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Anderson has ranked No. 1 on this list for five consecutive seasons. He didn't figure to be eligible again because he was expected to lose his rookie status in 2001. But while the game's other great left-hander prospect, C.C. Sabathia, was winning 17 games for Cleveland, Anderson didn't take the mound during the regular season. He couldn't get loose during a spring workout and was diagnosed with a torn labrum, requiring shoulder surgery that kept him out until instructional league. It was a blow to an organization that had just lost another rotation candidate, Gil Meche, to a similar injury the month before. Few players can match Anderson's ceiling. The only left-hander in baseball who's more intimidating is Randy Johnson, to whom he's often compared. Anderson isn't nicknamed "Little Unit" for nothing. He has a 94-97 mph fastball that he has used to average 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings as a pro. He was refining his slider into a plus pitch and developing his changeup before he got hurt. He also had improved his command each season. With his stuff, there's no question Anderson can become a legitimate No. 1 starter. He should be stronger than ever once his rehabilitation is complete. Anderson's latest step was to throw in the bullpen in instructional league, so he still hasn't come all the way back. He also came down with shoulder tendinitis at the end of 2000, costing him any chance of making the U.S. Olympic team. His career record is just 20-26 because he's never put together an extended run of dominance. Anderson still has to improve his secondary pitches and control, though he did hold his own in Triple-A before he reached the legal drinking age. Lefthanders shouldn't stand a chance against him, but they've hit .329 since he reached Double-A. The Mariners aren't going to take any chances with Anderson. He'll report early to spring training. He won't be in the running for a rotation spot and may open the year in Double-A San Antonio, where the climate is warmer than in Triple-A Tacoma. He'll be kept on tight pitch counts wherever he goes. His future is still bright, though he won't have much if any major league impact before 2003.
Soriano spent two years in the Rookie-level Arizona League as an outfielder, hitting .220 while his best tool clearly was his arm. Converted to the mound in 1999, he has been a quick learner. Last year he held hitters to a .174 average, second behind only Josh Beckett among minor league starters. Soriano's arm is nearly as live as Ryan Anderson's. His mid-90s fastball and hard slider give him two plus pitches. He's not a finished product by any means, but he has good polish considering his experience. That's especially true of his mechanics. He's still refining his changeup, but Soriano has made strides toward adding the third pitch he'll need as a starter. His control also needs tweaking. He missed the final three weeks of 2001 with a shoulder impingement after pitching a career-high 137 innings, so his durability is slightly in question. Based on his stuff, Soriano could go to Triple-A, but the Mariners may start him in Double-A this year so he can focus on his approach to pitching. He could be competing for a big league job in 2003.
When the Mariners traded Ken Griffey, they wanted an infielder as part of the package. Cincinnati refused to give up Pokey Reese (who was not offered a contract this winter) or Gookie Dawkins (who hit .226 in Double-A this year), so Seattle wound up with Perez. He blossomed into a blue-chip prospect in 2000, but played just five games last year because he had a broken navicular bone in his right wrist. Perez is a rare five-tool shortstop. He can hit for average and power--he led the high Class A California League in slugging as a teenager-- and has basestealing speed. His strong arm, soft hands and range to both sides make him the best defensive shortstop in the organization, including the majors. Perez let success get to his head and arrived out of shape for spring training last year. He still has to work on little things, such as making more contact, getting better reads and jumps as a basestealer and improving his defensive footwork. Though he lost 2001 to an injury sustained in winter ball, Perez is still well ahead of the development curve. He'll spend this year in Double-A at age 20.
Some Mariners officials thought Snelling was undersized when they signed him, but he has played big since arriving in the United States. A member of Australia's 2000 Olympic team, he was rated the best position prospect in the low Class A Midwest League that year. Last season he won the California League batting title while playing through a stress fracture in his right ankle. Hitters don't come much more pure than Snelling, but his best attributes might be his confidence and instincts. He has no trouble making hard contact or handling lefthanders. Despite just average speed, he's a terrific center fielder because he gets tremendous jumps and takes direct routes to balls. He has enough arm to play in right. Snelling often gets compared to Lenny Dysktra, and like Dykstra he plays so aggressively that he beats himself up. He broke his hand and injured his wrist diving into a wall in 2000, then hurt his ankle last year. While he has good gap power, he may not hit more than 15-20 homers a season in the majors. Though Seattle has promoted Snelling aggressively, he hasn't been fazed. Don't bet against him reaching Triple-A this year or challenging for a big league job in 2003.
A basketball star in high school, Nageotte signed too late in 1999 to play that summer. He has made up for lost time, winning the one-game playoff in the Arizona League in 2000 and ranking as the top pitching prospect in the Midwest League last year. He led the MWL in strikeouts and strikeouts per nine innings (11.0). Nageotte had the best stuff in a prospect-laden Wisconsin rotation that also featured Rett Johnson and Derrick Van Dusen. Nageotte's lively low-90s fastball and his wicked slider give him two above-average pitches. Last year he did a nice job of tightening his slider, which had been more slurvy in 2000, and improving his command. Nageotte needs to develop a better changeup so he can combat lefthanders, who hit .263 against him in 2001. He also can refine his control within the strike zone. He must get stronger so he can pitch deeper into games. He had a 2.04 ERA through the first four innings last year, but a 5.33 mark afterward. While some organizations might want to expedite an arm like Nageotte's, the Mariners can be patient because of all the pitching they have. He's ticketed for high Class A in 2002.
Of all the players in Seattle's top 10, Heaverlo easily has the least imposing physical gifts. But the son of former big leaguer Dave Heaverlo exudes pitching savvy and is a winner. He led the Double-A Texas League in complete games, shutouts (a minor league-best four) and strikeouts in 2001. Heaverlo just knows how to get batters out. His best pitch is a slider that isn't quite in the same league as Clint Nageotte's. His changeup has improved dramatically since he has signed and will give him a second plus pitch. His fastball has life and average velocity, topping out at 92 mph. With his command and ability to mix his pitches and speeds, his fastball is good enough. Heaverlo's lone weakness last year was lefthanders, who hit .303 against him (compared to .202 by righties). His changeup is the key to doing better in that regard. He probably won't be more than a middle-ofthe- rotation starter, though he could be a good one. Once he proves himself in Triple-A, Heaverlo will get a look in Seattle. He's probably first on the list if the Mariners need to pluck a starter out of the minors this season.
The second player signed by the Mariners out of Korea, Choo attended the same high school as the first, righthander Cha Seung Baek. Seattle didn't have a first-round pick in 2000 and compensated by pouring $1.335 million into signing Choo. He was MVP of the World Junior Championship that summer, beating Team USA twice as Korea won the gold medal. In his pro debut last year, he topped the Arizona League in runs, triples and walks. Though Choo threw in the mid-90s as a lefthander, the Mariners decided he offers even more upside as a center fielder. He's a disciplined hitter with huge power potential. His good speed serves him well as a basestealer and a defender. He's poised, works hard and adapted to the United States very quickly. Choo showed some holes in his swing in the AZL, however. Pitchers started pounding him inside and he struggled to adjust. He needs to work on his jumps and instincts in the outfield. The Mariners promoted Choo for the Midwest League playoffs last year, and he'll return to low Class A in 2002. The system is loaded with center fielders, so he'll probably remain in Wisconsin all year.
Many high school catchers drafted in the first round turn out to be busts. Christianson is proving to be an exception. He made the best of a difficult situation last year at high Class A San Bernardino, which centered a marketing campaign on him because he grew up 10 miles away in Riverside, Calif. His brother Robby pitched in the Seattle system in 1996-97. Shoulder tendinitis robbed Christianson of arm strength in 2000, but he was healthy again and ranked third in the California League by nailing 38 percent of basestealers last year. Cal League pitcher of the year Matt Thornton credited Christianson with showing him how to break down hitters. Offensively, Christianson has burgeoning power. Some of his doubles will turn into homers as he gets stronger and more experienced, and seven of his 12 longballs came in August. Christianson tends to get pullconscious. He won't hit for average until he uses the whole field more often and tightens his strike zone. He runs like a catcher. Seattle's offseason trade for Ben Davis doesn't have to pose a roadblock for Christensen if he can make adjustments at the plate. He'll work on that in Double-A this year.
Named MVP of the short-season Northwest League in his pro debut, Strong proved he was no fluke last year. He was a postseason all-star and a Top 10 Prospect in both the Midwest and California Leagues. He also was host Seattle's representative in the Futures Game and was named the organization's minor league player of the year. Strong is the best leadoff prospect in the game. He ranked second in the minors in runs and steals and fourth in on-base percentage (.436) in 2001. He plays to his strengths, which start with top-of-the-line speed. He hits the ball on the ground, draws walks and is both a prolific and proficient basestealer. His center-field range is also impressive. Strong doesn't have much juice in his bat or in his arm. It's not a huge handicap for his style of offense, though it would be nice if he could sting the ball in the gaps more often. He hasn't thrown well since dislocating his shoulder in college, but compensates by getting to balls quickly and unloading in a hurry. He's ready for Double-A. Strong will have to break through Seattle's glut of outfield talent to earn big league playing time down the road.
Thornton was a surprise first-round pick in 1998 out of NCAA Division II Grand Valley State, where he was better known as a basketball player. He never won a game in college or in his first two years as a pro, when he was beset by a sore elbow and tricep tendinitis. He finally justified his selection in 2001, when he led the California League in strikeouts and was both the organization's and the circuit's pitcher of the year. Thornton always had a live arm but until last year he lacked the confidence to succeed. His fastball sits at 90-92 mph and has plenty of life, and he can get it by righthanders when he throws it down and in. His slider got a lot better in 2001, making him death on lefties, who batted .208 with no homers in 77 at-bats. The next steps for Thornton are to improve his changeup and his command. There were questions about his durability, but he put those to rest by holding up for 27 starts last year. If he can't master a third pitch, Thornton's fastball and slider alone would make him an intriguing reliever. He'll pitch out of the Double-A rotation in 2002.
The Devil Rays' financial difficulties were the Mariners' gain last April. Ken Dorsey's predecessor as the University of Miami's starting quarterback, Kelly gave up football to sign a fouryear major league contract worth $2.2 million in February 2000. He followed with a mediocre season in Double-A, and last spring Tampa Bay was looking for ways to save money. The Rays sold Kelly to Seattle for $350,000 and saved another $1.25 million by shedding his contract. He continued to struggle in Double-A, hitting just .223 through July. Then he finished with a flourish, batting .298-7-27 over the final two months and earning all-prospect honors in the Arizona Fall League, where he hit .351-7-21. The Mariners think Kelly's improvement is for real, that all he needed was time to get acclimated to baseball and some subtle adjustments to his swing. He has all the raw tools, including power that has begun to show, exciting speed and a strong arm. He's yet another quality center fielder in an organization loaded with them. Kelly still needs some time in Triple-A to hone his strike-zone judgment and his instincts, but he's not far from being able to contribute in the major leagues.
Johnson set a Coastal Carolina record with 151 strikeouts as a junior in 2000. His 133 innings established another Chanticleers mark, and the workload took a toll on his fastball. When his velocity began to slide before the draft, so did his stock, and the Mariners stole him in the eighth round. Seattle eased him into pro ball as a reliever and put him back in the rotation once his arm bounced back. Johnson held up throughout his first full pro season, during which he pitched well at both Class A levels. He has a 90-93 mph fastball with good life and a quality slider, both of which seem to get better when he has to pitch out of a jam. Teams already are asking for him in trades. Johnson just needs some more innings to work on his changeup and command. If his changeup doesn't come around, his fastballslider combination will make him an effective reliever. He should reach Double-A in 2002.
Taylor was the organization's biggest surprise in 2001, though that seemed unlikely in spring training. Frustrated at the direction his career was going after posting a 6.26 ERA in five pro seasons, he quit and went home. The Mariners had told him he'd be welcomed back if he changed his mind, which he did a week later. The only problem was that he had been placed on the voluntary retired list, which meant he had to sit out the first 60 days of the season. Taylor returned with a vengeance in the Midwest League, dealing 93-98 mph heat every time out. He intimidated hitters with his size and his fastball, and they didn't exactly relish facing his splitter or newly developed slider. All of a sudden he made the $4,000 Seattle spent to get him from Atlanta in the 1999 Double-A Rule 5 draft look like a bargain. Taylor's control still isn't perfect and at 23 he was old for low Class A. The Mariners love his makeup and are ready to move him quickly. He'll probably begin 2002 in Double-A and could reach Seattle by the end of the season.
After pitching Riverside CC to the California community college championship and having a wildly successful pro debut in 2000, baseball wasn't Van Dusen's primary focus at the start of last season. Assigned to Wisconsin, he pitched twice before going home to California to be with his mother, who was dying of cancer. He worked out with San Bernardino, pitching just once more before returning to the Midwest League in mid-June. The highlight of his season came in August, when he threw a 12-strikeout no-hitter against a Cedar Rapids lineup stacked with righthanders. He gets righties out with his slider, his lone plus pitch. His fastball sits in the high 80s and tops out at 92 mph, and his changeup is coming along. He competes very well and aggressively pitches inside. He reminds the Mariners of Andy Van Hekken, a lefty they drafted in the third round in 1998 and traded to the Tigers a year later. Van Dusen has been very stingy with baserunners, holding hitters to a .233 average and posting a 5.3-1 strikeout-walk ratio since turning pro. He just needs to build more confidence in his changeup. He'll return to high Class A under happier circumstances in 2002.
When Mariners vice president Roger Jongewaard and then-Pacific Rim coordinator Jim Colborn made a scouting trip to Australia in 1999, they spotted Anderson and Chris Snelling. Jongewaard liked Snelling, whom Colborn thought was undersized. Colborn preferred Anderson, whom Jongewaard didn't think threw hard enough. Colborn and Jongewaard cut a deal with each other to sign both players, who have had nothing but success in the minors. Anderson earned one of Australia's two victories at the 2000 Olympics. He still has his doubters because he still operates in the mid-80s with his fastball, though he may be starting to satisfy them after his 2001 performance. He turned in his third straight year with double-digit victories while leading the California League in innings and strikeouts. He ripped off 19 consecutive quality starts to finish the regular season. Anderson does it with a great changeup, a good curveball and exquisite command that managers rated as the best in the Cal League. His style earns him comparisons to crafty lefthanders Jimmy Key and Jamie Moyer. Anderson will have to keep proving himself each year but has the moxie to pull it off. He'll be tested in Double-A this season.
A White Sox third-round pick out of high school in 1995, Putz chose the University of Michigan over signing. He underachieved for the Wolverines for three years before rebounding late in his senior year to go in the sixth round of the 1999 draft, and signing for only $10,000. Putz pitched a seven-inning no-hitter in low Class A in 2000, then really made an impression last year in spring training. He reported early and got into some split-squad games, and some scouts thought he could have made the big club. The Mariners settled for skipping him a level and sending him to Double-A, and the move rattled his confidence early on. Putz got himself together down the stretch, going 6-3, 2.71 in his final 13 outings to earn a spot on the Mariners 40-man roster. His two best pitches are a low-90s fastball and an average slider. He has a terrific pitcher's body and is strong and durable. Putz still needs some minor league innings to improve his changeup and command, and he'll get them this year in Triple-A.
The Mariners signed two football prospects out of the 2001 draft, Wilson in the second round and fellow outfielder Matthew Ware in the 21st. While Ware starred as a UCLA freshman defensive back last fall and seems destined for the NFL, Seattle will hold onto Wilson, who gave up a scholarship to play linebacker for Oklahoma. Signability concerns caused Wilson to slide out of the first round, and he did take most of the summer to negotiate a $900,000 bonus. He's yet another multitooled center-field prospect in an organization already loaded with them. He offers a rare combination of power and speed and was clocked throwing 90 mph as a high school sophomore. He's still very raw because he hasn't concentrated on baseball until now. Wilson will need some time to develop a sound approach at the plate and to get the football stiffness out of his body. He pulled a hamstring in instructional league, so Seattle hasn't been able to work with him much to this point. He'll probably go to extended spring training before making his pro debut in 2002.
Garciaparra's older brother Nomar already has won two American League batting titles, while Michael was selected with a supplemental first-round pick Seattle received for the loss of free agent Alex Rodriguez. As if that wasn't pressure enough, Garciaparra was the biggest surprise in the 2001 draft, as some teams didn't even list him on their draft boards. A baseball/ football/soccer star in high school, he played little baseball as a senior after tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee while making a tackle during the previous fall. The Mariners knew Garciaparra because he had played on their scout team in California since he was a freshman, and area scout Derek Valenzuela (who since has joined the Red Sox) is very close to Nomar. Getting word that Boston might take Michael with the 48th pick, Seattle decided to pop him with the 36th selection. It cost $2 million to steer him away from the University of Tennessee, and the Mariners are confident he'll justify the investment. Michael is bigger and more athletic than Nomar was at the same age. He has gap power and could fit into a lineup as a No. 2 or No. 7 hitter. He'll have to get stronger and already has toyed with switch-hitting. Garciaparra also has the tools and instincts to stay at shortstop as he moves up the ladder. He likely won't make his pro debut until this summer, getting some time in extended spring training beforehand.
Simpson has blossomed from project to prospect since signing as an eighth-round pick out of Taft (Calif.) CC in 1997. He was just a tall, skinny kid with a projectable fastball and little else when he entered pro ball, and he didn't really find his niche until he repeated high Class A and became a full-time reliever in 2000. Simpson usually pitches at 92-94 mph and hit 96 in the Arizona Fall League, which prompted the Mariners to include him on their 40-man roster last November. His slider gives him a solid second pitch and hitters don't get a good luck at his stuff. They batted just .180 with two homers against him in 2001. The Mariners will give him a look in big league camp, but he's most likely headed for Triple-A.
Martinez joins Clint Nageotte, Jeff Heaverlo and Matt Thornton as Seattle farmhands who led their leagues in strikeouts last season. He's not a big guy but generates surprising power for his size. His fastball tops out at 93 mph, but his out pitch is a plus-plus slider that ranks right behind Nageotte's and Heaverlo's as the best in the organization. Martinez has a bulldog mentality, which contributed to him drilling a Northwest Leaguehigh 18 batters in 2001. He's not close to being a finished product, because his changeup and command aren't strong and his maximum-effort delivery needs some cleaning up. The Mariners will see how he fares in full-season ball this year before they get truly excited about him.
Rivera boosted his stock immensely at a predraft showcase for Puerto Rican prospects last May. Scouts had questioned his bat before he put on a power display, which caused the Mariners to take him with a second-round pick they had gotten from the Rangers as compensation for Alex Rodriguez. Rivera struggled when he was initially sent to the Northwest League, then hit much better once he was demoted to the Rookie-level Arizona League. He'll have to make major improvements to his plate discipline, however. Built along the lines of Pudge Rodriguez, Rivera always has impressed scouts with his solid catch-and-throw skills. He threw out 39 percent of basestealers in his pro debut, showing nimble feet, a quick release and a strong arm. Like most of Seattle's early-round picks from the 2001 draft, he's not quite ready for full-season ball yet.
A third-round pick last June, Merritt is extremely versatile both in terms of his tools and the positions he can play. He has good offensive potential for a middle infielder, and he bounced back from a lackluster junior season at South Alabama by raising his average 24 points once he switched from aluminum bats to wood. He has gap power and runs well enough to steal some bases. However, he could stand to be a little less aggressive at the plate. He played second base at short-season Everett because Jose Lopez was the primary shortstop. Merritt also saw time at shortstop and third base, and he played the outfield in college and with Team USA's college squad. Scouts are divided on whether he can play shortstop at higher levels. With Antonio Perez, Lopez and major league Rule 5 draft acquistion Luis Ugueto on hand, Merritt probably is destined for second base. Nevertheless, the Mariners will try to keep him at shortstop in 2002, which means he'll go to high Class A if Lopez makes the low Class A roster.
The Mariners thought so highly of Lopez that they sent him to the Northwest League for his pro debut in 2001. The youngest player in the league, he was also its best defensive shortstop. Lopez has pure actions, great hands, plenty of range and a solid-to-plus arm. Though he wasn't nearly as advanced as most of the pitchers he faced, he held his own at the plate. He showed some gap power and speed, and hitting .256 in his situation must be considered a success. He'll have to get stronger and tighten his strike zone, but the foundation is clearly there. Seattle will continue to be aggressive with his development and may send him to low Class A at age 18 in 2002.
Serrano entered 2001 ranked as San Diego's No. 3 prospect. He ended it having been traded to the Mariners after hitting the wall in Triple-A for the second straight year. The Padres once figured he'd be in their rotation by now, but decided that his best use would be to help bring them the shortstop (prospect Ramon Vazquez) they've been seeking for a while. Serrano tried to focus on throwing strikes last year, but only had modest success. Worse, the velocity on his fastball dropped from the low to mid-90s down to the high 80s. He didn't make much progress with his slider and changeup. Called up to the majors on three occasions, he got rocked as a starter and hammered even harder as a reliever. San Diego concluded that his best role was in the bullpen, and Seattle concurs. He'll probably get another dose of Triple-A, where he'll try to avoid becoming just another live arm who never rounds out his repertoire.
Liriano's performance has far outstripped his tools during his two pro seasons, but his performance simply can't be ignored. In 2000, he became the third player in Arizona League history to bat .400 while leading the Mariners to a championship. He encored by leading all minor league second basemen with a .326 average in 2001, and adding 65 steals in 85 attempts before breaking a bone in his hand on a slide in late August. From a physical standpoint, he's not as impressive. He's not very strong or even very fast, despite his basestealing prowess. He's a slap hitter who excels at making contact but doesn't have outstanding onbase ability. His defense is a concern, as he has stiff hands and has trouble backhanding grounders. He makes too many careless errors. Liriano has made the effort to improve, and it showed this winter when he played in his native Dominican. The Mariners will see how he fares in high Class A in 2002.
The Mariners couldn't sign Bloomquist as an eighth-round pick out of a Washington high school in 1996, but they got him as a third-rounder three years later after he capped his Arizona State career by being named Pacific-10 Conference player of the year. He was leading the California League with a .379 average in his first full pro season when the Mariners had a hole at Triple-A and promoted him to fill it. His bat tailed off and hasn't recovered, though injuries to both hands over the last two years have been a contributing factor. The best thing about Bloomquist is his makeup, and there isn't a Seattle official who doesn't appreciate him. He's a contact hitter with very little power, and he's not quite as fast as his steals totals would indicate. He doesn't walk very much, so his batting average makes up most of his offensive contribution. He's a steady defender who really belongs at second base, though he played shortstop in Double-A last year because Antonio Perez was hurt. He also played the outfield for the Sun Devils and projects as a utilityman. Slated for Triple-A this year, Bloomquist could have a Rex Hudler-type career.
While they were scouting Shin-Soo Choo at the 2000 World Junior Championships in Edmonton, the Mariners also saw Blackley. He took the loss against Choo's Korean team, the eventual champions, in the semifinals. Blackley tasted defeat just once last summer in his pro debut despite being one of the youngest pitchers in the Northwest League. He's similar to Australian countryman Craig Anderson, though he's bigger and eventually will throw harder. The bad news is that Blackley fractured his elbow while pitching in instructional league last fall. He had a pin removed from the elbow and won't take the mound until June. Before he got hurt, he had a nice three-pitch mix with a mid-80s fastball, a plus curveball and an average changeup. Like Anderson, he has an advanced feel for pitching. Blackley would have been placed on a similar fast track if he hadn't been injured.
Two years before Kazuhiro Sasaki, Shin-Soo Choo and Ichiro Suzuki came aboard, Baek was Seattle's first big-ticket international signing. He accepted a $1.3 million bonus in 1998, when he was considered the top pitching prospect in Korea. He had visa problems in 1999 and a tender elbow in each of his first two pro seasons, limiting his time on the mound. Baek made two starts in 2001 before his elbow began bothering him again. After being shut down for a month, he pitched three more times before tearing a ligament and needing Tommy John surgery. He won't return to the mound until late 2002 at the earliest. Baek had pretty good stuff, including a low-90s fastball and a late-breaking slider, and he was able to throw it for strikes. The Mariners only can hope that he joins the growing number of pitchers who have come back better than ever after Tommy John surgery.
The Mariners were able to include Jose Paniagua and Brian Fuentes in the Jeff Cirillo trade with the Rockies because they have several relief prospects knocking on the door of the majors. Kaye is in that group after leading Triple-A Pacific Coast League relievers in hits (6.0) and strikeouts (12.5) per nine innings in 2001. He made little progress in his first four years in the system, which included an ill-fated stint as a starter, before breaking through in Double-A in 2000. His hard slider is an out pitch that he easily throws for strikes. He has less control of his average fastball, which has some sink. He occasionally mixes in a changeup to keep hitters off balance. If Kaye can command his fastball in big league camp, he could open the season in Seattle.
Mateo is the best prospect among the Mariners' second tier of minor league relievers, which also includes Aquilino Lopez and Roy Wells. Mateo led the system in saves last year, his first season as a closer. After mixed success in his first four years as a pro, he made improvements across the board in 2001. His fastball jumped to the mid-90s at times and he was more consistent with his slider. He also threw strikes more often and limited lefthanders to a .209 average and no homers in 67 at-bats. Mateo isn't very tall, so his pitches arrive on a fairly flat plane. If he makes similar strides in Double-A this year, he might be able to help Seattle at some point in 2003.