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Clement turned down the Twins as a 12th-round pick out of an Iowa high school in 2002, opting to attend Southern California instead. After the draft, Clement finished his prep career by breaking Drew Henson's national high school career home run record with 75. With the Trojans, he hit 46 home runs in three years, eight short of Mark McGwire's career mark, prompting the Mariners to take him with the third pick in the 2005 draft. Seattle signed him for $3.4 million, a club record for a drafted player. His first full pro season, 2006, was interrupted for seven weeks when he needed operations to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee and remove a bone chip from his left elbow. Upon his return, the Mariners jumped Clement from Double-A San Antonio to Triple-A Tacoma, where he struggled to gain his footing. He caught his breath in 2007, turning in his best pro season, and clubbed two home runs 16 at-bats during his big league debut in September. Clement headed to the Arizona Fall League in October, his third winter ball stint in three years since signing, but missed the final two games after being sidelined with a sore left elbow that didn't require surgery. Clement offers rare above-average lefthanded power from the catcher position. He stays inside the ball well and makes consistent, hard contact to all fields. Clement worked to slow the game down in 2007. Where previously he would look to pull everything, he now shows a mature approach, extending at-bats by working pitchers for his pitch or for walks. Clement gets such good backspin and carry on the ball that he can drive it out of any part of the park. A natural leader with work ethic to spare, he offers average arm strength to go with solid receiving, blocking and game-calling abilities behind the plate. Clement has worked extensively with roving catching instructor Roger Hansen on getting his feet to work with his arm on throws. Hansen is convinced that Clement will catch in the big leagues because he's dedicated to putting in the necessary work to improve. Scouts outside the organization are less optimistic, though, believing Clement will always struggle to throw out runners because of below-average release times and accuracy. He has caught 29, 26 and 27 percent of basestealers in three pro seasons. Typical for a catcher, he's a below-average runner. Despite running hot and cold in Triple-A and having to contend with a timeshare arrangement with fellow catching prospect Rob Johnson, Clement's bat is ready for the big leagues. But with 31-year-old Kenji Johjima entrenched as the Mariners' catcher--not to mention Johnson's plus defensive tools--Clement may have to work his way into the lineup at DH or by learning first base.
The best Canadian prospect since Adam Loewen, Aumont caught the attention of scouting directors while pitching for traveling teams, primarily the Canadian national team, because his Quebec high school didn't offer baseball. He gained prominence in 2006 at a high school all-star game in Cape Cod and at the East Coast Showcase, after which he was viewed as a potential first-round pick. The Mariners made him the 11th overall choice in June and signed him for $1.9 million. Aumont, who is reluctant to discuss his parents or his past with the media, has lived with legal guardians since 2003. Because Aumont signed too late to pitch, the Mariners put him on a five-day rotation schedule in instructional league. He pitches at 92-94 mph with his plus-plus power sinker that bores in on righthanders and features the best movement in the system. He also throws a four-seam fastball that touches 98. The athletic 6-foot-7, 230-pounder carves an intimidating presence on the mound, and his low three-quarters arm slot gives batters an uncomfortable look. His hard slider has above-average potential at 80-82 mph. Though he offers plus arm strength, Aumont doesn't have the polish or experience of other first-round high school arms. In fact, he didn't start playing baseball until age 11 and didn't start pitching until 14. Though he throws a lot of strikes, he needs to fine-tune his command of the strike zone. Repeating his delivery and staying balanced would allow him to more consistently stay on top of his breaking ball. He doesn't have much of a changeup--he threw a splitter as an amateur--but he'll get plenty of practice seeing as Mariners farmhands are required to throw the pitch 10 percent of the time. Despite his inexperience, Aumont will move as quickly as his command allows. He profiles as a front-of-the-rotation starter because his ball is so lively and because he has such a knack for avoiding the barrel of the bat. He figures to begin his pro career with low Class A Wisconsin.
An inconsistent senior season dropped Tillman into the second round of the 2006 draft, where the Mariners pounced, adding him to a haul that also included Brandon Morrow and Tony Butler. Seattle bumped the 19-year-old Tillman to high Class A High Desert after just eight low Class A starts. He struggled initially as he got used to more advanced California League competition and an unforgiving home park, but went 5- 4, 4.75 with 89 strikeouts in 78 innings in the second half. The lanky Tillman still is growing into his 6-foot-5 frame, and the leverage in his clean delivery gives extra life to an above-average 91-94 mph four-seam fastball. He's aggressive with the pitch, throwing it to all four quadrants of the strike zone. Tillman throws a true 11-to-5 curveball with tight rotation and late break that functions as his strikeout pitch. He has a loose arm and could grow into more strength and velocity as he matures. He shows aptitude for a changeup, but it's still his third pitch. Tillman didn't live up to expectations as a senior, leading some scouts to question his mental toughness. While he's around the strike zone, he sometimes struggles to throw his curveball for strikes because of its big break. Like most young pitchers, he needs to tighten his command and improve his pitches sequences. Tillman learned a valuable lesson in the Cal League. Because the ball carries so well, the parks are so small and the ground so fast, he tried to avoid contact--and he paid for it. But after a few starts he realized that his stuff plays anywhere and he began to attack hitters. He has enough stuff to start in the middle of a big league rotation, or higher, as evidenced by the fact that he'll pitch in Double-A at age 20.
Last year, we wrote that the Mariners couldn't wait to see what Triunfel would do in his debut. The results are in: He hit his way to high Class A at age 17. While other clubs offered him more money to sign as an amateur, he chose the Mariners because of his comfort with the organization. He got $1.3 million to sign, more than all but three 2006 Latin American free agents. Triunfel broke his right thumb in May and upon his return, the Mariners pushed the young shortstop up a level. Two things elevate Triunfel above most prospects his age--his hitting instincts and his makeup. He has the handeye coordination, contact ability and strength to sting the ball from gap to gap. He makes rapid adjustments to the way pitchers work him, marking him as an above-average hitter. Unlike most young players, Triunfel is unfazed by mistakes and has the utmost confidence in his abilities. He had one of the strongest throwing arms in the two leagues in which he played. The Mariners don't take for granted that Triunfel acclimated himself to 40-degree April weather in the low Class A Midwest League. Only one Cal League player came to the plate more often without homering than Triunfel, though his first instructional league homer traveled 450 feet. The Mariners firmly believe he'll develop average power once he learns to turn on pitches, because his hands are quick, he hits the ball hard the other way and gets such good backspin. Nearly physically mature, Triunfel is thick-legged and has below-average running speed. He lacks classic shortstop actions and range, and almost certainly will have to find a new position once he fills out. Because he throws well, Triunfel could find a home at third base, and the Mariners tried him at second base in instructional league in an effort to keep him in the middle of the field. His future position may depend largely on the needs of the big league club and Seattle hasn't figured out what positon he'll play when he returns to high Class A in 2008.
Balentien arrived in the United States by hitting a Rookie-level Arizona League-record 16 home runs in 2004. He has done nothing but mash since, averaging 22 homers in each of the past four seasons. After winning team MVP honors at San Antonio in 2006, he showed improvement across the board in his first taste of Triple-A. He homered off Fausto Carmona in one of three September at-bats for the Mariners. Few players in the game can match Balentien's immense raw power to all fields. Though he still wildly chases pitches out of the strike zone, he did show increased pitch recognition and selectivity in first half of last season. He slashed his strikeout rate from one every 3.2 at-bats in 2006 to one every 4.5. He has average speed and good baserunning instincts. An average defender in right field, he charges the ball well and has a plus arm he used to register 15 assists last year. Balentien spins off pitches a lot, though he can still drive the ball when he does. He frequently has come under scrutiny for his lackadaisical play and though he still has lapses, he showed more focus and maturity in 2007. Balentien missed a week in August with a left pinky injury and hit just .209/.281/.318 in 148 at-bats in the second half. Balentien accomplished his goal of making more contact without sacrificing power, bringing him to the cusp of being big league ready. The Mariners, though, are committed to Ichiro Suzuki and Adam Jones in center and right field, and Raul Ibanez has played well in left, meaning Balentien may have to wait for a spot to open in Seattle. He could use more Triple-A time to further refine his game.
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.
With just 65 innings in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League under his belt, Ramirez made his U.S. debut in the short-season Northwest League at age 18. He had his share of rough outings and struggled with his command, but he also had one of the league's best arms. Ramirez finished second in the NWL in opponent average (.211) and fourth in strikeouts per nine innings (8.7). Ramirez has a prototypical pitcher's body and compares favorably with former Mariners prospect Rafael Soriano for his build and his delivery. He has a loose, easy arm and the ball jumps out of his hand from a three-quarters arm slot. His plus four-seam fastball ranges from 91-95 mph and sits at 93 with life and occasional armside run. Batters simply don't look comfortable facing him, nor do they get good swings on his fastball. Ramirez will rush his delivery and miss up in the zone, which leads to walks. His breaking ball is a work in progress, but he'll flash tight spin on a 75-mph curveball. He has some feel for a changeup but it also needs refinement. At present, he has below-average command of all three of his pitches. Ramirez likely will team with 2007 first-round pick Phillippe Aumont in the low Class A rotation this year. With improved command, he would have front-of-the-rotation stuff. If not, he'd profile as power reliever.
Lowe took off after a move to the bullpen in 2006, winning Seattle's minor league pitcher of the year award for his three-month trek from high Class A to the majors. His breakthrough season was cut short that August with what was believed to be elbow tendinitis. Doctors instead found that he had no cartilage in the joint and had to perform a drastic, unprecedented microfracture operation in an effort to regenerate it. Lowe's stuff jumped a grade as a reliever. Prior to elbow surgery, his fastball reached a consistent 94-96 mph with quality life. His hard slider had late, quick break and chews up righthanders. He also had a changeup for lefties, and all three of his pitches were plus at times. His command and control also improved in short stints when he could cut loose. In addition to his elbow woes, Lowe also missed three weeks in 2006 with a shoulder impingement. Limited to just 13 innings last year, he didn't cut loose, couldn't pitch on consecutive days and threw only bullpens in instructional league. Team doctors told the Mariners that Lowe will be under no restrictions in spring training, so that's when they'll get a better idea if his stuff will come back. If Lowe is healthy, he'll be an asset as a late-inning reliever, possibly filling Brandon Morrow's role if Morrow moves to the rotation as planned.
The first player ever signed from Newcastle, Australia, Rowland-Smith pitched for his nation in the 2004 Olympics. The Twins took him the major league Rule 5 draft at the 2004 Winter Meetings but returned him to the Mariners the following spring. Rowland-Smith, who spent the second half of last season in Seattle's bullpen, has worked predominantly as a reliever in his seven years in the system. However, the Mariners want him to start in 2008 and sent him to the Venezuelan Winter League to prepare for that assignment. With a fastball that reaches 93-94 mph and three other pitches, Rowland-Smith never was typical lefty-specialist material. He relied on his slider as a reliever, and the pitch is a tick above average, but he's more comfortable with throwing his average curveball and deceptive changeup. He's a physical pitcher who offers power stuff from the left side and has a plan on the mound. Rowland-Smith never has started more than 17 games or pitched more than 122 innings in any pro season, leading to questions about how he'll adapt to the rigors of his new role. Despite his size, he doesn't get a lot of downward plane on his fastball, and his curve can be a little big and early at times. With no knockout pitch, he's probably a No. 4 or 5 starter. Rowland-Smith won't have an easy time cracking the rotation, seeing as Seattle has three other lefty candidates in Jarrod Washburn, Horacio Ramirez and Ryan Feierabend.
Tuiasosopo was on a football path, like his father Manu and brother Marques (who both played in the NFL), when he accepted a scholarship to play quarterback at Washington. He changed course when the Mariners took him with their top pick in the 2004 draft and signed him for a third round-record $2.29 million bonus. After three years of mostly struggling, Tuiasosopo's bat came alive in Double-A last season and he continued to hit in the Arizona Fall League. The Mariners rave about Tuiasosopo's makeup, noting that he never lost focus despite bombing in his first crack at Double-A in 2006. He got off to a fast start with West Tenn in 2007 and ran with it, showing above-average bat speed and solid pitch recognition and plate coverage. His power is strictly gap to gap now, but he has the strength and athleticism to drive the ball once he learns to identify his pitch. A converted shortstop, Tuiasosopo has the makings of a big league third baseman with soft hands, arm strength and agility. He has good speed for his size. Tuiasosopo still uses an inside-out swing and takes most balls the other way, cutting into his power potential. He started to correct that, turning on inside pitches in the second half and in the AFL. Tuiasosopo's stroke is long and he has a high leg kick that throws his timing off. Even four years into his pro career, Tuiasosopo remains raw because of his football background. He has no standout tool, but if his bat develops as the Mariners expect, he could be a solid big league regular. He'll probably never be a middle-of-the-order hitter.
Peguero led the Rookie-level Arizona League in slugging (.649) and tied two other Mariners farmhands for the home run crown (seven) in 2006. And he accomplished it even after moving to short-season Everett with a month left in the season. At 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds, Peguero has the power to match anyone in the system, and he slugged a well-above-average .465 in the tough Midwest League in 2007. He can lift and drive any ball he can reach, and his swing, though long, can be pretty at times. Peguero's not entirely a one-dimensional masher, though. He's an above-average runner for his size (he has covered 60 yards in 6.6 seconds) and he has an above-average right-fielder's arm--though he spent most of his time at DH with Wisconsin while he recovered from surgery to remove bone chips from his elbow. Peguero doesn't have much of a plan at the plate yet, and he's got a lot of work to do cleaning up his reads and routes in the outfield, but his huge lefty power alone makes him a potential impact hitter. He'll see time with high Class A High Desert in 2008, where the California League's favorable conditions should bring Peguero's power to the fore.
After sitting at 86-87 mph and touching 90 for much of his senior year, Butler's velocity peaked in the mid-90s right before the draft, prompting the Mariners to invest a third-round pick in the projectable lefty. He dominated in the Northwest League in his debut, but slumped at low Class A Wisconsin in his sophomore season, getting out of the gates at 0-6, 7.02 with 30 walks, 29 strikeouts and six home runs in 33 first-half innings. Butler spent time on the disabled list twice with a dead arm. His above-average 88-92 mph four-seam fastball features late life, and he uses his 6-foot-7 frame to leverage it down in the strike zone. He also can buckle knees with his 76-80 mph curveball, which is one of the system's best. Butler has feel for a changeup with late fade and deception. Pitching in Appleton may have posed distractions to Butler, whose hometown is nearby Oak Creek, Wis. He was not prepared to pitch every five days and he'll need to improve his endurance. Butler was hit hard, especially in the first half, as he struggled to command his fastball. His arm action is not fluid, which provides deception but also puts stress on his shoulder and makes it difficult to maintain velocity. In fact, Midwest League observers were impressed that Butler got so much bite on his curveball with his slinging delivery. Though he didn't live up to expectations in 2007, Butler still is a physical lefty with stuff who projects as a mid-rotation starter or reliever. He recovered in the second half, going 4-1, 3.29 with 44 strikeouts and 16 walks in 52 innings, but the Mariners may opt to send Butler back to Wisconsin to catch his breath. He'll be ready for high Class A at some point in 2008.
A long-limbed, high-waisted athlete, Halman signed after winning the MVP award in the Dutch league as a 17-year-old. With a projectable frame and wiry strength, especially in his wrists and forearms, Halman has drawn physical comparisons with Andre Dawson and Alfonso Soriano. Because he had played well in a few big league spring training games, Halman was unhappy with his Opening Day assignment to low Class A Wisconsin. He fared so poorly, failing to make adjustments, that he was demoted to Everett in June. He said the experience has humbled him. Halman dominated in his return to the Northwest League, leading all batters in slugging (.597) and finishing second with 16 home runs. With the power came bushels of strikeouts, as Halman struggled with pitch recognition and continued to sell out for power. With plus bat speed and above-average power, the home runs will come naturally if he lets them. A long-strider who runs well for his size, Halman is capable in center field but probably will shift to right, where his plus arm also plays. Few Seattle prospects have as many raw tools as Halman, but he still has a long way to go to harness his ability. Shortening his swing and focusing on contact--as Wladimir Balentien had to do as he advanced--should be on his to-do list as he heads back to Wisconsin.
Since he won the Cape Cod League batting title with a .310 average in the summer of 2006, things haven't gone as smoothly for Mangini. After transferring from North Carolina State to Oklahoma State for his junior year, he didn't perform as hoped and slid out of the first round of the draft--but not too far. The Mariners took him with the 52nd overall pick and gave him a $603,000 bonus. A hard-nosed player who puts together good at-bats, Mangini's line-drive approach has served him well as a hitter for average, though it has cost him leverage in his swing. He projects to have no more than average power because of a lack of loft in his swing, and back soreness that hampered him in his pro debut didn't help. Scouts who have history with Mangini say he always has hit better with wood than metal and that he has solid-average bat speed. He hangs in against lefties and isn't afraid to use the opposite field. At third base, Mangini has fringe-average range, which the Mariners are trying to clean up with improved footwork, and an average arm. He's not a great athlete and offers below-average running speed. Mangini figures to see plenty of action at High Desert in 2008 and could reach Double-A.
Moore missed the entire 2005 college season at Nebraska after tearing the meniscus in his left knee just before the season started. After transferring to Texas-Arlington, he became the Mavericks' best hitter and led them to the Southland Conference tournament title. Moore has come on strong since turning pro for $140,000, putting up 22 homers and 102 RBIs in 2007, taking full advantage of the favorable conditions at high Class A High Desert. In fact, above-average power is Moore's most pronounced tool, but he also impressed the Mariners with his leadership qualities and game-calling technique. At his best, he's a solid-average receiver and thrower, but his bat always will have to carry him. That should be no problem in terms of power production, but while Moore has good pitch recognition skills, he may lack the reflexes to hit for a high average. A sturdily-built 6-foot-3 and 215 pounds, he has enough arm to stick at catcher, but his footwork can get out of sync while blocking and throwing. He erased 32 percent of basestealers last season. Roving catching instructor Roger Hansen will focus on cleaning up Moore's footwork--as he has Jeff Clement's--as he moves to Double-A.
By inking three Latin American prospects to bonuses of six figures or more, the Mariners reiterated their commitment to international scouting. Seattle signed DeJesus for $1 million, while also adding shortstop Gabriel Noriega (Venezuela) and outfielder Efrain Nunez (Dominican Republic) during the 2007 international signing period. DeJesus was eligible in 2006, too, but teams did not meet his asking price. Added strength garnered him more attention in 2007, and many scouts thought he offered one of the better, more polished bats in the Dominican. DeJesus reminds the Mariners of his countryman Carlos Triunfel, in whom they invested $1.3 million in 2006. Like Triunfel, DeJesus is supremely confident in his abilities, but will have to move off shortstop as he matures. Already 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, DeJesus has above-average potential as a hitter and as a power hitter. He's a slightly below-average runner who profiles as a plus defensive third baseman with a strong arm. The Mariners like to challenge their prospects, so DeJesus stands a good chance of making his pro debut with Wisconsin at age 18.
Johnson rated as the best defensive catcher in the Midwest League in 2005, his full-season debut, and reached high Class A later that year. He hasn't served as a full-time catcher since then, as he's had to share playing time at Triple-A Tacoma with Guillermo Quiroz in 2006 (catching 74 games) and Jeff Clement in 2007 (69 games). The Mariners felt comfortable rushing him because of his plus leadership qualities and strong arm--though he threw out just 24 percent of basestealers in 2007. An outfielder in junior college, Johnson runs very well for a catcher but is an inconsistent receiver. As a hitter, he's struggled with advanced breaking balls and has batted just .252/.301/.348 through 209 Triple-A games. He has good hand-eye coordination and raw power, but could add more pop with increased loft in his swing and a better plan at the plate. Johnson is the best defensive catcher the Mariners have on the farm, but with Kenji Johjima and Clement ahead of him on the depth chart, he'll have to bide his time in Tacoma. He profiles as a backup catcher in the big leagues but could start if his bat comes along.
A native of Montana, where there's no high school baseball, the 6-foot-9 Mickolio played only basketball until the summer before his senior year of high school, when he began playing American Legion ball. He showed enough promise in his first year at Eastern Utah Junior College in 2003 that the Cardinals drafted him in the 35th round, and he made even more progress after transferring to Utah Valley State. A true scouting success story, Mickolio jumped from 18th-round pick in 2006 to Triple-A in 2007. The definition of uncomfortable to hit, Mickolio throws his power sinker at 92-97 mph from a low three-quarters arm slot. The ball bores in on righthanders and his cross-body throwing motion gives him plenty of deception. Mickolio needs to find more consistency with his slider, which shows good depth at times, but as a reliever he can get by if the pitch is merely average because his fastball is so good. He'll also need to improve his changeup to combat lefthanders, and he still needs to do a better job commanding his stuff in the strike zone. All the ingredients are present for Mickolio to be a big league reliever, potentially an eighth-inning guy if he slightly improves his three pitches.
LaHair won Seattle minor league player of the year honors in 2006 and followed that up by hitting 46 doubles in 2007, a mark good enough to rank second in the Pacific Coast League and seventh in the minors. His resurgence began in 2005 when he started to drive the ball more regularly during games. LaHair uses the entire field and has good plate coverage, but his upside is probably closer to Sean Casey than a true impact bat. He could improve his home run output by learning to pull the inside pitch, which the Mariners believe he will do with more Triple-A experience. LaHair's work ethic is strong, but he tends to be too hard on himself. Drafted as a corner outfielder/third baseman, he isn't very athletic and is limited to first base, where he has below-average speed and defensive skills. Unless he improves dramatically against lefthanders--against whom he has hit .209 and slugged .316 in two Triple-A seasons--LaHair profiles more as a part-time player. Weakness against lefty pitching is preferable to the opposite, though, so LaHair could carve out a career as a platoon first baseman/DH, possibly as early as 2008 if Richie Sexson gets hurt or is traded.
Chen led Taiwan with one homer and five RBIs at the inaugural World Baseball Classic in 2006, and played in that year's Futures Game. Chen failed to build on that momentum in 2007 when he dislocated his shoulder five games into the Triple-A Tacoma season and missed the rest of the year. He returned to hit .339/.444/.424 in 59 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League. Chen's best tool is his bat. He has a knack for contact, knows how to work pitchers and uses the whole field. Quality breaking balls give him trouble, and he has below-average power--though his buggy-whip swing generates surprising gap power for his size. Chen doesn't run all that well and he's just an average defender who still has to answer questions about his footwork and range at second base. His arm is average. Chen tends to sit back on balls instead of getting his weight up front, but his exchange on double plays is above-average. Added to the 40-man roster in November, Chen will get another shot at Triple-A in 2008, but he'll have to perform. Otherwise the organization's infield depth, like the fast-rising Carlos Triunfel, might catch up to him.
Not many teams rated Carroll highly enough to draft him in the third round like the Mariners did, but his early returns have Seattle excited. He signed for $315,000, eschewing his commitment to UC Irvine, and finished in the top five in the Arizona League in batting (.323), hits (65), steals (27) and on-base percentage (.415). Teammates nicknamed him "Machine" for his ability to repeat his swing with ease and for his highenergy disposition. Simply put, Carroll is a baseball player. What he lacks in present strength, he makes up for with above-average pitch recognition, contact ability and speed. Carroll is an above-average runner with plus instincts both on the bases and in center field. His arm is strong enough that he could handle right field. Carroll could be an ideal No. 2 hitter, using the whole field and having potential gap power as he gets stronger. He's ready for an assignment to Wisconsin.
Paredes' first official U.S. appearance came for Triple-A Tacoma when he was used as an emergency reliever in mid-June, and he tossed five hitless innings. He had spent the previous two seasons as a reliever in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League, but the Mariners stretched Paredes out by putting him in Everett's rotation. They were pleased with the results. The lean, 6-foot lefty has a quick, loose arm action, and he led the Northwest League in innings (86) and walks (48). Paredes struggles to repeat his low-three-quarters arm slot, which is the root of his command issues. His fastball ranges from 88-93 mph with armside run and occasional plus life at the plate. His 78 mph slurve was at times a legitimate out pitch with 2-to-8 tilt. It gets sweepy, lacks depth and hangs when he drops his arm angle, which was the case during his final few starts. His changeup is below-average. Paredes will work to refine his command issues in Wisconsin's rotation in 2008.
The Mariners made a splash on the international market in 2006, signing Martinez and Carlos Triunfel for a combined $1.9 million. Martinez received $600,000, and while he didn't make it to high Class A in his debut, as Triunfel did, he more than held his own in the Arizona League, where he ranked as the No. 10 prospect. He made the game look easy with a sound swing he repeated easily and smooth actions in the field. His 6-foot-2, 175-pound frame leaves scouts plenty of room to project future power potential as Martinez adds strength. Signed as a shortstop, he already has outgrown the position, but he offers soft hands and a strong arm at third base. An aggressive hitter, Martinez can look foolish on one pitch then absolutely crush the next offering. He has plus power potential to all fields and the ball just sounds different off his bat. Martinez is a fluid athlete who runs well, but may lose some speed as he adds strength. The Mariners are encouraged by Martinez' tools, instincts and work habits and probably will push the 18-year-old Wisconsin.
Though just one round separated them in the 2007 June, Almonte and third-rounder Danny Carroll are practically polar opposites of one another. Where Carroll is a pure baseball player without overwhelming tools, Almonte oozes tools but has struggled to put all five together. Case in point: he hit .145 in his debut with strikeouts in nearly half his at-bats. Taken 75th overall and signed for $427,500, Almonte has strong wrists and forearms, but the switch-hitter's swing is going to take a lot of repetitions to iron out. His swing is more compact and natural from the right side, but he has a pronounced uppercut from the left side, which the Mariners believe can be refined because of Almonte's athleticism and fluidity. He has some feel for the strike zone and offers plus power projection and well above-average speed. He also is an above-average center fielder with a quick first step and good body control. Rounding out his tool set, Almonte has a plus arm. Even though the Mariners like to challenge their young players, their low-level outfield situation already is crowded with the likes of Greg Halman, Danny Carroll, Joe Dunigan and Kalian Sams, meaning Almonte may return to Everett in 2008.
Gallagher entered the year as Stanford's ace, and at times showed the form he displayed in the 2006 Cape Cod League, but inconsistent command caused him to leave his pitches up in the zone and he got blitzed for a 7.39 ERA. He wasn't in the Cardinal's rotation during Pacific-10 Conference play. A potential supplemental first-round pick coming into the year, Gallagher fell to the fourth round where the Mariners signed him for $193,500. In his pro debut, the Montana native showed flashes of the 88-92 mph fastball, hard curveball and ability to change speeds that he had as a sophomore. He started pitching inside more to pro hitters and the Mariners noticed a marked improvement in Gallagher's mound presence. His plus curveball features tight rotation, and he throws it for strikes. That pitch and his clean, effortless delivery make him a potential midrotation starter, but he'll need to improve his below-average changeup. An abdominal strain slowed Gallagher when he moved to Wisconsin, but he should be ready for the challenges of high Class A in 2008.
Everything Thomas throws moves, and he has the type of durable frame to absorb innings. He struggled in Double-A West Tenn a year after dominating in the California League playoffs, where he struck out 17 and didn't allow a run in 12 innings. Thomas lost a few ticks off his 88-92 mph fastball as he tried to pitch through pain brought on by bone chips in his left elbow. He shut things down in April and never got on track afterward in the Southern League. Thomas has the raw stuff to rival any lefthander in Seattle's system, with a lively fastball, a solid slider that breaks laterally and a fading changeup. His command isn't as impressive as his control, and he needs to do a better job of staying on top of his slider and changeup. The Mariners love his makeup, though, and he's a mid-rotation starter if everything clicks, a power lefty reliever if it doesn't. Thomas will reach Triple-A by the end of the 2008 season, but with the big league club's bevy of lefty pitching, the Mariners can afford to take it slow.
Rohrbaugh reached Double-A in his first full pro season and Triple-A in his second, largely because of his mature mound presence. He's an athletic strike-throwing machine with a simple delivery that he repeats well. Rohrbaugh's stuff is just average to a tick above, but he's not afraid to pitch to contact. His cutting 86-90 mph fastball generates lots of awkward swings and misses, and he throws on a good downward plane from a high three-quarters angle. Rohrbaugh's curveball has slurvy action that doesn't impress scouts or same-side batters. For the second year in a row, Southern League lefties hit him harder than did righthanders. Rohrbaugh's changeup has some fade and sink. Despite leading the organization in wins (13) and innings (170) in 2007, Rohrbaugh is a No. 5 starter if everything breaks right. He'll start at Tacoma, but he's behind other young, upper-level lefties like Ryan Feierabend, Ryan Rowland-Smith and Justin Thomas.
The Red Sox drafted Hill as a junior in 2006 just to honor him, even though U.S. Military Academy rules prevented him from signing. He received permission to put off his active duty to pursue his professional baseball career in 2007, and the Mariners signed him for $70,000 after taking him in the seventh round. He's the highest-drafted player ever out of Army. Though his stuff is fringy, Hill has all kinds of pitchability and was one of the fiercest competitors available in the 2007 draft. He attacks with three pitches and loves pitching inside, two reasons why Everett's coaching staff immediately took to him. For a pitcher who stands 6-feet tall, Hill gets surprisingly good plane on an 87 mph fastball with riding life, occasionally scraping 90. His slurvy curveball is average and his changeup slightly above, and he locates them both well to both sides of the plate. Because his stuff leaves him little margin for error, Hill will need to continue mixing and locating his pitches with aplomb as he takes on high Class A in 2008.
Liddi made his pro debut in 2006, hitting .313 and finishing fifth in Arizona League batting race as a 17-year-old. A year older and wiser, he held his own at Wisconsin, especially considering his youth and inexperience. With a sound swing, natural power to center and right-center field and a slender 6-foot-4, 176-pound frame, Liddi offers plenty of room to project power. The Mariners were encouraged that he recovered from a lousy first half to hit .262/.314/.398--or essentially league average--in the second. He has an unrefined grasp of the strike zone, struggling with pitch recognition and selection. He could outgrow third base as he fills out, but he has a plus arm, soft hands and enough agility to make plays. In the long term, he's probably a below-average runner. Critics of Liddi's noted that he was among the league's most awkward athletes and that he needed to stress strength and conditioning. The Mariners rave about his energy and work ethic, and he'll be one of the youngest players in his league, whether he repeats the MWL or heads to high Class A.
Varvaro blew out his elbow in May 2005 and fell to the 12th round of that year's draft, where the Mariners gambled $500,000 on his upside. Prior to the injury, he had a 92-94 mph fastball, a hard curveball and a chance to go as high as the supplemental first round. The Mariners have eased Varvaro back into action after he recovered from Tommy John surgery, as he averaged fewer than five innings per start for Wisconsin and was shut down with two weeks left in the season. Though he showed flashes of two plus pitches with Wisconsin, Varvaro's fastball ranged from 86-90 mph, reaching 92 on occasion. His curveball showed good depth at times but mostly was inconsistent. The Mariners took away Varvaro's slider when he signed and added a changeup, but it's strictly a third pitch. Some Midwest League observers didn't like the effort in Varvaro's drop-and-drive delivery, but the Mariners are optimistic that he'll make a full recovery and reach his upside as a No. 3 starter.
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