Top 10 Prospects: The Seattle Mariners by Marc Hulet January 25, 2011 The Seattle Mariners 2010 MLB Record: 61-101 (4th, AL West) Minor League Power Ranking: 16th (out of 30) Click for: Last Year’s Top 10 Prospect List The Prospects 1. Michael Pineda, RHP Acquired: 2005 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 5.0 Notes: Pineda entered the 2010 season a little bit under the radar, thanks to an injury-filled ’09 season. But he quickly vaulted to the top of the club’s prospect list with a good showing at both double-A and triple-A. In double-A, Pineda managed a 2.16 FIP, while also showing the ability to miss bats (9.12 K/9). His control was outstanding, with a walk rate of 1.99 BB/9. His FIP jumped to 3.60 at triple-A but his strikeout rate jumped to 10.97 K/9 and he maintained his control. He did see his HR/9 rate jump from 0.12 to 1.30, but his ground-ball rates suggest there isn’t too much reason to be concerned; he should produce average ground-ball rates in the Majors and his home park will help keep fly balls in play. His repertoire includes a mid-90s fastball, slider, and changeup. Pineda’s delivery includes a long stride, a three-quarter arm slot and some effort. If he can continue to sharpen his changeup, he could develop into a No. 2 starter. 2. Dustin Ackely, 2B Acquired: 2009 1st round (U North Carolina) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA Opening Day Age: 23 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5 Notes: Ackley’s numbers haven’t been quite as good as expected from a former top draft pick, but the organization has pushed him aggressively through the minors. The ’09 draft pick spent the 2010 season in double-A and triple-A with modest results. After a slow start to the year Ackley rebounded to hit .260/.386/.381 at double-A before moving up to triple-A and hitting .274/.338/.439 in 212 at-bats. He currently has gap power, but he could develop 15-homer pop in the Majors. He also has the speed to steal 15-20 bases. He hits with a slightly-open stance and does a nice job of keeping his bat level through the strike zone. He hits well to all fields. Ackley has yet to find a definitive defensive home, although he’s expected to end up at second base. As a hard worker, he should become an average defensive player. It’s possible that he could use some more seasoning in triple-A, but the trade of Jose Lopez and a strong Arizona Fall League showing could help Ackley win the second-base job in spring training. 3. Nick Franklin, SS Acquired: 2009 1st round (Florida HS) Pro Experience: 2 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A/AA Opening Day Age: 20 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Franklin caught a lot of people by surprise when he produced a 20-20 line in his first full pro season. The teenager’s power (.205 ISO) comes from good bat speed and a willingness to let the bat fly. That could catch up to him at higher levels, though, leading to lower batting averages. With a little more of a controlled swing, Franklin could cut down on his strikeout rate (24.0 K%), while also producing a better all-around offensive approach and still hit about 15 home runs. He has good hands at the plate and clears his hips quickly. His speed is average but he’s a smart base runner. In the field, Franklin has good actions at shortstop but an average arm could eventually lead him to a job at the keystone. He could be in line for a big offensive season at High Desert, but there is some thought that he might also jump to double-A where it will be interesting to see if he can maintain respectable numbers – with his current approach – against more advanced pitchers. 4. Taijuan Walker, RHP Acquired: 2010 supplemental 1st round (California HS) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 18 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Walker appeared in just four games after signing in 2010 (in part due to shoulder issues) and he could open ’11 in extended spring training. The right-hander shows a lot of potential but he played multiple sports in high school and didn’t pitch regularly until his senior season. He has two good pitches: a low-to-mid-90s fastball and a curveball, but he’s still working to develop his changeup. Walker is an athletic pitcher, who fields his position well, but he’s still sharpening his mechanics and tends to struggle with his command. He pitches with a high leg kick, a long stride, and a three-quarter arm slot. His delivery also has some effort to it. 5. Guillermo Pimentel, OF Acquired: 2009 non-drafted free agent (Dominican Republic) Pro Experience: 1 season 2010 MiLB Level: Rookie Opening Day Age: 18 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.5 Notes: Like Walker, Pimentel could be another top prospect that will need a fair bit of time to develop. Signed for $2 million as a non-drafted free agent, he was named the Rookie Arizona League’s No. 1 prospect by Baseball America despite modest numbers, including a triple-slash line of .250/.276/.451 in 184 at-bats. The left-handed hitter shows plus-power potential (.201 ISO rate as a teenager), although he needs to make more consistent contact and improve against off-speed pitches. He has a nice approach at the plate with a solid swing and good bat speed. With enough development time, Pimentel could develop into a plus defender, but he’s still raw in the field, as well as on the base paths. With massive power and an overly-aggressive approach (2.6 BB%), Seattle will have to hope that Pimentel can avoid becoming Greg Halman. 6. Mauricio Robles, LHP Acquired: 2006 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela) Pro Experience: 4 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: Stolen from Detroit in the ’09 Jarrod Washburn deal (along with MLB-contributor Luke French), Robles has developed into a nice prospect. The left-hander has a plus fastball that sits 90-94 mph range despite his small-ish frame. Robles also flashes a plus changeup and a developing curveball. Robles’ control needs more consistency (4.03 in double-A, 6.43 in triple-A) but he has produced good strikeout rates throughout his career, including 9.47 K/9 in 114.0 double-A innings. If his breaking ball doesn’t come around, the southpaw could develop into a high-leverage reliever. He has a quick arm and a three-quarter arm slot but he struggles with his release point at times. His lower half is a little thick so he’ll have to stay on top of his conditioning as he ages. 7. Johermyn Chavez, OF Acquired: 2005 non-drafted free agent (Venezuela) Pro Experience: 5 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A+ Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 4.0 Notes: Chavez was acquired from the Jays along with reliever Brandon League in the ill-fated Brandon Morrow trade. League had a solid season in the Mariners bullpen, but he did not come close to matching Morrow’s value (3.7 WAR) with Toronto. Chavez could help lessen some of the blow, but he’s a one-dimensional slugger who struggles in the field despite a strong arm. Just 22, he produced solid numbers in high-A ball in 2010, but he performed in a hitter’s league. Chavez has always had good raw power but he saw his ISO rate jump from .191 in ’09 to .262 in ’10. He hit .315 but was helped by a .364 BABIP. On the plus side, he’s become a little more patient at the plate and has seen his walk rate increase steadily over the past few seasons from 5.7 to 7.0 to 8.6%; his strikeout rate has dropped from 31.8 to 27.0 to 24.5%. Chavez has good bat speed and the ball jumps off of his bat. His swing is more level now than it was in the Jays system, so Seattle has clearly eliminated his noticeable upper cut. Chavez will face a big test in 2011 when he faces tougher pitching in double-A 8. Kyle Seager, 2B/3B Acquired: 2009 3rd round (U North Carolina) Pro Experience: 2 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: A+ Opening Day Age: 23 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.5 Notes: A teammate of Dustin Ackley’s at the University of North Carolina, Seager will likely be pushed off second base by the former No. 1 draft pick. Seager may have the bat to move to third base on a permanent basis, though. He had an excellent offensive season while playing in the potent California League. He produced a .345 batting average, thanks in part to a .390 BABIP, and also displayed a good eye at the plate with a walk rate of 11.0% and a respectable strikeout rate of 16.9%. Seager showed some power with a .158 ISO and he could see some of his gap power (40 doubles in 557 at-bats) turn into over-the-fence pop as he matures as a hitter. He has a quiet stance at the plate but his mechanics look mechanical and stiff at times. When he’s looking really good, Seager shows quick hands, keeps his bat level through the zone and clears his hips well. If he cannot produce enough pop to succeed at the hot corner, Seager could become an offensive-minded utility player, having seen time at second, third, and shortstop. 9. Dan Cortes, RHP Acquired: 2005 7th round (California HS) Pro Experience: 6 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA/MLB Opening Day Age: 24 Estimated Peak WAR: 2.5 Notes: With six seasons of pro ball and three employers on his resume, it’s been a long, steady climb through the minors for Cortes, who is still just 24. The hard-thrower (his fastball sat just below 97 mph on average in his MLB debut) has improved the command of his secondary pitches (curveball, slider) and he’s also learned to keep the ball on the ground a little bit more after being more of an extreme fly-ball pitcher earlier in his career. His control still comes and goes (5.70 BB/9 in double-A) but Cortes can dominate when he finds the plate (9.14 K/9). Mostly a starter in the minors, he’ll likely be a high-leverage reliever at the MLB level if he can find a little more consistency. 10. Blake Beavan, RHP Acquired: 2007 1st round (Texas HS) Pro Experience: 3 seasons 2010 MiLB Level: AA/AAA Opening Day Age: 22 Estimated Peak WAR: 3.0 Notes: Beavan is the antithesis of Dan Cortes. The former Rangers No. 1 draft pick has seen his velocity take a step backwards in pro ball but he succeeds with outstanding control (0.98 BB/9 rate in 110 double-A innings). The right-hander also produced a 51% ground-ball rate. The knock on Beavan is that he doesn’t have a dynamite out-pitch, which helps to explain the strikeout rate of 5.56 K/9. He’s probably best-suited as a workhorse No. 4 starter in the American League, although he could certainly develop into a No. 3 in the NL. His fastball ranges anywhere from 87-93 mph, although it flattens out the harder he throws it. He also has a so-so slider and a decent changeup. Beavan has a three-quarter arm slot and a low-effort arm action.