Mariners scouting director details Felnin Celesten, other standout signees
On his way to sign another international prospect – he wouldn’t say where – Mariners director of international amateur scouting Frankie Thon Jr. took a few minutes to join us Tuesday night for the Mariners Hot Stove on Seattle Sports.
The start of the international signing period is a unique time of year for Thon’s group, who for a brief period of time gets the spotlight.
“We’re almost in the witness protection program,” Thon said when asked to describe their job. “We are visible for a few days out of the year, then for the rest of the year you may not know that we exist. We are alive. That includes our family members as well with as much travel goes on.”
Thon and the rest of the Mariners’ international amateur scouts have put up the miles traveling to the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Mexico and Curacao, putting together a class that includes Felnin Celesten, the No. 2 ranked international prospect according to MLB Pipeline.
“He’s a very unique talent in terms of the tools he possesses,” said Thon. “The elite athleticism, the position that he plays, the room for growth in his frame, the feel for playing. You grade him out in all of those areas and realize you are dealing with a really rare player. He’s potentially at the very top of the scale.”
The switch-hitting Celesten has been a favorite of many evaluators with MLB Pipeline stating he could have the highest ceiling for any international shortstop prospect in a decade. Thon believes he could rise to the top of the Mariners’ farm quickly.
“It’s not a stretch at all to suggest that he’s got perhaps the highest ceiling of anybody in our minor league system,” he said. “Obviously having said that, both players who inhabit the top of our prospect rankings based on having actually done it the timeline of their talent, actually going out and performing. Now it’s a matter of whether Felnin can do the same, whether everybody involved in development can help him grow into that type of impactful player that he could be.”
According to Thon, there are other standouts in the international class (though not on the same level as Celesten) including pitchers Kendal Meza and Ruddy Navarro, both hard-throwing righties who possess above-average secondary pitches.
To date, the Mariners have signed 13 international free agents since the signing period opened Sunday, and they are expected to sign more in the next week. It is a culmination of a ton of work for Thon’s group but one that finishes with what he considers to be a special reward.
“We refer to (signing day) as an international day of joy,” he said. “The word joy, we think we know what it means, then you get to sit there and witness an international kid and his family sign a professional baseball contract, and they are not only fulfilling a dream but usually drastically changing their living conditions, quality of life. And when you see that expression of joy materialize in front of you, it’s hard to top that. I would say even the most cynical person would have a tough time not getting caught up in the moment, which again is why we refer to it as our favorite time of year.”
The full interview includes a look at how the Mariners go about scouting international amateurs and the deep dives they take beyond the numbers with these young players, what comes next for the signees, how COVID has impacted development, and a chance to scratch the surface on Thon’s unique background.
Also on the podcast:
• Mariners infield coach Perry Hill talks about the challenges ahead for infielders with the new rules coming to baseball
• Larry Stone of The Seattle Times gives his thoughts on this year’s Hall of Fame class and what to make of a very different offseason
• Rangers broadcaster Jared Sandler gives us insight to his team’s attempt to turn things around quickly and whether they have done enough to challenge the Mariners
• And the latest from standout Mariners reliever Paul Sewald, who joins us for two segments
The Mariners Hot Stove can be heard live from 7-9 p.m. every Tuesday leading up to spring training on Seattle Sports 710 AM. You can listen to Tuesday’s edition in the podcasts at this link or in the players below.