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Prospect Tracker, Class-A, April 8-19

Full season minor league baseball kicked off almost two weeks ago, so let's take a moment to see how some of our more notable prospects have fared so far.  We'll hit on West Tenn and Tacoma soon.

Clinton Lumberkings - Midwest League (A)

First off, a transaction.  RHP Erasmo Ramirez, who is known for putting up video game numbers in the Venezuelan Summer League, has been promoted to class-A Clinton.  Last year I wrote about some of the reasons why he may have been able to put up those big numbers despite not being known as a guy with great stuff.  But while he's not projected as a future ace he is a prospect, and will begin trying to prove that he can get higher level hitters out with his combination of great command and so-so stuff.  So far he has appeared in one game with Clinton, pitching 2 innings in relief in which he surrendered one hit and struck out one.  Here is some video of Erasmo from Spring Training, uploaded by Lonnie of Mariner Central

Steve Baron, C - After struggling at the dish in his pro debut last season, he continues to have problems making contact, striking out 8 times through 9 games.  .233/.258/.300 through 31 PAs.

Dennis Raben, 1B - After missing all of last season recovering from knee surgery, it was awfully nice to see Raben go opposite field for a home run in his first regular season game back (seen here).  In 12 games (51 PAs) he has gone on to hit 2 more homers, bringing his early season line to .229/.315/.458.

Nick Franklin, SS/2B - Doing his best to silence the critics of his first round selection by getting off to a roaring start, Franklin landed on Baseball America's Prospect Hot Sheet for April 16:

Teenagers aren't supposed to get off to fast starts in the cold Midwest League climates, especially not those teenagers from warmer, Southern regions. But Franklin, the 27th overall pick last June from Altamonte Springs, Fla., did not take heed. The switch-hitter homered from both sides of the plate in an April 10 contest, and he's racked up three multi-hit games overall in a week-plus of games. And because of the presence of slick-fielding Gabriel Noriega on the LumberKings' roster, Franklin has gotten the opportunity to learn to play second base as well. That's just as well. The Mariners prefer to give their prospects exposure to as many positions as possible while they're in the minors.

The 4-for-4, 2 homer game was certainly impressive, and can be seen here (next day interview here).  Through 11 games (48 PAs) Franklin is hitting .326/.354/.587 with 6 extra base hits.  The only concern so far might be his walk rate, as he's earned just 2 free passes early on to go with the 2 he drew in 65 plate appearances last season with Arizona and Everett.

Gabriel Noriega, SS/2B - The glove man is struggling at the plate thus far, hitting just .148 with one extra base hit. 

Mario Martinez, 3B - The last thing Martinez wants to do is repeat his 2009 performance with Clinton that got him demoted to the Northwest League, but so far he's doing just that, hitting .205/.209/.256 with 11 strikeouts and just 1 walk through 40 PAs. 

James Jones, RF - After turning heads in his Northwest League debut last season, Jones is off to a slow start with Clinton.  He's hitting just .152/.204/.261 with 16 strikeouts over his first 12 games (49 PAs).  He has shown some speed, hitting 2 triples (one seen here) and stealing 3 bases.  I think his swing looks a lot cleaner this season.

Tyler Blandford, RHP - Regarded as a reliever by his own team coming out of the draft, Blandford has been given a shot in the rotation early but has not taken the opportunity and run with it.  He has walked.  9 in 6.2 IP to be exact.  The strikeouts and grounders are nice at least.  How long will they stick with him as a starter before they decide to fast track him as a reliever?

The watch list: Vinnie Catricala, 3B - Hitting a bit, but the home run power hasn't shown up.  Shaver Hansen, INF - Expected to play around the infield, he has only stolen starts from Franklin and Noriega at 2B so far.  Only 5 hits so far, but 3 of them are doubles.  Matt Cerione, OF - Bad start, worse team photo.  Easy on the teeth whitening.  Jon Hesketh, LHP - Has gotten rocked in two starts so far and has been walking hitters more than he did last year, but at least he's throwing ground balls.

Others: Kalian Sams, OF - I neglected Seattle's other beastly Dutch outfielder in the original Clinton post, but he's off to an interesting start after struggling with wrist and hand injuries last year.  Like Greg Halman he doesn't walk and strikes out a ton, but he has 6 homers in 12 games so far.  Here is some video of him hitting a walk off, and here is the corresponding interview.  James Gilheeney, LHP - Another guy I liked out of last year's draft but neglected in the previous post, Gilheeney is off to a decent start.  Through 3 starts he has 14 strikeouts through 15.1 innings to go with a 2.93 ERA.  The 9 walks are discouraging.  Brian Moran, LHP - Often referred to as a deceptive lefty setup man in the same vein as George Sherrill, Moran has a pretty line so far.  Through 8.1 innings he has 13 strikeouts and no walks.

Don't be too discouraged by the hitter's lackluster numbers so far.  The Midwest League is known as a pitcher's league, and it can get awfully cold in Iowa at night.

High Desert Mavericks - California League (A adv)

Rich Poythress, 1B/DH - Part of me wants Poythress, certified beast, to play the whole season in High Desert just so we can see what kind of numbers he could put up in Stater Bros. Stadium.  But without a legit prospect holding down the first base position with West Tenn, I can't imagine Poythress will get that opportunity.  So far he his hitting .283/.353/.543 through 11 games.

Kyle Seager, 2B/3B - After a very successful pro debut with Clinton last season, Seager continues to hit with High Desert.  Through 50 plate appearances he is hitting .364/.440/.500.

Johermyn Chavez, RF - Coming off a monster season in the Midwest League while with the Toronto Blue Jays, Chavez is getting his hits and drawing a few walks with High Desert, hitting .289/.400/.421 through 45 plate appearances.  He's another guy that could put up monster power numbers in Adelanto, and has all three of his extra base hits at home so far.

Maikel Cleto, RHP - After missing most of last season, Cleto has gotten off to an encouraging start this season.  Through 8.2 innings (2 starts) he has struck out 9, walked just 2 and racked up a ton of ground balls.  Again, this guy was considered the potential gem among the minor leaguers of the Putz-Gutierrez deal.  Keep an eye out.  Here is some more Spring Training video from Lonnie.  

The watch list: Kenn Kasparek, RHP - Decent numbers so far, but as expected the strikeouts have dropped with the level up.  Juan Diaz, SS - Hit well enough for a promotion last season, but not starting off well this season.  Well, he's hitting great for a wax figureDenny Almonte, OF - Average is nice, but still striking out way too much and isn't walking.  Trevor Coleman, C - Still not hitting.  At all.  Andrew Carraway, RHP - The strikeouts and pinpoint control have not abandoned him with the level jump.  Looking more and more like a prospect.  Cheyne Hann, RHP - Reliever didn't get promoted, which is curious considering his age.  Strikeouts are down temporarily but he's not getting hit hard.

Others: Ryan Feierabend, LHP - He has one rehab start under his belt, pitching 2 innings and striking out 4 with zeroes everywhere else.  Bobby LaFromboise, LHP - Off to a decent start.  Worth keeping an eye on.  Jake Wild, RHP - Has gotten hit around through 3 starts, but 14 K and 2 BB through 14.1 IP.

As always, you can check most of these guys out on video here.