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, 2009.

Matthew Eddy: Hello loyal BA readers. It's time to talk Mariners.

    JAYPERS (IL): How far off the Top 10 was Rich Poythress, and what excluded him?

Matthew Eddy: The Mariners' system is deceptively deep. Heading into the process I wondered if it might not be a challenge to arrive at 30 names. Once I hit 50 on the preliminary list, I realized how wrong my initial perceptions were. Seattle was active on so many fronts in 2009 — the draft, trade acquisitions, international signs, they finally signed Josh Fields — that they stockpiled at least 10 prospects who did not even qualify for last year's 30. Rich Poythress, Georgia first baseman and second-round pick, was one such player. You'll find when you read your Prospect Handbook (we're anxious to get them, too) that Poythress ranked toward the tail end of the 30. Too many questions about how his handsy swing will play against top pitching. It's worked for him, but with Mike Carp, Casey Kotchman, Dennis Raben and Dustin Ackley in the picture, it's not like the Mariners are going to be short on first base candidates.

    JAYPERS (IL): Any chance of a Sept. callup for Ackley, if in fact he lives up to the billing? If so, which position would best suit him?

Matthew Eddy: I think there's a chance you'll see Ackley in Seattle this year. If the Mariners choose to develop him as an outfielder or second baseman that could slow him down some, but as a first baseman he should make a quick transition to pro ball.

    Nelmer B (East Grand Forks): Im camped out next to my mailbox waiting for my Prospect Handbook. When can I expect it? Also, which M's prospect do you think you picked the most aggressive rating for? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: We anticipate that we'll begin shipping Handbooks next Tuesday (and if you order from us you get the No. 31 supplement, adding another prospect to each organization). Probably our most aggressive individual ranking would be that of lefty Nick Hill, who placed just outside the 10. We regrettably left him out of the 30 last year as he cleared up his military commitment, but there's just something about this particular player that has many convinced he'll be an effective big league pitcher. Hill might be the top competitor in the minors and he shows no platoon split, so we could be looking at a late-inning reliever or back-of-the-rotation starter.

    JAYPERS (IL): Could we get your impressions of international signee Guillermo Pimentel, and where did he land overall on your list?

Matthew Eddy: There's a lot to like with Pimentel, who signed for $2 million out of the Dominican in July. The Mariners won't unleash the 17-year-old lefty slugger on the world until next June, but reports from instructional league indicate that Pimentel has sick bat speed and loft in his swing. He drives the ball to all fields and has plenty of room to add muscle at 6-1, 180. But much like Carlos Peguero, Pimentel's power may come at a price. He swings and misses an awful lot and struggles with pitch recognition. He's also a low-end-of-the-spectrum defender, a LF, 1B or DH type.

    Carl (Houston, TX): After being so highly touted as a teenager, Gaby Hernandez has really struggled the last couple of seasons. He goes on stretches where he looks like his former self, but there is no consistency. Is this a make or break season for him and is he still a legit prospect?

Matthew Eddy: Hernandez is on the 40-man and has two options remaining, so he's not completely out of the picture. But his window may be closing, as the Mariners didn't call him up in September and he doesn't embody the traits they seem to value in their pitchers: a groundball tendency (playing into their strong infield defense) or lefthandedness. The club showed a clear preference in 2009 for Doug Fister and young-ish lefties Luke French, Garrett Olson and Jason Vargas.

    Jake (Portland, OR): Any reason to be optimistic for Gabriel Noriega? Top 30 material?

Matthew Eddy: Noriega, a 19-year-old Venezuelan shortstop, has defensive tools alone that will carry him to Double-A or higher. We've written before that he has an innate ability to slow the game down, which is rare for such a young player. Noriega hit .311/.360/.456 this year for Pulaski, but that's a bit deceiving because the Appalachian League is generally friendly to hitters and because he struck out a lot to get to that line. With below-average speed and power potential it's hard to envision Noriega developing into a star. But keep in mind that a scout told me similar things about Yunel Escobar in 2007. It will be interesting to see how the Mariners resolve the shortstop situation at Clinton next year, with both Noriega and '09 first-rounder Nick Franklin candidates for everyday play there.

    Drew (NY): Do you think Michael Saunders is the starting LF this year for the M's, or has the Milton Bradley signing made Saunders the odd man out?

Matthew Eddy: Saunders hit the cover off the ball in Venezuela this winter, batting .353/.421/.529 in 22 regular-season games for Lara. But given his uninspiring big league callup, it's entirely possible that he spends a month or two with Tacoma this year. As to Bradley holding him back . . . he's logged 500 PA in a season just once in the past five years — and to get to 509 he had to DH most of the time. The presence of Griffey on the roster is what really clouds the issue. Without him, Bradley could DH (a perfect fit) and Saunders could play regularly or semi-regularly in LF.

    Ben (Leland Grove): Your thoughts on Steve Baron, and did he make your 11-20 range?

Matthew Eddy: Taken 33rd overall last year, Baron has exceptional defensive tools, the type of acumen and feel rarely seen in a high school backstop. His developmental pace will be dictated entirely by how much he hits. And because he already demonstrates contact and pitch recognition issues, it's no sure thing that he will hit even .250 (he hit .179 in Rookie ball in his debut). He's got the strength to hit for above-average power (for a catcher), which if it manifests would make him attractive as a backup catcher option at the big league level. He ranked No. 25 on our list.

    Drew (NY): Why didn't Johermyn Chavez or Gabriel Noriega make this list over a guy like Dan Cortes?

Matthew Eddy: Cortes only snuck on the list following the Cliff Lee trade. That initial order — Phillippe Aumont had checked in at No. 4 and Tyson Gillies at No. 8 — is preserved in our Prospect Handbook because the trade went down just after our transactions deadline. We touched on Noriega earlier . . . for me, just too many questions about the bat. As to Chavez, who I know from my days spent writing the Blue Jays Top 30, I would shy away from ranking him aggressively. He has the novelty factor, having joined the Mariners in the Brandon Morrow-Brandon League swap, but he's a physically-mature corner outfielder with king-sized contact issues. For my money, I'd take Carlos Peguero, who has more raw power and swings from the left side.

    Brett (Denver, CO): On a scale from 1 to 10, how confident are you that Liddi can put up comparable numbers at higher levels as he did in the CAL?

Matthew Eddy: Similar raw numbers? My confidence level would be about a 2. Optimistically, I'd look for something in the neighborhood of .290/.350/.500 with 12-15 homers in Double-A. That would be a high-end projection, but that's not to diminish his prospect status. Liddi's a hard worker and a strong kid with power from left to right-center.

    Drew (NY): Where do you think Dustin Ackley will provide the most value, assuming he can play adequate defense - 2B, 1B, CF, LF - and where does your gut tell you he will end up?

Matthew Eddy: If he can handle the responsibilities, then Ackely would have the most value at 2B or in CF. But the M's take on added injury risk with the former (and Rickie Weeks has proven it's not always a smooth transition), and Franklin Gutierrez ( and his 4-year deal) stand in Ackley's path to CF. At this time, LF and 1B are the easiest paths to a regular gig. I suspect Ackely will settle in at first base because he really has had trouble throwing since he hurt his arm in high school.

    JAYPERS (IL): Who would you rather have on your team and why - Greg Halman or Cody Johnson?

Matthew Eddy: I prefer Halman in this showdown for his ability to cover CF and for the fact that if it comes together for him for one season he could resemble Alfonso Soriano. Not the freak-out year he had with the Natinals, but a 25-homer, 150-strikeout, .300 OBP type of campaign. You could do worse in center field.

    LT Christian Garner (Ft Hood, TX): I love following my USMA classmate LHP Nick Hill and his climb through the Mariners system. After watching him in college, I'm glad to see his stuff play in pro ball. The Mariners were grooming him as a reliever but they gave him some starts at the end of the year and he impressed. I'm assuming his future lies in the bullpen though?

Matthew Eddy: That would seem to be the natural fit, but I think many (including the Mariners) have learned not to underestimate Nick Hill.

    Nick (Boston): What can we expect from Nick Franklin? The opinions on him are all over the place; from very good middle infielder to a bad pick and he'd be lucky to make it as a UTIL guy, what do you think his potential will be?

Matthew Eddy: Cautiously optimistic that Franklin can hold down shortstop and be a walks and doubles type of contributor. He's not blazing fast and doesn't have much power to speak of, so the above scenario will be the only way he makes it as a regular.

    Joe LeCates (Easton, MD): Matt, thanks for the chat! Your thoughts on James Jones going forward? The quality athleticism was a known quantity, but I was really intrigued by the plate discipline for someone who was a pitcher first and foremost coming into last spring.

Matthew Eddy: Jones struggled for Long Island as a junior, but he was a revelation as a pro, taking immediately to right field and showing strong plate discipline. In some ways, he resembles Michael Saunders as a lefty-hitting corner outfielder with solid all-around tools. We ranked Jones among the top 20, but we want to see how he does in full-season ball before fully endorsing him.

    Brett (Washington, DC): Realizing that he was quite old for his level, Kenn Kasparek put up some pretty solid #'s this year. What's the scouting report on him, and did he slide into the top 30?

Matthew Eddy: A 12th-rounder from Texas in '08, Kasparek looks like a power pitcher at 6-8, 200, but he sits mostly at 86-88 mph. He fills up the strike zone, competes well and gets great angle to the plate, but despite his loud 134-32 K-BB ratio in low Class A (at age 23) he's liable to get exposed at higher levels.

    John (Harrisonburg, VA): James McOwen tore up at High Desert in '09 (340/393/494). Admittedly, this was the Cal League, but do the Mariners see him helping at the big league level eventually?

Matthew Eddy: We had a lot of fun tracking Jamie McOwen's exploits this summer as he strung together his 45-game hit streak, but ultimately, if he makes it, it'll be as a reserve outfielder. He doesn't offer classic power for a corner and doesn't cover enough ground for center. With the incredible expanding pitching staff, this type of player is being pushed the brink of extinction in the big leagues.

    Walt (Salt Lake City): Thanks for the chat Matt! Is Alex Liddi a poor defender at the hot corner, and is that the reason for having him as the DH in the 2013 line-up?

Matthew Eddy: No. We're just acknowledging Liddi's offensive potential. With these 2013 lineups, think of them more as a listing of the organization's most valuable assets. So much will change to affect this lineup, e.g. free agent signings/departures, trades, that it should not be taken too seriously.

    Clooch (VT): In forecasting Dustin Ackley I am having troubles picturing comparable players. I have read this before regarding Ackley, which is usually a good sign for an up and coming player. Is a left handed Jeter (offensively speaking) an absurd comparable? Reading your write up is when the idea first popped in to my head. It seems that they may have many of the same strengths and skill sets.

Matthew Eddy: One interesting name I heard kicked around: Johnny Damon (but with a much more conventional swing).

    MJ (Valpo): Was wondering the status of Dennis Raben? I know he got hurt last season, but is he in the M's future plans? Is he a legit OF prospect?

Matthew Eddy: We haven't forgotten about Raben, the Mariners' second-round pick from Miami in '08, but he missed the entire season after having microfracture surgery on his right knee. He's got big lefty power and an idea at the plate, but his outfield days are likely over. Look for him to play a lot of first base this season.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): Do you think that the Mariners will regret trading Jeff Clement?

Matthew Eddy: No. With the Mariners' accumulated depth at first base and with Adam Moore's progress, Clement had become a bit redundant. Maybe the fresh start with the Pirates will suit him.

    JY (Manhattan): Major league players in the deals aside, which is a better pitching trio, Pribanic/Lorin/Adcock, or Cortes/Robles/Saito?

Matthew Eddy: I'd lean toward the second group because Cortes could be a solid reliever and Robles is an emerging lefty pitching prospect who didn't miss the Top 10 by much.

    Don (Rosemont, IL): Where does Joshua Fields compare in terms of ceiling with David Aardsma?

Matthew Eddy: Until Fields throws more consistent strikes, it's hard to compare him with Aardsma. With the defensive unit that Seattle is assembling, throwing strike and forcing the opposition to put the ball in play is a sound tactic. But to answer your question, on pure ceiling I think you'd have to side with Fields, who has ridiculous arm speed and a devastating fastball / curveball combo.

    Father Grant Desme (Soon to Be Praying For You): To paraphrase the great Leslie Nielson ("Airplane"), I just wanted to tell you good luck. We're all counting on you, Mr. Eddy.

Matthew Eddy: Not especially topical, but I can't resist a Leslie Nielson reference.

    Matt (Blue Bell, PA): Where can we see scouting reports on the three players the Phillies acquired in the Cliff Lee trade? Where would they have ranked in the Seattle system?

Matthew Eddy: Aumont, Gillies and J.C. Ramirez all appear in the Mariners Top 30 in the Prospect Handbook. You can also reference our Trade Central archives for rough scouting reports on said parties.

    Jerry (NYNY): Any love for Donnie Hume? Led the minors in wins and had a respectable era in cal league.

Matthew Eddy: For those who missed it, lefty Donnie Hume went 17-5, 4.81 in 27 starts in the Cal League (pitching for High Desert, no less). But in projecting him forward, it's hard to see a pitcher with Hume's repertoire thriving at the upper levels. He sits in the mid- to high-80s with an above-average changeup. He comes right at opposing batters, but his stuff is a clear grade below other lefties in the system like Nick Hill, Mauricio Robles and Edward Paredes.

    Phil (Dallas, TX): How well-equipped are the Mariners to compete long-term in the west, as the least stocked in the division?

Matthew Eddy: They're well-equipped to contend, in my opinion. They spend on big league free agents, they spend on the draft, they spend internationally. In other words, they travel all avenues to build a competitive team. It's a similar model to that employed by the Angels during their recent run of success. I don't know how we'll stack up the AL West organizations in terms of talent, but to me, only the Rangers are clearly ahead of Seattle right now.

    DB (PA): How close was Mauricio Robles to making the list? Is his long term future looking as a starter or reliever?

Matthew Eddy: Acquired from the Tigers in the Jarrod Washburn trade, Robles just missed the Top 10. With plenty of arm strength and athleticism, he'll continue to start as he begins his first full season with Seattle, probably in high Class A. But his breaking ball or change will need to make strides to project as a true starting prospect. Robles is athletic enough to make those improvements a reality.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Hey Matt. Thanks for the chat. The Seattle organization seems to be on the rise and has lots of young talent. But with only 1 starting pitcher mentioned in the Top Ten, is it fair to say that this year and future success is going to depend on pitching? Is a guy like Rowland Smith good enough to succeed this year? What other young SP do you see coming to the front in 2010 and the near future? I'm figuring Pineda will be one of them.

Matthew Eddy: This is an accurate assessment. The Mariners placed just 10 pitchers in our Top 30 — and then they traded two of them in Aumont and Ramirez. This equation is reminiscent of the Brewers when Jack Zduriencik ran their scouting department. Think Fielder, Braun, Gamel, Weeks, LaPorta, et al. In fact, Yovani Gallardo was just about the only pitcher Milwaukee developed in the last decade.

    Allyson (UW): Who would you rather have going forward Truinfel or Andrus?

Matthew Eddy: Elvis (and not Erold) Andrus, without hesitation. Lesser offensive ceiling but carrying tools in his glove, arm and speed.

    Ken (Lakewood CA): Hey Matt. How do you see LF Saunders in the long run? Solid regular or is his potential higher than that in your eyes? Thanks.

Matthew Eddy: I'm at a loss to come up with a comp for Saunders. My gut feel is at his peak, he'll be a .280 hitter with walks, 15-20 homers and above-average defense on a corner. Not a superstar but a very good supporting player.

    Guy (Cali): Who are the catching prospects in the lower levels?

Matthew Eddy: Beyond Moore and Baron this is an area of deficit for Seattle at the moment. Most every organization is in this boat, though. Developing catchers is just about the trickiest thing to do.

    Jon (Peoria): Did Pineda really add 70 pounds over a year??? While it looked like he had the ability to add some weight when he was in the MWL, I find it a little hard to believe that he went from 180 to 250 in a year! If Ramirez was still in the organization, would he have been ranked ahead of Pineda?

Matthew Eddy: Pineda has added 70 pounds since signing in 2005. That listed weight in last year's Handbook was way off. Listed weights are slow to be updated (if at all) for many young players. And no, Ramirez took a tumbled down this year's Mariners' list. Lots of questions surrounding his concentration and consistency of mechanics.

    DC (DC): Which was worse and set the organization back farther — the Mariners giving up Adam Jones, Chris Tillman and Geroge Sherrill for Eric Bedard, or the Expos (my Nats) giving up Grady Sizemore, Brandon Phillips and Cliff Lee for a rental of Bartolo Colon (thank you very much, Omar!)? Are these two of the worst prospect trades ever?

Matthew Eddy: Don't forget the Scott Kazmir-for-Victor Zambrano gem from 2004.

    Jason (New Orleans): I think the Michael Saunders comp you are looking for is a taller Ryan Church. Also, what do you think of Mauer's bat as a comp for Ackley's bat?

Matthew Eddy: I've thrown that out in the past. That would be the pre- dual concussion version of Ryan Church — the first half of '08.

    Jerry (NYNY): I'm a big fan of Anthony Varvaro,disappointed he was not in top 10.Where is he and how in the world is his curveball not #1 in the organization? I saw him w/West Tenn he was unreal. I understand walks had been an issue but from reports in Az league that seems to be a distant problem. The mariners seem high on him especially putting him on 40 man.

Matthew Eddy: A good one to close with, seeing as we had a lot of interest in RH reliever Varvaro. The West Tenn bullpen was stacked in '09 — Aumont, Josh Fields, Nick Hill, Ricky Orta and Varvaro. But we had to draw the line for inclusion in the Top 30 somewhere, and Varvaro (with his 7.3 walks per nine) came down on the other side. Yes, his breaking ball is quite strong, and yes he pitched well in the AFL, but I want to see him carry that success to West Tenn or Tacoma this year.

Matthew Eddy: Thanks for the interest in the Mariners and in our Top 10 Prospects lists in general. Aaron Fitt will bring the ceremonies to a close next week when he tackles the Rangers.