Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

S2S 2012 Team Prospect Lists: Seattle Mariners

Most minor league sites will do top-10s, top-15s, top-20s, or some other ranking. Last year, to be a bit different, the FanSided team prospect lists (which were done at Call to the Pen, since S2S didn’t exist), instead listed a team’s top prospect at each position (C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, 3 OFs, 5 SPs, and 2 RPs). This year, we’re keeping that format, but also adding a “Best of the Rest” section that lists the top ten players beyond the positional rankings. That’s 25 players per system, if you’re counting.

Seattle Mariners

The Mariners had six prospects in my top 60 this year, which is a heck of a nice backbone. Beyond that, the depth isn’t particularly great, but there are several intriguing high-risk, high-reward players in the lowest levels of the minors. They could use more depth at catcher and second base, and the pitching has a fairly sharp dropoff after the top six or so arms. In a lot of ways, this is a similar system to the A’s, with a number of big headliners (especially on the pitching side) but merely average in other areas.

Position Player Upside: B+
Position Player Depth: B-
Pitching Upside: A
Pitching Depth: B-
System Grade: B+

Catcher: Jesus Montero. We don’t have DHs on these team lists, and it would be weird to list somebody like Tyler Marlette here and have Montero in the Best of the Rest section, so I’ll reluctantly call him a catcher for these purposes. Of course, there’s little chance he’ll spend much time at the position in the big leagues, as he’ll mostly DH. I’ve compared his career path to Billy Butler‘s before, and I still think it’s a legitimate comparison, as he’ll need to reach another level with the bat to fulfill the star projection many others throw on him. Grade: A-

First base: Dennis Raben. Raben put up huge numbers in High Desert, but he was repeating the level, High Desert is a hitter’s haven, and first base prospects in general are usually very bad bets. It’s hard to completely dismiss a career .306/.382/.581 hitter, but if he’s going to make a dent in the prospect map, he needs to keep hitting at those levels in Double-A this year. Grade: C

Second base: Stefen Romero. Romero hit .280/.342/.462 in Low-A, which is nice, but there are some issues. First, he was old for the level at 22; second, his defense at second leaves a lot to be desired. He also has experience at third and the outfield corners, so perhaps he can become a sort of righthanded Rob Mackowiak. He’ll need to move quickly, and won’t be taken seriously until he conquers Double-A. Grade: C

Third base: Francisco Martinez. Martinez spent his entire age-20 season in Double-A and didn’t embarrass himself, hitting .289/.321/.426. His plate approach needs a lot of work, and like most young third basemen, he has defensive polishing to do, but he has the potential to become a solid starter at the position on both sides of the ball. Grade: B-

Shortstop: Nick Franklin. Franklin didn’t get too much of a chance to build on his breakout 2010, and some were disappointed with his results in the 88 games he did play, but there’s really no cause for alarm here. He kept up his solid approach at the plate, improved his efficiency on the bases, and still showed good power for a middle infielder, all the while reaching Double-A at age 20. He needs to cut down on his miscues at short, or else he’ll end up at second, but he could make for a valuable starter at either middle infield spot. Grade: A-

Outfielder #1: Vinnie Catricala. It’s unclear where exactly this four-corners player will end up defensively, but I believe the most likely situation is that he ends up in the outfield. There’s no questioning his bat, as he crushed the ball in High Desert (.351/.421/.574), but actually was even better in a much less crazy Double-A environment (.347/.420/.632). He’s the complete package offensively and should form a dynamite middle-of-the-order tandem with Montero, though neither will add much of anything on defense. Grade: B+

Outfielder #2: Phillips Castillo. Castillo was born in 1994, which makes even me feel old, and he hit .300/.366/.482 in the Arizona Summer League in 2011. He needs to dramatically cut his strikeout rate, and he’s already mostly confined to left field, but he could become a very intriguing player. Obviously, caution is warranted, as he’s light years away. Grade: B-

Outfielder #3: Guillermo Pimentel. Pimentel has tremendous power for a teenager, but his approach is very raw. Like Castillo, he doesn’t project as a player who will make exceptional contributions in defense or baserunning, so he’s on the Wily Mo Pena career path–if he gets his K/BB ratio better than 3/1, he should work out; if not, he won’t. Like Castillo, a high-risk, high-reward player who could become a well-above-average player or flame out in Double-A. Grade: C+

Starting Pitcher #1: Taijuan Walker. As an 18-year-old, Walker totally dominated Low-A, with a well-deserved 2.89 ERA and 10.5 K/9. He needs better command and could stand to smooth out his delivery, and his changeup needs to come around, but he has a tremendous fastball/curve combination, good athleticism, and some projectability left. He could be viewed as a truly elite prospect a year from now. Grade: A-

Starting Pitcher #2: James Paxton. He was 22, but Paxton’s season was remarkable, as he struck out over twelve batters per nine innings between Low-A and Double-A, actually pitching better at the latter level. A huge lefty with two plus pitches and the ability to drive the ball down in the zone, he just needs more consistency with his delivery and an improved changeup–if those come together, he could quickly establish himself as a premier lefthanded pitcher. Grade: A-

Starting Pitcher #3: Danny Hultzen. While he has yet to throw a pro pitch, Hultzen is probably more advanced than the two pitchers above him. The second overall pick in 2011, he probably doesn’t have quite as much upside as either Walker or Paxton, but that’s really nitpicking, as he could very well evolve into a quality #2 starter in the John Danks tier of lefties. Grade: A-

Starting Pitcher #4: Brandon Maurer. Maurer’s another big guy, at 6’5″, and he brings an above-average fastball and breaking ball to the mound. He was dominant in Low-A as a 20-year-old before moving up to High Desert and struggling in their launching pad of a ballpark. Even there, he maintained a 3.36 K/BB ratio. Like the three pitchers above him, he has yet to top 100 innings in a season, and needs to start proving his durability. While he’s not in the same tier, he’s a strong sleeper who could end up as a quality mid-rotation arm. Grade: B

Starting Pitcher #5: Erasmo Ramirez. A short, stocky changeup artist, Ramirez could easily be mistaken for Yusmeiro Petit 2.0, but he offers a bit more velocity and doesn’t have Petit’s flyball issues. While he’s nearly a foot shorter and quite possibly weighs more, he has some Doug Fister-ish attributes statistically, in particular with his extremely low walk rates and solid strikeout ability. He’s not likely to be the next Fister, but he could be a righthanded version of Dallas Braden, and he could be ready to play that role in 2012. Grade: B

Relief Pitcher #1: Chance Ruffin. Ruffin sped to the majors in his first pro season and struck out 18 batters in 17 2/3 innings. He doesn’t have the world’s best control, but his fastball/slider mix is more than good enough to work in the majors. He might not be an elite reliever, but he should have a long career of high-leverage work. Grade: B-

Relief Pitcher #2: Stephen Pryor. Pryor, like Ruffin, has seen his control waver at times, but he could probably get some punchouts in the bigs as early as April. He’s a very large pitcher with two effective offerings who should be an effective middle reliever–think the 2007 version of Andrew BrownGrade: C+

Best of the Rest

#1.) Victor Sanchez, RHP. Sanchez was considered by most to be the top Venezuelan prospect in the 2011 international free agent class, signing with Seattle for $2.5 million. He doesn’t have the hulking size of Walker, Paxton, or Maurer, but he reportedly already fires in the low 90’s and has impressive feel for pitching for a teenager. Obviously, he could turn into just about anything. Grade: B-

#2.) Brad Miller, SS. A second-round pick in 2011, Miller might be the new Jedd Gyorko, as a college shortstop who can really hit but clearly won’t stick at the position defensively. He immediately went 22-for-53 in Low-A, and his bat is very polished, but he isn’t smooth in the field. In a lot of ways, he evokes Adrian Cardenas, another player with an excellent feel for contact but whose limitations have prevented him from seizing an MLB job. Miller could move quickly, though, and if he finds a defensive home that won’t require him to be a power hitter, he could settle in as a very solid player. Grade: B-

#3.) Chih-Hsien Chiang, OF. For much of the season, Chiang was the best hitter in the Eastern League, but he fell apart late in the year after a trade to Seattle; he then rebounded somewhat in the Arizona Fall League. A former second baseman, he plays a decent right field, and he does a good job of making hard contact from the left side, ripping 44 doubles in 2011. Safeco Field isn’t a good park for lefthanded doubles hitters, and Chiang’s home run power and plate discipline are middling, so he may be confined to a platoon/bench role. Grade: C+

#4.) Alex Liddi, 3B. Liddi gets a lot of hype, but he’s coming off a year where he was a below-average hitter in the PCL (98 wRC+). He struck out 26.7% of the time in Triple-A and whiffed 17 times in 44 MLB plate appearances. He’s basically a poor man’s Mark Reynolds, with some homer power, plate discipline, and third base defense, but not enough of any to really offset the strikeout issues. Grade: C+

#5.) Carter Capps, RHP. A third-round pick in 2011, Capps is a big righthander who works off a hard sinker and a solid slider. A converted catcher, he has a better feel for pitching than most late converts, but he lacks a changeup and is still honing his command, and many believe he’s a future relief pitcher. He could have a lot of upside in that role, but could also evolve into a solid starter if he gets more efficient and comes up with a third pitch. Grade: C+

#6.) Martin Peguero, SS. Here’s another international prospect who is very young and has a nice feel for contact, but could stand to learn how to walk every so often. Peguero hit .279/.309/.382 in the AZL, which is impressive for a 17-year-old. He’s very raw defensively, fielding just .894 last year, and could have to move when his frame fills out. An interesting sleeper whose career could go in a number of different directions. Grade: C+

#7.) James Zamarripa, OF. Here’s another 17-year-old who wasn’t completely overmatched in the AZL (.266/.329/.331). Zamarripa, a sixth-round pick in 2011, is a center fielder without an overwhelming tool but without any big drawbacks. He has plenty of time to develop (and we know from Rany Jazayerli’s fascinating work on the subject that younger draftees tend to outperform their draft slot), and looks like a potential fourth outfielder. Grade: C+

#8.) Daniel Carroll, OF. Carroll stole 62 bases, hit 18 home runs, and worked 88 walks in 2011–that’s the good news. The bad news is that he’s a 22-year-old left fielder who was playing in High Desert, and he struck out 157 times in 131 games. He made tremendous strides in his plate discipline in 2011, but it seems far-fetched to believe he’ll curb his strikeout rates to a level where he’ll be a useful starter at a corner position. Grade: C

#9.) Steve Landazuri, RHP. A 22nd-round pick in 2010, Landazuri had a nice age-19 season in the Northwest League, striking out nearly a batter per inning and coaxing a 3.63 FIP. He lacks ideal size and stamina and thus may move to the bullpen down the road, but he has a chance to remain a starter thanks to his low-effort mechanics. A very deep sleeper, but a pitcher who has a chance of contributing down the line. Grade: C

#10.) Tony Butler, LHP. You may remember Tony Butler–but probably don’t–as a big part of the Erik Bedard trade. Butler was horrendous in the Orioles organization, was listed as “retired” for much of 2010 before coming back to struggle again in a few innings with the Brewers organization, and then resurfaced in 2011 back in Seattle and was back in decent form, with a 3.14 ERA between the NWL and MWL (with peripherals to match). After all of his struggles, he’s still just going to be 24 for the entire 2012 season, so there’s time for him to rebuild his career. Back in the day, the 6’7″ lefty terrorized hitters with a fastball/curve combination not too dissimilar from what Paxton brings to the table now. He’s never made it through 100 innings in a season, so he needs to show he can stay healthy, and he also needs to coordinate his delivery (no small feat given his long limbs) on a more consistent basis. He almost certainly won’t be the impact arm he was once supposed to be, but if he can finally gain some traction in his career, he could end up back on the prospect map. Grade: C

The complete list of S2S 2012 Team Prospect Rankings can be found here.

For more on the Mariners, check out SoDo Mojo.

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Tags: Alex Liddi Brad Miller Brandon Maurer Carter Capps Chance Ruffin Chih-Hsien Chiang Daniel Carroll Danny Hultzen Dennis Raben Erasmo Ramirez Francisco Martinez Guillermo Pimentel James Paxton James Zamarripa Jesus Montero Martin Peguero Nick Franklin Phillips Castillo Seattle Mariners Stefen Romero Stephen Pryor Steve Landazuri Taijuan Walker Tony Butler Victor Sanchez Vinnie Catricala

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