And while this isn’t surprising news after his 2016 to remember, it’s important to note.
O’Neill earned so many accolades that it’s exhausting to mention them all, but for the sake of emphasizing his epic year, here is what O’Neill accomplished in 2016:
He was a Southern League Mid-Season All-Star, a Futures Game selection, the Southern League Most Valuable Player, a Southern League Post-Season All-Star, a Baseball Writer Association of America (BBWAA) All-Star, a BBWAA Double-A All-Star, the Southern League Championship MVP, an Arizona Fall League (AFL) Rising Star selection and an AFL All-Star selection
How could someone who achieved so much not be selected for spring training?
And not that this is a completely fair comparison because the talent gap between Double-A ball and the majors is pretty significant, but O’Neill hit twenty-four home runs for the Jackson Generals while starting Mariners outfielders, Leonys Martin and Seth Smith combined for thirty-one long bombs.
He also almost bested the pair in RBIs as well. Smith and Martin produced one hundred and ten RBI, while O’Neill drove in one hundred and two men by himself.
But, if O’Neill continued to shine at spring training, where would he fit into the Mariners lineup?
His primary position of right field is already jam-packed. On the current depth chart, the Mariners have Smith, top prospect, Mitch Haniger, Utilityman, Danny Valencia and part-time designated hitter, Nelson Cruz lined up to play that spot.
He could most likely skip over the four other budding stars penciled in at left (O’Neill’s secondary position).
Although GM Jerry Dipoto wants to give playing time to Ben Gamel, Guillermo Heredia and newly acquired, Taylor Motter, if O’Neill outshines them in spring ball, then expect O’Neill to see playing time in left field.
There is still so much time between now and then, though. Anything can happen in this league, so maybe we shouldn’t get too excited by this news, even though it is a sign that we are closer to see O’Neill’s much-anticipated big league debut.