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For a guy who didn't start pitching until 1999, Soriano has made remarkable progress. He spent his first two years in pro ball hitting .220 as an outfielder. After getting acclimated to the mound, Soriano ranked as one of the low Class A Midwest League's top pitching prospects in 2000 based primarily on his fastball, but he now projects as a three-pitch starter. Though his arrival at spring training in 2002 was delayed by three weeks while his identity and birthdate were being confirmed by immigration officials--none of Soriano's vital statistics changed--he pitched well enough at Double-A San Antonio to earn his first big league promotion in early May. After two scoreless relief appearances, he pitched well in five of his first six starts. Then he strained his shoulder and landed on the disabled list. Sent back to Double-A once he was healthy, Soriano won the Texas League championship game. He allowed one run and two hits in seven innings while striking out 14, including three against Rangers slugger Mark Teixeira. The Mariners were encouraged by Soriano's playoff performance because he had all three of his pitches working. He threw in the mid-90s and topped out at 97 mph and showed his usual hard slider. Best of all, he threw 12-15 changeups to keep a predominantly lefthanded lineup at bay. When he made the transition to the mound, Soriano quickly demonstrated polish and smooth mechanics. He is a true power pitcher, and his fastball/slider combination would allow him to close games if Seattle needs him in that role. Soriano missed the latter part of 2001 with an impingement in his shoulder, and the joint bothered him again last year. With a career high of just 137 innings, he has yet to prove he can handle a full-season grind. Soriano needs more consistency and trust in his changeup. He doesn't beat himself with walks but needs better command in the strike zone. The Mariners have two openings in their rotation, and Soriano is a prime candidate to fill one of them. Even if he starts 2003 at Triple-A Tacoma, Soriano will get called up before too long.
Since signing at 17, Snelling has done two things: rake line drives and get hurt. He was the Midwest League's best hitting prospect in 2000, when he broke his left hand and injured his left wrist. He won the high Class A California League batting title despite a stress fracture in his right ankle in 2001. Last year, he broke his right thumb in spring training and then blew out his left knee in his eighth big league game. Snelling is a pure hitter who has batted .316 as a pro despite annually being one of the youngest regulars in his league. He has average speed, but his tremendous instincts allow him to play center field. He has the arm for right field when he moves to a corner in the majors. His recklessness is exciting, but Snelling may have to tone it down. He has good gap power but may never hit more than 20 homers, below-average power for a corner outfielder. Snelling is expected to miss part of spring training as he completes his recovery from knee surgery. He's the best candidate for left field but may get some Triple-A seasoning.
Lopez held his own as the youngest player in the short-season Northwest League in 2001, and his bat took a quantum leap last year in the California League, where he was the second-youngest regular. He led all minor league shortstops in hitting and topped the Cal League in hits and doubles. He was Seattle's minor league player of the year. Lopez' defensive abilities have been apparent since he made his pro debut. Managers said he had the best infield arm in the Cal League, and he has fine hands, range and actions at shortstop. He has excellent instincts in all phases of the game, making him an adept hitter and a threat on the bases. He has plenty of pop for a middle infielder. Because he excels at making contact, Lopez rarely works deep counts or walks. He's filling out and may outgrow shortstop, though he'll still have enough bat for second or third base. Like most teenagers, he could be more consistent on a daily basis. Doctors have discovered an extra bone in Lopez' right foot, which may require surgery. Barring a major setback, he'll play in Double-A this year at 19.
The Mariners gave seven-figure bonuses to the first two Koreans they signed, righthander Cha Seung Baek and Choo, who attended the same high school. While Baek has been sidetracked by Tommy John surgery, Choo has put together back-to-back all-star seasons in the low minors. He and Jose Lopez represented Seattle at the 2002 Futures Game. Like the hitters ahead of him on this list, Choo enhances his solid tools with superb instincts. He's a natural line-drive hitter, and his average speed plays better on the diamond than on a stopwatch. Choo's most impressive tool is his arm, which delivered 95 mph fastballs when he led Korea to the gold medal at the 2000 World Junior Championship. The question for Choo is how much power he'll develop. The Mariners have toned down their expecations, though they still point to his bat speed and leverage and envision 20-25 homers a year. He has a good eye at the plate but sometimes can be too passive. Choo probably won't play center field for Seattle, so he'll have to boost his power. He should reach Double-A by the end of 2003.
An all-state basketball player at his Ohio high school, Nageotte has seen his baseball career take off since he has focused on one sport. He won the championship game of the Rookie-level Arizona League playoffs in his 2000 pro debut, rated as the Midwest League's top pitching prospect as an encore, then led the minors in strikeouts last year. Nageotte's out pitch is a slider that ranks among the best in the minors. It has allowed him to average 11.3 whiffs per nine innings as a pro and gives righthanders no chance against him. His 91-94 mph fastball gives him a second plus pitch. Though he has more than enough fastball, Nageotte doesn't locate it well in the strike zone and often scraps it and goes with his slider. His changeup isn't effective, so right now he just has one pitch that he trusts. With better command, he could lower his pitch counts and work deeper into games. If Nageotte can improve his pitch selection, command and offspeed pitch, he could move to the top of this list. He'll work on those facets of his game this year in Double-A.
Taylor comes from Hahira, Ga., and Lowndes High, which also spawned the Drew brothers--big leaguers J.D. and Tim, and current Florida State star Stephen. Taylor's career was going nowhere when he quit during spring training 2001 after posting a 6.26 ERA in his first five seasons. Once he returned, he went from low A to the majors in 15 months. Pitchers don't come much more intimidating than Taylor, who's tall and features three dastardly pitches. His fastball reaches 94-97 mph every time out and peaks at 99. If hitters start looking for heat, he can cross them up with his slider and splitter. Taylor's secondary pitches require more consistency after deserting him at times during his September callup. His splitter is generally more effective than his slider, which flattens out if he drops his arm angle. Command has never been his strong suit. Spring training will determine whether Taylor opens the season in Seattle or Triple-A. He's the heir apparent to Mariners closer Kazuhiro Sasaki.
While closing in on Shin-Soo Choo at the 2000 World Junior Championship, the Mariners spotted Blackley, who lost to Korea in the semifinals as a member of the Australian team. After a promising pro debut in 2001, Blackley sustained a small fracture in his elbow while pitching in instructional league. He returned by the beginning of May, skipped a level and fared well as the California League's youngest starting pitcher. Blackley is similar to Craig Anderson, another Mariners lefthander from Australia: His best attributes are his changeup and his command, and he has a solid curveball. He has a higher ceiling because he's more projectable and throws in the high 80s, while Anderson works in the low 80s. Blackley's competitive nature has allowed him to handle every challenge thrown his way. With three pitches that should be average or better to go with an advanced feel for pitching, Blackley has no obvious shortcoming. Adding velocity would be nice, but plenty of lefties have been effective working in the high 80s. Double-A will provide Blackley's biggest test yet in 2003. At this point, he's on track to reach Seattle by 22.
Johnson was an eighth-round bargain after he set Coastal Carolina records for innings (133) and strikeouts (151) in 2000. The workload sapped his velocity, causing clubs to back off. He has bounced back and hasn't had any physical problems since signing. Johnson's 86-88 mph slider isn't far behind Clint Nageotte's. He complements it with a 91-93 mph fastball that has nice sink. Johnson thrives on pressure. His pitches seem to have a little extra when he gets into a jam, and he had a 1.80 postseason ERA as San Antonio won the Texas League title. Johnson's shortcomings also are similar to Nageotte's. He needs to refine his changeup and command, though he does a better job of establishing his fastball. While he's ticketed to start 2003 in Triple-A, Johnson could surface in Seattle during the summer. He's probably no lower than third behind Rafael Soriano and J.J. Putz among Mariners farmhands ready to help the big club as a starter, and Johnson's fastball/slider combo also would be an asset out of the bullpen.
Dobbs went from Riverside (Calif.) CC to Long Beach State to Oklahoma, earning all-conference honors four times. After sitting out 2000 when he was academically ineligible, he hit .428 to lead the Big 12 Conference and signed as a fifth-year senior before the 2001 draft. The Mariners drafted him in the 53rd round out of high school. Dobbs cemented his reputation for hitting everywhere he has gone with his Double-A performance; he hit .409 in the Texas League playoffs. He has power as well, and projects as a .280-.300 hitter with 20-25 homers. Seattle knew Dobbs' bat was ready for high Class A at the start of 2002, but sent him to the Midwest League so he could work on playing third base. He has adequate hands, range and arm strength, but his footwork and throwing angles are erratic and lead to wayward throws. He made 23 errors in 72 games at third last year. Dobbs has enough bat for first base or left field, but his value will be enhanced if he can stick at the hot corner. Considering Seattle's need there, he'll be given every opportunity to do so.
Strong has run wild since turning pro, stealing 188 bases (at an 82 percent success rate) and scoring 241 runs in 334 games. He has won two stolen-base crowns, including last year in the Texas League, where managers also rated him the circuit's best and fastest baserunner. Strong's speed grades out as an 8 on the 2-to-8 scouting scale. Just as important, he realizes it's his ticket to the big leagues. He does what he can to get on base, drawing walks and hitting the ball on the ground. He has improved his reads as a basestealer and center fielder. His arm never has been strong, though it has improved and is playable in center. He does get to balls and get rid of them quickly. While Strong doesn't try to hit for power, he'll have to produce a few more extra-base hits. He has some strength but is still learning to deal with pitchers who bust him inside. With Mike Cameron sliding in the second half and Kenny Kelly struggling in Triple-A during 2002, Strong's chances to one day start for Seattle have increased. He'll be one step away in Tacoma this year.
Catcher remains a soft spot at both the major and minor league levels in the Mariners organization. Christianson is their best chance to reverse that trend. However, he took a step backward in 2002. After hitting .215 in Double-A, he was demoted to high Class A San Bernardino and just starting to heat up at the plate when he broke a bone in his left foot. After missing two months, he went back to Double-A and finished strong. Seattle still believes Christianson can become an above-average offensive catcher. To do so, he'll have to stop trying to pull and lift too many pitches. He has the strength to drive the ball with power to the opposite field. Christianson also needs to tighten his plate discipline, which has slipped a little. His throwing was questioned earlier in his career, but his arm strength and release have improved. He threw out 38 percent of basestealers last year. Christianson still needs work on the mental aspects of catching, such as handling pitchers and calling games. The Mariners hope he'll fare better in Double-A this year.
Though the Mariners contended all of the 2002 season, they valued Ugueto so highly that they kept him on their 25-man roster almost the entire way (with the exception of some disabled- list time after he sprained his left wrist). Otherwise they would have had to put him on waivers and offer him back to the Marlins after acquiring him in the 2001 major league Rule 5 draft via the Pirates. After getting a total of 74 at-bats between the majors and Triple-A, Ugueto will need to make up for lost time in 2003. He's a true shortstop with pure speed. His instincts, range and hands make him the system's best defensive infielder--quite a compliment considering his competition includes Jose Lopez and Ruben Castillo. Ugueto is stronger than he looks, but he needs to forget about power and worry more about getting on base. Pitchers will keep pounding him inside until he proves he can turn on those offerings. Ugueto never had played above high Class A before 2002 and ideally would go to Double-A this year. But the presence of Jose Lopez likely means Ugueto instead will go to Tacoma.
Bloomquist is a product of nearby Port Orchard, Wash. He has been an organization favorite from the day he signed because of his makeup, but his bat leveled off after he left high Class A in 2000. He bounced back last year, overcoming a bulging disc in his back and a case of vertigo to be named Tacoma's player of the year. After Bloomquist hit .455 during his September callup, the Mariners now envision him as another Mark McLemore. He's a David Eckstein overachiever with better tools than Eckstein, though none of Bloomquist's grade out above-average. He's a steady defender at second base, third base and shortstop, and he did a good job of learning the outfield in 2002. His instincts serve him well in all facets of the game and make him a threat on the basepaths. Bloomquist doesn't have much power, so he needs to get on base. He's good at making contact, which also hurts him somewhat because that cuts down on his walks. He's expected to make the big league club as a utilityman this year.
Castro was named Northwest League MVP and led the league in runs, hits, doubles, total bases and extra-base hits while making his U.S. debut in 2002. He doesn't rate higher on this list because of the skepticism about his listed birthdate. That would have made him 18 for much of his breakout season, but he's physically mature and looks at least a couple of years older. Castro is a purely offensive player whose bat will have to carry him. He's only average defensively and probably is limited to second base. He's a switch-hitter who uses a compact swing to generate pop to all fields. He uses a line-drive approach and lets his power come naturally. Castro is a solid average runner whose lone offensive weakness at this point is his inability to draw walks. He'll be tested with his first extensive stint in full-season ball in 2003. If he passes, he'll rank much higher a year from now.
The lowest-drafted player signed by Seattle directly out of the 1999 draft, Olore has taken awhile to command respect. He pitched in relief in his first two years as pro, then won 13 games in his first shot as a starter in 2001. His reward? A trip back to the bullpen at the beginning of last year. He posted a 1.77 ERA in April, then missed five weeks with a sore shoulder. San Bernardino needed him in the rotation when Olore returned, and he was more than up to the task. Once his strict pitch counts were lifted, he went 7-0, 1.62 in his final nine starts and struck out 67 in 57 innings. Olore added 3 mph to his fastball, and it's now a solid-average offering at 89-92. His curveball is just as good, and his changeup is close. He throws strikes and is stingy with homers, allowing just four in 2002--and none to lefties in 156 at-bats. Olore doesn't have a significant out pitch, so he'll have to prove himself again in Double-A this year.
As the younger brother of Nomar Garciaparra, Michael faces comparisons that are unfair yet inevitable. He's not as explosive offensively as Nomar and probably never will be, but Michael is as gifted with the glove. He also shares Nomar's considerable instincts and work ethic, and is participating in the same intensive offseason workouts. That will help Michael do what he needs most, which is to get stronger. A surprise supplemental first-round pick in 2001, Garciaparra didn't play baseball in high school or in the minors that summer while recovering from a knee injury. He blew out his anterior cruciate ligament making a tackle after kicking off for his prep football team. Garciaparra got a $2 million bonus to pass up the opportunity to play at the University of Tennessee, and the Mariners are happy with their investment after seeing his pro debut last year. He showed a solid arm and range at shortstop, and an advanced approach at the plate. If he can make more contact and mature physically, he'll be a possible No. 2 hitter. Seattle thinks Garciaparra has the aptitude for switch-hitting and may have him try that in the future. The current plan is to keep him batting righthanded this year in low Class A.
Before Ken Dorsey made his near-flawless three-year run as the University of Miami's quarterback, Kelly took snaps for the Hurricanes. He gave up football in February 2000 to sign a four-year major league contract worth $2.2 million with the Devil Rays, who had signed him as a second-round pick three years earlier and let him play two sports. When Kelly was mediocre in his first year of focusing on baseball, Tampa Bay got out of the remaining three years of his contract by selling him to Seattle for $350,000 in April 2001. Kelly finally seemed to have turned the corner late that season, finishing strong in Double-A and starring in the Arizona Fall League. But he regressed in 2002, and if he doesn't make a strong rebound this season it may be time to write him off. His athleticism is unquestioned. Kelly has tremendous speed, pop in his bat and a decent arm. But he hasn't shown the ability to control the strike zone or make adjustments, nor the instincts to steal bases. He tends to dwell on bad at-bats, and he has plenty of them. It's time for him to turn his tools into skills. Kelly will be out of options after 2003, which he'll begin in Triple-A.
Anderson saw one impressive streak end in 2002 and another he'd like to avoid continue. His five-year run atop the Mariners' prospect list ended, not because he finally established himself in the majors, but because he tore the labrum in his left shoulder for the second straight spring. He has had two surgeries and hasn't pitched in a regular-season game since 2000. They hope he'll be ready for spring training. Before he got hurt, Anderson was as intimidating as any lefthander this side of Randy Johnson. At 6-foot-10 and possessing a 94-97 mph fastball, batters didn't relish facing him. But as overpowering as he could be, Anderson wasn't a finished product when his shoulder started acting up. He was still putting the final touches on a slider that was becoming a second plus pitch, and his changeup and command still needed work. And despite his size and stuff, Anderson never truly dominated at any level of the minors. He may not have worked as diligently as he should coming back from the first surgery, but he has learned his lesson. Anderson was able to pitch off a mound again last fall and should be ready to go for spring training. Seattle obviously will handle him carefully in hopes he can return to his previous form.
Ryan Anderson didn't suffer the first torn labrum in Seattle's big league camp last spring. That distinction went to Heaverlo, who was on the verge of completing the first father-son tandem to pitch for the Mariners. His dad Dave, nicknamed "Kojak" for his shaved head, spent seven years in the majors. Jeff didn't have nearly the pure stuff that Anderson did, so he has to hope that shoulder surgery doesn't take too much away from him. His best pitch was a slider that was almost in the class of Clint Nageotte's, and it helped him lead the Texas League in strikeouts in 2001. Heaverlo's fastball was average in terms of both life and velocity, topping out at 92 mph. His command and savvy made him quite effective, and the one task that remained was improving his changeup to get lefthanders out. Heaverlo has progressed a little further on the comeback trail than Anderson and definitely will be ready to pitch again in spring training.
Putz had shoulder problems in 2002, though they were less serious than those of Ryan Anderson and Jeff Heaverlo. Putz missed the first three weeks of the season while recovering from tendinitis in extended spring training, and skipped the Arizona Fall League because his shoulder bothered him again. He didn't require surgery. Putz' 5-14 record last year was misleading, as he allowed three earned runs or less in 19 of his 24 starts. He had 14 quality starts but only a 4-5 record to show for those outings. Putz has a thick, strong frame and an easy arm action that allows him to maintain low-90s velocity on his fastball throughout a game. He also has a slider, which he needs to throw for strikes more consistently, and a changeup, which still requires some improvement. He'll probably open the year in Triple-A but could get a call to Seattle if reinforcements are needed early in the season. Putz projects as a back-of-the-rotation starter or a middle reliever.
Simpson shared minor league pitcher of the year honors in the organization with San Antonio bullpen mates Aaron Taylor and Aaron Looper, who helped the Missions win the Texas League championship. With Taylor promoted to Seattle before the TL finals, Simpson took over as closer and earned a win and two saves. Simpson's fastball sits at 92-95 mph, and he got up to 99 in the postseason. His second pitch is a slider, which has improved but still isn't more than an average pitch. He also has a changeup, but it's not as strong as his other two offerings and he doesn't use it much. Opponents batted just .189 against him in 2002, though he surrendered nearly as many walks (50) as hits (53). Simpson's future is cloudy after he was diagnosed with lupus, a chronic inflammatory disease, during the offseason. That led to the Mariners' decision to remove him from the 40-man roster and outright him to Triple- A when they needed a roster spot after re-signing Jamie Moyer in December.
Baseball America named Madritsch its 2002 Independent Player of the Year after he went 11-4, 2.30 and set a Northern League record with 153 strikeouts in 125 innings. After the season, the Mariners beat out several teams to sign him and added him to their 40-man roster. He originally signed with the Reds as sixth-round pick in 1998 and led the Rookie-level Pioneer League in strikeouts during his first pro summer. But after hurting his shoulder and having surgery, he missed all of 1999 and most of 2000 before the Reds released him the following spring. Madritsch's best pitch is a 92-94 mph fastball that has inconsistent life. He doesn't spin his curveball particularly well and his changeup still has a ways to go. Seattle plans on using him as a starter, though if he can't refine his secondary pitches he could settle for being a hard-throwing lefty reliever.
His main claim to fame entering the 2002 season was that he's the son of Mariners farm director Benny Looper, but he ended it as the system's co-minor league pitcher of the year. He earned the save in the final game of the Texas League playoffs by throwing two shutout innings. After the TL all-star break (including the postseason), he allowed just four earned runs in 58 innings for a 0.62 ERA. Unlike Aaron Taylor and Allan Simpson, his fellow pitchers of the year in the system, Looper can't just throw the ball by hitters. He relies instead on an 89-92 mph fastball with consistent plus sink, and an improved slider. When he moves to Triple-A this year, he'll work on improving his changeup.
If Ryan Christianson can't become the Mariners' catcher of the future, they have hopes that Rivera can. Like Christianson, he has yet to tear up minor league pitching, though Rivera was named to the Northwest League's postseason all-star team in 2002. He got himself selected in the second round the year before with an impressive power display in a Puerto Rican predraft showcase. Rivera is still raw at the plate and needs to tighten his strike zone in order to be more productive. His catch-and-throw skills are more advanced than his bat at this point. Rivera moves well behind the plate, and his strong arm allowed him to lead the NWL in throwing out 38 percent of basestealers. Seattle also has been impressed at how quickly he has picked up English. Rivera will move to full-season ball for the first time in 2003.
Anderson earned one of Australia's two victories at the 2000 Olympics and led the California League in strikeouts in 2001, but he leveled off last year despite being named a Texas League all-star. He allowed more than three earned runs in just six of his 27 starts, but his fastball settled into the low 80s and he didn't miss many bats. His usually exemplary command slipped a notch too, as he didn't go after hitters as much as he had in the past. Anderson still has the best changeup in the system, and his curveball also is a useful pitch. He helps himself by doing all the little things well, such as fielding (only one error in 2002) and holding runners (59 percent of basestealers were caught while he was on the mound, the second-best rate in the TL). His carefree delivery not only allows him to throw strikes but keeps him healthy, as he hasn't missed a start in four pro seasons. If all goes well, Anderson can become another Jamie Moyer. But he'll need to come up with a little more juice on his fastball to make that happen.
Done signed out of Pace High in Miami with the White Sox in 1999, but his contract was voided because of a pre-existing injury that was discovered two months later. Because he was released within 90 days, he retained his junior college eligibility. Draft rules granted him free agency after he finished his career at Broward CC in 2001, and he signed with the Mariners. Done's upside is as huge as nearly any pitcher in the system, as is the amount of improvement he'll need to reach that ceiling. He has a 93-94 mph fastball and a hard slider, but he must work on nearly everything except arm strength. He tends to get excited and overthrow, muscling the ball and making his shaky command worse. His slider is inconsistent and his changeup is raw. He was up and down throughout 2002. In April he followed three straight quality starts with a three-inning, 11-run performance. After pitching scoreless ball with 10 strikeouts in each of two consecutive starts in late July, he allowed seven runs in 22⁄3 innings in his next outing and didn't win again the rest of the year. With his profile, he could be converted into a late-inning reliever, though Seattle will keep him in the rotation and hope for a steadier season in 2003.
Livingston threw in the low 90s as a high school senior, earning a Major League Scouting Bureau grade that trailed only 100 mph fastballer Colt Griffin among Texas prepsters in March 2001. His velocity dipped to 86-87 mph before the draft, though. Combined with his commitment to Texas Tech and some makeup concerns, it allowed the Mariners to get him in the fourth round. Livingston pitched mainly in the upper 80s during his pro debut last year. He has such a loose arm and projectable frame that he could get back up to the low 90s as he matures. While his fastball, slider, changeup and command still need development, Livingston pitched well for a 19-year-old in the Northwest League. He got better as the summer wore on, posting a 2.08 ERA and 33-4 strikeout-walk ratio over his final six starts. His awkward, deceptive delivery confuses hitters and he has the potential to have average to plus stuff across the board. He'll pitch in low Class A this season.
Like Bobby Livingston, Nelson is a 2001 draft pick who signed late and had an impressive pro debut in the Northwest League last year. Nelson easily led the NWL in homers and RBIs as he continued to acclimate himself to the daily grind of baseball. He took two years off to serve a Mormon mission in South Florida, where he learned to speak Spanish well enough to serve as a translator for his Everett teammates. Nelson's raw power stands out in a system that isn't loaded with home run hitters. To make use of it at higher levels, he'll have to make much better contact after leading the NWL in strikeouts. If he doesn't find some plate discipline and stop chasing breaking balls, he'll be exploited by more advanced pitchers. Nelson played OK at first base after playing on the left side of the infield at Dixie State JC. Because he runs well and has a decent arm, he got a look in left field during instructional league. Nelson should split time between first and left in low Class A this year.
Cate went on a two-year Mormon mission to England after graduating from high school, then pitched at Ricks JC. He set school records with a 2.35 ERA and 83 strikeouts last year and can rest assured that they'll never be broken: Ricks has become a four-year school, changing its name to Brigham Young-Idaho and dropped all intercollegiate sports. Cate was even more spectacular in his pro debut, finishing second in the Northwest League in ERA and strikeouts. His fastball ranges anywhere from 82-92 mph, and the Mariners aren't sure whether he really varies the speeds on purpose or if his velocity just fluctuates naturally. His curveball is his best pitch and he has an advanced changeup. Cate locates his pitches well and could be a find if he can keep his fastball in the upper 80s.
Born partially deaf, Ketchner has 40 percent of his hearing. He wears hearing aids in both of his ears, which allow him to pick up vibrations, and he reads lips. He's believed to be the only deaf pitcher in professional baseball, but Ketchner is notable for more than his handicap. He was the pitcher of the year at Wisconsin in 2002, limiting Midwest League hitters to a .190 average thanks to his command and crafty ability to mix pitches. Ketchner has an 83-88 mph fastball and a below-average slider, though both pitches have the potential to become average. His fastball has plenty of life and his delivery is deceptive, making him difficult to hit. His changeup is his best pitch. Ketchner never has been given a full season as a starter, though that may change as he has asserted himself as a lefty prospect in a system loaded with them. Besides the seven southpaws on the top 30 list, the Mariners also have hopes for: Matt Thornton, the 2001 California League pitcher of the year who's coming back from Tommy John surgery; former nondrafted free agents Glenn Bott and Russ Morgan (who tied for the Cal League lead in victories in 2002); and 2002 draftees Kendall Bergdall, Brandon Perry and Jared Thomas.