The Seattle Mariners’ farm system has taken a hit the last couple of years with the graduations of the likes of Mike Zunino, James Paxton, Taijuan Walker, Brad Miller and Chris Taylor, among others. Still, the organization boasts a solid collection of talent, despite the lack of pitching in the high minors.
The club has taken advantage of the strengths in the draft classes the past three years, adding right-handed hitting outfielders with power and more depth in the middle-infield. Seattle also has done fairly well internationally, even with the departure of Bob Engle and some of his scouts to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
A lot of the club’s top talents are more than a year or two from the big leagues, and many come with a high risk to go with the exciting upside.
Here are prospects Nos. 6-10, in reverse order:
|No. 10 –Tyler Marlette, C|
Marlette’s combination of hitting, hitting for power and arm strength strongly suggests a big-league future, and there’s a chance he adds enough to his receiving skills to warrant regular playing time at the major-league level.
The 22-year-old employs an advanced approach, particularly for a catcher, using the middle of the field well and even the right-center field gaps. His power ranges from his pull side from which almost all of his home runs come, to center field. Marlette can track a breaking ball and has the bat speed to further trust his hands and give himself an even better chance to hit offspeed stuff.
There’s little doubt Marlette will hit enough for the position, but already having gone from project to prospect defensively, there’s certainly hope he can develop enough behind the dish to be more than a part-time option.
At worst the former fifth-round pick is Ryan Doumit, John Jaso or Derek Norris. On the high side, in time, perhaps the result is closer to Yan Gomes or Russell Martin.
|No. 9 — Luiz Gohara, LHP|
Gohara, who will not be 19 years of age until the trade deadline, has big-time raw stuff and the size to back up a power arsenal in a starting role. The left-hander stands 6-foot-3 and checks in around 220 pounds, generating velocity into the mid-90s without much effort and good plane on his pitches.
The Brazilian also throws a low-80s slider that flashes plus and should be at least average once he’s ready for the big leagues. His changeup was useful at times in 2014, but he didn’t command any of his offerings well and rarely got the chance to dust off the changeup much.
Gohara struggled to repeat his delivery last season, which led to poor command and overall control, including 24 walks in 37 1/3 innings. Still, his stuff is so good that he managed to pile up 37 strikeouts along the way.
It’s important for Gohara to focus on conditioning as he works on repeating his mechanics and polishing up his pitches, but he’s shown a mature approach to the game in the past, which bodes well for any potential issues moving forward, including any thought that his struggles last season may tear down his confidence.
The sky is the limit for Gohara, with easy velocity and the potential for two average or better secondary pitches, but he’ll need to find the strike zone with more consistency to get back on track this season. Risk remains in Gohara’s stock, but the payoff could be quite big.
Ideally, he’d earn his way onto the full-season roster at Class-A Clinton to start the year, but more time in Arizona and another shot at Short-season Everett isn’t out of the question, either.
|No. 8 — Tyler O’Neill, OF|
I seem to be higher on O’Neill than anyone else outside the Mariners organization, but there’s something about a teenager hitting for power and showing stretches of hitting for average in full-season ball in a league known to suppress offense, especially while sandwiching an injury between promising, extended stretches.
O’Neill is a former catcher, so the fact that he’s appeared fringy defensively in the outfield thus far does not suggest he can’t improve enough on jumps and routes to produce at average or better levels in the field. His arm fits in either corner.
It’s his bat that attracts, however, and the 19-year-old showed plenty of home-run pop despite a swing that consistently produces hard hit line drives; the power is natural and does not require O’Neill to load deeper or attempt to create leverage and loft to get the ball beyond the fences.
O’Neill likes to pull the ball but can use the middle of the field and will need to do so more often in order to hit for enough average to help him climb the ladder through the minors. His improvement versus breaking balls and with plate discipline will dictate how he performs in 2015, as he’s likely to start the year in the Cal League, enticed by the routine fly ball leaving the yard for cheap long balls.
|No. 7 — Edwin Diaz, RHP|
At present, Diaz possesses a plus fastball with some sink and late life, sitting 91-93 mph and touching 95. His slider is average with a shot to be an out pitch with a 60 grade if he can keep stay on top of it on the back side of his arm path. His changeup is solid with a chance to be average, but he’ll need to learn to keep it down more consistently as he begins to face more accomplished hitters.
Diaz uses a three-quarter arm slot and from head to toe is lively and loose with an athletic, somewhat deceptive delivery. Due to his lack of size and strength — he’s 6-foot-2 but still weighs in at under 180 pounds — some question his chances at a starting role long term, but it’s far too early to banish him to the bullpen, even in future projections. He’s added 15-20 pounds since draft day 2012 when he was the club’s third-round pick and his smooth, easy mechanics could assist him in handling a 200-inning workload in the same way Pedro Martinez, Tim Hudson and company have done in recent years.
Diaz is the top pitching prospect in a system thin on them at this stage, but that does not diminish his status as a potential future No. 3 starter in the mold of Ervin Santana.
|No. 6 — Ketel Marte, SS|
Marte has spent his entire career among the younger players in his league and at 21 will take on the Triple-A Pacific Coast League after a successful run in Double-A Jackson last season that earned him three weeks in Tacoma to end the season.
Marte makes consistent contact, thanks to a short swing and aggressive approach. He handles the bat well, is a plus bunter and runner and plays the game with advanced instincts, in the batter’s box, on the bases and in the field.
Marte has the range, footwork and arm strength to play shortstop, but fundamentally breaks down too often, making mistakes on routine plays and forcing tough throws when he should eat the baseball.
If he can clean up such problems, he’s a future regular at the position and a potential No. 2 hitter in a traditional style. There’s not a lot of power in the bat from either side of the plate, though his right-handed swing generates more leverage, but he knows how to use his speed and can reach the gaps. As he gets stronger, double-digit home runs is not out of the question, however.
If Marte has to move to second base — a change that will not be made permanently for at least another year — there is a chance he’s among the better defenders in the game at the position, though he’s not likely to see much time there in the big leagues as a member of the Mariners organization.