The future has come to Seattle — at least for the next few weeks. Tuesday, following Double-A Arkansas’ early exit from the Texas League playoffs, the Seattle Mariners opted to promote four more prospects for the rest of September.
Right-hander Justin Dunn, the organization’s No. 5 prospect who could join Seattle’s starting rotation full time as early as next season, outfielder Kyle Lewis (No. 10), right-handed reliever Art Warren (No. 26) and utility infielder Donnie Walton (No. 28) will each be available for the final 18 games of the season, beginning with Tuesday night’s homestand opener against the Reds.
“I’m happy for these guys,” Mariners manager Scott Servais said. “They came in with big smiles today. Big eyes. And they can’t wait to get going. So good for them.”
To make room for the four on the 40-man roster, Seattle designated rookie Ryan Court for assignment. With their addition, the Mariners’ active roster is now at 35 players.
Dunn offers the most immediate intrigue of the four call-ups. The 23-year-old, who will turn 24 days before the season ends, has swiftly climbed through the minors since he was drafted in the first round by the Mets in 2016.
He and top prospect Jarred Kelenic were the biggest pieces the Mariners received in the deal that sent Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz to the Mets last winter.
Dunn appeared in five spring training games for the Mariners before posting a 9-5 record and 3.55 ERA in 25 starts for the Travelers. He struck out 158 batters in 131 2/3 innings while walking 39, allowing a .236 batting average against and 13 homers.
With former ace Felix Hernandez in the final year of his contract and almost certainly parting ways with the organization at season’s end, and veterans Wade LeBlanc — who is now pitching out of the bullpen — and Tommy Milone also unlikely to return, Dunn could slot into Seattle’s rotation immediately in 2020.
There, he would join returning starters Marco Gonzales, Yusei Kikuchi, and Justus Sheffield, who was also promoted from Arkansas in August, and has made three starts since.
But, for the purposes of the next three weeks, Dunn’s usage will be limited, considering he is already at 130-plus innings for the season. His outings will probably last three innings or less, and he could appear in shorter starts, or out of the bullpen. He is scheduled to start as an opener of sorts for Milone Thursday against the Reds.
“It’s more for the experience,” Servais said of how the Mariners will use Dunn. “He’ll throw a bullpen between starts kind of like you would as a starting pitcher, but we’ll just control the amount of pitches and the innings he throws.”
Servais said he liked what he saw out of Dunn’s fastball and slider in the spring — his go-to pitches — but would like to see Dunn use his changeup quite a bit during this stint with the big-league club as well.
“I think all of the good starting pitchers in this league have three pitches,” Servais said. “Just kind of like what we’ve done with Sheffield, make sure he’s throwing all of his pitches. Don’t get so caught up in the scouting report or what’s going to get you through that one inning or one at-bat. You’ve got to trust all of your pitches. Hopefully that’s what we’ll see out of (Dunn).
“But, it’s been a really good year for him. I’ve heard great things. Not just about his performance on the field, but all of those guys, kind of how they’ve meshed together as a group in Arkansas. That’s why we’re excited about this group.”
Lewis is another prospect in Seattle’s organization who could break with the big-league club sooner rather than later. He was the first of the four prospects to appear in a game, making his MLB debut by starting Tuesday night in right field.
“He’s been playing a lot,” Servais said. “He had a good postseason over there with Arkansas. We’re a little short on outfielders, so there’s plenty of opportunity for him. He’s had a good season. He’s had a healthy season. That was the goal, for him to get through the whole year figuring some things out. Like a lot of young players, still got a ways to go in his development, but I’m excited.”
The Mariners’ top pick in the 2016 draft, the 24-year-old has missed substantial development time to injuries, but hit .407 in 13 spring training games for the Mariners before logging 122 games with Arkansas and slashing at .263/.342/.398 with 25 doubles, two triples, 11 homers and 62 RBIs.
He split his time with the Travelers this season pretty evenly between left field (49 games), center (36), and right (15), and is ultimately projected to be a regular in the Mariners’ outfield.
Warren, who was Arkansas’ closer this season, was drafted by Seattle in the 23rd round in 2015. Despite four IL stays during the past two seasons, the 26-year-old was efficient in 29 games for the Travelers in 2019, posting a 2-1 record and 1.71 ERA over 31 2/3 innings. He struck out 41 while walking 13 on his way to 15 saves.
“His stuff’s been really good,” Servais said. “Again, hopefully we’ll get him a soft landing the first couple times out there. Get his feet wet. But, excited to see him. ... A lot of fastball, and the velocity has been up, this year in particular. It’s 96-97. Real good slider. Slider’s kind of his go-to pitch.”
Walton, who is 25, was a fifth-round pick by the Mariners in 2016, and has spent the majority of his past two seasons with the Travelers, playing primarily shortstop (103 games this season) and second base (19 this season, 62 last season). He slashed at .300/.390/.427 with 22 doubles, three triples, 11 homers, 50 RBIs this season, and walked 63 times compared to 72 strikeouts.
“Donnie’s played primarily shortstop, but he can play second, or really anywhere you put him on the infield,” Servais said. “We’ll give him a chance. … Once J.P. (Crawford) gets back (from his hamstring injury), we want to play J.P. as much as we can, and Donnie will mix in.
“Donnie has had a really nice season. He’s has a very high baseball IQ. … He knows how to play, and that’s allowed him to get to this level. He understands what needs to get done over the course of a game. He’s kind of got some intangibles that winning players have.”
The Mariners have their starting rotation set for the remainder of the season, and it should stay the same during these final two homestands with a six-game road trip sandwiched in between. Here’s how it sets up for this homestand:
▪ Sheffield pitched Tuesday night against the Reds.
▪ Gonzales is scheduled to start Wednesday against the Reds.
▪ Dunn is scheduled to start Thursday against the Reds, with Milone coming on in relief.
▪ Kikuchi is scheduled start Friday against the White Sox.
▪ Hernandez is scheduled to start Saturday against the White Sox, in the first of likely two final appearances for the Mariners at T-Mobile Park.
▪ Sheffield is scheduled to start the homestand finale Wednesday against the White Sox.
▪ Crawford was out on the field early Tuesday afternoon with infielders coach Perry Hill running through drills. The hamstring feels better, Servais said, and the Mariners are optimistic the shortstop will play this weekend.
▪ Mitch Haniger continues to deal with back issues, and there is still no timetable for his return. With less than three weeks remaining, it seems unlikely he will play again for the Mariners this season.
▪ Jake Fraley had an MRI completed on his thumb Monday, but results were not available Tuesday afternoon. He was wearing a brace on his hand pregame.