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Grading the Minors: The Disappointments

Here come some more prospects! Toot toot! That's the sound of something important coming along so you should step aside or you will be crushed. Why aren't you getting out of the way?! Oh no. Oh noooo! Now there's stuff everywhere. Some of that stuff over there is supposed to be connected to that other stuff here. That's bad news. This post is a review of bad news.

Starting with this post and continuing on with the next two posts will be numerical-focused grades for the rough consensus (as determined by me based on the prospect lists made by the people mentioned here) for the top 30 or so prospects in the Mariners' system coming into 2011. These are the ones that I feel have slipped.

Johermyn Chavez, RF R/R 22

Johermyn (or Yohermyn) Chavez came over from Toronto in the swap of Brandons and impressed. He had a power breakout the previous year in Single-A Lansing (an average HR park) and kept that up with a monster 2010 season in High-A High Desert. He ended with a .315/.386/.577 line with 30 doubles and 32 home runs. This year has dented his shine. Now removed from High Desert, the power, the strikeouts and the walks have all slipped back to 2009 levels. That's not awful by itself, but is a step back. The real drain on Chavez has been the batting average sitting under .220. He's having a more productive July at least.

Ji-Man Choi, C/1B L/R 20

Ji-Man Choi is sort of a Korean version of Daric Barton. Prospecters said he has a polished bat but questioned if he would hit for power and whether he could stay at catcher or would have to move to first base. We found out no answers so far as he underwent back surgery and has not played in any games yet.

Nick Franklin, SS S/R 20

I don't think Nick Franklin was regarded as a threat to hit for much power, ever, when drafted. That made his 2010 season in Clinton such a surprise when he belted 23 home runs and put up an isolated slugging over .200. The organization ticketed Franklin for High Desert in 2011 and it seemed likely that he would at least continue hitting for power there (who doesn't?) and end 2011 in Double-A. Instead, while he did alright in High Desert, the power dropped considerably after a fruitful first month. Franklin has ended up in Double-A anyways and if he can do well there, his crappy May and June will likely be forgotten, swept under the rug that is High Desert's stupid park effects.

James Jones, RF L/L 22

James Jones is one of those uber-athlete draft picks in the Adam Jones mold. A former pitcher, he converted to outfield and because of the switch was probably more expected to need a longer development time in the minors. However, after a slow start to 2010 with Clinton, Jones tore it up in the second half in every respect. If he could sustain that into 2011, he had a chance to make waves. Instead, like Franklin above, Jones arrived in High Desert and regressed. The power is lower and the strikeouts have gone haywire (27%). Jones' seasonal averages look a lot worse than his medians thanks to a phenomenally poor April. In 70 April PAs, Jones posted a .033 ISO and struck out 26 times. He's been steadier since then, but needs to improve to up his stock.

Marcus Littlewood, SS S/R 19

Marcus Littlewood did not play professionally in 2010 so his selection on some prospect lists was most likely because of scouting and his draft position. I doubt he repeats that high of grade next season. He was out and out putrid at Clinton and so far in Everett is not doing much better. Another player with a good July (.213 average, but .373 OBP and .362 SLG) going, but he needs another two July's badly.

Julio Morban, CF L/L 19

Julio Morban has a good 2009 season in the Arizona league at age 17, putting up big power (and strikeout) numbers. He lost much of 2010 and 2011 hasn't been kinder to his prospect status. He's played, at least, and is all the way up in Clinton but has a .238/.282/.351 batting line that indicates he's overmatched at that level for now.

Ramon Morla, 3B R/R 21

Ramon Morla destroyed the Rookie league last year in Pulaski hitting .323/.364/.610. A 65:15 strikeout/walk rate was the big drawback. The other notable one was the defense. While scouts seemed to like the range or potential range, he did commit 21 errors in 51 games. In that area, Morla has improved with six in his 35 games this season. The bad news is that everything to do with his hitting has imploded. An OPS of .462 in Clinton showed him not able to handle that and he's since moved down to Everett.

Carlos Peguero, LF L/L 24

Carlos Peguero gave me some pause when considering how to rank him. On the obvious hand, he's been terrible and terrible in obvious and fatal ways. On the other, why was he in Seattle to begin with? He finished 2010 in Double-A and wasn't exactly tearing up the leagues. So is it fair to judge his performance in the Majors so harshly? In the end, I decided that yes it is fair because aside from the numbers, seeing Peguero first hand allowed me, and y'all, to view the many holes in his game. He has much to work on and I hope he does, in Tacoma.

Stephen Pryor, RP RH 21

A fifth round pick in the 2010 draft, Stephen Pryor signed and moved quickly, as expected. He's a big guy who throws fast out of the bullpen and was tabbed as one of those types that could rise through the low minors in a hurry. He went through Everett and Clinton in his draft year and laid waste to both, posting identical 38% strikeout rates at each level. High Desert was a rougher story, even accounting for the park and league factors. The walk rate ballooned and though he was still proficient as striking hitters out, a 25% rate isn't 38%. The good news is that in a continuation of this post's theme, Pryor had a terrible start and has been better of late. Through May, Pryor had issued 18 walks against just 10 strikeouts. In June and July, he improved to eight walks and 26 strikeouts (34% of PAs) a much more pleasing ratio. He's now up in Double-A and a solid performance there would move him into the "improve" blob.

Mauricio Robles, SP LH 22

Mauricio Robles showed a lot of promise last season, holding his own in the upper levels of the minors at just 21 years old. He certainly has the stuff to succeed, but iffy command and short stature had some thinking he was more a reliever long-term. Unfortunately, Robles had surgery to remove "loose bodies" (bone chips usually) from his elbow during Spring Training and has only just recently returned. He began in High Desert and was bad. He moved up to Jackson and was bad. Now he's moved up again to Tacoma. He numerically gets an incomplete so far and slips to me because of the injury.

Nate Tenbrink, 3B L/R 24

Nate Tenbrink was nobody's highly regarded prospect, but he did flash decent tools across the board and there's always a chance with those guys that if they turn one or two of them into real plus attributes, they become suddenly quite useful. Tenbrink has not done that this year. He has some speed, can draw a walk and can hit some over the fence, but is striking out too much and is batting just .218. Tenbrink has stalled this year and that's not always a bad omen, but for a 24-year-old in his second exposure to Double-A, he needs to get a move on.