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.
Hey, everybody! Thanks for stopping by
to chat about the Mariners system, a system that is certainly looking
like it's on the upswing. Plenty of great questions in the queue
already, so let's get going a few minutes early, as it's a busy time
here at BA Headquarters with the College Preview/Early Draft Preview
going to press next week, as well as our 2012 Directory. Here goes. . .
Harry (NJ): Just how close was it for the #2 spot on your list between Hultzen and Walker, and what was the difference-maker?
Very close. At the beginning of my
process, I thought Hultzen would be No. 1 (this is obviously way before
the Montero trade). But once I started making my calls, the overwhelming
consensus was that Walker was the better prospect—and that came from
inside the organization, as well as from scouts in other organizations.
Walker looks like a future ace and someone Mariners fans should be very
Ben (Leland Grove): How many of these guys do you believe are Top 100 worthy?
Always a good question and the M's
system has quite a few. Montero is a no-doubt Top 10 prospect, Walker
and Hultzen are in the top 20-25, Paxton should be in the Top 50. Those
guys are sure things for the Top 100. Nick Franklin would squeak into my
personal Top 100, but I'm guessing he'll miss the cut for others.
Ben (Leland Grove): Who got the higher ceiling grade in your Handbook between Walker and Hultzen?
Walker has the higher ceiling, but a little more risk.
Frank (Chicago): How far off the top 10 was Liddi, and do you foresee a move to 1B in his future?
Liddi was more in the middle of the pack
for me, mostly over concerns about his strikeouts. I don't think a move
to first base makes sense because you really have to hit to play first
base and there are questions about how much he'll hit. I got a "poor
man's Mark Reynolds" comp on Liddi. . . which makes him a bench guy more
than an everyday option. Defensively, though, it seems like he cleaned
things up a little bit at third base this year, which may give him a
little more versatility for that bench role.
Kelly (St Cloud MN): Is Littlewood likely to stick at SS? Thoughts on his bat?
Kelly, the Mariners have moved Marcus
Littlewood to catcher. It's a move they tried out in the instructional
league and it sounds like he really took to the switch. There were
always questions about whether he'd have enough range at shortstop
anyway (I even heard scouts in high school that wanted to try him out
behind the plate), so the move makes sense. Littlewood has the arm
strength to play back there, as well as the leadership, toughness and
baseball savvy. It will certainly be an interesting thing to follow next
Robert (Lansing): Who would you compare Taijun Walker to currently? Does he have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in minor league baseball?
Like I alluded to earlier, everyone I
spoke to for this chapter just gushed and raved about Walker's
athleticism, stuff and work ethic. I got one comp on him that was very
impressive (and was obviously made for the stuff and potential, not any
other issues) and that was Dwight Gooden. That just shows you how highly
Walker is thought of in the game. In terms of pure ceiling, the only
other pitching prospect with a higher ceiling is Matt Moore. He's a
little risker than some of these guys, but Walker's ceiling is right
there with the other elite arms in the game: Teheran, Bauer, Bundy,
Taillon, Miller, etc.
Nick (West Coast): Color me surprised to see
Castillo over Guillermo Pimentel for the 10th spot. What was the
separator in your mind? Thanks for the chat!
They're similar talents and are ranked
very closely to one another in the book. Castillo put up better numbers
in his US debut than Pimentel and sounds like he makes harder contact.
Castillo also sounds like a harder worker - had a couple sources say
Pimentel tends to dog it at times.
Michael Stern (Rochester NY): Do you see the Mariners as the # 1 ranked system in the
minors now? They have a top 5 that are all studs - I can see
them all in the top 50. And Catricala, who projects to be an
everyday OF that hits .300 with 25-30 HR is ranked 9th. That's quite a system. Are they the tops?
Pump the brakes there, Michael. The
Mariners system is looking good, but not *that* good. I already
addressed the guys likely to be in the Top 50. Catricala I'll get to
later in another question. As for the organizational rank. . . Without
giving too much away, I'll tell you the M's will rank higher than they
have in our final Organizational Rankings since 2002. Most of that
year's Top 10 didn't pan out (Ryan Anderson, Antonio Perez, Chris
Snelling, Clint Nageotte, Jeff Heaverlo, Ryan Christianson & Jamal
Strong), but there were also two all-stars in Rafael Soriano and Matt
Thornton, as well as Shin-Soo Choo.
Chris H (Boston, MA): Thanks for the chat! Do you think 3B Kyle Seager is just keeping the position warm until Fernando Martinez is ready?
Hey, Chris. I do think Martinez is the
team's third baseman of the future, but I'm not sure who will be keeping
his spot warm. That seems like it's wide open without a great answer
right now. Seager would be my choice - but it sounds like M's fans will
still have to watch Chone Figgins quite a bit in 2012 and, even though I
think he'll wind up as a bench player, the door is as wide open as it's
going to be for Alex Liddi to stick. If everything remains the same, it
should be an interesting battle this spring.
Karl of Delaware (Georgetown, Delaware): Off
topic. This morning's Wilmington newspaper: "Mariners manager considers
moving Suszuki from leadoff spot". What are your thoughts on this?
It's not a prospect question, but it's
not too far off topic, Karl. I don't think Ichiro did much last year to
just be handed the leadoff spot in next year's lineup. That said, I
don't think it matters too much whether it's Ichiro-Ackley or
Peter (San Diego): What is ETA for Danny
Hultzen in Seattle? Do you think Seattle will ease him in as a reliever
before he joins the big league rotation?
The Mariners have added some depth, so
his shot of opening the season in the rotation looks less likely, but I
think Hultzen will pitch in Seattle at some point in 2012 as a starter.
jim (Seattle, Wa): Conor,
How close was Carter Capps to making the Top 10? I heard reports that he
was 95-97 during instructs. Does he profile as a closer down the rode?
Those reports are correct—and he was
even throwing harder before that, getting up to 99 mph as a reliever in
the summer college Cape Cod League before signing. The Mariners have
seen Capps look great in both roles, starting and relieving, so there is
some debate about which path he'll take. I'd bet he starts initially to
work on his stuff and learn how to get minor leaguers out (it's still a
big jump from D-II to the minor leagues), but that he'll be put on a
fast track to the bullpen at some point.
JH (Palo Alto): Can you name some potential
fast risers at the lower levels of the system? Anybody you have pegged
for a potential breakout year?
Capps, who I just touched on, is my breakout candidate for this year and I guy I could see moving quickly.
Morrie (New Joisey): What can you tell us about Erasmo Ramirez's pitches and upside?
Good one, Morrie. Ramirez gets
overshadowed by the Walker-Hultzen-Paxton trio, but he's very good and
came close to cracking the Top 10. He's not a big guy, but his stuff has
improved and he can now get his fastball up to 94. He has good feel for
his secondary stuff (a slurvy breaking ball and a changeup) and fills
up the strike zone. His upside is as a back-of-the-rotation starter.
Jerry (Saratoga Springs, NY): Hey Conor,
Great work as usual on the top 10.
Was Hisashi Iwakuma considered for the list? If not, where would you rank him?
Thanks, Jerry! The Mariners signed
Iwakuma after the book went to press, so he wasn't included in my
chapter. As a fourth/fifth starter type, he'd probably rank as a
"45/Low" using Baseball America's new grading system
, which would put him in the 15-20 range.
Alan (NC): Is it possible we see Walker sometime in '12?
I think that's too aggressive, Alan.
While he may skip High-A and head straight to Double-A, I think the
earliest Walker will be in Seattle is mid-2013. The earliest.
Kris (Philly): How do you project Carlos Triunfel at this point? Also, what's best case scenario for him?
I think he's a future utility player and
he doesn't even have the best utility profile, because he doesn't run.
But the thing really keeping him even on the list is the fact that he
plays shortstop. If he played any other position (except catcher), his
.278/.320/.370 line in the minor leagues would probably get him knocked
off the list. He looked a little better defensively in 2011, but his
problem is still the same—he can't resist chasing pitches outside the
strike zone, and he has the hand-eye coordination to get to them,
resulting in a lot of weak contact. It wouldn't surprise me to see him
in the big leagues at some point (after all, he was added to the 40-man
roster), but I don't think he'll have an impact.
JY (Seattle again): Back at the the time of the
trade, there was a lot of talk about Chih-Hsien Chiang and the
management of his diabetes that read as though Boston had just managed
to find the magic key that unlocked everything. However, after the
trade, he was about half the player in Jackson and still seemed to
scuffle in the fall league. Any insight into how he looked or possible
rationales for the production drop? Was it just a case of the blues?
Well, he didn't look as good after the
trade obviously, but Mariners scouts watched a lot of him before the
trade and really liked him. I think the difference between the two was
just regression to the mean. The real Chiang is somewhere between those
two stints and I think he profiles as a fourth-outfielder type.
JY (Seattle again): I got my BA Prospect
Handbook in the mail yesterday and going over it, I was a little
surprised to see Jack Marder lower on the depth chart than I expected.
Are you and the BA crew not sold on his ability to catch?
Back-to-back diabetes questions for JY! A
couple factors contributed to Marder's ranking on the depth chart. I
like Marder, but he didn't hit real well even in college, so I want to
see how he adjusts to the pro game. That will be a big adjustment if
he's going to catch full-time—something that's new to him and will also
be a challenge with his diabetes. That's why he ranked behind a few
other guys, because they're either better offensively, more sure-things
defensively, or both. Marder does have very good catch-and-throw skills,
it's just the grind of the position I'm worried about.
Herbert (Cincinatti): Jose Campos and Michael Pineda are an awful lot to give up for just one player. Do you think Montero was worth the trade?
Well, first of all, the Mariners got two
players—Montero and RHP Hector Noesi. I like the trade for both teams,
actually. You have to love the old-school baseball trades: young talent
for young talent. I also loved it because it was a trade that
essentially came out of nowhere. While every minor rumor is logged on
the internet these days, this one was pulled out of thin air. Both teams
traded from strength for a need and I like it for both. Montero gives
the Mariners something they really lacked in the system—a power bat. I
think he's the rare righthanded hitter who can succeed at Safeco because
his natural power is to right-center and I like Noesi in the back of
the rotation. There was some gnashing of teeth among Mariners fans over
losing Campos. Campos is good, no doubt, but he's also several years
away and there's a decent chance he never even becomes Hector Noesi.
Robin (Milwaukee): Who do you think is the highest upside position player and pitcher not in the top 10 right now?
Position player: Guillermo Pimentel.
Pitcher: RHP Victor Sanchez, who was signed out of the Dominican
Republic this year and already has a 92-94 mph fastball.
Mary (Springfield): Trayvon Robinson being the
centetfielder of the future surprised me a bit. Are you sure he can stay
in center? Is there not a better option in the Mariners system?
Don't put too much stock into the 2015
lineups. There were a few spots on that lineup where I really just
didn't have an answer for, and center field was one of them (with DH and
RF being the other). The real answer is that it's probably "none of the
above," for CF - probably someone that isn't in the organization right
now (Jacoby Ellsbury?). But we're limited by what's there.
Brian (OR): Will Brad Miller be able to stick at shortstop?
He has some things to iron out, but I
think he could stay there, though I see his ultimate profile as more of a
very good utility player. A Kyle Seager type with a little more pop and
more defensive value because he's better at shortstop.
Greg (Fullerton, CA): Matt Tuiasosopo- ever gonna make good on his draft position?
No. Tuiasosopo signed a minor league
deal with the Mets recently. Follow Matt Eddy on Twitter for
up-to-the-minute minor league signings! @eddymk
Bob (Bellingham): I was surprised that you
think a lot of people won't have Nick Franklin in their Top 100. I
think of him as someone with a reasonable shot to be an average defender
at short capable of hitting 15-20 HRs. That's a really good player and
a top prospect for sure. Am I overrating him?
No, I agree with you. I've always loved Franklin and think he could be a Stephen Drew-type.
Nick (Cayman Islands): Prospect or Suspect? James Jones.
Leaning more toward suspect at this
point. He was a raw college guy anyway, so losing ABs to injuries hurts
him more than it does others. It won't be next year, but I wouldn't be
shocked to see Jones back on the mound eventually. He was up to 95 mph
from the left side in college.
Pat (VT): Is Carlos Peguero eligible for the prospect handbook? What's the skinny on him off this year?
He wasn't eligible, but would have
ranked in the middle of it somewhere, if he were. The organization is
still hoping things click for him because the tools are LOUD. Scouts in
other organizations like him a lot too and he played well this winter,
hitting .259/.342/.512 in the Dominican Winter League.
Joe (Shawano): I see you have Ruffin as the
closer in 2015. Is there a chance he makes it as a closer before then??
How good, on a scale from 1-10, are his chances of becoming the
Yes, I think there's a good chance he
makes it there before 2015. With Prince Fielder's recent signing,
there's been a lot of talk about father-son HR combos. How about
father-son saves combos? Who are the leaders there? Tweet me some!
Steve (Woodinville): Conor - I know it's a shot in the dark, but give us your best guess at the Mariners Top 5 prospects for next year's handbook!
Haha . . . an awesome place to end.
You're right, this sure is a shot in the dark, but it's a fun question,
so here goes nothing! Remember, the cutoff for Prospect Handbook
eligibility is 130 at-bats for position players, and 50 IP or 30 relief
appearances for pitchers. That being said, I expect Montero and Hultzen
to lose eligibility next year. Without trying to predict trades or
anything, I'll put next year's Top 5 like this: Taijuan Walker, Byron
Buxton (GA HS outfielder, who could be their No. 3 pick in the 2012
draft), James Paxton, Nick Franklin, Francisco Martinez.
Ok, that's all for me guys. First of
all, thank you very much for subscribing! I wish I could chat longer
(lots of great questions left), but I have to wrap some things left
before the end of the day. If you haven't already, consider buying a
Prospect Handbook. If you buy it directly from Baseball America
you'll get scouting reports on 936 different players! If you have any
questions I wasn't able to get to (or any questions about the 2012
draft), hit me up on Twitter
. Have a great weekend!