Why Mariners’ latest addition is worth keeping an eye on

Feb 19, 2024, 12:54 PM | Updated: 3:43 pm

Seattle Mariners Levi Stoudt...

Levi Stoudt pitches for the Cincinnati Reds against the Tampa Bay Rays on April 19, 2023. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

(Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

The Seattle Mariners’ time with Canaan Smith-Njigba, the baseball-playing brother of Seahawks wide receiver Jaxon Smith-Njigba, was short-lived. But in losing the lefty-hitting outfielder, the M’s have reunited with a homegrown pitcher who not long ago looked to have a promising future.

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Seattle claimed right-hander Levi Stoudt from the Cincinnati Reds on Saturday, designating Canaan Smith-Njigba to make room on the 40-man roster (Smith-Njigba was soon re-claimed by the Pittsburgh Pirates, who the M’s had claimed him from less than two weeks earlier).

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Stoudt was a third-round pick by the Mariners in the 2019 MLB Draft out of Lehigh University, and by midseason 2022 was the No. 5 prospect in Seattle’s farm system according to MLB Pipeline. He had shined at both Single-A Everett and Double-A Arkansas in 2021, making him valuable enough to be a piece in the trade with Cincinnati that brought All-Star ace Luis Castillo to the M’s ahead of the MLB trade deadline in July 2022.

While Stoudt had a decent Triple-A showing after the deal in 2022, he struggled last season. He allowed seven runs in four innings in his MLB debut against the Rays on April 19, 2023, and he pitched in just one game in each of the next three months for the Reds.

When Stoudt wasn’t making spot appearances with the big club, he was having trouble at Triple-A Louisville, where he posted a 6.23 ERA with just 58 strikeouts to 50 walks over 25 games (19 starts).

Can the Mariners help Stoudt regain the form that made him one of their top prospects not even two years ago? It appears Stoudt feels comfort in returning to the pitching system that he began his career in, so that can’t hurt.

“It seems like the philosophy is still pretty much the same as when I was here, which is a good thing,” Stoudt said, according to an article published Sunday by Mariners reporter Daniel Kramer. “I don’t have to relearn a whole new system, and I’m excited to see what that philosophy can do for me, and kind of focusing back on that.”

The full Kramer article is worth a read as it includes thoughts from Stoudt on the difference he feels in how Seattle handles pitchers versus Cincinnati, further emphasizing that the 26 year old is happy to be back with the M’s.

If the Mariners can work their pitching magic on Stoudt, they could have a steal on their hands at a spot where they need depth. Among the concerns the team took into spring training is a lack of proven arms that could slot into the rotation if one of their five starters goes down to injury. Stoudt doesn’t fit the proven label, but when you put him with Emerson Hancock, who looked impressive in a short MLB debut stint last year and is healthy after a season-ending shoulder injury, that makes for an interesting combination of prospects with promise.

Seattle also has Austin Voth and Trent Thornton as bullpen pieces who can be stretched out as starting candidates.

The full Mariners squad reported to spring training in Peoria, Ariz., on Monday. Cactus League play will begin on Saturday, Feb. 24, with the radio broadcast of every game airing live on the Seattle Sports app. For more on the spring training radio schedule, click here.

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