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Seattle Mariners Top 20 Prospects for 2015

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Although thinned by recent graduations at the top, the Mariners farm system still offers talent, particularly right-handed power hitters.

Kyle Seager (left) and 2014 draft pick Alex Jackson
Kyle Seager (left) and 2014 draft pick Alex Jackson
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

Seattle Mariners Top 20 Prospects for 2015

The list and grades are a blending of present performance and long-term potential. Comments are welcome, but in the end all analysis and responsibility is mine. Full reports on all of players can be found in the 2015 Baseball Prospect Book. We are now taking pre-orders for the book, so order early and order often!

All of these grades are preliminary and subject to change.

QUICK PRIMER ON GRADE MEANINGS

Grade A prospects are the elite. In theory, they have a good chance of becoming stars or superstars. Theoretically, most Grade A prospects develop into stars or at least 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.

Finally, keep in mind that all grades are shorthand. You have to read the full comment in the book for the full analysis 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.

1) Alex Jackson, OF, Grade B+: Age 19, 2014 first-rounder, hit .280/.344/.476 in 82 at-bats in rookie ball. Almost everyone loves Jackson’s bat and projects that he will hit for both power and average, though of course we need to see exactly what shape his production takes. If he hits as anticipated he can move into the A-territory next year

2) D.J. Peterson, 1B-3B, Grade B+:
Age 23, 2013 first-rounder, hit .297/.360/.552 with 31 doubles, 31 homers, 45 walks, 116 strikeouts in 495 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Draws praise for huge power, but mixed opinions on pure hitting skills. Not very good defensively at third base and likely ends up at first in the long run. Could get a big league trial sometime in 2015 and certainly in 2016.

3) Edwin Diaz, RHP, Grade B/Borderline B-:
Age 20, posted 3.33 ERA with 111/42 K/BB in 116 innings in Low-A. Third round pick out of Puerto Rico in 2012, adding size and strength, can hit mid-90s, slider and change-up improving, best pitching prospect in the system though some distance away.

4) Austin Wilson, OF, Grade B/Borderline B-:
Age 22, hit .291/.376/.517 with 12 homers, 26 walks, 65 strikeouts in 261 at-bats in Low-A. Was destroying the Midwest League but missed much of season with Achilles tendon injury. Second rounder in 2013. Big power, but injury-prone and has the stereotypical trouble of Stanford products: he doesn’t fully tap his raw power. He made progress with that last year before getting hurt.

5) Gabby Guerrero, OF, Grade B-/Borderline B.
Age 21, hit .307/.347/.467 with 18 homers, 18 steals, 34 walks, 131 strikeouts in 538 at-bats in High-A. Looks great on paper but this was the Cal League and High Desert. In reality the reports haven’t changed much: he’s got a ton of talent but is a free, wild swinger who could have trouble with advanced pitching. Uncle Vlad was a free swinger too but his talent was so immense that it didn’t hurt him. Gabby IS talented, but he isn’t his uncle.


6) Ketel Marte, SS, Grade B-/Borderline B:
Age 21, hit .304/.335/.411 with 29 steals, 27 walks, 78 strikeouts in 523 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Very young for his levels, fast, good range, erratic arm and still rather error-prone but should smooth out. Makes contact but very little power at this point, and impatient to boot. Age-relative-to-league is important but it isn’t everything.

7) Patrick Kivlehan, 3B-1B, Grade B-:
Age 25, hit .295/.363/.507 with 20 homers, 56 walks, 110 strikeouts in 519 at-bats between High-A and Double-A. Continued to hit well after leaving High Desert, which is a good sign. Former Rutgers football player has improved his baseball skills rapidly. There are still questions about defense and ability to maintain OBP/BA against quality pitching, but he’s come a long way.

8) Tyler O’Neill, OF, Grade B-/Borderline C+:
Age 19, Canadian, drafted in third round in 2013, hit .247/.322/.466 with 13 homers, 20 walks, 79 strikeouts in 219 at-bats in Low-A, seasoned shortened by broken hand after punching dugout wall. I like him more than the numbers say that I should, but I believe in the power and I think he can cut back on the strikeouts and develop improved contact skills. I can’t prove that of course.

9) Victor Sanchez, RHP, Grade B-/Borderline C+:
Age 19, posted 4.19 ERA with 97/34 K/BB in 125 innings in Double-A, 128 hits. Not a great year and many people seem down on him, but he skipped High-A completely and is still very young. Throws three average pitches for strikes, not classically projectable at 6-0, 255, although a lot of that is muscle not fat. Fourth starter projection.

10) Luiz Gohara, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 18, out of Brazil, posted 8.20 ERA with 37/24 K/BB in 37 innings in the Northwest League. That’s awful but scouting reports remain generally positive, focusing on 92-95 MPH fastball, potentially strong curveball and change, but his pitchability went backwards last year as the Mariners reportedly tweaked his mechanics. High ceiling but a long way off. Best Case: he follows in the footsteps of Daniel Norris, who couldn’t get anyone out two years ago but is now a tremendous prospect.

11) Ryan Yarbrough, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 23, posted 1.40 ERA with 53/4 K/BB in 39 innings in Northwest League. Drafted in 4th round out of Old Dominion, threw harder in pro ball (90-94) than he did in college, throws strikes with ease, has good change-up and decent curve, number four starter projection as a finesse lefty.

12) Carson Smith, RHP, Grade C+:
Age 25, posted 2.93 ERA with 45/13 K/BB in 43 innings in Triple-A, 44 hits, 10 saves, then threw eight shutout innings in the majors. Excellent power sinker and a slider, gets grounders, looks ready to contribute in the bullpen.

13) Danny Hultzen, LHP, Grade C+:
Age 25. I have no idea where to rank him really, so we’ll just stick him here for the triskaidekaphobics among you. He has reportedly made a good recovery from rotator cuff surgery and is on the way back to his old self, but we need to see him in games that count, not just in instructional league.

Danny Hultzen

Danny Hultzen, photo by Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images



14) Tyler Marlette, C, Grade C+:
Age 21, hit .297/.349/.517 between High-A and Double-A. Good at throwing out runners but remains prone to receiving troubles/passed balls. Some pop in the bat but he needs to remain a catcher for his hitting to play. He has the tools but still needs to iron out the finer points.

15) Brayan Hernandez, OF, Grade C+
: Age 16, signed out of Venezuela for $1,850,000 this past summer, hasn’t played yet. Reports say he is a switch-hitter with broad skills, able to hit for average with at least moderate power, and a good glove too. Obviously we need to see how this translates into reality.

16) Jordy Lara, 1B, Grade C+:
Age 23, hit .353/.413/.609 in 399 at-bats for High Desert then .286/.326/.492 in 126 at-bats for Double-A Jackson. Hit well outside of HD, a good sign, and he is not a strict pull hitter. Has outhit many more-heralded prospects. Left unprotected and undrafted in Rule 5, which tells you what teams think of him. Very limited defensively, but perhaps a born DH.

17) Tyler Olson, LHP, Grade C+/Borderline C:
Age 25, strike-thrower drafted out of Gonzaga in 2013, sort of the Ryan Yarbrough of that class. Posted 3.46 ERA with 127/35 K/BB in 148 innings between High-A and Double-A. Nothing special with the stuff but throws strikes, knows how to pitch, fifth starter possibility.

18) John Hicks, C, Grade C:
Age 25, hit .290/.351/.403 in 290 at-bats between Double-A and Triple-A. Talented defensive catcher, athletic, has hit for decent averages but doesn’t have as much offensive upside as Marlette. Probably a solid reserve.

19) Mayckol Guaipe, RHP, Grade C:
Age 24, posted 2.89 ERA with 56/9 K/BB in 56 innings in Double-A, 12 saves, protected on 40-man roster to prevent Rule 5 loss. Has made dramatic improvements in command and secondary pitches over last two years, could fit well as middle relief type.

20) Jabari Henry, OF, Grade C:
Age 24, hit .291/.398/.584 with 30 homers, 69 walks, 109 strikeouts in 430 at-bats in High-A. The power is real and he isn’t entirely a creation of High Desert, but was an older guy at age 23 for this level. You could slot most of the Grade Cs in the "others" section right here without hurting anything. Gareth Morgan for example has higher upside with enormous power potential but turned out to be extraordinarily raw in rookie ball, hitting .148/.244/.252 with 73 strikeouts in 155 at-bats. However on pure tools you could put him here.

OTHERS: Dan Altavilla, RHP; Jabari Blash, OF; Ji-Man Choi, 1B; Trey Cochran-Gill, RHP; Austin Cousino, OF; Steve Landazuri, RHP; Daniel Missaki, RHP; Julio Morban, OF; Gareth Morgan, OF; Edgar Olmos, LHP; Tyler Pike, LHP; Jordan Pries, RHP; Jack Reinheimer, SS; David Rollins, LHP; Tyler Smith, SS; Dylan Unsworth, RHP

This is a farm system in transition. 2014 saw the graduation of pitchers Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Roenis Elias, and Dominic Leone past rookie standards. That took the top layer of minor league pitching talent, which now looks much thinner than a year ago. Of course, graduating players to the majors is the whole point so that can’t be seen as a negative.

It will take some time to recharge with the arms holding the most potential (Diaz, Gohara) quite a distance away. Closer to the majors we find potential relief options like Carson Smith, Mayckol Guaipe, Edgar Olmos, and Rule 5 pick David Rollins as well as some inning-eating Grade C fifth-starter types like Steve Landazuri and Jordan Pries. Sometimes those guys can surprise. Don’t forget Victor Sanchez.

The strength of the system is currently on the hitting side. 2013 and 2014 first-rounders D.J. Peterson and Alex Jackson offer potent right-handed bats. Gabby Guerrero, Austin Wilson, Tyler O’Neill, and Patrick Kivlehan are also all potential regulars. Jordy Lara is usually overlooked but he may not be a Cal League illusion. Jabari Blash and Jabari Henry are long shots but both could be useful role player power hitters. Right-handed power has obviously been a key focus for investment recently and they have plenty of options for corner outfielders and first base types moving forward.

Up the middle we find Ketel Marte (a bargain $100,000 signee) who has some questions about his power but hit .313 in Triple-A at age 20. Polished college-trained infielders like Jack Reinheimer and Tyler Smith could be useful utility types while Tyler Marlette and John Hicks provide some backstop depth.

Obviously not all of these guys will develop. While somewhat thin of impact talent at the top right now, the pipeline is far from empty.