Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects
Index of Top 10 Prospects for all 30 Major League Teams
By James Bailey
1. Ryan Anderson, lhp
Age: 21. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 6-11. Wt.: 215. Drafted: HS--Dearborn, Mich., 1997 (1st round). Signed by: Ken Madeja.
Background: When Anderson began the 2000 season by dominating the Pacific Coast League in his first few starts, the clamor began for the Mariners to call him up Interstate 5. The Mariners resisted the urge, sticking with the preseason plan of letting the Space Needle spend at least half a season in Triple-A. They were proven correct, as the consistency Anderson has searched for since signing remained out of his grasp. His struggles may have been for the best, as pressure to promote the young man who has been the No. 1 prospect in the organization since signing waned. Anderson was shelved late in the season by shoulder tendinitis, which cost him a chance to pitch for the U.S. Olympic team. He returned to make one start at the end of the year for Tacoma and showed his mid-90s fastball was back.
Strengths: When everything is clicking, Anderson works comfortably in the 94-97 mph range and mixes in a slider that should become a plus major league pitch. His changeup is an effective third pitch. He has the stuff to dominate, and many feel its only a matter of time before he joins the elite group of legitimate No. 1 starters. Though he still walked more than a batter every two innings, his control took a step forward. He also has made tremendous strides off the field. The immaturity that dogged him earlier in his career is a footnote.
Weaknesses: Anderson has yet to string together the season the Mariners know hes capable of. He follows Randy Johnson-like performances with back-to-back disappointing outings. Thats how a pitcher with his repertoire can own a 20-26 career record. He went through three different deliveries at Double-A New Haven in 1999 and still hasnt mastered the more compact motion that will take him to the next level. When his mechanics get off he loses velocity, falls behind hitters and throws too many pitches. He needs to consistently last longer than five or six innings.
The Future: After taking the winter off, Anderson will go to spring training for the first time with a legitimate shot at a major league job. Seattles big league depth will allow the club to be patient, but there will be many in the organization rooting for him to push his way into the rotation.
2. Ichiro Suzuki, of
Age: 27. B-T: L-R. Ht.: 6-0. Wt.: 160. Signed: Japan, 2000. Signed by: Pat Gillick/Jim Colborn.
Background: Known by the single-name moniker of Ichiro in his homeland, he is the seven-time defending batting champion in Japans Pacific League. He attended spring training with the Mariners in 1999, and when the Orix Blue Wave posted him for auction to major league teams, Seattle bid $13.125 million for the right to sign him, then inked him to a three-year, $22 million deal.
Strengths: Ichiro has been compared to Wade Boggs and Tony Gwynn as a hitter because he rarely strikes out and he uses the entire field. Some scouts believe hell contend for the American League batting crown right away. He runs well and has the speed and ability to play center field or either of the corners. He owns an accurate arm that plays well, even in right field.
Weaknesses: The biggest knock on Ichiro has been a lack of power, but like Boggs and Gwynn, he may have the ability to hit for more power at the expense of some batting average.
The Future: With Mike Cameron in center, the Mariners will play Ichiro in right field. He should provide the spark from the leadoff spot the team has lacked for years.
3. Antonio Perez, ss
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1998. Signed by: Johnny Almaraz (Reds).
Background: When the Mariners finally pulled the trigger on the Ken Griffey deal with the Reds last February, Perez was viewed as a consolation prize because Gookie Dawkins and other Reds prospects couldnt be had. After leading the high Class A California League in slugging percentage in a breakout 2000 season, he looks more like the key to the deal.
Strengths: Perez is an exciting player who can do at least a little bit of everything. Hes a strong-armed defender with good range at shortstop, and he can fly on the bases. What sets him apart is what he can do at the plate. He wont hit a lot of home runs, but he should continue to drive the ball into the gaps.
Weaknesses: At times Perez gets into a pull mode and fails to use the whole field. As with many young players, its a matter of not concentrating consistently. He still hasnt figured out basestealing, as he was caught on 16 of his 44 attempts in 2000.
The Future: Perez is still at least a year away from Seattle, but at his age there is no reason to rush him. He wont be another Alex Rodriguez, but he can be an all-star once hes established in the majors.
4. Joel Pineiro, rhp
Age: 22. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Edison (Fla.) CC, 1997 (12th round). Signed by: Fernando Arguelles.
Background: The Mariners were cautious with Pineiro coming into the 2000 season after he lost velocity off his fastball the previous year. He returned to Double-A and soon showed he was at full strength and ready to move on. He performed even better at Triple-A Tacoma, stringing together 19 consecutive shutout innings, and was summoned to Seattle in August. He picked up a win in his major league debut, holding the White Sox to two runs over six innings.
Strengths: Pineiro has good command of four pitches, with a fastball that touches above-average. His curveball has a chance to be a plus pitch, and hell mix in a slider and changeup. He has always shown a good feel for pitching.
Weaknesses: Control, normally a strong suit, proved troublesome for Pineiro in Seattle. Perhaps it was an adjustment to working out of the bullpen, but he has to show he can throw strikes in the big leagues.
The Future: Pineiros role depends upon the makeup of the big league club. Hes likely to continue breaking in as a reliever, though his future will be in the rotation. He might need more time in Tacoma.
5. Chris Snelling, of
Age: 19. B-T: L-L. Ht.: 5-10. Wt.: 165. Signed: Australia, 1999. Signed by: Jim Colborn.
Background: Snelling signed as an underdeveloped 17-year-old, but he soon convinced the Mariners they had an Australian Lenny Dykstra on their hands. He was second in the Class A Midwest League with a .342 average when he broke his hand and injured his wrist diving into an outfield wall. He wasnt at full strength when he came back at the end of the season and played on the Australian Olympic team, along with Wisconsin teammate Craig Anderson.
Strengths: Snellings hustle and all-out play have become his trademark. The Mariners love his attitude and knack for getting the fat part of the bat on the ball. For such an aggressive player, he knows when to be patient at the plate and has more walks than strikeouts as a pro. He runs well and is a solid defender in center field.
Weaknesses: Theres nothing that stands out as a deficiency in Snellings game. He may learn in time that curbing his aggression might keep him healthier and in the lineup.
The Future: Snelling could develop into an exciting leadoff hitter, though his bat control would be valuable anywhere in the order. He should open 2001 at high Class A Lancaster.
6. Jeff Heaverlo, rhp
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Washington, 1999 (1st round supplemental). Signed by: Phil Geisler.
Background: The son of former Mariners reliever Dave Heaverlo, Jeff grew up in Moses Lake, Wash., and played his college ball in Seattle. In his first full pro season, he won his first three starts and struck out 24 hitters in 16 innings. It got tougher after that, but Heaverlo held his own in a hitters league.
Strengths: Heaverlo owns the best slider in the organization and one of the best in the minors. Having grown up around the game, he knows how to pitch and mixes his breaking ball with two-seam and four-seam fastballs. His maturity allowed the Mariners to jump him to Tacoma when they needed a fill-in starter late in the season.
Weaknesses: Heaverlos changeup is still in the developmental stages. He doesnt throw exceptionally hard and projects as a middle-of-the-rotation starter because of his velocity.
The Future: Despite his gaudy record, Heaverlo was hardly dominant in the Cal League. In another organization he might move more quickly, but the Mariners are deep and he should spend most of the 2001 season at Double-A San Antonio.
7. Willie Bloomquist, 2b
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Drafted: Arizona State, 1999 (3rd round). Signed by: Rodney Davis.
Background: Bloomquist spent nearly all of spring training in big league camp despite having never played above short-season ball. He led the Cal League with a .379 average when he was called to help out at Tacoma because the Mariners didnt want to disrupt Jermaine Clark in Double-A.
Strengths: If makeup were a tool, Bloomquist would grade out with a top-of-the-line 80. Hes a gamer who helps his club win by doing all the little things that dont show up in the box score. He puts the ball in play consistently and always should hit for a solid average. He played several positions in college and could handle any assignment in a pinch, but has settled nicely at second.
Weaknesses: Bloomquist is the type of player that wont bowl you over with tools the first time you see him, but he compensates for any lack of talent with hustle and smart play. Hell never hit for power.
The Future: Clark was selected in the major league Rule 5 draft by the Tigers. Even if he returns, Bloomquist has passed him in the Mariners long-term plans. Hell likely land in Seattle by the end of the 2001 season.
8. Ryan Christianson, c
Age: 19. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-2. Wt.: 210. Drafted: HSRiverside, Calif., 1999 (1st round). Signed by: Steve Rath.
Background: The 11th player taken in the 99 draft, Christianson made hitting look easy in his pro debut. He met reality last year in Wisconsin, however, and learned what most high school catchers do: The road to the big leagues contains a few potholes. He finished the season with shoulder tendinitis, which may have bothered him more than he let on.
Strengths: Christianson has tremendous power to all fields but needs to learn what to do with it. When he does, he could become a solid run producer. He enjoys being in charge behind the plate and has the tools to become an above-average defender. Playing defense seems to help his offense as well. He hit .271 while catching compared to just .167 as a DH.
Weaknesses: The Mariners still havent seen the tremendous arm strength Christianson showed off in high school, though he did regain some zip in his second season. His arm now projects as average.
The Future: Seattle wont let its void at catcher dictate Christiansons schedule. Hell likely move a level at a time and arrive in Seattle late in 2003.
9. Rafael Soriano, rhp
Age: 21. B-T: R-R Ht.: 6-1. Wt.: 175. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1996. Signed by: Ramon de los Santos.
Background: A converted outfielder, Soriano has come a long way in just two years on the mound. He got a late start on the 2000 season, missing the entire month of April with elbow tendinitis. He was consistently effective, never lasting less than five innings in a start and only twice allowing more than three earned runs.
Strengths: Soriano brings heat in the 95-96 mph range, which he complements with a hard slider and fledgling changeup. Arms like his dont come around often. He took to pitching from the start and is overpowering enough to be excused for most beginners mistakes.
Weaknesses: His slider is further along than his changeup, but both have a lot of room for improvement. Without a full arsenal and with his development time as a pitcher limited, Soriano may be better suited for a bullpen role.
The Future: Soriano might move faster as a reliever. But there arent many starters with his fastball and the Mariners are awash in pitching, so theyll take their time with him for now. He could develop into a dominant closer down the road.
10. Juan Silvestre, of
Age: 23. B-T: R-R. Ht.: 5-11. Wt.: 180. Signed: Dominican Republic, 1994. Signed by: Ramon de los Santos.
Background: Silvestre made the Midwest League all-star team in 1999 after hitting .288-21-107, but it wasnt quite enough to convince people. He made sure they took notice last year, leading the minor leagues in RBIs and earning California League MVP honors. The Mariners considered promoting him at midseason, but wanted him to put two solid halves togethersomething he didnt do the year before.
Strengths: Silvestre has excellent power and already has mashed 106 minor league home runs. The Mariners believe hell hit for average as well. He shows a willingness to work hard on other aspects of his game, turning himself into an adequate defensive outfielder.
Weaknesses: Silvestres bat has to be his ticket. Hes a below-average runner with a below-average throwing arm. He still strikes out a lot, but thats a common tradeoff with young power hitters. His monster numbers were inflated by Lancasters home park, as he hit .340-20-86 at home and .265-10-51 on the road.
The Future: Silvestre will report to Double-A in 2001. It will be interesting to see how he performs with some expectations on him after his big season.
Rest of the Best:
11. Sheldon Fulse, of
Copyright 1998-2000 Baseball America. All rights reserved.|
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.