TDG’S Triple Play: Seattle Mariners!
The Triple Play is back for a fourth season! This regular feature is broken down by writer Phil Barrington. He joined by a rotating panel of some of the best Dynasty Baseball writers in the business. If you’re new to the Triple Play, this series breaks down an arm, a bat, and a prospect within each organization for your reading pleasure!
Logan Gilbert, Age: 24, Position: SP
Analysis by: Phil Barrington
“I’m The Best There Is at What I Do, But What I Do Best Isn’t Very Nice.”
Right-hander Logan Gilbert made his major league debut this season, less than three years after being drafted 14th overall back in 2018. Coming out of Stetson University in Central Florida, which also matriculated a couple of decent pitchers in Jacob deGrom and Corey Kluber, Gilbert improved every season, with a senior-year stat line of 11 wins, two losses in 16 starts with a 2.72 ERA and 163 strikeouts in 112.1 innings pitched. That led the M’s to select him in the first round and then promote him aggressively.
“Patience isn’t my Strongest Suit”
Back on May 15th, Gilbert (along with top-five prospect Jarred Kelenic) debuted for the Mariners, signaling the future is now for the franchise. In fact, Gilbert only made one five-inning start at Triple-A before the call-up (where he out-dueled top prosect MacKenzie Gore). He only has pitched 130 innings in the minors, 125 of those innings coming in 2019 as he rose from Low-A to High-A to Double-A. Then 2020 happened and he spent the season at the alternate site, where the reports solidified him as the Mariners’ top pitching prospect.
“This isn’t training anymore, guys. This is the real deal.”
While he is running out of gas, and the Mariners are being cautious with him, Gilbert has not pitched more than five innings since August 10th. His ERA (as of this writing) is an ugly 5.10, but a FIP of 3.96 and xFIP of 4.03 show he has been better than that. Gilbert has given up home runs at double the rate he did in the minors, which should improve with experience. We are looking at a pitcher who, in his rookie year, is showcasing a very solid underlying set of skills, all the best to build on in upcoming seasons.
My favorite attribute of Gilbert’s is his lack of walks. When I examine minor league pitchers, and look who to add to my dynasty rosters, low BB/9 is at the top of the list. High strikeout rates are also good, but a guy with high strikeouts and high walks is more common than a guy with low walk rates, and the is where Gilbert excels. So far in 2021 he has a 1.98 BB/9, good for top 8% in all of MLB. He also has a solid strikeout rate of 10.01, which puts him in the top third of qualified major league pitchers.
“Your best is enough. Trust me.”
The six-foot-six Gilbert was given a 55 future grade as a prospect, which typically equates to a number three starter. But I am looking at him as a number two, as he has improved his fastball speed from college, and can touch 97 on occasion, to go along with three other supporting pitches: a slider, curveball and changeup. With a good pitch mix, a solid fastball that he throws more than 60% of the time, the ability to go later into games, and that sweet low walk rate, Gilbert is a target I will try to acquire on as many dynasty teams as possible this offseason. In your league, maybe his current manager only saw the overall stat line and the rough ERA and is ready to take an offer. Send out feelers, and if the price is right, pounce.
Ty France, Age: 27, Position: 1B/2B/3B
Analysis by: Aaron Cumming
Ty France is a professional hitter. That’s both his literal job description and also an appropriate assessment of his game. The San Diego State product never got good marks for his fielding or running, but the dude can hit. You’d be hard-pressed to call a 34th round selection a highly-touted prospect, but he made a splash… no, waves… no, a monsoon with his 2019 Triple-A performance. That season put his bat on everybody’s radar, and his major league performance has quietly lived up to the hype.
Ty One On
Twenty-seven home runs, 83 runs, and 89 RBIs. That’s a pretty solid season. A respectable contribution over the course of a full year. Well, that’s what France put up in just 76 games in Triple-A in 2019. He had a slash line of .399/.477/.770 (yes, that’s a .770 slugging percentage) during that stretch. He unsurprisingly won his league’s MVP and Triple-A Player of the Year honors despite less playing time than most of his competition.
France never got into a rhythm in the majors during his callups that year. He certainly hasn’t duplicated the ridiculous stats that came out of his time in the offensive haven of the PCL since then, but he’s been an excellent hitter in both 2020 and 2021. Split between the Padres and Mariners last season, he put up a solid .305/.368/.468 line, good for a 132 wRC+.
This season has had a very clear narrative for France. On April 19th, he was hit by a pitch in the wrist. He tried playing through it for a few weeks before hitting the IL. Prior to getting hit by the pitch, he had a .936 OPS; while playing through the injury, he had a .491 OPS; since his return from the IL, he’s posted a .850 OPS. When healthy, he has been one of the best hitters in baseball. Since the All-Star break, he ranks 16th in all of baseball with a 150 wRC+.
The one knock against France has been the fact that he doesn’t have a defensive position. That seemed to change when Evan White went down with an injury and Ty took over first base duties. France currently leads all AL first basemen with seven defensive runs saved, and seems primed to keep this role even when White returns next year.
The inimitable Bob Cyphers said before this season that if France could get his strikeout rate down to his minor league career norm of sub-20%, we could see a breakout. Sitting 17.3% right now, we are seeing just that. The power may not fully present itself like his magical 2019, but he’s got decent pop, a good approach, and excellent contact skills. He harkens back to a time when that profile fit well with first basemen, starting his career off similarly to one of my all-time favorite players, Mr. Marlin himself, Jeff Conine. If we can get 18-22 home runs to go with a .290+ average year in and year out, I’ll be first in line for Ty France in dynasty formats.
Matt Brash, Age: 23, Position: SP, Level: Double-A
Analysis by: Ben Sanders
Matt Brash was not on the prospect radar a year ago. He was a 2019 fourth-round pick with just 5.1 innings under his belt, best known as the player to be named later in a minor trade. The Mariners received from him the Padres in exchange for MLB reliever Taylor Williams, also a relative unknown.
That deal looks pretty good for the Mariners right now. San Diego recently waived Williams, and Brash looks like an entirely different pitcher. His fastball velocity has increased significantly, even touching triple digits at times after sitting in the low 90s at Niagara University. That’s made his other pitches more effective, particularly his plus slider.
The statistical results are impressive. Brash posted a 2.25 ERA in 42.1 High-A innings, striking out just over a third of the batters he faced. He’s been even better since getting promoted to Double-A, where he has a 2.01 ERA and 0.89 WHIP in 49.1 innings. He increased his K-rate to 37.8% while dropping his problematic 13.7% walk rate to a more palatable 9.7%.
Hey, watch this!
I’m a numbers guy. I learn a lot more about players by dissecting their Fangraphs or Baseball Savant pages than I do by watching them play. I enjoy checking out GIFs from @PitchingNinja on Twitter as much as anyone, but if I start using them to make fantasy baseball decisions, soon all my teams have Jose Alvarado on them and are in last place in WHIP.
With that disclaimer out of the way, Brash’s stuff is still worth checking out:
Matt Brash’s Disgusting Stuff. ?— Rob Friedman (@PitchingNinja) September 3, 2021
What in the name of Kerry Wood is this Filth? pic.twitter.com/QuORpXkHuM
Pitching takes patience
Brash has established himself as a legitimate prospect who should be rostered in all but the shallowest dynasty leagues. He could reach MLB next season and crack the rotation of a rising contender that plays in a pitcher-friendly park.
There are plenty of reasons to be cautious though. Brash only has about 100 innings under his belt, and I’ve seen several scouting reports that still view him as a reliever long-term, albeit a very good one. His fastball and slider are great, but two plus offerings do not make an ace. Like many prospects, he’ll need to continue to diversify his arsenal and improve his command to make it as a starter.
My dynasty experience has taught me not to expect too much too soon from young arms. Brash is worth to adding to your roster for the upside, but I wouldn’t pencil him in to your 2022 rotation. Expect some growing pains and know the risk is high.
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