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November 6, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects

by Jason Parks

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Prospect rankings primer
Last year's Mariners list

The Top Ten

  1. RHP Taijuan Walker
  2. 1B D.J. Peterson
  3. LHP James Paxton
  4. RHP Victor Sanchez
  5. RHP Edwin Diaz
  6. LHP Luiz Gohara
  7. SS Chris Taylor
  8. LHP Tyler Pike
  9. C Tyler Marlette
  10. OF Gabriel Guerrero

1. Taijuan Walker
Position: RHP
DOB: 08/13/1992
Height/Weight: 6’4” 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2010 draft, Yucaipa HS (Yucaipa, CA)
Previous Ranking: #1 (Org), #9 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: ERA 3.60 (15 IP, 11 H, 12 K, 4 BB) at major league level, 3.61 ERA (57.1 IP, 54 H, 64 K, 27 BB) at Triple-A Tacoma, 2.46 ERA (84 IP, 58 H, 96 K, 30 BB) at Double-A Jackson
The Tools: 7 FB; 7 CT; 5 CB; future 5 CH

What Happened in 2013: Walker started at the Double-A level and finished his season with three starts at the major-league level, displaying not only high-level stuff but also the necessary makeup to stand on a major-league mound as a 21-year-old.

Strengths: Electric fastball from easy release; works in the 94-96 range; can get more when he needs more; good movement to the arm side; cutter is a monster pitch; 89-93 with late horizontal movement to the glove side; curveball has big depth in the 73-76 range; average but effective offering; excellent pickoff move; big competitor.

Weaknesses: Command is below average; lacks plus projection; can work up in the zone too often; curveball has nice shape but can get soft; tendency to start it too high in the zone; will struggle to be effective unless it plays with sharper fastball command; changeup can get too firm; lacks quality fade.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 7; no. 2 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; ready for majors

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: One of the top fantasy pitching prospects in the game, Walker has the type of arm that can help contribute strongly across all categories. I’m not sold that he’ll be someone who sits near the top of the league leaderboard in strikeouts, but there will be enough to go around (think around 190-200 at his peak).

The Year Ahead: Walker needs to refine his command and his secondary arsenal, but the fastball is a high-end major-league pitch, and the cutter can bail him out of situations. Oddly enough, the curve that received all the minor-league hype received the least amount of industry love, at least as far as major-league projection is concerned. Don’t rule out his changeup becoming a much better pitch than people are projecting; it doesn’t look good now, but he has feel for pitching and the power of the fastball will assist in the deceptive elements of the offering. I wouldn’t be shocked if it develops into a plus pitch down the line. Give it time.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

2. D.J. Peterson
Position: 1B
DOB: 12/31/1991
Height/Weight: 6’1” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .293/.346/.576 at Low-A Clinton (26 games), .312/.382/.532 at short-season Everett (29 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit/power

What Happened in 2013: It’s a small sample, but Peterson did exactly what a polished college bat should do in the lower minors, which is slug .553 over two spots, including 13 home runs is 55 games.

Strengths: Natural hitter; easy to the ball; good extension; uses the entire field; shows plus power potential; doesn’t sell out for the tool; strength to lift the ball; arm is strong enough for third.

Weaknesses: Glove is below average at third; below-average range; likely home is across the diamond at first; has work ethic to improve at position, but the bat is the carrying tool; has to hit.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division third baseman

Realistic Role: 5; second-division first baseman

Risk Factor/Injury History: Moderate; difficult profile but good polish at present with plus projections on hit/power.

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The key with Peterson is how long he can maintain that 3B eligibility, even if his future eventually lies across the diamond. If his bat comes close to maxing out, that’s the difference between a stud at the hot corner and a back-end starter at first base. However, it’s a tough task to put up big power numbers as a right-handed bat at Safeco.

The Year Ahead: Peterson could be ready to move fast, possibly reaching Double-A by summer. The bat is his ticket to a first-division future, and the reports since he signed have been very positive; his bat-to-ball is very easy, and the power is already showing up in game action. He’s going to hit. The big question is: Will he become a 6/6 hit/power type or will he fall short of those projections? Falling short with the stick could come with an even bigger sting if he does in fact shift over to first at some point in the development process, a move that my sources seem to think is a likely outcome.

Major league ETA: 2015

3. James Paxton
Position: LHP
DOB: 11/06/1988
Height/Weight: 6’4” 220 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 4th round, 2010 draft, University of Kentucky (Lexington, KY)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org), #92 (Top 101)
2013 Stats: 1.50 ERA (24 IP, 15 H, 21 K, 7 BB) at major league level, 4.45 ERA (145.2 IP, 158 H, 131 K, 58 BB) at Triple-A Tacoma
The Tools: 7 FB; 5 CB; 5 potential CT

What Happened in 2013: Paxton logged 145 2/3 innings at the Triple-A level, but finally got a taste of the majors: four starts with surprisingly intense stuff and subsequent results.

Strengths: Plus-plus velocity from the left side; can work 94-95; touch higher; shows average curveball that has the shape and depth to play as plus when he commands it; has a usable cutter that could play to average; body to log innings.

Weaknesses: Long arms can get out of whack in the delivery; comes high front side and leaves it long in the back (mullet mechanics); command profile is below average; inconsistent secondary stuff; changeup is below average at present; lacks much projection.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Realistic Role: 5; late-innings reliever

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk; ready for major-league role

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If Paxton does stick in the rotation, he’ll do the most damage in strikeouts and ERA, as high walk rates and pitch counts could limit his impact in wins and WHIP. As a reliever, he’d have the whole “lefties can’t be closers” thing going against him, but his stuff is good enough to break though that glass ceiling.

The Year Ahead: Paxton’s call-up performance shocked me, as the velocity was better and more consistent than I recall seeing, and the overall command was better as well. I’m not sold that the Paxton of 2014 will look like the Paxton of late 2013, but I’ll gladly admit I’m wrong. The delivery concerns me, and I think the length and the deep-arm pickup in the back will limit command and secondary utility, and major-league hitters will eventually adjust to his velocity. If he can maintain his delivery, getting over the front side, I think he has the stuff to stick in a rotation. If not, he’s a nice weapon to have in the bullpen; a long-armed lefty who can pump fastballs in the mid-90s.

Major league ETA: Debuted in 2013

4. Victor Sanchez
Position: RHP
DOB: 01/30/1995
Height/Weight: 6’0” 255 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Venezuela
Previous Ranking: #8 (Org)
2013 Stats: 2.78 ERA (113.1 IP, 106 H, 79 K, 18 BB) at Low-A Clinton
The Tools: 6 FB (present); 6 future CB; 6 future CH

What Happened in 2013: Sanchez made 20 starts in the Midwest League at the age of 18, walking only 18 batters in 113 innings of work.

Strengths: Plus-plus pitchability; easy delivery; simple/no frills; despite short/squatty stature, can create angle by pounding the lower zone with lively fastball; can work low 90s; has touched higher; curveball and changeup will both flash plus potential; can locate secondary stuff for strikes; excellent command profile; advanced for age.

Weaknesses: Colon-ian body as a teenager; the delivery works and he can repeat, so its not a major issue; lacks any physical projection; fastball velocity would ebb and flow; would dip into 80s; curveball and changeup can play but might not be impact pitches; curve can get too short and flat; changeup can get too firm in the mid-80s.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; teenager with a bad body

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If it weren’t for his potential future home being a great place to pitch, Sanchez would be a better real-life pitcher than fantasy one. As a potential innings eater (pun intended), his rate stats won’t likely cause you to swoon, but they’ll add up.

The Year Ahead: Sanchez gets a bad rap because of the body, and I’m not suggesting it’s something to overlook. But Sanchez makes things look easy, from the delivery and release to strike throwing and sequencing. He knows how to pitch, and his polish and poise on the mound should allow him to find success all the way up to the majors. The secondary stuff can play a little bland, and the fastball isn’t so overpowering that he can live on its back forever, but he has a chance to develop into a mid-rotation horse if he can stay healthy and the secondary stuff can tick up.

Major league ETA: 2016

5. Edwin Diaz
Position: RHP
DOB: 03/22/1994
Height/Weight: 6’2” 165 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft, Caguas Military Academy (Caguas, PR)
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2013 Stats: 1.43 ERA (69 IP, 45 H, 79 K, 18 BB) at advanced rookie level Pulaski
The Tools: 7 potential FB; 6 potential CB; 5 potential CH

What Happened in 2013: After starting in extended spring training, Diaz made 13 appearances in the rookie-level Appalachian League, finishing the year with a miniscule era and a prospect trajectory powered by jet fuel.

Strengths: Loose, easy arm action; fastball works 92-95; touches higher; big wiggle on the pitch; projects to be a plus-plus offering; can spin a tight curveball in the mid-70s; has depth and can use it as a weapon; skinny frame with some projection; good feel for control; good command projection.

Weaknesses: Changeup is below average; needs to improve the feel for the pitch; body needs to add strength; can revert to throwing instead of pitching; likes to live up in the zone.

Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 2/3 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High; has yet to reach full-season ball

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s easy to dream on Diaz being a high-end fantasy starter, and he hasn’t given us any reason not to. The fastball-curveball combination could lead to large strikeout totals, and Diaz is a strong candidate to break out at Low-A next season.

The Year Ahead: Diaz could explode as a prospect in 2014, as he looks to make the jump to full-season ball. The delivery is smooth and easy, and the arm is very fluid and whippy. The fastball works low-mid-90s, and he can sit in the higher range without much issue. The secondary stuff needs work, especially the feel for the changeup, but he has plenty of time to refine. This could be the top prospect in the system a year from now.

Major league ETA: 2017

6. Luiz Gohara
Position: LHP
DOB: 07/31/1996
Height/Weight: 6’3” 210 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2012, Brazil
Previous Ranking: #7 (Org)
2013 Stats: 4.15 ERA (21.2 IP, 22 H, 27 K, 9 BB) at advanced rookie level Pulaski
The Tools: 6 FB (present); 6 potential CB/CH

What Happened in 2013: The 16-year-old Brazilian made six starts at rookie-level Pulaski, missing 27 bats in 22 innings against much, much older competition.

Strengths: Impressive arm strength; fastball can sit in the low 90s and has touched near-elite velocity in bursts; delivery isn’t too complicated; manages size well; shows advanced pitchability; shows multiple breaking ball looks; changeup shows fading action and could end up over plus.

Weaknesses: He’s a big boy; body could trend negative; fastball velocity was inconsistent; command is below average at present; secondary stuff flashes but lacks consistency; struggles to stay over the ball/finish his delivery.

Overall Future Potential: 7; no. 2 starter

Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme risk; short-season resume; was born in 1996

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The upside is enormous with Gohara, but ETA matters when filling out a minor-league roster. Stashing a pitcher with his potential can pay off in spades, as he has the raw tools to develop into a frontline fantasy starter, but it’s a long time to wait on an arm.

The Year Ahead: The Mariners don’t have to rush the young Brazilian lefty, so another round of extended spring training and short-season ball could be the ticket, but don’t rule out a jump to the full-season level in 2014. The pitchability is there, but the raw stuff is a bit too unruly at times and hard to gain command of. He’s a long way off, but the ceiling is enormous. This is a big-bodied lefty with the potential for a plus-plus fastball and a plus secondary arsenal. That’s a beast.

Major league ETA: 2018

7. Chris Taylor
Position: SS
DOB: 08/29/1990
Height/Weight: 6’0” 170 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2012 draft, University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .293/.391/.383 at Double-A Jackson (67 games), .335/.426/.524 at High-A High Desert (67 games)
The Tools: 6 run; 5+ glove; 5 arm; 5 hit

What Happened in 2013: A polished college player, Taylor swung a good bat over two minor-league stops, and continued the trend in the Arizona Fall League, winning over doubters at every stop.

Strengths: Baseball skills/field IQ; plus run; above-average leather at short; makes the plays he is supposed to make; has good bat-to-ball skills; could end up a 5+ hitter.

Weaknesses: The bat isn’t a special weapon; can sting the ball, but won’t be a power threat; down-the-lineup glove-first type; solid but not spectacular.

Overall Future Potential: 5; major-league regular

Realistic Role: Low 5; second-division player

Risk Factor/Injury History: Low risk

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: A 25- or 30-steal threat who can actually hit a little is a tempting package, especially when he comes with shortstop eligibility. Unfortunately, he’s blocked by Brad Miller, so the opportunity he needs could be tough to come by in Seattle.

The Year Ahead: Taylor is the type of prospect I’ve traditionally overlooked; he plays the game with skill, but the overall profile isn’t sexy and I like sexy. Do not overlook Chris Taylor! He might not end up being anything more than a second-division player, but he can bring a lot to a team with his glove at shortstop and his speed, and the bat might lack punch but he’s going to battle at the plate. This is the type of player who sticks around the game for a decade or more, and will most likely have a better career than a healthy chunk of the sexy prospects who get more attention, including the ones ahead of him on this list.

Major league ETA: 2014

8. Tyler Pike
Position: LHP
DOB: 01/26/1994
Height/Weight: 6’0” 180 lbs.
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft, Winter Haven HS (Winter Haven, FL)
Previous Ranking: #9 (Org)
2013 Stats: 2.37 ERA (110.1 IP, 73 H, 90 K, 57 BB) at Low-A Clinton
The Tools: 5+ FB; 5 CB; 5+ potential CH

What Happened in 2013: Pike made the jump from the AZL in 2013 to full-season ball in 2014, making 22 starts, showing the ability to miss bats and force weak contact against older competition.

Strengths: Smooth delivery; pitches with athleticism; fastball can work low 90s; has touched higher; good arm-side life on the offering; curveball and changeup can flash; both pitches project to at least solid-average; good feel for sequence.

Weaknesses: Fastball velocity would dip into upper 80s; stuff can get soft; curveball break can lack intensity; command is below average; doesn’t always attack hitters.

Overall Future Potential: High 5; no. 3/4 starter

Realistic Role: Low 5; no. 5 starter

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; good three-pitch mix but long way to go

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Not someone to target on skills alone from a fantasy perspective, but if he were afforded the opportunity to pitch in Safeco, his raw stats might make him appear more skilled than he actually is. More of a deeper-league flier.

The Year Ahead: Pike can flash above-average stuff, but I’ve never seen him look dominant in my limited sample with the player. The fastball velocity is inconsistent, but when the arm is feeling it, he can work low-90s and touch higher from the left-side, showing two average secondary offerings that he can sequence. He’s a nice prospect who has a chance to step forward with command refinement and secondary development, but the ceiling doesn’t belong in the same building as some of the other young arms in the system.

Major league ETA: 2016

9. Tyler Marlette
Position: C
DOB: 01/23/1993
Height/Weight: 5’11” 195 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, Hagerty HS (Oviedo, FL)
Previous Ranking: NR
2013 Stats: .304/.367/.448 at Low-A Clinton (75 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 5+ potential power; 6 arm

What Happened in 2013: With only a short-season resume since signing in 2011, Marlette finally advanced to the full-season level, and the offensive potential that made him a fifth-round pick was on display in the Midwest League.

Strengths: Comes from a highly competitive amateur background; shows bat speed; power potential; excellent raw strength and lift in the bat; arm is strong behind the plate; lauded work ethic and makeup; receiving skills improved.

Weaknesses: Offense is ahead of the glove; plate discipline and approach need work; needs to slow down on defense; rushes throws; footwork needs refinement; hit tool could limit game power.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: High 4; backup catcher

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; dual-threat developmental plan

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: In leagues where fewer than 15 catchers are rostered, Marlette probably does not have the type of upside you’d want to see out of a prospect at the position. If he’s a .260 hitter with 15-18 bombs, that’s nice in deeper leagues, but it’s essentially what Wilson Ramos did in 2013—and he didn’t crack the top 15.

The Year Ahead: Scouts seem to like Marlette, dating back to his amateur days when his power was turning heads on the showcase circuit. As a receiver, he is a still raw, and the bat is still the driving force in his status. But his makeup and competitive background offer hope when it comes to his defensive development behind the plate, and even though his road to the majors won’t be expedited because of the dual-threat process, the long-term outcome could be a very good player, one who can not only show some bat-to-ball ability and pop, but catch-and-throw skills behind the plate. That’s a valuable player.

Major league ETA: 2016

10. Gabriel Guerrero
Position: RF
DOB: 12/11/1993
Height/Weight: 6’3” 190 lbs.
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Acquired: International free agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: On The Rise
2013 Stats: .271/.303/.358 at Low-A Clinton (125 games)
The Tools: 7 raw; 6 arm

What Happened in 2013: After a slow start in an unforgiving environment for a hitter, Guerrero stepped forward in the second half of the season, hitting .306/.340/.396 in the warmer months of the summer.

Strengths: High-end bat speed; very loose; hand/eye coordination is ridiculous; raw power is a 7; game power could play as a 6; good athlete who can handle either left or right field; arm has plus arm strength; HOF bloodlines.

Weaknesses: Pitch-recognition skills are a concern; will expand and chase out of the zone; struggles with soft/spin; reactionary hitter who looks to rip regardless of sequence or setting; hit tool could pull the power down; not an up-the-middle defender.

Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division player

Realistic Role: 4; fringe-major leaguer; Triple-A

Risk Factor/Injury History: High risk; very raw

Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: With 30-homer potential, Guerrero is a pure upside play toward the end of your minor-league roster. But too many Guerrero types on your roster and you risk having a very dry pipeline.

The Year Ahead: I’ve been very high on Guerrero in the past, and I remain enamored by his offensive skill set. The bat speed is very good, and the easy, loose swing is reminiscent of his famous uncle and physical doppelganger. But the pitch-recognition issues are the red flag here, the kind of issue that can spoil the offensive potential. This year will be a very good test for the young hitter, as he will see better off-speed offerings as he climbs the ladder, and if he can refine his approach and work himself into more favorable fastball counts, the bat might let the power play. If that happens, Guerrero has impact potential.

Major league ETA: 2016

Notable Omission: LHP Danny Hultzen. Selected second overall in one of the deepest and most star-studded drafts in recent memory, Hultzen was knocking on the door of the majors when a shoulder injury derailed the southpaw's season. I wasn't bullish on Hultzen before the injury, and now with a labrum surgery on the resume, it's hard to justify ranking the 23-year-old lefty on this list until he returns to action (most likely in 2015) and proves to be healthy and productive. We can reevaluate his status at this time.

Prospects on the Rise:
1. OF Tyler O’Neill:
A third-round draft selection in 2013, O’Neill has drawn the obvious comparisons to fellow Canadian Brett Lawrie. Like Lawrie, O’Neill is a hyper-intense bulldog of a player, with an impressive hit tool and approach to the game. He could take a big step forward in 2014 and emerge as a top 10 prospect in the system.

2. OF Wilton Martinez: With a projectable body and highly projectable offensive tools, Martinez looks the part of a prototypical corner bat. He’s still raw—and the numbers might not back up the hype for a while—but the bat speed and raw pop are there to develop into a legit middle-of-the-order prospect.

3. SS Ketel Marte: A 20-year-old Dominican with legit defensive skills at shortstop, Marte is a precocious talent who could end developing into a dual-threat player at the highest level. Power will never be a part of his game, but with plus speed and very good bat-to-ball skills, he has a chance to hit for average from a premium spot on the diamond.

Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2014)
1. RHP Carson Smith: It’s easy to make a case for Smith’s inclusion in the top 10, as his fastball/slider combination gives him a high floor as a quality major-league reliever. The fastball is pretty nasty, thrown with plus velocity and lots of movement, and if the slider can tighten up, he has late-innings potential.

2. RHP Dominic Leone: Undersized righty with big stuff and a future in a big-league bullpen, Leone is a good bet to contribute to the major-league team in 2014. Working with a heavy mid-90s fastball, hard cutter and slider combo, Leone has the ability to miss barrels and force a lot of weak contact.

3. 1B Ji-Man Choi: The 22-year-old South Korean isn’t a big-name prospect--nor should he be considered a big-name prospect--but he does have some pop in his stick, and he could find his way into major-league action in 2014. The power could play to a 5, meaning he could probably hit 15-20 bombs over a full season, but it comes from a first base profile, so don’t expect anything more than a second-division player at best.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/88 or later)

  1. Taijuan Walker
  2. D.J. Peterson
  3. Mike Zunino
  4. Nick Franklin
  5. Jesus Montero
  6. Brad Miller
  7. James Paxton
  8. Erasmo Ramirez
  9. Brandon Maurer
  10. Victor Sanchez

For a team that finished 71-91 and in fourth place in the American League West, the Mariners Top 10 prospects are surprisingly thin. Intriguing players like James Paxton, Victor Sanchez, and Edwin Diaz all merit discussion as potential big-league contributors, but when they are pushing the top five on a list of this nature, things can get a little dicey.

Fortunately for Mariners fans, the reason the Top 10 is so thin is because the club promoted a host of talented players in the under-25 bracket to the big leagues for ample playing time in 2013. While Taijuan Walker is still the undisputed top player, and first-round pick D.J. Peterson still holds down the second slot, 2012 first rounder Mike Zunino, 2009 first rounder Nick Franklin, and the primary chip in the Michael Pineda trade, Jesus Montero, help bolster the top five when we expand the list.

Zunino and Franklin both showed flashes of becoming quality major-league players on both sides of the ball, though neither projects as a star down the line. Montero’s bat has previously invoked visions of a star-level player, but mid-season knee surgery and a 50-game PED suspension as part of the Biogenesis fiasco have resulted in a tarnished star for the 23-year-old. He still has the potential to hit for both average and power, but he will have to prove he can handle first base or hit enough to merit at-bats as the everyday designated hitter.

Middle infielder Brad Miller was yet another youngster to debut in Seattle this season and like Zunino and Franklin, Miller showed flashes of becoming a solid option at either shortstop or second base down the line. Miller began to settle in down the stretch and .274/.310/.431 with 15 extra-base hits in 48 games in August and September; hinting that he might be ready for an everyday job in 2014.

Two other young names worth watching are right-handed starters Brandon Maurer and Erasmo Ramirez. Neither pitcher posted eye-popping numbers in 2013, but both have quality stuff and the potential to work as fourth starters over the long haul.

The Mariners might be short on players with star-level projections coming through the ranks, but with Felix Hernandez and eventually Taijuan Walker fronting the rotation, and a handful of solid young players up the middle, the foundation is there to build a team that could begin to compete with the established powers of the AL West. The 2014 season will likely be one of continued growing pains for young players like Zunino, Franklin, Miller, and Montero, but the long-term potential exists for that group, along with Peterson, to form the core of an offense that can provide support to a talented one-two pitching punch and a solid middle and back of the rotation. –Mark Anderson

A Parting Thought: Walker and Paxton, two of the top three prospects in the system, are major-league ready, leaving the remaining crop of talent on the farm looking thin. But looks can be deceiving, especially when you consider the ceilings of some of the impact arms in the lower minors, most notably, Edwin Diaz and Luiz Gohara.

***

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Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
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47 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

Dave from Pittsburgh

What is it with the mariners and position player prospects? Seems like the front office has done a great job of bringing in talent on the hitting side, but a higher percentage of them have busted than normal. Is it just bad luck or do they have weaknesses in player development?

Nov 06, 2013 05:07 AM
rating: 0
 
casejud

I believe that the major players in the bust theory here, Dustin Ackley and Justin Smoak, were never good enough to begin with. This is just my opinion.

Ackley hit .280 as a minor leaguer who wasn't young for the minors. Smoak hit .251 with 13 Homers in 581 At-bats as a AAA player.

These players would not even have been called up, normally, if they weren't high number 1 picks.

Otherwise, I think Franklin, Miller, Zunino, ect are all coming along fine. The park is a major factor too.

Nov 06, 2013 12:17 PM
rating: -1
 
bugbear

As a non-Mariners fan, the one that puzzles me most is Ackley. I don't know where you got your stats from, as he hit .290/.397/.443 in the minors (.303/.421/.487 the year he was promoted as a 23 year old in AAA, which is not old for the league), and then had a .299 TAv in his rookie season before falling flat. Same profile as Gordon Beckham--highly touted college players, high draft picks, flew through the minors and performed well, solid rookie seasons, and then fell apart.

Nov 06, 2013 19:17 PM
rating: 1
 
Geoff Young

Ackley's rookie season was a mixed bag. He played 90 games, hitting .293/.368/.506 in his first 45 and .254/.330/.331 in his last 45.

Nov 07, 2013 09:30 AM
rating: 2
 
JusitnG

The Astros are a tough act to follow

Nov 06, 2013 05:08 AM
rating: 2
 
BillJohnson

There appears to be more optimism for Jesus Montero here than in other sources I read, several of which are already labeling him "big bust." I do not follow Seattle closely and have no informed opinion on this, but why the more favorable view here?

Nov 06, 2013 05:30 AM
rating: -1
 
John Carter

Yes, I think we all want to hear more about Montero: what went wrong; is it fixable; is he now just a DH; etc.

By the way, I particularly like the Factors on the Farm section, so we know who might be of help in the coming year.

Nov 06, 2013 08:18 AM
rating: 1
 
casejud

I live in Seattle and, watched him play a lot. he was a total bust as a catcher - not for the lack of anyone trying though.

He can still swing the bat though, will be 24 all of next year and, is playing 1B in winter-ball. He has started to swing the bat well there recently too, 11 for 26 in last 7 games.

Nov 06, 2013 12:22 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mark Anderson
BP staff

Ultimately, I still believe strongly in the hit and power tools. He's not a catcher, and realistically, he's not a first baseman either, so the bat really has to play at an exceptional level, but you're talking a guy that got consistent future 7/7 grades for hit/power in the minor leagues. I think the injury in 2013 hung a cloud over him and that masks the true offensive talent I believe he still has.

Nov 07, 2013 06:21 AM
 
ncassino

Any thoughts on Abraham Almonte? Could he stick as a starter or is a 4th/5th OF role his destiny? What kind of numbers could he put up if given a starting role and would his defense be acceptable? Thanks.

Nov 06, 2013 05:49 AM
rating: 0
 
hcaeb2000

Just a heads up, the front page says Felix Hernandez instead of Taijuan Walker as top prospect.

I like the first 2 list so far since I have both # 1 guys in my minors.

Keep up the good work on these list.

Nov 06, 2013 06:27 AM
rating: -1
 
izzy2112

Is Zunino's stock down a lot this year? He's behind DJ Peterson, who is probably a fringe top 100 guy. He was a top 20 guy coming into this year.

Nov 06, 2013 06:43 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Zunino was ranked #33 (on BP 101) coming into the year. I can't speak for Mark, but I was never that high on Zunino, and at the end of the day, I wouldn't be shocked if Peterson offers more impact at the highest level. It's a good debate, though because Zunino is going to give you more positional value.

Nov 06, 2013 06:47 AM
 
casejud

Did you see something, visually, that turned you off to Zunino? I agree with you often but, when I saw Zunino play in Everett in 2012, I was very impressed.

It could have been the level of competition there but, it wasn't the numbers. He stood out as a leader, a catcher, and seemed like a very smart, situational-aware hitter, who knew how to get into a position to get his pitch. Good power too. He didn't always hit top velocity though, but I thought he could adjust.

Nov 06, 2013 12:28 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Given the fact that he was a polished college player taken number three overall in the draft, I would hope he impressed in short-season ball. That's easy scouting.

His receiving skills aren't high-end; still has issues with side/side drift. Same with his catch/throw skills. His bat speed is only average to me, and velocity ties him up. I think he will be a quality major league player, mostly thanks to positional value, but he's not an impact player in my opinion.

Nov 06, 2013 12:36 PM
 
casejud

I may have let my eyes deceive me but, he just had this quality to him that stood out. It is kike a "sum is greater
than the parts" thing to me. The friend I was with at the gamer, a very sharp person also, didn't agree with me either really so, we shall see. I don't think he will be a superstar either , so maybe we aren't all that far apart.

I was impressed with his leadership skills, and have seen evidence of as a Seattle-ite. I think he will be very solid, across the board, and that adds up to a big player. We'll see how he develops.

Nov 06, 2013 12:50 PM
rating: 0
 
marctacoma

I've struggled with the opposite problem - that is, I saw him in Tacoma. I've not seen Tacoma get into someone's head like that since Sir Mix-a-Lot's early days. He looked between pitches, struggled on all manner of slower pitches, as well as good fastballs.

I liked the catch-and-throw, though I agree with Jason on some of the receiving issues. I definitely saw the leadership potential and got that "sum is greater than the parts" thing, but you had to - he had a .214 home OPB and a .234 home SLG. I think I saw him hit one ball really well in 4-5 games. I was actually pleasantly surprised by his offense last year with Seattle.

Nov 07, 2013 13:48 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Mark Anderson
BP staff

Was off the grid yesterday, but I'll try to catch up a bit here.

With Zunino, I do like the overall package but I don't see (and never really have dating back to his college days) the potential to be an impact player. His positional value is a very strong argument in his favor, but I don't see him being a top-flight bat or a top-flight defender. He's going to be a solid player over the long haul.

With Peterson, there's at least a chance he's an impact bat for me. The open question of third base or first base hurts some, but the potential to hit in the middle of the order with thump was the deciding factor in my mind.

I will say, throughout my development of the U25 list, I had both players in the #2 spot on multiple occasions and finally settled on this version.

Nov 07, 2013 06:19 AM
 
casejud

I see your reasoning, appreciate your response but, I don't see any visual evidence or statistical evidence that Pederson is a better hitter than Zunino. I love your guys work but, in this instance, I believe that you are sellling Zunino a bit short. Zunino was tearing up AA ball buy the end of his draft year.

Nov 07, 2013 12:37 PM
rating: -1
 
rafaelnieves

Surprised to see you rank the Buffalo ahead of Diaz and Gohara. Were the reports on him more positive than you had expected? Do you think he has a chance to crack the 101?

Nov 06, 2013 06:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Sanchez's polish won that debate for me. He might lack the ultimate ceiling of Gohara, and the stuff might not be as projectable as Diaz, but the buffalo can pitch. He has a very good feel for command, and can pitch off his FB effectively using his secondary arsenal to keep hitters off-balance. I like him.

Nov 06, 2013 07:00 AM
 
OuagadougouGM

I think Choi is a bit underrated. True, he has only average power, with a ceiling of probably 25 HR, but he controls the strike zone well and is a good contact hitter. He reminds me some of Brandon Belt and Allen Craig. He is pretty young and made it from A to AAA in one year. If everything goes right, I could see him being an average or slightly above average MLB first baseman.

Nov 06, 2013 06:57 AM
rating: 0
 
wbw6b6

How far down was Austin Wilson? Oh how the mighty have fallen

Nov 06, 2013 08:15 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He was once mighty?

Nov 06, 2013 08:22 AM
 
wbw6b6

he was a certifiable stud coming out of high school who wasnt popped til the 12th because of his strong commitment to stanford. is he a case of the "stanford swing" sapping his potnetial or has he just not translated the tools and pop into game success.

Nov 06, 2013 09:57 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Yes; of course. I thought you meant since he's been drafted (as far as status is concerned.)

Nov 06, 2013 10:30 AM
 
iggyfenton

Austin came on strong in August. I know it's all SSS, but do you see him having a chance at next season's top 10?

Nov 29, 2013 09:54 AM
rating: 0
 
oakiegu007

OH MY GOD. James Paxton looks just like Nick Franklin (on my computer, anyway)!

Nov 06, 2013 08:17 AM
rating: 1
 
nolansdad

Yep. Not nearly enough ears there.

Nov 06, 2013 08:31 AM
rating: 0
 
DeathSpeculum

racist

Nov 06, 2013 12:10 PM
rating: 0
 
bline24

Perhaps it was just me, but I found the treatment of Peterson's position confusing. Even though it is listed as 1B, it is noted that there is at least a chance he sticks at third, which would lead me to assume that he's been playing exclusively or primarily at 3B in the minors. A minor nit in an otherwise quality piece.

Sad to see how far Danny Hultzen's star has fallen. Here's hoping he's able to come back and carve out some semblance of an MLB career.

Nov 06, 2013 09:22 AM
rating: 3
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

He has been playing third, but its highly unlikely that he sticks at the position. You make every effort to develop him into a more valuable player, but the realities of his skill-set (as noted in the article) point to an eventual move to 1B.

Nov 06, 2013 09:34 AM
 
casejud

Just throwing this out there for debate, you could be right but, Zunino outhit Peterson by a lot in his debut season vs Peterson's. If Peterson is a 1B and Zunino is a good reciever, how does Peterson end up as a better ballplayer?

Just an honest question here.

Nov 06, 2013 12:36 PM
rating: 0
 
nolansdad

Did any of the club's top 3 OF prospects -- Julio Morban, Stefen Romero and Austin Wilson -- get much consideration here?

Nov 06, 2013 09:29 AM
rating: 0
 
nolansdad

*Other* top 3 I meant.

Nov 06, 2013 09:30 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

Nope.

Nov 06, 2013 09:31 AM
 
nolansdad

Interesting. Thanks.

Nov 06, 2013 10:05 AM
rating: 0
 
johnburkland

Could you talk a little bit about Morban? The numbers are good, but the K's are kind of scary and he seems to be hurt all the time. Anything there?

Nov 06, 2013 11:22 AM
rating: 0
 
Shawnykid23

"Mullet Mechanics" Love that.

Nov 06, 2013 10:22 AM
rating: 1
 
kcboomer

These reports are amazing in there detail and thoroughness. The problem is they just all run together in one big blur. We are going to end up with 30 reports and just no easy way to compare one system to another. I know Jason wanted to get away from the star rating system but it had its uses.

Nov 06, 2013 10:44 AM
rating: -2
 
BP staff member Jason Parks
BP staff

You can compare one system to another at the end of the process when we rank them, and you can compare players [individually] based on their placement on the BP 101. If you really want to go deep into the work, you can compare players based on their OFP, realistic role, and risk factors. There is more than enough information to make prospect comparisons. I never thought the star-system was all that useful. I'd much rather see a specific tool-based projection coupled with a realistic outcome and associated risk. I think it makes comparing players in different systems much easier.

Nov 06, 2013 10:53 AM
 
casejud

I like it better the way you are doing it. I think so far y'all have done an excellent job of stating, clearly, "future role" and "realistic future role". I like that approach way more, myself.

I'm not a huge fan of "ceiling" vs "floor" talk, because I find both ends of it unrealistic a lot of the time but, not so much here. A realistic ceiling, and a realistic actual future are both laid out. Great work.

Nov 06, 2013 12:43 PM
rating: 0
 
sfactor23

I am curious about your opinion regarding Chance Ruffin

Nov 06, 2013 12:40 PM
rating: 0
 
Josh Johnson

I remembered seeing something about a shoulder injury with Gohara. Was that a real thing, one of those manager his innings things, or a bad report?

Also, I am a big fan of the report style, especially the OFP and the realistic role as well. We all love dreams but reality can be a bitch.

Nov 06, 2013 13:17 PM
rating: 0
 
dcorr82

Just realized this year's Top 10 are missing The Beatles lyrics to describe the State of the Farm; one of my favorite editions to last year's lists.

Nov 06, 2013 20:02 PM
rating: 5
 
apilgrim

Which of these guys are going to be at High Desert this year?

Nov 07, 2013 01:33 AM
rating: 0
 
Josh Shepardson

Did Justin Smoak do enough as a left-handed batter against right-handed pitchers to carve out a possible role as a second division regular at first base that cedes at-bats against southpaws? It's easy to pile on him for what he can't do, and gripe about him failing to reach his potential, but he was at least solid against right-handed pitching last year.

Nov 07, 2013 22:18 PM
rating: 0
 
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