The Top Ten
- 1B/3B D.J. Peterson
- RF Alex Jackson
- 2B/SS Ketel Marte
- RF Gabriel Guerrero
- RHP Edwin Diaz
- C Tyler Marlette
- LHP Luiz Gohara
- RHP Victor Sanchez
- RHP Carson Smith
- OF Austin Wilson
1. D.J. Peterson
Height/Weight: 6’1” 190 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 1st round, 2013 draft, University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)
Previous Ranking: #2 (Org), #65 (Top 101)
2014 Stats: .261/.335/.473 at Double-A Jackson (58 games), .326/.381/.615 at High-A High Desert (65 games)
The Tools: 6 potential hit; 6 potential power
What Happened in 2014: Peterson clobbered his way through two levels, accumulating 61 extra-base hits in 547 plate appearances
Strengths: Masher; barrels up with frequency; strong hands/wrists; hard contact to all fields; line-drive swing with ability to backspin; home runs look like well struck four irons; goes gap to gap; excellent extension; keeps barrel in hitting zone; massive raw; long, high finish; attacks pitches he can hit early in the count; looks to do damage in every plate appearance.
Weaknesses: Likely will have to move to first base long term; stabs at balls; limited quickness and agility for third base; can be overly aggressive at the plate; tendency to lunge on off-speed pitches; pitch recognition needs improvement; stiff in field; takes time to get out of batter’s box.
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division third baseman
Realistic Role: 5; second-division first baseman
Risk Factor/Injury History: Medium; position switch possible.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It’s such a shame when a right-handed power hitting prospect ends up in Safeco, but Peterson is a good enough hitter that it shouldn’t empty out his fantasy value much. Even with the ballpark working against him, he can still be a high-end CI option in time, though his eligibility may hurt given that Kyle Seager should man the hot corner in Seattle for a while.
The Year Ahead: The former first-rounder has a propensity for hurting baseballs, and has done so since arriving on the scene. This season will be another year of refinement in the high minors with the potential for a taste of the major leagues. He’s going to stick at third for the time being, but evaluators believe that first base is going to be his final landing spot. While Peterson may not have the athleticism for the hot corner, he certainly is more athletic than most first baseman, and would play solid-average defense upon moving. With excellent feel for the barrel and the ability to make adjustments at the plate in short order, the bat should be a weapon, regardless of the defensive home. He’ll always have some swing and miss in his game, but he also possesses the potential to hit .280 with 25 bombs at the highest level. The stick is certainly ahead of the glove at present, and with the lack of right-handed power in the game—especially with the Mariners of late—he’ll be a sight for sore eyes in the middle of the lineup.
Major league ETA: 2015
2. Alex Jackson
Height/Weight: 6’2” 215 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 6th overall, 2014 draft, Rancho Bernardo HS (San Diego, CA)
Previous Ranking: NA
2014 Stats: .280/.344/.476 at complex-level AZL (24 games)
The Tools: 5+ hit; 6+ power; 6 arm
What Happened in 2014: Jackson got a small taste of professional ball and put up nice numbers in the fastball-heavy AZL
Strengths: Muscular build; strong base at the plate; ability to drive the ball pull side; excellent bat speed; uses the middle of the field; produces back spin; plus-plus raw; advanced feel for barrel; has plenty of reps against high-level amateur competition; athletic for size; plus arm strength with carry.
Weaknesses: Can struggle with horizontal spin; could put on bad weight; needs to improve reading ball off the bat in right field; needs to clean up outfield throwing motion and improve arm accuracy; swing can get leveraged; has struggled against plus-plus velo; profile is based on hit-tool manifestation.
Overall Future Potential: High 6; occasional all-star/first-division player
Realistic Role: 5; major-league regular
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; hasn’t played full-season ball.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If you’re looking for fantasy upside in the non-speed division, Jackson may have the highest potential of anyone in the 2014 draft class. However, the long lead time and the risk drops him just outside the top 50 dynasty prospects overall. He should go in the top half of the first round in dynasty drafts, even with the international signees mixed in, as a potential 30-homer outfielder with a hit tool.
The Year Ahead: The converted catcher is primed for reps in full-season ball. There’s the chance that he starts in extended spring training, but he has the chance to accumulate 400-plus plate appearances in Low-A Clinton during the 2015 campaign. Jackson drew rave reviews as the most polished high-school hitter of last year’s draft class, although some evaluators are split on his ultimate ceiling as an outfielder. There have been some whisperings of work-ethic concerns, stemming from his position switch from behind the plate. The college-heavy Midwest League, with its pitcher-friendly environment and cold weather will be a nice test for the teenage power hitter’s development. There is no question that Jackson possesses the innate bat-to-ball ability and strength to drive a baseball over the fence to be a consistent force in the middle of a big league lineup.
Major league ETA: 2018
3. Ketel Marte
Height/Weight: 6’1” 180 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2010, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: On the Rise
2014 Stats: .313/.367/.450 at Triple-A Tacoma (19 games), .302/.329/.404 at Double-A Jackson (109 games)
The Tools: 5+ potential hit; 6 run; 6 potential glove
What Happened in 2014: After a relatively pedestrian 2013 season in the Midwest and Cal Leagues, Marte took a step forward in development in the high minors. Some of his tools are starting to realize—slowly closing the gap between present and future.
Strengths: Sharp line-drive hitter; plenty of top spin on hard-hit balls; recognizes offerings out of the hand; natural bat-to-ball skills; major-league quality bat speed; fastball hitter; sprays balls all over the field; natural instincts; soft hands; steady around the bag; accelerates quickly out of the box; stretches singles into doubles; base-stealing instincts.
Weaknesses: Aggressive nature at the plate; limited over-the-fence power; likely will have to move to second base due to weak arm; lack of carry on throws can make immature plays; needs to get stronger; must develop approach from right side of the plate.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average regular
Realistic Role: Low 5; below-average starter, good utility player
Risk Factor/Injury History: Medium; has had upper-minors success
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: It may be a slight problem when your best position is the one at which Robinson Cano is signed for a billion years for a trillion dollars, but if Marte can hit, he should find a place in the lineup. At peak, Marte could be a .280 hitter capable of stealing 25 bases annually—but that type of player is more valuable as a middle infielder.
The Year Ahead: Marte’s game started to come together in 2014, and he rewarded the Mariners for an aggressive assignment to Double-A. He mastered the level, and got a taste of Triple-A—where he’ll start in 2015. Evaluators were extremely impressed with Marte’s feel for the barrel in addition to his game speed and quickness. There’s no reason to push the Dominican middle infielder off shortstop until absolutely necessary, especially with Robinson Cano manning the keystone in Seattle. However, scouts feel that the arm will ultimately deter him from playing shortstop on an everyday basis, and he’ll be a defensive weapon at second base. Marte will be waiting in the wings this season, so if he improves as much as he did during the 2014 campaign, Seattle will have a nice problem on their hands. At minimum, he figures to get a September call-up, as he’s already on the 40-man roster.
ETA: Late 2015
4. Gabriel Guerrero
Height/Weight: 6’3” 190 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Dominican Republic
Previous Ranking: #10 (Org)
2014 Stats: .307/.347/.467 at High-A High Desert (131 games)
The Tools: 6 power potential; 5 run; 5 glove; 6+ arm
What Happened in 2014: Guerrero put up solid numbers in the hitter-friendly Cal League, and is primed for a Double-A challenge.
Strengths: Long limbs; the highest of butts, possibility of adding more muscle as he fills out; wiry strong; smooth actions; loose hands/wrists; big-time bat speed; aesthetically pleasing at the plate; excellent hand-eye; baseball background/bloodlines; impressive arm strength that will be a weapon in either corner; can drive baseballs a mile in batting practice.
Weaknesses: BP power doesn’t always show up in games; dead-red hitter; struggles against off-speed offerings; limited plan of attack at the plate; gets behind in counts; expands the zone; approach could prevent raw power from playing at big-league level; thinks he can drive everything; risk to flame out in high minors
Overall Future Potential: 6; first-division regular
Realistic Role: High 4; low OBP, power-oriented platoon bat
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; approach concerns, no high-minors success.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: There’s plenty of risk here, but Guerrero also has plenty of what fantasy owners desire most: power. The odds of him turning into a 25-plus homer bat at the major-league level is small, and that’s not even including the chance of him turning into one that hits .220. He has more name/stat value than actual value at this point.
The Year Ahead: Guerrero took advantage of favorable Cal League conditions and put up impressive numbers for someone two-plus years below the median league age. However, Double-A will be a monstrous challenge for the 21-year-old outfielder. Not only will the hitting conditions worsen, but the High-A to Double-A talent jump is the second largest behind the major-league leap. Guerrero may hit a snag in development during this time, and it will be interesting to see how he reacts to failure. Pitchers will look to exploit his aggressive approach, and it may take some time to adjust. Yet, when your uncle is Vladimir Guerrero and you have one of the best bodies in the minor leagues coupled with impact power potential, it’s easy to imagine that Gabby will have plenty of chances to achieve major-league success.
Major league ETA: 2017
5. Edwin Diaz
Height/Weight: 6’2” 165 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 3rd round, 2012 draft, Caguas Military Academy (Caguas, PR)
Previous Ranking: #5 (Org)
2014 Stats: 3.34 ERA (116 IP, 96 H, 111 K, 42 BB) at Low-A Clinton
The Tools: 6+ potential FB; 6 potential SL
What Happened in 2014: Diaz enjoyed success in his first taste of full-season ball—making 24 starts and enjoying a 3.34 ERA over 116 innings.
Strengths: Easy arm action with extension; long fingers for pronation; loose wrist; fastball explodes at 91-95 MPH, darting in on RHH; boring arm-side run; snaps 80-84 mph slider with two-plane movement—pitch has depth and bat-missing ability; some room to fill out and increase fastball velo; improving feel for changeup.
Weaknesses: Big gap between present changeup and future, feel for pitch is limited at present; command comes and goes; needs to add strength; must spot fastballs to all four quadrants; has nagging injuries; inconsistent mechanical profile with inconsistent release point and crossfire.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; no 3/4 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; no 4/5 starter/late-inning reliever
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; low-minors arm.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Oh hey, look, it’s a pitcher in the Mariners’ system. That’s good for fantasy value. The downside is glaringly obvious with Diaz, as he has a long way to go in order to get a third pitch—and frankly, even with Safeco at his back, the upside isn’t much more than an SP4. He’s a worthy own if your league rosters 200 prospects.
The Year Ahead: Diaz will be tasked with a Cal League assignment—a pitcher’s nightmare. If he continues to keep the ball down and work off the fastball, he may not be as negatively impacted as other hurlers. The 20-year-old still offers a sizeable risk profile, as the changeup still lags firmly behind the other two offerings. There are recent examples of a two-pitch starter sustaining major-league success, however, the odds are stacked against the former third-rounder without the advent of the third pitch. The ingredients are apparent, and some evaluators preferred Diaz to virtually any arm in the Midwest League this past season. Yet, the gap between present and future utility remains, and he’ll have to take another step forward with command and the progression of the change up in 2015.
Major league ETA: 2017
6. Tyler Marlette
Height/Weight: 5’11” 195 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 5th round, 2011 draft, Hagerty HS (Oviedo, FL)
Previous Ranking: #9 (Org)
2014 Stats: .250/.333/.500 at Double-A Jackson (9 games), .301/.351/.519 at High-A High Desert (81 games)
The Tools: 5 potential hit; 5+ potential power; 6 arm
What Happened in 2014: The backstop had a strong offensive season in the Cal League, and finished with a taste of high-minors ball for the last couple weeks of the season.
Strengths: Highly competitive player; good makeup; solid-average power potential; whips bat through zone; improving receiving skills; creates backspin; thick legs, prototypical catcher build.
Weaknesses: Not a finished product defensively; must improve receiving/framing skills; aggressive at the plate; needs to make more regular hard contact; gap between present and future hit tool; swing can get long; sells out for power.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; solid-average major leaguer
Realistic Role: High 4; bat-first backup catcher
Risk Factor/Injury History: High; hit tool/defensive risk.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Marlette was one of the last cuts from the dynasty catcher list, mostly because the odds of him sticking behind the plate is lower than I want to see in fantasy catching prospects. The bat has enough to play in deeper leagues even if he has to move off the position, but he’ll have Safeco working against him. Expecting .260 with 15-18 homers is reasonable at peak.
The Year Ahead: Marlette has improved his stock in each of the last two years—as his raw tools have started to manifest into a potential major-league backstop. A converted infielder by trade, the fifth-round pick has made strides picking up the intricacies of the catcher position. Catchers typically take more time to develop defensively, and learning a very difficult defensive position can often slow the development of the bat. Impressively enough for Marlette, he’s mastered the low-minors with the stick, and will begin the challenge of an everyday assignment in Jackson for 2015. The high minors will present somewhat of a different obstacle as pitchers will look to take advantage of his aggressive approach while he’ll experience the physical demands that come with 100-plus games behind the plate. Even if Marlette stumbles in development this season he’s ahead of most catchers his age, giving him plenty of time to recoup his prospect stock.
Major league ETA: Late 2016
7. Luiz Gohara
Height/Weight: 6’3” 210 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2012, Brazil
Previous Ranking: #6 (Org)
2014 Stats: 8.20 ERA (37.1 IP, 46 H, 37 K, 24 BB) at short-season Everett, 2.19 ERA (12.1 IP, 11 H, 16 K, 2 BB) at complex-level GCL
The Tools: 6 potential fastball; 5+ potential CB/SL; 6 potential CH
What Happened in 2014: Gohara took a step backward in development—posting forgettable numbers in the Northwest League.
Strengths: Loose arm; fastball gets into the mid-90s; natural arm-side wiggle; can generate downward plane; life down in the zone; feel for changeup, rolls off his fingers; ability to snap off nice curve or slider, but will have to pick one moving forward.
Weaknesses: Mechanical inconsistencies; hardly any repetition against competition that can handle his raw stuff; body could get out of control; command needs to improve mightily; already a very large man at 18; huge gap between present and future; extremely raw.
Overall Future Potential: 6; no. 3 starter
Realistic Role: 5; no. 4/5 starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Extreme; no full-season ball experience
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: The southpaw had a rough statistical season, but it was a tough assignment. Still, with many owners possibly cutting him to make room for the next big thing, Gohara remains worth tracking in deeper dynasty leagues even though it will take a while for him to climb the developmental ladder.
The Year Ahead: Gohara hails from Brazil, and received $880,000, the largest amateur bonus of all time from the country. He doesn’t have the polish and requisite experience as many of the teenagers from other Latin American countries like the Dominican and Venezuela. The left-hander is more of a project than originally anticipated, especially from a body standpoint; in fact, keeping his build under control may be his biggest hurdle. At this point in time, Gohara is an extremely raw teenage arm that touches 96—not a bad foundation for a big-league starter. However, the Brazilian comes with plenty of inherent risk, and will likely go through crests and troughs in development before he comes to fruition.
Major league ETA: 2019
8. Victor Sanchez
Height/Weight: 6’0” 255 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: International Free Agent, 2011, Venezuela
Previous Ranking: #4 (Org)
2014 Stats: 4.19 ERA (124.2 IP, 128 H, 97 K, 34 BB) at Double-A Jackson
The Tools: 5 FB; 5+ potential CB; 5+ potential SL; 6 potential CH
What Happened in 2014: Sanchez skipped the Cal League and pitched at Double-A as a 19-year-old, having modest success and solid ratios.
Strengths: Plus fastball command potential; throws both two- and four-seam fastball for strikes; arm-side run on fastball; works 88-93, often adding and subtracting; can manipulate within the zone; slider is just a harder version of curveball, slurvy-type pitch that can miss barrels; excellent feel and fade on change; plus feel for a teenager; short, quick, repeatable arm swing and delivery; advanced sequencing; stays within himself; has plan of attack; nice posture at release.
Weaknesses: Weight is an obvious concern; rotund build; not much room for error with offerings; doesn’t have live arsenal; fastball can flatten when up; needs to continue to hold velocity late into games; can sometimes lose angle due to height; work ethic often questioned.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; low no. 3/high no. 4 starter
Realistic Role: Low 5; back-end starter
Risk Factor/Injury History: Medium; bad body, advanced pitchability.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Sanchez has a profile built for Safeco, as he won’t be the type to rack up large strikeout numbers at the major-league level and a big park will suppress what will likely be home-run tendencies. He’s a better roster spot in deep leagues at this point, but he’s also a name for AL-only owners to remember.
The Year Ahead: Sanchez will likely see plenty of time in the hitter-friendly PCL, where his fly-ball tendencies may adversely affect his numbers and he’ll look to improve on modest success from 2014, when he took a step forward with control and command. While he doesn’t have any offerings that project to baffle major-league hitters, he also doesn’t have many weaknesses either. An adept comparison would be Livan Hernandez—both from a physical and results-oriented standpoint. He projects to be a pitcher who can provide a steady but unassuming performance every fifth day. Even though Sanchez is often downgraded for his body, his delivery is simple and repeatable, with a short arm swing that allows him to command the fastball with regularity. While it’s not the prototypical major-league starter kit, Sanchez has all the ingredients to become successful big-league arm.
Major league ETA: 2016
9. Carson Smith
Height/Weight: 6’6” 215 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 8th round, 2011 draft, Texas State University (San Marcos, TX)
Previous Ranking: Factor on the Farm
2014 Stats: 0.00 ERA (8.1 IP, 2 H, 10 K, 3 BB) at major-league level, 2.93 ERA (43 IP, 44 H, 45 K, 13 BB) at Triple-A Tacoma
The Tools: 6+ FB; 6 SL
What Happened in 2014: Smith started slowly, while eventually adding velocity and crispness as the season wore on. He achieved the major-league level and projects to begin this season in the Mariners bullpen.
Strengths: Fastball has life, thrown in the 94-97 mph range; low three-quarters delivery is very difficult for right-handed hitters to pick up; fastball bores in on same-side hitters; very difficult to square; can manipulate speed on slider from 82-88 mph; hard, two-plane break; mixes in a changeup that fades away from lefties for different look.
Weaknesses: Often starts season slowly, velocity was 90-93 in first two months; can get on side of slider for frisbee-like action; propensity to lose fastball command; lefties can pick him up from current arm angle.
Overall Future Potential: High 5; late-inning relief
Realistic Role: Low 5; 7th inning
Risk Factor/Injury History: Low; already achieved major-league level.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: Relief profiles and fantasy leagues make poor bedfellows. Smith could find himself racking up holds as soon as this season, but saves are unlikely to be in his near future.
The Year Ahead: A safe bet to play a large role in the Mariners 2015 bullpen, Smith has nothing left to prove at the minor-league level. He’s simply too overpowering at this point, and it’s time to get a taste of the big show. At 6-foot-6 with long limbs, Smith’s ball can jump on opposing hitters. If he can continue to improve his command while manipulating the fastball around the zone, he’ll wreak havoc on righties going forward. His slider will cause problems for same-side hitters, and at the very least, he’ll be asked to attack opponent’s best right-handed options in the late innings. Smith sports mostly a two-pitch arsenal—his fastball and slider comprising of 90 percent of his offerings—with his changeup rounding out the remaining 10 percent according to Brooks Baseball. The righty looks like a solid bet to strike out better than a batter an inning in his prime, and could boast impressive ratios out of the bullpen.
Major league ETA: Debuted in 2014
10. Austin Wilson
Height/Weight: 6’4” 249 lbs
Drafted/Acquired: 2nd round, 2013 draft, Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA)
Previous Ranking: NR
2014 Stats: .291/.376/.517 at Low-A Clinton (72 games)
The Tools: 6+ raw; 6 arm; 5 glove
What Happened in 2014: Wilson missed time due to injuries, but accumulated 299 plate appearances in a league where he performed as expected—brutalizing pitchers with the type of arsenal that he can handle.
Strengths: Giant human; brute strength; decent athlete for size; plus raw power, swing is geared to loft balls out of the park; hard contact when he connects; pull-side power; plus arm strength, can make all the throws; aptitude for the game.
Weaknesses: Maintaining large body may be difficult going forward; issues with pitch recognition against arm-side pitching; susceptible to spin; converting strength and raw pop to usable game power; high swing-and-miss rate; swing can get long, leveraged; inconsistent swing path via long levers; feasts on mistakes; run will slow as he ages; needs to stay on the field.
Overall future projection: 6; first-division player
Realistic role: High 4; weak-side platoon power bat, extra outfielderRisk: High; big gap between present and future hit-tool utility.
Bret Sayre’s Fantasy Take: If it feels like there’s a lot of power in this system that may or may not ever see the major leagues in a meaningful capacity, it’s because there is. Wilson has plenty of upside, and will likely boost his stock in the Cal League this year, but his 30-homer potential is legitimate—and could make for a good value stock at this point.
The Year Ahead: When Wilson was on the field, he put up impressive statistics in a league not conducive for offense. However, he was only able to accrue about 300 plate appearances, so at this point, it’s getting late early for the former second-rounder. Already entering his age-23 season without having played above Low-A, the outfielder is going to have to make adjustments, and in a hurry, in order to get to the major-league level while he is still in his physical prime. Unfortunately for prospect evaluators and Wilson, short of falling on his face, his Cal League stop does nothing to make his future less murky. If the prospect goes to the hitting paradise and succeeds, it’s expected. Yet, if he performs just slightly above league average, then he won’t receive credit. Essentially, a fly-ball oriented college power hitter is dropped in a no-win situation. As it has for many other right-handed corner power-hitting prospects before him, it all hinges on the hit tool and the ability to make adjustments against high-level arms, especially arm side.
Major league ETA: 2017
Prospects on the Rise:
1. OF Tyler O’Neill: O’Neill posted a superb .466 slugging percentage in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League, although he did whiff 32 percent of the time. A very strong player with thick forearms and chest, the outfielder’s power comes from both bat speed and leverage. The ball jumps off his bat, especially to the pull side. An aggressive competitor, he’ll have to let the game come to him a bit more, and not become frustrated with failure. O’Neill missed a chunk of this past season due to a self-inflicted injury—punching a wall—and needless to say, the wall won. His hit tool will act as the gatekeeper between a career as a regular and up-and-down bat. The Canadian-born outfielder plays with a balls-to-the-wall mentality on every play. Sometimes that can be detrimental to his development, though, as evidenced by his hand injury. He’ll need to cut down on the swing and miss going forward, and look for better pitches to drive to the gaps. A taste of the Cal League may be a hindrance to his development if he’s not careful, as the strong corner outfielder will likely lift 25-plus home runs in the light air. Double-A will be the ultimate test for O’Neill, as it is for many prospects, but that won’t come until 2016.
2. 3B Greifer Andrade: On name tool alone, this is a plus-plus prospect. I know this may shock you, but he’d be the first Greifer to ever play in the major leagues. In fact, he may be the only Greifer to ever have Greifered. While names are important, Andrade’s on-the-field tools are the second most intriguing thing about him. Signed for just over $1 million in the 2013 class, the barely 18-year-old Venezuelan has innate bat-to-ball ability, and has solid-average regular potential—likely at third base, despite his time spent at short in Venezuelan Summer League this past season. A converted outfielder, he projects to hit enough to warrant a gig at the hot corner, and his line-drive swing coupled with gap power could move him onto the top ten in 2015.
3. LHP Ryan Yarbrough: Baseball seems to run in the Yarbrough family, as Ryan’s brother Alex is a second-base prospect in the Angels organization. Selected in the fourth round of the 2014 draft, the 6-foot-5 left-hander was a senior sign out of Old Dominion after the Mariners went over slot with their first two picks. He proceeded to put up inappropriate numbers in short-season ball, delivering 58 strikeouts and just five walks over 42.2 innings of work. Inexperienced hitters were overmatched by his deceptive 87-92 MPH fastball and potential big-league quality breaking ball. The advent of a changeup will help round out the arsenal, but at the very least, Yarbrough could be an interesting left-handed relief option down the line.
Factors on the Farm (Prospects likely to contribute at the ML level in 2015):
1. C John Hicks: Though the Mariners look to be relatively set at catcher this season, it’s never a bad thing to have a capable backstop waiting in the wings. Hicks bat has steadily improved since being selected in 2011, but the calling card is solid-average defense behind the plate. While he only has fringy arm strength, a quick transfer and quick feet keep his pop times below 2.0 seconds consistently. His receiving and blocking skills grade out as potential major-league average—enough to keep a job in the big leagues for a few years. Backup catchers are never sexy, but can be valuable pieces to an organization, and Hicks may play that role with Seattle in short order.
2. 1B/OF Patrick Kivlehan: A former football player at Rutgers, Kivlehan decided to try his hand at professional baseball, and has made himself into a potential major-league player. While he doesn’t have much natural feel for the game, that’s not unexpected, as he’s only focused solely on baseball for the last three years. An extremely strong kid with plus raw power, Kivelhan has an aggressive approach and stiff actions, preventing him from making regular hard contact. His swing is flat, leading him to only hit balls up in the zone with any authority. He primarily feasts on mistakes at this time, typically consisting of thigh-high fastballs, cement-mixing sliders, and hanging changeups. The arm strength is impressive, but he’s unable to provide utility, as it’s often inaccurate. Kivlehan seems primed for a bench corner-outfield/first-base role, and he may provide some pop along the way.
3. OF Leon Landry: Small sample size, but Seattle sure does love their converted football players, huh? What with Austin Wilson built like one, Tyler O’Neill acting like one, plus Kivlehan and Landry, we’re only seven guys away from a competitive squad. Landry is a superb athlete, but is just starting to refine his quick-twitch nature into his baseball game. He has more than enough speed and quickness to play centerfield, and is beginning to take better routes to the ball, especially going back over his head. Coming in on balls is not a problem at this time, as he’s able to instinctually react. A left-handed hitter, Landry’s approach at the plate is contact-oriented, and he looks to spray the ball and leg out hits. His baserunning is a work in progress, but he routinely clocks 4.0 second times to first, putting pressure on the opposing defense. While the three-sport prep star will never hit enough to be a regular, he may contribute as an extra outfielder who can provide speed and solid-average centerfield defense.
Top 10 Talents 25 and Under (born 4/1/89 or later)
- Taijuan Walker
- D.J. Peterson
- Alex Jackson
- Mike Zunino
- Brad Miller
- Chris Taylor
- Ketel Marte
- Gabriel Guerrero
- Edwin Diaz
- Tyler Marlette
Last season saw the Mariners take a step forward, due in large part to inking second baseman Robinson Cano to a 10-year megadeal. With 16 more wins in 2014 than 2013, the Mariners crept to the top of the division for a time, and were only one game out of a potential play-in-to-the-play-in Wild Card game. While Cano and Felix Hernandez carried the team close, they still relied on some quality youth to keep them competitive, and they have some more on the way.
Despite shoulder bursitis in camp and during the season that sidelined him a total of 63 games, Taijuan Walker still managed a combined 120 innings between four levels. Before the 2014 season, Walker looked poised to join Seattle’s rotation alongside Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma that could have been deadly. While it didn’t quite work out that way, Walker is healthy and ready to go for 2015; and if his last start of the season is an indicator (8.0 IP, 4 H, 1 BB, 6 Ks) he could break out in a big way.
Mike Zunino struggled with the hit tool all season, batting only .199 with a .254 on-base percentage, but he did slug 22 home runs and stole 149 extra strikes according to Brooks Baseball. While not a star player that some would expect being a former first-round pick, Zunino provides value with his power and his glove and he will be 24 years old all season long. Given the positional value he brings and the optimism of his youth, he’s a pretty solid player when it’s all put together and could still improve with repetitions.
Brad Miller and Chris Taylor will forever be mentioned in the same breath, as Taylor replaced the struggling Miller in late July and never really looked back, batting a solid .287/.347/.346—albeit with a .398 BABIP. Even though he provided almost no power, Taylor’s ability to put together a good at-bat along with plus defense kept him penciled into the shortstop position for the rest of 2014. This season could be very interesting, because the consensus is Miller has the higher offensive potential with comparable defensive abilities. The Mariners website has Taylor listed the no. 1 shortstop on their depth chart, but I think the spring will sort out the winner of the battle—at least for the start of the season.
Overall, the Mariners have some solid talent on the major-league roster who will make a difference shortly. Most of their minor-league talent is a couple years away, with the exception of D.J. Peterson, and they lack true all-star level talent. Still, they have talent that can make a mark on the major-league team—just give it some time. –Chris Rodriguez
A Parting Thought: The Mariners have clearly devoted resources to importing right-handed power hitters, though many with miss in their swings. They've started to make a splash in the international market, which could manifest at the low levels in short order.
Thank you for reading
This is a free article. If you enjoyed it, consider subscribing to Baseball Prospectus. Subscriptions support ongoing public baseball research and analysis in an increasingly proprietary environment.Subscribe now