2012 Seattle Mariners: Top 10 Prospects
OF THE DECADE
|TOP DRAFT PICKS|
OF THE DECADE
IN CLUB HISTORY
At first glance, the Mariners’ 2011 season wasn’t much better than the year before, which was arguably the worst in franchise history. They finished 67-95, the third-worst record in baseball, had a 17-game losing streak and wound up in the American League West cellar for the sixth time in eight years. Not coincidentally, the team drew fewer than 2 million fans for the first time in a full season since 1992.
Seattle’s leadership believes things are moving in the right direction, though. After bottoming out in 2010, the major league team showed enough promising signs last year that GM Jack Zduriencik earned a contract extension before his third season at the helm had ended.
Former GM Bill Bavasi left the Mariners saddled with bad contracts and a gutted farm system. Zduriencik has preached rebuilding through player development, and he has stayed true to the plan despite the pain involved. For all that went wrong in 2011, a major league-high 18 rookies did appear in Seattle.
The most notable were Dustin Ackley and Michael Pineda. In just his second pro season, Ackley took over at second base and hit .273/.348/.417. Pineda led all rookies with 173 strikeouts in 171 innings.
The rookie parade also featured intriguing storylines. Tom Wilhelmsen made it to the big leagues after quitting baseball in 2005 and taking four years off, spending time as a bartender and traveling. Steve Delabar worked as a substitute teacher after the Padres released him in 2008, then worked out for the Mariners in April, signed a minor league contract and reached Seattle in September. Alex Liddi became the first player born and raised in Italy to play in the majors.
The Mariners reaped benefits from their deals at the trade deadline, when they were among the most aggressive sellers in the game. They added big leaguers Casper Wells and Charlie Furbush and a pair of quality prospects in third baseman Francisco Martinez and righthander Chance Ruffin when they shipped Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers. Seattle also landed major league outfielder Trayvon Robinson from the Dodgers and outfielder Chih-Hsien Chiang from the Red Sox in a three-way deal that sent Erik Bedard and former first-round pick Josh Fields to Boston.
The strength of the system now clearly lies with its pitching, a fact that became even more pronounced when Seattle used the No. 2 overall pick in the draft on polished lefthander Danny Hultzen. In November, the Mariners hired Padres director of player personnel Chris Gwynn as farm director. Replacing Pedro Grifol, who now will manage the club’s high Class A High Desert affiliate, Gwynn will oversee the development of Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and Co.
Seattle’s pitching riches allowed it to make a blockbuster deal to upgrade its woeful offense in January. The Mariners sent Pineda and hard-throwing 19-year-old righthander Jose Campos to the Yankees for Jesus Montero and Hector Noesi. Montero immediately becomes the most dangerous hitter in Seattle’s lineup, though it remains to be seen if he can remain a catcher.