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Mariners Top 20 Prospects, 2006

John Sickels gives us his take on the top young players in the system, so go give that a look. The gist:

A difficult system to get a handle on. Clement and Jones are the obvious top guys, but after that things become unclear.

If you consider a "B" grade to be the lower threshold for guys who have a reasonable chance of becoming impact players down the road (which isn't really how it works, but whatever), then Clement, Jones, and Cabrera are all we've got right now. And that's probably the way it should be - Snelling got bumped down for being hurt all the time, Tuiasosopo got bumped for not having much of a performance record yet, Choo got bumped for not being real good, and Livingston got bumped for having so little margin of error. The only grade I really disagree with is Nageotte at C+, although I'm probably biased, and the difference between a C+ and a B- is hardly worth fighting over.

It's also worth noting that, for whatever reason, Marcos Carvajal was left off the list (edit: presumably because of his service time in the big leagues a year ago, which I totally should've known, but I'm feeling pretty stupid today). He'd probably come in around a B-, which is the same grade he got a year ago.

Taken at face value, it's not so much a topheavy system as it is one that's relying on some of its eighty dozen interesting toolsy players to take a step forward in 2006, the way Jones did last season. The obvious candidate is Tuiasosopo, but you've also got Bazardo, Carvajal, and Foppert seemingly in good position to improve, and a bunch of other guys who'll be looking to repeat their 2005 success at higher levels.

It's a volatile system. All things considered, it looks pretty thin right now, but two or three breakouts from the younger talent pool could launch it into the top quarter in the league, and that's not a bad place to be, given how the organization looked a few years ago. And with so much quality youth already on the ML roster (Hernandez, Betancourt, Lopez, Reed), there's no real rush for San Antonio and Tacoma to start churning out prospects every month, so Bob Fontaine can take his time in getting this system to where it needs to be.

Even with the front office making some peculiar decisions at the Major League level, this is an organization that's clearly on the rise.