Dipoto: Mariners’ prospect primed to ‘light people up,’ new plan for Brash

Jan 5, 2023, 11:21 AM | Updated: 2:31 pm

Mariners Bryce Miller...

Mariners prospect Bryce Miller pitches for the Arkansas Travelers on Sept. 11, 2022. (Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

(Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images)

The first edition of The Jerry Dipoto Show of 2023 was certainly a notable one as the Mariners president of baseball operations shared a lot of insight into the current state of the M’s pitching staff.

Talking Mariners Podcast: Making sense of offseason, 2023 outlook

Here are a few of the highlights related to pitching from Dipoto’s latest interview with Brock and Salk on Seattle Sports 710 AM.

The prospect to keep an eye on

The Mariners have had a lot of success over the years when it comes to pitching development, and we’ve seen the benefits of that at the MLB level the last two years with Logan Gilbert and George Kirby establishing themselves as big league starters and Matt Brash finding a home as an impact reliever.

And there are even more arms on the way.

The most recognizable name of these is Emerson Hancock, the No. 6 overall pick in the 2020 MLB Draft out of Georgia. But Dipoto thinks a 2021 draft pick is someone who is going to make a name for himself when spring training rolls around.

“The guy coming into spring training that I think is going to light people up is Bryce Miller,” he said. “He had a terrific year at multiple levels of our minor league system last year.”

Who exactly is Miller?

Miller, 24, is a right-handed pitcher who the Mariners drafted in the fourth round in 2021 out of Texas A&M. He appeared in 27 games (26 starts) in the minors last year between Single-A and Double-A and put up big numbers, posting a 3.16 ERA and 1.040 WHIP across 133 2/3 innings while striking out 163 batters and walking 46. Miller ended 2022 as the Mariners’ No. 5 prospect per both MLB Pipeline and Baseball America.

“We thought going into his draft year that he would be a first-round draft pick. He had a great start to the season and then faded a little bit (in 2021 at Texas A&M), and as a result we were fortunate enough to get him in the middle rounds,” Dipoto said. “And he went out last year and dominated at multiple levels. He was among the top 10 in minor league baseball in strikeouts.”

What’s clear with Miller is that he has electric stuff.

“He’ll regularly exceed 100 mph with his fastball, has a dominant slider, is that kind of lean, wiry, strong physical pitcher that catches your attention when you’re in this kind of camp setting,” Dipoto said. “And much like Matt Brash a year ago or George Kirby the year before that, I think this year Bryce is the guy that’s going to catch a lot of attention in spring training because it’s just physical stuff that shows up on Day 1.”

Plan changed for Matt Brash

Speaking of Brash, Dipoto said earlier this offseason that the plan was for him to report to spring training stretched out as a starting pitcher. After making his MLB debut last April as a starter, Brash was demoted to Triple-A in May before re-joining the Mariners as a reliever in July.

But instead of coming to camp as a starter, Dipoto said Brash will instead be a reliever starting on Day 1.

Why? The World Baseball Classic is playing a role, with Brash set to pitch for Canada in the spring.

“Having had a conversation with Matt Brash, Matt is going to come to spring training as a reliever and not stretch out as a starter. And that is a function of a conversation that we had regarding WBC,” Dipoto said. “We didn’t want him to crank up as a starting pitcher and then go pitch as a reliever for WBC and then come back as a starter. We’ve talked about the bouncing around – he is committed to play for Team Canada in the WBC, and we’re gonna do that as a reliever and keep that as a steady thing.”

The starting rotation

Even with Brash now penned in as a reliever, the Mariners still have six established starting pitching options heading into spring training.

Four are locks to make the rotation, assuming they’re healthy, in Luis Castillo, Robbie Ray, Logan Gilbert and George Kirby. The other two are Marco Gonzales, the Mariners’ longest-tenured player, and Chris Flexen, who moved to the bullpen last August after the team acquired Castillo from Cincinnati.

Is Dipoto comfortable with where Seattle’s starting rotation currently stands?

“Yes. And part of this offseason was we have been open to dealing from a space that was a little deeper than it has been in recent years,” he said. “We also don’t want to be, I guess, ignorant to the fact that things change, injuries happen, and we do feel like it’s not just the six obvious members of our starting rotation.”

Miller, Hancock and fellow prospect Taylor Dollard are all young pitchers Dipoto mentioned as players who could impact the Mariners’ rotation this season. There are also a few veterans on non-roster invites such as Tommy Milone and Nick Margevicius. Dipoto also brought up Easton McGee, who Seattle claimed off waivers earlier this offseason.

“We do feel like we’re going to need somewhere between nine and 12 starters over the course of the year – that’s what history tells you – and we’ll be prepared for that and see where it takes us,” Dipoto said.

Listen to the full Jerry Dipoto Show at this link or in the player below.

Dipoto: Trade market, Mariners’ DH plan, promising reports on young hitters

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