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, 2011.
Kelly from LA asks: An obvious goal of building up the system by Z. Where's it rank now, in quality and depth?Conor Glassey:
This seems like a great question to start with. I haven't completely dove in to looking at organizational talent rankings yet, but I think the Mariners are certainly in the top half somewhere. The Mariners have great quality at the top, as Ackley, Pineda and Franklin are Top 25 overall candidates and there's some real interesting depth to the system, too. I don't see them making a huge trade this winter and while Ackley, Pineda & Cortes will likely graduate, they'll re-stock with the 2nd-overall pick in a deep draft. I believe one of the biggest factors in the Mariners' recent demise was the fact that they got NOTHING from the 2000, 2001 & 2002 drafts. That's changing now & I'm optimistic about the Mariners future.
Ben from Leland Grove asks: No Alex Liddi this year? Is it just a matter of new faces debuting ahead of him, or did his stock drop that much, or both?Conor Glassey:
It's a little bit of both, Ben. Walker, Pimentel, Robles, Chavez, Seager & Cortes were all new to the M's Top 10 this year, plus Pineda & Franklin moved up from where they were in the Top 10 last year. Liddi is still a prospect and just missed the Top 10, but scouts are concerned with his defense. For as athletic as he looks, he's stiff at third base and doesn't have the bat to move to left field or first base.
Kyle from Seattle asks: Is Halman still on your radar, and is he still a one-trick pony in your eyes?
Still very much on the radar and another guy that just missed the Top 10. I wouldn't call him a one-trick pony because he has a lot of tools. He can run, he's a good defender and has great raw power. The problem, as it always has been, is making contact. And I just don't think Halman will ever make enough contact to justify an everyday spot.
Blake Beavan from Tacoma asks: Did I make your 11-20 list? What are scouts currently saying about my mechanics?Conor Glassey:
Beavan is in the teens and scouts like his mechanics. He has an easy delivery and is very athletic for his size. His stuff doesn't light you up, but Beavan easily could have won "Best Control" in the system. It's a toss up between him and Erasmo Ramirez.
Kelly from LA asks: The most recognizable system names not on the list are Mangini/Liddi/Halman. Any have a future?Conor Glassey:
Already talked about Liddi & Halman. I've always liked Mangini and he makes the list too. His hands work well at 3B, but he doesn't have the best footwork over there either, so he's kind of in the same mold as Liddi...more of a role player/second-division starter than a future star. Good feel for hitting and has improved each year as a pro.
Jay from Brooklyn, NY asks: Regarding Ackley playing second base, why are the mariners forcing a player without particular aptitude for the position to play a position he wont be great at, when his bat would play elsewhere, like the outfield or even 1st, like he did in college and be above-average? It's not like they have to find a position for him and second is the best idea they came up with. Why not the outfield?Conor Glassey:
Nothing wrong with him playing second base - his skill set is well-suited there. The Mariners tried Ackley in center field in the Arizona Fall League last year and it was after that when they decided to switch him to second base. I didn't actually ask about him playing center field because he focused the entire season at second base and improved there to the point where he projects to be at least average there defensively.
JAYPERS from IL asks: What was the reason given for Ackley's poor start last April/May?Conor Glassey:
Ackley was extremely polished for a college bat, but he's still human. When you combine the fact that he basically jumped from the ACC to Double-A, started playing everyday for the first time & was also learning second base, it's very understandable that he got off to a slow start. I think people discount his season because he got off to the slow start, but what he was able to do as a whole is pretty remarkable.
Ben from Leland Grove asks: Not to put you on the spot this early, but would Ackley rank in your overall minor league Top 10 prospects list?Conor Glassey:
I've only started to think about Top 100 rankings, but I would say he's close. There aren't a lot of hitting prospects I like better than Ackley
Frank from WA asks: What's the skinny on Stephen Pryor, and where does he fit in on your overall list?Conor Glassey:
There's nothing skinny about Pryor. Haha...I kid, I kid. But seriously, he's a real big dude with a real big fastball. He's gone back and forth between a slider & a curveball and is now back to the curveball, which shows flashes of being an above-average pitch. Little bit of funk in his delivery (turns his back to the hitters a little bit at his balance point), but he could move fast and gives the Mariners another hard-throwing, back-of-the-bullpen candidate. M's bullpen could be real nasty in a couple years.
Dara from Tampa asks: Carlos Triunfel - prospect or suspect?Conor Glassey:
Still a prospect. I know he can be frustrating for fans because it seems like he's been around forever and hasn't produced much, but the Mariners were just happy to see him play a full season after the nasty leg break last year. Unlike many of the M's top Latin American hitters, Triunfel doesn't struggle with strikeouts. In fact, his problem is actually that he's almost too good at making contact for his own good. He's not patient and will swing at bad pitches, but he's able to make contact with them, it's just bad contact. So he gets himself out a lot. But opposing scouts like his tools - he has good power and I got a Miguel Tejada comp on him. But at some point, Triunfel will have to start producing and next year is a very big year for him. I would imagine he'll repeat Double-A next year and we'll see if he can turn his tools into results for an entire season.
JAYPERS from IL asks: Is Dennis Raben anywhere near as good as his CAL numbers, or were they inflated? Is he on your 30?
He put up good numbers when healthy - but that's the key. The guy really needs to stay healthy for an entire season. He's still very interesting and is still a prospect but just missed the 30 this year because of the durability concerns
AC from ATL asks: Joe Dunigan: prospect or suspect?Conor Glassey:
Trent from Miami, FL asks: What were the reports like on Jabari Blash? Is he much of a prospect?
Blash has some interesting tools, but he's real raw and more project than prospect at this point. Interesting guy to have in the system, but he missed making the book this year.
Christy from Springfield, IL asks: Are either Anthony Fernandez or Yoervis Medina guys to keep an eye on as sleepers?
Medina more so than Fernandez. Fernandez has an average fastball and some pitchability, but is what he is without a lot of projection left.
Sven from Reston, VA asks: Hi Conor, Thanks for hosting this session. I'm wondering about Michael Saunders. Has the luster diminished from his prospect status, or is he on track to do big things? What do you expect from him in 2011 and beyond?Conor Glassey:
Saunders doesn't qualify for our Prospect Handbook anymore, but still has some luster and should be a productive big leaguer.
keith from brooklyn asks: Ramon Morla is going to be a big-leaguer and should come off the board rather quickly in the Rule 5 draft. Your thoughts?Conor Glassey:
Few players have as much upside in the Rule 5 draft as Morla - but as John Manuel wrote in our Rule 5 list of players to watch - it's a long way from Pulaski to the big leagues. Morla has great tools and maybe a team will take a chance on him and try and hide him on their big league roster for the season, but it might kill his development in the long run. Not sure why the Mariners protected Cesar Jimenez over Morla, though.
Jon from Peoria asks: How concerning should Nick Franklin's severe difference in splits be?Conor Glassey:
The splits weren't good. In Clinton, Franklin hit .318/.394/.559 as a lefthanded hitter and just .174/.221/.273 as a righthanded hitter, but I don't think it's something to worry about. His swings are similar from both sides of the plate and he just hasn't had as much experience as a righthanded hitter because there aren't as many lethanded pitchers out there. He only got 132 ABs versus lefthanders in Clinton last year.
Andy from Lexington, KY asks: If Josh Lueke didn't have the off-the-field baggage would he be in the top 10? And do you think the Mariners will keep him considering the controversy around his acquisition?Conor Glassey:
Tough guy to rank and I think he would have been in the 7-10 range without the baggage. I didn't ding him too much more than that and, ultimately, I think everything will blow over. The Mariners botched the handling of the Lueke situation, but I believe people deserve a second chance.
Todd Asalon from USA asks: Why couldn't you focus more on the great year that Lueke had instead of something that happened in 2008? He made a mistake, did his punishment...now move on.Conor Glassey:
Yep, Lueke did have a great year. But the overview wasn't about Lueke's year it was about the Mariners' utterly disappointing year - which Lueke's situation was a part of. Trust me, I'm more than ready (as I'm sure the Mariners are) to move on from the Lueke situation.
Raul from Tucson, AZ asks: Connor, what's the buzz on my Tucson homey, Tom Wilhelmson? Is he on your list and will he make it to the show this year. I don't want the dude back here slinging drinks again?Conor Glassey:
Definitely an interesting story! Scouts were very impressed with Wilhelmsen's stuff, especially after the long layoff. Up to 96 with a hammer curveball (might even be better than Fields'). Wilhelmsen has the size and stuff to start, but with his advanced age and power stuff it's not hard to see the M's transitioning him to the bullpen. He pitched out of the 'pen this year in the AFL (which was just to limit his innings in his first year back), but it could be a sign of things to come and he could be in the big leagues at some point in 2011
Jon (Peoria): Did either Mario Martinez or James Jones come close to making the list? Does Jones profile best at CF?
Both are interesting, but neither came close to making the Top 10. In fact, as it stands now, one will make the book and one won't, but you'll have to buy it to find out which one. Martinez has tools, but hasn't hit a lick in low-A over 700+ AB now. Jones doesn't have the speed for center - he profiles best in RF because of his arm strength, but the bat will have to continue to progress.
JAYPERS (IL): Is Dennis Raben anywhere near as good as his CAL numbers, or were they inflated? Is he on your 30?
He put up good numbers when healthy - but that's the key. The guy really needs to stay healthy for an entire season. He's still very interesting and is still a prospect but just missed the 30 this year because of the durability concerns.
Jim Callis (Baseball America): Conner, How many years has Dan Cortes made someone's Top 10 list? It's got to be between him and Fernando Martinez as the most ever.
Jim, I'm offended. I figured by now you'd know how to spell my name! Haha...this will be Cortes' sixth Prospect Handbook writeup (2006-2011). In order, he ranked: 23, 30, 2, 3, 11 & 10. So, I think he's tied with Martinez. But that's not the most. I remember when I did the Tigers last year, I was stunned that Wilkin Ramirez was making his 7th Handbook. I can't say definitively that 7 is the record, but it's got to be up there.
JY (Manhattan): Any sleepers for the system, like, oh I don't know, Brandon Maurer?
I'll give you a couple others. I like righthander Stephen Landazuri, who lasted until the 22nd round, but sat 91-93 in the instructional league with a three-pitch mix and projection remaining in his body. The Mariners now employ area scout John Ramey - who signed John Lamb and Mike Moustakas when he worked for the Royals - and he got Landazuri and Walker in this year's draft. The other pitching sleeper is Jose Campos, who pitched in the VSL this year, but hit 98 in instructs. For hitters, keep an eye on outfielder Alexy Palma.
Taijuan Walker (SEA): Where do you see me in 2012? ...Head of the organization's prospect list and ready to contribute in Seattle?
Probably not. It's already an aggressive ranking and he'd have to leapfrog Franklin and the No. 2 prospect. And there's no way he's ready for Seattle in 2012. Be thrilled if he's ready for High-A.
Vlad (Pittsburgh): What do you think of Matt Lawson? Is there any chance of him being taken in the Rule 5 draft this week?
Nice guy to have around, but not the kind of guy teams go crazy for in the Rule 5.
JY (Manhattan): In the past, we've heard a little about Ji-man Choi ranking a little low due to questions as to whether he'll end up at catcher or first. How does he look as a backstop, considering he was playing third before turning pro? Where would he rate relative to other project backstops of the Fontaine draft years?
Choi will make the book, but he didn't get any love for the Top 10. The Mariners list is just too deep for a rookie-ball hitter with position questions. The bat sounds legit, which is nice, but as you know, it's a question about where he'll play. He's raw behind the plate and the Mariners sound like they're going to continue to split his time next year between first and catcher, which will make it tough for him to improve back there. It's not a prototypical 1B bat, so I would think the best-case scenario for Choi is to develop into some sort of corner utility guy that can catch in a pinch? Lots of time to figure that out...
Shane (Cleveland): I really liked the write-up on Walker. Is his ceiling that of a 1-2 if all works out and what do his pitches project to grade at?
Long way to go, but yeah - I'd say his ceiling is a No. 2.
Dan (Toronto): Seeing as how Cliff Lee basically turned out to be a rental, would the Mariners prefer their original package back (Aumont, Gillies, Ramirez) or is the haul from the Rangers (Smoak, Beavan, Lueke, and Lawson) better? Basically did the farm look better before or after Cliff?
The haul they got for Lee is a lot better than what they gave up.
Vince (Vancouver, BC): I know that his prospect eligibility is up, but I have to ask what type of player does Justin Smoak become: all-star, solid regular, or bust?
You're right - his eligibility is up, so I didn't ask folks about him much. I think he'll be an above-average first baseman, somewhere between solid regular & all-star. Maybe he'll be an all-star, but he's got tough competition with Cabrera, Teixeira and now Adrian Gonzalez.
Keith (Athens, GA): Conner, How does Rich Poythress not make this list? This guy put up monster numbers in the SEC and then backed it up in his first full season. And please don't try and say anything negative about the defense. I watched him play for 3 years and he is one of the better defensive 1st baseman I've seen. He did win the Gold Glove in college as well. Where did he fall on your list?
Hey Keith - Poythress is in the teens. His glove is adequate, but it's more his overall profile that limits his upside. He's a 1B-only guy, so he'll really have to hit to be a valuable everyday player. He put up nice numbers...but it was in the Cal League. His swing can get long and, while he's strong, he's more of a line drive guy that a pure slugger. As a righthanded hitter with Smoak in front of him, Poythress has his work cut out for him and Double-A will be the real test.
Jasen (Fll): When do you expect pineda to be in the big league rotation and how effective will he be? Thanks for the time
He could make the rotation out of spring training and should be up at the latest by mid season. Pitchers are volatile, but his combination of power stuff and control should allow him to succeed quickly.
Ernie (Portland, OR): Conor, Did Erasmo Ramirez get any consideration for the top 10 ? Your thoughts on his future ? Thank you
He's making the list, but not close to the Top 10. Average fastball that flashes a little better, great changeup and pinpoint command. Should chew up the minors, but projects as a back-of-the-rotation guy.
Mike (Colorado): Thanks for the chat. What is the likelihood that Franklin/Ackley is the double play combo starting 2012? Do you see both as Future All-Stars
I don't think Franklin will be ready quite that quickly, but that's the DP combo of the future, yes.
CPT Garner (Iraq): What can you tell me about my fellow USMA classmate Nick Hill and his future with the Mariners? Does he have a chance to contribute to the Mariners 'pen this year?
Hill's an easy guy to root for, but the Mariners didn't add him to their 40-man roster and his year in Double-A was just okay, so I don't think he'll get to Seattle in 2011.
Steve (Sarasota): How many of these players do you feel will make the Top 100 List?
JY (Manhattan): How close did Nate Tenbrink come to making the list this year? Were the reports better on his defense at third coming out of the AFL? Where might they play him to open 2011?
Tenbrink had a nice season, but he wasn't close to making the Top 10 and actually won't make the Top 30 this year. He's athletic, but he has a real pushy approach at the plate and the bat doesn't profile for any of the positions he can play - 3B, LF or 1B. Another nice guy to have around, but not a big prospect.
JY (Manhattan): The other Korean prospect in system, Seon-gi Kim, had an awful lot of strikeouts and not many walks in short-season this year. What's his arm like?
93-94 mph fastball, but he needs to stay on top of it more because it flattens out on him. Strong, durable frame. Good CH and came in with a splitter, but has since moved to a curveball.
Clooch (VT): Ackley's defensive scouting reports have become increasingly optimistic since the AFL. Can he stick at 2b?
Yes, he can.
dave (lexington): any progress with the james paxton situation?
No rush to sign him now. I think he'll sign, but it will be closer to spring training.
Karl (Seattle): This is ridiculous to even ask, but in search of some more positive, I feel compelled to ask...as for next years top-10, where would a Rendon/Purke/Cole/etc. fit in?
Probably No. 1...we'll see!
Okay, thanks everybody for subscribing to Baseball America and for all the great questions! There's a little break in the Top 10 action, but Matt Forman kicks off the National League prospect lists with the Phillies a week from today, Dec. 13.