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Halman's father Eduardo played professionally in Holland into his mid-30s, and Greg knew from an early age that he wanted to pursue a career in baseball. He turned pro in 2003 at age 16, when he joined Hoofdklasse Honkbal, or the Dutch Major League. The Twins signed him that year, but the contract later was voided. As a 17-year-old first baseman in 2004, Halman earned MVP honors in the Dutch league while nearly winning its triple crown. He signed with the Mariners for $130,000 that June. After an encouraging U.S. debut in 2005, he played just 28 games in 2006 because he broke his right hand in an on-field brawl. He voiced his displeasure with a 2007 Opening Day assignment to low Class A Wisconsin, but instead of making a case for promotion, he sulked and hit just .182 before earning a demotion to short-season Everett in June. Humbled by experiencing failure for the first time, he led the short-season Northwest League in slugging (.597) while finishing second in homers (16) . Halman started putting it all together in 2008, hitting .272/.326/.528 and advancing to Double-A West Tenn, where at age 20 he was the Southern League's youngest regular position player. Halman hit 29 home runs and stole 31 bases, narrowly missing becoming the minors' only 30-30 player since Terry Evans in 2006. Halman is a physical specimen with the potential for five average or better tools. He has drawn comparisons to Andre Dawson and Alfonso Soriano because he's a long-limbed, high-waisted, quick-twitch athlete. Wiry strong, especially in the wrists and forearms, he figures to add strength as he physically matures. He already has the reflexes and whip-like bat speed to hit for plus-plus power. Seattle believes he has the confidence, hand-eye coordination and ability to make adjustments mid-swing that will enable him to be an above-average hitter in time. Though his speed is just a tick above-average, Halman covers swaths of center field with long, graceful strides. He also thrives as a basestealer because of his first-step quickness and acceleration. He has a plus arm. For all his upside, Halman presents more risk than most No. 1 prospects. His pitch recognition is below-average, resulting in many swings and misses and mis-hits as he chases pitches out of the zone. He's too aggressive at the plate to execute much of a plan, and as a result he strikes out too much and walks too little. His plate coverage suffers because of his tendency to get pull-happy. Halman shows visible frustration on the field at times and has admitted to having a quick temper. He has improved his maturity by leaps and bounds, however, in part by working with Dr. Jack Curtis, who aids Mariners players with their mental approach. Halman shows real passion for the game to go with his noteworthy toolset. Because he'll be 21 in 2009 and needs repetitions to get a handle on the strike zone, the new regime in Seattle may opt to slow down his timetable a bit by sending him back to Double-A. He could challenge for a big league job in 2010.
A visa shortage made it impossible for Saunders to play in the United States when he was drafted in 2004, so he spent a year at Tallahassee (Fla.) CC before signing for $237,500 as a draft-and-follow. He followed up on a breakout 2007 with a strong 2008, which included batting .286 and leading Team Canada with two homers at the Beijing Olympics. Saunders' compact lefthanded swing generates leverage, loft and plus power to all fields, and he could develop into a 20-home run hitter as he builds on his 6-foot-4 frame. A good fastball hitter, he already possesses a strong knowledge of the strike zone, and his willingness to use the opposite field suggests he'll be at least an average hitter, too. Saunders has average speed and instincts on the basepath, and West Tenn manager Scott Steinmann called him the organization's best drag bunter. He has average range for center field, and a plus arm that would fit in right. Saunders strikes out a lot because he still chases offspeed pitches out of the zone. Though added bulk could augment his homer totals, it also stands to detract from his speed and range. Saunders should be ready for spring training after having offseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn labrum in his right shoulder. With the Mariners starting a massive rebuilding process, he could make his big league debut at some point in 2009 and figures to man an outfield corner in Seattle for years to come.
Aumont's Quebec high school didn't offer baseball, but he impressed scouts so much while pitching for travel teams that the Mariners selected him 11th overall in 2007 and signed him for $1.9 million. He signed late and made his pro debut in 2008, pitching just 56 innings as Seattle took a cautious approach when he developed a sore elbow. Aumont cuts an imposing figure on the mound, and his stuff is just as intimidating. He already throws 90-95 mph with plus-plus sink and boring action, and he may be able to throw even harder as he matures physically. If batters sit on his sinker, he can blow a high-90s four-seam fastball by them. Aumont's crossfire delivery and low three-quarters arm slot can make it tough for batters to pick up his pitches. His low-80s breaking ball has plus potential. For such a high pick, Aumont is quite unpolished, and now he has to prove he can stay healthy. His arm angle makes it hard to stay on top of his breaking ball, and he has a long way to go with a true changeup after using a splitter as an amateur. If he came up with a more balanced delivery, his secondary pitches and his command would benefit. Aumont's physical presence and the natural movement on his pitches suggest that he can fill a role at the front of a rotation. He'll pitch at high Class A High Desert at some point in 2009.
Triunfel signed for $1.3 million in 2006, the fourth-highest bonus among Latin American free agents that year. He reached high Class A as a 17-year-old in his pro debut and spent the entire season there in 2008, when he was the California League's youngest regular by 15 months. With tremendous hand-eye coordination, vision and barrel awareness, Triunfel has the raw attributes to be an above-average hitter, capable of spraying drives from line to line. His arm rates at least a 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale in terms of both precision and carry. He has solid first-step quickness and strong reactions at third base, his likely position in the future. Triunfel lacks classic shortstop actions and struggles with the angle of the ball off the bat at second base. His smooth swing isn't conducive to generating loft, and he also employs a bat wrap that inhibits his ability to turn on inside pitches. Despite stealing 30 bases in 2008, he's a below-average runner who figures to slow down as he fills out. He drew a 10-game suspension in May for violating team rules, calling into question his attitude and maturity. Triunfel played second base, third base and shortstop in the Arizona Fall League, and the Mariners will keep his options open, as they did with Jose Lopez when he was coming up. Triunfel should advance to Double-A in 2009.
The Mariners have as strong a presence in Nicaragua as any club. They have the nation's top minor league prospect in Ramirez, and signed its top 2008 prospect, righthander Francisco Valdivia, for $726,000 in July. Ramirez handled low Class A well for a teenager last season, showing dominating stuff and improved command. Tall, loose-armed and still projectable, Ramirez fires off easy 92-93 mph heat and can push his four-seam fastball to 97 on occasion. One scout lauded Ramirez for having a heavy ball, and all his pitches feature plus movement as the ball jumps out of his hand from a high three-quarters arm slot. Though he limited Midwest League batters to a .239 average largely on the strength of his fastball, he also throws a hard slider that has plus potential. Like most young flamethrowers, Ramirez lacks feel for his changeup because he's accustomed to blowing the ball past batters. He struggles to stay on top of his secondary pitches on a consistent basis. He needs to do a better job of pacing himself and holding his stuff deep into starts. He also needs to work on controlling the running game. His build and delivery are reminiscent of former Mariner Rafael Soriano. Ramirez has the raw stuff to project as a front-end starter, but he also could follow Soriano into a role as relief ace.
Moore tore the meniscus in his left knee while at Nebraska, missing the entire 2005 season before transferring to Texas-Arlington. He has been durable and one of Seattle's best minor league hitters since turning pro. After clubbing 22 homers and driving in 102 runs in 2007, he ranked sixth in batting (.316) and third in throwing out basestealers (36 percent) in the Southern League last season.With plus power, a solid arm and natural leadership skills, Moore has all the makings of a starting catcher at the big league level. A career .306 hitter, he has a short swing and good balance at the plate, allowing him to wait on offspeed stuff and to hit with power to all fields. He knows how to work counts and makes steady contact. Moore has improved his blocking and receiving, but some SL observers regarded him as a work in progress defensively, and his 23 passed balls ranked second in the league. A broken hand kept him from honing his defense in the Arizona Fall League. His speed is considerably below-average. Mariners catching instructor Roger Hansen has a strong track record in helping catchers develop--from Dan Wilson to Jeff Clement to Rob Johnson--and Moore could be his next breakthrough. His hand shouldn't hamper him in 2009, when he'll open the year at Triple-A Tacoma.
Carlos Triunfel and Martinez, the headliners from the Mariners' 2006 international haul, have wasted no time in establishing themselves as prospects. Signed as a shortstop for $600,000, Martinez moved to third base full-time in 2008 and ranked eighth in the Rookie-level Appalachian League in hitting (.319). Martinez has an advanced approach for such a young hitter. He stays inside the ball well and looks to use the opposite field with two strikes. His athleticism, strength and body control suggest he'll develop at least average power, and those attributes already have manifested themselves in his defensive game. He has made a smooth transition to third base, where he displays sure hands to go with plus range and a plus throwing arm. The Mariners rave about his makeup, and he learned English during his first instructional league. Now that Martinez has moved to an infield corner, he'll have to prove he can consistently drive the ball. He's already strong and doesn't have a lot of room for projection, despite his youth. As with most young hitters, his swing can get too long at times and he struggles to recognize quality breaking balls. He's a below-average runner. Martinez had little trouble in adjusting to older competition. Look for more of the same in 2009, when he'll move on to Seattle's new low Class A Clinton affiliate.
DeJesus didn't sign in 2006, his first year of eligibility, because teams failed to meet his asking price. That move paid off in 2007 when the Mariners gave him $1 million, the third-highest international bonus of the summer. He ranked as the No. 3 prospect in the Rookie-level Arizona League and No. 9 in the Northwest League in his 2008 pro debut. As a converted shortstop with present strength and a feel for hitting, he's similar in some ways to Mario Martinez, with more present power and a higher initial trajectory. DeJesus already has demonstrated above-average power and could develop more as he adds to his 185-pound frame. He has taken quickly to third base, where his range and footwork are average and his arm is strong. DeJesus has solid hand-eye coordination, but because he's too pull-conscious and has yet to develop pitch recognition, his ability to hit for average may atrophy as he climbs the ladder. He needs to tighten his strike zone, stop chasing breaking balls and use the entire field. His speed is a tick below-average. If he learns restraint, DeJesus could become a dangerous hitter and his bat could profile at any of the four corner positions. He's ready for low Class A, which could mean a timeshare at third base with Martinez.
The Mariners drafted Raben out of high school in the 49th round in 2005, but he opted to attend Miami, where he led the Hurricanes to the College World Series in 2006 and 2008. He starred in the Cape Cod League as a sophomore, marking him as one of the top college power prospects for 2008, but back problems dropped him to the second round, where Seattle signed him for $616,000. Raben has a patient approach, advanced feel for the strike zone and huge lefthanded power to all fields. He already has demonstrated prowess with wood bats in Cape Cod and in his debut, when he slugged .560 despite a nagging finger injury. He has strong instincts in the outfield, where he's an average defender. His arm is average but quite accurate, as he also pitched in college. The drawback to Raben's power approach is that his long swing leads to frequent swings and misses, which will cut significantly into his average. He hit .275 in his pro debut and topped out at .292 as a junior at Miami. He's a below-average runner, and he may face a move to first base as he slows down. A lefty version of former Hurricane Pat Burrell represents Raben's ultimate upside. He could skip a level and start 2009 in high Class A.
Joining Phillippe Aumont and Juan Ramirez, Pineda rounded out the trio of teenage pitching sensations who fronted Wisconsin's 2008 rotation. He spent two seasons in the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League before tearing up the Midwest League in his U.S. debut. He ranked second in the league in ERA (1.95) and opponent average (.216), and he capped his season with a 14-strikeout one-hitter. Pineda spots his 88-92 mph fastball at will and isn't afraid to pitch inside. Batters have a tough time squaring him up because of the life on his pitches. He shows deceptive arm action on an above-average changeup. His durable 6-foot-5 frame and strong control suggest that stamina won't be a problem. Pineda lacks feel for his 77-80 mph slider and could end up in the bullpen as a result. Despite strong fastball command, he has an awkward quality to his arm action and doesn't always repeat his delivery. MWL observers had enough qualms about Pineda's arm action and lack of feel for a breaking ball that they were split on his future role--either No. 3 starter or reliever. His control is so advanced for a 19-year-old, though, that he could move quickly through the system. The Mariners will keep him in the rotation as he advances to high Class A.
Peguero seemed poised for a huge power year in 2008, but it never materialized. Despite playing in the hitterhappy California League, he slugged .480 and hit 12 homers, just three more than he hit in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League in 2007. Still, Peguero's raw strength (the best in the system), physicality (he's 6-foot-5 and 210 pounds) and past performance suggest he has more power in him. After all, he led the Arizona League in slugging (.649) in 2006 and managed an above-average .465 mark in the MWL the following year. Poor pitch recognition stands in Peguero's way for now, as he likes to swing at the first pitch he can handle, often getting himself out. Pitchers have little reason to feed him pitches in the zone because he has averaged nearly seven strikeouts for every walk during his three seasons in the United States. Though the caveat that he did it in the Cal League applies, he did show an improved feel for hitting last season, batting a career-high .299. A solid athlete for his size, Peguero is a good runner underway, though he's strictly a left fielder in terms of range. His arm is average. His season ended in mid-July with surgery on his left wrist, one year after he was slowed by bone chips in his left elbow. The Mariners still believe Peguero has impact potential as a power hitter, but it's going to take him a few years to deliver. Step one will be improving his command of the strike zone as he repeats high Class A in 2009.
One of the top bats available on the 2008 international market, Morban signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.1 million, the sixth-highest figure of the signing period. Some scouts even preferred him to the two Latin American outfielders who received the highest bonuses among position players--Dominican Rafael Rodriguez (Giants, $2.55 million) and Venezuelan Yorman Rodriguez (Reds, $2.5 million)--saying that Morban had a more advanced feel for hitting. The Mariners are convinced that he'll hit for average, as one club official extolled him for his practically unparalleled hand-eye coordination and pitch recognition among 16-year-olds. Morban has a clean lefthanded swing and showed a willingness to use the whole field during instructional league. He may not develop into a big-time home run threat, but he has average raw power. An average runner, he'll see time in center field as he begins his pro career, but he's probably best suited for left field because of his fringy arm strength. Morban has a lot to prove in the years to come, but if it all comes together he could be a top-of-the-order presence.
The system's best defensive catcher, Johnson finally received a shot as Tacoma's full-time catcher after catching just 143 games in two years as he split the job with Guillermo Quiroz (2006) and Jeff Clement (2007). He responded with his finest offensive season and by throwing out 37 percent of basestealers, the fourth-best figure in the Pacific Coast League. Johnson caught fire in the second half, batting .363/.401/.489 in 135 at-bats. His offense improved when he stopped offering at so many pitches outside the strike zone, and his .363 on-base percentage established a career high. He has solid raw power, but he's better suited by driving the ball into the gaps rather than seeking to hit home runs. His defense, though, is his ticket to the big leagues. Johnson is a solid receiver with a quick, short release on throws to second base. He's a strong game-caller, though he'll have to improve his blocking after leading the PCL with 21 passed balls. An outfielder in college, Johnson played 10 games there for Tacoma in 2008. He has more athleticism and speed than most catchers. With Clement and Adam Moore sandwiching him in the system, Johnson faces an uphill climb to a regular role in Seattle. But because he's so solid defensively and has the versatility to fill in as an outfielder, he could fit nicely as a backup.
In the tradition of since-traded scouting find Kam Mickolio (18th round, 2006), Kelley moved quickly from obscurity to the cusp of the big leagues in his first full pro season, reaching Double-A after just 35 pro innings. He had Tommy John surgery as a freshman at Austin Peay State in 2003 but rebounded to pitch four more seasons for the Governors, winning Ohio Valley Conference pitcher of the year honors in 2007, the same year the Mariners drafted him in the 13th round. Kelley pounds the strike zone with a 90-94 mph sinker, while his power slider is his strikeout pitch. He sets them up by mixing in an occasional changeup. With a bulldog mentality and a willingness to throw strikes, Kelley profiles as a setup man. His delivery is a bit unorthodox with a high back elbow, and while it makes his command spotty it does have the benefit of providing natural deception. He's a good athlete who also played third base and the outfield in college. Kelley could see big league time in 2009, especially after spending the winter with Lara of the Venezuelan League.
The Mariners signed Tuiasosopo for a third round-record $2.29 million in 2004, making his decision to pass on a football scholarship at Washington a relatively easy one. His father Manu and brother Marques both played in the NFL. Tuiasosopo flopped in his first three pro seasons before his bat came alive in Double-A in 2007. He continued hitting in the Arizona Fall League that offseason and in Triple-A last year. In 145 second-half at-bats, he hit .303/.380/.538, earning a September callup to Seattle. Tuiasosopo has no outstanding tool, but he has aboveaverage bat speed to go with solid pitch recognition and plate coverage. His confidence grew as he put together better at-bats with Tacoma, and he began to pull the ball more consistently, establishing a career high with 13 home runs. The ball jumps off his bat at times, though his power still is fringy. He runs well for his size. Drafted as a shortstop, Tuiasosopo has developed into a solid third baseman, with soft hands, above-average arm strength and agility. He had a tough year in terms of throwing accuracy, though, as he led Pacific Coast League third basemen with 27 errors. The Mariners love his makeup and work ethic, but with all the young third baseman in the system and Adrian Beltre in Seattle, Tuiasosopo may not have a wide window to establish himself as a regular.
Cleto has the highest ceiling of the three prospects the Mariners acquired from the Mets in the three-team, 12-player deal at the Winter Meetings that sent J.J. Putz, Sean Green and Jeremy Reed to New York. Managers rated Cleto's fastball as the best in the low Class A South Atlantic League last year, when he topped out at 100 mph. Unlike many young, hard throwers, he has an idea of where the ball is going. "Anyone who throws 91-98 (mph) and a ton of strikes, you have to pay attention," one scout said. Cleto has a strong body that allowed him to log 141 innings as a teenager in 2008, and Mets officials raved about his work ethic. However, he's far from a finished product. His slurvy breaking ball and changeup need to get a lot better if he's going to keep hitters from sitting on his fastball. His delivery can be a little violent at times, too. He's erratic in terms of results, showing no-hit stuff one day and the inability to get out of the first inning the next. He also led the South Atlantic League with 25 wild pitches. Cleto should start his Mariners career in high Class A.
Another of the prospects picked up by the Mariners in the three-team, 12-player trade headlined by J.J. Putz going to the Mets, Carp boosted his stock in 2008 by losing weight and turning in a strong performance in Double-A. New York hadn't been thrilled with his conditioning or attitude in 2007, so they snubbed him when they handed out invitations to big league camp last spring. Scouts liken him to Mike Jacobs, another player originally signed by the Mets, in terms of his build and set-up at the plate. Carp hit 17 homers last year, though some scouts wonder whether he'd duplicate that power in the majors when pitchers locate fastballs on the inner half. He does a good job of controlling the strike zone and replaces Luis Valbuena, another piece in the 12-player deal, as the most disciplined hitter in the system. Carp has to avoid stretches of getting pull-happy, because his success comes when he uses the left-center gap. New York experimented with him in left field last season, but his below-average speed, range and arm made him a liability there. He's an average defender at first base, where he should get most of his playing time in Triple-A this season.
Jimenez's tenure with the Mariners dates all the way back to July 2001, when he signed out of Venezuela at age 16. He has worked as a reliever in most of his eight seasons with the club, receiving just two extended looks as a starter, in 2003 and 2006, and wearing down under the workload both times. In fact, he missed much of 2007 recovering from surgery for a stress fracture in his left elbow. Jimenez was hammered in his big league debut at the end of the 2006 season, but he redeemed himself by pitching effectively in Seattle in 2008. His main weapon is the organization's best changeup, a true equalizer against righthanders, who managed to hit just .203 against him in the big leagues. Jimenez throws his changeup with deceptive arm speed and he consistently gets 10 mph of separation from his fastball, which ranges from 88-93 mph. He's unafraid to throw inside and batters have a tough time picking his pitches up. While Jimenez's slurvy breaking ball remains a work in progress, he showed increased confidence in it last season--though big league lefties hit him for a .317 average. Some club officials believe Jimenez could return to a starting role, but given his durability issues, two-pitch mix and ability to retire righthanders, he seemingly would fit best as a middle reliever.
Noriega's $800,000 bonus was the fifth-highest in the 2007 international signing period, and the second-highest among Mariners signees behind Jharmidy DeJesus' $1 million. Noriega played his way to the Appalachian League in his pro debut, joining the Mets' Wilmer Flores to give the circuit two premier 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstops. Plus-plus defense is Noriega's ticket to the big leagues, and he's already the best shortstop in the system. Despite no better than average speed, he's a smooth fielder with plus instincts, anticipation and hands at shortstop. He completes his defensive package with a strong arm and excellent footwork. Less accomplished as a hitter, Noriega possesses good hand-eye coordination and stays inside the ball well, lending hope to the idea that he'll hit for average as he matures. He has big hands and broad shoulders, suggesting he may develop fringe-average power for the position. At the moment, his power tool rates much closer to a 20 than to a 45 on the 20-80 scouting scale. Noriega will need to develop his situational hitting ability and feel for the strike zone as he gains experience, but his glove alone will keep him in Seattle's plans.
A native of Canada like Phillippe Aumont and Michael Saunders, Gillies attended Vancouver's Mountain High and played for Team Canada's youth national team as an amateur. He signed as a draft-and-follow with the Mariners after spending a year at Iowa Western CC, where he helped the Reivers reach the Junior College World Series. With 30 percent hearing in one ear and 60 percent in the other, Gillies wears hearing aids and reads lips, but it hasn't affected his play in the outfield or on the bases. He gets down the first-base line in 3.8 seconds, making him an 80 runner on the 20-80 scouting scale as well as a true stolen-base threat. Gillies puts his top-of-the-scale speed to good use in center field, where he has the plus-plus range to rob hits in the gaps. He also has a plus arm. Gillies has a chance to be an above-average hitter because of his feel for the strike zone, his all-fields approach and his bunting skills. Though he's sturdily built, he doesn't generate much power with his line-drive stroke. If anything, he relies too much on slapping the ball to the opposite field, and Seattle began stressing the importance of driving the ball into the gaps during instructional league. The Mariners rave about his makeup. If he develops, Gillies has a future as a top-of-the-order batter.
Drafted by the Mets in 2004, Hernandez was sent to the Marlins in a trade for Paul LoDuca in December 2005. Florida, in turn, dealt him to Seattle at the 2008 trade deadline for Arthur Rhodes. Hernandez struggled in six Double-A starts after joining the Mariners organization, and that came on the heels of a first-half thrashing at Triple-A Albuquerque, one of the worst pitching environments on the planet. Hernandez is too critical of himself at times and may have placed undue pressure on himself because a big league callup appeared to be within reach. He's durable and flashes three average or better pitches, but he often tries to be so fine that his stuff plays down. His fastball parks at 88-92 mph and touches 94 with good deception. At his best, he'll show a quality slow curveball and a changeup. He's still quite young and he won't be the last pitcher to be humbled by Isotopes Park, so he can get back on track to become a No. 4 or 5 starter.
Born in the Dominican Republic, Almonte transferred to Miami's Florida Christian High prior to his senior season. Among Mariners prospects, only Greg Halman has a more enticing package of tools. On the other hand, few Mariners prospects are as raw as Almonte. For example, the switch-hitter batted .145 with 37 strikeouts in 76 at-bats during his 2007 pro debut. In 2008, Seattle opted to hold him back in extended spring training until mid-May, though he showed enough once assigned to low Class A to remain there for the rest of the season. While his plus raw power and athleticism are obvious, his swing, especially from the left side, is going to take a lot of repetitions to iron out because he looks as if he's feeling for the ball. Almonte's righthanded swing is more compact and fluid, and he batted .293 from that side last season, compared to .233 as a lefty. He struggled with pitch recognition from both sides, striking out 149 times in 100 games. He's a plus runner, thrower and defender in center field. He hasn't figured out how to use his speed as well on the basepaths, where he was caught 10 times in 24 steal attempts. He would benefit from playing more under control in all phases of the game. Beginning the 2009 season back in low Class A wouldn't be seen as a setback for Almonte, who'll be only 20.
Thomas handcuffed lefthanders in both Double-A (.224 average) and Triple-A (.136) last year to earn his first big league callup in September. He had spent much of the past two seasons in the Double-A rotation, pitching ineffectively through a bout with bone chips in 2007, but he worked strictly as a reliever in Seattle. Thomas has a fast arm, a short arm swing and as much natural movement on his pitches as any Mariners farmhand. He also has the type of durable frame that should enable him to hold up in any role. He pitches at 88-92 mph with tailing life on his fastball, but he falls in love with his slider, which he throws more than half the time. It arrives in the low 80s with lateral break, and it's effective because when paired with his fastball, it helps him keep the ball on the ground. Thomas mixes in a changeup versus righthanders. He struggles to find the strike zone at times and probably lacks the consistency of his secondary offerings to make it as a starter, but he could develop into an effective left-on-left reliever.
Seattle focused on physical pitchers with its first five picks in the 2006 draft, selecting Brandon Morrow, Chris Tillman, Tony Butler and Ricky Orta in the first through fourth rounds. They took the big-bodied Adcock, a Kentucky prep product, in the fifth and bought him out of a Louisville commitment for $200,000. He reached high Class A for five starts at the end of his first full season, but headed back to low Class A to begin 2008. He pitched well in the first half before a sprained elbow ended his season after 15 games. The Mariners expect him to be ready for spring training. Adcock's hard, sharp downer curveball ranks as the system's finest breaking ball, but he has to hit his spots with his average 88-92 mph fastball because the pitch is straight. At 6-foot-5 and 190 pounds, he oozes projection and his delivery and arm action both are textbook, so he might gain velocity as he matures. Adcock will flash a quality changeup at times. Because his mound presence has come into question, some questions exist as to whether he'll reach his ceiling as a No. 4 starter.
Paredes found mild success as a reliever in the Dominican Summer League in his first two pro seasons, and his first appearance in the United States came as an emergency reliever for Tacoma in June 2007. Immediately thereafter, the Mariners shifted him to the rotation at Everett, where he led the Northwest League in innings (86) and walks (48) as a 20-year-old. He spent most of last season in the Wisconsin rotation, but Seattle envisions him becoming a Felix Heredia-type lefty reliever. The comparison works on a number of levels, from Paredes' smallish stature to his repertoire and bouts of wildness. The lean lefty has a whip-quick arm but struggles to repeat his low three-quarters arm slot, which leads to lapses in control. Paredes throws his fastball at 88-93 mph with natural armside run, and he backs it up with a hard slider featuring 2-to-8 tilt that's murder on lefthanders when he commands it. He shows very little feel for a changeup, which probably means his future is in the bullpen. Though he finished 2008 with a pair of starts in Double-A, including six shutout innings in his final outing, he'll probably open this season in high Class A.
The Royals selected Lugo with the ninth pick the major league Rule 5 draft in December and then traded him to the Mariners for cash considerations. The lanky lefthander was no stranger to the Rule 5 process. Signed by the Athletics in January 2002, Lugo joined the Twins in 2005 as a Triple-A Rule 5 pick. As with most pitchers taken in the Rule 5 process, he has a terrific arm and very little pitchability. He has pitched mostly in relief since progressing to full-season ball in 2006, his fifth pro season, and can go on extended runs of dominance. One came last July, when he struck out 16 and walked six while allowing one run in 17 relief innings in high Class A. A strong groundball pitcher, Lugo sits in the low 90s with incredible sink while touching 94-95 mph at times. His secondary pitches are much further away, as his changeup is average at best and his slider is fringy. He's too often sabotaged by lapses in command, and he has shown little aptitude for setting up hitters or in identifying the right pitch for the situation. The Mariners must keep Lugo on their 25-man roster all season or place him on waivers before offering him back to the Twins for half his $50,000 purchase price. They face the same situation with infielder Reegie Corona, taken from the Yankees with the second choice in the 2008 Rule 5 draft. Seattle's offseason trade of J.J. Putz and Sean Green to the Mets opens the door a bit wider for Lugo, who will be 25 this season.
The grandson of former Yankees all-star righthander Jim Coates, Pribanic transferred from Hutchinson (Kan.) CC to Nebraska for his junior year and became one of college baseball's better No. 3 starters. The first Cornhusker drafted in 2008 when the Mariners made him a third-round pick, he signed him for $390,000. A physical 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, Pribanic has plus arm strength, sitting at 91-94 mph and topping out at 96 with his fastball. His arm is fresh, too, because he redshirted during his first year at Hutchinson. Of course, that also means he's rawer than most college pitchers. Pribanic throws both a curveball and a slider, but neither is reliable at the moment. He does have some feel for a splitter he uses as a changeup. He threw just 42⁄3 innings in the Arizona League after signing at the end of July. The Mariners worked with Pribanic in instructional league to help him maintain balance over the rubber so that he wouldn't drift and could better incorporate his lower half in his delivery. The adjustments should allow him to get better extension and plane on his pitches. Pribanic could wind up either as a No. 3 or 4 starter or as a power reliever, and he'll pitch in the rotation this year in Class A.
Lorin may turn out to be the biggest scouting success story from the Mariners' 2008 draft. His collegiate track record coming into the season consisted of 10 relief innings for Arizona, during which he posted a 9.31 ERA while allowing 22 baserunners. After transferring to Long Beach State as a redshirt sophomore, he went 5-3, 2.61 and beat California in regional play. He kept on dealing in pro ball after signing for $170,000, striking out 61 batters in 52 innings and making it to low Class A for eight games. Lorin's best pitch is his hard three-quarters curveball, and he also has an 88-92 mph fastball that tops out at 94. His pitches get on batters quickly because he's so tall and naturally deceptive and because he throws on a steep downward plane. He has shown some feel for a changeup. Like fellow college righthander Aaron Pribanic, Seattle's third-round pick last June, Lorin has a fresh arm and room for projection, as well as a similar ceiling as a back-of-the-rotation starter or power reliever.
While many clubs thought Carroll's development would have been better served had he attended college, the Mariners liked him enough to make him a third-round pick in 2007 and gave him a $315,000 bonus so he'd eschew the chance to play for UC Irvine. Carroll finished among the Arizona League leaders in several offensive categories during his pro debut, but he scuffled wildly in his follow-up in 2008. Much of his trouble can be attributed to him playing through two fractured bones in his left wrist, the result of being hit by a pitch. He didn't have surgery and the fracture set itself, though it hampered his ability to swing the bat without pain. Managers, coaches and evaluators share in their admiration for the high-energy Carroll, whom they describe simply as a baseball player. He's a plus runner who led all Seattle farmhands with 38 stolen bases in just 79 games last year. He's also an above-average defender with a strong arm in center field, but he'll go only as far as his bat will take him. Carroll has below-average power, but he has solid hitting instincts and a repeatable swing, lending hope that he can hit for average and draw walks. As such, he profiles as an extra outfielder with a ceiling as a regular in center field.
A potential supplemental first-round pick heading into his draft year, Gallagher struggled to a 7.39 ERA as a Stanford junior and was moved to the Cardinal's bullpen during Pacific-10 Conference play. He pitched well in the Northwest League during his pro debut, but he also peaked there in 2008. He missed the season's first three months while recovering from surgery to remove loose bodies from his left elbow. If Gallagher ever pieces it together, he could turn out to be a fourth-round steal because he has a clean delivery, a plus breaking ball and a firm fastball. His curveball features tight rotation, and at his best he throws it for strikes. He sits at 88-92 mph with his fastball, though his velocity was down a tick in 2008. A bright kid, Gallagher has only rudimentary command of his changeup and he doesn't always show a feel for disrupting opposing batters. He'll be 23 in 2008, so he'll need to show results in high Class A to get his career back on track. He has No. 4 or 5 starter potential.
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