Seattle General Manager trader Jerry Dipoto got us through last off-season, making what felt like a transaction every day to keep the baseball media grinding through a bleak, mostly silent winter.
This time around has been so busily different in baseball that Dipoto’s big move sending Omar Narvaez to Milwaukee for Adam Hill and the 71st overall pick in the 2020 draft registered barely a blip on the radar.
The Twitterati and me are grateful to be less bored this year and grateful to Dipoto for getting us through the free agency freeze of winters past.
And hey along the way he’s put together a system that gives Seattle fans hope even as they bottom out in search of a winning wave.
Player | Age on 5/1/2020 | Highest Level Played | ETA
1. OF Julio Rodriguez | 19 | A+ | Early 2021
Nobody improved his prospect stock more in 2019 than Julio Rodriguez. His elite hit tool, plus power, and serial-killer confidence have made him a near consensus top-ten prospect for fantasy purposes and could have him neck and neck with Wander at some point in 2020.
2. OF Jarred Kelenic | 20 | AA | Early 2021
3. 1B Evan White | 24 | AA | Spring 2020
He’s drawn some Christian Yelich comps for his feel for the barrel and all around game (but mostly because he’s a lefty white outfielder who can hit and run, and Yelich is elite now, and people love to comp prospects to stars who are so elite any kind of comp is immediately ludicrous). Regardless of what he becomes for the Mariners, he won’t be a Metropolitan, and that trade will go down in New York lore as an early and egregious oversight of the Brodie Van reign. Amazing move by Dipoto to identify the new guy at the table–the fish looking to make a splash–and immediately dump his worst contract (Robinson Cano) and sell high closer (Edwin Diaz) in exchange for Kelenic, Justin Dunn, Jay Bruce, Anthony Swarzak and Gerson Bautista, who might’ve been the low totem pole piece here but could still impact Seattle’s future.
Players don’t always hit their way into a job. Look at Kevin Cron. Sorry, that was really bossy. You can look wherever you wanna look, but I’m looking at Kevin Cron thinking about Evan White. That’s me—not Kevin—doing the thinking about Evan, although Kevin might well be thinking about Evan, wishing he could sign a similar contract and lock in a long-term opportunity to play. These are not similar players. It’s partly the defense that lets Seattle pay White early with such confidence. Gives him another out to recoup value. But it’s also the bat being better than most predicted in his draft year. Looks like a potential 30+ bombs type with a solid batting average and maybe even some steals. Still a bit of a buying window here, I think.
4. RHP Logan Gilbert | 22 | AA | Early 2021
5. OF Kyle Lewis | 24 | MLB | 2019
6. SS Noelvi Marte | 18 | R | 2023
7. RHP George Kirby | 22 | R | Mid 2021
I toggled this tier around a lot after Logan Gilbert, which means maybe he’s his own tier and the group below is a real one. Coin-flip city. Or maybe build-specific city. Looking for a potential ace who seems just about ready now? Get Logan Gilbert. Maybe just get him anyway. But if you need power in the near term, prize Kyle Lewis on the chance he makes enough contact to mash. In a long-term or rebuild setting, Lewis would be lower than these next two.
I was surprised to see Noelvi Marte below George Kirby on my own list for most of this process, but I really wanted Kirby in the Prospects Live five-year dynasty drafts. Couldn’t stop pushing him up my board because I love command in young arms, especially if it’s fastball AND off-speed command from a smooth delivery, and especially if it’s command so good the pitcher never walks anybody. That skill refers to “control” in the jargon, but if you’ve got great command, you probably mastered control a long time ago, and that’s certainly the case for George Kirby, who walked zero hitters in his first 23 pro innings after walking six hitters in 88 innings in college. So in 2019, Kirby walked six guys in 111 innings and surrendered 97 hits over that same span. Those five-year dynasties are 30-team points leagues, so they’re pitching heavy, but I figured hey if that’s how I feel in that league, maybe that’s just how I feel. I have leagues in which I’d prefer Marte, leagues where it’d be a coin flip, but in my deeper leagues I want Kirby. In the end, I put Marte ahead because I think more people play in shallower leagues where topside is the separator. But part of the struggle was that you can find a teeny bopper power-speed guy like Noelvi Marte, but they just don’t make em like George Kirby very often.
8. OF Jake Fraley | 24 | MLB | 2019
Fraley just looks like a good time, and he certainly partied hard in Australia when he won ABL MVP in 2017-18. He carried that success back to the states, but health has long been elusive. If he can get that figured out, he’ll be a value at his current cost as a power/speed blend in a good setting for continued playing time.
9. OF Jonatan Clase | 17 | R | 2024
10. OF George Feliz | 16 | NA | 2024
Although his stat line looks a page from Tim Raines’ playbook–31 steals in 63 games, 147 wRC+, near 1/1 K/BB ratio–we shouldn’t assume Jonatan Clase parties like Rock, but I’m going to be buying just in case.
A highlight of my off-season happened on Christmas morning when I was able to draft George Feliz (Navidad) in the minor league portion of the SGL start-up dynasty draft. If his 2020 goes according to plan, he’ll step into 2021 looking a little like Clase does today, statistically, but while Clase is 5’8”, Feliz is six foot even and drew a Victor Robles comp from Ben Badler of Baseball America. You might say I’m excited for future Feliz, who the Mariners signed for $900,000 from the same academy that brought them Julio Rodriguez.