This afternoon we continue with our farm system reviews with a look at the Seattle Mariners. Remember, this is the PRE-SEASON list. This is not a new list. These are pre-season grades and rankings. This is a review of 2014, not a preview of 2015.
1) Taijuan Walker, RHP, Grade A: Fought injuries, posted 4.81 ERA with 74/25 K/BB in 73 innings, 68 hits for Triple-A Tacoma. In the majors, 2.96 ERA with 21/15 K/BB in 24 innings for the Mariners. No change in opinion for me; there’s no question about his ability but the key will be health. Age 22.
2) James Paxton, LHP, Grade A-: Borderline B+: In between nagging injuries, posted 1.83 ERA in 59 major league innings, 46/19 K/BB, 45 hits. I think he is completely genuine; like Walker, it all depends on his health status. Age 25.
3) D.J. Peterson, 3B, Grade B+: Hit .326/.381/.615 in 273 at-bats for High Desert in the High-A California League, then .261/.335/.473 in 222 at-bats for Double-A Jackson in the Southern League, combined for 31 homers, 45 walks, 116 strikeouts. No questions about his power, but we will have to see how OBP and batting average pan out. Age 22.
4) Victor Sanchez, RHP, Grade B: 4.19 ERA with 97/34 K/BB in 125 innings for Jackson, 128 hits. Just 19, tends to mix dominant outings with poor ones. Need to study more detailed scouting reports before knowing how his grade will slot for 2015. It won’t go up, but I don’t know if it will go down to B- or stay the same.
5) Edwin Diaz, RHP, Grade B: Solid year for Low-A Clinton, 3.33 ERA with 111/42 K/BB in 116 innings, 96 hits, age 20. On course.
6) Austin Wilson, OF, Grade B-. Hit .291/.376/.517 with 12 homers, 26 walks, 65 strikeouts in 261 at-bats for Low-A Clinton. Very good numbers for league context, but at age 22 that should be expected for a college guy with a strong pedigree.
7) Chris Taylor, SS, Grade B-: Hit .328/.397/.497 with 14 steals, 35 walks, 74 strikeouts in 302 at-bats for Tacoma. Promoted to majors, hit .290/.368/.360 in 100 at-bats so far. Looks like he’s going to be a solid player. Age 24, great find in the fifth round.
8) Jin-Man Choi, 1B, Grade B-: Hit .283/.381/.392 in 237 at-bats for Tacoma, 36 walks, 42 strikeouts. Suspended 50 games in April after testing positive for PEDs; continued to show good plate discipline on his return but with little power. Hmm. Geez that’s not suspicious at all. Age 23.
9) Tyler Marlette, C, Grade C+: Borderline B-: Hit .301/.351/.519 with 15 homers, 24 walks, 61 strikeouts in 344 at-bats for High Desert. Sharp home/road split, .971 OPS at home, .771 on the road. Age 21. Pop looks real but uncertain about OBP and average. Threw out 33% of runners but with excessive passed ball and error rates.
10) Gabriel Guerrero, OF, Grade C+: Borderline B-. Hit .307/.347/.467 with 18 homers, 18 steals, 34 walks, 131 whiffs in 538 at-bats for High Desert. Home/road splits are .861/.768 OPS. Age 20. Reports on tools are good but bat needs more polish.
11) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Grade C+: Posted 8.20 ERA with 37/24 K/BB in 37 innings for Everett in the Northwest League, 46 hits. Stats terrible overall but he did have a handful of excellent outings and retains high upside, age 18.
12) Patrick Kivlehan, 3B, Grade C+: Hit .282/.331/.563 in 142 at-bats for High Desert, then .300/.374/.485 with 11 homers, 44 walks, 78 strikeouts in 377 at-bats for Jackson. Huge reduction in strikeouts compared to where he was two years ago. Age 24 but football background earns him some slack there.
13) Tyler Pike, LHP, Grade C+: Very disappointing season, 5.72 ERA with 57/46 K/BB in 61 innings for High Desert, 7.35 ERA with 33/34 K/BB in 49 innings for Jackson. Large increase in walk rate compared to last year. Age 20.
14) Roenis Elias, LHP, Grade C+: 28 major league starts, going 10-12, 3.81 with a 142/63 K/BB in 161 innings, 146 hits. Was rated as a sleeper entering 2013 and has certainly woken up. Age 26.
15) Abraham Almonte, OF, Grade C+: Traded to Padres, hit .232/.278/.333 in 198 at-bats combined between Seattle and San Diego, also .267/.333/.390 in 277 at-bats for Tacoma. Age 25, fourth outfielder type.
16) Jabari Blash, OF, Grade C+: Hit .236/.387/.449 with six homers for Jackson in 127 at-bats, .210/.312/.481 with 12 homers for Tacoma in 162 at-bats, overall .221/.347/.467 with 18 homers, 45 walks, 92 whiffs in 289 at-bats. Needs to improve at age 25, power is real but average/OBP are problematic.
17) Tyler O’Neill, OF, Grade C+: Age 19, hit .251/.326/.468 with 13 homers, 21 walks, 85 strikeouts in 231 at-bats for Clinton. Good pop, good scouting reports, young, but strikeout rate is quite high.
18) Carson Smith, RHP, Grade C+: Age 24, 2.93 ERA with 45/13 K/BB in 43 innings for Tacoma, 13 saves. Has thrown 4.2 shutout innings in the majors with five whiffs so far. Ready for a middle relief trial at age 24 and could close someday.
19) Dominic Leone, RHP, Grade C+: Fine season in Mariners bullpen at age 24, 2.20 ERA with 65/24 K/BB in 61 innings, 48 hits. No reason to think this isn’t real in my view.
20) Ketel Marte, SS, Grade C+: Age 20, hit .302/.329/.404 with 23 steals, 19 walks, 65 strikeouts in 443 at-bats for Jackson, then .313/.367/.450 in 80 at-bats for Tacoma. Extremely impressive at age 20, stock moving up.
The Mariners received several important contributions from the farm system this year. Although injuries kept James Paxton and Taijuan Walker from contributing as much as they could have, both are obviously enormously talented and Paxton, in particular, has been a huge asset when healthy.
Cuban signee Roenis Elias eased some of the injury disappointment by winning 10 games and helped anchor the rotation with 161 innings of solid work. Dominic Leone has been a valuable reliever and Carson Smith can follow in his footsteps next year.
There wasn’t as much help from the hitting prospects, although infielder Chris Taylor has played well and outfielder James Jones has swiped 25 bases in 26 attempts. I retain faith in sophomores Mike Zunino and Brad Miller despite some glitches this year.
In the minors, there is considerable depth among position prospects, with Peterson, Guerrero, Wilson, Marte, Kivlehan, and O’Neill all showing the potential to be regulars. 2014 draftees Alex Jackson and Gareth Morgan add additional upside, though Morgan will need a lot of time. First baseman Jordy Lara hit 26 homers between Jackson and High Desert at age 23. Jabari Henry added 30 more for High Desert at age 23 but will need to repeat that against better pitching.
I ranked the Mariners at 17th on my pre-season farm system ranking list. There’s enough here for them to move up that ranking, but I need to analyze every system in detail before narrowing that down.