Few teams are as adept at navigating the social media markets of our modern age. Invisible threads connect everything in the baseball world, and while it’s possible the Mariners would be able to trade Noelvi Marte and Edwin Arroyo for a big prize without the power of their brand, it certainly helps that nobody’s better at hyping their own than Seattle. The Yankees are great, too, and some of the fan bases do a lot of lifting for their organizations, but whenever Seattle isn’t posting a workout video or highlight reel, they’re handing their social media feeds over to their prospects to flash their personalities and connect to the fans. For years, the Yankees were able to spin their internal prospect praise to public-facing outlets and then flip almost all of these youngsters for big league pieces.
When Seattle traded for Luis Castillo last year, the narrative was focused on how big a haul the Reds received. Some of that is just the moneyball-ization of the modern baseball fan, but a large portion is down to the power of marketing. No offense to Marte, a power hitter who slugged .462 in High-A, or Arroyo, a shortstop who hit .227 with a 28.4 percent strikeout in Low A, but the idea that these two plus reliever Andrew Moore and pitcher Levi Stoudt represent a huge haul in exchange for an ace-level starter is absurd to me. Castillo posted a 2.99 ERA and 1.08 WHIP across 150.1 innings last year and then signed a team-comfortable contract at $108 million through 2027 with a 180-inning vesting option for 2028. This will cover his age 31, 32, 33, 34, and age 35 seasons. If he’s healthy and good enough to throw 180 innings at 35, he’ll be a bargain at $20 million as a 36-year-old. Or he’ll be off the payoff before the tough seasons start. I guess it’s not fair to compare the under-contract Castillo to the trade return he brought as a soon-to-be free agent, but I have to think everyone who said the Reds did great in this trade would feel a little differently if he’d been traded with five-plus seasons of affordable team control. Feels to me like a master-class from Jerry Dipoto, sending far-away prospects to pull a great pitcher out of a numbers-inflating environment and then signing him to a long-term contract before his statistics better reflected his pitching-friendly new home.
Format: Position Player | Age on 4/1/23 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. C Harry Ford | 20 | A | 2022
At 5’10” 200 lbs, Ford is an easy plus athlete who might be a little too talented to stay behind the plate. As exciting as that sounds, it complicates Ford’s value for our purposes. He’s a good defender with premium upside behind the plate, but the bat is racing toward a position switch. The 12th overall pick in 2021, Ford aced his first full season in pro ball, slashing .275/.425/.438 with 11 home runs and 23 stolen bases across 104 games. It’s interesting to me that he didn’t get promoted. In 53 games from July 1 through season’s end, Ford slashed .310/.461/.477 with six home runs, 17 stolen bases, 55 strikeouts (21.5%) and 45 walks (17.6%).
2. SS Cole Young | 19 | A | 2022
Cole Young looks like the early win of last summer’s draft. He wasn’t especially late at 21st overall, but he might go inside the top ten if the draft happened tomorrow. A 6’0” 180 lb left-handed hitter, Young features plus bat-to-ball skills and an all-fields approach that plays beyond his years. He graduated the complex league in seven games and got even better in Low A, slashing .385/.422/.538 with two home runs and a stolen base in ten games.
3. RHP Bryce Miller | 24 | AA | 2023
If you’re looking for a deep-sleeper starter late in a draft-and-hold format, it might be Miller time. A 4th round pick in 2021, Miller has chugged right through the minor leagues and figures to open this season in Triple-A after posting a 1.05 WHIP in 50.2 innings across ten Double-A starts in 2022. The main worry is that he goes the way of Matt Brash. His delivery isn’t as low or unbalanced (relievery) as Brash’s, but he too is a fastball-slider dominant pitcher getting kind outcomes in a kind setting. Optimism exists in Miller’s fast-developing command and effective changeup. He’ll need to lean in and throw the pitch more to command it, but that’s not an impossible bridge to cross.
4. OF Gabriel Gonzalez | 19 | A | 2025
2023 will be a tipping point for Gonzalez, who could find himself racing up lists with a hot start. He might head back to Low-A after posting a .400 on base percentage in 32 games to close out 2022, considering he slugged just .389 at the level. If he does open the year there, an early promotion to High-A is in the cards. He turned 19 on January 4, so there’s a series of events that could land the 5’10” 170 lb Gonzalez in Double-A before he turns 20. His carrying skills are a plus hit tool with plus plate skills, but he also hit seven home runs and stole nine bases in 67 games across two levels, so there’s five-category topside for our game.
5. SS Felnin Celestin | 17 | NA | 2027
A switch hitter at 6’1” 175 lbs, Celestin signed for $4.7 million in January. International classes the past few seasons haven’t produced the best return on investment for even patient dynasty players, but Celestin is well positioned to buck that trend. His tools are good, but it’s his hit tool and well-rounded game that makes him a good bet.
6. SS Michael Arroyo | 18 | DSL | 2027
If you send a polished hitter with great hands to the Dominican Summer League, you’re going to get some loud outcomes. In 49 games at the level, the 5’10” Arroyo slashed .314/.457/.484 with four home runs, four stolen bases, 33 strikeouts and 27 walks. He’s a right-handed hitter with power to all fields who might find himself traded for an established major leaguer by this time next year.
7. RHP Emerson Hancock | 23 | AA | 2024
The development process is not linear, and Hancock took a step backward in 2022. His 1.20 WHIP is fine, and his 3.75 ERA is fine for a 23-year-old in Double-A, but he’s been passed or matched by pitchers who cost less than Hancock’s sixth overall in 2020. The primary issue is a hittable fastball that puts role in question when combined with his struggles to stay healthy.
8. RHP Taylor Dollard | 24 | AA | 2023
Coming off a dominant 144 innings at Double-A (0.95 WHIP), Dollard looks like a major league option whenever the team needs him. His low-three-quarters delivery and sweeping slider scream relief, but Dollard’s double-plus command of the double-plus slider and his functional use of a curveball, changeup and fastball have me seeing an unconventionally effective starting pitcher. He’s a great mix-it-up piece for a team with several traditional, high-velocity hurlers in their rotation.
9. SS Axel Sanchez | 20 | A+ | 2025
Sanchez really got it rolling this year, cruising through the complex league and Low-A after opening the season in High-A, where he was covering an April roster opening. In 68 games across three levels, Sanchez hit ten home runs, stole 13 bases and slashed .283/.365/.510. Along with the burgeoning power, he features plus defense at the six. Seattle has proven itself adept at selecting for shortstops in the scouting process.
10. OF Lazaro Montes | 18 | DSL | 2027
A large lefty with a lofty swing, Montes calls to mind a young Yordan Alvarez. He struck out 33.2 percent of the time in 223 plate appearances but slashed .284/.422/.585 with ten home runs in the process. At 6’3” 210 lbs with double-plus power, Montes has plenty of time and margin for error to hone his skill, making this feel like something of a buying opportunity if he’s fallen through the cracks of your leagues.
Thanks for reading!