C – Cal Raleigh – Much like division rival Houston, the Mariners have a tandem of catchers at the major league level, who, with all due respect, aren’t known for headline inducing offense, but whose defense will help keep the Mariners in many a games this season. In 221 MLB games so far, 27-year-old Omar Narvaez is batting .275 with a 24 percent extra-base percentage, and a .990 fielding percentage. His backup, 29-year-old David Freitas, trails with the bat (.218 in 42 career MLB games), but offers an above-league average fielding percentage of .994. So, it’s safe to say that Seattle has catcher nailed down for some time. And quite honestly, in fantasy, catchers like this are all you need. At-bats are the biggest stat. On the flip side however, some thunder in the bat from your backstop is always a true bonus, and when looking at Seattle’s catching ranks from 2018, it’s a little exciting to see what may be on the way. Recently turned 22-year-old Cal Raleigh was selected in the 3rd round out of Florida State University (2018) and brought huge power, great plate discipline, and coachability to SS Everett of the Northwest League (NWL) in 2018. Raleigh was a three-year starter for the Seminoles and left college with a career .282 batting average, 32 home runs, 143 RBi and drew 132 walks to 128 strikeouts. The junior draftee played in only 38 of the AquaSox 76 games of the season, but led the team in home runs (8), ranked within the team’s top five in doubles (10), RBi (29) and every slashline category (.288/.367/.534/.902). So, he didn’t slow down a bit. There is A Lot to like here. Especially on the offensive side of the ball. Raleigh is an average defender, but with a bat like this, he could become a star at the position, and we’ll take it every day of the week. Expect the 6’3”- 215 lb. switch-hitter to spend all of 2019 with LoA West Virginia. 1B – Evan White – In mid-December 2018, the Seattle Mariners and Cleveland Indians shut the door on the baseball’s Winter Meetings by swapping major league veterans Edwin Encarnacion and Carlos Santana. The 32-year-old Santana is slated to bat cleanup as their DH, while Encarnacion, 36, is penned in as the Mariners starter at first base. However, Encarnacion isn’t alone at the position, and it’s a shame because 4th-year pro Ryon Healy is actually pretty good. We understand he strikes out a ton and doesn’t walk nearly enough (62:315 in 354 career games), but along with a .265 batting average, Healy averages 28 home runs, 86 RBi and 70 runs scored per season. Sure, we’ve all seen better, but we’ve also seen a lot worse. Now, Encarnacion’s option year is 2020 and it wouldn’t shock me to see Seattle show him the door, especially if 2017 – 1st rounder Evan White continues to successfully climb the ranks. Normally I don’t talk about the system I use to rank the prospects (both on OAS and my THOD during the regular season. We’ll have that conversation another day), but the 6’3”- 205 lb. White led all (of my) Seattle hitter’s in scoring and there wasn’t another first baseman even remotely close to him. I’ll cut right to it. There really isn’t a skill that White doesn’t possess: a plus-hitter, has average-to-above power, average-to-plus speed, is a plus runner with a plus arm. I don’t care if we sound like a broken record here, but what’s not to like??? I think the Mariners will get by with Healy or trade him, but the priority advice here: if you are in a fantasy league where minors are prevalent, and White is available, grab him immediately. He could be a fantasy star in waiting. 2B – Beau Branton – In assessing Seattle’s second base ranks, it made sense that the Mariners involved themself in a trade that would bolster the position. In mid-January, a three-way trade with the Cincinnati Reds and New York Yankees brought second baseman Shed Long to Seattle, and he was immediately inserted into their top-10 prospect list. Rightfully so, as Long can hit for average, has nice pop in his bat, can steal bases and is an above-average defender. Plus, with 30-year-old Dee Gordon’s willingness to change positions in the past, maybe Seattle revisits that, which could help free up space once Long is ready to make an impact in the majors. Who knows. Either way, this situation gave/gives us the freedom to scan the minors for that UTR gem, and first-year pro Beau Branton fit the bill. After signing, the 28th rounder (2018) out of Stanford University was assigned to the Arizona League where he batted a robust .423 with six extra-base hits, stole 13 bases and drew 11 walks to 6 strikeouts before receiving a surprising promotion all the way to HiA Modesto, leapfrogging SS Everett and LoA Clinton. In 28 games with the Nuts, the 5’7”- 175 pounder slowed down considerably posting a .247 average, with only two doubles, two stolen bases and his BB:K ratio flipped nearly three-times the other way. (6:19) Unless he has this untapped level of talent deep from within, I don’t expect Branton to overtake Shed Long. But you never know. 3B – Bobby Honeyman – There’s always been something about Kyle Seager that we here love. Simply put, there’s nothing fancy about him. He just gets the job done, year in and year out. Since taking over Seattle’s starting third base job in 2012, he’s never played less than 154 games a season and over his last 1102 games, he’s averaged a .258/.325/.441/.765 slash line and 25 homers, 85 RBi and 76 runs scored per season. Like I said above, nothing fancy here, but he’s as meat-and-potatoes a fantasy contributor as they come. He’s only 31 years old with three years left on his contract, so Seattle has time to continue harvesting the position until Seager and the organization is faced with a choice. Bobby Honeyman is an interesting case. When the 2018 – 29th rounder would arrive to the field for the University of Stony Brook Seawolves, he brought a much larger duffle because of the many gloves he carried: one for third base, one for shortstop, one for second and his first baseman’s glove. Yet, regardless where he played his bat was a constant, as he logged a four-year batting average of .288 and a BB:K ratio of 68:63. As a pro so far, the bat translated well, as he registered a .346 average, hit 12 doubles, scored 32 runs and drove in 29 in 58 games with SS Everett. He was promoted to HiA Modesto and slowed tremendously. Honeyman played the vast majority of his games at third base posting a .957 fielding percentage, but with his bat, defensive prowess, Seager and fellow infield prospects Eugene Helder and Joe Rizzo ahead of him, his path to the bigs may be through his defense. SS – Juan Querecuto – Despite his struggles, I think the trade from Philadelphia to Seattle will help J.P. Crawford. It’s not uncommon for a prospect to own the scouting report he does and not live up to it. It’s happened before. But I do believe the change of scenery might give the recently-turned 24-year-old a chance to hit the reset button, gather himself, learn from his past struggles and become what the Phillies hoped he would. Everyone is raving about fellow system shortstop Noelvi Marte. Here’s what Baseball America said about the teenaged Dominican in their 2019 Top-10 story. The Mariners signed Marte to a $1.55M deal and he’s set to make his debut this summer in the DSL. So with the possible resurrection of Crawford and the star that could be Marte, there’s a lot in between, and as far as the 2018 season goes, the Venezuelan-born Juan Querecuto filled in that gap rather well in his debut season. The 18 year old switch-hitter came to the organization as a sleek fielder with possible plus- speed, good plate discipline and great makeup. What the Mariners got however, was a .243 average, 24 errors at short and 25 walks to 54 strikeouts in 64 games. Not earth-shattering stuff, but as a 17 year old in the DSL making his debut, you can chalk up his struggles to a lot of things. He has a good scouting report, so let’s give Querecuto a chance to iron out his struggles and hopefully he can become what the Mariners hope he can be, just like J.P. Crawford. LF – Keegan McGovern – Looking at the outfield names we’ve chosen for the 2018 UTR OAS list, the goal is always to choose those who could rise through their respective system, but also those players that are/were overshadowed, or blinded by the organizational top prospect gleam. With blue-chip outfielders in the system like Kyle Lewis and trade acquisition from the Mets Jarred Kelenic, guys like McGovern have to work harder to gain bigger attention; and he did a pretty good job of it in 2018. The 6’3”- 200 lb. lefty came to the system out of the University of Georgia carrying a plus- hit tool, big power, average speed and an adequate arm in the outfield. The 9th rounder was shipped directly to SS Everett, posting a .313 batting average with two doubles, but saw a surprise promotion to LoA after playing only four games with the AquaSox, and he lived up to the Clinton Lumberking team name, blasting 15 home runs, 12 doubles, scoring 35 runs and driving in 44. Despite playing in only 47 percent of Clinton’s 139 games last season, McGovern finished third on the team in home runs. The term “raising the floor” applies perfectly to McGovern and his current standing within the organization. Even with Lewis and Kelenic in the system, Do Not sleep on McGovern. CF – Josh Stowers – We’re going to stay on the “raising the floor” theme even though the 6’1”- 200 lb. Chicago native came to Seattle with much more pedigree than McGovern listed above. Other than UTR OAS catcher Cal Raleigh, there may not be a more polished hitter in the Mariners draft class than Stowers. In fact, there may not be a better all-around player in the Mariners system than Stowers. He’s been called a five-tool talent, but without any of his tools being truly loud. He has big power, plus speed; good arm; a plus hit-tool and enough range to play center field, but his game projects him best to play a corner. After Seattle drafted him in the 2nd round from the University of Louisville, he was sent to SS Everett (quite a popular landing spot for polished draftees) and hit a respectable .260, with 20 extra-bases (5 home runs), 20 steals (which tied for 2nd in the NWL) and he drew 37 walks to 57 strikeouts. Of all the American League teams we’ve covered in the UTR OAS series, Seattle’s has to be a favorite moving forward and second place isn’t really that close. Stowers, with McGovern Lewis and Kenelic and the name you’ll see below, damn, that’s deep. ****A faux pas on my behalf, as we’re all human I see. A reader reached out to me on Twitter reminding me that Stowers was part of the trade that sent Shed Long to Seattle, as Stowers was sent to the Yankees. Either way, Seattle’s outfield prospects are still filthy. So, it was my mistake, an oversight on my behalf and I fully own up to it. Thanks for the feedback and continued support Alex**** RF – Julio Rodriguez – I’m going to make this short and sweet. When it’s all said and done, the 6’3”- 180 lb. Dominican signee may become the best outfielder, maybe even position player in the Seattle organization within a year or two. He can do it all. In his debut season, Rodriguez led DSL squad in nearly every single offensive statistical category and ranked within the DSL top-five with 115 total bases. He drew 30 walks to 40 Ks in his 58 game season and committed only two errors in 100 chances in right field. Sure, he comes with high risk, but his tools are loud and he has absolute superstar potential. He’s that kid that during your keeper-league draft, you take a last-round $1 flier on him, reserve him and forget about him. Then when he starts climbing prospect boards and unbeknownst owners are scrambling the waiver wire looking for him, only then do they notice you have him, making you look like a genius. I think Seattle should allow him to begin 2019 with SS Everett, start off incredibly strong, then give him the quick hook with a promotion to LoA West Virginia. Top 5 Starting Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained 1. LHP Raymond Kerr – (13) / LoA Clinton “Legit UTR” ** Its only fitting that I lead off the Mariners with a non-drafted free agent (2017) finishing atop of the UTR-OAS roster. During last season’s roster submission, I mentioned that Seattle bared the cupboard when they made a host of trades. A whole lotta talent departed the Mariners and the 2017 UTR-OAS was a list of fringy arms. Kerr could join a fraternity of pitchers that epitomes the Under the Radar label. The Mariners found the 6′ 2″ 185 lb right-hander in the Alaska Summer League after a subliminal stint at Lassen Community College (CA.) in 2017. There, he was a two-way player and was named as a 1st-team Conference all-star in his only season. Prior to Lassen, Kerr played one year at Mendocino Junior College in 2014. Now, after 151.2 Junior College innings, in two stints over four seasons, and just one inning with the AZL Mariners, we find Kerr getting a full season at LoA Clinton in 2018. He posted pedestrian numbers, but scoring enough within my UTR system place tops in an otherwise thin minor league staff. 2. LHP Nick Wells – (12.5) / HiA Modesto ** Wells came to the Mariners via trade, but not from those mentioned above. The 3rd round pick in 2014 came from the Blue Jays in the Mark Lowe trade in 2015. The 6′ 5″ 185 lb southpaw started the most games (28) in the system, splitting time between LoA Clinton (14) and HiA Modesto (14). Wells repertoire is a solid 4-pitch mix that includes a tight curveball and fading changeup. 3. RHP Darren McCaughan – (11.5) / Triple-A Tacoma ** A 12th round pick in 2017 out of Long Beach State, McCaughan saw his first full season in the Seattle Mariners farm system, pitching well at HiA and even getting two starts at Triple-A Tacoma. Combined, he tossed 149 innings (most in the system), posting a 3.08 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, and a 37/129 BB/K. 4. RHP Randy Bell – (10) / HiA Modesto 5. RHP Ljay Newsome – (8.5) / Triple-A Tacoma “Legit UTR” ** Newsome repeats as a UTR-OAS, but slips from the top spot to just sneaking into the #5 slot. A command over stuff type, the 26th rounder from 2015 spent most of the season at HiA Modesto, but got a cup of coffee at Tacoma. His numbers were basically same the same from 2017, and again his K/BB rate of 8.93 led the Mariners system. As I mentioned about the Mariners stripping the pitching ranks with trades, a glance at the depth charts show Newsome and McCaughan are the highest homegrown arms in the system, slated to begin 2019 at Double-A Arkansas. Top 3 Relief Pitchers – (Factor Score) / Highest Level Attained 1. RHP Kyle Wilcox – (13) / HiA Modesto 2. RHP Wyatt Mills – (10) / Double-A Arkansas 3. RHP Sam Delaplane – (10) / Triple-A Tacoma ** From the bullpen, Delaplane earned the honor as the Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year. The 23rd round pick from 2017 posted a remarkable 15.1 K9 rate with 100 K’s over 59.2 innings.