Breaking down top Mariners prospects with MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo

Mar 3, 2023, 3:08 PM

Mariners Harry Ford...

Harry Ford of Great Britain reacts after a home run on Sept. 20 in Germany. (Photo by Sebastian Widmann/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

(Photo by Sebastian Widmann/WBCI/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

The Mariners made the playoffs in 2022 for the first time since 2001 thanks in large part to their former top prospects contributing in major ways.

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Julio Rodriguez was the team’s best player while former top prospect arms Logan Gilbert and George Kirby shined in Seattle’s rotation. And heck, the Mariners traded two of their best prospects to get Luis Castillo at the trade deadline.

Thanks to that trade and so many players having “graduated” from prospect status the last two seasons for the Mariners, their farm system isn’t considered among the best in baseball like it was this time last year. But that doesn’t mean the farm is lacking in talent, as MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo broke down during a Friday interview with Bump and Stacy on Seattle Sports.

RHP Bryce Miller

The Mariners appear to have struck gold in the fourth round of the 2021 MLB Draft in right-handed pitcher Bryce Miller.

Miller may have just completed his first full season as a pro, but he reached Double-A and is now on the doorstep of his MLB debut.

MLB Pipeline’s No. 98 overall prospect, Miller is firmly on the Mariners’ radar as a potential contributor this year.

“He could help right now if they wanted him to,” Mayo said.

The question, Mayo said, is in what role will Miller contribute?

Miller is currently a starting pitcher and the Mariners have a five-man rotation with a sixth MLB caliber starter (either Marco Gonzales or Chris Flexen) on the roster as well. Miller does have the stuff to succeed in the bullpen, too, armed with an electric fastball and excellent slider.

“I think in a perfect world, you don’t need him just yet,” Mayo said. “He can go to AAA, he can keep starting so he can work on all four of his pitches and continue to really refine his entire repertoire … You don’t move a guy into the bullpen now unless he’s going to be a reliever because you can’t stretch them back out.”

Something the Mariners have done very well with in recent years is developing pitching, with Kirby and Gilbert immediately coming to mind.

“And Bryce Miller’s stuff is just as good as those guys,” Mayo said.

Miller has some experience as a reliever as that’s what he was in college, and Mayo said part of why Miller fell to the fourth round despite having “first-round stuff” is because many thought he’d wind up as a reliever as a professional. That’s not the case anymore.

“If they want, they can be patient, and I think he has every chance to start,” Mayo said. “But if the first need is out of the bullpen, then you shorten him up and put him in the bullpen and then you figure it out from there.”

“He’s gonna pitch in Seattle at some point this year. It’s just a question of what the role is going to be,” he added.

Miller is certainly a pitcher to watch, as is Prelander Berroa, who has shined in camp thus far. But what about on the hitting side of the Mariners’ farm system?

“I think that gap is not in terms of talented players, but proximity to the big leagues,” Mayo said.

Outfielder Cade Marlowe reached Triple-A last year and finished 2022 as the Mariners’ 20th-ranked prospect on MLB Pipeline. Mayo thinks Marlowe can be a “solid contributor” at the MLB level.

“But you’re not gonna hang your hat on him in terms of turning into some sort of big league regular,” he said.

But two of the Mariners’ top prospects are hitters. Those would be 2021 first-round pick Harry Ford and 2022 first-round pick Cole Young.

Ford, a catcher, is the team’s top prospect on MLB Pipeline and is the 49th-best prospect in baseball on the publication while Young, a shortstop, finished 2022 as the Mariners’ fourth-best prospect.

The “issue” in terms of helping the Mariners at the MLB level is that Ford is just 20 while Young is 19. Both were drafted out of high school

“The real talent offensively is a little ways away,” Mayo said.

Mayo thinks both Ford and Young have a chance to be “really, really good.” He dove into both of them with Bump and Stacy.

“I think Cole Young, even though he’s from a cold weather state, he’s the kind of advanced bat that he could move a little more quickly,” Mayo said. “But we’re talking about the last two first-round picks, one of whom was from Pennsylvania and is just getting started and the other whom is a high school catcher, and that can take some extra time just because of what needs to go on with both sides of the ball. But I think both Harry Ford and Cole Young have the chance to be very, very good major league regulars, but it’s gonna be a couple of years.”

Ford shined in 2022, but his future remains a bit uncertain, at least from a defensive standpoint.

Ford was drafted as a catcher and has played the position as a pro, but he was considered to be one of the best athletes in the 2021 MLB Draft, with many believing he’ll ultimately move off catcher to second or third base or even the outfield.

“Could he play pretty much anywhere? Absolutely,” Mayo said. “He could play second base, he could play center field. But he has all of the tools to be a very good catcher. So when you’re talking about all those tools, are you really maximizing him by moving him out from a premium position that’s hard to find everyday talent at? I don’t think so.”

Additionally, Mayo thinks Ford has the ability to be a good catcher defensively, and do so with a “plus athletic body and frame.”

“I think they’re doing it right. When it gets to the upper levels and there’s an opportunity and they want to get the bat in the lineup, then maybe you have another conversation (of changing his position),” Mayo said. “But I think that they’re making the right call by leaving him back there and not just automatically moving him because he’s a plus runner.”

Listen to the full discussion with Mayo at this link or in the player below.

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Breaking down top Mariners prospects with MLB Pipeline’s Jonathan Mayo