Seattle Mariners Top 20 for 2011
All grades are EXTREMELY PRELIMINARY and subject to change. Don't get too concerned about exact rankings at this point, especially once you get past the Top 10. Grade C+/C guys are pretty interchangeable depending on what you want to emphasize.
Feel free to critique the list, but use logic and reason rather than polemics to do to. The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2011 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders. Order early and order often!
QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS:
Grade A prospects are the elite. They have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Almost all Grade A prospects develop into major league regulars, if injuries or other problems don't intervene. Note that is a major "if" in some cases.
Grade B prospects have a good chance to enjoy successful careers. Some will develop into stars, some will not. Most end up spending several years in the majors, at the very least in a marginal role.
Grade C prospects are the most common type. These are guys who have something positive going for them, but who may have a question mark or three, or who are just too far away from the majors to get an accurate feel for. A few Grade C guys, especially at the lower levels, do develop into stars. Many end up as role players or bench guys. Some don't make it at all.
A major point to remember is that grades for pitchers do NOT correspond directly to grades for hitters. Many Grade A pitching prospects fail to develop, often due to injuries. Some Grade C pitching prospects turn out much better than expected.
Also note that there is diversity within each category. I'm a tough grader; Grade C+ is actually good praise coming from me, and some C+ prospects turn out very well indeed.
Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment for my full opinion about a player, the letter grade only tells you so much. A Grade C prospect in rookie ball could end up being very impressive, while a Grade C prospect in Triple-A is likely just a future role player.
Seattle Mariners Top 20 Prospects for 2011
1) Michael Pineda, RHP, Grade A: I love him. Future number two starter if he stays healthy.
2) Dustin Ackley, 2B, Grade A-: Borderline B+. Went back and forth on this one, but I saw him in the Arizona Fall League and he looked like the player he was supposed to be coming out of college. I will let this grade from last year ride. He generates a wide variety of opinion but I'll stick with the optimists.
3) Nick Franklin, SS, Grade B: Borderline B+, would get that if I was convinced he could stay at shortstop. Love the bat.
4) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Grade B-: Raw, but I love the upside.
5) Mauricio Robles, LHP, Grade B-: Command concerns preclude higher grade, but I like him and think he is a bit overlooked on a national basis.
6) Alex Liddi, 3B, Grade B-: His season with the bat was actually slightly better than 2009, once you account for league and park contexts. There is some concern about the glove, but I like his trendlines.
7) Guillermo Pimentel, OF, Grade C+: Youth and power stand out, but quite raw with a risk that he never gets the strike zone under control.
8) Johermyn Chavez, OF, Grade C+: As with many Mariners prospects, the High Desert question precludes a higher grade until we see him in Double-A.
9) Kyle Seager, 2B, Grade C+: Polished and I think he'll hit at higher levels, but a year and a half older than Chavez.
10) James Jones, OF, Grade C+: Despite bad first half at Clinton, I love this guy and I think he might turn into something special.
11) Dan Cortes, RHP, Grade C+: Took well to relief role but was unable to sustain improved command in winter ball.
12) Marcus Littlewood, SS, Grade C+ Should have a good bat, but questions exist about position and long-term power potential.
13) Ramon Morla, 3B, Grade C+: Outstanding power production in Appy League, plate discipline is an issue. Good scouting reports on glove but needs to cut errors.
14) Nate Tenbrink, 3B-OF, Grade C+: Has decent tools, can swipe a base, hit for some power, sleeper prospect.
15) Ji-Man Choi, C-1B, Grade C+: Very polished bat for his age, questions are power and long-term position.
16) Blake Beavan, RHP, Grade C+: I'm not a huge fan, strikeout rate is so low, could be a Nick Blackburn type with short-term success until the league catches up.
17) Vince Catricala, 1B, Grade C+: Overlooked professional hitter who did very well in the Midwest League at age 21, should put up huge numbers at High Desert.
18) Esteilon Peguero, SS, Grade C+: Wild guess on grade and placement without any North American data. I refuse to buy whole-heartedly into any player this young who hasn't played against decent amateur competition based on nothing but positive-but-vague scouting reports.
19) Stephen Pryor, RHP, Grade C+: Hard-thrower from 2010 draft could rise quickly, has closer potential.
20) Josh Lueke, RHP, Grade C+: I love his talent, but enormous baggage and makeup questions preclude a higher grade for me.
OTHERS OF NOTE: Jabari Blash, OF; Anthony Fernandez, LHP; Jose Flores, RHP; Jimmy Gillheeny, LHP; Greg Halman, OF; Matt Mangini, 3B; Yoervis Medina, RHP; George Mieses, RHP; Brian Moran, LHP; James Paxton, LHP; Carlos Peguero, OF; Rich Poythress, 1B; Dennis Raben, OF-1B; Erasmo Ramirez, RHP; Jordan Shipers, LHP; Carlos Triunfel, "SS", Richard Vargas, RHP; Mickey Wiswall, 1B.
The Mariners have a truly elite pitching prospect in Michael Pineda, and what I saw in Arizona convinced me that Ackley is still an elite prospect too despite his somewhat disappointing '10 season. Franklin projects as a major league regular.
After that, there is a huge batch of B-/C+ prospects. Some of them should be solid major leaguers (Liddi, Robles, Seager), while many others have loads of potential but are still too far away or have too many questions to earn elite grades just yet (Jones, Pimentel, Chavez, Morla, etc). All in all, while I don't see the Mariners at the top of the farm system charts, they have a strong trio at the top and a broad base of intriguing talent beneath it. If the high ceiling guys have good years in '11, this system could look quite loaded a year from now.