That outfielder Tyler O’Neill ranked among the Southern League’s top prospects, according to Baseball America, is no surprise. He nearly won the triple crown, and the Mariners cited him as their minor-league hitter of the year.
That nobody else from Double-A Jackson made the magazine’s Top 20 list suggests manager Daren Brown did a phenomenal job, and that the new player-development philosophy under farm director Andy McKay worked wonders.
The Generals posted the league’s best record and matched a franchise record for victories in finishing 84-55, then rolled through the postseason by losing just one game while ousting Montgomery (Rays) and sweeping Mississippi (Braves).
Prospect potential doesn’t always correlate to on-field success, but it’s worth noting that Baseball America believed Mississippi and Montgomery each had five of the league’s Top 20 prospects.
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O’Neill, 21, was ranked as the No. 4 prospect after hitting 24 homers and driving in 102 runs while compiling a .293/.374/.508 slash (batting average/on-base percentage/slugging percentage).
“Managers marveled at his ability to make the ball disappear in a hurry to any part of the park with incredible raw power,” the magazine noted.
Among those overlooked was closer Dan Altavilla, who compiled a 1.91 ERA with 16 saves in 43 games while striking out 65 in 56 2/3 innings prior to an Aug. 27 promotion to the big leagues, where he had an 0.93 ERA in 15 games.
Another omission: left-handed starter Ryan Yarbrough, who was picked as the Southern League’s pitcher of the year after going 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 25 starts.
Right-hander Andrew Moore was previously picked as the No. 11 prospect in the Hi-A California League, but he spent most of his season at Jackson, where he was 9-3 with a 3.16 ERA in 19 starts.
Mariners closer Edwin Diaz opened the season at Jackson and, presumably, did not spend sufficient time with the Generals to be qualify, although his promotion to the majors came later than Moore’s promotion from Bakersfield.
O’Neill is the seventh Mariners’ prospect cited thus far by Baseball America in its annual rankings. The magazine has not yet posted its list for the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
Previous selections: Moore and shortstop Drew Jackson (No. 15) in the Cal League; left-hander Luiz Gohara (11) in the Lo-A Midwest League; outfielder Kyle Lewis (2) and infielder Bryson Brigman (15) in the Short-A Northwest League; and third baseman Joe Rizzo (17) in the Arizona Rookie League.
Right-hander Kevin Gadea made his winter debut by allowing just one hit in five scoreless innings in Aragua’s 9-1 victory over Lara in the Venezuelan League.
Gadea, 21, was a combined 4-1 with a 2.36 ERA this season in 15 games at Rookie Peoria and Lo-A Clinton. He also had 95 strikeouts and 14 walks in 68 2/3 innings.
The Mariners signed Gadea, a 6-foot-5 Nicaraguan native, in 2012 as a 17-year-old.
ARIZONA FALL LEAGUE OPENS
Outfielder Tyler O’Neill looks to continue his breakout season Tuesday when the Arizona Fall League begins play. O’Neill is one of eight Mariners prospects on the Peoria Javelinas, who play Tuesday at Salt River Fields in Scottsdale.
Outfielder Guillermo Heredia, who closed the season in the big leagues, is also on the Javelinas’ roster as a taxi-squad player, which limits his participation to Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Others on the Javelinas: pitchers Luiz Gohara, Emilio Pagan, Dylan Unsworth and Thyago Vieira; catcher Tyler Marlette, and shortstop Drew Jackson. The Arizona Fall League runs through Nov. 19.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners