Inside The Park

Baseball\’s Future in the Emerald City

Seattle Mariners Prospects Nos. 11-30

Posted by JasonAChurchill on March 8, 2006

Hunter Brown is a manager's dream

11. Wladimir Balentien, OF – Balentien’s make-or-break year may be 2006 where he must make significant improvements in his plate discipline and pitch recognition. It’s okay to be a free swinger, Wlad, but you do have to make the pitcher work and cut down ont he empty plate appearances. Otherwise the 21-year-old’s power potential is a plus, possibly landing in the 30 range.

12. George Sherrill, LHP – Sherrill always starts off a bit slow, so ignore any crooked stat lines he puts up until May, including spring training. With an above average slider and a fastball that sits 88-92, Sherrill has a chance to have a pretty nice career from here on out. He’s nasty versus lefty bats (.156 BAA w/SEA in ;05) and will always have a job as long as he can neitralize the left-handers.

13. Rene Rivera, C – Rivera’s major league career will rely on his defensive skills to keep him afloat. There’s some pop in his bat, but his plate coverage is well-below average and like many 22-year-old catchers, he has trouble with the breaking ball. He has a strong throwing arm and has the skills to be an above average defender at the biog-league level. probably a career backup with a year or two as a starter a possibility in his prime.

14. Justin Thomas, LHP – Thomas ranks ahead of his fellow southpaw starters due to his above average fastball and change and a developing breaking ball. Sitting in the 87-91 range with his heater, Thomas has enough velocity to work down to his offspeed stuff. He can miss bats with his change and when he commands his breaking stuff, his fastball can be sneaky. He’ll get time in Wisconsin and/or Inland Empire this season.

15. Stephen Kahn, RHP – Kahn is a power righty that the club used exclusively in relief last summer after the 5th rounder inked a deal in July, but aren’t sure about his future. He possesses a plus fastball in the 91-94 range and curve ball that is also a plus pitch at times. But his command is average and his mechanics need some tweaking. Could be a future closer or setup man. As a starter he projects as a potential No. 3 arm. His role will determine where he begins 2006.

16. T.J. Bohn, CF – Most of Bohn’s value is wrapped in his speed and defense and the position he plays more often than not. The 6-foot-4 center fielder has a plus-plus throwing arm and the base running skills to swipe 30 bags a year. Offensively he must learn to extend his arm better to maximize his raw power. Bohn is likely a career reserve, but could be a very valuable one at that. He’ll begin the year in Triple-A Tacoma but could push for some big-league time at some point in 2006.

17. Sebastien Boucher, CF – Boucher has as much speed as anyone in the organization and displayed some pop in his stints with Wisconsin and Inland Empire. The Canandian-born 24-year-old will get his shot to prove his true value in Double-A San Antonio where he’ll likely move to left field so Adam Jones can continue to learn to play center. Boucher could be a sensational fourth outfielder in the mold of Stan Javier.

18. Ryan Feierabend, LHP – Feierabend’s peripherals scare some observers, especially the 186 hits he surrendered in just 150.2 innings of work. But the southpaw held batters to a .266 average after August 7 and his strikeout rates took a healthy spike during the second half of the season. The left-hander sits in the 86-90 mph range with his fastball, which is up from 2004. His curve ball improved greatly in ’05 giving Feierabend a reliable third pitch on top of his heater and change-up. He’s three years away, but developing nicely. Could be a No. 3 starter by 2008 or 2009.

19. Luis Valbuena, 2B – The Venezuelan led the Northwest League in homers and RBI at age 19, though his home park heavily favors the lefty bat with its short porch in right field. Valbuena has enough natural skills offensively to continue to develop into a major league hitter, but his defensive questions may hinder his advancement pace. With a thick lower trunk and average speed, he lacks range and the footwork to consistently make the plays at second base. He has time, however, and will report to Wisconsin to start the year.

20. Robert Rohrbaugh, LHP – Rohrbaugh is the most polished of arm the M’s drafted last June, showing a good, consistent fastball-changeup-curveball combo last season. After a solid stay with shortseason Everett, Rohrbuagh was called upon to help the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers in the postseason, a sign that he was still fresh even after a full college season and 68 innings in the Northwest League. He’s back-end starter with average overall stuff, but there’s more in his arsenal. He’ll need it in ’06.

21. Edgar Guaramato, RHP – Guaramato just missed the Top 20 and only because he was used in relief last season. But the 21-year-old posted 38 strikeouts in 37 innings to go with his iber-impressive G/F ratio of 2.74. The Venezuelan did have control problems that led to 24 walks. In a starting role, Guaramato’s ground ball tendencies are a valuable skill and could shoot him to Inland Empire quickly. He’ll begin ’06 in Wisconsin.

22. Emiliano Fruto, RHP – Fruto, 21, was given a ton of praise this winter when Baseball America ranked him the club’s No. 8 prospect, ahead of both Clint Nageotte and Rob Johnson – even though the system is thin, those are big words. BA claimed the M’s were ‘toying’ with the idea of reinserting Fruto back into the rotation, but that’s not happening, at least this season. Fruto has an above average curve ball and change and a low-90s fastball, but is inconsistent and almost tormenting with his erratic performances. He has the stuff to be a solid setup man. If his future is as a starter, he can eat innings and become a No. 3 or 4 starter. For now, he’s the M’s first call-up when they need a pure relief arm from Tacoma.

23. Oswaldo Navarro, 2B – Navarro has great hands, solid range and near-perfect footwork, making him among the best defensive middle infielders in the minors. Many like his fundamentals better than both Yuniesky Betancourt and Asdrubal Cabrera. Offensively, Navarro may end up with enough bat to get a peak at the bigs. He’s starting to mature physically, which will aid his offensive efforts. The 21-year-old will remain Matt Tuiasosopo’s double-play partner as he joins the 66ers of Inland Empire to start the 2006 season.

24. Thomas Oldham, LHP – Oldham had a rough April last spring, skewing his overall numbers to look somewhat mediocre. But his 3.67 ERA was good for 7th int he league by year’s end and he rebounded from the rough start to the season to win 13 games and post a 115-45 K/BB ratio. Oldham will return to San Antonio where his average fastball must be backed by a full arsenal of secondary pitches to ensure success for the 23-year-old. Oldham uses a cutter and a change and is developing a slider to use versus lefties. His curve ball is inconsistent but effective when thrown with command.

25. Hunter Brown, 3B – The Rice product is a jack-of-all trades, capable of playing first, second and his natural third base, while offering any club an emergency catcher. Brown posted a solid .814 OPS in his first taste of Triple-A baseball, despite coming off the bench for much of the year. Once he settled in, Brown was the team’s most consistent and productive bat. With a starting job, the 26-year-old is capable of hitting .290/.370 with 20 homer power. He bangs a lot of doubles into the gaps and led the team in that area in ’05, smacking 30 two-baggers in just 337 ABs. Brown could be a valuable member of the Mariners bench in the near future and offers plus work ethic, versatility and leadership skills.

26. Thomas Hubbard, 1B – Hubbard fought off the weather conditions early in the year to hit .297/.387/.496 with 17 homers and 25 doubles for Wisconsin. A capable defensive first baseman, Hubbard, 23, can also play some outfield, where his bat may ultimately play better. The former Tar Heels star could have a big year in the Cal League, where a certain fellow first baseman set team records for RBI in 2005.

27. Paul Fagan, LHP – Fagan, 20, had a solid shwing in Everett last season, holding batters to a .394 slugging percentage and inducing a solid G/F ratio of 1.91. Fagan offers a fastball in the 87-90 range and a curve ball that has the makings of a plus pitch. The M’s 4th rounder from the 2003 draft will likely report to Wisconsin to begin his ’06 campaign. Fagan’s ceiling is as a No. 3 or 4 starter. He has room for his fastball to grow behind his 6-foot-5 frame and could land in the bullpen.

28. Bryan LaHair, 1B – LaHair led the minors in RBI before leaving the non-playoff bound 66ers for Team USA in late August and September. The 23-year-old was the M’s 39th rounder in the 2002 draft and has put himself in a position to turn into a legit prospect with another big year in 2006. LaHair stands 6-foot-5 and 225 pounds and is solid around the bag at first and has a natural power swing with some upper cut. Leveling out his K/BB ratio would help both his batting average and power game. He could top out in the 25-homer range, but will need to clean up his approach and develop better plate coverage to stave off becoming an easy out in the upper minors. He’ll report to Double-A San Antonio in April.

29. Michael Saunders, RF – Saunders is a bit of a cult favorite around the city of Seattle after putting up solid numbers in Everett as an 18-year-old draft-and-follow signee. Saunders played right field and showed a good throwing arm with decent speed, though his instincts reflect his inexperience in the outfield after playing third base for much of amateur career. Saunders hit .270 with seven homers in 56 games with the AquaSox last summer but struck out an alarming 74 times in 196 ABs. He did draw 27 walks and post an OPS of .835 in a league where he was among the 10 youngest regulars. His long swing and lack of plate coverage need major improvements. Saunders will seek fame and fortune with Wisconsin in 2006.

30. Travis Blackley, LHP – Blackley’s ranking here at 30 was a tough one to come to. Labrum surgery can be death to a pitcher’s career and even though the 23-year-old was never a flamethrower, his velocity was very important to his offspeed pitches. He was ranked in the mid-40s until January when the horse’s mouth and then the entire farm crew made a point of how well he was throwing and how soon he may come back. When healthy, Blackley features a high-80s fastball, an above average change and two breaking balls; a curve he uses against righties and a slider he uses versus left-handed bats. His desire and work ethic may dig him out of a hole that nobody thought he”d come back from. He has a long road back still, but may see Triple-A Tacoma by mid-season. From there, his ceiling probably reverts right back to being a middle-rotation type starting pitcher.


5 Responses to “Seattle Mariners Prospects Nos. 11-30”

  1. Darn, I was hoping Andy Hargrove would crack the top 20, as I forecasted over at ITP!


  2. Jerry said

    Why no love for Mike Saunders? He is probably my favorite M’s prospect in the lower levels. I know that he has a lot to prove, but I am suprised he didn’t make the top 20. The K’s are a source of concern, but he is very raw and young, and really turned this around later in the season. I think that he and Tui are the best candidates to go off this year.

    I was wondering if you could comment on how you rank these guys. It seems like you have ranked safe bets (Brown, Bohn, Rivera) pretty highly, while guys who are farther away but potential to be impact players (Saunders, Valbuena, Kahn, Feierabend) are fairly low. It is nice to have guys like Brown, Bohn and Rivera around, but bench players are easy to acquire. I prefer the high ceiling guys, even if they have a lot of work to do.

    By the way, this site rocks. Nice work.

  3. Saunders, and to a lesser extent Valbuena, have abstract factors in their game that result in them getting less-than typical credit for their performance in league where they were among the youngest 10 percent.

    For Saunders, it’s his long swing and high strikeout totals. It’s not easy to adjust one’s long swing, just ask Ben Grieve. He had a long swing at 17, and was never able to fix it. So Saunders may have a lot of problems in that department.

    For Valbuena, it’s his physical stature and defensive abilities, which may force a slide to the outfield, where he has never played regularly.

    For both, their numbers are skewed from being left-handed hitters hitting in that ballpark which has the shortest porch EVER in right-center field.

    How do I rank these guys?

    Overall long-term value is the objective. How I get there is a mix of things.

    I look at physical tools, professional track record, age/exp vs. level, risk factor (including injuries) and position. Position is more imortant to me than others and it’s a simple thing to explain.

    It’s about value. A lefty hitting catcher with 30 HR power and average defense is certainly more rare and carries more overall value than the same exact thing at first base or left field. It’s very valuable at secnd, shortstop and center field, but I think catcher still ekes it out, by a hair, over shortstop, then center field and second base.

    The only reason why Brown, Bohn, Rivera rank so high is because the risk factor with them is low compared to others that may have ranked ahead of them. Sometimes a players’ upside doesn’t do enough to cancel out the risk and he gets a lower ranking because of it.

    So many things can happen to a 19-year-old in Low A ball. He can get hurt, develop bad mechanical habits at the plate or on the mound, or even develop bad work habits. With Prep and international FAs, they have no track record of anything.

    College players at least have a track record of play versus a pretty high level of compeitition, which lowers their risk of injury and habits.

    There are exceptions, such as Justin Upton, whose natural skills are unbelievable and his upside washes out most of the risk factor that comes with him – which is why he ranks so high on most lists. Ian and I have him in the top 5 of the MLB Top 100.

    Adam Jones had a lot of risk two years ago. He still carries more risk than players ranked below him, but his upside makes up for enough of them that he slides in behind Clement, easily.

    Last year he ranked 7th and that was based off of his natural abilities and a “decent” season with Wisconsin.

    He was very good in 2005 and is starting to build a record of success at a very young age. I think BA has him ranked way too low. He was 19 for half of last season and at age 20 he put up good numbers in Double-A against far more expeirenced and advanced pitching.

    I think another near-full year in AA will be good for Jones. That way he can race into Tacoma in 2007 and be prepared, both mentally and physically – at age 21 – to really put a hurtin’ on the PCL.

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