Checking In: What the Mariners’ top 4 prospects are doing in spring training
When the 2019 Mariners season wrapped up, they made no secret about what their modus operandi would be in 2020: The kids will play.
That’s been clear in spring training, as in stark contrast to 2019 when the likes of Jay Bruce, Edwin Encarnación and Mike Leake occupied places on the roster, Seattle’s projected 2020 lineup includes only a few players that would be considered veterans in key spots.
Sure, Kyle Seager is once again the everyday third baseman, Dee Gordon will be a contributor in the middle of the infield and a few veteran additions to the pitching staff are looking to come back from either significant injuries or less-than-stellar 2019 campaigns, but there’s not much experience on the roster past that.
And when it comes to spring training, all eyes have been on the prospects, of which there are many and several of whom are expected to either begin the year in the majors or join sometime during the season.
Let’s see what the top four Mariners prospects as ranked by MLB.com have done in Arizona.
No. 1 prospect: OF Jarred Kelenic
Cactus League stats: 10 games, 23 plate appearances, .250 average, .348 on-base percentage, .798 OPS, home run, double, two walks.
Notable highlight: His first Cactus League home run.
— Seattle Mariners (@Mariners) March 2, 2020
A quick word: “Jarred brought a lot to the table when he walked in and he has not disappointed. In fact, he’s probably surpassed all of our expectations,” Mariners director of player development Andy McKay said to 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant. “… I think (his success) impacts (how the Mariners’ farm system is viewed) in a positive way because it just continues to bring attention and light to what’s going on here.”
2020 outlook: It is not out of the realm of possibility that Kelenic cracks the MLB roster at some point this year. In fact, he’s impressed enough to make 710 ESPN Seattle’s Paul Gallant wonder if he should just take the trip to Seattle from Peoria with the MLB team when camp ends. I think the biggest question about Kelenic’s 2020 season is whether he makes his big league debut before his 21st birthday on July 16. He’s shown power, speed, defensive ability and discipline at the plate in his year-plus in the Mariners’ system, and if there’s anything to take away from his 2019 season when he played on three different M’s affiliates and reached Double-A, he’s on a rapid rise with only two promotions to go. Worth noting, if Kelenic does reach the big leagues this year, he’ll be the youngest Mariners player to make his MLB debut since Ketel Marte, who was 21 at the time of his debut in 2015. Kelenic also has the chance to be the first Mariner since Félix Hernández (2005, 19 years old) to debut before turning 21.
No. 2 prospect: OF Julio Rodriguez
Cactus League stats: Nine games, 15 PA, .154 average, .267 OBP, .421 OPS, two hits, one walk.
A quick word: “He shows really growing leadership traits and he’s still so young,” Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto told Danny and Gallant. “There’s a lot in front of him, but he’s a big dude with big strengths and we feel like he’s got a chance to be a star in this league.”
2020 outlook: The 19-year-old Rodriguez has a bright future ahead of him, even though he’s struggled thus far in spring MLB action, striking out six times. Due to the lack of offensive results to marvel at, the buzz has been more around his size – he’s by some accounts up to 6-foot-4 and still growing – and how well he, along with Kelenic, has fit in with the rest of the club (see the tweet from 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jessamyn McIntyre below). He reached High-A Modesto late last season and still has a ways to go before breaking into the majors, but a September call-up for Rodriguez isn’t out of the question.
Servais on his first impression of Julio Rodriguez & Jarred Kelenic:
"They're good – it hasn't been (that) they're young, it's that they're really good…they're good players, they're good people, they ask good questions – they're really comfortable in our clubhouse." #Mariners
— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynMcIntyr) February 26, 2020
No. 3 prospect: Logan Gilbert
Cactus League stats: One game, two innings, one strikeout, no walks, one hit allowed.
Notable highlight: Recorded a 1-2-3 first inning against the Giants in his spring debut.
A quick word: “There are some good hitters over there like any team we are going to face,” Gilbert said after his outing against the Giants. “I feel like I have the stuff to compete with them. I’m really confident in my stuff and I feel that I can go toe to toe with anybody. That’s how I feel.”
2020 outlook: Gilbert is expected to arrive in Seattle sometime this season, and the lanky 22-year-old right-hander would be the first of a few highly-touted starting pitchers drafted in recent years out of college to break through. Mariners manager Scott Servais was encouraged by how Gilbert did in his first spring outing, especially when compared to a rough showing in his one Cactus League appearance in 2019. You can be assured Servais is eager for the day when he can pencil the 2018 first-round pick in to start in a regular season game for the Mariners, especially after Gilbert dazzled at three different levels in his first pro season in 2019.
No. 4 prospect: Evan White
Cactus League stats: Seven games, 21 PA, .350 average, .333 OBP, .833 OPS, three doubles, three RBIs.
Notable highlight: White’s been known for his glove since Day 1, and in Game 1 of Cactus League play, he showed why.
A quick word: “It’s about us wanting to lay the foundation and create stability for a future roster, and it made him a critical part – and not just because we think he’s an excellent player,” Dipoto said in November about the Mariners signing White to a rare long-term extension for a player yet to crack an MLB roster. “It’s a combination of what he does on the field and who he is away from it. Choosing Evan as the guy that we wanted to be at the center of it? I can’t say enough about the kind of person we are dealing with on this.”
2020 outlook: This is your presumptive Mariners opening day first baseman, and he’s acquitting himself quite well in action against MLB talent. Due to the nature of his new contract, White is cleared from the usual service time hurdles that teams have to consider before calling up a prospect, which opens up the path for him to be the first prospect to make a 2020 debut for the Mariners. He just needs to stay healthy to get there, which is somewhat of a concern as he missed some time recently with a sore groin. The good news is he returned to the lineup with a 2-for-3 effort against the Rockies, and the numbers he’s posted are an encouraging sign that the bat that took big strides at Double-A last year will continue to progress.
We’ll continue our look at Seattle’s spring training by breaking down the rest of the Mariners’ top 10 prospects later this week.