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Zunino has grown up around the game. His father Greg has been a scout for more than 25 years and currently works with the Reds. Coming out of Mariner High (Cape Coral, Fla.) in 2009, Zunino was regarded as a fifth-round talent but fell to the Athletics in the 29th round because of his strong commitment to Florida. He hit 47 homers in three seasons with the Gators, improving each season and leading them to three College World Series. He won the Baseball America College Player of the Year and Golden Spikes awards in 2012, when he batted .322/.394/.669 while ranking third in NCAA Division I with 28 doubles, fourth with 19 homers and fifth with 150 total bases. The first college player selected and the third overall pick in the 2012 draft, he signed for $4 million. His year continued to get better, as he batted .360/.447/.689 with 13 homers while reaching Double-A Jackson, then married his high school sweetheart before heading to the Arizona Fall League. From a pure tools standpoint, Zunino doesn't have a single attribute that really wows evaluators. Power is his best tool and it's his only one that scouts grade as plus. He shows an excellent ability to backspin balls, generating above-average pop to all fields. With his strong hands and forearms, he stays through the ball well and shows an advanced ability to drive pitches to the opposite field. He never gives away at-bats and has a patient, balanced approach. Zunino has below-average speed, but he has keen instincts and is a sound baserunner. Even with his muscular frame, he's agile behind the plate. He has a take-charge attitude and pitchers love throwing to him. Though Zunino handled plenty of talented pitchers at Florida, he'll need to continue to make subtle adjustments to handling a pro staff. He has strong hands but can box balls at times, and he allowed nine passed balls in 44 pro games. His arm strength is average to a tick above, and he gets the most out of it with smooth footwork and a quick transfer. He threw out 43 percent of basestealers during his first pro season. Overall, Zunino's sum is greater than his parts and his tools play up because of his makeup. He has a strong work ethic and is a natural leader on and off the field. He has the requisite toughness for his position and an excellent baseball IQ. The last time the Mariners spent the No. 3 overall pick on a catcher, they passed up Troy Tulowitzki to take Jeff Clement in 2005. Taking Zunino should work out better, and he's on a fast track to the big leagues. He'll presumably attend big league spring training, though it's doubtful he'll be with the Mariners on Opening Day. More likely, he'll start the season with Triple-A Tacoma. Zunino has all-star potential as a middle-of-the-order hitter at an up-the-middle position, drawing comparisons to Jason Varitek. There's no need to rush Zunino, but he could force the team's hand and he renders moot any questions about Jesus Montero's ability to stay behind the plate.
A late convert to the mound after playing more shortstop and basketball early in his high school career, Walker signed for $800,000 as the 43rd overall pick in 2010. The Mariners' 2011 minor league pitcher of the year, he skipped a level to Double-A in 2012. He was the youngest pitcher in the Southern League by nearly a full year and part of the most prospect-laden pitching staff in the minors. Walker is a premium athlete with an ideal pitcher's frame. He sits 93-95 mph with his fastball, tops out at 97 and holds that velocity deep into games and over an entire season. His heater can flatten out at times, but he did a better job of commanding it in 2012. He short-arms his curveball at times, but when he stays loose and gets extension, it shows the potential to be a plus offering. Walker is getting more comfortable using his changeup, which has similar upside. He's also working on adding a cutter to his repertoire. He has electric stuff at times but still needs to command it better. His 2012 stats may not show it, but Walker is one of the best pitching prospects in the game and a potential ace. He could return to Jackson to start 2013, though the Mariners may decide to keep their top pitching prospects together in Triple-A.
Hultzen set Virginia records for career wins (32) and strikeouts (395) while leading the Cavaliers to their first two College World Series appearances. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2011 draft, he signed an $8.5 million big league contract that included a club-record $6.35 million bonus. He dominated Double-A in his pro debut, but his control disappeared following a promotion to Triple-A in June. Despite his reputation as a polished strike-thrower, Hultzen walked as many batters in his first pro season (75) as he totaled in three years at Virginia. When he got into jams, he tended to overthrow instead of backing off a little or pitching smarter. While his numbers aren't pretty, his stuff was consistent. Hultzen works at 90-92 mph, can touch 95 and gets good movement on his fastball. His changeup is an above-average offering, though he sometimes throws it too hard. He's getting more consistent with his 80-84 mph slider, staying on top of the pitch more often. He uses an extreme knee bend and throws across his body, which helps create deception. The Mariners love his maturity. Hultzen's control issues aren't a long-term concern. He still has the upside of a No. 2 starter. He'll return to Tacoma but should join Seattle's rotation during the season.
The Blue Jays picked Paxton, a native Canadian, 37th overall out of Kentucky in 2009 but didn't sign him. Team president Paul Beeston told a Toronto newspaper he had negotiated with Paxton's agent Scott Boras, effectively ending Paxton's NCAA eligibility. He spent a spring in the independent American Association, went in the fourth round of the 2010 draft and signed for $942,500 in March 2011. He has carved up minor league hitters, slowed only by patellar tendinitis in his right knee that sidelined him for six weeks early in the 2012 season. Paxton is an imposing presence on the mound with his strong, workhorse build and two above-average pitches. His fastball sits at 92-95 mph and gets as high as 98. He has the best curveball in the system, a 76-79 mph hammer with 12-to-6 break. He's developing better feel for a changeup that he throws with a circle grip. Paxton has a long arm action and comes right over the top, creating deception and allowing him to pitch with good downward plane. However, the length in his delivery can hamper his command. Paxton will get his first taste of Triple-A to start the 2013 season. The development of his changeup will determine if he can be a No. 2 starter. His fastball/curveball combination also could make him a closer.
Franklin signed for $1.28 million as the 27th overall pick in 2009 and led the Midwest League with 23 homers in his first full season. He found 2011 rockier while battling a concussion, mononucleosis and food poisoning, but got back on track in 2012 and reached Triple-A at age 21, making him the youngest position player in the Pacific Coast League. Franklin has a tightly wound build with quick-twitch athleticism and surprising strength. Those factors lead to sneaky power from his short, compact stroke. He projects to hit 15 homers a year in the big leagues while adding plenty of doubles. Though he's a switch-hitter, he has had little success from the right side because his stride gets too long. He might be more productive batting solely lefthanded. He's an adequate defender at shortstop, but he may fit better at second base because his range, hands and arm are all average. He's a solid runner with good instincts on the bases. He plays with a lot of confidence and can take his game up a notch when necessary. Expected to return to Triple-A, Franklin should reach Seattle by the second half of the season. He profiles as a solid regular who could play in a few All-Star Games.
Maurer missed the Area Code Games before his senior high school season because of strep throat, but he got plenty of looks that spring pitching in the rotation at Orange (Calif.) Lutheran High with Gerrit Cole. Signed for $150,000, Maurer had elbow problems in 2010 and shoulder woes in 2011, though he avoided surgery. Healthy in 2012, he nearly doubled his career high with 138 innings and the Mariners named him their most improved minor leaguer. Maurer, who was added to the team's 40-man roster this winter, has an athletic frame and shows the potential for four solid pitches. His two best weapons are his 93-95 mph fastball (which tops out at 97) and a swing-and-miss slider. He sharpened his curveball and improved his ability to throw it for strikes in 2012. He also developed better feel for his changeup and the confidence to throw it 12-15 times a game. He shows above-average control but still needs to learn when to expand the strike zone and entice hitters to chase. The key to his health was his commitment to conditioning in the offseason, as he moved to Arizona for the winter to work out at the Mariners' training complex. Maurer's emergence gives Seattle yet another pitching prospect with frontline potential and he'll open 2013 in Triple-A.
A catcher in high school, Capps redshirted in his first year at NCAA Division II Mount Olive (N.C.) before converting to pitcher in 2010. After going 24-1 in two seasons, he signed for $500,000 in 2011. Capps did not allow an earned run in May or June and became the third player from the 2011 draft to reach the majors. Capps' fastball is easily an 80 pitch on the 20-80 scouting scale. He sits at 97-99 mph and had the second-highest average fastball velocity (98.3) in the majors in 2012, behind only the Royals' Kelvin Herrera. Capps also misses bats with a plus breaking ball. It has slider velocity and movement at 83-86 mph, but he calls it a curveball and uses a curveball grip. His third pitch is an average changeup. Capps hides the ball well, and his drop-and-drive, crossfire delivery makes it seem as though he's starting pitches behind the backs of righthanders. His to-do list includes sharpening his command and getting quicker to the plate with runners on base. Capps already has earned a late-inning role for the Mariners in 2013. He has the potential to develop into a dominant closer.
Romero hit 13 home runs as an Oregon State junior in 2010, but he still lasted 12 rounds in the draft, in part because he broke his elbow late in the season. After signing for $100,000 he focused on improving his conditioning and agility, which gave him a better chance to stick at second base. He won Mariners minor league player of the year honors in 2012, leading the system in hitting (.352) and slugging (.599). The Mariners view Romero as the best pure hitter in the system. His swing has balance and rhythm, and he shows good bat control along with strong wrists and forearms. He doesn't draw a lot of walks, but he also doesn't strike out much for a player with solid power. He has a grinder mentality and the ability to make in-game adjustments. Romero is an outlier with his size at second base, where he's adequate defensively. He has below-average speed and range, though he does possess solid arm strength. He played third base in college and profiles better there or on an outfield corner. Romero profiles as an above-average hitter with the potential for 20 homers a season. If he can do that, Seattle will find a spot in its lineup for him, perhaps at some point during the 2013 season.
The 2011 Atlantic Coast Conference player of the year, Miller went in the second round that June and signed for $750,000. He hasn't batted lower than .320 at any of his three pro stops, reaching Double-A and ranking second in the minors with 186 hits in his first full pro season. Miller long has drawn comparisons to Craig Counsell, mostly because of his similar stance at the plate. Miller does start with his hands high, but isn't as unorthodox as Counsell and has a simple load and quick swing. He uses a contact-oriented approach, letting his hands work and shooting balls from gap to gap. He hits towering home runs in batting practice and could have close to average power. Miller always has been an erratic defender, and his 36 miscues ranked 10th in the minors in 2012. He has smooth actions and good footwork at shortstop, but his inconsistent arm slots result in errant throws. He has average range and arm strength that may be a better fit at second base. He has solid speed and runs the bases well. Miller's feel for hitting, leadership and desire can make him an everyday player in the majors. He's similar to Kyle Seager but offers more defensive versatility. Miller likely will return to Double-A with the chance for another midseason promotion.
The best pitcher on the international market in 2011, Sanchez signed for $2.5 million, the most the Mariners ever have spent on a foreign amateur. Assigned to the short-season Northwest League for his pro debut, at 17 he was the youngest player in a circuit where the average pitcher was 21. He finished second in the NWL in innings (85) and strikeouts (69). Everett teammates called him "Ray Lewis" after the Baltimore Ravens linebacker because Sanchez is a tough competitor with broad shoulders, a powerful lower half and long arms with huge hands. He pitches at 90-94 mph with his fastball and can spot it on both sides of the plate. He loves to throw his above-average changeup, which has nice fade. Sanchez throws both a curveball and slider, but the pitches tend to blend together. Seattle wants him to focus on the slider for now. He also needs to work on repeating his delivery and some of the finer aspects of pitching. He shows poise beyond his years when it comes to adding and subtracting from his pitches to keep hitters off balance. Sanchez's physicality, stuff and feel will allow him to handle a full-season assignment to low Class A Clinton in 2013. While he doesn't have a lot of projection remaining in his chiseled frame, he profiles as a solid No. 3 starter.
After signing for $153,000 as a fifth-round pick in the 2010 draft, Pryor zipped through the system and made his major league debut on June 2 against the White Sox, striking out all-star Paul Konerko as the first batter he faced. Pryor has a big, strong frame and his stuff is just as intimidating as his appearance. He loads up on his back leg and fires his fastball between 94-97 mph, topping out at 99. The pitch sometimes can get straight, but he makes up for it with premium velocity, and he keeps hitters off balance with his nasty 91-93 mph cutter. He can take a little off the cutter and make it an 87-90 mph slider with more downward break. Scouts don't love his arm action, but Pryor has cleaned up his delivery considerably every year since leaving Tennessee Tech. His control is below-average and he doesn't really have a pitch to combat lefthanders, which makes him profile better as a set-up man than a closer.
No player born and raised in Brazil has made it to the big leagues yet (Yan Gomes was born in Brazil but moved to the United States as a child), and the Mariners hope Gohara will be the first after making him the centerpiece of their 2012 international signing crop with an $880,000 bonus. He'll open the 2013 season at 16 and already has a burly frame with broad, square shoulders and long arms. He started playing in Brazilian amateur national tournaments when he was 10, and some scouts regarded him as the best pitcher available on this year's international market. Gohara's fastball sits at 88-91 mph and has been clocked as high as 94. His curveball shows the potential to be a plus pitch down the road, but he needs to be more consistent with it, and he will have to learn a changeup. He is surprisingly agile for his size and fared well in athletic tests during instructional league. He repeats his delivery well, shows rhythmic, balanced mechanics and a fast, clean arm action. The fact that the Mariners brought Gohara to instructs as a 16-year-old is encouraging, and coaches were impressed with his work ethic and aptitude. He spent part of the winter in the Mariners' Venezuelan academy to learn the organization's conditioning program. There's no need to rush him, so Gohara will stay in Arizona during extended spring training to continue to get adjusted to changes in culture, learn English and pitch in a low-stress environment. There's no higher risk than a 16-year-old pitcher, but his combination of size, stuff, athleticism and makeup give him the makings of a frontline starter and draw comparisons to C.C. Sabathia.
DeCarlo comes from an athletic family. His father played football at Delaware, his two older brothers played Division I baseball and his older sister played lacrosse at Virginia. A second-round pick in June, he received a $1.3 million bonus to pass on a commitment to Georgia. DeCarlo has a solid, muscular build and is already maxed out physically. His best asset is his bat. He has a short swing with above-average bat speed and a high finish, and he projects as an average hitter with the potential for plus power. He tracks pitches well, letting them get deep, and puts together professional at-bats. DeCarlo played shortstop in high school, but with his build and below-average speed, a move to third base was necessary as a pro. He shows good hands and above-average arm strength. Like many players from the Northeast, he plays with an edge. His hard-nosed mentality, physique and swing path remind some of Brett Lawrie, though he doesn't run as well or have Lawrie's bat speed. Coming from the Northeast also puts DeCarlo behind the developmental curve because he hasn't played as much as players from warmer climates. He'll likely begin 2013 in extended spring training before heading to Everett.
Pike had a couple of worthy mentors growing up. His father Mark is a former Indians minor league outfielder, and his high school assistant coach was Pat Borders, who spent parts of 17 years in the big leagues and was MVP of the 1992 World Series. With a 2012 supplemental third-round pick received for not signing Kevin Cron the year before, the Mariners took Pike and lured him away from a Florida State commitment with $850,000. He's a quality athlete who would have been a two-way player for the Seminoles. His athleticism helps him repeat a fluid, simple delivery which in turn leads to above-average control and good fastball command. Pike's fastball sits at 89-91 mph and occasionally touches 94 with natural tailing action. His fastball is sneaky fast and appears quicker to hitters because of his deception and smooth delivery. Pike showed flashes of a plus curveball in high school, and Seattle worked with him on getting better feel for varying speeds with it. At its best, the pitch ranges from 72-76 mph with tight 11-to-5 break. He didn't use a changeup much in high school, so the biggest things he needs to work on are developing that pitch and getting stronger. He profiles as a back-of-the-rotation starter and has enough polish and poise to earn a full-season assignment to low Class A in 2013.
The Mariners signed Vladimir Guerrero's nephew as a 17-year-old for $400,000, in part because his build and hitting mechanics draw comparisons to his uncle. Gabriel is a free swinger who has the bat control and hand-eye coordination to hit just about any pitch near the plate. He shows good pitch recognition for his age and has budding strength that will improve as he continues to add muscle to his thin, projectable frame. He has explosive bat speed and strength in his wrists. Guerrero led the Rookie-level Dominican Summer League with 11 homers before being promoted to the Rookie-level Arizona League to finish the season. He has a slight uppercut at the plate and shows power to all fields, but the Mariners are working to shorten his swing a bit. His bat is ahead of his glove, as Guerrero is still raw defensively and needs to improve his routes and angles in right field. He's a below-average runner with a strong arm, and he lacks accuracy on his throws. There's no need to rush Guerrero, so he could start 2013 in extended spring training and report to Everett in June. His bat is advanced enough that an aggressive assignment to Clinton isn't out of the question.
In Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor, the Mariners have already gotten two pitchers from recent drafts to the big leagues, and Smith is another hard-throwing reliever who shouldn't be far behind. A 2011 eighth-rounder who signed for $215,000, he didn't pitch in his first pro summer while recovering from shoulder issues that he pitched through at Texas State. His shoulder didn't prevent him from winning consecutive Southland Conference pitcher of the year awards, and he performed well in his pro debut to finish second in the system behind Capps with 15 saves. Smith has a big, physical frame and throws from a low three-quarters arm slot that gives him a lot of movement on his fastball. He typically works at 92-95 mph and gets as high as 97. With his fastball's heavy sink and late life, he gets plenty of groundballs. His hard slider pairs nicely with his heater and serves as an out pitch. Smith worked last season to add a changeup to his repertoire, in order to give hitters something extra to think about and to combat lefthanders. He has some violence in his delivery, including spinning off the rubber and a head whack, which leads to below-average control. Still, he has the potential to be a solid set-up man and another quality arm in Seattle's young, homegrown bullpen.
The Mariners acquired Landry along with righthander Logan Bawcom from the Dodgers for Brandon League at the 2012 trading deadline. Landry put together an excellent season, winning the high Class A California League batting title (.341). leading the minors in triples (18) and ranking second in the league in doubles (34) and slugging (.584). He had a similarly strong pro debut in 2010 before regressing in his first full pro season. Landry holds his bat low and has a quick, handsy swing. He gets his foot down early and utilizes mostly a flat bat path, which is why most of his power goes to the gaps. He profiles as a solid hitter with below-average power, but he'll make up for his lack of homers with plenty of doubles. A solid runner, he's a threat to bunt for a hit. He is still learning to read pitchers so he can become a better basestealer. He's even quicker once he gets going, which allows him to cover the gaps in center field. He's a fearless defender who will lay out for balls and go up against a wall. He has a below-average arm. Landry will face a major test as a hitter in 2013 when he heads to Double-A for the first time.
Kivlehan's success was one of the best stories in the 2012 draft. After playing defensive back on Rutgers' football team for four years, he got the itch to play baseball again last spring for the first time since high school. He became the first Scarlet Knight honored as Big East Conference player of the year since Todd Frazier in 2007, then signed with the Mariners for $300,000 as a fourth-round pick. The Mariners sent him to the Northwest League, an aggressive assignment considering his relative inexperience, and he responded by leading the circuit in homers (12) and slugging (.511) en route to winning MVP honors. While Kivlehan has plenty of strength and above-average raw power, he needs to improve his pitch recognition and adapt to how pitchers are attacking him. He topped the NWL with 93 strikeouts. Kivlehan has length and stiffness to his rotational, upper-half swing, but scouts believe he'll be able to make adjustments because of his athleticism. When he makes contact, he squares the ball up with authority. Seattle is working with him to drive breaking balls to the opposite field. A solid runner, Kivlehan is adequate defensively at third base. His arm is fringy for the position and he may wind up moving to left field. He plays hard and shows natural leadership on and off the field. Kivlehan will play his first full pro season at age 23, so the Mariners may push him to high Class A High Desert.
Diaz is relatively new to pitching, not taking the mound until he was 15 years old. But he has a mentor in his cousin Jose Melendez, who pitched in the big leagues for parts of five seasons in the early 1990s, and Diaz learned his lessons well. He went in the third round of the 2012 draft, signing for a discounted $300,000 after a postdraft physical raised some minor issues, but he hasn't had any health concerns so far. Thin with long arms and legs, Diaz's arm action is loose, whippy and explosive, and his fastball sits at 92-94 mph and tops out at 97. His curveball shows flashes of being an average pitch, but it's inconsistent because he tends to get under it. He didn't throw a changeup much as an amateur, so he will have to learn one as a pro. Like many tall, gangly pitchers, Diaz sometimes has trouble with controlling his body and his pitches. He walked nearly a batter an inning in his brief pro debut. The Mariners will give him plenty of time to develop as a starter, realizing that he needs to fill out and improve his secondary pitches and control. Diaz will start 2013 in extended spring training as he seeks to add weight to his frame, improve his English and work on repeating his delivery.
A shortstop in high school and a right fielder/first baseman as an Oregon freshman, Marder moved behind the plate as a sophomore in 2011. He hit just .209/.360/.295 but was draft-eligible as a 21-year-old and commanded a $200,000 bonus as a 16th-round pick. The Mariners sent him to high Class A, and he has batted .352/.416/.564 the past two years. Marder's hands work well in his swing, and he has natural rhythm and surprising strength for his size. He has a gap-to-gap approach and consistently squares the ball up. He caught 15 games in 2012, but Seattle decided to move him from behind the plate after two concussions sidelined him for six weeks. For the second half of the season, he played second base and left field. He fits best in the outfield, where he's an average defender with average arm strength, because he doesn't quite have the quickness for second base. He has fringy speed but always runs hard and is a smart baserunner. Coaches, teammates and scouts love Marder for his hustle, heart and leadership. His competitive drive helps his tools play up and will get him to the big leagues in some capacity, most likely as a utility player.
Twelve players have been drafted out of Virginia the past two years, with the Mariners responsible for one-third of them: Danny Hultzen, Hicks and Steven Proscia in 2011, and Chris Taylor in 2012. Hicks, who comes from the same Goochland (Va.) High program that produced Justin Verlander, signed as a fourth-rounder for $240,000. Hicks shows good hand-eye coordination and bat control. He mostly produces doubles power with his line-drive stroke, but does have the strength to hit balls out of the park on occasion. He has a chance to be an average hitter with fringy power, enough offense for him to be a solid option behind the plate. Hicks started catching full-time in 2011. While his exchange and arm strength grade out as average, he led all minor league catchers last year by throwing out 54 percent of basestealers. He handles a pitching staff well and calls a good game, but he needs to improve his receiving and blocking. Hicks is an average runner with enough athleticism to try other positions. He's a natural leader and a smart player who shows the ability to learn and adjust quickly. He profiles as a solid backup catcher and should spend most of 2013 in Double-A.
In the July 2011 trade that sent Doug Fister and David Pauley to the Tigers, Martinez came to the Mariners along with Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells. He ranked among each team's Top 10 Prospects the previous two years, but his first full season in the Seattle system was one to forget. He missed a month with a left hamstring strain and was anemic at the plate, posting the second-lowest slugging percentage (.295) in the Southern League among batting qualifiers. Martinez has a quick bat and projects to be an average hitter, but he needs to tone down his swing and be more consistent. He doesn't have profile home run power for a corner spot, though he has the stroke and speed to hit plenty of doubles and triples. His plus speed is actually his best tool, and he ranked third in the system with 28 steals in 2012. Because of his speed, the Mariners tried Martinez in center field for 15 games last year. He should be at least an average defender wherever he winds up, with arm strength to match. He was one of the youngest players in the Southern League last year, so repeating Double-A is a no-brainer.
Nagging injuries have limited Morban to an average of 55 games during the past four seasons after he signed out of the Dominican Republic for $1.1 million. Even so, the Mariners added him to their 40-man roster this winter because of his above-average hitting ability. He uses a balanced setup and a compact swing to hit to all fields with ease. He frequently squares the ball up and mostly has a line-drive stroke, but shows the efficiency and bat speed for at least average power potential from left-center to the right-field line. Morban is a good athlete and a solid runner who saw time at all three outfield spots last season, getting his most action in center field. He profiles better on a corner, however, and has the plus arm strength for right field. Hamstring problems have plagued Morban repeatedly, leading to a pair of disabled-list stints in 2012, and he hurt his wrist last year when he ran into a wall. Because he's 21 and has just 810 pro at-bats, starting him back in high Class A this year is a logical move.
A native of the Virgin Islands, Blash didn't sign out of high school as a 29th-round pick of the White Sox in 2007, instead choosing to attend Alcorn State. Ruled academically ineligible in 2008, he transferred to Miami Dade JC the following season and was drafted in the ninth round by the Rangers, but again turned down pro ball. He returned to the Sharks but was kicked off the team in April 2010 before signing that July for $140,000 as an eighth-rounder. There's nothing subtle about Blash's game. His chiseled physique would stand out in a big league clubhouse and his tools can be just as loud. He is still raw and streaky, however. On some nights he'll look like a future all-star, and on others he'll look like he won't make it to Triple-A. The biggest question is how much he'll hit. Blash has excess movement in his set-up and questionable pitch recognition. He struck out in 34 percent of his at-bats last year while repeating low Class A, though he did show more patience than he had in the past. When Blash does make contact, the ball goes a long way. He shows plus-plus raw power in batting practice. His defense and speed both improved in 2012, when he saw action in center field. Right field is his natural position, however, because he's an average runner with a plus arm. He'll spend 2013 in high Class A.
Growing up, Lopes was overshadowed by his older brother Christian, who ranked as the nation's top 13-year-old prospect in 2006 and signed for $800,000 as a Blue Jays seventh-rounder in 2011. Timmy was more of a late bloomer who came into his own as a high school senior. Many scouts now believe Timmy will be a better player than his brother, and the Mariners paid $550,000 to buy him away from a UC Irvine commitment last summer. Lopes' best tool is his advanced hitting ability. He has a short, fluid swing built for line drives and a knack for centering the ball. He'll never be a home run threat but will wear out the gaps with plenty of doubles and triples. He has a good eye at the plate, puts together professional at-bats and performs well under pressure. Lopes has a thick lower half but is a solid runner. His speed plays up a little because of his instincts for the game and ability to read pitchers. Like his brother, Lopes played shortstop in high school and can fill in there in a pinch, but he fits better at second base because of his below-average arm strength. He's a steady defender with smooth actions and an advanced baseball IQ. He was promoted to high Class A for the final four games of his pro debut, but he'll likely begin 2013 in low Class A.
The Mariners signed Catricala for $90,000 as a 10th-round pick in 2009, a deal that looked like a steal two years later. He was the organization's minor league player of the year in 2011, when he ranked second in the minors in extra-base hits (77) and total bases (313), third in hits (182), fourth in batting (.349) and sixth in OPS (1.022). So his downfall last season was just as surprising as his breakout. He was a shell of himself in Triple-A, posting the second-lowest OPS (.640) among Pacific Coast League qualifiers. Catricala has the potential to be a solid hitter with average power. Some said his struggles were partly mental and that just as things snowballed for him in a positive way in 2011, the effect happened in reverse in 2012. Catricala does have mechanical issues with his swing, however. After batting .322 and showing a consistently compact stroke in his first three pro seasons, he got longer with his swing last year. His hips sometimes leaked open early and he started leaning out over the plate, throwing his swing off balance. He'll have to bounce back with the bat to be a useful player. He has average arm strength, but he's an erratic fielder at the hot corner and fits better in left field or first base. He has fringy speed. After batting .279/.329/.412 in the Arizona Fall League, he'll take a second crack at Triple-A in 2013. Seattle still thinks highly enough of him to have protected him on its 40-man roster in November.
Ruffin followed in his father Bruce's footsteps, starring at Texas, going in the first 50 picks in the draft and getting to the big leagues in his first full pro season. Signed for $1.15 million by the Tigers in 2010, he reached Detroit the following July. Five days later, the Tigers included him in a trade package for Doug Fister. Ruffin pitched well in Seattle after the deal, but he spent all of 2012 in Triple-A and the results weren't pretty. His control and command haven't been as polished as they were in college, though his stuff is still solid. His fastball sits in the 90-93 mph range and reaches 95. He has a quick arm, and the ball jumps out of his hand from his low three-quarters arm slot. He has an out pitch in his plus slider with late break. His curveball and changeup are both below-average but give hitters something else to think about. In the past, Ruffin just reared back and threw, but the Mariners are working to make his delivery quicker and more efficient. He lands on a stiff front leg and throws across his body, hurting his ability to locate his pitches where he wants. His long arm swing in the back and lower release point make it easy for lefthanders to pick up his pitches, and they hit .294/.348/.516 against him last year. Ruffin has the upside of a set-up man if he can cut down on his walks, and he'll break in as a middle reliever in Seattle because the team has better options ahead of him. He'll likely head back to Tacoma to start 2013.
The Mariners signed Taylor for $500,000--the biggest bonus in the fifth round of the 2012 draft--because of his athleticism, polish and hitting ability. He has a quick, loose swing and the ability to turn around any fastball. He puts together quality at-bats with a compact, line-drive stroke, though his power rates only a 30 on the 20-80 scouting scale. At shortstop, Taylor shows excellent hands, takes proper angles to balls and makes smooth transfers. Range will be a question, though. Some scouts got below-average running times from Taylor last summer, but the Mariners say he's above-average in that regard. He could have just been tired. He played every game at Virginia during his sophomore and junior years and was shut down as a pro with a dead arm. He's fundamentally sound with a good knowledge of the game and a businesslike approach. Taylor draws divergent opinions about his upside. Some scouts see him as an everyday big league shortstop, while others think he'll be more of a utilityman. Everyone agrees, however, that he's a baseball rat who plays the game with confidence and on an even keel. He'll start his first full pro season at one of Seattle's Class A affiliates.
Signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2006, Morla has moved slowly and wasn't able to handle full-season pitching until 2012, his sixth pro season. His best tool is his plus-plus raw power. He has a short, balanced swing with strong wrists and forearms. The ball screams off his bat, and while he'll likely be a below-average hitter, he should make enough contact to hit at least 15 homers a year. Pitch recognition will determine how much Morla will produce at the plate. He's an aggressive hitter who strikes out a lot and doesn't draw many walks. His speed and defense are both fringy. He doesn't have good footwork at third base and made 34 errors last season, the fourth-most in the Midwest League. He does have well above-average arm strength, which would still be an asset if he has to move to an outfield corner. He'll spend 2013 in high Class A at age 23. Because Morla has been slow to develop, the Mariners haven't protected him on their 40-man roster even though he became eligible for the Rule 5 draft after the 2010 season.
Fernandez flies under the radar because he wasn't a high-profile signing and gets overshadowed by the system's pitching depth. He has quietly pitched his way to Double-A and ranked third among Mariners farmhands with 134 strikeouts while topping them with 164 innings in 2012. Protected on the 40-man roster in November, Fernandez has a durable build and a solid repertoire. His fastball operates at 88-91 mph and plays up because it has good movement. He's a smart pitcher and can reach back for a little extra when he gets in trouble. His changeup is his lone plus pitch, featuring nice fade and deception. He throws two breaking balls, a solid slider and an average curveball. Fernandez is efficient with his pitches and pairs above-average control with average command. He's a competitor who does the little things well, like holding runners and fielding his position. He'll probably return to Jackson to start 2013, with a midseason promotion to Triple-A a possibility.