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Drayer: New prospect rankings show how much M’s system has changed

Onetime Mariners top prospect Kyle Lewis is No. 10 in new rankings. (AP)

For Mariners fans, lost perhaps in all of the Astros’ sign-stealing fun is that Baseball America came out with its first top 10 prospects list of the new year.

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While I don’t put a ton into prospect rankings – in the big scheme of things a prospect’s true value won’t be known until he contributes (or doesn’t) at the big league level or is traded for something of value – I do find it interesting to compare the current quality of players on these lists to those of the past. To that end, last year I listed a number of those rankings side by side to get a visual of the progress the Mariners were making in the minors in regard to quality of prospect at the top of the organization.

With a few more updates to prospect rankings included, here’s what it looks like now during six different points of the Jerry Dipoto/Scott Servais era for the Mariners.

2016

Alex Jackson, Edwin Diaz, Drew Jackson, Tyler O’Neill, Luiz Gohara, D.J. Peterson, Nick Neidert, Boog Powell, Braden Bishop, Andrew Moore.

2017

Kyle Lewis, Tyler O’Neill, Nick Neidert, Mitch Haniger, Andrew Moore, Max Povse, Brayan Hernandez, Joe Rizzo, Dan Altavilla, Daniel Vogelbach.

Early 2018

Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Sam Carlson, Julio Rodriguez, Braden Bishop, Joe Rizzo, Max Povse, Art Warren, Matt Festa, Wyatt Mills.

Nov. 29, 2018

Justus Sheffield, Jarred Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Kyle Lewis, Evan White, Logan Gilbert, Julio Rodriguez, Braden Bishop, Sam Carlson, Josh Stowers.

Aug. 2019

Jarred Kelenic, Julio Rodriguez, Logan Gilbert, Evan White, Justin Dunn, George Kirby, Cal Raleigh, Jake Fraley, Justus Sheffield, Kyle Lewis.

Jan. 15, 2020

Julio Rodriguez, Jarred Kelenic, Evan White, Logan Gilbert, George Kirby, Noelvi Marte, Justus Sheffield, Justin Dunn, Brandon Williamson, Kyle Lewis.

Note: Rankings used are from Baseball America, Baseball Prospectus and MLB Pipeline.

So, what have we got? Obviously the biggest strides were made last offseason, and unlike last year, this time around no offseason additions are on the list, which is what can happen if the GM trades just one player. Are there still folks out there that believe Dipoto has a trade addiction problem?

At the top of the list we see what looks like a major shift with Julio Rodriguez taking the top prospect mantle from Jarred Kelenic. In his chat for Baseball America on Tuesday, Bill Mitchell revealed that the final verdict was “as close to being a split decision as possible.” With the decision so close they went with Rodriguez over Kelenic not because of what they were doing currently, but because Rodriguez’s ceiling was higher in their evaluation. For more, you will need a subscription to Baseball America – which I highly recommend – as I don’t want to give away content that is behind a payroll.

Some notable names not on the list are catcher Cal Raleigh, pitcher Sam Carlson or any relievers. The latter is a good thing in my book as while the Mariners have good bullpen arms coming up, it’s better to have higher-value starters/position players ahead of them. Carlson, who has pitched all of three innings since being drafted in the second round in 2017, is set to make his return from Tommy John surgery in 2020. If he proves to be healthy, a return to the top 10 at some point of 2020 would be expected.

New to the list are shortstop Noelvi Marte and starting pitcher Brandon Williamson. At just 18, Marte is the youngest player in the Mariners’ top 10. Coming off a successful first professional season hitting .309/.371/.511/.883 in the Dominican Summer League, he should play stateside in 2020, though the question will be exactly when. As for Williamson, the 6-foot-6 lefty opened organizational eyes in his 15.1 innings pitched last year. Apparently that was enough for those outside the organization as well to put him in the top 10. It will be interesting to see what Williamson and 2019 first-round pick George Kirby do in longer looks this season.

New overall organization rankings have yet to be released by Baseball America but I think there is a decent chance the Mariners see a jump from the No. 11 spot where they currently reside. How long they hold that ranking remains to be seen as four to five players currently on the list should see significant time in the majors in 2020. With the ultimate goal being to keep waves of prospects coming with different timelines, we could see ups and downs in the rankings as the Mariners continue to build. But as we have seen, it takes only one or two trades to make a big difference.

Follow 710 ESPN Seattle’s Shannon Drayer on Twitter.

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