SEATTLE -- While the Mariners have had a number of baseball's top prospects in recent years, most of those players have now either reached the Major League level or been traded. So when it comes to this year's Spring Training, the list of prospects competing for spots on the 25-man roster appears thin.
New general manager Jerry Dipoto is only inviting seven Minor League players who aren't on the 40-man roster to Major League camp -- a decidedly smaller number than recent years -- and that list doesn't include most of the team's highest-ranked prospects. Some other prospects -- which are defined by any player who still has his rookie eligibility -- are already on the 40-man roster and are automatically invited to camp.
In Part 3 of our Spring Training preview series, we look at a few of those prospects who will get a good look this spring:
RHP Tony Zych: Zych was such a fast riser last year that he wasn't even listed among the Mariners' Top 30 prospects on MLBPipeline.com, but the hard-throwing right-hander impressed everyone as a September callup (2.45 ERA and 1.091 WHIP with 24 strikeouts and just three walks in 18 1/3 innings over 13 outings). The 25-year-old appears the most likely of all the Mariners prospects to make the 25-man roster this spring as he's in the thick of the competition for a bullpen spot.
OF Boog Powell: Acquired from the Rays this offseason, the 23-year-old is No. 6 on the Mariners' Top 30 Prospect list, according to MLBPipeline.com, which makes him the highest-ranked player on that list who'll be at the Major League camp. Powell impressed Dipoto with his speed, athleticism and a .401 on-base percentage in four years in the A's and Rays systems. Though he'll likely open the year at Triple-A Tacoma, Powell figures in the mix for a backup outfield spot.
SS Tyler Smith: The club's No. 24 prospect on MLBPipeline.com, Smith received a non-roster invitation to camp in large part because of his .361 on-base percentage last year at Double-A Jackson, where he hit .271 in 121 games. An eighth-round Draft pick out of Oregon State in 2013, the 24-year-old is capable of playing second base as well.
RHP Jonathan Aro: Acquired from the Red Sox as part of the Wade Miley-Carson Smith trade, Aro is ranked as Seattle's No. 27 prospect and will get a shot to earn a berth in the bullpen. The 25-year-old Dominican was pitching at Class A just two years ago, but graduated quickly up the ranks for the Red Sox with a big year in 2015 and pitched six games in Boston bullpen's in two callups to the Majors.
LHP Paul Fry: The 23-year-old reliever received a non-roster invite after impressing the Mariners with a strong 2015 season split between High Class A Bakersfield and Double-A Jackson. A 2.03 ERA in 50 games was impressive, but what Dipoto likes most are the 113 strikeouts and just 24 walks in 80 innings. Southpaw relievers are always in demand, and Fry could be in the mix behind veterans Charlie Furbush and Vidal Nuno.
OF Dario Pizzano: A fifth-round pick by the Mariners out of Columbia University in 2012, the 24-year-old made the Southern League All-Star team for Double-A Jackson last year before missing the final two months with a hand injury. The Boston native hit .308 in 58 games before being sidelined, but what earned him a non-roster invitation to camp was his .366 on-base percentage and just 20 strikeouts in 221 at-bats.
LHP Danny Hultzen: You won't find the 2011 first-round Draft pick on any of the top prospect lists any longer after shoulder injuries wiped out most of his past three years. But Hultzen received a non-roster invite from the Mariners as they want to see if he can bounce back as a reliever after missing all of 2014 following rotator cuff surgery and pitching just eight innings in Double-A last year. If Hultzen proves healthy and can compete at the Minor League level, it would be a good step. And if he can somehow make the bigger jump and help the Mariners at some point, it would be a great story.