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’s an update on the Top 10 Countdown:

10. Tyler Marlette, C | Analysis
9. Luiz Gohara, LHP | Analysis
8. Tyler O’Neill, OF | Analysis
7. Edwin Diaz, RHP | Analysis
6. Ketel Marte, SS | Analysis
5. Gabriel Guerrero, OF | Analysis
4. Austin Wilson, OF | Analysis
3. Patrick Kivlehan, OF | Analysis
2. D.J. Peterson, 1B | Analysis

No. 1 — Alex Jackson, RF
HIT POWER RANGE ARM RUN OFP
35/60 40/60 45/45 55/55 45/45 54.0

Jackson was the best prep bat in last June’s draft class and fell in the Mariners’ lap at No. 6 thanks to a late surge by Nick Gordon (MIN) and Kyle Schwarber (CHC) and a strong group of arms at the top that included Tyler Kolek (MIA) and Carlos Rodon (CWS).

Jackson is a product of Rancho Bernardo High School, becoming the program’s fifth first-round pick since 2000, including Philadelphia Phillies southpaw Cole Hamels. As a catcher, Jackson showed the arm, overall strength and feet to play the position down the line but his bat possesses so much promise and present polish that the Mariners wisely chose to stick him in right field and let his bat carry him.

Behind plus-plus bat speed, Jackson produces power to all field and when he maintains the more compact version he will make consistent hard contact, allowing him to hit for average. Jackson drives through his hips with good rotation from load to contact. He trusts his hands and bat speed and has shown he can hit the breaking ball to center and right-center field.

He has a slight tendency to get anxious at times and expand the strike zone, but already has matured in that area since the end of his junior year in high school. He’ll be challenged with better offspeed stuff and a more steady diet of good velocity this season, further testing his discipline and strike zone judgment as well as his ability to track the breaking ball.

Despite an injury-shortened summer after signing his pro contract, Jackson will start 2015 in Class-A Clinton as one of the younger players in the league. He may stay in the Midwest League all year but a strong showing may put him on the fast track starting next season. A maxed out Jackson suggests an all-star quality corner outfield bat capable of producing a .280/.350/.500 triple-slash while offering at least average defense led by a plus throwing arm.

Jackson’s Career Statistics

MLB ETA: 2018

MLB Comps: Magglio Ordonez, Marty Cordova, Michael Cuddyer

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Jason A. Churchill

Churchill founded Prospect Insider in 2006 after getting his start at InsidethePark.com. He spent several years covering prep, college and pro sports for various newspapers, including The News Tribune and Seattle PI. Jason spent 4 1/2 years at ESPN and two years at CBS Radio prior to joining HERO Sports in July, 2016. Find Jason's Mariners podcast, Baseball Things, right here and follow him on Twitter @ProspectInsider.

4 Comments

  1. Jpax,

    They have been doing that. When you take prep kids and college bats with questions based on upside, and you pay them, that’s taking shots. Austin Wilson was a pricey 2nd rounder, Gareth Morgan indeed was a super pricey prep bat got huge dollars, too, but a risk worth taking. If he doesn’t pan out, club is out Rickie Weeks dollars. If he comes even close to his ceiling, he’s a big leaguer, and probably an above-average one. Value of that is LARGE. I’d sign those types EVERY year if they were there. One in 10 pans out and you’ve won.

    As for development, I do think the current staff is a notch better than the previous group, though some of this group has been with the org for years, so there’s carryover. I think the biggest factors are the scouting — the current group is simply better than the previous regime’s, from the SD himself all the way to the area scouts and even part-timers. Again, a few are carryovers, though not a lot of them.

    The big league club, starting last year a little and a ton more in 2015, is built so the Montero, Kivlehan, Peterson, Marte types don’t need to be pushed. You can play it safer with them than a club might with a shallow 25-man. Peterson starting in AA is sign of that. Was a good move. He’ll earn his way to Tacoma and then the big leagues, or he won’t get there at all.

    I don’t think the recent results are due to less risky players. If clubs avoid risk, they risk failing to get the upside. Have to mix it up. Seeing picks like Seager, Taylor, Hicks and Kivlehan get to where they are is about scouting, then PD, including the path. The team has to know the player inside and out.

    When Gwynn took over I was expecting more patient with A+, AA prospects being promoted and more challenging assignments for college draftees. We didn’t see either until last year. Sometimes the FO overrules Gwynn’s personal preference, but his footprint is being felt, for sure. The staffers that don’t get enough credit are the field coordinators, roving instructors and field staffs for each affiliate. They ARE the PD staff. They are responsible for developing the talents into major leaguers, one level at a time. Not an easy job.

  2. Thanks for answering my earlier question regarding Wilson. I love reading your insight. I have seen the change in drafting Philosophy also and agree it was necessary. I do have a couple of follow up questions.

    1) Now that there seems to be a good prospect base in the Minor Leagues, should the Mariners try to take a few draft shots to “catch lightning in a bottle”?? Morgan last year may have been such a shot??

    2) It also seems to me that the prospect development staff do a much better job overall with prospects than they have in the past. In your view, is this solely because they are getting the better less riskier prospects (lower ceiling, higher floor), or has the development staff fundamentally changed (perhaps since Chris Gwynn took over)??

  3. I have him hitting the majors in 2018, but if he skates Clinton quicker than I expect, that could change, for certain.

    Teams never rush kids, at least not in their minds. The Mariners rushed Tuiasosopo to AA and he never recovered, IMO. I think Franklin was rushed, well see if it hurts him long term or not.

    Harper was a ridiculous talent, flush with huge bat speed, a big-league swing and athleticism that allows him to fit in CF if necessary. He was 17 on draft day and when he made his pro debut later that summer. Harper was more advanced in just about every way. A special, rare talent with plus physical tools across the board.

    Jackson is a very good prospect, but not a blue-chip, near-automatic star like Harper. It’ll take him a little longer to get to the bigs.

  4. What’s a good time table for Jackson?
    Do teams rush kids like this when their MLB teams are worse? Where is Jackson in comparison to a guy like Harper?

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