Seattle Mariners: Top 10 Prospects

General Manager: Jack Zduriencik
Farm Director: Pedro Grifol
Scouting Director: Tom McNamara

FanGraphs’ Top 10 Prospects:
(2009 Draft Picks/International Signees Not Included)

After writing the Mariners’ draft review the other day, it became quite obvious that the Top 10 list did not come from mining the college and prep ranks. A good number of the prospects on this list have come from international signings, while two also came via the trade route. With that said, Dustin Ackley would easily be the club’s No. 1 prospect if I was including ’09 draftees and international signees.

1. Michael Saunders, OF, Majors
DOB: November 1986 Bats: L Throws: R
Signed: 2004 11th round – Tallahassee Community College
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 1

Saunders showed some rough edges at the MLB level in ’09 by hitting .221/.258/.279 in 122 at-bats. That MLB triple-slash line came on the heels of a .310/.378/.544 line in triple-A. After stealing 20+ bases in ’06 and ’07, Saunders attempted just 14 thefts in ’09 between the two levels so it would be nice to see him incorporate the running game into his attack a little more often. Although he didn’t show it in the Majors (.057 ISO), Saunders does possess some pop (.234 ISO) and he showed solid defence in left field. With the addition of Milton Bradley and Eric Byrnes at the MLB level, the outfield is crowded in Seattle so Saunders could very well spend much of the year in triple-A but he could be the first man recalled if an injury occurs.

2. Adam Moore, C, Majors
DOB: May 1984 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 6th round – University of Texas-Arlington
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 3

The club is relying heavily on youth behind the plate in ’09 with the likely tandem of Rob Johnson and Adam Moore. The club chose not to dip into the veteran catcher free agent pool (Yorvit Torrealba, Rod Barajas) this past off-season, save for a few non-roster invites to the likes of Josh Bard and Eliezer Alfonzo. The 25-year-old Moore had a nice offensive showing in triple-A in ’09 by hitting .294/.346/.429 in 340 at-bats. He has some raw power but his ISO rates have slowly eroded away since hitting 22 homers (.236 ISO) in high-A in ’07. His rate in triple-A in ’09 was .135. Moore walks a modest amount (7.1%) but he keeps the strikeout rate at a reasonable level (15.0%). Behind the plate, he threw out 31% of base stealers and still has some work to do on his receiving skills.

3. Carlos Triunfel, 3B, Double-A
DOB: February 1990 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Late-2011 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Triunfel was zooming through the minor league system and reached double-A in ’09 as a 19 year old, but the infielder’s season came to a crashing halt when he broke his leg in April. He made it back for the Arizona Fall League where he hit .204 but he was reportedly bothered by his leg. Looking back to ’08, the third baseman hit .287/.336/.406 in 436 at-bats in high-A. He also stole 30 bases in 39 tries so it will be interesting to see if his injury affects his speed going forward. With an ISO of just .119 in ’08, Originally a shortstop, Triunfel does not really fit the profile of a third baseman but he’s expected to play there in the future, unless he can stick at second base. Only 20, Triunfel is just beginning to tap into his potential.

4. Alex Liddi, 3B, High-A
DOB: August 1988 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Italy)
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

It’s amazing what a good hitter’s environment can do for a player’s value. With Liddi, though, the improvement is considered to be part league-affected and part realization of potential. Signed out of Italy, the third baseman is still learning the finer aspects of the game and he’ll play 2010 under a much larger microscope after catching fans’ attentions with a line of .345/.411/.594. His wOBA jumped from .314 in ’08 at low-A to .431 in high-A in ’09. Although his plate rates were almost identical to ’08, Liddi made a number of statistical leaps, most notably: OPS from .673 to 1.005, ISO from .116 to .249. The huge increase in power in just one season is a little suspicious and could very well be the product of his environment in high-A. His batting average of .345 (.244 in ’08) was fueled by a .413 BABIP. Defensively, Liddi has shown some improvements at third, but he may never be better than average at the hot corner. If ’09 wasn’t a fluke, though, his bat might be able to play anywhere on the field.

5. Michael Pineda, RHP, High-A
DOB: January 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Dominican Republic)
MLB ETA: Mid-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 88-94 mph fastball, slider, change-up

A beast on the mound at 6’5” 250 lbs, Pineda was let down by his elbow in ’09 as his season was interrupted in mid-May and he did not return until August. The elbow soreness that he experienced is cause for concern going forward, but the right-hander has a bright future ahead of him if he can put the issue behind him. Just 20 in ’09, Pineda posted a 2.73 FIP in 10 appearances (eight starts) in high-A despite playing in a good hitter’s league. He allowed just 29 hits in 44.1 innings of work and showed outstanding control for his age with a walk rate of 1.22 BB/9. His low-90s fastball and good (but inconsistent) slider helped him post a strikeout rate of 9.74 K/9. It will be interesting to see if the organization returns Pineda to high-A in 2010 or pushes him to double-A.

6. Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B, Majors
DOB: May 1986 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2004 3rd round – Washington HS
MLB ETA: Now 40-Man Roster: Yes Options: 2

There are two distinct thoughts on Tuiasosopo. One camp sees the infielder flicking the baseball light switch on thanks to his impressive athletic abilities, while the other camp sees him as a future bench player in the Majors, at best. The third baseman has yet to master the art of consistency. In a season marred by injury, Tuiasosopo broke through in his power numbers (.212 ISO in triple-A) but he continues to struggle to hit for average. Although he shows patience at the plate (13.4%), the infielder also swings at a lot of bad pitches and posted a strikeout rate of 36.7 K% in ’09. In two brief stints in the Majors, he hit just .182/.236/.303.

7. Nick Hill, LHP, Double-A
DOB: January 1985 Bats: L Throws: L
Signed: 2007 7th round – US Military Academy
MLB ETA: 40-Man Roster: Options:
Repertoire: 86-89 mph fastball, curveball, change-up

It’s not often that relievers show up on the Top 10 list but Hill had a solid showing in ’09 and could be an important contributor to the Major League bullpen in 2010. The club lacks a true left-handed reliever, although it has some fringe starters who could shift to the ‘pen, so Hill could help fill that void. Pitching at double-A in ’09, the southpaw posted a 2.76 FIP in 95.2 innings. Despite an average fastball in terms of velocity, Hill posted a strikeout rate of 9.41 K/9. He also showed solid control with a walk rate of 2.26 BB/9 and gets good sink on his offerings (53.5 GB%). Encouragingly, Hill is not helpless against right-handed batters, as they hit just .215 against him.

8. Gabriel Noriega, SS, Rookie
DOB: September 1990 Bats: B Throws: R
Signed: 2007 non-drafted international free agent (Venezuela)
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

You have to dream a little bit with Noriega. The 19-year-old shortstop has spent the past two seasons in rookie ball so he still has a long way to climb. He showed a nice stick in ’09 by hitting .311/.360/.456 in 206 at-bats. He also improved his patience at the plate over ’08 by increasing his walk rate from 3.4 to 7.0 BB%. Noriega has a little pop in his bat (.146 ISO) but his strikeout rate needs to improve (29.1%). In truth, Noriega’s bat is far from the most impressive part of his game. Defense is where the infielder really shines and those that like him a lot see him as a future Gold Glover at shortstop. He’ll certainly have no issues with staying at the position unless he fills out too much and has to shift to third base, but that should be down the line a ways if it occurs at all.

9. Maikel Cleto, RHP, Low-A
DOB: May 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2006 non-drafted international free agent (New York NL)
MLB ETA: Late-2013 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3
Repertoire: 90-97 mph fastball, slider, change-up

Cleto, like Pineda, had his ’09 season cut short and he made just eight appearances in low-A. Luckily, his season was delayed by visa issues and not an injury. The right-hander is one of the hardest throwers in the system and his fastball can touch the high-90s. Along with his velocity, Cleto has shown good sink, which has produced some good ground-ball numbers in the low minors. Unfortunately, he’s really a one-pitch pitcher right now and there has been talk of moving him to the bullpen where he could develop into a late-game rock. The 2010 season will be huge for Cleto in terms of solidifying his prospect value.

10. Johermyn Chavez, OF, Low-A
DOB: January 1989 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: 2005 non-drafted international free agent (Toronto)
MLB ETA: Late-2012 40-Man Roster: No Options: 3

Chavez slips onto the back end of the Top 10 list after being acquired from Toronto in the Brandon Morrow deal this past off-season. I’ve had a chance to follow him closely over the past three years and I truly believe he has a good shot at developing into a solid big league outfielder. He repeated low-A in ’09 but he was not old for the league at 20. Chavez was second in the league in homers (his ISO rate was 9th) and fourth in RBIs on a not-so-good Lansing squad. After posting a strikeout rate of 27 K% or more in each of the past three seasons, it’s clear that he needs to make a little more contact. Although he’s not a great base runner, Chavez has the ability to nab double-digit steals and he has a strong arm and profiles well in right field. He played a lot of left field in ’08 due to the presence of Moises Sierra, who has one of the strongest arms in the minors.

Up Next: The San Francisco Giants

Marc Hulet has been writing at FanGraphs since 2008. His work focuses on prospects and fantasy. Follow him on Twitter @marchulet.

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12 years ago

Despite his struggles last year, I think Greg Halman should probably remain on a list like this. His potential, should his immense power and speed to flourish at the MLB level, is simply too great regardless of how low his floor is.

Perhaps the regression of Chris Young has scared people off, but the differences between these two aren’t that much.

12 years ago
Reply to  BTC

The differences between the two are huge. Halman struck out 6 times as much as he walked last year. At his worst in the minors Young struck out less than 2.5 times as much as he walked and he showed steady progression in that category at each subsequent stop.

12 years ago
Reply to  BTC

Halman may have more potential than many of the guys on this list, but until he shows some sustained progress towards realizing it he doesn’t belong ahead of any of them.