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Undrafted out of high school, Ackley starred as a first baseman at North Carolina. He hit .412 in three years with the Tar Heels and led them to three College World Series, where he set a record with 28 hits in 15 games. The consensus No. 2 player in the 2009 draft behind Stephen Strasburg, he went second overall and signed at the Aug. 17 deadline for a big league contract that included a $6 million bonus and $7.5 million in guaranteed money. He entered pro ball as a center fielder in the Arizona Fall League, but the Mariners decided to try him at second base in his 2010 debut. He got off to a rocky start at Double-A West Tenn, batting .139 through May 3, but he hit .301 in the next two months. Ackley finished the year by destroying the Arizona Fall League, hitting .424/.581/.758, setting a league record for onbase percentage and winning MVP honors. Scouts regarded Ackley as one of the most polished hitters to come out of the draft in years. He's extremely patient at the plate, recognizes pitches well and isn't afraid to wait for the pitch he wants or to hit with two strikes. He can sometimes pull off pitches, but he gets his bat on plane with the ball extremely quickly and his barrel stays in the hitting zone for a long time. His picturesque swing and uncanny handeye coordination produce excellent plate coverage. Ackley is mostly a gap hitter now, but he can drive the ball to all fields and occasionally shows nice loft. He sometimes hits off his front foot too much, but Seattle is confident he'll develop at lest 15-homer power as he adds strength to his unimposing frame. Getting stronger also will help him fight fatigue over the long season. He looked worn down even while tearing up the AFL, but to his credit he always hustles and never gives away at-bats. Ackley has 65 speed on the 20-80 scouting scale, and the Mariners want him to make better use of it on the basepaths after stealing just 10 bases in 13 attempts in 2010. He played shortstop in high school, but the move to second base wasn't easy. Rough at first, he worked diligently and improved his footwork, range and hands, especially on backhanding balls to his right. He learned how to read and anticipate hops, as well as the need for throwing from different arm angles. He hurt his arm pitching as a high school senior and had Tommy John surgery in 2008, but it's average now. While he may never be an asset at second base, he's a good athlete and could handle any of three outfield positions. He also could be a plus defender at first base. Ackley's father, John, spent seven seasons as a catcher in the Red Sox organization and Dustin has a professional approach and a strong work ethic. Ackley is nearly ready for the big leagues. Seattle traded Jose Lopez to the Rockies in December, opening a spot in the lineup. It also would make sense for the Mariners to give Ackley some more Triple-A time to further refine his defense and delay his arbitration and free agency eligibility for an extra year.
Pineda has had little trouble with minor league hitters, posting a 2.49 ERA and 396 strikeouts in 404 innings. After elbow soreness limited him to 47 innings in 2009, he returned healthy last season and reached Triple-A at age 21. Pineda has the size, stuff and control to pitch at the top of a rotation. He throws a crisp fastball that sits at 93-97 mph and gets as high as 101 with explosive life and occasional heavy sink. He tightened and added more tilt to his quality slider this year, though he can still get under it occasionally, causing it to flatten out. He also did a better job of selling his upper-80s changeup with the same arm speed as his fastball, keeping it down and getting hitters to chase it. Pineda throws all three pitches from the same three-quarter arm slot. With his velocity, high-effort delivery and unusual arm action, it's surprising how well he throws strikes. While he has good control, his command could be sharpened. Pineda is on the 40-man roster and will challenge for a rotation spot in Seattle in 2011. He eventually should become the No. 2 starter behind Felix Hernandez, but he shouldn't be expected to be that guy right out of the gate.
The 27th overall pick and recipient of a $1.28 million bonus in 2009, Franklin surprisingly launched 23 homers in his first full pro season, breaking Dick Kenworthy's 49-yearold franchise record in the process. Franklin gets everything out of his 175-pound frame with above-average bat speed, nice whip in his barrel and good leverage. He swings hard, which inevitably leads to some strikeouts, but he has the hand-eye coordination to get away with it. Though his stroke can get a little long, he drives the ball hard to all fields. He can get too aggressive at the plate at times. A switch-hitter, he was more effective batting lefthanded in 2010 (.953 OPS, compared to .494 righthanded) but his swing is similar from both sides. An average runner, he has good instincts and was one of only three minor leaguers to hit 20 homers and steal 20 bases last season. Franklin has solid actions and range at shortstop, though some scouts think his fringy arm will make him a second baseman. The Mariners promoted Franklin to Double-A for the Southern League playoffs and may let him stay there in 2011. He has the ability and maturity to handle the jump.
Walker was known more as a shortstop and basketball forward prior to 2010. He averaged 21 points and 15 rebounds per game as a high school senior, with his dunking ability earning him the nickname "Sky Walker." He focused more on pitching last spring and worked his way into the supplemental first round, signing quickly for $800,000. Walker is both a work in progress and a tremendously gifted athlete. His fastball ranged from 91-95 mph in high school, and after he was shut down in his pro debut with shoulder stiffness, he returned in instructional league to sit at 95 and top out at 98 with heavy sink. His 12-to-6 curveball shows flashes of being a plus pitch, though he focused more on honing his changeup during instructional league. Walker's athleticism helps him repeat his delivery, but he still needs to smooth out his mechanics and improve his command. He's still learning the intricacies of pitching, such as pitch selection, fielding the position, holding runners and between-starts preparation. Because Walker is relatively new to pitching, the Mariners won't rush him. He could start 2011 in extended spring training, though his electric arm and competitive drive could prompt an assignment to low Class A.
Pimentel spurned the Rangers to sign with the Mariners for $2 million in July 2009 and made his pro debut last summer. He shook off a slow start to bat .293/.318/.537 in August and rank as the Rookie-level Arizona League's No. 1 prospect. Pimentel has five-tool potential, attracting the most attention with his light-tower power. He has the bat speed and strength in his hands to launch balls 450 feet from home plate. He has a mechanically sound swing and routinely stays through the ball with nice extension. He's overly aggressive at this point, as evidenced by his 58-5 K-BB ratio, and geared to hit fastballs. He's going to have to develop more discipline and learn to stay back on offspeed pitches as he advances through the minors. Pimentel has average raw speed but doesn't make the best use of it yet on the basepaths or in left field. He has an average arm that could become plus with some mechanical tweaks, such as using his lower half more. He's a good teammate but needs to understand failure is a part of the game and not be too hard on himself. Pimentel will likely spend the first part of the year in extended spring training before joining Rookielevel Pulaski in June. He could arrive in Seattle at some point in 2014.
The Mariners snagged Robles and Luke French from the Tigers at the 2009 trade deadline in exchange for Jarrod Washburn. Washburn bombed in Detroit and Robles is now one of Seattle's best prospects, ranking fourth in the Southern League in strikeouts (120) and opponent average (.239) in 2010. Robles doesn't cast an imposing figure, but he has a lot of strength in his 5-foot-10 frame. He has an aggressive delivery and a fastball that sits at 91-93 mph and touches 95 deep into games. Because of his youth, strength and willingness to pitch off his fastball, scouts believe he will still add more velocity. He has the best changeup in the system, a potential plus pitch with good fade. He controls it better than his curveball, which flashes tight rotation but is still inconsistent. He needs to work on throwing strikes more frequently. Scouts think the problem is more mental than mechanical, as he sometimes tries to blow his fastball by hitters instead of trusting his other pitches. After joining Tacoma for a successful Pacific Coast League playoff run at the end of 2010, Robles will return to Triple-A. Robles was added to the Mariners' 40-man roster. He has the stuff to pitch in the middle of a big league rotation and could make his Seattle debut later in the season.
The Mariners regret swapping Brandon Morrow for Brandon League in December 2009, but at least they got Chavez in the deal with the Blue Jays. He ranked second in the high Class A California League with 32 homers in 2010, though 23 of those longballs came in the friendly confines of High Desert. He continued to hit well in the Venezuelan League during the winter. The ball jumps off Chavez's bat and he has power to all fields. He worked with minor league hitting coaches Tommy Cruz and Jose Castro on his swing in 2010, eliminating a loop and a tendency to chop down on the ball. The changes allowed him to start turning on inside pitches and tap into his above-average raw power. He does strike out a lot, and he must continue to work on his pitch recognition and strike-zone awareness, though he showed improvement in that regard this year. Chavez is a below-average runner but moves well in right field. He fits nicely in right because he has well-above-average arm strength. Though he's a streaky player, he's level-headed and handles his ups and downs well. Added to Seattle's 40-man roster in November, Chavez will spend 2011 in Double-A. The Mariners are well-stocked in the outfield, so he'll have to keep producing to get a big league opportunity.
Littlewood won a gold medal with the U.S. 16-and-under national team at the 2008 Pan American Youth Games and played for the 18-and-under squad last summer after Seattle drafted him in the second round. The Mariners bought him away from a San Diego commitment for $900,000--the largest draft bonus it paid out in 2010. His father Mike played briefly in the Brewers system and is the head baseball coach at Dixie State (Utah). Littlewood's natural hitting ability and tireless work ethic allowed him to pick up switch-hitting while in high school. He has a simple swing that looks similar from either side of the plate, though he has more strength from his natural right side. With his advanced approach and understanding of the strike zone, he should hit for a solid average. He's more of a line-drive/doubles hitter than a slugger, though he could hit 10-15 homers per year. A below-average runner, Littlewood doesn't have ideal range for a shortstop. He makes up for it with fluid action, a strong arm and a knack for being in the right place. With his baseball upbringing and Team USA experience, Littlewood is prepared to start his pro career in a full-season league. He'll take over for Nick Franklin as Clinton's everyday shortstop in 2011.
Along with Dustin Ackley and lefthander Brian Moran, Seager was one of three players the Mariners drafted from North Carolina in the first seven rounds of the 2009 draft. In his first full pro season, Seager led the minor leagues with 192 hits--the most in the minors since Joe Thurston recorded 196 in 2002. Seager's best tool is his hitting ability, and he projects to bat around .280 in the big leagues. He shows good balance with a compact swing and his bat stays in the hitting zone for a long time. While he hit 14 homers in 2010, he's more of a line-drive hitter who will spray doubles from gap to gap. He's a below-average runner who needs to improve his instincts on the bases. Like he did in college, Seager has split his time as a pro between second and third base, and he also saw action at shortstop last season. His range isn't suited for the middle infield, but he handles routine plays and shows good quickness when turning the double play. With questionable range and top prospects Dustin Ackley and Nick Franklin ahead of him at second base and shortstop, Seager profiles best as a utility player. If he continues to hit in Double-A in 2011, he could be a valuable contributor for the Mariners in the near future.
Acquired by the Royals from the White Sox in a 2006 trade for Mike MacDougal, Cortes established himself as Kansas City's top pitching prospect entering 2009. But after he was arrested for public intoxication that July, the Royals sent him and lefthander Derrick Saito to the Mariners for Yuniesky Betancourt. He took off after Seattle moved him to the bullpen in mid-2010 and ended the year in the big leagues. Relieving suits Cortes and his fastball, which rose from 94-97 mph to a consistent 96-98 and regularly touched triple digits. The pitch explodes out of his hand and comes in on a sharp downhill plane thanks to his height and high three-quarters arm slot. His hammer 12-to-6 curveball and sharp slider give him a pair of power breaking pitches, but he throws more strikes with the slider. He mostly scrapped his changeup in his new role, but can still pull one out of his back pocket to keep hitters off-balance. His biggest weakness is his below-average control and command. Cortes' brief but impressive major league stint has him in line to make the Mariners' Opening Day bullpen.
Halman spent the majority of the 2010 in Triple-A, continuing to show well-above-average raw power and a propensity for striking out. He finished second in the Pacific Coast League with 33 homers and led the league with 169 whiffs. He made his major league debut in a September callup, during which he whiffed 11 times in 29 at-bats. Halman worked on his approach at the plate, becoming less pull-happy and setting a career high in walks (37), but still had the third-worst strikeout rate among minor league qualifiers at 36 percent. The No. 1 prospect on this list two years ago, Halman is a gifted athlete who can hit the ball out of any part of the park. But opponents don't fear his power because they know his swing can get long and has lots of holes. He'll swing through fastballs in on his hands or chase soft stuff off the plate. Halman is an average runner who shows good range in the outfield, though not quite enough for center field. He has a strong arm. The Mariners would like to see him be more aggressive on the basepaths and less aggressive at the plate. If he can make strides in that area, he could be an everyday player in the Preston Wilson mold. If he doesn't, he could languish in Triple-A. Halman will head back to Tacoma and continue to refine his approach at the plate.
Seattle acquired Lueke as part of the package they received from the Rangers in the Cliff Lee trade in July, but his arrival quickly turned into a media firestorm. Lueke was charged with rape and sodomy in a May 2008 incident and served 42 days in jail before reaching a plea agreement to a lesser charge of false imprisonment with violence. Mariners officials claimed they weren't aware of the charges when they made the deal, though his past was common knowledge within the industry. From a pure talent standpoint, Lueke has all the tools for success. He has a quick arm, and his fastball sits between 94-98 mph and comes at hitters from a steep downhill angle. He mixes in a splitter that falls off the table, a slider that's also a plus pitch and an occasional changeup. Lueke has the power arsenal to get out both lefthanders and righthanders, and he attacks the strike zone with a closer's mentality. Lueke is ready to pitch in a major league bullpen, but the Mariners will have to decide if they want that to happen in Seattle. They added him to their 40-man roster in November.
When Liddi took the field in 2006, he became the first Italian position player to play Organized Baseball in the United States. He broke out by leading the minors with a .345 average and winning the California League MVP award in 2009. He encored by hitting well in Double-A last year at age 21, earning a spot on the 40-man roster. Liddi has a pro body and strength in his swing. He has good bat speed with power to all fields, though his swing can get long at times. He hits fastballs well and is still working to remedy his trouble recognizing breaking balls out of the pitcher's hand, which led to his 145 strikeouts in 2010. Developing pitch recognition comes largely through experience, and Liddi did his part by getting extra at-bats in the Venezuelan League this winter. He has soft hands and above-average arm strength at third base, but he's a well-below-average runner and doesn't have good range or footwork around the bag. He also tries to be too flashy--all factors that contributed to him leading Southern League third basemen with 27 errors last season. He also saw some action at first base, where he's a better fit. Liddi will move up to Triple-A and spend most of his time at the hot corner in 2011. He'll also play some first base and DH to give Matt Mangini some time at third base.
No Mariners farmhand took a bigger leap forward in 2010 than Morla. Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, he made his U.S. debut three years later, when a broken hand limited him to 102 at-bats. Fully healthy in 2010, he led the Rookie-level Appalachian League with 17 homers while finishing second in batting (.323), hits (81) and RBIs (49). Morla has five-tool potential but stands out mostly for his bat. He has simple swing mechanics and exceptional balance at the plate, though his stroke can get too big at times. He has strength in his wrists and above-average bat speed, so the ball really jumps off his bat. He can drive the ball out to all fields and hit several homers to straightaway center last year. He's also an above-average runner with good athleticism. Morla played shortstop before moving to third base full-time in 2010. He has good range and agility, along with a strong but erratic arm. Most of his 21 errors last season came on throws. He also shows strong leadership skills, frequently going to the mound to settle down Pulaski pitchers when they got rattled. Morla's development path could speed up if he handles his first full-season assignment in Clinton with aplomb in 2011.
The Mariners were looking for a power bat when they drafted Poythress in the second round of the 2009 draft, so they're hoping his first full season wasn't just a High Desert mirage. After breaking Gordon Beckham's Georgia school record with 86 RBIs in his draft year, he led the minors with 130 in his first full pro season. He also ranked second in the California League in slugging (.580) and third in homers (31), and he did it all while remaking his approach. Poythress employed more of an inside-out swing in the first half of the season, then pulled the ball a lot more after the all-star break. His swing is built more for line drives than homers, but he has the strength to hit balls out to the opposite field. If he can pull the ball consistently, he can be a legitimate masher. He puts together quality at-bats and shows the ability to make quick adjustments, though his swing can get long and he'll need to prove he can get around on quality fastballs. Poythress has an average arm and played a handful of games at third base last season, but his hands are stiff and he doesn't have the range to play there regularly. He's an acceptable defender at first base, though a bottom-of-the-scale runner. All Cal League numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, particularly those at High Desert, so Double-A will be a great litmus test for Poythress in 2011.
Signed for $1.3 million in 2006, Triunfel created buzz by reaching high Class A the next year as a 17-year-old. But his development has stalled, as he played in only 11 games in 2009 after breaking the fibula and tearing ankle ligaments in his left leg in a gruesome baserunning collision. The Mariners were just happy to see him play a full season in Double-A last year, but he put up the worst numbers of his pro career. The tools are in place for Triunfel to be a successful hitter. He has a good swing and the strength to hit for average power as well. He has exceptional hand-eye coordination, which actually gets him into trouble because he can put his bat on nearly any pitch. He gets overanxious and too often swings at bad pitches, making weak contact. He also had too much of an inside-out approach, so Seattle is trying to teach him to be more patient and to pull the ball more, as well as improving his recognition of offspeed pitches. The Mariners still are playing Triunfel at shortstop, but he's a below-average runner and lacks the range for the position. He has improved his fundamentals and toned down a glove flip that led to errors, but he still plays back on balls too much and loves showing off his cannon arm. His arm strength is good enough for a move to third base, which could happen soon but also would place greater demands on his bat. Triunfel wears his emotions on his sleeve and needs to stay more even-keeled. He has always received the benefit of the doubt because of his age and raw tools, but he's getting to the point where he needs to produce. He will still be just 21 years old when he repeats Double-A in 2011.
Justin Smoak headlined the package the Mariners received in the Cliff Lee trade with the Rangers last July, but Seattle also received pitching prospects Beavan and Josh Lueke along with minor league second baseman/ outfielder Matt Lawson. Baseball America's 2006 Youth Player of the Year, Beavan went 17th overall in the 2007 draft and signed for $1,497,500. He flashed 95-96 mph heat as an amateur, but once he started pitching every five days as a pro, his fastball settled into the 90-92 mph range. His fastball is still effective because it has good sink and he pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a smooth, repeatable delivery. He had the lowest walk rate (1.1 per nine innings) of any Double-A or Triple-A starter in 2010. Beavan's slider is his best secondary pitch, featuring good tilt and occasional late bite. He also mixes in a changeup that projects to be an average pitch. Beavan needs to work on staying on top of the ball to give his fastball better angle and his secondary pitches better depth. He's a good athlete for his size with strong competitive makeup. While Beavan doesn't blow scouts away with overpowering stuff, his ability to throw strikes and his workhorse build suggest he could be an innings eater as a No. 4 starter.
Three years after the Mariners drafted him 52nd overall and signed him for $603,000 in 2007, Mangini finally hit as hoped. He made his major league debut in September, starting 10 of Seattle's final 11 games. Mangini has a professional approach at the plate with quiet hands, and he has a good feel for hitting. Mostly a gap-to-gap hitter in the past, he tapped into some power last year and could have average pop. He's a below-average runner but moves well for his size. Mangini's hands work well defensively, though he doesn't have great footwork or range at third base. He has a solid arm but too often just flips the ball across the diamond to get the out. While he also has seen action at first base, he lacks the bat to profile as a regular at that position. He brings a blue-collar work ethic to the game and always has a positive attitude. Mangini hasn't hit well against lefthanders and ultimately profiles as a corner utility player and lefty bat off the bench, similar to a player the Mariners had a few years ago, Greg Dobbs.
Peguero worked with trainer Enrique Soto in the Dominican Republic and other teams expected him to sign with the Rangers after Texas signed Colombian catcher Jorge Alfaro (another Soto client) for $1.3 million, as well as Soto's son Lee, a 25-year-old third baseman released by the Blue Jays. But the Mariners remained interested-- and have one of Soto's sons (second baseman George) in their system as well. Seattle signed Peguero for $2.9 million in December, giving him the largest bonus in the 2010 international amateur class. The Mariners also landed Dominican outfielder Phillips Castillo earlier, giving them the top two amateur hitters on the international market last year. Peguero's bat is his carrying tool and he has shown the ability to hit in game situations against live pitching. He has advanced bat speed, good pitch recognition for his age and a sound stroke. He does have a late trigger to his swing, which can give him problems against good fastballs, especially ones on the inner half of the strike zone. But once he gets his hands going, he's able to whip his bat through the zone with excellent finish. He doesn't show the same raw pop that Castillo does, but Peguero drives balls into the gaps and should grow into more power down the road. He has a physical frame and almost certainly will have to move off shortstop, probably to second base because his arm isn't strong enough for third base. He's an average runner and some scouts believe he could become a solid defender in time. Because Peguero signed so late, he may spend 2011 in the Dominican Summer League before making his U.S. debut in 2012, though he's talented enough to accelerate that timetable.
The Mariners spent just $4 million on their 2010 draft but made up for it by shelling out $5.1 million for a pair of talented Dominican hitters. They signed Castillo for $2.2 million in July, a club record for an international amateur until shortstop Esteilon Peguero inked for $2.9 million in December. As with any Latin American teenager, Castillo's game is raw, but he stands out for his impressive build and potential at the plate. He was already 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds as a 16-year-old, with great strength for his age and physical projection remaining. Castillo swings hard, showing above-average raw power. The ball explodes off his bat, thanks to his quick hands and excellent barrel whip. He shows the ability to handle breaking balls and can crush pitches down in the zone. He does have a small hitch in his swing that will need to be ironed out, but the tools are there for him to be an impact hitter. Castillo has average speed but may lose a step as he fills out, so he'll be limited to an outfield corner. He has the plus arm strength to play in right field and needs work on defensive fundamentals. Castillo has strong makeup and could follow the same path Guillermo Pimentel took in his first full season with the Mariners, starting in extended spring training before heading to the Arizona League.
Pryor transferred from Cleveland State (Tenn.) CC to Tennessee Tech before his junior year in 2010, making a name for himself when he touched 98 mph in a game against Red Sox sandwich pick Bryce Brentz and Middle Tennessee State. Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara was in attendance, and one inning was all he needed to see to pop Pryor in the fifth round and sign him for $153,000. Pryor's fastball typically sits at 94-97 mph, and he used it to strike out 75 in 41 innings for the Golden Eagles and then 55 in 35 pro innings. He alternated between throwing a curveball and a slider this spring and is back to using a curve now. His breaking ball can get caught in between and exhibit slurvy movement, but it's a power pitch either way. Pryor has a physical body with tree trunks for legs. Despite his large frame, he shows good body control, but his delivery is a little unorthodox with a pause at his balance point as he turns his back to the hitters. He could add even more life to his fastball if he smoothes out some of the rough edges in his delivery. As a power-armed college reliever, Pryor could move quickly through the minors. He could reach Double-A in his first full pro season and challenge for a spot in the big league bullpen in 2012.
Because he had a fastball he could dial up to 95 mph, many teams preferred Jones as a lefthanded pitcher when he played both ways at Long Island. The Mariners liked him better as a position player and have kept him in the outfield since drafting him in the fourth round in 2009. After a solid pro debut, he got out of the gate slowly in low Class A last year, batting .205/.319/.364 in the first half. To his credit, he never let his struggles get in his head and got better as the season wore on. Following the all-star break, he hit .321/.387/.487. Jones works pitchers and has some snap in his loose swing, but he doesn't recognize breaking balls well and swings through a lot of pitches. His stride is long and he often gets out on his front foot too early. The Mariners will be patient with him as a hitter, knowing he's more raw than most college position players because he was a two-way player from the Northeast. Jones has a wiry build with good athleticism. He plays right field with ease, showing well-above-average arm strength. His fringe-average speed precludes him from playing center field, so he'll have to show he can hit enough to be an everyday player on an outfield corner. If not, he'll always have the fallback option of returning to the mound. Jones will play in high Class A this year.
Shipers enticed scouts with his performance at the World Wood Bat Championships in Jupiter, Fla., during the fall of 2009. But he was tough to follow last spring because South Harrison High (Bethany, Mo.) is so small that it doesn't have a baseball team. He and his mother drove four hours each way to Iowa to play in a spring wood-bat league so scouts could see him pitch. After graduating, he also pitched against older competition in the California Collegiate League. His diligence paid off, as the Mariners drafted Shipers in the 16th round and paid him $800,000 in August after it became clear they weren't going to sign third-rounder Ryne Stanek. Following his summer performance, Seattle viewed Shipers as a second-round talent. He's a little undersized, but he's a quick-twitch athlete who can run a 6.6-second 60-yard dash. He has a compact, aggressive delivery and good body control, producing the potential for three average or better pitches. Shipers sits at 89-92 mph and can touch 94 with his fastball, which could wind up being his third-best pitch. His slider has sharp break and hard tilt, and his advanced changeup drops like a splitter when it's on. Because he hasn't had much experience, Shipers is raw as a pitcher and still needs to learn fundamentals such as setting up hitters, holding runners and fielding his position. He'll also need to learn how to pitch every fifth day and go deeper into games. Shipers may stay in extended spring training to address those areas before joining Pulaski or short-season Everett in June.
The Mariners' first-round pick in 2008, Fields has pitched just 62 pro innings since signing for $1.75 million. He didn't agree to terms until February 2009, and has been sidelined by a dead arm, a strained oblique and a strained forearm muscle as a pro. When at his best, Fields has a 92-95 mph fastball, though he worked mostly at 90-93 in the Arizona Fall League this offseason. His 12-to-6 curveball plummets with tight rotation and good depth, and he has made improvements with his changeup. Fields has a quick tempo and aggressive mechanics. He nearly jumps off the mound and tilts his body out of the way of his over-the-top arm slot. His dynamic delivery is what gives Fields above-average stuff, but there's a lot of moving parts and he struggles to throw strikes consistently, especially with his secondary pitches. His stuff loses some life after an inning of work, but he could be a useful middle reliever if he can tighten up his control. Seattle hopes he'll have his first fully healthy year in pro ball in 2011, when he'll advance to Triple-A and possibly the big leagues.
Peguero always has had big power and even bigger strikeout rates. He got off to a blistering start in 2010, hitting nine home runs in April, but he didn't adjust after pitchers altered their approach. Over the final four months, he batted just .227/.317/.399. He led all of Double-A with 178 strikeouts this season, and only two minor leaguers had more whiffs. Peguero chases bad pitches, which gets him frustrated, so he'll compound his problems by swinging harder in his next at-bat. He doesn't recognize breaking balls well and always will strike out a lot. However, scouts believe he has closed some holes in his swing and is hitting balls harder when he does make contact. He also struggles against lefthanders, and his offensive weaknesses will limit him to being a platoon player at best. Peguero is a freakish athlete for a 6-foot-5, 247-pounder, surprisingly possessing plus speed. He did a nice job last season of sharpening up his routes in the outfield and he could be an average defender on an outfield corner. His above-average arm plays well in right field. Peguero presents an interesting package of tools, but his shortcomings are just as glaring. Added to the 40-man roster in November, he'll move up to Triple-A in 2011.
Wilhelmsen may have the most interesting backstory in the minor leagues. A seventh-round pick by then- Brewers scouting director Jack Zduriencik in 2002, he pitched only one year in the minors after signing for $250,000. He missed all of 2004 after Milwaukee suspended him twice for testing positive for marijuana use, then walked away from the game. He spent the next three years backpacking around the world and bartending in Tucson. Wilhelmsen got the itch to pitch again, joining the Tucson club in the independent Golden League in 2009. Now the general manager of the Mariners, Zduriencik gave Wilhelmsen a second chance by signing him to a minor league contract in 2010. He showed enough in 74 innings in the low minors and in an Arizona Fall League stint to claim a spot on the 40-man roster. Wilhelmsen throws his fastball at 91-93 mph, topping out at 96. He gets good downhill angle on the pitch and commands it well, but it doesn't have a lot of movement. His best offering is a hard 12-to-6 curveball that he throws in the upper 70s with sharp break and good depth. He also mixes in a changeup with fade and sink. The three-pitch mix and his clean delivery give him what he needs to continue as a starter, but Seattle had him relieve in the AFL to limit his innings and that may have been a glimpse of things to come. His advanced age and power curve make him a candidate to be fast-tracked if the Mariners make him a full-time reliever in 2010.
The Mariners signed Baron away from a Duke commitment for $980,000 as a sandwich pick in 2009, largely on the strength of his defense. He hasn't disappointed in that regard, though he already has raised questions as to whether he can hit enough to be a major league regular. Baron is exceptionally polished behind the plate. With his soft hands, strong and accurate arm and agility, he's years ahead of most high school catchers. He blocks balls very well and has a quick transfer on throws down to second base, throwing out 47 percent of basestealers last year. Whether a pitcher is throwing 88 or 98 mph, it looks the same going into Baron's mitt. He's tough behind the plate and working to become a more vocal leader. Baron's catch-and-throw skills are good enough to get him to the big leagues, but he needs a lot of work offensively. He was overmatched in low Class A last year, necessitating a midseason demotion to Everett. He has the strength and hand-eye coordination to produce offensively, but his swing gets too loopy and long. Baron also has some stiffness and chops down on the ball too much, diminishing his average raw power. Seattle wants him to level his swing and incorporate his lower half more. He runs well for a catcher. Baron hit better after his demotion, which the Mariners hope he can use as a stepping stone to a more productive year when he returns to Clinton in 2011.
Ramirez won the pitching triple crown in the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League in 2009, going 11-1, 0.51 with 80 strikeouts in 88 innings. That performance earned him Seattle's minor league pitcher of the year award and a jump to low Class A when he made his U.S. debut last season. He ranked second in the Midwest League in K-BB ratio (5.6) and fifth in ERA (2.97). Ramirez commands the strike zone with his 89-92 mph fastball and can dial it up to 94. He has incredible feel for a changeup that is already a major league average pitch and should continue to improve. His slider has the makings of becoming an average pitch, though it's a little short right now. Ramirez has a stocky, maxed-out frame with a thick lower half, so he's unlikely to add more velocity. But if his secondary stuff improves as projected, he could become a back-of-the-rotation option. On the fast track, he'll move to high Class A before his 21st birthday.
The Mariners were ecstatic to land Wiswall in the seventh round of the 2010 draft. He first stood out to Seattle scouting director Tom McNamara as a sophomore in 2009, when McNamara watched an entire North Carolina-Boston College series while scouting future Mariners Dustin Ackley and Kyle Seager. Wiswall hit well in the Cape Cod League that summer, but some scouts soured on him when he started slowly as a junior last spring. He finished strongly, hitting 19 homers for BC before signing for $150,000. Wiswall has a muscular build and compact swing with good leverage, and the ball jumps off his bat. He hangs in well against lefthanders and can hit to the opposite field with authority, leading the Mariners to believe he'll hit for solid average and power. Wiswall played both infield corners in college and during his pro debut. He's not agile and lacks a quick first step, but he has soft hands and average arm strength. Though he has a blue-collar work ethic, it's probably a stretch to project him playing third base on an everyday basis in the big leagues. His lefthanded power is suited for Safeco Field, but he profiles best as a utility player on the infield and outfield corners. He'll likely spend his first full pro season in high Class A.
After spending four seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League, Medina finally made his U.S. debut in 2010. He pitched well in the lower minors, won an emergency start in Triple-A and was rewarded with a spot on Seattle's 40-man roster at the end of the season. Nicknamed "El Caballo," Medina is a workhorse at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds. He showed one of the best breaking balls in the short-season Northwest League, a sharp curveball that generates a lot of swings and misses and projects as a plus pitch. He sets up his curve with a 90-91 mph fastball that gets up to 94. He mixes in a splitter as a chase pitch, as well as a changeup to keep hitters off-balance. Mechanically, Medina is working to better incorporate his strong lower half into his delivery. His command and control also need improvement. With his relatively advanced age, sharp breaking ball and competitive nature, the Mariners could challenge Medina with a promotion to high Class A at some point in 2011.
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