SHANNON DRAYER

Drayer: Mariners’ prospects are exciting, but patience and perspective is necessary

Mar 3, 2019, 10:48 AM
Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis hit his second home run of the spring Thursday. (AP)...
Mariners prospect Kyle Lewis hit his second home run of the spring Thursday. (AP)
(AP)

PEORIA, Ariz. – A personal observation: It’s been fun getting to see the Mariners young prospects up close.

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As the case is with so many players, we have gotten to know the prospects on paper before we actually get to see what they can do on the field. But because of the importance these young players will have in forwarding the Mariners’ plan to get the team to the playoffs in the near future and cement it as a perennial contender for multiple years, the spotlight is shining brightly on both those who were already in the system prior to this offseason (such as Kyle Lewis, Julio Rodriguez and Braden Bishop) as well as those more recently acquired (Shed Long, Justin Dunn, Justus Sheffield).

The Mariners certainly have some players that are worth getting excited about as prospects, but it is important to keep that excitement in perspective and expectations reasonable, particularly with those the furthest away from the bigs. That point was something that was driven home for me this week.

I have always enjoyed following what goes on in the minor leagues and I think it is exciting not just that the Mariners now have multiple high level prospects in the organization to follow, but that there is interest in these players by a good part of the fan base as well. After an offseason of hearing the hype surrounding Julio Rodriguez and Jarred Kelenic – some team driven, some fan driven, some even driven by the players themselves – I have found it necessary to temper some of this excitement.

It’s one thing to see these players on paper and another in person. While on one hand they may stand out with their performance and live up to a lot of what we have seen on paper, seeing them in person reinforces the fact that they are teenagers. There is learning and growing to do. They look young, they play young. Manager Scott Servais illustrated this with the example of Kelenic getting picked off first base in the B game Friday – crucial experience to be gained.

“I believe it was a 3-2 count, he was probably running, but again, that’s why they are minor league players,” Servais said. “As talented and as fun as it is to watch them play, they need to learn the game, and the only way to learn it is you have got to go through it, you have got to experience it. Jarred has not played much baseball professionally and it is different. Guys have quicker pickoff moves. He’s facing guys on the mound that are 10 years older than him. They know how to hold runners, they know how to make certain pitches to get them to chase.

“The thing that impresses me in the batter’s box with both Jarred and Julio Rodriguez is they have a pretty good idea of the strike zone. Their eye-hand coordination is obviously really good, they have got skills, but they still need to learn how to play and the only way to do that is experience it.”

That will take time. They will be given time to grow in the game. Both appear to be very driven and both could move through the minors quickly, but there are some areas where shortcuts simply cannot be taken.

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