Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects With Scouting Reports

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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.

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Seattle Mariners

The Mariners' 2010 season was arguably the worst in franchise history.

The franchise debuted in 1977 and didn't post its first winning season until 1990, so there were certainly plenty of lean years. But 2010 was much more disappointing because even the most pessimistic fans in Seattle couldn't have seen it coming.

The Mariners went 85-77 in 2009, their first season under general manager Jack Zduriencik, and optimism reigned only one year after they became the first team with a $100 million payroll to lose more than 100 games. When Zduriencik signed free agent Chone Figgins and traded for Cliff Lee last offseason, many analysts picked Seattle to win the American League West.

But everything went wrong for the Mariners. Local writers reported that franchise icon Ken Griffey Jr. was caught napping in the clubhouse when he was needed for pinch-hitting duty during a game in May, and he retired in June after batting .184/.250/.204 in 98 at-bats on the season. Figgins started slowly and never got on track, and he got into a dugout fight with manager Don Wakamatsu in July. Wakamatsu and three big league coaches were fired in early August.

The Mariners went 42-70 under Wakamatsu and 19-31 under interim replacement Daren Brown, losing 100 games for the fifth time in franchise history. While Ichiro Suzuki became the first player ever to record 10 straight 200-hit seasons, Seattle scored just 513 runs, the lowest full-season total for an AL team since the introduction of the designated hitter. Righthander Felix Hernandez won the Cy Young Award, yet went 13-12 because he was saddled with poor run support and a shaky bullpen.

By July it was obvious the Mariners would need to trade Lee, who was headed toward free agency, but even that ended up backfiring. The Yankees thought they had worked out a deal that would have sent elite hitting prospect Jesus Montero and two other players to Seattle for Lee, but that deal fell through and the Mariners ended up shipping Lee and Mark Lowe to the Rangers for Justin Smoak, righthanders Blake Beavan and Josh Lueke and second baseman Matt Lawson.

Lueke was charged with rape and sodomy in a May 2008 incident and served 42 days in jail before reaching a plea deal for lesser charges—false imprisonment with violence—that included three years' felony probation. His past was common knowledge within the industry, but Zduriencik contended he didn't know the extent of Lueke's legal troubles when he made the deal. The Mariners, who have worked with groups opposing violence toward women, drew fire for acquiring Lueke, and director of pro scouting Carmen Fusco took the fall when he was fired in September.

The franchise took another hit on Nov. 10, when Hall of Famer broadcaster Dave Niehaus died of a heart attack. It was a tragic end to an already depressing season.

The Mariners do have hope for the future. Hernandez is the best pitcher in baseball, and Ichiro (who also won his 10th straight Gold Glove) shows no signs of slowing down. Smoak and second baseman Dustin Ackley, the system's No. 1 prospect, should help rejuvenate the lineup in the next couple of years, and righthander Michael Pineda eventually should slot in right behind Hernandez in the rotation.

Seattle may not be able to contend under new manager Eric Wedge in 2011, but the season can't be as disheartening as the one that preceded it.

1.  Dustin Ackley, 2b   Born: Feb, 26, 1988B-T: L-RHt: 6-1Wt: 185
 Drafted: North Carolina, 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Rob Mummau
Dustin AckleyBackground: Undrafted out of high school, Ackley starred as a first baseman at North Carolina. He hit .412 in three years with the Tar Heels and led them to three College World Series, where he set a record with 28 hits in 15 games. The consensus No. 2 player in the 2009 draft behind Stephen Strasburg, he went second overall and signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for a big league contract that included a $6 million bonus and $7.5 million in guaranteed money. He entered pro ball as a center fielder in the Arizona Fall League, but the Mariners decided to try him at second base in his 2010 debut. He got off to a rocky start at Double-A West Tenn, batting .139 through May 3, but he hit .301 in the next two months. Ackley finished the year by destroying the Arizona Fall League, hitting .424/.581/.758, setting a league record for on-base percentage and winning MVP honors.

Scouting Report: Scouts regarded Ackley as one of the most polished hitters to come out of the draft in years. He's extremely patient at the plate, recognizes pitches well and isn't afraid to wait for the pitch he wants or to hit with two strikes. He can sometimes pull off pitches, but he gets his bat on plane with the ball extremely quickly and his barrel stays in the hitting zone for a long time. His picturesque swing and uncanny hand-eye coordination produce excellent plate coverage. Ackley is mostly a gap hitter now, but he can drive the ball to all fields and occasionally shows nice loft. He sometimes hits off his front foot too much, but Seattle is confident he'll develop at lest 15-homer power as he adds strength to his unimposing frame. Getting stronger also will help him fight fatigue over the long season. He looked worn down even while tearing up the AFL, but to his credit he always hustles and never gives away at-bats. Ackley has 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the Mariners want him to make better use of it on the basepaths after stealing just 10 bases in 13 attempts in 2010. He played shortstop in high school, but the move to second base wasn't easy. Rough at first, he worked diligently and improved his footwork, range and hands, especially on backhanding balls to his right. He learned how to read and anticipate hops, as well as the need for throwing from different arm angles. He hurt his arm pitching as a high school senior and had Tommy John surgery in 2008, but it's average now. While he may never be an asset at second base, he's a good athlete and could handle any of three outfield positions. He also could be a plus defender at first base. Ackley's father, John, spent seven seasons as a catcher in the Red Sox organization and Dustin has a professional approach and a strong work ethic.

The Future: With only one pro season under his belt, Ackley is nearly ready for the big leagues. Seattle had traded away Jose Lopez, which could open a spot in the lineup. It also would make sense for the Mariners to give Ackley some more Triple-A time to further refine his defense and delay his arbitration and free-agency eligibility for an extra year.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
West Tenn (AA) .263 .389 .384 289 42 76 21 4 2 28 55 41 8
Tacoma (AAA) .274 .338 .439 212 37 58 12 4 5 23 20 38 2
2.  Michael Pineda   Born: Jan. 18, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 250
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2005Signed by: Patrick Guerrero/Franklin Taveras
Michael PinedaBackground: Pineda has had little trouble with minor league hitters, posting a 2.49 ERA and 396 strikeouts in 404 innings. After elbow soreness limited him to 47 innings in 2009, he returned healthy last season and reached Triple-A at age 21.

Scouting Report: Pineda has the size, stuff and control to pitch at the top of a rotation. He throws a crisp fastball that sits at 93-97 mph and gets as high as 101 with explosive life and occasional heavy sink. He tightened and added more tilt to his quality slider this year, though he can still get under it occasionally, causing it to flatten out. He also did a better job of selling his upper-80s changeup with the same arm speed as his fastball, keeping it down and getting hitters to chase it. Pineda throws all three pitches from the same three-quarter arm slot. With his velocity, high-effort delivery and unusual arm action, it's surprising how well he throws strikes. While he has good control, his command could be sharpened.

The Future: Pineda will challenge for a rotation spot in Seattle in 2011. He eventually should become the No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez, but he shouldn't be expected to be that guy right out of the gate.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Tenn (AA) 8 1 2.22 13 13 0 0 77 67 1 17 78 .228
Tacoma (AAA) 3 2 4.76 12 12 0 0 62 54 9 17 76 .227
3.  Nick Franklin, ss/2b   Born: March 2, 1991B-T: B-RHt: 6-1Wt: 175
 Drafted: HS—Altamonte Springs, Fla., 2009 (1st round)Signed by: Chuck Carlson
Nick FranklinBackground: The 27th overall pick and recipient of a $1.28 million bonus in 2009, Franklin surprisingly launched 23 homers in his first full pro season, breaking Dick Kenworthy's 49-year-old franchise record in the process.

Scouting Report: Franklin gets everything out of his 175-pound frame with above-average bat speed, nice whip in his barrel and good leverage. He swings hard, which inevitably leads to some strikeouts, but he has the hand-eye coordination to get away with it. Though his stroke can get a little long, he drives the ball hard to all fields. He can get too aggressive at the plate at times. A switch-hitter, he was more effective batting lefthanded in 2010 (.953 OPS, compared to .494 righthanded) but his swing is similar from both sides. An average runner, he has good instincts and was one of only three minor leaguers to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases last season. Franklin has solid actions and range at shortstop, though some scouts think his fringy arm will make him a second baseman.

The Future: The Mariners promoted Franklin to Double-A for the Southern League playoffs and may let him stay there in 2011. He has the ability and maturity to handle the jump.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Clinton (Lo A) .281 .351 .485 513 89 144 22 7 23 65 50 123 25
West Tenn (AA) .667 .750 .667 3 3 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 0
4.  Taijuan Walker, rhp   Born: Aug. 13, 1992B-T: R-RHt: 6-5Wt: 195
 Drafted: HS—Yucaipa, Calif., 2010 (1st round supplemental)Signed by: John Ramey
Taijuan WalkerBackground: Walker was known more as a shortstop and basketball forward prior to 2010. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a high school senior, with his dunking ability earning him the nickname "Sky Walker." He focused more on pitching last spring and worked his way into the supplemental first round, signing quickly for $800,000.

Scouting Report: Walker is both a work in progress and a tremendously gifted athlete. His fastball ranged from 91-95 mph in high school, and after he was shut down in his pro debut with shoulder stiffness, he returned in instructional league to sit at 95 and top out at 98 with heavy sink. His 12-to-6 curveball shows flashes of being a plus pitch, though he focused more on honing his changeup during instructional league. Walker's athleticism helps him repeat his delivery, but he still needs to smooth out his mechanics and improve his command. He's still learning the intricacies of pitching, such as pitch selection, fielding the position, holding runners and between-starts preparation.

The Future: Because Walker is relatively new to pitching, the Mariners won't rush him. He could start 2011 in extended spring training, though his electric arm and competitive drive could prompt an assignment to low Class A.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
AZL Mariners (R) 1 1 1.29 4 0 0 0 7 2 0 3 9 .087
5.  Guillermo Pimentel, of   Born: Oct. 5, 1992B-T: L-LHt: 6-1Wt: 180
 Signed: Dominican Republic, 2009Signed by: Patrick Guerrero/Bob Engle/Luis Scheker
Guillermo PimentelBackground: Pimentel spurned the Rangers to sign with the Mariners for $2 million in July 2009 and made his pro debut last summer. He shook off a slow start to bat .293/.318/.537 in August and rank as the Rookie-level Arizona League's No. 1 prospect.

Scouting Report: Pimentel has five-tool potential, attracting the most attention with his light-tower power. He has the bat speed and strength in his hands to launch balls 450 feet from home plate. He has a mechanically sound swing and routinely stays through the ball with nice extension. He's overly aggressive at this point, as evidenced by his 58-5 K-BB ratio, and geared to hit fastballs. He's going to have to develop more discipline and learn to stay back on offspeed pitches as he advances through the minors. Pimentel has average raw speed but doesn't make the best use of it yet on the basepaths or in left field. He has an average arm that could become plus with some mechanical tweaks, such as using his lower half more. He's a good teammate but needs to understand failure is a part of the game and not be too hard on himself.

The Future: Pimentel will likely spend the first part of the year in extended spring training before joining Rookie-level Pulaski in June. He could arrive in Seattle at some point in 2014.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
AZL Mariners (R) .250 .276 .451 184 20 46 7 6 6 31 5 58 5
6.  Mauricio Robles, lhp   Born: March 5, 1989B-T: L-LHt: 5-10Wt: 205
 Signed: Venezuela, 2006Signed by: German Robles (Tigers)
Mauricio RoblesBackground: The Mariners snagged Robles and Luke French from the Tigers at the 2009 trade deadline for in exchange for Jarrod Washburn. Washburn bombed in Detroit and Robles is now one of Seattle's best prospects, ranking fourth in the Southern League in strikeouts (120) and opponent average (.239) in 2010.

Scouting Report: Robles doesn't cast an imposing figure, but he has a lot of strength in his 5-foot-10 frame. He has an aggressive delivery and a fastball that sits at 91-93 mph and touches 95 deep into games. Because of his youth, strength and willingness to pitch off his fastball, scouts believe he still add more velocity. He has the best changeup in the system, a potential plus pitch with good fade. He controls it better than his curveball, which flashes tight rotation but is still inconsistent. He needs to work on throwing strikes more frequently. Scouts think the problem is more mental than mechanical, as sometimes tries to blow his fastball by hitters instead of trusting his other pitches.

The Future: After joining Tacoma for a successful Pacific Coast League playoff run at the end of 2010, Robles will return to Triple-A. He has the stuff to pitch in the middle of a big league rotation and could make his Seattle debut later in the season.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Tenn (AA) 6 6 4.11 22 22 0 0 114 102 10 51 120 .239
Tacoma (AAA) 3 1 3.54 5 5 0 0 28 19 2 20 34 .188
7.  Johermyn Chavez, of   Born: Jan. 26, 1989B-T: R-RHt: 6-3Wt: 220
 Signed: Venezuela, 2005Signed by: Rafael Moncada (Blue Jays)
Johermyn ChavezBackground: The Mariners regret swapping Brandon Morrow for Brandon League in December 2009, but at least they got Chavez in the deal with the Blue Jays. He ranked second in the high Class A California League with 32 homers in 2010, though 23 of those longballs came in the friendly confines of High Desert. He continued to hit well in the Venezuelan League during the winter.

Scouting Report: The ball jumps off Chavez's bat and he has power to all fields. He worked with minor league hitting coaches Tommy Cruz and Jose Castro on his swing in 2010, eliminating a loop and a tendency to chop down on the ball. The changes allowed him to start turning on inside pitches and tap into his above-average raw power. He does strike out a lot, and he must continue to work on his pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness, though he showed improvement in that regard this year. Chavez is a below-average runner but moves well in right field. He fits nicely in right because he has well above-average arm strength. Though he's a streaky player, he's level-headed and handles his ups and downs well.

The Future: Added to Seattle's 40-man roster in November, Chavez will spend 2011 in Double-A. The Mariners are well-stocked in the outfield, so he'll have to keep producing to get a big league opportunity.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
High Desert (HiA) .315 .387 .577 534 109 168 30 7 32 96 52 131 6
8.  Marcus Littlewood, ss   Born: March 18, 1992B-T: B-RHt: 6-3Wt: 200
 Drafted: HS—St. George, Utah, 2010 (2nd round)Signed by: Chris Pelekoudas
Marcus LittlewoodBackground: Littlewood won a gold medal with the U.S. 16-and-under national team at the 2008 Pan American Youth Games and played for the 18-and-under squad last summer after Seattle drafted him in the second round. The Mariners bought him away from a San Diego commitment for $900,000—the largest draft bonus it paid out in 2010. His father Mike played briefly in the Brewers system and is the head baseball coach at Dixie State (Utah).

Scouting Report: Littlewood's natural hitting ability and tireless work ethic allowed him to pick up switch-hitting while in high school. He has a simple swing that looks similar from either side of the plate, though he has more strength from his natural right side. With his advanced approach and understanding of the strike zone, he should hit for a solid average. He's more of a line-drive/doubles hitter than a slugger, though he could hit 10-15 homers per year. A below-average runner, Littlewood doesn't have ideal range for a shortstop. He makes up for it with fluid action, a strong arm and a knack for being in the right place.

The Future: With his baseball upbringing and Team USA experience, Littlewood is prepared to start his pro career in a full-season league. He'll take over for Nick Franklin as Clinton's everyday shortstop in 2011.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Did Not Play—Signed Late
9.  Kyle Seager, inf   Born: Nov. 3, 1987B-T: L-RHt: 5-10Wt: 175
 Drafted: North Carolina, 2009 (3rd round)Signed by: Rob Mummau
Kyle SeagerBackground: Along with Dustin Ackley and lefthander Brian Moran, Seager was one of three players the Mariners drafted from North Carolina in the first seven rounds of the 2009 draft. In his first full pro season, Seager led the minor leagues with 192 hits—the most in the minors Joe Thurston recorded 196 in 2002.

Scouting Report: Seager's best tool is his hitting ability, and he projects to bat .280 in the big leagues. He shows good balance with a compact swing and his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time. While he hit 14 homers in 2010, he's more of a line-drive hitter who will spray doubles from gap to gap. He's a below-average runner who needs to improve his instincts on the bases. Like he did in college, Seager has split his time as a pro between second and third base, and he also saw action at shortstop last season. His range isn't suited for the middle infield, but he handles routine plays and shows good quickness when turning the double play.

The Future: With questionable range and top prospects Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin ahead of him at second base and shortstop, Seager profiles best as a utility player. If he continues to hit in Double-A in 2011, he could be a valuable contributor for the Mariners in the near future.
2010 Club (Class) AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
High Desert (Hi A) .345 .419 .503 557 126 192 40 3 14 74 71 94 13
10.  Dan Cortes, rhp   Born: March 4, 1987B-T: R-RHt: 6-6Wt: 215
 Signed: HS—Pomona, Calif., 2005 (17th round)Signed by: Dan Ontiveros (White Sox)
Dan CortesBackground: Acquired by the Royals from the White Sox in a 2006 trade for Mike MacDougal, Cortes established himself as Kansas City's top pitching prospect entering 2009. But after he was arrested for public intoxication that July, the Royals sent him and lefthander Derrick Saito to the Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt. He took off after Seattle moved him to the bullpen in mid-2010 and ended the year in the big leagues.

Scouting Report: Relieving suits Cortes and his fastball, which rose from 94-97 mph to a consistent 96-98 and regularly touched triple digits. The pitch explodes out of his hand and comes in on a sharp downhill plane thanks to his height and high three-quarters arm slot. His hammer 12-to-6 curveball and sharp slider give him a pair of power breaking pitches, but he throws more strikes with the slider. He mostly scrapped his changeup in his new role, but can still pull one out of his back pocket to keep hitters off balance. His biggest weakness is his below-average control and command.

The Future: Cortes' brief but impressive major league stint has him in line to make the Mariners' Opening Day bullpen.
2010 Club (Class) W L ERA G GS CG SV IP H HR BB SO AVG
West Tenn (AA) 6 4 5.27 25 16 0 1 84 77 4 53 85 .239
Tacoma (AAA) 1 2 4.97 9 0 0 1 13 13 1 8 13 .277
Seattle 0 1 3.38 4 0 0 0 5 3 0 3 6 .158

Complete Index of Top 10 Prospects
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Photo Credits:
John Williamson (Ackley)