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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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?
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
Jake (Portland, OR): Any reason to be optimistic for Gabriel Noriega? Top 30 material?
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?
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?
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?
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
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?
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
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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
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
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?
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
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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?
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
Jerry (NYNY): Any love for Donnie Hume? Led the minors in wins and had a respectable era in cal league.
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?
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?
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
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.
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?
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.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
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.
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.