- Full name Michael Edward Brett Saunders
- Born 11/19/1986 in Victoria, BC, Canada
- Profile Ht.: 6'4" / Wt.: 225 / Bats: L / Throws: R
- School Tallahassee CC
- Debut 07/25/2009
Drafted in the 11th round (333rd overall) by the Seattle Mariners in 2004.
View Draft ReportSaunders is a legitimate two-way prospect. He has a tall, athletic build with long arms and legs. On the mound, he has a loose, fluid arm action from a three-quarters slot and gets good extension over his front side. His fastball sits in the 88-91 mph range on a good downhill plane with late tail and sink, but his other pitches need work. He throws a curveball that he guides instead of letting it go, and slows his arm on his changeup. At the plate, he has an open, straightaway stance, and is a patient hitter with a fluid stroke that has a slight uppercut. The ball jumps from his bat and he projects to have above-average power. Defensively, he has above-average arm strength and a decent glove, but needs lots of ground balls to improve his fielding. He is a fringe-average runner who is better under way.
Organization Prospect Rankings
After recovering from arthroscopic shoulder surgery in the offseason, Saunders joined Triple-A Tacoma in late April and he turned in his finest pro season to date. Seattle rewarded him with a callup in late July, whereupon he faced lefties in five of his first six starts and Roy Halladay in the other. Not coincidentally, he got off to a 4-for-27 (.148) start. Saunders shows all five tools, scoring average marks across the board. He has quality bat speed and can pull the ball for power, though he didn't homer in 46 big league games. He can bunt for hits, controls the strike zone and hits offspeed pitches to left field, showing the ingredients necessary to hit for average. He runs well and has more than enough range and arm strength to handle a corner outfield post. Because he works deep counts, Saunders likely will continue to strike out at a healthy pace. The Mariners sat Saunders down for a stretch in September to address mechanical issues in his swing. Hitting coach Alan Cockrell helped him create more leverage and power in his stroke by incorporating his legs more efficiently. Gauging by how well Saunders hit in the Venezuelan League this winter, the lesson seemed to take. Saunders' steady development through the minors underscores his aptitude and dedication to his craft. He should be the Mariners' regular left fielder for 2010 and beyond.
A visa shortage made it impossible for Saunders to play in the United States when he was drafted in 2004, so he spent a year at Tallahassee (Fla.) CC before signing for $237,500 as a draft-and-follow. He followed up on a breakout 2007 with a strong 2008, which included batting .286 and leading Team Canada with two homers at the Beijing Olympics. Saunders' compact lefthanded swing generates leverage, loft and plus power to all fields, and he could develop into a 20-home run hitter as he builds on his 6-foot-4 frame. A good fastball hitter, he already possesses a strong knowledge of the strike zone, and his willingness to use the opposite field suggests he'll be at least an average hitter, too. Saunders has average speed and instincts on the basepath, and West Tenn manager Scott Steinmann called him the organization's best drag bunter. He has average range for center field, and a plus arm that would fit in right. Saunders strikes out a lot because he still chases offspeed pitches out of the zone. Though added bulk could augment his homer totals, it also stands to detract from his speed and range. Saunders should be ready for spring training after having offseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. With the Mariners starting a massive rebuilding process, he could make his big league debut at some point in 2009 and figures to man an outfield corner in Seattle for years to come.
A visa shortage in baseball would have made it impossible for Saunders to start his pro career in 2004, when the Mariners drafted him out of a British Columbia high school. So he headed to junior college for a year before signing as a draft-and-follow for $237,500. Saunders showed NHL potential in hockey and also starred in basketball, lacrosse and soccer as an amateur. After being unprepared physically or mentally for the rigors of the low Class A in 2006, Saunders put to rest any doubts about his potential by reaching Double-A at age 20. A potential five-tool talent with as much athleticism as any Seattle farmhand, he generates good loft with a fluid lefthanded stroke. Still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame, he could mature into a 20-homer hitter with the above-average speed required to steal bases and play a plus center field. He has a strong arm, having touched 91 mph as an amateur pitcher. Experience is the missing ingredient to Saunders' game. The Mariners believe the Double-A promotion was the best thing for him, as it forced him to hone his baseball instincts--everything from stealing bases to playing defense to working pitchers. Though his patience is encouraging for a young player, he piles up an excessive number of strikeouts. While added bulk probably would help Saunders hit for more power, it might detract from his speed, making a future move to right field possible. Regardless, he'll get the chance to master Double-A in 2008.
When the Mariners drafted Saunders out of a British Columbia high school in 2004, baseball faced a visa shortage that would have made it impossible to start his pro career. So he attended Tallahassee (Fla.) CC for a year before signing as a draft-and-follow for $237,500. He showed promise in his pro debut but had difficulty solving low Class A pitching in his first full season in 2006. While Saunders has raw tools and a fluid stroke, he was unprepared mentally or physically for playing on an everyday basis. He did make some adjustments, batting .298 from July until mid-August, when he left to play for Canada at an Olympic qualifying tournament in Cuba, where he hit a team-best .448. A multisport athlete growing up, Saunders showed NHL potential in hockey and also starred in basketball, lacrosse and soccer. He also showed an 88-91 mph fastball as a pitcher. His best tool is his raw power, created by natural loft in his swing, but he'll have to make more consistent contact in order to tap into it. He has solid speed but could slow down as he fills out, making a move from center to right field likely in his future. Seattle may have him repeat low Class A, which would give Wisconsin a very toolsy outfield of Saunders, Greg Halman and Carlos Peguero.
The Mariners drafted Saunders out of a British Columbia high school in 2004, when baseball's visa shortage would have made it impossible for him to launch his pro career. He decided to attend Tallahassee (Fla.) Community College, then signed as a draft-and-follow for $237,500. During his impressive pro debut at short-season Everett, he drew comparisons to Shawn Green. Saunders has a sweet lefthanded swing with natural loft that gives him plus power potential. A good athlete, Saunders showed NHL potential as a teenager and also starred in basketball, lacrosse and soccer. He also was a legitimate prospect as a pitcher, showing an 88-91 mph fastball and a loose arm. Saunders has solid speed once he gets going and plus arm strength. He's adapting well to right field after being drafted as a third baseman. He struck out excessively in his debut, so he'll have to adjust in low Class A this year.
Minor League Top Prospects
Saunders needed arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder in the offseason, but that didn't slow him down once he joined Tacoma's lineup in late April. An explosive player for his size, he has the bat speed to turn on 95 mph fastballs and a willingness to use the whole field, though his power is more geared to his pull side. He makes consistent hard contact, and some of his doubles should turn into homers as he continues maturing. Saunders doesn't have blazing speed, but he's an intelligent baserunner who gets good secondary leads and always looks for chances to take an extra base. He played mostly left field while recovering from the surgery, but he showed a solid arm in the past and has enough range to play in center. "I liked Saunders best of anybody in the league," Fresno manager Dan Rohn said. "I think his upside is tremendous. I think this kid's got a nice swing. He's got power potential with speed and is a solid defender."
The Mariners don't hesitate to move their prospects quickly, and Saunders was no exception. After Saunders torched through the SL, the Mariners promoted him to Triple-A, where at 21 he was the second-youngest regular position player in the Pacific Coast League. He left Tacoma in late July to play in the Beijing Olympics, where he led Team Canada with two homers. Saunders has a compact swing that he leverages well to generate good backspin on the ball to all fields. A premium athlete with good strength and plus power, he has good hands and is a strong fastball hitter. Though he has made some strides in his plate discipline, he still chases offspeed pitches in the dirt. Saunders does the little things well, too. He shows above-average speed and good instincts on the bases, and West Tenn manager Scott Steinmann calls him one of the best drag bunters in the organization. He has a strong arm and can handle center field, though as he continues to fill out his 6-foot-4, 205-pound frame, he eventually may move to right.
Saunders is one of the best athletes in the Mariners system, but his stock took a hit when he batted .240/.329/.345 in his full-season debut in low Class A last year. He flashed his five-tool potential on a much more consistent basis in the Cal League, and he played well in Double-A in August. He's still growing into his 6-foot-4 frame and has good loft in his swing, which could make him a 20-homer hitter on an annual basis. He has plus speed that makes him a basestealing threat and a plus defender in center or right field. A Canadian who had NHL potential in hockey and also played basketball, lacrosse and soccer, he lacks true baseball instincts but has shown a better sense for the game with each of his promotions.
An 11th-round draft-and-follow from Canada who signed in May for $240,000, Saunders was the one of the league's youngest players at 18. He showed his youth at times, taking a bad hack or making a defensive mistake, but his size and skills project a strong future. Saunders' swing is short and sweet with plus power potential, making Yakima manager Jay Gainer recall Shawn Green. His average improved during the season, from .221 before August to .317 after. His arm strength and speed are solid for a right fielder. "He's playing with guys 22 and 23 years old right now," Grifol said. "Imagine that kid four years from now up to par with the others age-wise. He's got above-average offensive potential and is at least average defensively. He's a gap guy now, but once in a while he'll get a hold of one and hit it a long ways."
Top 100 Rankings
Best Tools List
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Seattle Mariners in 2010
- Rated Best Defensive Outfielder in the Seattle Mariners in 2008