ESPN’s Keith Law explains Mariners’ 2019 farm system rankings

Feb 7, 2019, 3:32 PM
Additions like Jarred Kelenic has buzz around the Mariners' farm system building. (AP)
(AP)’s Keith Law, who is one of the first to come out with farm system rankings for the new year, joined John Clayton Thursday to talk about where he sees the Mariners after the flurry of offseason of moves by Jerry Dipoto, as well the current rebuild trend in the game.

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In ranking the Mariners 22nd, Law stressed that overall depth of system weighs heavier in his rankings than most.

“The Mariners farm system is still not very deep,” he said. “The M’s system runs out of needs fairly quickly. Julio Rodriguez might be five years from the Majors. He’s a prospect, he still has some value, but the value of a player who is that young, that far from the Majors is quite limited. When you have a couple of those guys in the top 15, it’s also an indicator that you system is still pretty shallow.”

The Mariners have a target date far sooner than five years out for Rodriguez and Jered Kelenic, who is also ranked in the Mariners’ top 10. The depth issue is real, however, and Law points to risks taken earlier drafts as one of the culprits using the signing of infielder Joe Rizzo, a player he believes will not pan out, for over slot in 2016 as an example.

“For some teams going all in on one prospect like that might make sense but when your system is that thin doing so puts you I think at excessive risk of essentially coming out with zero return and thus not having trade-able pieces. You want those 3rd-, 4th-, 5th-round picks. You are probably not getting stars, but you might get players with some future Major League value that can help you in a trade. For a while that was the mode they were in and I think it was probably one factor pushing Dipoto towards this decision going for a rebuild this off season that I think was the right thing.”

Right thing for the Mariners who are far from alone in taking a step back. Law estimates that there are nine to 11 teams in similar mode, albeit in different stages of rebuild. Of course, with so many front offices thinking along the same lines, the task of rebuilding becomes more difficult.

The Mariners, according to Law however, are off to a good start.

“I think the Mariners were very fortunate that Brodie Van Wagenen, a completely inexperienced Major League executive, became the general manager of the Mets when he did,” he said. “Just at the point where they had Cano coming off a good half season so his contract looked tolerable and Edwin Diaz I think they did a nice job trading high there to acquire (in his own rankings) the Mets top two prospects. The Mariners took their top two prospects right off the top of the list. That was fortunate, it was opportunistic. I’m not taking credit away from Dipoto, I think it is shrewd to trade with the new guy if you can because it allowed them to do the kind of deal you don’t see a lot of. When Manny Machado was traded in July the Orioles got five minor leaguers, not all prospects, and none of who made my offseason Top 100. They didn’t get the quality. The Mariners were able to get the quality. In a couple of these deals in the offseason.”

Law sees the Mariners as being two to three years out from being at the point where the farm system is built up enough to start investing in major free agent acquisitions — ultimately a necessary move for the long-term health of the organization, according to Law.

“You’re seeing a real change in direction here where (Dipoto) is more focused on long-term value rather than just trying to chase wins in the short term, which he did for two years,” he said. “And I’m not saying it was wrong, but it didn’t work. It didn’t bring them to a playoff berth. And it was more than past time for Jerry to turn the roster over and start thinking about building for the future.”



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