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Mariners prospect Logan Gilbert
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A surprising name could join Mariners in 2020 in a sign of things to come

No. 3 Mariners prospect Logan Gilbert had a stellar first pro season at three levels. (AP)

The focus of the Mariners’ 2019 season was more or less on planning for the future. Well, their 2020 season quite frankly will be that future.

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Seattle underwent pretty drastic roster changes as 2019 rolled along, to the point that the opening day roster didn’t bear a whole lot of resemblance to the more youth-laden one that supplied the lineup throughout September. And a lot of those names that were just getting their feet wet in the big leagues when fall came along, and even some that still spent the final months of the season in the minors, may be with the Mariners as early as day 1 of the 2020 season.

“A lot of them I think are going to start at the big league level, or be there within the next two months,” 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer said in the most recent Mariners Talk video. “I think that’s what next year is about.”

The longtime Mariners insider went on to name names, too.

Starting pitchers Justus Sheffield and Justin Dunn, who each showed promise in late-season appearances for the M’s and both of whom will be 24 years old for the majority of next season, are at the top of the list.

It should be no surprise that outfielder Kyle Lewis, who popped six home runs as an exciting September call-up, and utility man Shed Long, who Drayer thinks may be Seattle’s opening day leadoff hitter, are also expected to have regular roles in 2020.

Perhaps less obvious, however, are first baseman Evan White and relief pitchers Sam Delaplane and Joey Gerber, none of whom have yet to reach the majors.

There’s more one player Drayer mentioned in her discussion with co-host James “Boy Howdy” Osborn, and it’s the name that will turn the most heads: Logan Gilbert, the rangy right-handed starting pitcher who the Mariners drafted with their 2018 first-round pick out of Stetson University.

The 22-year-old Gilbert, who MLB Pipeline ranks as Seattle’s No. 3 prospect, had an outstanding first pro season in 2019. He finished the year with a combined 2.13 ERA and 0.95 WHIP over stops with Single-A West Virginia (five starts), High-A Modesto (12 starts) and Double-A Arkansas (nine starts).

Drayer acknowledged that anyone who said at the end of the 2018 season that Gilbert would reach the majors in 2020 may have been called crazy, but it seems like a distinct possibility now.

If that does end up being the case, it may also be a sign of things to come with the Mariners, who have appeared to focus on drafting pitchers out of college with higher picks in recent years, including first-rounder George Kirby (Elon University) and second-rounders Brandon Williamson (TCU) and Isaiah Campbell (Arkansas) in 2019.

“That’s going to set the stage I think for George Kirby,” Drayer said of Gilbert’s potential 2020 arrival in the majors. “I’ve said this for the better part of three months right now – I think (the Mariners) are going to move their college pitchers quickly.

“I think one of the reasons why they can do it is a lot of the technology, the training and what they’re doing with biomechanics and everything that they have available to them in the minor leagues right now. I think it is cutting down the time that it takes pitchers – not hitters, pitchers, college pitchers to be more specific – (to get to the majors). I don’t think it’s a matter of, oh, they’ve gotta be down (in the minors) for three years, or get this many starts anymore. I think they’re gonna move quickly.”

Drayer also went into an interesting story about Gilbert and catcher prospect Cal Raleigh, who the Mariners seem to be moving up in the ranks together. It’s worth watching the video just to hear some insight on how the duo actually butted heads at first but have since built a close relationship.

The conversation between Drayer and Osborn about the Mariners’ prospects and the plans for them next year begins around the 15:30 mark in the video embedded below. You can also find it in this audio-only podcast version.