The Seattle Mariners farm system at first glance will look to most a little barren. After all, a good chunk of their top prospects from last season are gone from the systems ranks. Catcher Mike Zunino, 2B Nick Franklin, and SS Brad Miller all became major leaguers in 2013. That part is a good thing for the Mariners organization. Building from within. However, the multiple shoulder issues with starting pitcher Danny Hultzen is a major area of concern. Hultzen has already been ruled out for the 2014 season. On the plus side, the Mariners have drafted very well and added some interesting international players. As we like to say around here, this system is sneaky good.
So let’s take a look at the system from the top with potential 2014 rotation piece, Taijuan Walker.
1. Taijuan Walker, RHP 8/13/1992 H:6’4″ W:210 - The steal of the 2010 draft, Walker made his major league debut in 2014 at the tender age of 21. Walker had an excellent season, going 9-10 2.93 ERA 160/57 K/BB 141.1 IP @ AA/AAA. His command was excellent, despite facing advanced hitters.
He went 1-0 3.60 ERA 12/4 K/BB over a 15 MLB IP debut. By all accounts, he will be in the opening day rotation.
Our Instinct: Walker’s stuff has become very dominating. You could make a case for him as the very top pitching prospect in baseball and a serious contender for the AL Rookie of the Year in 2014. His 4 pitch arsenal, lead by 95 mph fastball and a hard cutter, gives him the upside of a potential ace. However, he won’t be called upon to fill that spot for many years and have pretty good success as the Mariners #3. There is serious “Wow” ability here. ETA NOW.
2. D.J. Peterson, 3B 12/31/1991 H:6’1″ W:190 - The 2013 1st round pick (12th overall) had a fantastic season at New Mexico where he posted a .408/.520/.807 triple slash with 18 HR over 218 AB in one of the better college performances this season. We were very high on him before draft day, rating him as the 5th best draft prospect. Peterson has a short stroke which limits strikeouts and should keep him from prolonged slumps as a professional. His environment in college is conducive to power but he still projects out as a .300 hitter with 20+ HR power potential.
Peterson’s polish and advanced hit tool will make him a fast mover and high floor prospect. He’s currently a 3B and has a solid chance to stick there. Many believe he’ll end up at 1B but he has more than enough arm and range to handle 3B as long as his bat plays up as projected.
Peterson slashed .303/.365/.553 with 13 HR and 47 RBI to go with a 42/20 K/BB ratio over 208 AB between SS-A Everett and Low-A Clinton.
Our Instinct: On August 22nd, 2013 Peterson’s season came to an abrupt halt after having his jaw broken with a face full of fastball. He had surgery the next day is going to be 100% for opening day. After a long college season and a successful pro debut in 2013, Peterson will be rewarded with an invite to Spring Training. He will likely end up at AA this season, but the Mariners may decide to unleash him on the hitter friendly California League to start 2014. As Mike Zunino before him, he’s on the fast track to the majors. ETA 2015.
3. James Paxton, LHP 11/06/1988 H:6’4″ W:220 - Paxton is league ready, however he may not get the opportunity to open the season with the Mariners. The Mariners already have 3 guaranteed rotation spots for Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, and Taijuan Walker. That leaves 2 posts left for Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Brandon Maurer, recently signed Scott Baker, and potentially an additional free agent signing of Ubaldo Jimenez or Ervin Santana.
When the mechanics click, Paxton over-powers hitters with his 94-96 mph fastball. He mixes in a curveball that has a nice tilt which is plus at times, as well it tossing in a good change-up. Paxton spent a full season at Tacoma were he went 8-11 4.45 ERA (3.49 FIP) 131/58 K/BB 145.2 IP @ AAA. He earned a call up in September and went 3-0 with a 1.50 ERA and a 21/7 K/BB ratio over 24 IP in his pro debut.
Our Instinct: Paxton could very well pick up where he left off and start 2014 as the #4 or #5 guy in the Mariners rotation. I like the change in his delivery that was made in 2013. Despite battles with inconsistency, he came a long way to keep his chances of becoming and remaining effective starter intact. He’s 25 years old, so his time needs to be soon. Otherwise, he could become a power arm out of the bullpen. ETA 2014.
4. Luiz Gohara, LHP 7/31/1996 H:6’3″ W:210 - Gohara started his career in the APPY in 2013. He went 1-2 4.15 ERA (2.83 FIP) 27/9 K/BB 21.2 IP for Pulaski. The young Brazilian flashed a plus arm and velocity in his 1st season with secondaries that are already advanced for his age. Not something you usually see from any 16 year old. Gohara has good command and consistent smooth delivery.
Our Instinct: He didn’t pitch after July 20th with a shoulder injury. The injury isn’t considered serious and the Mariners shut down their prized pitching prospect after a fine debut at the age of 16. As a 17 year old he should start the season in the NWL, but I wouldn’t expect him to stay there long and advance to Low-A Clinton before August. A point of concern is his weight going forward. Already 210 lbs and still growing, he will need to stay strict to stay in peak shape. He’s an exciting young pitcher with potential front line stuff and has a very mature work ethic about him. He is someone to watch for sure. ETA 2017.
5. Victor Sanchez, RHP 1/30/1995 H:6’1″ W:255 - Sanchez is a kid that I’ve followed closely since before signing with the Mariners. I spent a good deal of time watching him in Everett in 2012 and had a couple of opportunities to talk to him through his interpreter. What you see on the mound is a serious man with confidence. When you stand next to him you see a kid who loves to pitch and is a bit shy talking to people. He possesses a very good fastball in the low 90s and his off speed stuff improved while at Everett, then again in 2013 with Clinton. Once he gets a better feel for his breaking pitch, his strikeout totals could take off. He’ll be focusing on a slider this year and the changeup is already above average when paired with his ability to add and subtract velocity from his fastball.
Things got off to a late start for Sanchez as he had an off season appendectomy and hernia surgery. He went 6-6 2.78 ERA 79/18 K/BB 113.1 IP @ Low-A, including a complete game no hitter with 8 K and no BB. He hit 1 batter on July 17th. It took him awhile to build up strength, but once he did he had a pretty nice season.
Our Instinct: The Mariners will want to see what he can do as a 19 year in the hitter friendly CAL league, however don’t be surprised if they bump him up to AA if they see what they want at High-A – Regardless of statistical results. Sanchez is a very intelligent pitcher, and while they have no reason to rush him, they won’t hold him back either. He could be a factor in the Mariners rotation as early as mid season 2015, passing up several pitchers ahead of him. ETA 2016.
6. Edwin Diaz, RHP 3/22/1994 H:6’2″ W:165 - Diaz can dial it up 97 mph already and if he can add more weight to his frame, he might become an over powering pitcher. With that said, it could be as a power bullpen arm if he doesn’t fully develop his change up. The power fastball/curveball combo would make him an asset at the back end of a bullpen. An average mlb change would make him a valuable part of any rotation.
Diaz spent the season in the Rookie-A APPY League, where he went 5-2 1.43 ERA 79/18 K/BB in 69 IP and was named the pitcher of the year for the league. He posted a very nice 6.9% BB rate and a 30.4% K rate.
Our Instinct: Part of me is hoping that I get to see Diaz in 2014 in the NWL league. However, there’s a strong possibility that he will start the season in full A ball. There’s a lot to like here regardless if he starts or heads to the pen. ETA 2016.
7. Stefen Romero, OF 10/17/1988 H:6’3″ W:225 - While Romero has played a 2B and 3B in his career, he has spent most of the 2013 season as AAA Tacoma’s left fielder. He posted a .277/.333/.448 High-A/AAA triple slash w/ 11 HR & 8 SB – 393 AB. He strained his left oblique late in spring camp and got off to a late start. He will get another invite to spring training and will look to join the big club at some point this season. Romero displays good plate discipline, has nice bat speed, and very solid swing that produces excellent contact. Defensively Romero isn’t the best out there, but he is making a good effort in adapting to the outfield. His bat is what’s going to carry him at the next level.
Our Instinct: Romero will be in the Mariners camp in 2014. However, with Michael Saunders, Dustin Ackley, Franklin Gutierrez, Abraham Almonte, as well as the additions of Cory Hart and Logan Morrison, it will tough for him to break camp with the team. Furthermore the potential addition of Nelson Cruz muddies the situation even more. Romero needs to head to AAA healthy and get off to a good start. If that happens there will be at bats with the big club, or I should say, there will be at bats with a big club this season. ETA 2014.
8. Tyler Pike, LHP 1/26/1994 H:6’0″ W:180 - The Mariners 2012 3rd round draft pick has a 3 pitch mix that includes a low 90′s fastball to go with a promising curveball and changeup. An excellent athlete who has good mechanics, strong leg drive, and solid command – Pike makes it tough on batters. Pike went 7-4 2.37 ERA (3.71 FIP) 90/57 K/BB 110.1 IP @ Low-A. His numbers are skewed a little by his very lucky .237 BABIP. His 12.8% BB rate was really the only negative thing we could point out right now.
Our Instinct: Pike isn’t going to blow anyone away. He’s a finesse pitcher in the mold of Jamie Moyer. He’s going to have to improve his command of his off speed and breaking offerings. He may fare better at High-A than most do because he isn’t a power pitcher. I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far and feel that he’s got a good opportunity to make it as a #4-5 with the chance of becoming a low-end #3. ETA 2015.
9. Chris Taylor, SS 8/29/1990 H:6’0″ W:170 - Like Brad Miller before him, Chris Taylor is a solid defender and works hard to get on base. After being drafted in the 5th round of the 2012 draft, Taylor made it through 2 levels in 2012 (SS-A and Low-A) and then 2 levels again in 2013 (High-A and and AA) on his way to two outstanding seasons.
He slashed .314/.409/.455 with 8 HR and 38 SB to go with a 117/84 K/BB ratio over 525 AB split pretty evenly through High-A and AA in 2014.
Our Instinct: Once viewed as a defensive only guy that if he made it to the majors would make his living as a utility guy. While some of that is still true, the label as a 1 trick pony is not fair. He’s made adjustments to his swing, and if he can show a little more bat speed at AAA in 2014, he could cause a log jam in the big club before the summer is over. Someone is getting traded. ETA 2014.
10. Patrick Kivlehan, 3B 12/22/1989 H:6’2″ W:210 - No longer just known as the novelty that was a 3 year football player at Rutgers, who won the triple crown his 1st and only year as a baseball player. Coming off an impressive pro debut, Kivlehan started 2013 in the Low-A MWL before getting promoted to the High-A CAL League. He posted a .303/.366/.464 Low-A/High-A triple slash w/ 16 HR & 15 SB. He cut his K% from 29.4% in 2012 down to 19.5% in 2013. He makes solid contact with a loose and easy swing. Defensively, Kivelehan could stick at 3B, but there’s a chance he could be moved to a corner outfield spot or if the bat really plays, over to 1B.
Our Instinct: I like Kivlehan a lot. The determination and the grit. He shows up to play and while he is still a little rough he continues to make improvements. I think this season will be a really good test for him. He will be facing very good pitchers at AA. I don’t think there’s a lot of middle ground here. I think he’s going to come through and surprise people. However, if he doesn’t – it’s going to be ugly. ETA 2015.
11. Danny Hultzen, LHP 11/28/1989 H:6’3″ W:200 - And then we come to the 200 pound Gorilla in the room. Danny Hultzen was suppose to be the most dependable pitcher who would be the least likely to be injured. Yes, he threw across his body in college, but he wasn’t a power pitcher so it didn’t seem like a big concern. Wrong, the shoulder capsule was a mess and his career is somewhat in doubt.
When Hultzen was on the mound, he was outstanding. He was one of the top lefty prospects in the game. He went 5-1 with a 2.02 ERA and a 42/7 K/BB ratio over 35.2 IP in 2013.
Our Instinct: When Hultzen returns he will be 25 years old and will be fighting with a slew of kids trying to reach the majors. Ideally we would like to say he could just pick up where he left off. That’s a leap I wouldn’t ask Evel Knievel to make. There’s too much unknown here. How will it alter his mechanics and should it? You’d have to think that question has to be asked soon. After that, what kind of velocity and command drop are we looking at? Hultzen is a very smart pitcher and if that was enough, I’d suggest he was still in line to be a #2 starter. It’s not enough though and his ranking on this could be any place from the top to the bottom, or even completely off of it. ETA 2016.
12. Jabari Blash, OF 7/4/1989 H:6’5″ W:225 - Blash has some of the best raw power in the system. However, up until 2013 his tools have been hidden behind an inability to control himself at the plate. He slashed .271/.381/.534 with 25 HR and 15 SB to go with a 113/60 K/BB ratio over 380 AB between High-A and AA in 2013. What was impressive was his discipline at the plate after his promotion to AA Jackson. He had an outstanding 16.7 BB% at AA and finished with a 13.3% for the season. He strikes out a bit, but not really what you would expect for a guy with his power. If he can keep up a strong walk rate, the 25% K rate is acceptable.
Our Instinct: The tools started to shine through last season and he looked like he understood the strike zone a lot better than when I saw him a few years ago in Everett. Still, he needs to do a better job of reading breaking pitches or he’s going to run into trouble at the major league level. I really like how much he’s matured at the plate. I saw the tools in him, I just wasn’t sure if he would figure out how to put them together. He could start 2014 at AA but should see a lot of time at AAA as well. The water is muddy in the Mariners outfield, so there’s no telling when he will get a look. I do know that they want to start winning and if Blash continues to perform there’s no reason to think he won’t be given a shot. Possible trade chip? ETA 2015.
13. Austin Wilson, OF 2/7/1992 H:6’4″ W:210 - Wilson is the type of player that brings a lot of mixed emotions from those watching him. One moment you’re left in awe of his raw power and pure tools. The next moment you’re left bewildered as to how at times, anyone could be so clueless at the plate. In his defense, Wilson played through a stress reaction in his elbow. He slashed .241/.319/.414 with 6 HR over 203 AB at Short Season -A Everett. It should be noted he looked more comfortable at the plate as the season went on. Defensively, Wilson has an excellent arm and covers plenty of ground making him an option at all 3 positions in the outfield.
Our Instinct: Wilson should enter the 2014 season healthy and ready for full season play. He has the ability to hit for average and power if his tools shine through and gains more strike zone discipline. Expect him to land at Low-A Clinton and could see High-A High Desert before the summer is over. I’m excited to see what he can do this season as he unlearns how to be a Stanford hitter and develops into his tools. ETA 2016.
14. Tyler O’Neill, OF 6/22/1995 H:5’11″ W:205 - O’Neill is relatively local to me, playing baseball just across the boarder in Maple Ridge, British Colombia. Taken in 3rd round of the 2013 MLB draft by the Mariners, O’Neill slashed .310/.405/.450 over 100 AB in the Rookie-A Arizona League. He is an aggressive hitter with some serious bat speed, and should develop good power.
His frame speaks to the potential power upside, but he’s far from a power only prospect. His swing is classically sound for a righty and he possesses average speed.
Our Instinct: I haven’t seen him in a few years and I’m excited to see what he looks like based on what I’ve heard about his weight lifting program. I expect to see him up here in the NWL in 2014. He’s a few years away from the show. ETA 2017.
15. Tyler Marlette, C 1/23/1993 H:5’11″ W:195 - Marlette made the transition to full season ball very well in 2013. He looked very comfortable at the plate as he hit for a solid average and flashed plus raw power. He slashed .304/.367/.448 with 6 Hr and 10 SB to go with a 53/24 K/BB ratio over 270 AB. Marlette has a strong build and a strong arms. Defensively he puts arm strength together with quick action and on line throws with excellent accuracy.
Our Instinct: Marlette displayed a lot of trademarks that you like to see in a catcher; power potential, hitting for average, and defensive skills. His biggest area of challenge moving into 2014 is reading pitches better as a hitter. He’s going to need to take more pitches and while I like his aggressive nature, he needs to dial it down a notch and be more patient or he’s going to end up eating a healthy diet of off speed and breaking pitches moving out of the zone. ETA 2016.
16. Gabriel Guerrero, OF 12/11/1993 H:6’3″ W:195 - By now everyone is well aware that Gabriel Guerrero is the nephew of former major league slugger, Valdimir Guerrero. As a 19 year old, Guerrero posted a .271/.303/.358 Low-A triple slash w/ 4 HR & 12 SB in 469 AB. The HR power didn’t emerge this season and his K % went up while his BB% went down. He did display some gap power which could develop into more in the High-A CAL league this season.
Our Instinct: Like Vlad, Gabriel will swing at anything and everything near the plate. Pitch recognition is an area of concern. Guerrero has easy power to all fields and possess plus raw power, which could turn into decent HR power as he matures. Right now his swing is a little long, but he’s been able to make up for it with excellent bat speed. As I said, the High-A Cal league should be his destination in 2014 and we should see a good bump in the power numbers. ETA 2016.
17. Julio Morban, OF 2/13/1992 H:6’1″ W:205 - Morban slashed .295/.362/.468 with 32 XBH to go with a 95/28 K/BB ratio over 295 AB at AA Jackson. Morban has found it difficult to stay healthy as he’s had roughly 300 AB in each of the past 3 seasons. Morban could hit for power and average at the next level, but he’s going to have to work on strike zone recognition – stop chasing bad pitches.
Our Instinct: He’s got excellent bat speed and has shown power to all fields. However, it won’t matter if he can’t make better decisions at the plate. The K rate spike from 19.9% in 2012 to 29.2% in 2013 is ugly. That won’t work at the next level. ETA 2014.
18. Lars Huijer, RHP 9/22/1993 H:6’4″ W:183 - Huijer a 2011 International signee from the Neitherlands, is an extreme ground ball pitcher. He went 8-2 with a 3.03 ERA (3.43 FIP) and had a 61/23 K/BB ratio over 71.1 IP at Short-Season A Everett. The Mariners brought this project pitcher along slowly over his first 2 pro seasons. It paid off as he was pretty outstanding in 2013. He doesn’t strikeout a ton, but he does strike out enough considering how few he walks and how many ground ball out’s he produces.
Our Instinct: I got to see Huijer more than any other pitcher in 2013. He has a lot of confidence on the mound and doesn’t get rattled very often. He had all of 80 base runners in 71.1 innings, which isn’t surprising based on his 7.7% walk rate and his 67% GB rate. I like Huijer, but I think his ceiling is shallow, but that also means his floor is pretty high too. I can see him as a #4-5 starter who might surprise and be a fringe #3 at the big league level. He should make the most of his first taste of full season ball in 2014. ETA 2016.
19. Ji-Man Choi, 1B 5/19/1991 H:6’1″ W:195 - After missing part of 2011 and most of 2012 with back troubles, Ji-Man Choi was healthy and all about business in 2013. He slashed .295/.394/.535 with 18 HR and 85 RBI to go with an impressive 68/63 K/BB ratio over 424 AB between High-A, AA , and AAA in 2013. Choi also posted a very strong .240 ISoP, something this organization has needed desperately from their first basemen – power.
Our Instinct: The 22 year old 1B may have already had an audition for the starting 1B gig in Seattle had it not been for the missed time with the back. Still, the Mariners 1B situation is anything but clear, despite being very crowded. Noone has the position locked up and production will determine who will play, and Choi might be considered in that mix. However, he should spend most of 2014 at AAA. ETA 2015.
20. Tim Lopes, 6/24/1994 H:5’11″ W:180 - The 2012 6th round draft pick slashed .272/.314/344 with 19 XBH and 10 SB to go with a 46/20 K/BB ratio over 334 AB at Low-A Clinton in 2013. He was quickly moved off SS and converted into a 2B where his arm plays better. He has decent plate discipline and should be able to hit for decent average. He doesn’t have any power to speak of and while he has average speed, he’s not going to be a huge threat on the bases.
Our Instinct: Lopes is an exceptional defender who will be able to hit a little as well. Does that translate into a major league regular? Probably not, but he wouldn’t the 1st player to carve out a career as a utility infielder known for his glove. ETA 2017.
21. Greifer Andrade, OF 1/27/1997 H:6’1″ W:205 - Andrade was the Mariners big international signing in 2014, inking a deal for just over $1,000,000. There’s been talk that he will begin his pro career in the infield, possibly at 3B. That remains to be seen after being show cased as outfielder. He receives high praise for his gap power, hand-eye coordination, bat speed, and throwing arm. He has average speed, so centerfield seems unlikely.
Our Instinct: Andrade is a very interesting prospect. He recently turned 17 and would could see him in the states very soon, possibly to start his career. I would like to get to see him and get a feel if there’s power potential to be tapped into there, or if he’s going to be the type of player to hit for a nice average with modest HR numbers. He also has the ability to play a number of positions, so there could some added value to him depending on the position he lands at. ETA 2018.
Players to watch :
Ketel Marte SS 10/23/1993
Guillermo Pimentel OF 10/5/1992
Kristian Brito 1B 12/20/1994
Xavier Avery OF 1/1/1990
Abraham Almonte OF 6/27/1989
Yordi Calderon 3B 2/15/1994
Jack Reinheimer SS 7/19/1992
Joe DeCarlo 3B 9/13/1993
Justin Seager 1B 5/15/1992
Kyle Petty 1B 3/1/1991
Anthony Fernandez LHP 6/8/1990
Tyler Smith SS 7/1/1991
Stick with Baseball Instinct and we’ll keep you a step ahead of the game. Check back soon as we release our top 21 prospects for each organization. While you’re here, check out our Baseball Instinct 360° – it’s our in-season top 360 prospects, and we will be updating it throughout the season. Also check out a friend of ours for all of your fantasy sports needs. Fantasy Rundown is updated religiously and is truly an awesome resource. Thanks for checking Baseball Instinct. We’re working hard to bring you the best of the minor leagues and make the site the best experience it can be, so don’t hesitate to tell us what you would like to read about. Email us now at email@example.com. And while you’re at it head over to Facebook and join the Instinct page. You can also follow us on twitter: @BaseballInstinc.