2012 Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects Chat With Conor Glassey




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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.

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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 excited about.

    Ben (Leland Grove): How many of these guys do you believe are Top 100 worthy?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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 year.

    Robert (Lansing): Who would you compare Taijun Walker to currently? Does he have the highest ceiling of any pitcher in minor league baseball?

Conor Glassey: 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!

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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 Ackley-Ichiro.

    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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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? Thanks!

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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.

Conor Glassey: 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?

Conor Glassey: 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 closer??

Conor Glassey: 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!

Conor Glassey: 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.

Conor Glassey: 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!