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February 27, 2009

Future Shock

Mariners Top 11 Prospects

by Kevin Goldstein

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top 11 prospects

SEATTLE MARINERS
Team Audit | DT Cards | PECOTA Cards | Depth Chart

Five-Star Prospects
1. Greg Halman, CF
Four-Star Prospects
2. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
3. Michael Saunders, CF
4. Joshua Fields, RHP
Three-Star Prospects
5. Juan Ramirez, RHP
6. Carlos Triunfel, SS
7. Dennis Raben, RF
8. Adam Moore, C
9. Jharmidy De Jesus, 3B
Two-Star Prospects
10. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
11. Mario Martinez, 3B

Just Missed: Maikel Cleto, RHP; Julio Morban, SS; Miguel Pineda, RHP

Ranking Challenges: It's an unusual organization, in the sense that you have many players with interesting skills, and yet they all have either a great deal to prove, a significant hole in their game, or both.

1. Greg Halman, CF
DOB: 8/26/87
Height/Weight: 6-4/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Netherlands, 2004
2008 Stats: .268/.320/.572, .240 EqA at High-A (67 G); .277/.332/.481, .240 EqA at Double-A (61 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 10

Year in Review: After failing to hit in a full-season league in 2007, the most talented player in the system made the jump all the way up to Double-A, and wound up leading the minors as far as power/speed numbers with 29 home runs and 31 stolen bases.
The Good: Halman comes loaded with tools; one scout gave him 60-plus grades (on the 20-80 scouting scale) on his power, his speed, and his throwing arm. He's capable of eye-popping shots when he gets his arms extended over the plate, and his bat moves into the hitting zone quickly. His speed serves him well both on the basepaths and in center field.
The Bad: His ultimate upside will depend on his plate discipline. He advanced by leaps and bounds in that department last year, but he still managed just 32 walks while striking out 142 times in 492 at-bats. He still lunges at pitches, expands his strike zone when behind in the count, and he can often be pull-happy.
Fun Fact: Robert Eenhorn's 1997 home run off of Roger Pavlik remains the only homer hit in the majors by a player born in the Netherlands.
Perfect World Projection: He'll never have a great on-base percentage, but you could do a lot worse than a 30-30 center fielder.
Glass Half Empty: His free-swinging ways prevent him from taking advantage of his promise, and he turns into a marginal starter or a bench outfielder.
Path to the Big Leagues: Newly acquired Franklin Gutierrez should not be much of an obstacle if Halman can continue his progress.
Timetable: Having moved from Short-season up to Double-A in less than a year, Halman will return to Double-A in 2009 to give him time to refine his skills.

2. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
DOB: 1/7/89
Height/Weight: 6-7/220
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2007, Ecole Du Versant (QC)
2008 Stats: 2.75 ERA at Low-A (55.2-46-19-50), 6.47 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 6

Year in Review: This first-round pick impressed in limited innings last year; Seattle became very cautious with him once he developed elbow soreness.
The Good: Aumont's best pitch is a low-90s sinker that touches 95 and has explosive late life, with one scout calling it a major league-ready offering right now. He'll flash a decent slider at times, is aggressive in the strike zone, and he brings a lot of intensity to the mound.
The Bad: Aumount's elbow problems are a concern, as he does tend to throw across his body. While the slider is effective, it also flattens out far too often, and with a below-average changeup, some think that he'd be put to better use in the bullpen. He needs to get in more innings; he pitched less than 60 last year. He also needs to harness his emotions, as his tendency to stare down umpires and slam his glove whenever he was being pulled from a game did him no favors at Low-A.
Fun Fact: The only 11th overall pick in the draft to reach triple digits in wins is Sean Estes, another Mariners pick who was selected out of a Nevada high school in 1991.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a front-line starter.
Glass Half Empty: There's just too much work to be done, and he ends up as a reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: It's too early to be a concern, but the Mariners' system is hardly loaded with pitching.
Timetable: Aumont will face one of the toughest challenges in the minor leagues by pitching at High-A High Desert in 2009, but just finding him innings is arguably more important than how effective he is.

3. Michael Saunders, CF
DOB: 11/19/86
Height/Weight: 6-4/205
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: 11th round, 2004, Lambrick Park SS (BC)
2008 Stats: .290/.375/.484, .260 EqA at Double-A (67 G); .242/.308/.400, .228 EqA at Triple-A (24 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 7

Year in Review: He's a high-ceiling athlete who continued to make progress in converting his tools into skills with a strong showing in 2008 at Double-A.
The Good: Saunders is an impressive physical specimen with the tools to match, with size, strength, and speed that's a tick above average. He has excellent pitch recognition, and rarely swings at pitches out of the strike zone. He's a good defensive outfielder with a plus arm, and he gets high marks for his makeup and competitiveness.
The Bad: Saunders doesn't have any one outstanding tool, being seen by many as a player who should be good for 15-20 home runs and stolen bases per year, but not much more. His swing has a few holes in it, and he occasionally gives away at-bats when reaching for power. His ability to stay in center field could be the key to his future; he's only average there now, and there are fears that any loss in speed will cost him range.
Fun Fact: Players drafted 333rd overall (as Saunders was) have hit 558 home runs in the big leagues, but 541 of them have come off of the bat of Jim Thome.
Perfect World Projection: Decent average, plenty of walks, some power, and some speed-just an all-around good outfielder.
Glass Half Empty: If he's forced to move to an outfield corner, his situation will become more complicated.
Path to the Big Leagues: He's blocked for now, but only by a few fringe talents and players with short contracts.
Timetable: Saunders is healthy after having minor shoulder surgery in the offseason, and he'll begin the year at Triple-A Tacoma with no expectations of making the big leagues this year other than a possible September call-up.

4. Joshus Fields, RHP
DOB: 8/19/85
Height/Weight: 6-0/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 1st round, 2008, University of Georgia
2008 Stats: None
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: Just when you thought that the days of draft holdouts were over, one of the best college relievers used his senior status to extend his negotiating window into this month, when he finally inked for a $1.75 million bonus.
The Good: Fields has pure closer stuff, with a mid-90s fastball that consistently touches 98 mph, and an absolutely vicious power curveball that helped him strike out 63 in 37 1/3 innings at Georgia last spring while allowing only 17 hits. He wants the ball with the game on the line, and it seemed to many observers that he had the ability to pitch better in close games.
The Bad: Fields is a little on the small side, and the lack of downward plane leaves his fastball too true at times. His mechanics are high-effort, if not downright violent, and future injuries could be an issue. Between playing four years at college and his long holdout, he's already 23 years old and has no pro experience, and while he should move quickly up through the system, the fact is that he has to.
Fun Fact: Fields went 18-for-18 in save opportunities last spring, and in those 18 games he allowed just one run on three hits over 19 innings.
Perfect World Projection: He becomes a major league closer.
Glass Half Empty: His health and age are bigger factors in any long-term projection than his ability is.
Path to the Big Leagues: He may be pushed, since the Seattle doesn't have anything close to an established closer right now.
Timetable: Spring training will be the Mariners' first opportunity to see Fields in action since his signing. They'll evaluate him closely and determine where he'll begin his career; it could be as high as Double-A.

5. Juan Ramirez, RHP
DOB: 8/16/88
Height/Weight: 6-3/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Nicaragua, 2005
2008 Stats: 4.14 ERA at Low-A (124-112-38-113), 8.81 DERA
Last Year's Ranking: 5

Year in Review: This high-ceiling arm continued to show more in the way of projection than in actual numbers in his full-season debut last year.
The Good: Ramirez has a nearly perfect power-pitching frame and mechanics, and he effortlessly throws 92-94 mph fastballs that can touch 96. His heater features good late life, and he locates the pitch extremely well for being so inexperienced. He flashes a good slider, and he was at his best toward the end of the season.
The Bad: Ramirez' secondary pitches lag well behind his power stuff; he gets around on his slider and flattens it out often, and his changeup is rather rudimentary. The latter is of most concern, as he could use another weapon against left-handers.
Fun Fact: Though it is his country's capital and largest city, no player born in Managua has ever pitched in the big leagues.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a good power starter.
Glass Half Empty: Or a good power reliever.
Path to the Big Leagues: It depends on his role, but again, the Mariners do not have a strong big-league staff filled with roadblocks.
Timetable: Like Aumount, Ramirez faces a significant challenge this year with an assignment to High Desert in the High-A California League.

6. Carlos Triunfel, SS
DOB: 2/27/90
Height/Weight: 5-11/175
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2006
2008 Stats: .287/.336/.406, .199 EqA at High-A (108 G)
Last Year's Ranking: 3

Year in Review: This big-money international signee held his own at High-A in '08 as an 18-year-old.
The Good: He has a quick bat and tremendous feel for contact, striking out just 52 times in 436 at-bats, all while being the youngest player in the league. He's a solid runner with soft hands on defense and the best infield arm in the system-an absolute cannon that some graded as a pure 80 on the scouting scale.
The Bad: Triunfel has a thick lower half, and as his body matures, he'll likely lose the athleticism needed to play up the middle. His arm and glove would work fine at third base, but there are significant questions about his power potential and how his bat would play at the hot corner. His makeup has come into question; he's been suspended in the past by Seattle, while also clashing with coaches.
Fun Fact: Triunfel hit .365 in the first three innings of games in 2008, but just .231 thereafter.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be a .300-hitting third baseman with plus defense.
Glass Half Empty: There's not enough power to qualify as more than a second-division starter at third.
Path to the Big Leagues: Adrian Beltre is in the last year of his contract, which should be cause for celebration for Seattle fans whether Triunfel makes it or not.
Timetable: He'll almost assuredly be the youngest player in the league once again at Double-A West Tennessee, where he could see playing time at three different infield positions.

7. Dennis Raben, RF
DOB: 7/31/87
Height/Weight: 6-3/200
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2nd round, 2008, University of Miami
2008 Stats: .275/.411/.560 at Short-season (27 G)
Last Year's Ranking: N/A

Year in Review: A disappointing junior year at Miami in which he was overshadowed by Yonder Alonso and Jemile Weeks dropped Raben out of the first round, but he looked as if he was returning to form during his pro debut last year.
The Good: He's a very good offense-oriented prospect with a keen eye at the plate and above-average power. He hits both lefties and righties hard, and uses all parts of the field, focusing more on using his strength to generate hard contact, as opposed to pulling the ball. Other than his bat, his other plus tool is his throwing arm.
The Bad: Raben's development will all come down to his hitting. He's a below-average athlete, and no more than a 40 runner. His range is limited in the outfield, though he tries to make up for it with good reads and jumps. He has a history of injuries that includes some back issues, which can be a red flag for young players.
Fun Fact: Seattle has had their eye on Raben for years; he was also drafted by the Mariners in 2005 out of St. Thomas Aquinas High, the same school that produced A's starter Sean Gallagher.
Perfect World Projection: A corner outfielder who hits fifth in a big-league lineup.
Glass Half Empty: A little less development on offense and defense, and he'll end up as a mediocre first baseman with a borderline bat.
Path to the Big Leagues: It should be clear by the time Raben will be ready.
Timetable: Depending on his performance this spring, he'll probably begin the year at one of Seattle's A-level affiliates.

8. Adam Moore, C
DOB: 5/8/84
Height/Weight: 6-3/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 6th round, 2006, University of Texas
2008 Stats: .319/.396/.506, .260 EqA at Double-A (119 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: He proved that his 2007 breakout was more than just a High Desert-generated mirage with a very good showing at Double-A in 2008.
The Good: Moore is a big catcher who's gifted with considerable tools. He's not a pure power hitter, but rather a guy with good pitch recognition, a knack for hard contact, and enough raw strength to hit 15-20 home runs annually. He has the makeup for catching, he's a leader on the field, and pitchers enjoy working with him.
The Bad: Moore's defense needs improvement; his receiving and blocking skills are well below average, and his decent arm is often offset by accuracy issues. He also runs like... a big catcher.
Fun Fact: Moore was at his best with the bases loaded last year, going 7-for-12 with two doubles and a grand slam.
Perfect World Projection: He'll be an offense-first starting catcher.
Glass Half Empty: It will be the bat or nothing, as backups are usually picked for their glove work.
Path to the Big Leagues: Jeff Clement is Seattle's catcher of the future, and he is waiting for Kenji Johjima to get out of the way.
Timetable: Moore will begin the year at Triple-A Tacoma.

9. Jharmidy De Jesus, 3B
DOB: 8/30/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Dominican Republic, 2007
2008 Stats: .339/.417/.591 at Rookie-level (34 G); .267/.316/.444 at Short-season (28 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: This million-dollar Dominican infielder needed just 217 at-bats to smack ten home runs in his stateside debut last year.
The Good: De Jesus has considerable upside on offense. He has a broad-shouldered, projectable frame, and plus raw power that is already showing up in-game. He projects as a good defender at the hot corner, with good instincts, and a plus arm.
The Bad: He needs to refine his approach; the more advanced pitchers of the Northwest League were able to get him out with a steady diet of breaking balls, and he has to be more patient and lay off of chase pitches. While he has the tools to play the hot corner, he needs to improve his fundamentals there, which should improve with repetition and experience.
Fun Fact: In the three games in which De Jesus hit third in the Everett lineup, he went 0-for-12 with seven whiffs.
Perfect World Projection: He should be an above-average everyday third baseman.
Glass Half Empty: There is still plenty of time for things to go wrong.
Path to the Big Leagues: It could become complicated if Triunfel ends up at the hot corner.
Timetable: DeJesus will begin the year at Low-A Clinton as a 19-year-old.

10. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B
DOB: 5/10/86
Height/Weight: 6-2/225
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 3rd round, 2004, Woodinville HS (WA)
2008 Stats: .281/.364/.453, .267 EqA at Triple-A (111 G); .159/.213/.250, .246 EqA at MLB (14 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Just Missed

Year in Review: The former heavily hyped talent gradually re-appeared on the prospect radar by delivering some solid showings at the upper levels of the system in 2008.
The Good: Scouts like Tuiasosopo's approach and his hitting mechanics; he works the count well, and has a quiet swing that is quick to the ball. He has gap power, the ability to crush mistakes, and he projects to hit 15-20 home runs per year. He's a good defensive third baseman with a very good arm.
The Bad: Tuiasosopo has solid tools on offense, but there's little about him that might indicate he'll be a star. He alternates between being too patient and too aggressive in his approach, either laying off of pitches that he can drive, or chasing breaking balls in the dirt.
Fun Fact: His big bonus lured him away from becoming a quarterback at the University of Washington like his older brother Marques, who also had considerable baseball ability and was a 34th-round pick by the Twins in 1997.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a solid everyday third baseman.
Glass Half Empty: He may have to settle for being a bench player.
Path to the Big Leagues: While there are players behind him with higher ceilings, Tuiasosopo could be first in line for the third-base job once Adrian Beltre departs.
Timetable: He'll begin the year biding his time back at Triple-A, but he could be up in the second half if Beltre gets traded at the deadline.

11. Mario Martinez, 3B
DOB: 11/13/89
Height/Weight: 6-1/208
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Venezuela, 2006
2008 Stats: .319/.344/.462 at Rookie-level (64 G)
Last Year's Ranking: Not Ranked

Year in Review: The Mariners' recent investments in Latin America continue to look sound as this Venezuelan impressed Appy League scouts last year in his pro debut.
The Good: Martinez' bat speed ranks with that of anyone else in the organization, and he hits to all parts of the field, showing decent gap power with the potential for more. Originally a shortstop, he brings a high level of athleticism to the hot corner, with outstanding range and a plus arm.
The Bad: Martinez' power ceiling is hotly debated among scouts; he has the core skills to hit for power, but his single-plane swing could limit that aspect of his production. He's a very aggressive hitter who will need a more studied approach as he moves up through the system. His current method is to just grip it and rip it.
Fun Fact: He was successful in two of his four stolen-base attempts in the first eight games of the season, and he didn't run again over the next 56 games.
Perfect World Projection: He's going to be a high-average hitter with some power.
Glass Half Empty: He may not have enough power to stick at the hot corner.
Path to the Big Leagues: De Jesus and Martinez will battle for the future third-base job for years to come.
Timetable: For now, the pair will likely be sharing duties at Low-A Clinton.

The Sleeper: As a player who was more focused on football as an amateur, Michael Wilson had been slow to develop his baseball skills, but the big outfielder led the Southern League with 27 home runs last year while showing a much-improved approach.

Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (as of Opening Day 2009)

1. Felix Hernandez, RHP
2. Brandon Morrow, RHP
3. Jeff Clement, C
4. Greg Halman, CF
5. Phillippe Aumont, RHP
6. Michael Saunders, CF
7. Joshua Fields, RHP
8. Jose Lopez, 2B
9. Wladimir Balentien, RF
10. Ryan Rowland-Smith, RHP

Seattle could end up being better than expected just on the strength of those first two names. Hernandez seems poised for a breakout at any and every moment, and if I could pick one pitcher in baseball capable of taking a huge step forward this year, it would be Morrow, who showed absolutely filthy stuff toward the end of the season. I still have faith in Clement, but not so much in Balentien. Jose Lopez makes far too many outs, but he is young, he gets a little better every year, and there is still some room for growth. Rowland-Smith did a fine job both as a starter and reliever last year, and he should be able to hold down a back-end rotation gig.

Summary: The Mariners' system has been depleted due to some recent graduations to the majors, but they still have a significant number of young, high-ceiling talents that could have this organization looking much better a year from now.


Up next: the Tampa Bay Rays.

---

Mike Curto, radio voice of the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, joins Brad Wochomurka to talk about life in the Pacific Northwest and some of Seattle's top prospects as we check in on the Top 11 Prospect Lists at BPR.


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Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

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