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Background: The Young Unit received the top bonus in club history in 1997 after he dropped into the Mariners lap with the 19th overall pick. Anderson doesn't lack for confidence, going so far as saying he wanted to be the best pitcher ever shortly after he was drafted. He rankled some feathers in his first spring camp when he talked about "dominating" major league hitters during their first batting practice session. When he finally got down to the business of pitching, however, he let his arm do the talking. He had an impressive pro debut at Class A Wisconsin, and his final numbers would have been even better had he not missed a month of the season with a triceps strain. While in instructional league this offseason, Anderson was summoned to make an emergency start for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League. He models his pitching after his hero Randy Johnson, though as Mariners director of professional scouting Ken Compton puts it, "he just copied the good stuff, which is why he's ahead of Randy at the same age." Strengths: Anderson's fastball has touched 99 mph. He can consistently throw in the 90-95 mph range, and he settled in nicely there last season once he realized he didn't have to max out on every pitch. He has the makings of an excellent breaking ball and a good changeup. He is a quick learner and made tremendous strides last season both mentally and physically. Weaknesses: With more experience Anderson will become more consistent with his pitches. He must work to keep his arm angle in the same slot every time; if he does, his control, which is impressive considering his size, stuff and lack of experience, will get even better. Off the mound, he has room to mature emotionally, and it will be to his benefit to consider the consequences before he speaks at times. The "dominating" comment was not meant as it came out, and the Mariners think the episode proved to be a good lesson for him in the end. The Future: Anderson will likely begin the 1999 season at Class A Lancaster, and it's likely he won't be there long. The Mariners think he has the potential to be a dominant No. 1 starter.
Background: Garcia was acquired from the Astros in the Randy Johnson deal last July. Ranked the No. 4 prospect in the Texas League despite his early departure, Garcia experienced triceps tendinitis shortly after the trade and had to be shut down. The Mariners traced the root of his problem to the way he hyperextended his elbow by trying to slow down his arm when he threw his changeup. Strengths: Garcia throws two plus pitches already, and the Mariners feel he has the potential to make it three now that his changeup has been straightened out. He's a big, strong kid who throws hard and has the best curve in the organization. He's also shown good competitiveness and makeup. Weaknesses: Like many young pitchers, Garcia just needs to refine the command of his pitches. The Future: The Mariners expect Garcia, who is pitching in the Venezuelan League this winter, to begin the 1999 season at Triple-A Tacoma. With two open rotation spots calling, he could break camp with the big club.
Background: Guillen came over with Garcia in the Johnson deal (along with lefthander John Halama). A shortstop in the Astros system, he was immediately shifted to second base due to the presence of Alex Rodriguez. He had an impressive, if short, big league debut. Strengths: Guillen brings a shortstop's range and arm to second base, and he made the transition well. He has good hands defensively and can turn the double play. A slightly better hitter from the left side, Guillen has alley power and should eventually become a solid No. 2 hitter. Weaknesses: Guillen must become more consistent in his plate appearances and learn how to hit major league pitching. He could have benefited from a season in winter ball to get more experience at second, but he suffered a slight knee strain at the end of last season that required rest and rehab. The Future: Guillen will go north with the big team this spring and be the regular second baseman.
Background: Meche was No. 2 on this list last year, and his drop is due only to the addition of Garcia and Guillen. The Mariners still view him as a potential No. 1 starter. Since Meche's health problems in 1996, he has proved to be durable and has erased any lingering concerns. Strengths: Meche has the prototype pitcher's body and has drawn comparisons, lofty though they may be, to Kevin Brown. His fastball is a plus pitch. He added a slider to his arsenal last season after having trouble getting his late-breaking curve called for strikes. He also throws a changeup, giving him an effective three-pitch arsenal. Weaknesses: Meche needs to learn how to pitch inside more effectively and not let hitters set up for the middle-out pitch. A tighter break on his curve might be helpful, though the addition of the slider might let him save the big-breaker for particular counts. The Future: Though he has been the subject of trade rumors, Meche is still held in high regard by the Mariners. Like Anderson, he should begin the 1999 season at Lancaster.
Background: It's easy to forget Suzuki is still a prospect because he's had seven years of professional experience. Before it was customary to sign Japanese players, his signing for $750,000 in 1993 rocked the industry. Last season was the first time he had ever thrown more than 100 innings, and the Mariners felt he was one of the most improved players in the organization. Strengths: Suzuki, who has a great body for pitching, throws four pitches. His fastball and split-finger are average to above average. He also throws a slider and an occasional changeup. The success he experienced last year has given him more confidence. Weaknesses: There is still room for improvement on all of Suzuki's pitches, and his command has a ways to go. His slider especially wasn't as consistent in Seattle as it had been in Triple-A. Suzuki needs to show he can consistently log innings as he did last year. The Future: Suzuki could make the major league club as a starter or a long reliever, or he could go back to Tacoma.
Background: The third member of Class A Wisconsin's '98 staff to make the list, Pineiro was the first one to earn a ticket out of the Midwest League. He struggled after a promotion to Class A Lancaster, but his strikeout numbers were still excellent. He has added 15 pounds this winter and was impressing scouts with his performance in the Puerto Rican League. Strengths: Pineiro has an excellent feel for pitching and sets up hitters well. He has shown good command of his curve and his fastball has jumped to above average with the additional weight and strength. His changeup also came a long way in the last year. Weaknesses: Pineiro needs to gain consistency start-to-start and pitch-to-pitch. At his height, he needs to make sure he consistently gets good leverage on every pitch. The Future: Pineiro should start in Lancaster this season, though there is an outside shot he could go to Double-A New Haven. He projects as a middle of the rotation starter.
Background: Drafted as an outfielder, Ibanez has converted to catcher and back to outfield as a pro. He was having a breakthrough winter last year when he injured his shoulder. With 129 major league at-bats, he barely qualifies for Top 10 consideration. Strengths: Ibanez has a pure stroke that should provide power, and he covers the plate well. He has shown an ability to drive the ball down the left-field line or pull it to right. His arm strength was down last year following shoulder surgery, but it should be back to normal this spring. If so he has enough arm for right field. Ibanez also has deceptively good speed. Weaknesses: He needs to take a more consistent approach to the plate every trip and become more aggressive while remaining patient, when appropriate. The Future: There are outfield opportunities on the corners in Seattle this year and Ibanez is out of options, so he should stick on the big league roster.
Background: Brea throws exceptionally hard for a short righthander, and his strikeout numbers have been eye-catching the past two seasons. Like his Wisconsin teammates Anderson and Meche, he was clocked as high as 97 mph last year. The Mariners are grooming him as a closer. Strengths: Start with a fastball that Mariners director of pro scouting Ken Compton calls "double plus." Brea also throws a plus slider that breaks violently late. His command of both pitches improved significantly last season. Weaknesses: Brea doesn't have a third pitch, though he may not need one. Despite the quantum leap in '98, there is still room to improve his command. The Mariners are also interested to see how Brea adjusts as he climbs and faces better hitters. The Future: Brea should be the closer at Lancaster in 1999. The Mariners think he could move pretty quickly, and with their recent bullpen history, there's certain to be a opening whenever he's ready.
Background: A draft-and-follow signed by the Mariners in 1996, Fuentes was added to the 40-man roster this offseason. He has proven durable over the last two seasons after missing much of his first season with a tender arm. Strengths: Fuentes has posted impressive strikeout numbers in large measure because of a funky arm action that deceives hitters. His fastball is average in velocity but has late life and seems much faster because of the deception. Fuentes changes speeds well and throws a good changeup. Weaknesses: For a big guy, Fuentes doesn't throw very hard, so he must continue to outfox batters as he climbs. He must also improve his curveball and his command of all three pitches. His walk-to-strikeout ratio took a big hit last year, which is a concern. The Future: Fuentes might be back in Lancaster at the start of the 1999 season, which could give the JetHawks a strong rotation for Class A. With a strong training camp he could open in Double-A.
Background: The Mariners landed Baek, regarded as the top high school prospect in Korea, in September for what was believed to be a $1.5 million bonus, the largest they've ever given an international signee. Baek went to instructional league but didn't pitch in game situations because the Mariners felt he had already thrown too much during the summer for the Korean junior national team. Strengths: Baek already possesses a plus fastball, which he complements with a curve, slider and changeup. He has great mechanics and a good body for pitching, and he has excellent command. Weaknesses: Baek needs to get acclimated to pitching in the United States and learn English. He just needs innings and experience to develop all of his pitches. The Future: Baek will either make the Wisconsin rotation to start 1999 or stay in extended spring training until short-season Everett begins play in June. The Mariners see him developing into a potential No. 1 starter.
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