I was pretty interested to see the minor league rosters for a few reasons:
- I live in Tacoma, so I see quite a bit of Rainiers action in person.
- I enjoy following prospects in the minor leagues.
- Jerry Dipoto gutted the M's player development leadership.
The third point is probably the most significant. The rosters are our first real glimpse into who Dipoto and Co. like and how they plan on going about developing prospects.
Without further ado, the rosters, with some musings below:
Org Chart.pdf by Ryan Divish
- Alex Jackson, Gareth Morgan, Nick Neidert - In general, recent prep picks made by the Zduriencik regime appear ticketed for extended spring training. This is not necessarily a lack of confidence in any of their abilities, but rather a preference for slower development. Just about anybody would push along players more slowly than Jack Zduriencik. He was about as aggressive as they come at promoting players through the minors.
Clinton (low A)
- Rayder Ascanio received surprising playing time (at least to me) in spring training the last few years. Both the Zduriencik and Dipoto regimes seem to see something they like in him. This is his first taste of full season pro ball. Don't be surprised if he doesn't hit much because Clinton plays in a pitcher's league. Low strikeout totals would be a good sign.
- Braden Bishop will probably get some press coverage because he went to the University of Washington. Scouting reports on him out of college raved about his defensive ability but wondered how well his bat would do. My initial guess is that Dipoto does not believe much in Bishop's bat. My gut is that Zduriencik would have placed Bishop a level higher to get his hitting in the more friendly California League confines and to push his development. But then again, Zduriencik tended to push every prospect he liked at an uncomfortably fast rate with generally poor results.
Bakersfield (high A)
- Stock is rising: Drew Jackson tore up the Northwest League in Everett last year, and apparently Dipoto is a believer. This is one of the more aggressive roster placements he made in the minors. Jackson's trajectory and skillset, very early on, remind me some of Chris Taylor. Austin Cousino, Joe DeCarlo, and Gianfranco Wawoe also find themselves promoted from last season, suggesting that they are on the bona fide prospect track.
- Stock is falling: Tyler Marlette, Tyler Pike, and Austin Wilson all seemed like reasonable candidates to open up in AA. Pike is recovering from an arm injury and overall tough year, so perhaps that played into the decision to start him in high A. The same can't be said for Marlette or Wilson. Frankly, I wonder if Dipoto sees Austin Wilson as a real prospect at this point given this assignment.
- Stock is rising: Tyler O'Neill has a chance to blossom and become known beyond the Mariners organization. He put up huge power numbers in high A last year. With similar production in AA he will assert himself as the best hitting prospect the Mariners have. If you pay attention to one player in the whole minor league system in 2016, this is the guy to pick. Tim Lopes also got promoted from Bakersfield and could garner more attention with a solid season in Jackson.
- Stock is falling: Steven Baron, Sam Gaviglio, and Jordan Pries all logged time in AAA last year, with Baron even reaching the majors. They are all likely considered organizational depth at this point with these assignments.
- Dario Pizzano quietly hit well in AA last year and has now matriculated to the last level before the majors. He probably is too low on the outfield depth chart to make it to the majors this year, but another good season with the bat might get him some attention. He hasn't received enough notoriety to this point, and I am excited to watch him in Tacoma.
- Jonathan Aro and Donn Roach were minor league signings, and maybe not exactly prospects, but nonetheless players whom could reach the majors this year if they play well in Tacoma.
- Paul Fry had a monster year out of the bullpen last year in Bakersfield and Jackson. He is also left-handed. He does not garner nearly enough attention with how good he is and how close he is to the majors. He is among the reasons to think that Charlie Furbush's oft-injured (but highly effective) pitching arm might get traded in the not-so-distant future.
- Mike Zunino and James Paxton are known contributors who both have things to work on. They might be among the first test cases for how much better (or worse?!) the new Mariners player development system under Jerry Dipoto works. Both are clearly talented, and with a little polishing could contribute at the Major League level.
I will likely dive deeper with the Rainiers tomorrow. All in all, it seems that Dipoto and Co. are more cautious with their minor league promotions than Zduriencik was, which is a breath of fresh air. There are also some early hints at players they particularly like, as well as some they believe in a bit less. Ultimately, what will be most interesting is how players fare under new tutelage.