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Seattle Mariners Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

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Jul 28, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Jesus Montero (63) hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the 1st inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE
Jul 28, 2012; Seattle, WA, USA; Seattle Mariners designated hitter Jesus Montero (63) hits a single against the Kansas City Royals during the 1st inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Steven Bisig-US PRESSWIRE

Seattle Mariners Top 20 2012 PRE-SEASON Prospects in Review

Continuing with our reviews of the Top 20 pre-season prospect lists, we journey back to the American League and review the Seattle Mariners. Remember, this is a pre-season list. It is not a new list.

This list was originally published January 17, 2012.

The next team on the list is the San Diego Padres, followed by the Toronto Blue Jays, Arizona Diamondbacks, and Miami Marlins to finish up.

1) Jesus Montero, C, Grade A: Hitting .262/.304/.393 with 10 homers, 22 walks, 78 strikeouts in 351 at-bats for the Mariners overall, but hitting .309/.344/.449 on the road. I still believe in him.

2) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Grade A-: 4.12 ERA with 91/40 K/BB in 94 innings for Double-A Jackson, 85 hits, 1.08 GO/AO. Has had some rough patches, but combination of stuff and athleticism still gives him elite potential.

3) Danny Hultzen, LHP, Grade A-: 1.19 ERA with 79/32 K/BB in 75 innings for Jackson, 5.23 ERA with 41/24 K/BB in 33 innings for Triple-A Tacoma. Walk rate has been much higher than anticipated, but he's picking up plenty of strikeouts, too. I'm honestly not sure what to make of him at this point.

4) James Paxton, LHP, Grade B+: Borderline A-. 3.09 ERA with 84/41 K/BB in 79 innings for Jackson, 68 hits. Needs to get the walks down, missed June with injury but seems fine now.

5) Nick Franklin, SS, Grade B: Borderline B+. .322/.394/.502 with 24 walks, 38 strikeouts in 205 at-bats for Jackson, .242/.315/.410 with 15/53 BB/K in 161 at-bats for Tacoma. Some contact issues in Triple-A but I'm not concerned at this stage. Still have to figure out where the glove fits.

6) Vinnie Catricala, 3B-1B-OF, Grade B-: Borderline B. Very disappointing: .237/.300/.350 with eight homers, 31 walks, 67 strikeouts in 389 at-bats for Tacoma. His glove at third base hasn't been bad, but what happened with the bat? Still making contact but all numbers down.

7) Francisco Martinez, 3B, Grade B-: .241/.308/.324 with 26 walks, 61 strikeouts in 278 at-bats for Jackson, 25 steals. Fine defender, using speed better, but power and OBP skills remain undeveloped. Just 21.

8) Alex Liddi, 3B, Grade B-: .245/.317/.397 with 20 walks, 55 strikeouts in 184 at-bats for Tacoma, .231/.289/.365 with nine walks, 42 strikeouts in 104 at-bats for the Mariners. I keep thinking this guy is going to develop into a very useful player, despite the kind of high-strikeout/low-walk profile that I normally don't like. Nothing objective to back this up, it's just a feeling.

9) Phillips Castillo, OF, Grade B-: .252/.348/.454 with five homers, 11 walks, 28 strikeouts in 119 at-bats for Pulaski in the Appalachian League. Much lower strikeout rate this year, a good sign even if his raw numbers don't stand out. Just 18, high ceiling.

10) Brad Miller, SS, Grade B-: .339/.412/.524 with 52 walks, 79 strikeouts in 410 at-bats for High-A High Desert, but has kept most of his juice after promotion to Double-A, .326/.415/.478 for Jackson. I think the bat is real, not just HD illusion. Seems to have the range for shortstop but still working to cut down on the errors. I like him.

11) Chance Ruffin, RHP, Grade B-: Borderline C+: 6.75 ERA with 43/30 K/BB in 59 innings for Tacoma, 68 hits. Awful season from a guy expected to take a strong role in the bullpen.

12) Guillermo Pimentel, OF, Grade C+: .251/.285/.373 with seven homers, 12 walks, 92 strikeouts in 295 at-bats for Low-A Clinton. Impressive raw power being short-circuited by inability to control zone/make contact. Young at 19.

13) Stephen Pryor, RHP, Grade C+ Has pitched at four levels this year, minor league composite numbers are 0.93 ERA, 10 saves, 47/19 K/BB in 39 innings, 18 hits. In the majors now, he's got the stuff if the command holds together.

14) Martin Peguero, SS, Grade C+: .217/.256/.261, eight walks, 20 strikeouts in 157 at-bats for Pulaski. Doesn't look like he was worth $2,900,000.

15) Victor Sanchez, RHP, Grade C+: 3.56 ERA with 49/20 K/BB in 61 innings for Everett in the Northwest League, 51 hits. Only 17 years old, another $2,500,000 guy.

16) Tyler Marlette, C, Grade C+: .300/.324/.407 with five walks, 28 strikeouts in 140 at-bats for Pulaski, 38% of runners caught. Raw tools exist on both offense and defense, looks like plate discipline could be an issue, just 19.

17) Stefen Romero, 2B, Grade C+: .357/.391/.581 in 258 at-bats for High Desert, .338/.381/.619 in 139 at-bats for Jackson. Reliable defense, scouts not wild about him but so far he hasn't found a level that he can't handle.

18) Carter Capps, RHP, Grade C+: 1.23 ERA with 75/12 K/BB in 51 innings between Double-A and Triple-A, 40 hits, 19 saves. Just promoted to the majors. Rapid rise from Mount Olive University in 2011 to the major leagues in 2012. Nasty fastball.

19) Erasmo Ramirez, RHP, Grade C: 3.60 ERA with 37/8 K/BB in 50 innings in Triple-A, 3.82 ERA with 25/7 K/BB in 31 innings in the majors. What you see is what you get, control will keep him in the picture, just 22.

20) Jabari Blash, OF, Grade C: .228/.345/.410 with 12 homers, 50 walks, 104 strikeouts in 312 at-bats for Clinton. Raw power, strikes out too much.

(The following comments are not intended as comprehensive overview of system, but are rather impressionistic).

So I've been thinking about this farm system for several hours today, and I just come away with a sort of stumped "huh" feeling about guys like Hultzen, Walker, and Paxton, none of them quite meeting expectations this year but none of them awful either.

As usual, people are putting up big numbers at High Desert. Some of it is real I think (Brad Miller, Stefen Romero, Julio Morban perhaps), others we'll simply have to see. Left-handed starting pitcher Anthony Fernandez has taken a big step forward this year. Reliever Carson Smith is handling High Desert and has an intriguing combination of strikeouts and grounders. Jackson starter Brandon Mauer needs to be watched.

Closer Tom Wilhelmsen wasn't on the top 20 list due to age, but he is a technical rookie and has certainly had a fine year in the bullpen.

I like 2012 first-rounder Mike Zunino a lot, and you can project him as the future regular catcher, enabling Montero to move to 1B or DH. The draft class is a balanced mixture of high school and college talent, with a lean to hitting. Fourth round pick Patrick Kivlehan out of Rutgers is raw for a college guy but athletic with an interesting power/speed mix.