Even while Seattle Mariners fans anguish over Jarred Kelenic failing to win rookie of the year AND MVP in his first 55 PA or Logan Gilbert not jumping on the no-hitter bandwagon in any of his debut three starts, the second wave of prospects are raking in Everett with the Aqua Sox. Unlike Kelenic, who has been written off as another in the long run of Mariners’ busts (or maybe that’s just on Twitter), his future outfield mate, Julio Rodriguez, is destroying his competition and should be traveling east to the AA affiliate in Arkansas sooner rather than later.
Whereas Kelenic CLEARLY can’t hit, as he’s demonstrated in, oh, thirteen games in the majors heading into the weekend homestand against the Texas Rangers, Rodriguez is hitting .318/.402/.576 against A+ pitching in a much more substantial and representative twenty games. No stinking .157/.218/.314 here, folks. And who exactly are the San Diego Padres anyway? At 20 years old, Rodriguez is the number two prospect in the Mariners system; behind that bum, Kelenic is 19th in baseball (Kelenic was number two) and should arrive in the majors in 2022; a late 2021 call up isn’t out of the question.
Also hitting well in A+ is the 19-year-old SS prospect, Noelvi Marte. Through nineteen games and 92 PA, Marte is hitting .346/.424/.593. Both Rodriguez and Marte have ridiculously high BABIP (.400 and .434, respectively), but a higher threshold for batted balls “sneaking in” can be expected for elite prospects in the low minors. It’s worth noting that Eric Longehagen at FanGraphs graded Marte with a present-day 20 hit tool and 25 game power on the 20/80 scale but projects a future 50 hit tool and 60 game power. In laymen’s terms, the kid is young, needs reps at the plate, and needs to grow into his body. FanGraphs projects his arrival in the bigs for 2023.
On the mound in Everett, 21-year-old Emerson Hancock has logged 9.1 innings and has a 0.96 ERA (call him up screams Twitter). Like most young pitchers, Hancock currently grades out as a 35/55 in command, i.e., he lacks command now but has promise. The 3.86 BB/9 bears out the present state of his command. Fangraphs notes that he consistently touches the upper 90s with his fastball and has a plus slider and curveball. Hancock is the Mariners’ fourth-best prospect and ranks 56th across the league. Look for him to make the major leagues in 2023.
The final prospect in A+ who projects to be an everyday big leaguer is pitcher George Kirby. Kirby was a little older at age 23, the 20th pick of the first round of 2019. In 23.0 innings in 2019, Kirby didn’t walk a batter and pitched to 2.35 ERA. His 2.04 FIP was even more impressive. So far this season, Kirby has logged 8.2 innings, struck out 12, but (damnit) has walked a hitter. FanGraphs says, “There isn’t a prospect in the minors better at throwing strikes than Kirby.” He is currently sixth on the org chart and 76th in baseball. He should be in the majors next year, with a late 2021 call-up a possibility.
In 2023, the Mariners’ major league outfield will likely consist of Kyle Lewis, who won the ROY, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez. The infield will feature gold glove first baseman Evan White, likely Ty France moving over to third as Kyle Seager’s contract expires, and Noelvi Marte at short with J.P. Crawford maybe moving to second. A late-season trade of Mitch Haniger this year could yield another top prospect that will be on the field in 2023, and who knows at what position that could be.
The 2023 major league starting rotation should feature Logan Gilbert, Justin Dunn, and Justus Sheffield. Likely, either Emerson Hancock or George Kirby, or both will slot into the rotation. Yusei Kikuchi may be the odd man out as he will be 32, and his contract will be up by 2023.
Despite the pessimism and misery of the Twittersphere, the Mariners are going to be good. They were never going to contend this year, and the mid-70-win projections across the industry bore that out before the first pitch was thrown this year. Mariners fans can either sit back and watch the young kids develop, pretty much on the timetable GM Jerry Dipoto mapped out, or they can keep moaning about how 55 AB proves that the number two prospect in all of baseball is already the second coming of Dustin Ackley.