The rise of the Seattle Mariners has coincided with the rise of homegrown players who have joined the organization during the current front office’s regime.
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Julio Rodríguez, George Kirby, Cal Raleigh and Logan Gilbert all played key roles on Seattle’s postseason drought-breaking 2022 squad, showing that the player development team under president of baseball operations Jerry Dipoto and general manager Justin Hollander has turned a corner since a decade ago when the Mariners struggled to see big prospects succeed at the MLB level.
Who will be the next homegrown players to join them on the M’s roster? Hollander shared his insight on the return of the Mariners Hot Stove last week on Seattle Sports 710 AM.
Rick Rizzs, who was co-hosting the show with fellow Mariners broadcaster Gary Hill, first asked Hollander about a group of talented pitchers on the cusp of the majors.
“What about an Emerson Hancock, a Bryce Miller, Taylor Dollard? How close are these kids? Because they’re gonna have a great opportunity to show what they can do at spring training,” Rizzs said.
Hollander had an additional name he wanted to include with that crew.
“They’re really close, and we are very high on all three of those guys that you mentioned,” he said, “(and) I would add Bryan Woo to that mix, as well. (Woo is) our sixth-round pick from a couple years ago who really burst his way onto the scene last year after coming back from Tommy John surgery, which he had had right before we drafted him. Those four guys in particular stood out. They’re pretty close.”
“I think you could see them all at some point this year depending on their development and our needs. They’re all a little bit different but I think they have a chance to really make an impact on this team, and that’s something we need to do. We need to cultivate our own pitching, we need to develop it, and that is a strength organizationally that we’ve shown over the years.”
Don’t mess with Bryan Woo 🤯
🔥 6.0 IP, 2H, 0R, 2BB, 11K 🔥 pic.twitter.com/ShMxRXKlA3
— Mariners Player Development (@MsPlayerDev) August 20, 2022
Hollander then spotlighted an area Seattle has enjoyed a lot of success in over recent years.
“It’s not just (that) we’ve happened to pick the right guys on draft day or signed them internationally, it’s not just because our pitching programs are developmentally strong,” he said. “It’s the marriage between those two groups, the way they communicate, the way they work together, the synergy between them has really been a strong point for our organization. And I think there’ll be more to come over the years because they do work so well together.”
Now what about position players in the Mariners farm system? Hollander’s answer to that question is probably a bit farther away from the big leagues than the pitchers he mentioned, but he may have a higher ceiling than all of them.
“One guy that I think you’ll start seeing really rise up prospect lists is our first-round pick from a couple of years ago, Harry Ford,” Hollander said.
The No. 12 overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, Ford is a uniquely athletic catcher who hit .274 with 11 home runs, 23 doubles, four triples and an .863 OPS for Single-A Modesto in 2022. He also stole 23 bases on 28 attempts , and Hollander is especially encouraged by how Ford did following a rocky first two months of the year.
“It’s hard to be better than Harry Ford was from June 1 on last year in the minor leagues. It’s hard to be a teenage catcher at a full-season affiliate your first year out. It took him a little time to find his footing, and he basically destroyed the league once he got to June 1 and found his footing – .450 on-base or something like that (editor’s note: Ford’s on-base percentage in 75 games from June 1 on last season was .446), there’s as many walks as strikeouts, he steals bases, he’s a good defensive catcher. He brings the whole suite that you’d be looking for on top of being just a crazy athlete.”
Ford is a pick of Hollander’s to turn heads in spring training so long as he gets the chance – he’ll be playing for Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic.
.@Mariners top prospect Harry Ford launched a homer in back-to-back games to lead Great Britain to another victory! pic.twitter.com/X2Sa9o6qgF
— World Baseball Classic (@WBCBaseball) September 17, 2022
Related: Top Mariners prospect Harry Ford lights up WBC qualifiers
“I hope we’ll see him a little bit this spring training,” Hollander said. “He’s going to play for the Great Britain team in the WBC, but if able to or if their time in the WBC tournament ends relatively early, I would expect that he would come join us in major league camp at that point, and I think everyone will get a glimpse of the things that Henry Ford can do. He’s really special.”
Catch the next Mariners Hot Stove live from 7-9 pm this Tuesday, Jan. 17 on Seattle Sports 710 AM. Listen to the full edition from last week in the podcasts at this link or in the players below. The conversation with Hollander is in Hour 1.
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