A Minor Review of 2016: Seattle Mariners

Welcome to the annual series that provides both a review of your favorite teams’ 2016 season, as well as a early look toward 2017. It also serves as a helpful guide for keeper and dynasty leagues.

The Graduate: Edwin Diaz (RHP): I was huge fan of Diaz entering the 2016 but I certainly didn’t envision this type of impact being made so early in his career. I also fully expected him to be a starter at the big league level but the Mariners deserve huge credit for seeing the potential in a bullpen role for the young Puerto Rican. Diaz, 22, was absolutely dominant in his debut with a strikeout rate of 15.33 K/9 (second in the majors just behind Dellin Betances) and walk rate of 2.61 BB/9. The rare control/power mix is reminiscent of Andrew Miller or Kenley Jansen and suggests that Diaz could be among the top high-leverage relievers in baseball for years to come.

The Riser: Tyler O’Neill (OF): Just 21, O’Neill was a third round draft pick out of a British Columbia high school back in 2013 and he’s improved by leaps and bounds since then to become one of the Top 5 outfield prospects in the game. He showed the ability to make adjustments and, although his power didn’t increase between 2015 and ’16, he saw his walk rate jump from 6.5% to 10.8% — and he even trimmed his strikeout rate a bit (although it remains high). He has a strong arm suitable for right-field but his instincts in the field are modest so he might end up in left field. Either way, he has the power to be an impact player with 20+ home runs in the middle of the lineup for the Mariners beginning in late 2017 or 2018.

The Tumbler: Alex Jackson (OF): I might take some heat for listing the 20-year-old Jackson as a tumbler. However, he was drafted sixth overall in 2014 with the hope he would stick behind the plate as a catcher. The Mariners, though, quickly moved him to the outfield to allow his bat to dictate his development path. Since the move, though, Jackson has been hurt and ineffective. He doesn’t project to be more than an average hitter and he posted a BB-K rate of 34-103 in 93 games in 2016 at low-A ball. He hit just .243. There is usable power for 20+ home runs in the future but he might only hit .220-.240 in the Majors unless he continues to make improvements as a hitter.

The ’16 Draft Pick: Kyle Lewis (OF): The third outfielder on this list, Lewis entered pro ball with immense potential but his debut was cut short by a devastating knee injury after just 30 games. When healthy, the 11th overall pick mixes hitting ability with power and a strong eye. He could eventually hit .280-.300 with 20+ home runs for the Mariners during his peak seasons. Lewis should be 100% healthy for the 2017 season and should open the year in either high-A or low-A; either way he should be a quick mover through the system and could reach The Show as early as 2018.

The Lottery Ticket: Gareth Morgan (OF): Drafted 74th overall in 2014, the Mariners gave this Canadian outfielder (somewhat surprisingly) $2 million to forego college. Unlike fellow countryman Tyler O’Neill, Morgan is very raw despite having plus raw power. The latter prospect walked just eight times in 38 games in 2016 while whiffing 65 times. He’s also spent three straight years in short-season ball. He’ll likely need to be pushed to full-season ball in 2017 but will likely be overmatched unless he makes quick adjustments during the offseason. If he can make enough contact, Morgan has 30+ home run potential. But that’s a big “if.”

For reference sake, here is the 2015 Review.

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Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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Westside guy
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Westside guy

I enjoy reading about the Mariners’ minor leagues even though I don’t have the time to follow them as closely as I’d like to – thank you, Marc.

So is there reason to be hopeful that a regime change (Zduriencik -> Dipoto) might help a guy like O’Neill reach his potential? Or is the minor-league-development noise level simply too high to say, one way or the other? On the surface, it sure seems like Z’s organizational philosophy was “strikeouts be damned, show us more power!”, which would not be good for a guy whose approach trends that way to start with.

YKnotDisco
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YKnotDisco

Jack Z. built a slow pitch softball team. He tried to out muscle Safeco at the expense of Defense/Baserunning/Fielding. Dipoto has done a good job cleaning house and building a roster to fit the ballpark better. Still a long way to go but it seems like he is headed in the right direction.

Players didn’t seem to develop well under Jack’s regime. He had a lot of failures in that department. It’s still too early to judge DiPoto’s staff but it won’t take much to be an improvement of J.Z.

Barnard
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Barnard

Based off everything I read during Jack Z’s tenure, there was a lot of dysfunction in our player development regime and I think that it lost direction (or never had any).

One of the first things Dipoto did was realign the entire player development system. Every minor league team from Triple A to Rookie is guided by the same philosophy, and I think it is already showing: Every single one of our minor league affiliates made the playoffs, and a lot of guys that looked failed rebounded in a big way.