Evaluating the Prospects: Rangers, Rockies, D’Backs, Twins, Astros, Cubs, Reds, Phillies, Rays, Mets, Padres, Marlins, Nationals, Red Sox, White Sox, Orioles, Yankees, Braves, Athletics, Angels, Dodgers, Blue Jays, Tigers, Cardinals, Brewers, Indians, Mariners, Pirates, Royals & Giants
The Mariners have done a nice job in amateur acquisition the last few years, evidenced by 4th round, well-below-slot college senior signs LF Patrick Kivlehan and LHP Ryan Yarbrough in the 45 FV group on the list. Seattle has always spent money internationally and there’s clear evidence of that below. As noted in the Gareth Morgan scouting report, the Mariners have shown a clear preference for right-handed power in the amateur markets in recent years, but taking Alex Jackson 6th overall last year was a slam-dunk decision on a guy Seattle didn’t think would make it to their pick. There’s a nice mix of international and domestic, high upside and high certainty, hitter and pitcher, etc. I have this system in the middle third of the org rankings, with plenty of upside guys that could help raise that ranking next year.
Here’s the primer for the series and a disclaimer about how we don’t really know anything. See the links above for the ongoing series about how I evaluate, including the series on the ever-complicated hit tool.
Most of what you need to know for this list is in the above links, but I should add that the risk ratings are relative to their position, so average (3) risk for a pitcher is riskier than average risk (3) for a hitter, due to injury/attrition being more common. I’d also take a 60 Future Value hitter over a 60 FV pitcher for the same reasons. Also, risk encompasses a dozen different things and I mention the important components of it for each player in the report. The upside line for hitters is the realistic best-case scenario (a notch better than the projected tools, or a 75% projection while the projected tools are a 50% projection) and the Future Value encompasses this upside along with the risk rating for one overall rating number.
Below, I’ve included a quick ranking of the notable MLB players 27 and under that aren’t eligible for the Mariners prospect list and Dave Cameron shares some general thoughts on the organization. Scroll further down to see Carson Cistulli’s fringe prospect favorite. Up next is the Pirates.
27 & Under Big League Assets
1. Kyle Seager, 3B, Age 27, FV: 70
2. Mike Zunino, C, Age 23, FV: 60 (Video)
3. Taijuan Walker, RHP, Age 22, FV: 60 (Video)
4. Brad Miller, SS, Age 25, FV: 55 (Video)
5. James Paxton, LHP, Age 26, FV: 50+
6. Dustin Ackley, LF, Age 27, FV: 50+
7. Chris Taylor, SS, Age 24, FV: 50 (Video)
8. Roenis Elias, LHP, Age 26, FV: 45
9. Jesus Montero, DH, Age 25, FV: 45
10. Danny Farquhar, RHP, Age 27, FV: 45
11. Dominic Leone, RHP, Age 23, FV: 45 (Video)
12. Logan Morrison, 1B, Age 27, FV: 45
Organizational Overview by Dave Cameron
After years of rebuilding, the Mariners finally look ready to win. They possess a couple of top-end superstars, a few underrated supporting cast members, and finally have enough depth to not have disastrous performances drag down the overall totals. They currently project as slight favorites in the AL West despite the forecasts not being particularly high on either of their two hyped up young starters; if either take a step forward, the Mariners have a chance to be one of the best teams in the American League. But while there is a lot of young talent around the field, this is also a team with a narrowing window, as their two best players can only really get worse, and there isn’t a clear franchise player in the system to replace those lost contributions if age finally starts to catch up to Robinson Cano or Felix Hernandez. As long as those two remain MVP candidates, however, this team should contend for the division title.
50+ FV Prospects
1. Alex Jackson, RF
Current Level/Age: RK/19.2, 6’2/215, R/R
Drafted: 6th overall (1st round) in 2014 out of California HS by SEA for $4.2 million bonus
Hit: 20/60, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 20/60, Run: 45/45, Field: 45/50, Throw: 60/60
Scouting Report: Jackson was known as a sophomore in high school as he showed and advanced feel to hit to all fields, huge raw power and a huge arm behind the plate. He held that lofty perch until his draft year, as a legitimate contender to go #1 overall, but ultimately slipped to the Mariners at 6th overall. Jackson was the 8th first round pick from Rancho Bernardo High School in San Diego, joining Cole Hamels, Hank Blalock, Marlins prospect RHP Trevor Williams and Yankees prospect 2B Gosuke Katoh as alums.
Jackson has easy plus raw power and arm strength, but the separator here is his advanced feel to hit to all fields and get to his power in games. Like Wil Myers and Bryce Harper before him and Kyle Schwarber from his draft class, Jackson’s bat is too advanced to wait on his glove to develop behind the plate, so the Mariners will just stick him in right field and let him hit his way to the big leagues.
Some evidence of Jackson being new to right field materialized after he signed, when he lost a ball in the lights and it hit him in the face. He sustained a sinus fracture and has said he misses catching a bit, but has moved on. Seattle said they didn’t even consider playing him behind the plate in pro ball, so that won’t be revisited.
Summation: Jackson is about as elite of a prep bat as we’ve seen in years, so the expectation is he’ll spend a full year in Low-A to adjust to pro ball, then his performance will dictate how fast he moves.
Upside: .285/.350/.500, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 60, High (4 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: Low-A, 2016: High-A/AA, 2017: AA/AAA, 2018: AAA/MLB
2. D.J. Peterson, 1B
Current Level/Age: AA/23.2, 6’1/205, R/R
Drafted: 12th overall (1st round) in 2013 out of New Mexico by SEA for $2.759 million bonus
Hit: 40/50+, Raw Power: 65/65, Game Power: 40/60, Run: 45/40, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 55/55
Scouting Report: Peterson emerged in his draft year at New Mexico as a guy that scouts saw both advanced hit-ability and raw power, with some comparing him to Billy Butler and Jeff Bagwell for an unexpectedly loose swing in a stout frame. D.J wasn’t a big prospect out of his Phoenix-area high school, but his younger brother Dustin, traded from San Diego to Atlanta in this winter’s Justin Upton deal, went in the 2nd round in the same 2013 draft as D.J. out of that same high school.
Peterson plays third base now and has the hands and arm to hang around there for awhile, but every scout I’ve talked to sees him moving over to first base at some point in the next few years. He has a stout frame and limited mobility that make him fringy at best at the position. His big raw power has always played in games and Peterson has already hit 44 homers in 178 regular season minor league games.
Summation: Peterson is 23 and should head to Double-A and/or Triple-A in 2015, setting the stage for a potential late-season 2015 big league look with a chance to stick in 2016 as a middle of the order masher.
Upside: .270/.340/.485, 25 homers
FV/Risk: 55, Low (2 on a 1-5 scale)
Projected Path: 2015: AA/AAA, 2016: AAA/MLB
45 FV Prospects
3. Ketel Marte, SS Video: The Dominican shortstop signed for $100,000 in August, 2010 and had a breakout 2014, proving he was more than a glove-first, slap-hitting speedster. Marte is a 65 runner that plays shortstop now and some scouts think could be a .300 hitter due to his speed and approach to hitting. He added weight before 2014 and now shortstop isn’t a sure thing, with his focus and arm strength both coming and going at times, causing some scouts to project him as a Luis Castillo-type second baseman. He’ll head to Triple-A this year for his age-21 season, aged like a college junior, so he’s clearly ahead of schedule but the 6’1/165 switch hitter can be too aggressive at the plate and has limited offensive upside, maybe 8-10 homers at maturity.
4. Edwin Diaz, RHP Video: Diaz was a 3rd rounder in 2012 out of a Puerto Rican high school that’s steadily improved since signing. He was rail-thin as an amateur, but added 25 lbs. last season, now measuring at 6’2/180 with some concerns he’d have to move to relief if he couldn’t add bulk now gone. Diaz is a confident strike thrower that’s a student of the game, though he’s still growing into his frame and the command will vary day-to-day. He sits 91-94 and hits 96 mph with his fastball and backs it up with an above average to plus slider. His changeup is fringy but coming along and his fastball/slider combo will flash plus to even better at times in short stints, seeming to indicate there’s still more in the tank.
5. Patrick Kivlehan, LF Video: Kivlehan was a safety for four years at Rutgers and was a baseball player for just his senior year, but he was good enough to go in the 4th round in 2012, with a couple teams in line behind the Mariners. He’s made strides after signing, focusing only on baseball for the first time in his life and becoming a real prospect. Kivlehan wasn’t even a notable prospect until later in his senior season, sneaking up on some scouts when he stood out versus St. John’s draft-eligible RHPs Kyle Hansen and Matt Carasiti. Kivlehan had given up on football before his senior spring, but only got a chance to play because the regular third baseman tore his hamstring, then Kivlehan won the Big East Triple Crown in his only season.
Seattle was pleasantly surprised after signing to see how well Kivlehan tracked breaking stuff despite not playing much baseball since high school. Scouts rave about Kivlehan’s hard-nosed 80 makeup and ability to make adjustments, typical for a former high-level football player. When in Seattle after signing, Kivlehan didn’t seem as enthusiastic as most players about seeing the clubhouse and left quickly, saying he hadn’t earned this yet.
Scouts noticed that Kivlehan gravitated to Hunter Renfroe and Jace Peterson in the AFL this year, both former football players and three of the only players to not look worn down by the end of the long season. One Mariners exec joked that they won’t have to worry about Kivlehan complaining about a coach being too strict when he played four years for Greg Schiano. Kivlehan went to the New Jersey high school that produced long-time MLB catcher John Flaherty and Cardinals prospect LHP Rob Kaminsky; Kivlehan was the shortstop on his team and Cubs IF Tommy La Stella was the second baseman on the same team.
Kivlehan has told scouts his confidence was helped by going in the 4th round, as he didn’t see himself as that kind of prospect, but he’s now a slam-dunk big leaguer of some kind. He likely fits best in left field, but he’s a fringy runner with a solid average arm and decent hands that can fit at all four corners in the big leagues. Kivelhan has above average raw power that can play down a bit in games due to a line drive approach. His swing is a little awkward, with one scout saying he has a “nervous bat” and scouts are always wary of non-consensus guy that do it a little differently. It’s likely league-average-to-above offense with good makeup and positional versatility.
6. Austin Wilson, RF Video: Wilson was a high profile prospect in the 2010 draft at the same Los Angeles area high school that’s since produced prep 1st rounder Lucas Giolito, Max Fried and Jack Flaherty. Wilson was known as a prep underclassman on the showcase circuit and started three years at Stanford after turning down seven figures in 2010, signing for $1.7 million in the 2nd round in 2013. The 6’4/250 athlete is a monster physically with plus raw power and arm strength and deceptive solid average speed that makes his a little above average in right field.
None of those tools have ever been in question for Wilson, as the concerns has centered around his bat. The swing is fine and the strike zone knowledge is good, but his approach has been inconsistent and problematic, with Stanford’s emphasis on hitting ground balls to the opposite field slowly getting worked out of Wilson’s system. Wilson has been bothered by minor injuries, with an elbow injury before the 2014 season in the same elbow that had a stress reaction in 2013, then a forearm strain that late in 2014 that canceled his planned promotion to High-A.
Scouts think Wilson is a hard worker, smart and a good kid, but the injuries, inconsistency at the plate and no experience above Low-A through his age-22 season despite being on the radar for half a decade adds up to give them a lack of conviction on projecting him. He’ll head to the Cal League for his age 23 season this year, with an expectation he’ll rake his way into a Double-A promotion at some point in 2015, which should give us a better chance to evaluate his considerable talent.
7. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP: Yarbrough has traveled the most improbable journey to being in the top 10 on a prospect list in this org and maybe of any players with this grade I’ve profiled this far. Yarbrough was an almost complete unknown last spring to anyone other than area scouts when Seattle took him in the 4th round last summer, signing the senior for a way-way-under-slot $40,000 bonus. That’s the parameters that describe a solid org guy that may or may not even be mentioned in the others section on my list, likely never make the big leagues and was just a guy the team would’ve wanted in the 10th round, but took that high (with a 10th round type bonus) to bank some savings for later picks, which in this case was the bonus for #15 prospect on this list, 2014 over-slot 2nd rounder Gareth Morgan.
Yarbrough was seen in high school by many scouting directors, as he matched up with some top central Florida prep prospects in high school and Vanderbilt standout Carson Fulmer was a sophomore when Yarbrough was a senior at the same school. Mariners executives give credit to their area scout pushing them with Yarbrough’s name all spring and getting him crosschecked, leading to him being ranked atop their senior sign list, which came in play when they picked Morgan and needed to save some money. There was still some split in the draft room as to whether Yarbrough was a starter or reliever, but the consensus was starter by the end of the summer when his velo ticked up.
Yarbrough sat 88-91 mph most of the spring and may have jumped on the national stage when a matchup with 2014 9th overall pick Jeff Hoffman materialized, but fell apart when Yarbrough was moved to Saturday. After signing, Yarbrough was sitting 91-94 mph and in short stints would go 93-95 mph for an inning or two. He throws from a 3/4 slot and hides the ball well, creating deception, has an solid average slider and an above average to plus changeup that plays up with the new velocity.
As you’d guess with a 6’5/205 crafty lefty, Yarbrough commands his pitches well and repeats his delivery, with the deception helping his fastball sneak up on hitters and his three pitch mix keeping them honest. Since he was a late-blooming college senior, Yarbrough is already 23 and the Mariners plan to move him quickly; he should be in Double-A by the end of the year if he keeps performing like this.
8. Gabriel Guerrero, RF Video: Guerrero is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero and you can see the resemblance in their physicality, mannerisms and how they play the game, though Gabriel likely won’t he a Hall of Famer (you’re welcome). He signed for $400,000 in 2011 and was 20 in the Cal League last year putting up good numbers as one of the youngest guys on the circuit.
He’s a lanky 6’3/190 with projection and quick-twitch in his frame, projecting for above average to plus power, he already has at least above average bat speed, an easy plus arm and below average speed that’s enough to be average defensively in right field. The issue with Guerrero is how much contact he’ll make, because his plate discipline is pretty bad. His numbers don’t necessarily show it yet, because he’s talented enough to hit almost any pitch he’ll see in A-Ball, but the current version of Guerrero will be exposed at higher levels, so he needs to make adjustments.
9. Brayan Hernandez, CF Video: The 6’1/170 Venezuelan signed for $1.85 million last July 2nd after having a breakout performance in January’s MLB Showcase in the Dominican. I have Hernandez with the same 45 FV as Tampa Bay’s Adrian Rondon, essentially tied for second-best prospect from last year’s July 2nd period. Hernandez is an above average to plus runner with an average arm, long strides and good defensive instincts to profile in center field.
He has an advanced feel for the bat head, switch hits, and already hits well in games, confidently holding his own at the plate while facing the big kids in instructs after signing. Hernandez had fringy raw power before signing, is around average now and may be slightly above at maturity; he’s the rare 17-year-old with average or better tools across the board and the instincts for them to play up.
10. Luiz Gohara, LHP Video: Gohara is 18 and has an enormous upside, signing out of Brazil in 2012 for $800,000. He’s listed at 6’3/210 but he’s been body comped to C.C. Sabathia and has weighed as much as 250 lbs at times. He’s a good athlete with an easy, deliberate delivery and has run his fastball up to 97 mph already, but sits 90-93 mph. Gohara has an above average changeup, but an inconsistent breaking ball that morphs from slider to curveball and back again, flashing solid average at times with the curveball type the best version.
His command and focus vary a good bit, with flashes of brilliance and immature indifference, but some scouts anticipate a breakout coming any day. Some sources really question Gohara’s attitude and dedication to getting better, with his work ethic a question mark, though he’s just turned 18, so it’s early to write him off. He’ll need to keep his weight in check and both of his parents are pretty big, meaning Gohara may be destined to have a workhorse type frame as well. The ceiling is mid-rotation starter, he’s aged like a high school senior and he’ll head to Low-A next year, so we’ll learn a lot about him with a full year in a full-season league; he could be a 50 FV by midseason.
11. Tyler Marlette, C Video: Marlette got an over-slot $650,000 bonus in 2011 out of the Orlando-area high school that produced 2012 1st rounder, current Phillies RHP Zach Eflin. Marlette has a powerful 5’11/205 frame, solid average raw power, an above average arm and the tools to stick behind the plate. He’s still working on some of the finer points of catching and there’s some question about how much contact he’ll make and how much raw power he’ll get to in games. Marlette has been steadily making progress behind the plate and earned a late-season promotion to Double-A at age 21, where he continued hitting as he has at every stop along the way.
40 FV Prospects
12. Danny Hultzen, LHP Video: Hultzen went 2nd overall in a loaded 2011 draft and got an $8.5 million big league deal, the type of deal that’s impossible today on both counts. He got to Triple-A in his first full season (where the linked video is from), though his trademark sharp command was inconsistent. He seemed to have turned a corner early in 2013 before he went on the shelf for left shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff and labrum. I’m always wary of young pitchers that seemingly needlessly throw across their body, which Hultzen did pre-surgery, due to stress on the shoulder, though this was far from the outcome anyone expected, even if they knew it was possible.
Hultzen is back on the mound and the stuff appears to be back after a solid instructs and impressive Spring Training, hitting 95 mph this spring with his trademark easy plus changeup. His angle to the plate is much more straight to the plate, which will ease the stress on his shoulder. At his best, Hultzen sat 91-94 mph with above average to plus two-seam life, an above average curveball, solid average slider, 65 changeup and above average command: you can see why he was so high profile as an amateur. I’m cautiously optimistic that he can regain and keep his above average stuff and at least average command, but shoulder surgery doesn’t have the generally positive reputation of elbow surgery, so I’ll need to see him do it for a month or two before I climb back on the bandwagon. That said, he may be a 45 or 50 FV by midseason.
13. Tyler O’Neill, LF Video: O’Neill drew Brett Lawrie comparisons as an amateur, due to his powerful 5’11/210 frame, above average bat speed from the right side, his salty demeanor and his Canadian high school background. Like Lawrie, O’Neill didn’t stick in some short looks at catcher, with O’Neill moving to left field last year. The 2013 3rd rounder broke his hand punching a dugout wall (a very Lawrie-ish injury) during a big year at Low-A last year as a teenager.
The Mariners liked what he showed at the plate and think he tracks the ball well, with his strikeouts a product of an aggressive, power-based approach rather than a lack of pitch recognition. O’Neill has above average to plus bat speed and raw power and a solid average arm that’s enough for right, though Seattle likes him in left field. The question is if his approach will allow him to hit for enough average to get to his power in games at high levels.
14. Carson Smith, RHP Video: Smith is a 6’6/215 righty that slings from a low 3/4 slot with some effort and funk but has surprisingly good command. He was an 8th rounder in 2011 out of Texas State that moved quickly to the big leagues, making his debut last year. Smith sits 91-93 and hits 95 with lots of life that helps generate lots of ground balls, backing his heater up with a slider that’s easy plus at times, with some comparing him to Luke Gregerson. He froze Mike Trout on a slider that prompted Trout to ask “what the f— was that?” so it has his seal of approval.
15. Gareth Morgan, RF Video: Morgan was a Canadian high school product that was watched closely on the high school showcase circuit for years before the M’s gave him a well-over-slot $2 million in the 2nd round last summer. Morgan checks all the boxes physically with a musculara 6’4/220 frame, a low-effort smooth cut, 65 raw power and an above average arm that fits in right field. He’s also a fringy runner underway and he’s played some center field in pro ball, but that won’t happen many more times.
The problem is all of these tools get undermined by Morgan’s approach at the plate, which is sometimes too aggressive and other times is too passive. He squared up Brandon Morrow’s mid-90’s fastball last spring in a game and also struggled mightily at Area Codes last summer, chasing out of the zone and making weak contact. Seattle sees him as a premium ball of clay to be formed by player development. He’s flashed pitch recognition at times and Seattle is encouraged that the ability is in there, chalking some of his amateur struggles to being in a funk, though Morgan’s numbers in the AZL didn’t inspire hope in rival scouts.
Morgan went upper deck in Safeco in the pre-draft workout and fits their pattern of righty power bats high in the draft: Alex Jackson, D.J. Peterson, Tyler O’Neill, Mike Zunino, Joe DeCarlo, Patrick Kivlehan, Kevin Cron (unsigned), Rich Poythress and Austin Wilson, with GM Jack Zdurencik taking Ryan Braun, Matt LaPorta, Brett Lawrie and Jonathan Lucroy in Milwaukee when he was the scouting director.
16. John Hicks, C Video: The M’s dipped into the UVA pool in 2011, taking Hultzen in the 1st round and Hicks in the 4th, then again with Chris Taylor in the 5th round in 2012. Hicks and Taylor have both exceeded expectations while Hultzen may soon finally live up to his. Hicks is a solid defender that’s improved in pro ball after limited reps as an amateur and he’s average now, posting good CS% numbers thanks to a plus arm. It’s still a backup type profile, but there’s more in there than was expected, with a fringy bat and power upside to around 10 homers in a full season.
17. Julio Morban, RF Video: Morban got $1.1 million from Seattle out of the Dominican in 2008 and is now creeping up on his big league debut. The 6’1/210 lefty has the tools of a 4th outfielder–solid average raw power, fringy speed, solid average arm–but the hit tool is advanced enough that he might get to all his power in games and hit enough to be a low-end regular. He’s been age-appropriate or a year young for his level his whole career and still has trouble hitting for power in games. Morban had very good numbers in 2012 and 2013, was sidetracked by an ankle injury in 2014 and will open 2015 in Triple-A, where his short stroke could stand out in the hitter-friendly PCL; Seattle execs think he’s a sleeper that could breakout this season.
18. Austin Cousino, CF Video: Cousino was a 3rd rounder out of Kentucky last year and the 5’10/180 athlete is lefty hitter and plus runner with above average bat speed and double digit homer power, but his plate discipline backed up in his draft year undermining some of these tools. He has excellent instincts to take advantage of his speed in all aspects and a fringy arm that’s fine in center field. Cousino had a power-based pull approach early in college and he hit more than his share of homers, then he played more gap-to-gap later in his college career, though his walk/strikeout numbers were never good, so some see more of a 4th outfielder here.
19. Jack Reinheimer, SS Video: Reinheimer was a 2013 5th rounder out of East Carolina that’s hit a little more than expected after signing. He’s still seen as more of a utility guy, as his solid average arm is a little less than what you want at shortstop, there’s very little power and the bat is a little light as well. Reinheimer is a solid average runner that has the hands and feet to play short, is age appropriate for his level and has performed well so far, with some shades of another Mariners overperforming college shortstop, Chris Taylor. I also have trouble getting this out of my head when writing about Reinheimer.
20. Stephen Landazuri, RHP Video: Landazuri has flown way under the prospect radar for years after signing for $95,000 in 2010 as a 22nd rounder out of a California high school. The 6’0/195 righty’s stuff has slowly ticked up and he has three solid average pitches that’ll flash 55 at times. His four-seamer is 91-93 and hits 94 mph with some cut, he mixes in a sinker and cutter in the high-80’s, a solid average slider at 79-81 mph and an average changeup in the mid-80’s. The command is good enough to be a starter and there’s shades of Reds RHP Anthony DeSclafani (45 FV) here, though Landazuri has a little less stuff, feel and upper minors experience.
21. Tyler Pike, LHP Video: Pike was one of my favorite pitchers in the 2012 draft; he signed for $850,000 in the 3rd round as an athletic 6’0/180 pitchabilty lefty. Pike flashed an average fastball and curveball at his best, but his above average feel and 65 changeup were the separators, along with excellent deception caused by his unusual arm action. Pike’s command has surprisingly been an issue in pro ball but Seattle isn’t worried long term, with some thought that the Cal League caused some of his problems, such as pitching away from contact. Pike sat in the high-80’s at times, particularly when he struggled, and he’s maxed-out physically, but he was 88-91, hitting 93 mph in instructs and looks to be making progress on the mental and mechanical fronts.
22. Ji-Man Choi, 1B Video: The 6’1/230 Korean is a first-base only fit that got on the prospect radar with a massive 2013 at High-A and Double-A. His 2014 got a late start with a 50-game steroid suspension early in 2014 and he never really got going in Triple-A. Choi is a hit over power guy with advanced feel for the strike zone and bat head, along with average raw power, but his line drive approach in games makes it hard to get to his power. He needs to rake to matter and if he can hit a few more homers in Triple-A, there’s enough here to be the good side of a platoon.
23. Jordy Lara, 1B Video: The 6’3/215 Dominican started slowly, spending four years in short-season leagues and making his full-season debut at age 22. He’s performed well of late, including huge numbers in High-A last year, but the tools aren’t huge. Lara has good bat control and fringy to average raw power, but his swing can get long and there’s isn’t a ton of bat speed. Lara needs to hit and hit a lot to matter since he’s likely no more than the wrong side of a platoon in the big leagues and he’ll be 24 in Double-A next year. He has an above average arm, but isn’t quick enough to play regularly in the outfield to take advantage of it.
24. David Rollins, LHP Video: 2014 Rule 5 pick from Houston was busted for steroids last week and will serve an 80-game suspension starting on Opening Day, after which the Mariners will attempt to keep him long enough to get his full rights. The 6’1/210 25-year-old sits 90-93 and hits 95 mph, with a slider that’s a 55 at times, a fringy changeup and decent command. The Astros wanted Rollins to throw a curveball and be a starter, but Seattle thinks he fits better in relief with a slider.
Tyler Smith, SS
The Mariners feature a particularly robust collection of compelling fringe-type prospects. Corner outfielder Dario Pizzano, for example, both produced a walk-to-strikeout ratio above 1.0 and also played collegiately at Columbia University. Unsurprisingly, he was among the top players on the author’s arbitrarily calculated Fringe Five Scoreboard last year. Outfielders Aaron Barbosa, Jabari Blash, and Jabari Henry have all also exhibited some promising combination of tools and performance. Smith distinguishes himself among the group, however, for his defensive skills: in addition to producing strong plate-discipline numbers (including walk and strikeout rates of 12.6% and 16.2% across High- and Double-A in 2014), Smith has also made 161 of his 171 minor-league appearances at shortstop. Statistically, at least, there’s little to separate him from either Brad Miller or Chris Taylor at this particular stage in their careers.
Others of Note
There’s six pitchers at the upper levels to keep an eye on:RHP Mayckol Guaipe (6’4/235 Venenzuelan signed with Seattle in 2006 as a 16-year-old and will head to the Triple-A bullpen for 2015; he doesn’t have a huge upside, with improved command helping his 55 fastball and solid average slider play up), RHP Sam Gaviglio (Video acquired from St. Louis this winter for 3B Ty Kelly, Gaviglio is a sinker/slider inventory swing man with an 88-91 mph sinker, solid average slider, fringy changeup and some feel), LHP Mike Kickham (lefty reliever has bounced a couple teams recently but has solid stuff, sitting 90-93, hitting 95 with sink, a solid average slider that comes and goes and an inconsistent changeup and command), LHP Edgar Olmos (Video 6’4/220 lefty reliever was on waiver roulette this winter and still has some command issues, but has four pitches from his starting days: 90-93, touching 95 mph with some life, an above average curveball, average slider and fringy changeup), LHP Tyler Olson (6’3 lefty was $10,000 7th round senior sign in 2013 out of Gonzaga and will start in Triple-A in 2015 if he doesn’t win a big league bullpen spot; he has a fringy to average four pitch mix with deception and feel to pitch that profiles in the pen) and LHP Brian Moran (brother of Colin Moran was Rule 5 pick that the Angels returned to Seattle when he missed 2014 for Tommy John surgery; he sits 86-90 mph with fringy stuff but lots of command and deception that’s helped him put up huge numbers in Triple-A).
There’s four pitchers at the lower levels to keep an eye on: RHP Daniel Missaki (Video Brazilian teenager signed for a $150,000 bonus and already has advanced feel to pitch despite limited high-level innings; he sits 89-91 mph with life, working in an solid average changeup and curveball that’s average at times; he was a late cut and also isn’t a director), RHP Dan Altavilla (2014 5th rounder from D2 Mercyhurst sits 91-94 and hits 97 mph with an above average slider, but the changeup, command and consistency will vary; he’ll go out as a starter but quick-moving reliever may be the fit), RHP Trey Cochran-Gill (Video 2014 7th rounder out of Auburn is 5’10 fast-track reliever; often he’s 90-93 but has touched a few notches higher and lower at times; he also has an above average slider in the mid-80’s and some effort to his delivery) and RHP Ramon Morla (Video converted to the mound last year after reaching AA as a hitter; he sits 95-99 mph with life, a slider that flashes above average, but he’s still very raw).
The story of Dominican SS Chris Torres deserves its own paragraph (Video). The Yankees backed out of a $2.1 million verbal deal with Torres before last July 2 due to conditioning issues and a shoulder injury and Torres settled for $375,000 from Seattle, as others teams had already spent most or all of their pool money. Torres is back in shape, has really impressed Seattle since signing, has some projection, great instincts, solid average speed, a smooth cut from both sides of the plate and a chance to stick at shortstop. I’d like to see him healthy and play a full season before I toss him on the list, since the Yankees backed out due to those concerns, but Torres will probably be solidly on the list next year after likely playing 2015 in the AZL.
There’s five position players to keep an eye, on, though in the next paragraph there’s some secondary bats to monitor: 3B Joe DeCarlo (5’10/210 2012 2nd rounder has had a slow start to his career, including a left pinkie fracture last season, but he has above average bat speed, raw power and arm strength with hands to fit in the infield), SS Tyler Smith (2013 8th rounder was senior sign that’s performed more than expected and now may be a big league utility guy that has enough glove to fill in at shortstop, making him tailor made to be this system’s Cistulli’s Guy), LF Jabari Henry (he’s old for the level, the Cal League/High Desert is super hitter-friendly and there’s some length to his swing, but Henry has an average arm, some feel for the strike sone, above average raw power and he hit 30 bombs last year), RF Jabari Blash (6’5/225 specimen looks like an NFL tight end and has above average arm, power and bat speed along with average foot speed; he served a drug suspension last year; Blash has improved his feel for the game and will be in Triple-A in 2015) and CF Leon Landry (above average runner is standout defender in center, but arm and power are below average and he’s a couple years old for the level, so he needs to continue the offensive progress to become a 4th outfielder).
Normally, this is the part where I narrow down a handful of interesting Latin prospects to the one or two I tell you to keep an eye on, but the Mariners had ten such guys in contention, so I figured I would mention them all and you can pick the one you want to bet on: RF Jose Leal (6’3/215 classic power right field prospect got $1.925 million, has easy plus raw power, an above average arm and some problems with contact), RF Estarlyn Morales (played alongside Leal and was a lower profile signing that’s a couple years older, but has a much better chance to hit and enough power that it matter), SS Erick Mejia (average runner has enough glove to stick at short and enough bat that it matters, just turned 20), CF Luis Liberato (above average bat speed and plus foot speed, but feel for the game is lacking), SS Rayder Ascanio (smaller guy without much offensive upside, but a wizard defensively at shortstop) and RHP Freddy Peralta (only 5’11 and right-handed isn’t a good start, but he’s up to 94 mph with a clean arm action and delivery with a chance to start) are the six that have played in America already.
Drawing from the recent July 2nd signings and players in the DSL, there are four others that make up this group of ten: C Onil Pena (Video Dominican got $385,000 and is offensive-oriented catcher with some pop that’s still raw behind the plate but has tools to make it work), 3B Greifer Andrade (Video Venezuelan outfield prospect got $1.05 million and was moved to shortstop, with third base the likely long-term fit, has solid average speed and arm, good instincts and advanced bat), C Juan Camacho (6’3/215, 18-year-old catcher was just signed out of Mexico and stood out for his bat in instructs) and C Ismerling Mota (Video Dominican catcher got $295,000 last year and shows well-rounded skill set with the bat and receiving ability standing out).
Kiley McDaniel has worked as an executive and scout, most recently for the Atlanta Braves, also for the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates. He's written for ESPN, Fox Sports and Baseball Prospectus. Follow him on twitter.