Seattle Mariners: Top 10 Prospects Chat With Matt Eddy

Seattle Mariners: Chat

Baseball America's Top 10 Prospects lists are based on projections of a player's long-term worth after discussions with scouting and player-development personnel. All players who haven't exceeded the major league rookie standards of 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched (without regard to service time) are eligible. Ages are as of April 1, 2008.

Moderator: Let's get started.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Snowstorm-Riddled Illinois asks:
Which position will get Clement up to the Majors the fastest? I see you have him at 1B in 2011, but you raise the possibility of DH as well.

Matt Eddy: Clement hasn't played first base as a pro, so it's complete speculation on our part. Johjima, who turns 32 in June, is inked for only one season more, but considering his offensive ability and throwing arm, you'd have to figure the Mariners will at least try to bring him back. Triple-A catcher Rob Johnson also offers better defensive tools than Clement.

Matt Eddy: What that means for Clement is that he's probably looking at backup catcher duty for the next three years. But because his bat is so promising, Seattle will have to get creative in employing him, meaning plenty of time at DH and, potentially, at first base if Richie Sexson -— a free agent at year's end — is injured or traded.

 Q:  JAYPERS from IL asks:
Why has Michael Wilson fallen out of the Top 30 this year?

Matt Eddy: Wilson was a tough omission, but some promising players must fall just outside the 30, and he was one of them.

Matt Eddy: Wilson had a brutal year. He tore his quad early in the year and missed eight weeks. He came back, swung and missed a lot and ultimately re-injured himself. To make matters worse, the Mariners excised him from the 40-man in August.

Matt Eddy: Even in his lost season, the 24-year-old Wilson showed flashes in Hawaii Winter Baseball. Well, more than flashes really. He batted .303/.408/.605 with seven homers in 35 games, and at least one scout thought he was the best hitter in HWB. The power is there, but can he learn to lay off tough breaking balls?

 Q:  Sean from Cranford asks:
Bet you get this one at least a dozen times... Is Adam Jones an easy #1 if he still qualified?

Matt Eddy: Jones had the kind of breakout long predicted of him and would have topped this list for a second straight year had he had nine fewer big league at-bats. He took his power to a new level, improved his plate discipline — thus his average, too — and made strides in center field. And the best part is he's 22 and big league ready.

 Q:  Ben from Leland Grove asks:
I see Kalian Sams is your sleeper prospect in the system. Could you expand on him, and do you think he'll be a fast riser?

Matt Eddy: Like Greg Halman, Sams is from the Netherlands — but you probably gathered that if you've glanced at the Prospect Handbook. At 6-foot-3 and 220 pounds, Sams has plus strength and bat speed that could translate into immense game power, but he hasn't played much baseball. He runs well, too, and has a strong right-fielder's arm.

Matt Eddy: In short, Sams is a potential five-tool athlete with good makeup, but he puts too much pressure on himself now. Look for him to move on to and then up the Mariners' list as he matures.

 Q:  Warren from Texas asks:
Who do you consider the sleepers in the organization? Who do you think will move up the most on the Top 30? Thanks for the chat!

Matt Eddy: As for players who could move up the Top 30, the two best bets may be recent Dominican signs Carlos Peguero (2005) and Jharmidy DeJesus (2007).

Matt Eddy: Peguero, a 20-year-old right fielder who DHed almost exclusively because of an elbow injury, has ridiculous power but has to significantly refine his approach. DeJesus, an 18-year-old shortstop, reminds the Mariners of Carlos Triunfel for his plus makeup and natural hitting ability.

Matt Eddy: For real under-the-radar sleepers, I'd go with righthanders Nathan Adcock (fifth-round pick, 2004) and Marwin Vega, who signed out of Colombia in 2003. Adcock's fastball sits in the low 90s and is straight, but he makes up for it with a plus-at-times change and curveball. Observers rave about his delivery, arm action and projectable frame (6-foot-5, 190 pounds). At 6-foot and 175 pounds, Vega isn't physical, but he throws three average pitches, including a 91-93 mph fastball, curveball and change. He's got great hand speed, leading to plenty of life on his pitches.

 Q: from Stoughton, WI asks:
How will the Mariners 2011 Lineup look after the Bedard Trade goes down?

Matt Eddy: I hate to speculate on who may be involved in the trade because the names are far from official. Ask again if a trade goes down during this chat.

Matt Eddy: At the very least, Jones is out of the outfield picture, replaced by Wladimir Balentien or Michael Saunders.

 Q: from Stoughton, WI asks:
Will Mike Morse or Jeremy Reed have a job with the Mariners in 2008?

Matt Eddy: The signing of Brad Wilkerson would seem to limit Reed to backup duty, at best. And by bringing on Miguel Cairo to go with Willie Bloomquist, the Mariners may be signaling their preference to move on from Morse.

 Q:  Jean-Paul from Snowstorm-Riddled Illinois asks:
With Johjima, Clement and Moore ahead of him, what does the future hold for Rob Johnson? Trade bait, or could be come into his own this year?

Matt Eddy: Johnson has been moved quickly to Triple-A and his bat hasn't yet caught up. If he learns to loft the ball and lay off unhittable breaking balls, he could be a big league starter. But his leadership and strong arm will always ensure he'll have a backup job to fall back on — even if it's not with Seattle.

 Q: from Stoughton, WI asks:
Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero are both HUGE PHYSICAL SPECIMENS. Which player will have the BIGGEST IMPACT at the Major League Level?

Matt Eddy: If everything clicks, it's Halman. He's got more dimensions to his game than does Peguero. At 6-foot-4 and 192 pounds, Halman reminds some of a young Andre Dawson or Alfonso Soriano, with the type of power-speed combo to match. He's also an above-average center fielder for now, but might fit better in right after he fills out.

Matt Eddy: Of course, Halman swings and misses a ton, the result of rudimentary plate discipline. He's work to do, as his showing in low Class A Wisconsin (.182-.234-.273 with 77-8 K-BB) demonstrates. And that was at a level he thought he was too advanced for. Halman said he was humbled by his failure in 2007 and that he has a new outlook.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
With the way the Mariners promoted Tillman and Triunfel so quick, how would you compare the organization in terms of aggressively moving prospects up?

Matt Eddy: With the exception of perhaps the Mets, no organization pushes players as aggressively as the Mariners.

 Q:  Sean from Cranford asks:
Triunfel is very highly thought of in terms of middle infield prospects, but it sounds like he's not a middle infielder. If he slides to the corner, with a projection of 'average' power, is he really deserving of the 'superstar potential' that he's stamped with in some circles?

Matt Eddy: At Triunfel's age, not being overwhelmed by the Cal League is about the best you should hope for. I understand your criticism, but to be clear, I don't think we've ever labeled him a potential superstar.

Matt Eddy: But even assuming Triunfel moves to third base and hits .300 with 15-20 homers and a rifle for an arm, that's still quite valuable, especially if he's as good with the glove as he projects to be.

 Q:  Niles Crane from Seattle, WA asks:
What are your thoughts on Aaron Brown? Good numbers and solid frame, is this Putz protige?

Matt Eddy: He's one to keep an eye on. Brown, Seattle's ninth-round pick from Houston last June, attacks the strike zone with a low-90s fastball. His command, fearlessness and plane on the ball (he's 6-foot-6) are his most distinguishing features now, as he lacks plus velocity or a true out pitch. He could move quickly as a reliever.

 Q:  Jay from Charlottesville, VA asks:
What happened to Tony Butler? I know he struggled early, but he had a 3.29 ERA and a 44/16 K/BB in his last 52 innings. Is he not fully back on track?

Matt Eddy: Butler is the one guy who slipped a little further each time we stacked up the Mariners' prospects. He's still a physical, 6-foot-7 lefty with above-average stuff, but Midwest League observers were given pause by his poor fastball command and an arm action that lacks fluidity. That may have contributed to shoulder soreness that sidelined Butler twice during the season.

Matt Eddy: As you point out, Butler did finish strong, and his drop out of the top 10 was not a precipitous one.

 Q:  Boneless Chicken Hands from Burrrrbank asks:
With agressive promotion the norm for the Ms, do you think it would unrealistic to see Triunfel finish 2008 at AAA Tacoma?

Matt Eddy: Seattle pushed Asdrubal Cabrera to Triple-A at age 19 at the tail end of the 2005 season. And that might be the age that Triunfel arrives in Tacoma, too — in 2009. But assuming he adapts to the Cal League and spends some time in the Southern League, it is possible Triunfel could get a "cup of coffee" with Tacoma at the end of 2008.

 Q:  jerry from stockton, ca asks:
If Jeff Clement were really to be evaluated as a first baseman, how would this hurt/help his prospect ranking both within the organization and the top 100? Would he even be considered a top 10 first baseman in the minors?

Matt Eddy: Evaluating Clement as a first baseman would certainly hurt his prospect status. But he will catch for a team with a higher tolerance for stolen bases allowed, because a .270 hitter with a solid on-base percentage and 20-plus homer power at catcher is an asset. One thing Clement has always shown is a desire to improve himself, and we need to be mindful of that when projecting his course.

Matt Eddy: Would he be a top 10 first baseman? Yes, absolutely. His plate discipline and power compare favorably with someone like Cincinnati's Joey Votto.

 Q:  Doug from McLean, VA asks:
BA really touted Tony Butler at this time last year. He has now fallen out of the top 10. Is he only considered a marginal prospect now?

Matt Eddy: Butler is still legit. But with big years by Tillman, Triunfel, Saunders and Juan Ramirez — not to mention the addition of Phillippe Aumont — the top 10 just got too crowded.

Matt Eddy: Check out the previous Butler response for why we evaluated him a bit differently this year.

 Q:  Eric from Cleveland asks:
Who has a better chance of succeeding long term, Feirabend or Rowland-Smith?

Matt Eddy: Feierabend, if only because he reached the big leagues at age 21, a full thee years younger than Rowland-Smith did. And then there's Feierabend's changeup and pickoff move . . .

 Q:  Josh from Morgantown asks:
What can you tell me about Kam Mickolio? I think I read on some draft reports that he was a guy to watch and certainly has had some decent success so far. I haven't received my BA Handbook so what do you see in his future? Thanks.

Matt Eddy: Mickolio is a testament to Seattle's scouting department. An 18th-round pick form Utah Valley State in 2006, Mickolio was thriving in Triple-A the very next year. He has all the ingredients to be a key big league reliever, including a power, 92-97 mph sinker, a tough low three-quarter arm slot and a good if inconsistent slider.

 Q:  Jon from Peoria asks:
Now that Anthony Varvaro has apparently recovered from Tommy John, what is his ceiling? Also, what are your thoughts on Kuo Hui Lo? Can he profile as an everyday CF?

Matt Eddy: Varvaro's absolute ceiling would be as a No. 3 starter. That seems optimistic, though, as he's still recovering from 2005 Tommy John surgery. The fastball-curveball mix that made him a premium talent at St. John's has returned only. Intermittently. Give him another year.

Matt Eddy: A converted pitcher, Lo has played outfield only since signing with Seattle in 2005. He's an above-average runner with strength and some present doubles power. A national team player for Taiwan, Lo is still learning to hit, and right now he's athletic but highly unrefined.

 Q:  Mike from Seattle asks:
How can you come close to justifying Amount over Triunfel? Hittting .288 at HIGH A as a 17 year makes you the 4th best prospect over a super raw pitcher with zero experience?

Matt Eddy: Aumont is a beast with a plus-plus fastball. You can probably find a picture on the Web to illustrate just what a specimen this guy is at 6-foot-7 and 230 pounds. With a ball that sinks and bores as much as Aumont's, it will take just average command of a secondary pitch for him to thrive. And age isn't really an issue. At 19, Aumont is just a year older than Triunfel.

 Q:  Ben from UNT asks:
Who is the next Latin American signee to come up through the Mariners system that we as casual fans dont know alot about? Or to put it in a different light, who else besides Triunfel?

Matt Eddy: From the past three years, the players to track break down like this: From 2005, you've got RHP Juan Ramirez, OF Carlos Peguero and LHP Edward Paredes. From 2006, there's SS Carlos Triunfel, 3B Mario Martinez and SS Juan Diaz. From 2007, watch SS Jharmidy DeJesus, SS Gabriel Noriega and OF Efrain Nunez.

 Q:  Mark from Baltimore asks:
If the Bedard/Jones trade goes down with the other players rumored, Sherril, Tilman, Butler & Mickolio, do you see this as a superior return that what the Twins received for Santana?

Matt Eddy: The Seattle quintet you cited are more valuable commodities, at present, than the four players the Mets sent to Minnesota: Carlos Gomez, Kevin Mulvey, Deolis Guerra and Philip Humber.

 Q:  David from Ontario asks:
As proud Canadians, we want to see both Phillippe Aumont and Kyle Lotzkar do well. Aumont finished #2 on this list and Lotzkar didn't rate in the top 10 on the Red's list, despite excellent numbers in the AZL. Is Phillipe that much better or are the Reds just that much deeper than the Mariners?

Matt Eddy: Lotzkar fell just outside the Reds' top 10, but then Cincinnati has a lot more established talent than the Mariners. They're the third-rated farm system in the game, after all, with guys like Jay Bruce, Homer Bailey, Johnny Cueto and Joey Votto.

 Q:  Jerry from Belize asks:
I was wondering how the M's system ranks relative to other clubs. It seems like the M's have a lot of high-upside guys, such as Carlos Triunfel, Greg Halman, Alex Liddi, Phillippe Aumont, Michael Saunders, Juan Carlos Ramirez, and Tony Butler. Is this a system on the rise? Who do you think is most likely to jump up prospect lists next year?

Matt Eddy: The Mariners moved up from No. 24 in 2006 to No. 11 this year, mostly on the strength of players you noted. So yes, they're a system headed in the right direction.

 Q:  wily mo from wily motown asks:
assuming rowland-smith doesn't make the rotation out of ST, does he go to the pen or the tacoma rotation? would sherrill staying or going make a difference there?

Matt Eddy: This is a fascinating question. Rowland-Smith probably would be called upon as second bullpen lefty, joining Eric O'Flaherty, if Sherrill is traded. But then, Rowland-Smith is a physical, 6-foot-3, lefty with four pitches and a fastball that touches 94 mph, so Seattle might not be utilizing his value in a relief role

 Q:  Andrew from Lawrence, KS asks:
Do you think Balentien will get his shot at the majors this year? It seems as if no matter what he does, the Jose Vidros, Raul Ibanez, and Brad Wilkersons of the world will always be ahead of him in Bavasi's mind.

Matt Eddy: Balentien has intriguing power, but I don't think you can blame the Mariners if they're not quite ready to commit to him for 162 games. Should he get an extended look in the second half? Yes, absolutely. But a little more Triple-A time could benefit Balentien as it did Adam Jones in 2007.

 Q:  Craig from Calgary, Alberta asks:
What can you tell me about Mario Martinez who was signed out of Venezuela? Does he project to add some power down the road, and do you think he can develop into a major league regular?

Matt Eddy: A fluid athlete, Martinez has a sound swing he repeats easily. He's an aggressive hitter who can look foolish at times but who crushes mistakes. Signed as a shortstop, Martinez already is too big for shortstop, but that portends well for his power development.

 Q:  Ben from UNT asks:
Chris Tillman or Tony Butler : Higher Upside?

Matt Eddy: It's Tillman, with that projectable 6-foot-5 frame, low-90s heater and knockout curveball.

 Q:  Brett from The Ill asks:
Given Michael Saunders' age, athleticism, tools and relative inexperience combined with his performance in 2007(including on the world stage), do you think a real breakout is a good possibility in 2008? I think a 2007 Jordan Schafer type of jump seems like something that could easily happen, doesn't hurt that they're somewhat similar in what they can do.

Matt Eddy: Interesting comp, and it makes some sense. Because of his athleticism and multi-dimensional game, Saunders is definitely someone who could break out.

 Q:  Pete from Harrisburg, PA asks:
How does Robert Rohrbaugh rank in the prospect listings, and what kind of ceiling or role does he have in the majors?

Matt Eddy: Because he's a strike-throwing machine with underwhelming stuff, Rohrbaugh has the makings or a No. 4 or 5 type big league starter. He's behind many of Seattle's other young lefties, though, like Feierabend, Rowland-Smith and Butler — and on par with Justin Thomas and Nick Hill — so he may have to make a quick impression if he's to stick around in Seattle.

Moderator: Thanks for all the questions. We were delayed a bit by some technical difficulties, so thanks for bearing with us.