As teams prep to make the roster changes necessary to assure that everything is in line to their liking for the upcoming Rule 5 draft, the Seattle Mariners are facing some tough decisions with a handful of players that we've covered in detail here at SeattleClubhouse.
All MLB teams have to declare players they will be adding to their protected 40-man roster to cover them from the MLB phase of the draft by 11:59 pm Eastern on Friday. Those left unprotected who signed at or before age 18 must be added to the 40-man roster within five years of signing while those who were 19 or older at the time of signing must be added within four seasons. Anyone fitting those criteria not on the 40 at the end of the day Friday will be available to the 29 other MLB teams in the Rule 5 Draft held December 7th at the Winter Meetings in Nashville.
With the offseason moves that the team has made, the Mariners 40-man currently sits at 39 players (21 pitchers and 18 position players), so they do have one open spot. But a look at the potential names that could be left for exposure to Rule 5 selection, it's clear that they have far more than one name to consider.
At the top of the list lie four names that figure to get the most consideration from the Mariners, and -- if left unprotected -- other teams: long time prospect outfielders Patrick Kivlehan and Jabari Blash, catcher Tyler Marlette and recently acquired outfielder Boog Powell.
Kivlehan, a one-time Northwest League MVP, former college defensive back turned Big East MVP for Rutgers after four years away from the game, and one of the few players in the upper minors for Seattle boasting some offensive potential and defensive positional flexibility, is the first one here. Kivlehan, who I had at No. 5 in my latest Top-35 post, just finished his first season at Triple-A Tacoma which was also his first season as a full-time outfielder. The right-handed hitting 25 year old hit .256/.313/.453 for the Rainiers, slugging 22 homers and stealing 14 bases in 123 games. He isn't a finished product as an outfielder or as a hitter, and because of that four year absence from the game he is definitely behind other similarly aged players, but he can contribute a little in all phases of the game.
Blash, who I had as the organization's No. 23 prospect in that latest update, split his 2015 season between Double-A Jackson and Triple-A Tacoma, combining to hit 32 home runs -- good for a second place tie among all minor leaguers -- and slashing at .271/.370/.576 in 116 games. The right-handed hitting native of the US Virgin Islands turned 26 this past July and has struggled at the minors' highest level a bit the past few years, but he slugged at a .640 clip in the PCL this year. Jabari has been unprotected and available each of the last two seasons via Rule 5 and slipped through, but now he's coming off a loud, productive season at the minors' highest level. And while he is strictly a corner outfielder, Blash does have decent speed in the outfield and on the bases for a player his size and also possesses a strong throwing arm.
Marlette, who hit .297/.349/.517 in 2014 and was my No. 9 prospect at the latest update, struggled at the plate in 2015, hitting just .239/.291/.380 between High-A and Double-A. Seattle's 5th rounder in 2011 figures to have the highest overall ceiling of any of the clubs young catching talent in the minors, but he hasn't become a standout defensively as of yet and took that noticeable step back at the plate this season, too. I do think that it works in his favor that he hasn't yet reached Triple-A, so the likelihood of a team taking a Rule 5 risk on him with the knowledge that he'd be their backup catcher isn't high.
Powell is the athletic, defensively talented outfielder that Dipoto acquired from Tampa Bay in that six-player trade on November 5th. As we covered at the time, Powell doesn't have a lot of experience in the high minors, and while his 2015 season was a very good one, he doesn't figure to be in line for MLB at bats after just 56 games at Triple-A and with only one year of 100-plus games played, especially reading into comments that Jerry Dipoto has made about players being ready.
As stated earlier, there isn't room for all of these players as things currently sit. Further complicating matters on these four players, three outfielders and a catcher, is the fact that Seattle already has nine outfielders and four catchers on its 40-man roster. Kivlehan has played the corner infield positions, too, and because of that I think that -- assuming no other corresponding moves -- he will be the most likely addition among this group. That said, there will be other moves, because I don't see Dipoto not protecting Powell, who is an asset that he just spent resources to acquire and someone who he obviously likes.
If the Mariners add anyone or lose anyone in this year's Rule 5 Draft, SeattleClubhouse will break it down. Stay tuned as those stoves are hot in Seattle and around baseball!
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