The latest edition of ESPN’s MLB Future Power Rankings was hard on the Seattle Mariners.
According to Dan Szymborski, the Mariners ranked 25th out of 30 major-league teams.
The story, which is behind the ESPN Insider paywall, attempted to determine “how well each team is set up for sustained success over the next five years.”
Szymborski used a formula that weighed current talent (25 percent), future talent (45 percent), financial support (20 percent) and the front office (10 percent) to determine an overall score. Each club was ranked from 1-30 in each category, then its score was weighed. For instance, a perfect score across all four categories would be a 30.
Current talent was based on projected performance through 2017, while future talent captured projected performance from 2018 onward.
The No. 1-ranked Chicago Cubs almost earned a perfect score, settling for a 29.0 thanks to being ranked No. 1 in current talent, future talent and front office. They ranked sixth in financial support, but their best projected season is 2016, so I guess that bodes well for baseball fans on Chicago’s North side.
Szymborski was less effusive in his praise of the Mariners, who came in at 25th (9.7), one spot behind the 24th-ranked Kansas City Royals (9.7), but in front of the Los Angeles Angels (8.8) and Oakland Athletics (8.7), who came in at 26th and 27th, respectively. Future talent served as the tiebreaker, which is why the Royals edged the Mariners. Among American League West teams, the Texas Rangers led the way at eighth (22.5) and the Houston Astros were behind them at 11th (18.3).
The Mariners ranked 16th in current talent, 30th in future talent, 12th in financial support and 14th among front offices. Like the Cubs, their best projected season is 2016. Meanwhile, third baseman Kyle Seager is their most valuable asset and second baseman Robinson Cano gets the nod for “worst contract.”
“Some of the things necessary to get Seattle back into contention have happened in 2016,” Szymborski writes. “Most notably, Robinson Cano is playing like Robinson Cano — the end of that contract still looks terrible, but at least he’s a star contributor again. Unfortunately for the Mariners, some other things didn’t happen. Hisashi Iwakuma isn’t having a bounce-back season, Taijuan Walker remains inconsistent and Wade Miley hasn’t been an upgrade on Roenis Elias.
GM Jerry Dipoto isn’t responsible for the long-term issues of the team, only joining the franchise recently, but he still has to deal with the issues. The team’s farm system is very weak and, though the team spends more money than in the days of George Argyros and Jeff Smulyan, the Mariners are still not high rollers. There’s enough here to compete in 2016, but to build a consistent contender will take time and imagination.”
No doubt the Mariners’ farm system, which Baseball America and ESPN ranked 28th entering the season, had a lot to do with Seattle ranking last in future talent. But Baseball America dubbed that farm system No. 2 as recently as 2013, so feel free to be skeptical. The top five prospects that year, in order, were right-hander Taijuan Walker, catcher Mike Zunino, left-handers Danny Hultzen and James Paxton and infielder Nick Franklin.
Walker has yet to prove he can stay healthy through an entire season, Zunino has yet to prove he can hit big-league pitching, Hultzen has never made it past Triple-A because of a myriad of shoulder issues and Franklin, now with the Rays, is a career .205 hitter in parts of four big-league seasons.
This stuff isn’t as always predictable.
In 2016, the Mariners have received an unexpected contribution from reliever Edwin Diaz, who started the season in Double-A Jackson but used moving to the bullpen and a 100 mile-per-hour fastball as an avenue to leapfrog to the big leagues. Also consider prospect D.J. Peterson, who was approaching first-round bust territory by the end of April before catching fire at the plate and earning a promotion this week to Triple-A Tacoma.
It’s tough to find issues with ESPN’s rankings or assertions. If anything, Miley (6-4, 5.58 ERA) has been a downgrade over what Elias (5-8. 4.14 ERA) provided the rotation last season. The Mariners are tied with the Chicago White Sox for the 16th best record in the big leagues, at 40-39. According to Spotrac.com, they have the 12th highest payroll in MLB at about $150 million. ESPN ranks them 12th in financial support.
Dipoto and Co. probably deserve better than 14th, but Szymborski himself noted that the front office evaluation process was subjective, so it weighs less.
What do you think? Were the Mariners unfairly labeled? Feel free to weigh in in our comments section.