JAKE AND STACY
Baseball America’s JJ Cooper: Why Mariners have No. 1 farm system
Feb 5, 2022, 2:04 PM
(Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
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Not only did the Mariners win 90 games last season season and add two stars this offseason, but they also possess the best farm system in baseball according to Baseball America’s rankings, which were released very recently.
Someone who plays a big role in those rankings is JJ Cooper, Baseball America’s Editor-in-Chief. Cooper joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy on Thursday to discuss the many reasons the Mariners’ system is better than the rest.
Why the Mariners have Baseball America’s top system
The Mariners not only have the top farm system in baseball, but they have one of the game’s top prospects in outfielder Julio Rodríguez, who likely will debut in 2022.
But Rodríguez isn’t the only reason the Mariners are the best of the best, according to Baseball America.
“If we were ranking farm systems based on the top prospects, then the Orioles would be our No. 1 system because the Orioles are the team that has the top hitting prospect in Adley Rutschman and the top pitching prospect in Grayson Rodriguez,” Cooper said. “But the Mariners have more depth … and top-end depth. But also arms, especially a depth of arms.”
The Mariners have five top-100 prospects, and three are pitchers in George Kirby (12), Matt Brash (45) and Brandon Williamson (83).
“Not every one of these players is a turnout. They never do. But you want to have a lot of different possibilities,” Cooper said. “And it’s not just George Kirby. It’s George Kirby, it’s Matt Brash, it’s Emerson Hancock, we can just go down the list. It’s Brandon Williamson. There are enough arms, and especially arms who have already played Double-A in a lot of cases and who not that far away. That’s one of the things that really does stand out.”
That then begs the question …
How close are some of these guys to debuting?
The Mariners have a lot of top pitching prospects with high-end minor league experience. So when could we see them in a Mariners uniform in 2022?
“I think a lot of these guys aren’t ready to be in the opening day rotation or things like that,” Cooper said. “But it’s not hard to kind of envision a scenario where George Kirby is ready to help, though, by midseason. I think the one who maybe is one of the closest here kind of is a really kind of weird situation with Matt Brash.”
Brash’s “weird situation” is he was added to the 40-man roster and MLB roster for the Mariners’ final series of the 2021 season and joined the bullpen. But he never debuted.
“That right there indicates that Matt Brash wasn’t that far away, even at the very tail end of last year,” Cooper said.
Another arm who’s well regarded is 2020 first-round pick Emerson Hancock. But he’s no longer seen in the same light as Kirby, Brash or Williamson.
“Hancock, I think is probably a little bit further away, probably because he really had some kind of durability issues last year. It’s probably a little less likely that he’s ready to step in,” Cooper said.
“We’re just talking about pitchers. Obviously then we throw in the fact oh yeah, by the way, Julio Rodríguez spent the second half of the season in Double-A and is one of the best prospects in all of baseball,” Cooper said. “It’s not unrealistic to think that he could help the team at some point in 2022, as well.”
Noelvi Marte’s importance
The current headliners of the Mariners’ farm system are Rodríguez and Kirby. But the Mariners have another player with big-time potential as well with infielder Noelvi Marte.
Marte, 20, spend most of 2021 in A-ball, but he reached High-A at the end of the year. He checks in as Baseball America’s No. 18 overall prospect.
So what should we know about Marte?
“Another guy who hits the ball really hard, and I really like guys who hit the ball really hard because hitting the ball really hard is obviously a key component of the game,” Cooper said.
Marte may not be seen in the same light as Rodríguez as far as a franchise cornerstone — at least not yet — but Cooper said he is a very key part of the Mariners organization in what he represents.
“You have to have kind of guy after guy after guy. And Marte is important from that aspect of OK, it was Kyle Lewis and then Jarred Kelenic arrives and now Julio Rodríguez is going to arrive,” Cooper said. “Now you need Marte to then arrive. You need to have where it’s not just that you have all these guys arrive at the same time. You ideally want to have some of these guys who are established big leaguers to go on top of as you are still filtering other guys in. And that’s the thing I look at what this Mariners team.”
Listen to the full interview with Cooper at this link or in the player below.
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