If you follow the Mariners at all, by now you’ve realized that outfield has become a position of…how do I put this…unpredictability. Although, I do love what Haniger and Dyson bring to the table, I’m not quite sold on Guillermo Heredia or Ben Gamel. I’m a firm believer that neither are the long term solution.
That’s where Tyler O’Neill comes into play.
After being taken in the third round of the 2013 amateur draft, O’Neill has done nothing but rake. And strikeout. But mainly, rake.
In his first season of rookie ball in 2013, O’Neill hit an impressive .310 with 15 RBI in 28 games. He’s been blazing a trail through the minors ever since. In fact, he has been bumped up to the next level every year since he was drafted.
Now, before we get in to the good aspects of his game, I mentioned he has a tendency to strikeout. Although he is a bit of a free swinger, he has actually improved his K% every year since A ball.
- 2014 Mariners (A): 32.2%
- 2015 Mariners (A+): 30.5%
- 2016 Mariners (AA): 26.1%
- 2017 Mariners (AAA): 26.8%
Early on this season he seems to have hit a bit of a plateau, but the marked improvement he has shown each year, despite facing stiffer competition, is an encouraging sign. If he can find a way to get that number down to around the 20-22% mark, O’Neill has the power and speed combo that not many major leaguers possess.
At just 21 years old, O’Neill has plenty of time to work on his plate vision and contact.
Now for the good.
The power and speed combo I mentioned before, well, it’s the real deal. In 2015, O’Neill hit 32 bombs and stole 16 bases in only 106 games. He followed that up in 2016 by hitting .293, 24 dingers, stealing 12 bases and knocking in 102 runs.
Think of him as a faster, more powerful Mitch Haniger.
With an impressive 14.9% HR/FB ratio last season, much of O’Neill’s power comes from his ability to pull the ball with authority. At 5’11” 210 lbs, he may not be the biggest player but the force he generates is quite impressive.
Just ask Clayton Kershaw:
Him being largely a pull hitter will cause some struggles in the majors once teams adjust and start shifting their defense. O’Neill seems to be trying to work on that trend, though. He has struggled a bit this season (53% pull rate) but last season he was down to a career best 43% pull rate with 30.9% going to center.
Not only that, he also has the ability to play every position in the outfield and his defense is major league ready. Evident by his 4 errors in 937.2 innings in 2016.
Don’t put too much stock into this season’s underwhelming numbers so far. He is currently hitting .202, 3 HR, 11 RBI and has 4 stolen bases through the first 33 games. His .256 BABIP on the other hand suggests that he has been a bit unlucky. Over the course of a full seasons worth of at bats, and with the current numbers he has put up, another season of 20 HR and 15 SB is easily obtainable.
The chances of seeing O’Neill be called up this year are slim, unless he gets the call in September. With the young talent that the Mariners are currently putting out there, I fully expect them to try and give O’Neill as much time to mature in the minors as possible.
Next season, though, watch for the Mariners #2 prospect to make a strong case to be a starter on opening day. He, along with Haniger and Dyson, would make a scary trio patrolling the outfield grass in Safeco.
All stats are courtesy of Fangraphs.