The AFL is no longer what it used to be; the time is often used to get reps for players who have been out due to injury, or to challenge somewhat older players against better competition.
Here are the Mariners’ nine, my organization’s ranking for each player, and some thoughts on their mission.
No. 13 Bryan Woo, RHP
Woo was the club’s 6th round pick in 2021 but only made his debut this summer due to UCL surgery. He entered the pro ball with a dominant throw to the bullpen, but showed a few starting traits in his 16 starts, including marginal average control and three pitches.
Woo’s fastball hit 93-95 mph, hitting 97 with a below average slider with some projection and change that flickered on average. What scouts love most about Woo is his athleticism and the possibility that his command and control is above average.
He is 22 years old and has shown a sense of working the area. The floor here is a high-leverage multi-handle reliever with three ways out.
#19 Adam Macko, LHP
Macko has been on the radar for a few years, and an injury has cost him a lot of time (knee in 2022). When I saw him in Everett he was 89-92 mph with a curled curveball and below par…everything but he was up to 96 in a starting roll and there’s a jump on the fastball and a chance of two medium or better breaking balls, led by a curve that flashed more.
He’ll have to find a way to throw a lot more strikes and at some point he’ll have to build a strong record, but he won’t be 22 until this winter.
The fall league could be a place for Macko to learn how his stuff plays against more experienced hitters, a good litmus test before a very big year for him as a potential future leaguer. After health, there are relief considerations here for a multitude of reasons.
No. 20 Robert Perez Jr., 1B
Perez, 22, has finally done something I’ve wanted to see for a few seasons now: get to High-A and rake.
He first appeared on the radar in 2019 when, at the age of 19, he showed some maturity and punching sensation when he replaced Tacoma Triple-A and was unimpressed with his lack of experience (.250/.304/ .469).
But since then he had stalled in short, low-A season ball – hitting, but not exactly smashing, until he stepped it up this season.
After a .270/.369/.501, 20 HR performance in 92 games repeating his time in Modesto, Perez hit .342/.477/.583 with the AquaSox in 35 games. He actually improved his walk and strike rates, and his pre-season swing tweaks helped him maintain power and contact.
Perez is a legitimate prospect, although his future role is unclear; he’s not a great athlete and didn’t do well in the outfield, so he manned first base almost exclusively as a pro, putting enormous pressure on his offensive profile.
Still, he did what was asked of him and what I wanted to see before I took him seriously as a prospect, the same way Cade Marlowe did this season.
No. 23 Alberto Rodriguez, OF
I’m probably a low man on Rodriguez…I just don’t see a real shot at an everyday guy, and he’s not the kind of all-around player that usually makes an optimal bench player.
He is a below average defender, although he throws well and has above average batting speed. He’ll draw enough steps, but as he tried to create more leverage he sacrificed some contact, and power hasn’t shown much since hitting .484 in 93 games at Modesto last season.
He will turn 22 in a few weeks, which suggests that 2023 is a big year for him. If he can make his way to Double-A — or earn his way there to start 2023 — and knock it there, I’ll have some confidence he can have some big league chops. But it’s all about the bat.
#40 Juan Then, RHP
Then missed most of 2022, but came back in August and is running 93-97 mph with a varied slider that lacks bats.
He’s only a reliever at this point for Then, but his AFL assignment is interesting as he’s on the club’s 40-player list but may not have much of a chance to see the majors in 2023. , suggesting that the club could present him for a trade during the winter.
No. 67 Jorge Benitez, LHP
Benitez is a bullpen southpaw with functional stuff, but has added some speed since his debut. He comes out with letdowns and movement, but there is fastball value, helping him set up average curveball and the occasional marginal average change.
He has been very good against left-handed hitters but struggles to manage against right-handers, a challenge he will face in the AFL.
No. 73 Spencer Packard, DE
Packard’s performance deserves more attention, but I stayed away from him because he’s 24 — 25 in three weeks — and hasn’t topped either stop in the middle of the season. There’s a fine line between being good and being a prospect when age and level match up that way.
That said, Packard makes contact, walks and. has power that projects above average. However, he’s probably a 40-grade corner fielder or first baseman, hence his low rating despite the numbers.
No. 84 Ty Adcock, RHP
Adcock was drafted in 2019 from Elon, a school the Mariners know very well – they signed a handful of their players, including George Kirby, and Double-A pitching coach Sean McGrath was pitching coach of the school in 2018. and 2019.
Adcock hit 98mph in college but underwent elbow surgery and suffered numerous setbacks on his way back. He’s made eight appearances in 2022 with mixed results, but the arm strength is apparent.
Prior to the operation, scouts believed in the relief that Adcock could find himself sitting at 97-100mph. He has a long way to go to get there, but his fastball-slider combo helped him miss bats early in his pro career. He’s in the AFL to continue to rebuild that arm strength and feel for his stuff.
Adcock could start next season as high as Arkansas.
NR José Caballero, IF
Caballero was acquired in the trade that sent right-hander Mike Leake to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s the classic definition of an organization player, which means he’s not really a prospect.
His strength appears to be strike zone judgment – a career .386 OBP – but he’s only played 225 games since being the D-Backs’ 7th round pick in 2017. He runs pretty well – above-average speed with some ability to read pitchers and steal bases, has the defensive chops to handle second and third, and has touched to the outfield where he has his feet to make it work.