The Seattle Mariners traded former first-round pick Alex Jackson to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for two pitchers on Monday (Nov. 28). A report by MLB analyst Greg Johns confirmed the move, which appears to show that Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto is still trying to improve the starting rotation. Johns states that the "Mariners have traded 2015 first-round draft pick Alex Jackson to Braves for RHs Rob Whalen and Max Povse."
Jackson was the sixth overall selection in the 2014 MLB Draft, immediately reporting to the Arizona Rookie League once the Mariners made the pick. In three seasons in lower minor league baseball, Jackson posted a 0.233 batting average, 21 home runs, 109 RBIs, and 95 runs scored over 191 games.
In a recent breakdown of the top prospects in the Mariners organization, Alex Jackson ranked sixth overall. Below is a short snippet submitted from baseball scouts reviewing talent within the organization.
"Thought to be the best high school bat in the 2014 Draft class, and maybe the best overall hitter, Jackson's name was mentioned in conversations about the No. 1 overall pick. He ended up being the third hitter off the board, taken No. 6 overall by the Mariners, and signed for $4.2 million. He struggled with a full-season assignment to the Midwest League to start 2015, hitting just 0.157 in 28 games, but got back on track after a move down to Short Season Everett. The Mariners held him back in extended spring training in 2016, noting that he needed to mature both on and off the field, before finally assigning him to Class A Clinton in May."
Rob Whalen is a 22-year-old starting pitcher who debuted with the Atlanta Braves during the 2016 MLB season. He started six games for the team, posting a 6.57 ERA and 1.297 WHIP over 24 2/3 innings of work. Up to that point in the season, Whalen also started 21 games across Double-A and Triple-A for the Braves. He posted a 2.40 ERA, 1.192 WHIP, and 112 strikeouts over 120 innings of work.
Max Povse spent the 2016 season in High-A and then Double-A for the Braves. The 22-year-old pitcher started 26 games, posting a 3.36 ERA and 1.133 WHIP over 158 innings of work. Povse also had 139 strikeouts and a 9-6 record during his time at the minor league levels.
This deal makes it very clear that Jerry Dipoto was looking to add pitching depth to the organization and that he felt Whalen and Povse could immediately provide just that. Though this Seattle Mariners trade might not include some of the big-name starting pitchers who are getting shopped around the league, it certainly gives the minor league system two big arms that could be pitching in Safeco Field very soon.
In a recent ranking of the top Atlanta Braves prospects, Max Povse was No. 20 in the system. Scouts thought highly of the pitchers early on, leading to him becoming a third-round pick of the 2014 draft. The scouting report on Povse reads as follows,
"More athletic than you'd think given his gangly frame, Povse fields his position well and repeats his delivery better than you might expect, giving him the chance to be a back-end rotation guy in the future."Rob Whalen ranked No. 22 in the system for the Braves. Acquired through a trade with the New York Mets, he is known for having a good curveball. What follows is the scout outlook on Whalen.
"Whalen has a bulldog mentality on the mound, and he had that approach during the offseason as he rehabbed from knee surgery. That allowed him to get back on track towards developing into a solid No. 4 type starter, showing he was ready for the upper levels of the Minors with his combination of deception, feel for pitching and command."Though Rob Whalen and Max Povse are relatively young, they could receive invites to Spring Training with an outside shot at making the starting rotation. If Jerry Dipoto plans to take the slow approach to both pitchers, they could end up beginning the 2017 season with the Tacoma Rainiers. There may also be more Seattle Mariners trades in the forecast if Dipoto wants to acquire a veteran else who will battle for a spot in the starting rotation.
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