springer, (Carlos) Correa, and (José) Altuve is starting to get a little older so we will see. But they have had a great run and I expect will remain competitive for at least one, two or maybe three years.”

Mariners Radio Network producer/engineer Gary Hill also checks in on the Hot Stove with his weekly “break it down” segment. This week he takes a look at how runs are being scored in the major leagues, which then kicked off a Hot Stove conversation about the Mariners’ biggest remaining need. Last, but hardly least, we once again take the opportunity to learn a little bit more about the baseball connection for a 710 ESPN Seattle host, with Bob Stelton talking about how he looks to bring baseball to the fans each afternoon on Wyman and Bob.

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Mariners Hot Stove: How far ahead is M’s farm system in AL West?