Previous Rankings: 2010 | 2009 | 2008

System in 20 Words or Less: A couple potential impact players at the top but an overall shallow system where the talent level drops off quickly.

Five-Star Prospects
1. Michael Pineda, RHP
2. Dustin Ackley, 2B
Four-Star Prospects
3. Nick Franklin, SS
4. Guillermo Pimentel, OF
Three-Star Prospects
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP
6. Mauricio Robles, LHP
7. Dan Cortes, RHP
8. Kyle Seager, 2B
9. Blake Beavan, RHP
Two-Star Prospects
10. Johermyn Chavez, OF
11. Alex Liddi, 3B

Nine More:
12. Ramon Morla, 3B: The young Dominican has power and good defensive skills; an unbridled approach is catching up to him.
13. Maikel Cleto, RHP: He has massive (upper-90s) velocity, but the fastball is straight and flat; his limited arsenal leads to a relief projection.
14. Marcus Littlewood, SS: This big shortstop has some power potential, but he might not be athletic enough to stay at short.
15. Josh Lueke, RHP: Lueke is inconsistent, but he has late-inning stuff when he's on; the makeup questions are obvious.
16. Greg Halman, OF: Halman has massive power and solid center-field skills, but will he ever hit enough?
17. Ji-Man Choi, C/1B: The Korean import signed for $425,000 impressed with the bat in his U.S. debut, but his catching skills are very rough.
18. James Jones, OF: Jones is a very athletic outfielder who could rocket into the Top 11 next year; he made huge strides during the second half.
19. Carlos Peguero, OF: He's almost a Halman clone, only without the up-the-middle speed.
20. Jordan Shipers, LHP: He's an undersized lefty, but is advanced for his age with a solid fastball and two quality secondary offerings.

1. Michael Pineda, RHP
: 1/18/89
Height/Weight: 6-5/180
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: 2.22 ERA (77.0-67-17-78) at Double-A (13 G); 4.76 ERA (62.1-54-17-76) at Triple-A (12 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/changeup

Year in Review: After missing most of 2009 with elbow issues, the big Dominican bounced back as one of the most dominating starters at the upper levels of the minor leagues.
The Good: Pineda's combination of velocity and command is a rarity in the prospect world. He sits in the mid-to-upper 90s, can touch triple digits on occasion, and absolutely pounds the strike zone with the fastball. He gets good bite on a low-to-mid 80s slider, and he attacks hitters with the offering as opposed to relying on it solely as a chase pitch. His listed weight of 180 is an artifact from his early years, as he's filled out with a classic power-pitcher build that allows him to maintain his stuff late into games.
The Bad: Pineda's change-up needs more development, especially considering his lower three-quarters arm slot that gives left-handed hitters too long a look at his stuff. His history of arm problems is still a red flag for some, although he was healthy throughout 2010 with no velocity loss.
Ephemera: Pineda tended to start games with his best stuff, allowing just 12 hits over 25 first innings while striking out 27.
Perfect World Projection: With even an average changeup as a weapon against left-handers, Pineda could turn into a front-line starter.
Fantasy Impact: He could do it allstrikeouts, a low walk rate to keep the WHIP down, and an ERA helped by pitching in Seattle.
Path to the Big Leagues: While Pineda will get a long look this spring, he'll likely head back to Triple-A Tacoma to work on his off-speed stuff. Still, he should hit the big leagues at some point during the season.
ETA: 2011

2. Dustin Ackley, 2B
: 2/26/88
Height/Weight: 6-1/185
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, University of North Carolina
2010 Stats: .263/.389/.384 at Double-A (82 G); .274/.338/.439 at Triple-A (52 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/glove

Year in Review: The second overall pick in 2009 reached Triple-A in his full-season debut but rarely dominated as expected.
The Good: Ackley's potential to hit for a high average, when combined with an outstanding approach, could have him competing for OBP titles down the line. His swing is downright pretty, and he makes consistent hard contact to all fields. He's an above-average runner, especially from first to third, and he made slow-but-steady improvements at his new position.
The Bad: While it might not be fair, one of scouts' biggest gripes about Ackley is that he just didn't live up to expectations due to a lack of physicality. The power he showed in college disappeared in his transition to wooden bats. He's also not a burner as much as he's simply a plus runner, and he's not a real stolen-base threat. He's still a below-average second baseman, and his arm is poor. He needs to improve against left-handed pitchers, as he hit just .213 against them.
Ephemera: Ackley's father, John, a third-round pick in 1979, spent seven years in the Red Sox system from 1979-85, mostly as a catcher and topping out at Triple-A.
Perfect World Projection: The most important offensive statistic is getting on base, and Ackley should do just that, often flirting with .400 on-base percentages while hitting .300 with doubles power.
Fantasy Impact: He'll likely have far more value in the real world, as batting average could be his sole contribution in fantasy leagues.
Path to the Big Leagues: Ackley is close to the big leagues, but he still needs to work on his defense while continuing to work on his role as a table setter as opposed to a run producer. The Mariners still see him as a second baseman, so it's unlikely he'll show up in Seattle until the second half of the upcoming season.
ETA: 2011.

3. Nick Franklin, SS
: 3/2/91
Height/Weight: 6-1/170
Bats/Throws: B/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2009, Lake Brantley HS (FL)
2010 Stats: .281/.351/.485 at Low-A (129 G); .667/.750/.667 at Double-A (1 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/glove

Year in Review: This late first-round pick in 2009 was one of the biggest surprises in the Midwest League, not for having a good year but for leading the league with 23 home runs.
The Good: Franklin doesn't have a below-average tool, but it's his power that amazes scouts with every home run he hits. He's skinny and physically immature, yet he consistently drives the ball over the fence thanks to a loose swing that is loaded with leverage. “He's only 170 pounds,” says one Mariners official, “but he get's all 170 of those pounds into his swing.” While he sits dead red early in the count, he understands the strike zone well enough to work counts. He's an average runner with good instincts on the basepaths, and he has smooth actions defensively with a solid arm.
The Bad: Franklin's open stance and pre-swing load often leaves him tied up against leftieshe hit just .185 against them with two home runs in 135 at-bats. He's not a quick-twitch athlete, and his range is merely average, leaving some to expect a move to second base once his body matures.
Ephemera: Of Franklin's 23 home runs in 2010, more than one-third of them (eight) came in the first inning.
Perfect World Projection: He could be an offense-oriented everyday middle infielder but one without true defensive or speed weaknesses.
Fantasy Impact: Franklin should provide above-average power for the position he plays, as well as a handful of stolen bases.
Path to the Big Leagues: After playing one game at Double-A, Seattle isn't ruling out sending him back to Jackson to start the 2011 season should he impress this spring. Otherwise it's off to the friendly confines of High-A High Desert.
ETA: 2013.

4. Guillermo Pimentel, OF
: 10/5/92
Height/Weight: 6-1/180
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2009, Dominican Republic
2010 Stats: .250/.276/.451 at Rookie (51 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/defense

Year in Review: The $2 million international signee was as good as expected in his pro debut.
The Good: Pimentel's power falls into that special category, and the fact that he does it from the left side makes him all the more impressive. He combines bat speed with strength, natural loft, and backspin, and he's already capable of launching moon shots when he turns on a ball. He has a solid outfield arm and runs well once he gets going.
The Bad: Pimentel must tighten his approach, as he's a free swinger who is often prone to chasing. He drew just five walks in 184 at-bats during his pro debut. Unlike most seven-figure players from Latin America, he's not especially toolsy, and he'll likely be limited to left field once his thick frame fills out.
Ephemera: Remember when Sinead O'Connor tore up that photo of Pope John Paul II and created a big ruckus? Pimentel was born two days after that. Feel old yet?
Perfect World Projection: Pimentel could be a cleanup hitter with massive power.
Fantasy Impact: If he turns into the player scouts project, he'll certainly help in the home run and RBI categories.
Path to the Big Leagues: The rawness in Pimentel's game means that a full-season assignment in 2011 is a possibility, yet hardly guaranteed. He didn't turn 18 until after the regular season, and the Mariners can afford to be patient with him.
ETA: 2014.

5. Taijuan Walker, RHP
: 8/13/92
Height/Weight: 6-4/195
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Supplemental first round, 2010, Yucaipa HS (CA)
2010 Stats: 1.29 ERA (7.0-2-3-9) at Rookie (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Velocity/secondary pitches

Year in Review: The top 2010 pick for Mariners (43rd overall) signed late for $800,000 and impressed during a very brief pro debut.
The Good: Walker offers plenty to dream on. He's a tall, angular pitcher with smooth arm action that is loaded with projection. He sits in the low 90s right now, but most see a significant bump down the road now that he's dedicated to pitching. He's a phenomenal athlete who had Division I opportunities in football, which also speaks to his potential. He'll flash a plus curveball at times.
The Bad: Walker is still raw on the mound. He has trouble repeating his arm slot, which leads to command and control issues. He'll often lose snap on his curveball, while his changeup needs considerable work. More than anything, he just needs repetition and innings.
Ephemera: Yucaipa High School's most successful baseball alum is White Sox infielder Mark Teahen, and it is the only high school in California bearing the Thunderbirds for a team name.
Perfect World Projection: Walker's ceiling is through the roof, but he's so far from it that it's difficult to project exactly what he can be.
Fantasy Impact: See above. He's going to be a power pitcher, but the role and final project is far from being determined.
Path to the Big Leagues: The Mariners hope that Walker can show enough this spring to earn a full-season assignment to Low-A Clinton, but his innings will be monitored closely.
ETA: 2014.

6. Mauricio Robles, LHP
: 3/5/89
Height/Weight: 5-10/205
Bats/Throws: L/L
Drafted/Signed: 2006, Venezuela (Tigers)
2010 Stats: 4.11 ERA (114.0-102-51-120) at Double-A (22 G); 3.54 ERA (28.0-19-20-34) at Triple-A (5 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Velocity/command

Year in Review: Robles is a short left-hander who was acquired in 2009 from Tigers. He powered his way through the upper levels while tying  Pineda for the organizational lead in strikeouts.
The Good: Robles provides power stuff out of a small package. He can sit at 92-95 mph with his fastball that can touch 97 mph, while he also added a 88-92 two-seam fastball that has more cut than sink. His hard curveball features sharp break, and he showed considerable improvement with his change-up, which projects for many as an average pitch.
The Bad: Robles requires a max-effort delivery to produce his velocity and it comes at a significant cost in command and control. He can also be guilty of overthrowing his secondary offerings and losing movement. His size and mechanics are enough of a concern for some to project a future bullpen role.
Ephemera: In the first three innings of games at Tacoma, Robles walked three over 15 innings. After that, he issued 17 in just 13 frames.
Perfect World Projection: Scouts vary wildly on Robles, with some seeing him as a fourth starter with a possibility for more and others as a future eighth-inning reliever.
Fantasy Impact: Either way, he's not a stud who will put up big numbers as a starter or get saves out of the bullpen.
Path to the Big Leagues: Robles could get a look this spring as a reliever, but if the team is thinking more long-term, he'll return to Triple-A for more seasoning.
ETA: Late 2011

7. Dan Cortes, RHP
: 3/4/87
Height/Weight: 6-6/230
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: Seventh round, 2005, Garey HS (CA) (White Sox)
2010 Stats: 5.27 ERA (83.2-77-53-85) at Double-A (25 G); 4.97 ERA (12.2-13-4-13) at Triple-A (9 G); 3.38 ERA (5.1-3-3-6) at MLB (4 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Fastball/command

Year in Review: A consistent disappointment as a starter, Cortes came to life following a late-season transition to the bullpen, even getting to the big leagues.
The Good: Cortes' stuff jumped significantly in shorter stints, as his once plus-plus fastball turned into a 96-99 beast that occasionally scraped triple digits, while his height gives him a strong downward plane on his pitches. He throws both a hard low-80s curve and mid-80s slider, but the curve is the better pitch with late, downward break.
The Bad: Cortes employs a multi-part delivery that is hard to repeat, so he easily gets out of whack mechanically and loses the strike zone. His slider is more of an overthrown, slurvy version of his curveball and ineffective. As good as he was at the end of the year, he still has a limited track record of success.
Ephemera: Cortes was the first player drafted out of Garey High in Pomona, California in 22 years. The only other big-leaguer taken out of the school was Rich Coggins, who played for four teams over five seasons in the early 1970s.
Perfect World Projection: With more strikes, Cortes has the pure stuff to be a big-league closer.
Fantasy Impact: The hope is that he can turn into a player who gets saves; otherwise, his fantasy value is minimal.
Path to the Big Leagues: Cortes will go into the spring with every opportunity to earn a major-league bullpen job.
ETA: 2011

8. Kyle Seager, 2B
: 11/3/87
Height/Weight: 5-10/175
Bats/Throws: L/R
Drafted/Signed: Third round, 2009, University of North Carolina
2010 Stats: .345/.419/.503 at High-A (135 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Hit/power

Year in Review: Another second baseman drafted out of North Carolina in 2009, Seager had a breakout year in baseball's friendliest offensive environment, leading all minor leaguers in runs (124) and hits (192).
The Good: Seager is a sound hitter with a knack for putting the fat part of the ball on the bat. He has above-average bat speed and hand-eye coordination, and he hit .344 in games away from High Desert. He's a heady, instinctual player with nearly average speed who plays a fundamentally sound second base.
The Bad: Other than the bat, Seager's tools are a bit short. He has below-average power with little projection, and while he makes all of the plays on balls he gets to, he's not especially rangy at second base. Like most players who put up big numbers in the Cal League, scouts are reticent to put a big number on him until he proves it at a higher level.
Ephemera: In 2010 season, Seager had more games in which he reached base four or more times (nine), than those in which he didn't reach at all (seven).
Perfect World Projection: He could be a second-division starter or good utility player who hits for average.
Fantasy Impact: Other than the batting average department, Seager offers little fantasy value.
Path to the Big Leagues: Seager will face the big test at Jackson in 2011, but another big season will move him up this list.
ETA: Late 2012.

9. Blake Beavan, RHP
: 1/17/89
Height/Weight: 6-7/250
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: First round, 2007, Irving HS (TX) (Rangers)
2010 Stats: 2.78 ERA (110.0-100-12-68) at Double-A with Texas (17 G); 5.00 ERA (18.0-18-1-11) at Double-A with Seattle (3 G); 6.47 ERA (40.1-56-8-22) at Triple-A (7 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Control/velocity

Year in Review: The big strike thrower took big step forward at Double-A this year, but he struggled following a move to Seattle as part of the Cliff Lee deal.
The Good: A completely different product than what was expected when drafted three years ago, Beavan's stuff is no more than average, but everything about his game plays up due to outstanding command and control. His fastball sits at 88-91, while he mixes in an average slider. His changeup continues to improve, with some scouts grading it as a potential plus offering. He attacks hitters in the strike zone and has a big frame that's seemingly built to eat up innings.
The Bad: Beavan doesn't have an out pitch, and his need to constantly trick hitters led to some rough outings at Double-A. His secondary pitches are good enough to succeed, but at times he becomes too focused on his fastball. Some feel he needs to throw fewer strikes, as hitters know they can't get fooled outside the strike zone.
Ephemera: During his stint with Double-A Frisco prior to the trade, Beavan averaged just 4.1 pitches called balls per inning.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a consistent fourth or fifth starter who pitches 180-200 innings annually with an average ERA.
Fantasy Impact: He's not going to rack up a ton of wins or strikeouts, so it's very small.
Path to the Big Leagues: Beavan will begin 2011 back at Tacoma, but should get the call to the majors when the need arises if he continues to make adjustments.
ETA: 2011, with a more permanent role the following year.

10. Johermyn Chavez, OF
: 1/26/89
Height/Weight: 6-3/220
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Venezuela (Blue Jays)
2010 Stats: .315/.387/.577 at High-A (136 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Power/defense

Year in Review: Chavez is a power hitter who was acquired in the Brandon Morrow deal. He thrived in High Desert, batting .335/.410/.629 after the All-Star break while finishing second in the league with 32 home runs.
The Good: With a muscular frame and pull-oriented swing, Chavez has plus-plus power and hardly needs High Desert to hit a ball well over the fence. He's also a surprisingly sound hitter for a pure slugger, and he showed an improved approach at the plate in 2010. Beyond the power, his second-best tool is an outfield arm that ranks a tick above average.
The Bad: Chavez is prone to getting power hungry, leading to extended slumps and plenty of swings and misses. His speed is now below average and decreasing rapidly, which combined with poor routes and instincts will likely limit him to left field in the big leagues.
Ephemera: Chavez averaged one home run for every 13.5 at-bats with the bases empty, but that number dipped to one per 22.7 with runners on.
Perfect World Projection: He may be a left fielder with enough power to play every day.
Fantasy Impact: He's going to provide home runs but little else.
Path to the Big Leagues: Like Seager, Chavez needs to prove that 2011's numbers were for real with a strong showing at Jackson.
ETA: Late 2012

11. Alex Liddi, 3B
: 8/14/88
Height/Weight: 6-4/176
Bats/Throws: R/R
Drafted/Signed: 2005, Italy
2010 Stats: .281/.353/.476 at Double-A (134 G)
Best/Worst Tool: Arm/glove

Year in Review: Last year's breakout player put up solid numbers in Southern League as his game continued to grow.
The Good: Liddi is an impressive physical presence with enough strength in his swing to tie for the Southern League lead with 60 extra-base hits. He's improved his hitting ability significantly over the past two years, and due to his lack of experience, scouts still think there's room for improvement. He's not fast but runs well for his size, and his arm is a plus weapon.
The Bad: One scout put it best by saying, “Many things about Liddi are good, but nothing jumps out.” His long swing leaves him behind good velocity at times, and his power is unlikely to produce more than average home run totals. His defense was often described as “shaky” due to poor footwork and slow reactions.
Ephemera: In 87 at-bats as a first baseman or designated hitter, Liddi slugged .609 with nine doubles and five home runs.
Perfect World Projection: He could be a second-division starter at third base. If his defense forces a moves across the diamond, his value plummets.
Fantasy Impact: Liddi may be a nice late-round pick up in a good year.
Path to the Big Leagues: Liddi will move up to Tacoma in 2011, and while he still has considerable work to do, there is no obvious solution for Seattle at third base.
ETA: 2012

The Sleeper: A 20-year-old Nicaraguan righty, undersized Erasmo Ramirez can get into the low 90s while flashing a solid breaking ball, but it's his spectacular command that could help him move quickly.

Top 10 Talents 25 And Under (born 4/1/85 or later)
1. Felix Hernandez, RHP
2. Justin Smoak, 1B
3. Michael Pineda, RHP
4. Dustin Ackley, 2B
5. Nick Franklin, SS
6. Guillermo Pimentel, OF
7. Taijuan Walker, RHP
8. Michael Saunders, OF
9. Mauricio Robles, LHP
10. Dan Cortes, RHP

How amazing is it that Felix Hernandez is still eligible for this list after throwing more than 1,100 major-league innings? How about the fact that he'll be eligible for this list next year as well? For all the talk about him being an injury risk, he's made 30 or more starts in each of his five full seasons, and his stuff took no hit in 2010 as he pushed the 250-inning mark. Smoak certainly scuffled in the big leagues during the regular season, but the power and patience remained intact while scouts are still optimistic about his ability to hit in the middle of a big-league batting order. Saunders struggled throughout 2010, but youth and tools are on his side,leaving the possibility of developing into something of value.

Summary: After a miserable 2010 campaign, the Mariners have the kind of prospects that could help in the club's desperate need for run production, and with their pitching and defense, just a small jump forward in that department could help turn their fate around.