Hey all, it has been a while since I posted on here in a way other than comments and recently I have been looking at the organization as a whole and figured to share some of my thoughts and hopefully good insight on it all.
Following the trade for Montero the other day, the Mariners made one of the more stunning moves of the offseason, and while the good and bad of what we gave up has been debated back and forth many times now, the reality is Pineda is not ours but Montero is. In Montero we get what we hope will become a bat that sits in the middle of our order for years to come. Technically Montero is still a prospect although he is almost for sure to start the year in the majors this year. Looking at our Major League Roster with Montero in it we currently look to have good youth to build around in the future.
With Ackley, Montero, Smoak, and Felix holding down the young core in the majors and Carp potentially having a chance to join that group, one of my favorite things to look at is the minors and the system we have growing there. I, as many of you know, feel that the best way to build a long-term successful team is to build from within and supplement with FA signings to help put a team over the top. This is why I am very hopeful with the Mariners future when looking at the system Z has worked to put together in the recent years.
Headlined by what I consider our "Big 5" our system starts off extremely strong with the quintuplet of Montero, Hultzen, Walker, Paxton, and Franklin. This group of 5, I feel can rival just about any other organizations in the league. Hultzen, the 2nd overall pick in last year's draft, is someone we are all fairly familiar with. Although there was much commotion when the pick was announced, I have grown to love the pick as time goes on and he proves his worth. Pitching in the AFL, his only professional action thus far, Hultzen started 6 games pitching to the tune of a 1.40 ERA in just over 16 innings striking out 18 in this time. While a small sample size his showing was impressive and in the Rising Stars game, pitching against Gerrit Cole, it was a beautiful thing to see him strike out Grossman, Trout, and Lake, especially Trout:
Walker, while never pitching above Single-A Clinton, has made a name for himself in his first professional season out of high school. At only 19 (not 20 until August), Walker, who was considered raw coming out of the draft after being a two-sport athlete in high school, flashed much more polish than was expected. He still has work to do on his Change-up and the control/command combo, but both the fastball and curveball look to be potentially elite and if the Change develops in the next year I won't be afraid to say he has ace potential. Keeping in mind that he is only 19, it is likely that he will start at High Desert next year if not just for the fact that it is near where he is from. A push to AA Jackson is feasible during the season and it wouldn't surprise me to see it if he has success at High Desert.
Paxton, while he doesn't have the ace potential I see the other two having, does have what it takes to potentially become a solid #1 for most teams. More realistically I expect to see him become a very good #2 pitcher, but he is the last part of this trio that rivals any other trio of pitching in the minors. Paxton saw action at both Clinton and Jackson this season, forming a dominating duet with Walker to start the season and finishing the season demolishing the Southern AA league. I personally got to witness his 13 SO performance against the Carolina Mudcats and came away thoroughly impressed. While he does have some issues with his control he has shown some really good stuff and I think Al Skorupa of Bullpen Banter says it well:
I was not as big a fan of James Paxton when he was drafted, though I thought it was a great pick in the fourth round. I was turned off by Paxton's lack of a third pitch, some injury issues, his age and his velocity dipping in independent ball. Well... I was wrong! Paxton has some very good stuff for a lefty. His hard, bowling ball FB is impossible for hitters to elevate or do anything with. The CB is a plus pitch as well. Sadly for Paxton, this is one of a very few systems where he wouldn't have the best CB in the org! He's cleaned up his game all around and his CU has improved, leaving me with very little reservations about projecting as a good 2/3 starter.
The last of the Big 5 is Nick Franklin. Entering the season he had built up a ton of hype after demolishing in Low-A ball as a first year player. Due to unfortunate circumstances and some struggles to start the season he has slid a little bit in some rankings, but for the most part he is still viewed as a future SS with a good bat. Some still question how much power he projects to have but as a switch hitter, who was performing well in a short AA stint before a blow to the head and mono knocked him out, who is still only 20 and likely to start the season in AA or possibly AAA, he still profiles as a top SS prospect and one easily within the top 100 prospects in the game. Like Hultzen, he also played in the AFL this summer and while his numbers fluctuated throughout he did do this:
Frankie Piliere said this regarding Franklin and the AFL:
Certain players look like they were made to play the game. Franklin is one of those players. While his physical skills are impressive, his feel for the game stands out significantly compared to more crude young players. Franklin has a wiry, athletic frame and looks to be the type of athlete who could thrive anywhere on the field. But, he clearly has the tools to be an everyday big league shortstop. He shows enough pure arm strength to make the plays deep in the hole and his range grades out as plus as well.
Franklin has struggled in AFL action, but it does not take away from the hitter he figures to be in the big leagues. He looked more comfortable from the right side in the fall league, showing off impressive pull power. But, his swing looks just as compact and effortless from the left side. In time, he looks like he'll be an impressive gap hitter from each side, with potential 15-20 home run pop
Another player that you will see pushing for Top 100 prospect considerations is Vincent Catricala. The knock on him is not the bat, but rather where does he fit on defense. Most reports have him not staying at third and potentially not even being able to handle a spot in LF. If he is forced to a spot at 1B or DH then it is highly unlikely that his bat is enough to play at that position daily. As much as I hate to say it as I am a big fan of the bat, I am starting to see him as a Carp-light, as he may not be able to handle LF to the extent that Carp does.
Francisco Martinez is an actual 3B in the system that, unlike Cat, should actually stay there. If the name is familiar it is because he was one of the pieces acquired in the Fister trade and in my mind could end up being the best piece in the deal over the long term. Rushed by the Tigers, Martinez is still raw in many areas, but his bat made good strides last year and although his stats in some areas thus far haven't shown the promise that scouts see him building to recently, he still looks like a player who could be above average in many ways in the majors someday. Perfect Game wrote him up in this way:
Martinez's set of tools provide plenty of reason for optimism in the long term, though he has yet to put together an overly impressive season as a professional. His 33 game stint with AA Jackson was encouraging, as he hit .310/.326/.481 and has begun to realize some of his power potential. His 10 Home Runs at AA in 2011 were double his previous career total, and his power numbers are beginning to catch up to his tools. But for him to be an asset to the Mariners he will have to continue to develop his power to at least average MLB levels, which he projects to do. But the slow development to this point is a minor concern. His contact skills make up for his lack of plate discipline, which was quite solid in his native Venezuela, but has leveled out since moving up to higher levels of pro ball. His above average speed has translated poorly into stolen base success, going 10-for-20 in 2011 and is 54-for-80 in his career. His defensive tools suggest he should be a quality defender at 3B, which makes the high error rates all the more puzzling. While the stat sheet doesn't suggest Martinez's future is very bright, scouts believe that there is a lot of upside. While he has a ways to go, Martinez has a chance to become an impact player at the Major League level. Whether or not he will reach that potential is very much up in the air.
A counter part of Martinez in the Fister trade is someone who we have some familiarity with already in the majors as Chance Ruffin profiles to be a good reliever who is ready now and while he may not be a closer now, it is not out of the question that someday he develops into one.
The next name I want to mention is Alex Liddi. Seemingly he has been around forever but is only 23. Reports have indicated that his glove is getting better and it is not as much a foregone conclusion that he will move off 3rd as it was a year or two ago. His bat still profiles with a lot of power but not the best average. I believe I may have come around some in the recent months and while I still don't think he will be any kind of above average player, it is possible to me now that he provides something on the level of average in the Major Leagues, although he still has quite a few improvements to make before reaching that point.
A couple young International guys who have been in the system a year now are Phillips Castillo and Martin Peguero (Estelion). Both had mixed results in their debuts but both show promise. Castillo has a very high ceiling bat, which is good because he most likely will be a LF, and if he makes strides in plate discipline outside of the Arizona Rookie League, John Sickles thinks he could make enough strides that he could potentially be the best bat in the Mariner system after next year. Peguero, meanwhile was much more erratic then Castillo, and hasn't lived up to his bonus yet, but is just 17 and has a lot of time to do that.
One of the most recent international signings, Victor Sanchez, has not pitched for any Mariner team yet, but was considered probably the best International Free Agent in the class this year. As usual scouting reports on these players can be a little more vague, but luckily Sanchez has been on the scene for a good while, evicting this write-up from BA:
Sanchez, a 16-year-old from Caracas, is an interesting prospect as a right fielder as well, due to his above-average arm and raw power, though he doesn't make enough contact for teams to take him off the mound. Sanchez isn't tall (6-foot, 185 pounds), but he has a body like a bull, with a strong, thick frame with sloped shoulders and large hands. His fastball ranges from 89-92 mph and touches 94. He has a loose arm and does it fairly easily. His athleticism helps him repeat his delivery and throw strikes with his fastball to both sides of the plate. Sanchez also throws a plus slider and has shown feel for a changeup, and he'll mix in an occasional curveball. While Sanchez likely has the most present talent in this year's pitching crop, scouts wonder how much projection he has left. His body is relatively filled out and his fastball won't gain much more velocity. Sanchez doesn't miss as many bats as scouts would expect, as his fastball can get straight. Sanchez is represented by Carlos Gavidia, who represented Cardona last year. Many scouts believe Sanchez is the better prospect, though he isn't expected to match Cardona's $2.8 million bonus.
Going back a ways, unfortunately I cannot find the tweet, there was a tweet at the time of the signing from him (through someone else) that the Mariners saw him as a quick mover, to the tune of possibility of seeing the majors within 4 years. If the Mariners do see him highly then I see no reason not to be bullish on him.
Another player that I find myself bullish about is one Guillermo Pimentel. Pimentel, like Castillo, could rocket up charts if he makes any strides in plate discipline this next year. After showing off monster power this year he has proven that the power is not the question, but the 73 SO in 265 AB's is. Personally, I like him as an 18 year old prospect but at this point there is as good of a chance he completely busts as he becomes a regular.
To touch on a few more from this last draft Carter Capps is one of my favorite draftees this year and will definitely get a chance to start I would hope although he could be fast tracked to the bullpen. Capps had a great showing on the Cape this year, although mostly appearing out of the bullpen. Playing college ball at Mount Olive University in NC, I got a chance to see him a few times this year and think he has a chance to develop as a starter and a good one at that. If not he could be a dominant reliever. Brad Miller, the 2nd round pick, is one of those Ackley/Seager types who absolutely destroyed college pitching, and one that I am very interested in watching as he could stay at SS long term and at worst could be a quality utility man, but could end up a quality regular. Tyler Marlette is the last prospect I will touch on in depth at all but a player that fell due to perceived bonus demands this last year is a guy worth a follow through the system. Athletic for a catcher, boasting a strong are and good power potential out of high school Marlette, along with Capps were the two steals of this draft. Signing him was somewhat of a surprise to me actually. PG had this to say before the draft:
Tyler Marlette is a 2011 C/3B with a 5-11 200 lb. frame from Oviedo, FL who attends Hagerty HS. Strong loose mature build. Outstanding defensive tools, extremely strong arm, stays low, flexible lower half, quick actions, on line throws with plus accuracy. Right handed hitter, open bent knee stance, quick hands, pretty short to the ball, looking to pull and lift, shows present power and nice extension out front, ball comes off hard. Top level talent, potential high draft pick. Good student, signed with U. Central Florida.
With all this typed out I feel obliged to rank my top 15 or 20 here for kicks and giggles. To add to the appeal I will add faces. You guys seem to like faces. I like faces too. So now for some faces:
1 - Danny Hultzen - LHP - Gets the nod over Taijuan because of proximity to the big team
2 - Taijuan Walker - RHP - Love his potential.
3 - Jesus Montero - C/? - Yes, I placed him 3rd. Yes, I did it. Not because of his bat. Oh no, I love the bat. Just that little question mark up near the position worries me.
4 - Nick Franklin - SS - Rating him ahead of Paxton, but just barely. I think he has the potential to be a top 25 prospect after this season.
5 - James Paxton - LHP - Could feasibly see Seattle at some point this year. Getting him and Walker in the same draft was amazing.
6 - Francisco Martinez - 3B - While he has more to figure out then Catricala, he has a more set position.
7 - Vincent Catricala - 3B/LF/1B - That is a lot of positions.... But the bat is real.
8 - Chance Ruffin - RP - Could be a stalwart in our bullpen for a long time.
9 - Phillips Castillo - OF - Really think he could challenge Franklin for the #2 spot next year.
10 - Victor Sanchez - RHP - Really bullish on him, can't wait to see him pitch.
11 - Alex Liddi - 3B - If he sticks at 3B and can play adequate defense he could be useful in the following years
12 - Carter Capps - RHP - I think he can stay in the rotation, also could be dominate out of bullpen
13 - Guillermo Pimentel - OF - Praying he shows some more discipline because if he does he has one of the highest potentials of any one in the minor leagues.
14 - Brad Miller - SS - Probably a little low but could end up showing up like Seager has the past couple years.
15 - Martin Peguero - SS - Would love to see more out of him this year. Another guy who could jump a lot.
16 - Tyler Marlette - The highest of the trio of the catchers we picked this year, I am really interested in following his path.
Also of some significance, with the addition of Montero, Sickles rated the farm system #4 today. Surprised me due to the way the Mariners push young players into the majors sometimes. I would expect us to sit around 7-13 most years with a lot of young talent spread throughout the entire organization.
Now I said I was looking at the organization, so I would be remiss if I let it go without taking a look at some talent that could potentially end up in Seattle next year, so quickly I will introduce to my current favorite for us to take with the #3 pick next year in the draft. His name is Byron Buxton and here is an article detailing some of his skills:
The first connection I made with Buxton is of Starling of last year who was picked fifth overall by the Royals. Doing some more research this is how I broke it down on the 5 tool scouting scale:
- Speed - Buxton > Starling - Buxton is rated by many as a 70+ runner and even though Starling is very fast himself, he does not match Buxton. Also looked at some football film to help with this.
- Arm - Buxton = Starling - For both players these are already top notch tools. Both HS Quarterbacks, Buxton hits 94 off the mound as well.
- Glove - Starling > Buxton - Starling, while not quite as fast, seems to instinctively take better routes than Buxton, but both have the range to be great in CF
- Hitting - Buxton > Starling - Buxton's swing is more consistent at this point in time and he does a good job letting the ball get deep due to his quick swing which allows him to recognize pitches pretty well. Both still are working on plate discipline although Buxton is ahead at this point
- Power - Buxton > Starling - Both are well built and have great bodies for muscle. Both put on shows at Wrigley. Both look poised to potentially hit 30 HR's a year. Yet both play CF, and will stay there. Really impressive, just giving Buxton the slight edge here.
- Overall - It is extremely close but I am leaning Buxton slightly over Starling on this one.
Also here is his face:
Thanks for reading, would love to hear your thoughts.