The AFL isn’t what it used to be; the time is often used to get reps for players that have been out due to injury, or to challenge players of somewhat advanced ages versus better competition.
Here are the Mariners’ nine, my org ranking for each player, and some thoughts on their assignment.
No. 13 Bryan Woo, RHP
Woo was the club’s 6th-round pick in 2021, but did not debut until this summer due to UCL surgery. He entered pro ball with a prevailing projection to the bullpen, but has shown some starter traits in his 16 starts, including fringe-average control and three pitches.
Woo’s fastball has sat 93-95 mph, touching 97 with a below-average slider with some projection and a changeup that has flashed average. What scouts like most about Woo is his athleticism and the chance his command and control land above average.
He’s 22 and has shown a feel for working the zone. The floor here is a high-leverage multi-inning reliever with three ways to get outs.
No. 19 Adam Macko, LHP
Macko has been on the radar for a few years, and injury has robbed him of a lot of time (knee in 2022). When I saw him in Everett he was 89-92 mph with a loopy curveball and below-average… everything, but he’s been up to 96 in a starting role and there’s hop on the fastball and a chance at two average or better breaking balls, led by a curveball that has flashed plus.
He’ll have to find a way to throw a lot more strikes and at some point has to build a healthy track 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 versus more experienced hitters, a good litmus test heading into a really big year for him as a potential future major leaguers. After health, there are reliever considerations here for a multitiude of reasons.
No. 20 Robert Perez Jr., 1B
Perez, 22, finally did something I’ve been wanting to see for a few seasons now: get to High-A and rake.
He first showed up on the radar back in 2019 when, as a 19-year-old, showed some maturity and hitting feel when he filled in for Triple-A Tacoma and was unfazed by his lack of experience (.250/.304/.469).
But since then he’d stalled in short-season and low-A ball — hitting, but not exactly mashing, until he stepped it up this season.
After a .270/.369/.501, 20 HR performance in 92 games repeating his time in Modesto, Perez has hit .342/.477/.583 with the AquaSox in 35 games. He’s actually improved his walk and strikeout rates, and his swing adjustments prior to the season have helped him sustain power and contact.
Perez is a legit prospect, though his future role is unclear; he’s not a great athlete and has not fared well in the outfield, so he’s been manning first base almost exclusively as a pro, putting tons of pressure on his offensive profile.
Still, hes done what was asked of him, and what I wanted to see before taking him seriously as a prospect, very similarly to the way Cade Marlowe has done this season.
No. 23 Alberto Rodriguez, OF
I am probably low-man on Rodriguez… I just don’t see a real shot at an everyday guy, and he’s not the kind of complete player that generally makes for an optimal bench player.
He’s a below-average defender, though he does throw well, and he possesses above-average bat speed. He’ll draw enough walks, but as he’s attempted to create more leverage he’s sacrificed a bit contact, and the power hasn’t shown up much since he slugged .484 in 93 games in Modesto last season.
He’ll be 22 in a few weeks, suggesting 2023 is a big year for him. If he can hit his way to Double-A — or earn his way there to start 2023 — and hit there, I’ll have some confidence he may have big-league chops. But it’s all about the bat.
No. 40 Juan Then, RHP
Then missed most of 2022, but returned in August and is throwing 93-97 mph with a varied slider that misses bats.
It’s reliever-only at this point for Then, but his assignment in the AFL is interesting because e’s on the club’s 40-man roster yet may not have much of a chance to see the majors in 2023, suggesting the club could be showcasing him for a trade over the winter.
No. 67 Jorge Benitez, LHP
Benitez is a bullpen lefty with functional stuff, but has added a bit of velocity from his starting days. He gets outs with deceptions and movement, but there is fastball value, helping him set up an average curveball and occasional fringe-average changeup.
He’s been very good versus left-handed batters, but struggles to manage versus righties, a challenge he’ll meet in the AFL.
No. 73 Spencer Packard, OF
Packard’s performance warrants more attention, but I’ve stayed off him because h’s 24 — 25 in three weeks — and hasn’t dominated in either stop in full-season ball. There’s a fine line between being good, and being a prospect when the age and level match up that way.
Having said that, Packard makes contact, walks, and. has power that projects to above average. He’s probably a 40-grade corner outfielder or first baseman, however, hence his low ranking despite the numbers.
No. 84 Ty Adcock, RHP
Adcock was a 2019 draftee out of Elon, a school the Mariners are very familiar with — they’ve drafted a handful of their players, including George Kirby, and the Double-A pitching coach, Sean McGrath, was the school’s pitching coach in 2018 and 2019.
Adcock ws up to 98 mph in college, but had elbow surgery and had numerous setbacks during his return path. He’s made eight appearances in 2022 with mixed results, but the arm strength is apparent.
Prior to the surgery, scouts believed in relief Adcock could end up sitting 97-100 mph. He has a ways to go to get there, but his fastball-slider combo has helped him miss bats int he early stages of his pro career. He’s in the AFL to keep building back that arm strength and the feel for his stuff.
Adcock could start next season as high as Arkansas.
NR Jose Caballero, IF
Caballero was acquired in the trade that sent right-hander Mike Leake to the Arizona Diamondbacks. He’s the textbook definition of an org player, meaning he’s not really a prospect.
His strength appears to be strike zone judgment — a career .386 OBP — but he’s played just 225 games since he was the D-Backs’ 7th-round pick in 2017. He does run fairly well — above-average speed with some ability to read pitchers and steals some bases, has the defensive chops to handle second and third, and has dabbled in the outfield where he has the feet to make it work.
Jason A. Churchill
Find Jason’s baseball podcast, Baseball Things, right here.