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While the majority of us on the west coast were complaining about losing an hour’s sleep, Jerry Dipoto was using the hour he didn’t lose in Arizona to make his first trade in nearly two weeks. The Philadelphia Phillies are sending outfielder Joey Curletta to the Seattle Mariners in exchange for switch-pitcher Pat Venditte. Curletta will report to Seattle’s minor league camp.

While this has the feel of a move made almost for the sake of making a move — Dipoto hadn’t made a trade in a while — there is a path of logic that can be followed.

Venditte, 31, was designated for assignment back in November and was sent to Triple-A Tacoma after clearing waivers. Although he offers the unique ability to pitch both right and left-handed, in 50 and 2/3 major league innings he owns a 4.97 ERA and a 5.01 FIP. He’s been excellent against left-handers though, including a 10.96 strikeouts per nine innings.

But given the influx of new pitchers on the roster and Venditte no longer holding a spot on the 40-man roster, there didn’t appear to be much of a chance of him appearing in a game for the Mariners this season.

Instead he will join a rebuilding Phillies club that may offer a better chance at a big league job. Currently Venditte is pitching for Team Italy in the World Baseball Classic.

Curletta is an interesting add for the Mariners. Interesting because he was the player the Phillies acquired when they traded now current-Mariner Carlos Ruiz to the Los Angeles Dodgers. Also interesting because Curletta isn’t the traditional athletic-type of player that the organization has been pursuing.

Selected in the sixth round of the 2012 draft by the Dodgers, the 23-year-old boasts plenty of raw power and a terrific throwing arm. However his poor contact abilities minimize the potential of the power and his strikeout rate fits the profile.

His 6-foot-4 and 245 pound frame is likely what limits his mobility in the outfield and on the bases — he grades out with below average speed — but he isn’t sluggish, per se.  The bat is interesting and Curletta has been able to draw walks at an eight-to-ten percent clip despite the strikeouts living in the 30 percent range during his five years in the minors. The concern here is that the strikeout rate has only increased as he’s moved up through the minors and faced better pitching.

Curletta figures to start the year at Double-A with Seattle’s new affiliate, the Arkansas Travelers. In 107 plate appearances with the Dodgers’ Double-A affiliate at the end of last season he posted a .206/.280/.371 slash line with an 88 wRC+, so there’s still plenty of work to do. He added four home runs in that time frame and when he connects with the ball, it can go a long way. The challenge for the Mariners player development staff will be to make that contact occur more often.

At 23 the book has started on the outfielder, but it is far from written. Really, in exchange for a waiver-wire reliever, Seattle is able to pick up a prospect with some projectability. He’s a project for sure, but there’s potential. Not bad for a Sunday morning in March.…

It’s been a tough few years for the members of the Seattle Mariners top prospect lists, for a multitude of reasons. But as both the quality and quantity of minor depth is built up we find ourselves with several interesting names to chew on; some new and some old.

One of the newer names at the top of the prospect ranks, and No. 1 on Prospect Insider’s 2016 rankings, is outfielder Tyler O’Neill. The 21-year-old spent the bulk of 2016 at Double-A where he crushed opposition pitching to the tune of a .293/.374/.508 slash line with a 152 wRC+. He added 24 home runs while stealing 12 bases, showcasing his power-speed combination. In 575 plate appearances with Jackson, O’Neill posted a 10.8 percent walk rate alongside a 26.1 strikeout rate.

Though the strikeouts are still concerning, the right-hander has improved his rate every year since 2014. As Jason noted in the O’Neill section of the prospect rankings, he still projects favorably in right field both with his arm and range and reports from last year were positive.

O’Neill stands to open the season in Triple-A and with a crowded major league outfield there will be no need to rush his progression. But it does stand to reason that he may be able to hit his way into a pre-September call-up, especially if some of the Mariners more defensive-minded outfielders aren’t cutting it with the bat.

One of the older names is former first-round pick, first baseman D.J. Peterson. At one point he was talked about as a future fixture in the middle of Seattle’s batting order, perhaps at third, but more likely at first base. The 25-year-old has moved permanently to first base already but has yet to crack the majors due to a combination of injuries and struggles that have littered his minor league career. The constant adjustments to his stance and approach probably haven’t helped his confidence much either.

He split 2016 between Double-A and Triple-A posting a solid 133 wRC+ with Jackson but an uninspiring 96 wRC+ with Tacoma. Interestingly the power didn’t disappear much between the two levels with comparable slugging percentages, but his average and on-base percentage took hits. Also concerning was the drop in walks and increase in strikeouts at the higher level.

The coming season should be interesting for Peterson as he looks ready to go with an approach that should offer more consistency. He was added to the 40-man roster back in the fall so it’s obvious Seattle still thinks he can provide value to the club, not that there was reason to give up on him quite yet. With two first baseman on the roster already there’s no room for Peterson. He should warrant a look in September at the very least though.

It’s tough to compare an infielder to an outfielder when attempting to determine who will crack the bigs first, but it stands to reason both players will make their primary cases with the bat. Both also would potentially offer help against left-handed pitching should the club struggle in that regard.

Of course injuries and effectiveness can be a factor in who gets a shot first. As I discussed a couple weeks back, the M’s don’t really have a back-up plan for Dan Vogelbach. Should he or Danny Valencia find themselves out of the lineup for an extended period of time, Peterson is the next name up on the list. But in the outfield, behind a combination of Leonys Martin, Jarrod Dyson, Mitch Haniger, Ben Gamel, and Guillermo Heredia, the depth chart doesn’t appear to work in O’Neill’s favor.

This conversation can change on a monthly if not weekly basis, but speaking now in March, who do you have cracking the Mariners roster first?


It’s tough being a top prospect. It’s even tougher being a former top prospect. The first label belongs to and the second is close to belonging to D.J. Peterson. The 2013 draft is still a recent memory, but the former first round draft pick is facing an uphill battle heading into the 2017 season.

The good news is that back in November, Peterson had his contract purchased as he was added to the 40-man roster. The impetus of the move was to protect the 24-year-old from the Rule 5 Draft where a team could acquire him for what amounts to major league pocket change. Chances are he wouldn’t be able to stick on a major league roster for the entire 2017 season, but the club felt that it wasn’t worth the risk.

With the challenges of 2015 behind him, Peterson put together a decent campaign split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016. His Double-A line of .271/.340/.466 was more reminiscent of his first stop at that level back in 2014. The 133 wRC+ and .198 ISO suggest that the power aspect of his game came back. The right-hander’s batting line took a step back in 192 plate appearances with Triple-A Tacoma however, with a .253/.307/.438 triple-slash supporting a 96 wRC+.

It had been projected that Peterson would reach the majors at some point in 2016 but obviously that didn’t come to fruition. His new status on the 40-man roster increases his chances of making an appearance with the Mariners at some point in the coming season. He projects to start 2017 at Triple-A as the primary first baseman for the Rainiers.

At the time the right-hander was added to the roster, Prospect Insider’s Jason A. Churchill had this to say:

Peterson’s best value may ultimately be as a part-time player, perhaps at first base versus left-handed pitching where he got back to his old self, hitting more balls up the middle and the other way.

Almost all of Peterson’s extra-base power has come to his pull side. More balance there could change his profile enough to offer some hope he can play regularly. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Peterson’s remaining potential and the fact he could be an option for the big club at some point in 2017 in some role is why he was protected.

Undoubtedly the club will need to see the continuation of last year’s improvements before he sniffs big league action — unless necessitated by an unfortunate injury scenario. But, as Churchill noted, the M’s have had him work in the outfield some and clearly still buy into the potential offered in his bat.

The move to first base wasn’t unexpected as many scouts saw the a departure from third as inevitable. It doesn’t hurt that the Mariners have the hot corner locked up long-term with Kyle Seager.

The incumbent first base platoon of Adam Lind and Dae-Ho Lee remain free agents after a season of mixed results. As it stands, a new tandem of Dan’s –Valencia, acquired this winter, and Vogelbach, acquired in the summer for Mike Montgomery — will have the reigns at first base.

Valencia, the right-handed side of the platoon, owns a lifetime 139 wRC+ against left-handed pitching and figures to see regular playing time. The 32-year-old has experience at all four corners and offers the club some desired flexibility — something Peterson currently does not.

Vogelbach, the left-handed side of the platoon, only made 13 plate appearances for the M’s at the end of last season, but has hit right-handed pitching well throughout his minor league career. He has a similar first base/designated hitter make-up to Peterson, though the more-tenured Mariner would be the more athletic of the pair. Also worth noting, the 23-year-old lefty is major league ready on top of being an acquisition of the new regime — both are important factors when looking at the organizational depth chart.

By no means has the club given up on their 2013 first round selection. That’s apparent in their continued work with the slugger. Peterson will turn 25 before the calendar flips to 2017, and that isn’t a point in his favor. But, if he’s able to contribute to the major league team at all next year, that probably can be considered a win. Even if his ceiling is now a part-time player there’s still value there.

Over at ESPN (insider required), Christopher Crawford offered some thoughts on Peterson and how he could be facing a make or break year. The general thought is that unless the former top pick can adjust to how pitchers are going after him, he may peak as a pinch-hitter.

As things stand, it does not look like Peterson will be the middle-of-the-order bat he profiled as a few years back. However, things can change in a hurry and there are plenty of cases where guys figure something out in their mid-to-late twenties.

All is not lost for the former top prospect, but time is running out for him to have an impact in the major leagues.…

Littell“When the unexpected becomes the expected, strange becomes familiar.” — Jason A. Churchill | May 20, 2016

While the parent club stabilizes a bit after a tough three-plus weeks, perhaps the most important happenings in the entire Seattle Mariners organization is the revival occurring down on the farm. Or should I say, revivals.

Down on the Farm
Forget the fact that each of the affiliates have won more games than they have lost this season — with Triple-A Tacoma, Double-A Jackson and Class-A Clinton among the better teams in their respective leagues — and put the fact that top prospect Tyler O’Neill has exploded this season on the back burner for a moment. The most critical happenings include D.J. Peterson, Alex Jackson and Luiz Gohara. All three entered the season needing to rebound and rebound sharp. That appears to be the case for all three.

Peterson made an upper-half adjustment that ended up earning him a promotion to Triple-A where he’s off to a fast start. And for Peterson, this happening quickly is most important since he’s 24 years of age already and running out of time as a prospect of any kind.

Jackson started slow; he spent the first six weeks of the season in extended spring training, first to recover from a minor injury and then to refocus under the new player development plans. Shortly after arriving at Class-A Clinton, Jackson fell into the same funk we saw a year ago. The 20-year-old went 4-for-38 in his first 11 games and the first four days of June weren’t much better. From June 5 to July 4, however, Jackson has batted .294/.363./.451 and the alarming strikeout rate is slowing down just a bit.

While there’s still a lot of work for Jackson to do, the trend is positive and he’s yet to give up on his swing to make more contact — which is counterproductive and changes his profile for the worse. Oh, and he’s lined out as much as any hitter in the system the past three weeks. Hard contact,

Gohara, granted in a small sample size, was strong in three starts at Short-season Everett, walking just three batters in 15 1/3 innings while punching out 21. His first start for Clinton did result in three bases on balls and seven hits in four-plus frames, but the stuff remains promising — 93-97 mph, flashy curveball and occasional changeup with some sink and deception. Gohara is in a little better shape this year, too, which will remain his biggest challenge until it’s not a challenge for him anymore. He doesn’t repeat well yet, either, but it’s been better in 2016 than in previous years. Gohara appears at least somewhat more focused and in his lone start for the LumberKings thus far I’m told he showed a little bulldog mentality to get through the fourth inning without his best command.

Beyond the aforementioned three, things are solid in the M’s farm system. Still, most of their best young talents remain below Double-A — Drew Jackson and Braden Bishop at Advanced-A Bakersfield after Bishop’s promotion, the entire Clinton starting rotation including Gohara, Zack Littell and Nick Neidert, first-round pick Kyle Lewis in Everett, as well as shortstop Chris Torres and right-hander Jio Orozco in the Arizona League. All are performing at satisfactory levels or better, many at a youngish age for the level.

The system still is a few years away from being anything but a bottom-half group, but at the start of the year it was bottom five — bottom two or three for some — and the bounce-back and progress have pushed them into the 20-22 range. Most of the improvement is due to the reemergence of the three noted above, but also due to the O’Neill explosion and steady progress of the young arms.

(Photo: Zack Littell by Paul Gierhart/MiLB.com)…

UWBASEBFirst off, I am not a scout. To me, the only scouts are those that work for clubs. That doesn’t mean, however, that others outside the game itself aren’t good — sometimes better — at evaluating a player’s present and future skills and abilities. It’s up to you to decide how valuable one’s assessments are. Second, it’s important to remember there is more than one right evaluation of a player, a player’s tools and his future. Sans the ridiculous, that is.

Lastly, context is important in the evaluation game. Nothing is done or seen in a vacuum, and in relaying information context is an important part of properly communicating one’s evaluation. It’s something of which I don’t do a good enough job; often I assume the reader understands the basics, including the level-age-experience of a player, the differences between the contexts, and so on.

Before the amateur season gets fully under way I wanted to pass on, to both returning readers of Prospect Insider and new ones, some notes on how I evaluate a player. This will be uber-basic and generalized, but it may make future pieces a little easier to understand, since not every single person that covers amateur players and pro prospects does so in the same manner.

The Scouting Scale
The scouting scale is a bare-bones way to place a value on a tool or skill. The five basic skills for position players/hitters include run, hit, power, glove and arm. For pitchers the standard varies; for me, I focus on stuff, athleticism and present mechanics, so there may be more than five ‘tools’ graded for pitcher prospects as each pitch will receive its own grade.

20: Poor; far below any standard that plays at the major league level; highly unlikely to reach passable big-league levels
30: Well below-average big-league standards; unlikely to reach big-league standards
40: Below average big-league standards; decent chance to reach big-league standards
50: Major league average; decent chance to reach above-average or plus standards
60: Above average or plus; decent chance to reach plus-plus levels
70: Significantly above-average, among best in game; Plus-plus
80: Among the very elite in big leagues; Many save ‘plus-plus’ for 80 grade tools; very few 80 grades truly exist outside arm strength and speed related tools

Some treat a ’60’ grade as above average and not plus, but I simply don’t use the basic term ‘plus’ that way. ‘Plus,’ to me, means beyond the standard. Standard typically is the median, average. So, above average does indeed equal ‘plus.’

I will use ‘half grades,’ too; Felix Hernandez‘s changeup may be consistently plus, a 60 grade, but maybe half the time it’s plus-plus. This might push me to give the pitch a 65 grade, to be more accurate and representative of its effectiveness and value. Bryce Harper‘s power still has some projection left. so I might give it a 65 present grade and 70 future, suggesting he could prove the 42-homer year in 2015 was closer to the norm than any outlier.

With amateur players, even more so than minor leaguers, projecting the tools properly is essential in correctly assessing a player. This creates the necessity for a present grade and a future grade. The present grade represents how the tool grades now, without projecting. Evaluators may produce their future grades differently than I do, but when I project I’m talking absolute ceiling, not ‘most likely landing point.’ For example, Seattle Mariners prospect Alex Jackson possesses a 60 future hit tool; that means I’m suggesting that is where he tops out, if all goes well. I think the reader is wise enough to figure out the median grades are more likely than the ceiling assessments. I hope to do a better job explaining to readers when I believe a player has a better chance than most to reach his particular ceiling, whether it be overall or within a specific tool or skill. Often I use the word ‘probability’ and will continue to do so in order to separate players in this manner.

I’d also like to note that amateur players are unequivocally more difficult to assess than players that have gone through at least a year of professional baseball. The change to wood bats makes a difference, even with BBCOR heading into its fifth season for prep players and sixth year for the NCAA. The rigors of a longer season, acumen to apply coaching and training are all important and generally we know a lot more about a player in those ways once he’s in pro ball than we do for prep players or even those in big-time college programs.

The player’s coaching staff also matters; I may grade two players almost exactly the same, but give one a slight edge because I know his coaches are good at what they do. If I do my homework, I’ll know this stuff for every prospect I go see. Same with player’s training habits, although with high schools kids that intel is more difficult to acquire sometimes.

I like to see players as much as possible, and the more I see him the more confidence I will have in my ultimate evaluation. If I have seen a player just once or twice, I hope to do a better job in 2016 relaying the factors that come into play; this means the evaluation will be incomplete, though never lacking in value. Getting looks is harder to do in the Seattle region than many others due to weather and the rate of games being washed out, delayed, canceled, etc.

Pitchers
1. Stuff
What the pitcher is offering the batter is of most importance
2. Command and control
Whether or not the pitcher can throw strikes and locate his pitches, particularly his fastball, is right behind stuff
3. Delivery
Many times a pitcher’s delivery, his mechanics, hinders or assists his ability to command his arsenal. It also can contribute to the raw quality of a pitcher’s pitches, including movement and life
4. Physical traits
Not always a positive versus negative, a pitcher’s physical traits can tell a lot about his future value, including future role

Athleticism for a pitcher often is undervalued or ignored by the layman. The ability to repeat a delivery is an athletic action, as is generating arm speed and remaining consistent within each. The better the athleticism, the better the pitcher can apply mechanical adjustments, both minor and major.

Batters
1. Bat speed
The pure velocity of the bat is a significant factor in determining contact rate and power
2. Foundation
I’ve learned a long the way the last several years that a hitter’s foundation, from his feet through his hips and waist area, are underrated. If there’s no solid foundation what he does with his hands — which is amazingly critical — doesn’t matter.
3. Mechanics
Trigger, load, bat path are all things that in this category. In amateur players, I’m more looking to make sure there aren’t any habits that cannot easily be fixed.
4. Judgment and Eye
I know scouts that don’t pay much attention to this in prep hitters, which I find absurd. A hacker is a hacker, if there’s no discipline, judgement and batting eye at 17, that’s another thing or three the player will have to get better at on his way to the majors. When I went to Redmond High School to see Dylan Davis — right-handed pitcher and outfielder, up to 96 mph, good athlete — I also was looking at another player on the RHS roster that, at the time, wasn’t as highly touted. I walked away liking the other player better, not because of his raw power, bat speed or athleticism, but because he showed the ability and willingness to wait for the right pitch. One of my favorite things is ‘good takes’ which is a pitch that’s either a strike or close to a strike, but not necessarily the right pitch for the batter to swing at in that count or situation, or a close pitch taken in a full count for ball four, for example. That player, by the way, was Michael Conforto of the New York Mets.
5. Barrel Awareness
This is a term used that makes little sense without explanation. Ultimately it means a player that finds a way to put the barrel of the bat on the ball consistently. If it’s apparent, the hitter understands his swing and how to get the barrel where it needs to be with regularity. Most amateurs won’t be able to explain how they do this, it becomes natural.

Some questions I get asked

How do you tell the difference between a curveball and a slider?
Underrated question because at high school games and even college games there’s no post-game video to refer to in order to get several more views. Sometimes it’s not easy to do, sometimes it’s quite obvious. Many times velocity will give it away, since I’m never going to see a player without some background on him. If I’m seeing Edwin Diaz, I know he’s a fastball-slider-changeup guy — no curveball. Sometimes the difference in the two pitches doesn’t matter; one can generalize with use of the term ‘breaking ball.’ There are times when the pitch is between the two definitions; slower than the typical slider — there are scouts who literally refuse to register a slider if it’s not 80 mph or higher. Shape, plus velocity, is often the ultimate combo that tells the pitch type. Another is how late the break comes in its path to the plate.

The angle behind the plate is a good one, but from the side view — which is invaluable in terms of getting the right combination of looks at a pitcher’s delivery — doesn’t provide the best look for pitch type.

Why do so many shorter players that play shortstop get the ‘second base’ tag so early?
For me, I’d only do so if the player displayed a specific lack of range or arm strength to handle shortstop. The size of the player means absolutely zero, though in some players their physical makeup, mostly natural in prep players, determines their physical abilities.

What about with shorter pitchers?
This is an actually an area of undervalue in recent years, but players like Tim Hudson, Sonny Gray and especially Tim Lincecum have given scouts a standard to which they can compare pitchers of shorter stature. In the end, 6-foot-5 or 5-foot-10 and 5/8, the mechanics, arm strength, overall stuff will prevail. If all else is equal, however, it’s easy to tab the more projectable player, since the 5-11, 190-pound type simply do not have as much ‘projection’ remaining, meaning his velocity isn’t as likely to be sustained or increased, and the taller pitcher has the natural ability to pitch ‘downhill’ creating a more difficult pitch to lift in the air.

What’s the most difficult aspect of evaluating players?
I’ll give you two, though it’s going to be different for just about everyone. First, it’s the information I don’t have, including the player’s habits off the field, between games. I can get his grades, but may not know how he works, how he practices. Is he a leader? Is he coachable? This is why I’m making a point to see Washington Huskies baseball practice a handful of times before the season starts. A player can produce, show all the tools and skills and project as a first-round pick at some point. But if he’s lazy and relies on his natural gifts, he’s not going to make it in all likelihood. This also includes players who think they know it all; they know what to work on and how to do it, nobody else can help. If a player’s not coachable, he’s not trainable. If he’s not trainable, he’ll fail long before he reaches Double-A let alone the majors.

The second thing is the college player playing in the low-level leagues. The mix of skill levels in these leagues — South Atlantic, Midwest League, Northwest League, the Arizona and Appalachian leagues, Pioneer League, NY-Penn League and Gulf coast League — makes context imperative. Seeing Kris Bryant, at 21, whiff in more than a quarter of his plate appearances and BABIP nearly .500 in order to put up a line of .354/.416/.692 and attempting to use the data and what you saw — chasing of offspeed stuff in the dirt, hard stuff above the hands versus inexperienced and lower-caliber pitching — is not easy. It’s important not to put too much stock in the small sample, and that’s even truer with college players in these lower leagues. I tend to lean on the original scouting report on that player — from college into the draft.

How much value in handedness?
Not much. For me this can be a tie-breaker of sorts. If I am on the fence about an overall grade, the lefty pitcher may get me to lean closer to the half grade than I was originally planning; the left-handed hitter matters a little more to me than some, though not as much as with pitcher prospects. I do give a tiny bump — not even a half point on the overall grade, however — for left-handed batters up the middle — catcher, second base, shortstop, center field, especially the former three since it’s somewhat rare. Switch hitters would get the same treatment if it appeared the player was going to be able to continue to bat from both sides in pro ball. There’s a reason a prep right-hander never has been selected No. 1 overall in the draft, though in my opinion whatever the reason it’s absurd. It’s also not some dumb rule clubs are abiding by, either, but simply valuing other talents more, or the probability and timetable of the college right-hander. In hindsight, one can argue for some prep right-handers being the top pick if a re-draft were in order. It’s dangerous to put significant value in handedness for amateur players. The end result can lead to missing on the overall eval, and perhaps choosing the wrong player in the draft.

Is there a lost or missed value somewhere that doesn’t get talked about?
Lots. I think one of them is the Nathan Karns type; injury history, limited performance history in pro ball, older than most with one year of service or less. Same goes for the player that’s 25-26 in Triple-A that hasn’t had a shot in the bigs. It’s rare, but sometimes a player improves more than anyone expected in a very important area. Players such as David Lough and Jimmy Paredes are two recent examples.

At the prep level, players get missed because they did so little in high school to warrant attention. But an amazing thing happens (not really, it’s obvious, yet nobody talks about it, except me, I guess) between the ages of 16 and 20; athletes grow as much as any time during their lives. Not in height, necessarily, but in physical strength, skills and areas where the emotional and mental growth makes the natural physical traits play up to par whereas a few years earlier the player can look completely different. Want proof? Look at all the college prospects for this year’s draft, for example. Nearly half of the top 100 or so were not drafted out of high school. Yet now they’re among the top 200-250 players in the class? And only a rare few were left undrafted due to signability, so they weren’t drafted because scouts determined they needed college and simply weren’t worth drafting. The draft is 40 rounds deeps, plus all the competitive balance and compensation rounds. There were more than 1200 players picked in 2013, the year almost all of this year’s college class (juniors) were coming out of high school, yet 40-45 of the Top 100 or so weren’t selected.

In this, the lost value is in players with fundamentals that have yet to mature physically, emotionally and mentally to the point where the fundamental baseball skills stand out and allow for notable performance. The problem is, there’s no proven way to determine those players outside of letting that maturation occur in college, if they were good enough to get to school in the first place. Maybe what I’m saying is, the junior college is the lost value, since some of those kids we’re talking about won’t be good enough until they are a year or two into school to earn a scholarship, forcing them to take the JC route out of high school.

What are some of the terms I should know when reading about draft prospects and pro prospects in the minors?
Let’s list a bunch:

hit tool — a player’s ability to make solid-to-hard contact with consistency
raw power — power shown by a player in batting practice, in the cages; ceiling power grade based on bat speed, swing plane
game power — power shown in games
projection/projectable — looking ahead for a player or tool. If a player is projectable, his physical tools suggest better performance is possible down the line
ceiling — the highest point of a player’s overall abilities or in one specific area/tool
floor — the lowest most-likely landing spot for a player’s overall abilities or in one specific area/tool
probability — how likely a player’s set of skills reaches major-league levels
shoulder tilt — when a pitcher creates a forward/downward angle toward the plate in his delivery. This can help a pitcher command his pitches with consistency, stay down in the zone
trigger — a mechanism hitters use to get their swing moving. One can’t simply go from stopped to start and generate bat speed and leverage without it
load — similar/same as ‘trigger’ in that it’s a big part of the beginning of a hitter’s swing
arm slot — the angel at which a pitcher’s arm swings as he works toward releasing the ball. Angles include three-quarters, high three-quarters, low three-quarters (5/8), sidearm and submarine
command (vs. control) — A pitcher’s level of ability to throw pitches to a certain spot with intent. Many pitchers can simply throw strikes (control), command takes it a step further, since in the big leagues pitchers typically throw fewer than half of their pitches in the strike zone
pop/pop time — how long it takes for a catcher to throw the ball to second base after a pitch. The formula removes the pitcher’s contribution. Time starts when the ball hits the catcher’s glove and stops when it hits the glove of the fielder at the second base bag
up the line — This can mean two things; one, when a throw from the outfield toward home plate is wide of the plate, it’s ‘up the line’ closer to third or first base than intended. In the scouting world, it’s used when describing a player’s speed from home to first
tool — a physical trait such as running, throwing, fielding
follow — a report written by area scouts the summer and fall prior to a player’s draft-eligible season to let his club know it’s a player to watch
OFP — Overall Future Potential. The player’s grade, using the 20-80 scale, for the future. Helps clubs determine how valuable he is on draft day, or in trade talks, et al. Just like with tools grades, 50 is big-league average
medicals — simple term used for a player’s injury history. “His medicals are bad” means the player’s injury history is a concern, and drags his OFP down as a result
life — late movement on a pitch, typically a fastball
arm action — Different from ‘arm slot’ in that this is about the arm’s entire path, not just the path leading up to release point. A longer path can create problems with consistent control and command, as well as be a factor in long-term health and controlling the running game (allows baserunners more time to get from first to second)
getting/staying on top — A term used to describe when a pitcher tends to get underneath the baseball, so to speak. “Felix Hernandez didn’t ‘stay on top’ of that fastball and it floated up in the zone and Albert Pujols hit it 420 feet.”
out front — I use this term to describe the ‘when’ of a particular issue in a pitcher’s delivery. Often tabbed as “not finishing out front,” which is to say the pitcher is short-arming the pitch, not following through or snapping off the pitch too much with the lower half of his arm and hand, separating his arm action into multiple movements.
fringe — fringe or fringe-average suggests a tool, skill or player value that’s below average to some extent.
org guy — not a regular major leaguer, at best a replacement level type minor leaguer
quick twitch — sometimes referred to as ‘fast twitch.’ Refers to an athlete’s actions. Ketel Marte has quick twitch actions — immediate, quick movements. Nelson Cruz does not. Carlos Correa, despite being 6-4 and closer in weight to Cruz than Marte, also has quick twitch actions, allowing him to hang at shortstop in the majors. Players without quick twitch actions tend to land in the corners defensively.
stuffier — a term used by some evaluators to suggest one pitcher has better stuff than average or another ilk of pitcher. M’s GM Jerry Dipoto uses it sometimes.

I can’t list them all, and feel free to inquire if you see/read/hear one and are wondering exactly what it means. Some scouts use them a little differently or have their own, but these are some of the general ones I use or hear most often.

Best prep player I have ever seen pre-draft
I saw Joey Gallo, JP Crawford, Dominic Smith,  Nick Williams, Max Fried, Blake Swihart and Daniel Norris, but Lucas Giolito at the 2011 Area Code Games was probably the best high school player I saw live. I did not see Mike Trout as a high schooler; at the time I was at ESPN. Keith Law traveled to see Trout, I stayed out west.

Best college player I have ever seen pre-draft
I’ll name two here since the first one is kind of a tweener.

I was fortunate enough to see Bryce Harper at age 17. He skipped his junior year in high school in order to qualify for the draft a year earlier, so he got his high school equivalent and enrolled at College of Southern Nevada in Henderson, Nevada, not far from Sin City. So I flew to Las Vegas to meet Law and we went to see Harper.

Non-baseball note: This is where I had one of the top five meals I’ve ever had. The mushroom risotto at Craftsteak at MGM Grand is tremendous. Law has always known where to find good food. And we didn’t even have to wear ties and jackets.

CSN was hosting Cypress, from Florida, another tremendous JC program (Levon Washington was on the roster), and Harper stood out like a man among toddlers — at three different positions. One day he caught, the position he played in high school, the next he played center field. On Day 3 he played third base. He was good at each of them. Watching him take BP from just behind the cage was fun, too; here was this 17-year-old kid sending lasers into the gap one after the other. I’d never seen anything like it, nor had anyone else.

At a D-1 college, I think the best player I ever saw was Tim Lincecum at the University of Washington. He was dominant, pretty much every single time out. I only wish I’d gone to see him more than I did. As good as Gerrit Cole and Trevor Bauer were, Lincecum was head and shoulders better.

Best pro prospect
Trout might be the expected answer here, but I’d call this a tie between Trout and King Felix Hernandez. I saw Hernandez at 17 years old in the Northwest League and again the following year in spring training just prior to him turning 18. I again saw him in Triple-A the following year at age 19.

From Day 1, Hernandez was special and no pitching prospect has surpassed him since. He always was extremely young for his level, always performed well above expectations and was an easy scout. As one assistant GM put it in May of 2005, “I don’t need to scout that kid anymore. What’s to scout. Just give him food and water and watch him grow.”

Yeah, that’s how obvious it was that Hernandez was going to be special as long as he stayed out of his own way.…

It’s usually not difficult to identify the players of the year in minor leagues of a big-league organization. Determining the prospects of the year isn’t necessarily as elementary. In fact, it never is in my experience. The difference? Player of the year typically is all about performance. Prospect of the year is significantly more intricate and sophisticated, and requires a lot deeper and widespread investigating.

The Seattle Mariners have what many call a weak farm system. I don’t entirely disagree, since a large portion of the club’s talent spent 2015 playing below Double-A Jackson and many of its best upper-level prospects struggled. Several intriguing talent stand out, however, including the prospects of the year, who displayed a combination of development and performance.

Pitching Prospect Of the Year: Edwin Diaz, RHP
Diaz, 21, still strikes most scouts as a likely reliever due to a sleight stature and relatively shallow repertoire. The right-hander does tend to fall in love with his slider at times, but for good reason — it’s plus, inducing swings and misses while serving as an offering he also can throw for called strikes.

Diaz began the season in Advanced-A Bakersfield but after seven strong starts was promoted to Jackson. With the Generals, as he faced a more legitimate level of batting talent, Diaz continued to show solid control of his fastball and slider, a better feel for pitching overall and more willingness to use his changeup, at least at times.

He suffered through some bouts of below-average fastball command; even at 91-96 mph, catching too much of the plate doesn’t work. Still, Diaz’s fastball sinks and tails and he was able to limit the damage, yielding just five long balls in 104 1/3 innings of work.

Reportedly Diaz is up to about 180 pounds to go with his lanky 6-foot-3 frame and easy-effort delivery. He stays on top well, an improvement over a year ago, and he commanded the slider better, too.

Diaz is the easy choice for pitching prospect of the year. He’s the Mariners’ top overall pitching prospect and his growth and production skies over any other in the system.

Others: Dan Altavilla, RHP; Enyel De Los Santos, RHP; Andrew Moore, RHP; Nick Neidert, RHP; Dylan Thompson, RHP; Paul Fry, LHP; Tony Zych, RHP; Emilio Pagano, RHP.

Position Player Prospect of the Year: Tyler O’Neill, RF
Ketel Marte would have been steep competition for O’Neill, but he was promoted this summer and ultimately spent just 11 weeks in the minors. O’Neill had a tremendous campaign, showing his raw power in games and displaying a more mature game plan as the season progressed.

He’s still a little unrefined in some areas, but the former third-round pick also showed above-average instincts on the bases, a more disciplined defensive game and most importantly, at least for his chances to hit, improved pitch recognition.

O’Neill smacked 32 home runs and tallied 65 extra-base hits in 106 games this season for the Blaze in the California League. My inquiries with scouts cover 21 of those 32 long balls and word on all of them suggest exactly zero of them had anything to do with wind or thinner air.

O’Neill has plus bat speed and is starting to learn how to use it for reasons other than the home run. He’s shown leadership skills and as always shows an elite work ethic. Many scouts believe he’s faster now than on draft day 2013, and the club reveals that’s because O’Neill has worked in his speed.

This was a rare year when player of the year and prospect of the year were the same players. Diaz and O’Neill took legitimate, meaningful steps forward.

Others: Drew Jackson, SS; Jabari Blash, RF; Ketel Marte, SS; Patrick Kivlehan, OF; Tim Lopes, 2B.

All-Org Prospect Team
POS. PLAYER
1B D.J. Peterson
2B Tim Lopes
3B Logan Taylor
SS Ketel Marte
C Steve Baron
OF Tyler O’Neill
OF Alex Jackson
OF Jabari Blash
SP Edwin Diaz
SP Dan Altavilla
SP Enyel De Los Santos
RP Paul Fry
RP Tony Zych
RP Emilio Pagan

Marte
The Seattle Mariners’ disappointing season has prompted some fans to call for the promotion of players from the Class-AAA Tacoma Rainiers to see if they can help the team salvage 2015.

Fans are also anxious to see if any of these players have the potential to contribute in 2016 and beyond. In recent weeks, a popular veteran – Franklin Gutiérrez – returned to Seattle from Tacoma and one of the organization’s most enigmatic players – Jesús Montero made a brief visit with the Mariners before returning to the Rainiers.

Based on the warm fan reaction he’s received at Safeco Field, fans are happy to have “Guti” back. Based on social media, I think that it’s fair to say that many Mariners faithful would have liked to see a longer audition for Montero and – perhaps – that will still happen in 2015. There’s another Rainier who fans are anxious to see in Seattle –infielder Ketel Marte. Prospect Insider has mentioned the 21-year-old’s on field potential (OFP) often. Just over a year ago, PI’s founder –Jason A. Churchill – discussed the ascension of the 21-year-old switch-hitting infielder and his potential in great detail.

As Jason chronicled, Marte has established himself as an offensive table-setter. His speed and contact-hitting ability – both currently in short demand in Seattle – would be a welcome addition at the top of the Mariners lineup. Entering yesterday’s game, Prospect Insider’s number-two Mariners prospect had a .315/.359/.403 slash with the Rainiers. His 17 stolen bases coming into yesterday’s game ranked him number-eight in the Pacific Coast League despite the fact that he missed about six weeks with a broken thumb. The most intriguing aspect of Marte’s professional progression is the fact that he played in center field for the first time in his professional career last Thursday night and that this may be his quickest route to the majors.

As Seattle Times beat writer Ryan Divish recently pointed out in a tweet, scouts and and some Mariners personnel believe that Marte doesn’t project as a major league shortstop. The other position Marte has played in the minors – second base – is occupied in Seattle by Robinson Canó.

With Cano entrenched at second base, exploring other options with a speedster like Marte is a logical progression for an organization that has no center field prospects close to being major league ready. Jason alluded to the possibility of Marte moving to center field earlier this month in his mid-season prospect rankings.

Last night, I had the opportunity to witness Marte play in person for the first time against the Fresno Grizzlies at Cheney Stadium. Anytime you go to a game to watch a specific player, there’s a chance that he won’t see much action in the field and that’s the part of Marte’s game that interested me most.  Luckily for me, several balls with varying degrees of difficulty were hit his way throughout the game.

Early in the game, Marte seemed to have no issues with balls that were hit to his left and right, but he did misplay two balls that were hit directly at him after the stadium lights had taken full effect. On both occasions, he lost balls in the lights. One ball landed about 20 feet behind him, while the other fell about the same distance in front him. Unfortunately for Tacoma and their new center fielder, both miscues led to Fresno runs. I didn’t get to see how his throwing ability, which was inconsistent at shortstop and the primary reason he doesn’t project as a major league starter at that position. He did throw out a runner who tried to advance from second to third base on the misplayed ball that landed in front of him.

On the offensive front, the switch-hitter has struggled at the plate recently batting .227 in his ten previous games. But, he extended a modest five game hitting streak with a single in the first inning. Afterwards, he promptly stole second base and then scored easily on a Jesus Montero double. For the night, he had two singles – one from each side of the plate – and a stolen base in five at-bats.

This is not the first time that the Mariners have moved a shortstop to center field. In 2005, Seattle made the same move with Adam Jones, who is now an all-star patrolling center field for the Baltimore Orioles. Jones’ permanent transition started in the Arizona Fall League prior to his debut at Class AAA-level.

Before Marte changed positions, he had spent about 75-percent of his 433 professional games playing shortstop and the remainder patrolling second base. That’s about 160 more minor league games than Jones had as a shortstop before switching. If Seattle plans to make Marte’s move to center field permanent, having him play in the Arizona Fall League this year would make a great deal of sense since there are just over 40 remaining on Tacoma’s schedule. To give you a little perspective, Jones played 179 games in center field before debuting in the majors.

One game is too small of a sample size to make a coherent assessment on any player  – let alone a shortstop transitioning to center field with a whopping three games of experience at the position. That’s why I’m looking forward to my next opportunity to watch the young speedster at his new position. I believe that he possesses the athleticism and skill set required to improve after last night’s difficulties and flourish in center field, but only more playing time will determine if I’m correct. In the interim, Mariners fans will just have to wait patiently for the potential that Ketel Marte may eventually deliver in Seattle.…

EnyelEVERETT, WA. — There’s only so much evaluation that can be done from afar. Boxscores, texts from scouts and emails from members of the player development staff are extremely helpful, but they’re without the appropriate context.

Thus was my case with Enyel De Los Santos. Until Friday night.

De Los Santos had the limited yet shiny stat line from his five starts in the rookie Arizona League, including 29 punchouts and five bases on balls in 24 2/3 innings of work. But despite an unimpressive line in his debut in Northwest League, the 18-year-old Dominican looked every bit the part of a pitching prospect with more than just a puncher’s chance.

He’s listed at 6-foot-3 and 170 pounds, but appeared 10-plus pounds heavier. Still lean and projectable, De Los Santos used a compact, athletic delivery to sit 89-92 with his four-seam fastball, touching 94 once and hitting 93 a few others. At every notch of the radar gun his heater showed late arm side run. He commanded the pitch well at times and not-so-well others, but mixed in an average, 73-76 mph curveball with consistency and location. He was able to get called strikes with it and induce swings and misses.

De Los Santos throws from a slightly-high three-quarters arm slot, kept him front shoulder closed and repeated his delivery. He held his velocity into his final inning when he surpassed the 80-pitch mark. His velocity did not suffer when pitching from the stretch and it appeared he was more comfortable doing so, staying with the approach with the bases empty early in the start. That likely was accidental, as he threw from the windup in his final frame.

He did mix in low-to-mid 80s changeup with some sink but most impressively he maintained his arm speed on all of his pitches with few exceptions; he did telegraph a breaking ball or two in the fourth inning.

De Los Santos reminded me physically of a young, just-converted infielder Rafael Soriano, including the arm action and mechanics. From the stretch he was slow to the plate — 1.55, 1.63, 1.61, 1.54 — until the Spokane Indians got his attention by stealing a base and attempting another. He then went to a semi-slide step and lowered his times into the 1.37-1.44 range. Ideally, a pitcher is 1.4 seconds or better.

Being nitpicky, De Los Santos could stand to adjust how he starts his delivery from the stretch, particularly with how he starts and breaks his glove hand from his throwing hand; a shorter, quicker set of movements would help.

He used his lower half fairly well and has good arm speed. His arm path is pretty clean and relatively short, which assists in keeping his delivery at low effort.

The right-hander ended up striking out eight batters, issuing three walks and yielding four earned runs in 4 1/3 innings. At times he was nothing short of dominant, but he did leave a couple of fastball over the middle of the plate and above the knees.

De Los Santos was signed less than 13 months ago and has made just six starts in the states. But he’s a legitimate prospect that drew nothing but positive notes from scouts in attendance.

He belongs in the Prospect Insider Top 25, probably somewhere in the Top 14-18, despite being years away. He was poised most of this start and showed two big-league offerings with a chance at a third in the changeup.

He’ll need to work on his command to both sides of the plate, particularly in on left-handed batters and away from righties, but he won’t be 19 until Christmas and is built like a future major league arm.

In talks with the Mariners and rival scouts the past 10 days or so, the thin Mariners’ system is stocked with upside on the mound, which happens to be where the player development staff excels more than anywhere else.

De Los Santos is just one of a large group of 16-20 year-old arms that touch 94 or higher and bring polish and a promising secondary offering to the table despite their lack of experience.…

OrozcoAs it was at the start of the season, the Seattle Mariners’ farm system is thin. Yes, there is talent. Most of it lies in a crude state in the lower minors. Of those that have graduated to the upper levels, many have struggled, been traded since or hold a status somewhere south of elite.

The Mariners have a group of young talent on the 25-man roster that otherwise might create a much deeper, stronger crop down on the farm, including the likes of Mike Zunino and Taijuan Walker, suggesting the club doesn’t lack young talent, per se, but simply that of the premium such at any level of the organization.

We’ve had the player development discussion, and will continue to do so until something changes, but each player’s future status will be assessed based on their tools, progress, quantified and qualified performance and their overall potential value.

Players currently in the big leagues do not qualify, even if they are yet to have exhausted rookie status (50 innings pitched or 130 plate appearances). Mike Montgomery has surpassed the 50-inning mark, but if he had been included in the rankings below he would have slid in at No. 4.

Overall, the system is not strong, but has a nice crop of projectable arms and bats tucked deep into short-season ball. The club lacks high probability from Triple-A on down and from the top of the charts to the very bottom, both on the mound and in terms of position players.  If a couple of their high-ceiling, high-risk kids from Latin American progress well and the 2016 Draft nets some quick-to-the-show talent, the script will change this time next year.

1. Alex Jackson, RF
Despite a slow start at Class-A Clinton and an injury that kept him out five weeks, Jackson remains the top prospect in the Mariners organization. He’s flashed why in his stint at short-season Everett, using the whole field and turning around good velocity. Jackson’s power right now of the doubles variety, but he’s strong and when his swing mechanics are sound he’s short to the ball with plus-plus bat speed. Occasionally he’ll load deep and get a little long. He tracks a breaking ball well for a 19-year-old, showing he can keep his weight back and drive them to right-center field. Last summer after signing, he showed a slight tendency to lunge in anxiety, and it appeared early in 2015 he was overcompensating for that and was late on some fastballs as a result. Jackson’s strikeout totals are a high, but it’s easy to forget he was playing high school ball 14 months ago.

2. Ketel Marte, SS
Marte jumps from No. 6 to the No. 2 spot despite missing time with a hand injury. The switch hitter showed more consistency from either side of the plate versus the more-experienced Triple-A pitching and perhaps most importantly answered some of the questions about his defense at shortstop. He’s looked like a glove that could very well stick with solid range to both sides, improved consistency across the board and a better understanding of what is required of him defensively. Marte, 21, will play in the Futures Game this weekend putting his plus speed on display. He makes a ton of contact, can handle the bat and could give the Mariners another solid option up the middle as early as 2016. He’s exactly what the big club lacks right now — high contact, low strikeout, plus speed — but anything more than a September call-up this season is expecting too much. Perhaps the most intriguing option for Marte’s future is a switch to center field, where his athleticism, pure speed and arm play and the club has absolutely no 2016 answers anywhere in sight. It’s a move the Mariners could make this summer in preparation, and one I’m not only an advocate for, but have been anticipating for over a year.

3. D.J. Peterson, 1B
Peterson has struggled for three months straight, often chasing out of the zone up, down and away and not maintaining balance with his lower half. One scout described it as a hitter ‘trying to hit for power with a swing engineered for average’ then flipping that around. The raw power suggests 25 homers and 30-plus doubles to go with just enough contact to support a .260-.270 average. Peterson’s strike zone judgment has been significantly better of late, as he’s struck out just seven times in his last 42 plate appearances. Most believe he simply feel Peterson still will hit enough to play everyday in the majors and simply fell into some bad habits the past season and a half. He’s fringy at third base and average at first, with a chance to be above-average sooner than later.

4. Patrick Kivlehan, OF
Kivlehan has taken to the outfield well, even serving in center field on a handful of occasions. Th swing still needs a little work and he has chased more pitches out of the zone this year than in 2014, but the power has shown up in the form of 15 long balls and 14 doubles. I’d like to see him shorten up more often, especially with two strikes, but also get to a point where he’s recognizing situations better so he can attack the fastball in hitter-friendly counts. He’s fallen behind in half his plate appearances — 40-45 percent is more ideal, especially without a strong two-strike swing.

5. Edwin Diaz, RHP
Diaz torched the California League and despite a high ERA with Double-A Jackson in 10 starts has fanned 51 in 55 2/3 innings and has yielded but two home runs. Sitting 90-92 mph and visiting the mid-90s at times, Diaz’s best pitch is his above-average slider. His changeup has improved, too. Command of the fastball and changeup need to get better before he moves to the PCL where veteran hitters will exploit such deficiencies early and often. Diaz remains sleight, so many scouts point to the bullpen with concern he may not be able to hold up in a starting role. Command and present lack of a third quality pitch could alter his future role, too, but he’s just 21 with an easy, loose arm, offering deception and natural fastball movement. The Mariners can wait on him and he weights on himself.

6. Luiz Gohara, LHP
Gohara, 19 in a few weeks, has the best raw stuff in the system, starting with a sinking fastball up to 97 mph and a low-80s slider with late downward break. He’ll throw his changeup, though it’s below average, but the big battle remains the inconsistent delivery. When he’s in sync he can be awfully tough on hitters 3-5 years his senior. His low-effort delivery plus a solid work ethic, including conditioning for the 225-plus pound Brazil native, are promising. He’s still unrefined but a put-together version may end up a No. 2 starter down the road.

7. Nick Neidert, RHP
Neidert is athletic with average present fastball command and is up to 95 mph. Neidert employs a three-quarter arm slot and finishes out front well. His curveball is below average but he’s a good candidate to throw a slider as a pro, and already possesses a solid-average changeup on which he shows good arm speed. At 185 pounds and 6-foot-1, there’s not a lot of room to bulk up, but everything is loose, including his lower half. He did experience some elbow tendinitis this spring, but has has since returned to the mound and touched 93. One concern with the right-hander centers on his arm lagging behind at times. This is a must fix and one that has to occur very early in his pro career. It’s also an easy fix, generally speaking.

8. Brayan Hernandez, OF
Hernandez, 18 in September, was the club’s top international signing a year ago. He’s performing in the DSL, showing all five tools and a mature skill set at the plate. He’s roaming center field quite well, too, and has a shot to stay there long term. His swing is better from the left side as his right-handed swing has some loop to it thanks to a backside collapse. Simplifying how he uses his legs could help Hernandez stay crisp through the ball.

9. Christopher Torres, SS
Reports on Torres include mentions of intensity, quick-twitch actions plus speed and enough arm and range to play shortstop. With an advanced set of plate skills he forces pitchers to throw him strikes. At 17, however, the Dominican native still is learning his swing, which can get long despite a lack of strength and raw power. A switch hitter, Torres is stronger from the left side with a better swing overall. More contact ultimately is necessary, but in his first taste of pro ball in the DSL, Torres is holding his own, and then some. He’s made 15 errors through July 10, five of them throwing, so there’s a lot to clean up and with most teenage shortstops a move to second base could be in his future.

10. Tyler O’Neill, RF
O’Neill has this power-hitting thing down. He runs well for a player that projects to hit for power, has shown in time he’ll be fine corner outfielder with a plus arm. Now he simply needs to learn to hit. More contact will come from being more selective and using the back side some. He’s being teased with soft stuff down, hard stuff up and usually it works because he’s aggressive. He destroys mistakes, however and just turned 20. If the Mariners give him a chance to clean up his plate discipline, O’Neill has a chance to be a big-league regular. He’s going to need time and the right instruction, though, and there’s reason to doubt he’ll get either as the organization currently is constructed.

11. Austin Wilson, RF
Wilson looked terrific this past spring, offering a clean, quick swing path that produced line drives from the left-field line to right-center. He has holes, however, mostly down and/or away and has developed a deeper load than I saw in March or when Wilson was in Everett a year ago. As a result, the strikeouts are up — he’s in the vicious circle that comes when batters have problems versus good velocity but also chase up out of the zone and as they protect against that tale themselves out of the network that would ever allow them to stay back and serve the slider away to right-center or the changeup back up the middle. Wilson has big raw power and he showed some of it last season. He’s been exposed this summer and has yet to make the necessary adjustment. I was told in late June that a small mechanical change was made by Wilson, one that he apparently took to and was able to repeat, so perhaps he’ll rebound in the final two-plus months.

12. Greifer Andrade, SS
The fact that Andrade ranks this high is both a testament to his natural abilities and to the lack of talent left in the Mariners’ system. The early returns on his move to shortstop are mixed at best — he’s committed 14 errors, 11 of them fielding. He played a lot of outfield as an amateur and isn’t as experienced fielding ground balls as the typical 18-year-old infielder. He does have the physical traits and tools to play short, including above-average arm strength with a quick release, good feet and hand strength. One report I received in early June was that Andrade still was working on his defensive mechanics, but showed fluid actions below the waist. At the plate he’s performed and if he has to be moved to second base or center field the bat has a chance to play. He will need to realize he’s more Edgar Renteria than Giancarlo Stanton, but there’s time for that, too.

13. Tyler Marlette, C
I may be high man on Marlette, who still is below average defensively, despite enough arm strength and a lot of progress since Draft Day. His bat has scuffled in 2015 but the foundation remains; bat speed, average to above-average raw power, some track record of game power in pro ball and solid contact. Marlette simply is getting out front a lot now that he is seeing more breaking balls and has yet to make the consistent adjustment. His bat may play elsewhere if he maxes out but he has come so far it would be a shame to move him now. Marlette will always be a bat-first catcher, but he is just 22 years of age and in a year and a half or so could be closing in on a shot at the show. He will need to make the adjustment to the soft stuff by trusting his hands and staying off his front foot. Eliminating even an abbreviated leg kick could help.

14. Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
Yarbrough has better pure stuff than No. 15, particularly the secondary offerings, and offers some physical projection that his right-handed teammate simply does not, but the development of the lefty’s fastball command stagnated early in 2015, though he has continued to throw strikes. He stays on top well despite a three-quarters slot and creates plane. The M’s got him for $40,000 as a senior sign out of Old Dominion and it appears a healthy Yarbrough will offer Seattle an option out of the bullpen at the very least. He’s missed the last month with a groin strain but is throwing in Arizona, likely to return soon.

15. Andrew Moore, RHP 
Moore doesn’t wow physically, as he’s about 6-feet tall (he’s not 5-foot-11, so if anyone claims that, you tell them Churchill is 6-feet tall on the dot and stood a foot away from Moore, who with cleats on was at least 1-2 inches taller), and he throws directly over the top which can show the ball to the batter early and limit fastball movement. But he’s very strong, understands what he can and cannot do and what he should and should not try to be. He flashed more velocity late than early in the spring and he throws his curveball and changeup for strikes. He’s intelligent on the mound, commands the fastball to both sides of the plate — and knows how and when to elevate it — and may simply be an improved breaking ball away from a No. 4 starter’s gig in the big leagues. And who knows? If he can maintain the upper ranges of his late-spring velocity, all bets are off. It‘s also worth noting that Moore is an advocate of weighted ball training, among other advanced training methods, and takes his training seriously. This is the source of failure for a very high percentage of young talents. It’s not a lack of work ethic or training in general, but a lack of proper training.

16. Gareth Morgan, RF
Morgan remains as raw as any prospect in the system, albeit one with huge power potential. The Mariners wisely held him out of full-season ball in April — not a tough call — and are likely to take the conservative, patient approach with his development. He’s a solid athlete despite below-average speed and throws well enough to fit in right field. His swing has too much length and early in his pro career his hands loaded deep in addition, creating a lot of swings and misses on fastballs. Morgan still is learning the strike zone and looking to improve his pitch recognition. His swing path is acceptable, but everything else needed work when he signed last summer and will take time to show up in the results. Morgan could be the right-handed Ryan Howard in terms of his time table; a bat that takes a long time to develop, but arrives with boom.

17. Jio Orozco, RHP
Orozco, 17 until next month, was the club’s 14th-round pick out of Salpointe Catholic in Tucson. He’s 6-foot-1, nearly 210 pounds and sits 89-94 mph with his fastball. He throws an overhand curveball that flashes above-average and potentially-plus changeup that is good enough to play in the middle levels of the minors right now. He was a legit prospect headed to the University of Arizona had he not signed, somehow slipping as far as he did. He’s athletic with good arm speed and clean arm action. Interestingly, Orozco can hit, too, thanks to tremendous bat speed and hip rotation. The M’s have him on the mound for the time being, and his physical maturity could help him along relatively quickly.

18. Austin Cousino, CF
Cousino is back from injury, hitting, playing with energy, confidence and terrific instincts. He’s a plus defender with an average arm and above-average speed. His swing is designed for a hitter more natural leverage, but he’ll need to be a high contact, line-drive hitter if he wants a shot at the big leagues in more than a journeyman role.

19. Zack Littell, RHP
The right-hander, sits low-90s touching 94-95 on occasion — with upper-zone life and some natural lower-zone sink — with a curveball and changeup that both started the year as 40-grade pitches. When he throws strikes on the fringes of the strike zone he’s difficult to square up. He doesn’t possess a future out pitch, but could develop a splitter or slider to take care of that problem. His ranking here is based on control, velocity and a sturdy yet projectable 6-foot-3, 195-pound frame.

20. Tyler Olson, LHP
Olson’s likely limited to a reliever’s role but could be a very good one as we saw in spring training. He struggled in the big leagues, was optioned out and immediately placed in the disabled list, suggesting he wasn’t quite right when the club broke camp. He mixes deception with an above-average slider, 88-91 mph fastball with some gloveside ride, and he has a curveball and changeup if he needs it. The Mariners could have a pair of multi-inning left-handed relief options in Olson and Vidal Nuno, perhaps suggesting David Rollins, the Rule 5 pick, veteran free agent to-be Joe Beimel and the starting-to-get-a-bit-expensive Charlie Furbush may be considered in trades this summer or over the winter.

21. Braden Bishop, CF
Bishop can run — 70 speed on the 20-80 scale — and he uses that speed well in center field and on the bases. He’s an above-average base stealer with instincts and he throws well, fitting him nicely into a potential fourth outfielder role if his bat doesn’t lead him further up the ranks. He doesn’t have power in the swing despite some ability for leverage, but he knows what he is, which is a slasher. In college he managed the strike zone well and if that translates in pro ball he’ll have a chance to hit just enough to warrant a roster spot. Any significant improvement in the swing that helps him make high levels of contact while learning to go deeper into counts and control the strike zone could change Bishop’s profile.

22. Luis Liberato, CF
Liberato can run, throw, gets good jumps in the outfield and has solid command of the strike zone, giving him a chance at four major-league quality tools. When I saw him in spring training he appeared sluggish in comparison, but the lefty-swinging Dominican plays hard with a loose intensity. He won’t be 20 until December and will get stronger as he matures. The swing needs work but he gets to solid velocity due to good hand-eye coordination and a short bat path.

23. Jordy Lara, OF/1B
Lara puzzles me. I don’t have any kind of grasp what he is as a hitter. I expected more power than we have seen, though it’s not a surprise he’s maintained a functional batting average and on-base mark even when it’s clear he’s struggling. He makes contact, is aggressive early in counts and does have 22 extra-base hits. Just four homers is the oddity here. Lara isn’t a 35-homer bat or anything, but considering the contact he makes and the loft he’s able to create, four just doesn’t make sense. One scout told me Lara reminds him of Eduardo Perez early in his career when he was “trying to hit .380” instead of .280 with power. Lara belongs at first base, even though he’s seen time in right field and even third base (he does have a strong throwing arm).

24. Juan De Paula, RHP
DePaula has above-average command and feel, issuing just five walks in 150 batters faced. He’s projectable at 6-foot-3 and under 170 pounds and at just 17 years of age could be a sleeper who gets to the states next year after his stint in the DSL in 2015. De Paula uses a fastball and slider, but has thrown a lot of changeups this summer with good success. While he’s years away, some have likened him to Michael Pineda in terms of projection and present command and control. Pineda was 6-foot-3 when he signed, grew four inches, put on some weight and while his arm speed improved, his command continued to mature, too. De Paula could follow suit, although projecting Pineda’s level of growth is a bit far-fetched.

25. Corey Simpson, OF
Simpson would rank higher here for his bat alone, but I have not been impressed with anything else he does. There’s a decent chance he’s a below-average glove thanks to a lack of lateral and vertical range. He does throw well, however, and his bat has shown well with short-season Everett this season.

Others: Freddy Peralta, RHP;  Luis Rengifo, 2B; Daniel Missaki, RHP; John Hicks, C; Luis Joseph, 2B; Joseph Rosa, 2B/SS; *Carlos Vargas, SS; Dylan Thompson, RHP; Jose Leal, OF; Johan Quevedo, C; Drew Jackson, SS; Kyle Wilcox, RHP; Tyler Pike, LHP; Trey Cochrane-Gill, RHP; Danny Hultzen, LHP; Mayckol Guaipe, RHP; Steve Baron, C.

Pre-Season Top 10
1. Alex Jackson, RF — Analysis
2. D.J. Peterson, 1B — Analysis
3. Patrick Kivlehan, OF — Analysis
4. Austin Wilson, RF — Analysis
5. Gabriel Guerrero, RF (Traded) — Analysis
6. Ketel Marte, SS — Analysis
7. Edwin Diaz, RHP — Analysis
8. Tyler O’Neill, RF — Analysis
9. Luiz Gohara, LHP — Analysis
10. Tyler Marlette, C — Analysis

Pre-Season Prospect Rankings: 11-15
Pre-Season Prospect Rankings: 16-30

Photo: Andy Morales/AllSportsTucson.com)

*Vargas reportedly has agreed to terms with the Mariners, but nothing is official.…

Ripken
The 2015 Major League Baseball amateur draft less than a week away and – without doubt – Seattle Mariners fans will be watching intently to see what the team does with their first pick in the draft, which is number-60 overall in the second round.

As of today, most Mariners fans don’t mind that the team’s late start in the draft is due to the fact that Seattle surrendered their first-round pick so that they could sign slugger Nelson Cruz – who had a qualifying offer placed on him by his former team – the Baltimore Orioles – after the 2014 season.

Regardless of who the team selects next week, we won’t really know how their drafted actually turned out for years. Prior to this season, Prospect Insider founder and co-host of The Steve Sandmeyer Show – Jason A. Churchill – illustrated how 20/20 hindsight would have changed the first round of the 2009 draft for the Mariners and every other team. Jason’s article demonstrates how a consensus pick – like Dustin Ackley at number-two overall – may not pan out, while another player from the same school who was selected in the third round – Kyle Seager – can turn out to the team’s best choice.

Leading up to the draft, I’ve discussed the fact that good players – like Seager –  can be found in the later rounds of the draft. I’ve also pointed out that a drafted player’s position coming out of college or high school doesn’t necessarily matter because positions can be changed during player development. To accentuate the point that the position of draftees doesn’t always matter, I’ve posted a couple of fun pieces that lists rosters of players who were drafted at one position and eventually made their major league debut at another.

So, with a week to go before draft day, I’ve decided to compile one last group – players drafted as pitchers who debuted as position players. Just like the “All-shortstop squad” and “All-catcher crew” that I previously constructed, the “All-pitcher posse” has several impressive players – including three Hall of Fame players – plus a current major league General Manager who was drafted as an outfielder and has been celebrated in a best-selling book and an Academy Award nominated movie.

As with the other groups, I have a few notes:
1. My selection pool includes every year of the draft, which started in 1965.

2. Players had to debut as a position player to be eligible for consideration. That means a player like Rick Ankiel – who debuted as pitcher and converted to the outfield – isn’t eligible.

3. Drafted position is based on the position listed on the MLB.com draft history page for each amateur draft.

4. I didn’t rule out any position players who were asked to pitch as part of a mop-up scenario, such as a blowout.

As I mentioned earlier, there are three Hall of Famers in the lineup – Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken Jr, and Dave Winfield. Henderson is considered by many as the all-time best lead-off hitter and holds the all-time stolen base record, while Ripken is known as the “Iron Man” for his consecutive games streak. To me, Winfield is the most impressive of an impressive trio. When drafted out of the University of Minnesota by the San Diego Padres, Winfield was a two-sport athlete who was also drafted professionally as a basketball player and a football player despite the fact that he didn’t play collegiate football.

Repositioned Pitcher Starting Lineup
 Pos Player Year Pick Team School
 1B Jack Clark 1973 294 SFG Gladstone HS (Covina, CA)
 2B Kelly Johnson 2000 38 ATL Westwood HS (Austin, TX)
 SS Cal Ripken Jr. 1978 48 BAL Aberdeen HS (MD)
 3B Ray Knight 1970 231 CIN Dougherty HS (Albany, GA)
 LF Rickey Henderson 1976 96 OAK Technical HS (Oakland, CA)
 CF Bake McBride 1970 795 STL Westminster College (MO)
 RF Dave Winfield 1973 4 SDP University of Minnesota
 C Alan Knicely 1974 63 HOU Turner Ashby HS (Bridgewater, VA)
 DH Ryan Klesko 1989 114 ATL Westminster HS (CA)

Of the former notable pitchers listed below, Billy Beane is certainly the most notable although his brief major league career is overshadowed by his exploits as the General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, which have been publicized in the movie and book of the same title – Moneyball. Other players of note include current MLB Network analyst and younger brother of Cal – Billy Ripken– and Dave Kingman, who was notorious for his monstrous home runs and frequent strike outs.

Other Notable Former Pitchers
 Pos Player Year Pick Team School
 OF/GM Billy Beane 1980 23 NYM Mt. Carmel HS (Rancho Bernardo, CA)
 OF/1B Dave Kingman 1967 29 CAL Mount Prospect HS (IL)
 OF/3B/SS Hubie Brooks 1978 3 NYM Arizona State University
 1B Jason Thompson 1975 75 DET California State University, Northridge
 RF Brad Hawpe 2000 317 COL Louisiana State University
 1B Mark Trumbo 2004 533 ANA Villa Park HS (CA)
 OF Daryl Boston 1981 7 CWS Woodward HS (Cincinnati, OH)
 2B Billy Ripken 1982 286 BAL Aberdeen HS (MD)

Kyle ShwarberIt seems like every other week this season the Chicago Cubs have been able to call up a blue chip hitting prospect that has been shredding minor league pitching. First, it was talented third baseman Kris Bryant who started the year at Triple-A to make a marginal improvement to his defence. Next was middle infielder Addison Russell, acquired in last summer’s Jeff Samardzija blockbuster. Could last year’s first round selection, Kyle Schwarber, be next?

Schwarber, selected No. 4 overall in last June’s amateur draft, wasted no time making his impact known. He rocketed through three levels of Class-A ball last summer — in the Northwest, Midwest and Florida State leagues — posting a combined .344/.428/.634 triple-slash line in 311 plate appearances. He hit as many home runs as doubles, 18, and produced a solid 12.5 percent walk rate. And for a power-hitter, his 18.3 percent strikeout rate wasn’t too shabby either.

For as good as his professional debut was, the 22-year-old has followed it up with an equally impressive start to 2015 with the Tennessee Smokies, Chicago’s Double-A affiliate. The left-hander owns a .296/.430/.600 slash line in 158 plate appearances. He already has crushed 10 home runs, a feat that required 191 PA’s last year at High-A Daytona, so there’s no reason to believe the power is about to slow down. Schwarber’s walk and strikeout rates currently sit at 19.6 percent and 22.8 percent respectively.

There were far fewer questions about Schwarber’s bat when he was drafted than there were regarding what position he would play. He was drafted as a catcher, but his 6-foot-0, 235 pound frame aren’t typical catcher measurements. However, he did spend significant time working on his mechanics and defence over the winter and manager Joe Maddon mentioned that he’s continuing to get better.

Schwarber’s bat is clearly more advanced than his fielding and we’ve seen several players in this situation moved from catcher to a corner position. Notably, Seattle Mariners first round pick in last year’s draft, Alex Jackson, was moved from catcher to right field. Schwarber has spent some time in left field and it seems like a likely landing spot should he not last behind the dish. He could also be a candidate for some time at first base, too.

Several scouting reports suggest Schwarber has the ability to become an average defensive catcher in time and could find success acting as more of a back-up while regularly playing somewhere else in the field.

If the left-hander is indeed able to improve his catching game and handle his own in the outfield, he could offer the club some versatility a la Stephen Vogt of the Oakland Athletics.

Right now the Cubs have Miguel Montero under contract through 2017 — and has a 125 wRC+ in 120 PA’s this season — so there isn’t an opening behind the plate in the short-term. Anthony Rizzo is off to an excellent start this year at first base and is signed through at least 2019 so there isn’t an opening there either.

Chris Coughlan is currently employed as the club’s regular left fielder but he and his 83 wRC+ are one area the Cubs could look to make an improvement with a playoff spot on the radar. It’s theorized that Schwarber could offer exactly that.

It may seem a little premature to talk about promoting a prospect who’s only had a cup of coffee at the Double-A level. Even Bryant received 330 PA’s at Triple-A before behind called up — and just look at what he’s done so far this year. Russell hadn’t even totalled 60 career PA’s at Triple-A before the Cubs elected to call him up earlier in the year, and he’s ten months younger than Schwarber. In both situations, it appears that Chicago’s aggressive approach has paid off.

There’s an argument that Schwarber could improve the Cubs immediately, but there isn’t really a need to force the issue right now. The 22-year old has proved he can handle minor league pitching so a promotion to Triple-A should be on the horizon. If he’s able to produce similar results after a few weeks at the higher level, then definitely the Cubs should look to add him to the big league squad.

If Schwarber were to be called up tomorrow he would join Carlos Rodon and Brandon Finnegan as 2014 first-round picks that have made their major league debuts — it’s still been less than a year since that draft took place.

At this rate Schwarber is definitely a candidate to see some time in the majors when rosters expand in September. If he continues to hit, that time could come even sooner.…

Draft
The 2015 Major League Baseball amateur draft is less than two months away and the Seattle Mariners will have to wait until the second round to make their first selection with the 60th pick. That’s the latest that the team has drafted since they drafted Matt Tuiasosopo in at the 93rd overall spot in the third round in 2004. The Mariners are getting a late start in the draft because they’ve surrendered their first-round pick as a result from signing a free agent – slugger Nelson Cruz – who had a qualifying offer placed on him by his former team after the 2014 season.

Since Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik took the reigns of the team in late 2008, Seattle has produced three major league players from their first-round draft selections – Dustin Ackley, Nick Franklin, and Mike Zunino. Franklin has since moved on to Tampa Bay as part of the three-team deal that brought outfielder Austin Jackson to Seattle. Zunino quickly established himself as a superb defender after reaching the majors in less than a year, although the former Florida Gator is still developing as a hitter after being selected third overall in 2012. The jury is still out on Ackley, although he’s off to a quick start in 2015. Prospect Insider founder and co-host of The Steve Sandmeyer Show, Jason A. Churchill, recently provided his latest analysis of Ackley’s potential.

While having a first-round draft choice is certainly preferred, there’s no reason for fans to fret if their team doesn’t pick until the second round because plenty of talented players selected in the later rounds every year. Recently, the Mariners have successfully developed several projected 2015 contributors who were drafted later than the 60th pick – James Paxton (132), Chris Taylor (161), Tyler Olson (207), Carson Smith (243), and Dominic Leone (491).

Whether teams use their prospects as the foundation of their big league roster or they flip them to acquire major league-ready players, using the entire draft is vital to a team’s success. To demonstrate the depth of talent available throughout the draft, I’ve constructed a 25-man roster consisting of active players who were drafted 2000 in the sixth round or later.

I decided to use wins above replacement as calculated by FanGraphs.com (fWAR) as the basis of my selection process because fWAR represents the value of a player’s total contribution to their teams’ success. The eligible players with highest 2015 fWAR at each position were my first choice for each section of my roster – starting lineup, bench players, starting rotation, and bullpen. Let’s look at the starting lineup first.Position PlayersThis is a very strong lineup from top-to-bottom. The lone player drafted in 2000, is Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista, who was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates. “Joey Bats” bounced between four teams before coming to Toronto in 2008 and registering a breakout season when he slugged 54 home runs in 2010. Bautista’s story is of perseverance, although there are many players who took less time to establish themselves as good major league players.

The later rounds of the 2009 draft produced several outstanding 2014 performers. Most notably, Matt Carpenter, Paul Goldschmidt, Yan Gomes, and J.D. Martinez who were all selected after Ackley and Franklin 2009.  The one position that was actually a bit thin was shortstop, which is why I selected Oakland’s Ben Zobrist, who played second base, all outfield positions, plus 31 games at shortstop in 2014. Otherwise, I would have used him as a utility player off of the bench.   BenchThree of the four bench players are actually starters for their respective teams. But, the depth of talent at nearly every position gave me the luxury of picking high-value players, including a 2014 Silver Slugger winner – Gomes. If shortstop was deeper, Since Zobrist was unavailable to be my utility player, I chose Miami’s Ed Lucas. The right-handed hitter doesn’t have the lofty offensive numbers of other players on the roster. But, he played all infield positions – with the exception of catcher – plus the corner outfield positions in 2014.

RotationMy rotation may not be the best in baseball. But, it’s pretty decent considering that the group includes 2014 National League Rookie of the Year winner Jacob deGrom and two pitchers who’ve received Cy Young award votes at least once during their career- James Shields and Mat Latos. The bullpen is quite impressive too. BullpenI did make one slight tweak to the relief corps by making David Robertson the closer over reliever Dellin Betances – who had the highest fWAR value – since Robertson closed games for the New York Yankees in 2014, while Betances was his set-up man. I even have two southpaws in the bullpen – Tony Watson and Zach Duke.

Understandably, post-draft evaluations by fans and the media will focus on the early round selections. But, somewhere in the later rounds, future major league stars will be selected with no fanfare and end-up outperforming some first-round selections just as Carpenter, Goldschmidt, Gomes, and J.D. Martinez did in 2009.

 …

tyler-olsonAfter an offseason spent plugging various holes, the Seattle Mariners entered Spring Training with only a few notable position battles: the back of the rotation, the bullpen, and the starting shortstop job.

The shortstop delimma took care of itself when Chris Taylor was shelved with fractured wrist. Taijuan Walker locked up the No. 5 spot with a dominant spring. Although nothing is technically official, yet, it looks like the final spot in the bullpen will go to Tyler Olson.

At the outset, manager Lloyd McLendon suggested closer Fernando Rodney was the only sure bet in the bullpen. We could have reasonably added Charlie Furbush, Yoervis Medina, and Danny Farquhar to that list with Tom Wilhelmsen and Dominic Leone all but guaranteed to head north with the club.

The departure of Brandon Maurer meant that, should the M’s begin the year with a seven-man bullpen, one spot would truly be available. Knowing that McLendon prefers to have the second left-hander, we estimated early on that Lucas Luetge and Rule 5 pick David Rollins were the likely candidates to secure the job vacated by Joe Beimel. In the event the M’s broke camp with Furbush as the sole southpaw, right-hander Carson Smith would be a favourable choice for the seventh spot.

However, it’s Olson, a Gonzaga alum, that’s secured that final spot after a strong spring. Pitching as a starter at Double-A in 2014, the former seventh-round draft pick posted a 3.52 ERA and 3.19 FIP across 125 and 1/3 innings alongside strong walk and home run rates. Another find of scouting director Tom McNamara, Olsen has a fastball that sits around 90 miles per hour alongside a slider, curveball, and changeup.

Olson ranked No. 21 in Jason A. Churchill’s prospect rankings, and Churchill notes that the 25-year old’s stuff plays up due to a deceptive delivery. Though he profiles as a back-end starter, Churchill says, Olson should be able to dominate left-handed batters at the major league level immediately.

It appeared that the battle for the final bullpen spot had come down to Olson and Rollins, with the latter appearing to have the upper hand due to his Rule 5 status. But with Rollins suspended for PED use, Olson became the easy choice.

Since he was a non-roster invitee to camp, Olson will have to be added to the Mariners 40-man roster. With the deadline for setting Opening Day rosters not until Sunday, the wait for the move to be made official is more procedural than anything. Expect the move to occur over the weekend, likely later on Saturday if not Sunday morning.

Earlier in the winter I had thought Luetge would be the favourite to get the nod to replace Beimel. But after seeing Rollins over the past several weeks, I figured he had done enough to get a look to start the season. With both pitchers no longer in the pitcher, Olson is the logical choice, and his performance over the past month has definitely warranted his presence on the 25-man roster.

Perhaps more surprising than Olson making the team, is Churchill’s No. 11 prospect, Carson Smith, not making the team. Smith dazzled in a brief stint with with the big club in September and was a logical candidate to replace the departed Maurer as a high leverage power-arm. Pitching exclusively as a reliever since being drafted in 2011, and succeeding at each level, the 24-year old’s job will more or less be to stay healthy and await an opportunity as he provides important depth at Triple-A.

McLendon gets the second left-hander in the bullpen he wanted, and the Mariners roster is now all but set for Opening Day.…

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 11-15, in reverse order.

No. 15 — Gareth Morgan, OF
HIT POWER RANGE ARM RUN OFP
25/40 40/65 45/45 55/55 40/40 47.5

Morgan is a physical beast with big raw power that could tick up if he cleans up his approach and refines his swing to become a better overall hitter. He’ll need to take such steps rather quickly, however, since there are many of them to take before he can be seen as a viable big-league option.

At 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds The Canadian-born’s natural swing has a lot of length to it, and tends to get circular, which cuts down his ability to make contact consistently. He does show big-time bat speed, however, which is what makes his upside so intriguing.

Morgan is a below-average runner, but a solid athlete nonetheless, and possesses enough arm strength to profile in right field. It’s all about the hit tool for Morgan, and shortening his swing and using more of the field could go a long way to get him there.

The 19-year-old likely starts his 2015 season in extended spring training, which means a short-season assignment. A very strong showing this spring could change that, however, and he did look better in March than he did last August in all facets.

No. 14 — Jordy Lara, OF/1B
HIT POWER RANGE ARM RUN OFP
45/55 50/55 45 60/60 25/25 47.5

Lara, 24 in May, showed he could hit for average, limiting strikeouts and reaching the gaps and beyond at Advanced-A a year ago and was solid in a short stint in Double-A Jackson to end the season. Lara has a pretty swing that generates high line drives. He controls the zone fairly well and improved his performance versus offspeed stuff, after struggling to high levels early in his career.

Lara occasionally gets the leverage and loft necessary to hit the ball out of the ballpark but he’s better when he stays on top and hits the ball to left-center and right-center field. The doubles come naturally while he does have to dial up a bit for fly balls to reach home run depth.

Lara has a plus arm but is a below-average outfielder due to poor range. He fits well at first base, though I question his long-term power at the position. To alter some of his profile shortcomings, he’ll need to hit well for three months in Jackson and earn a promotion to Triple-A by the end of 2015 or start of 2016. A stagnant year pushes Lara off the radar, as he’ll be 25 next season and just about out of time.

No. 13 — Danny Hultzen, LHP
FB SL CH CMD/CTL DEL OFP
55/55 50/55 55/60 50/55 40/45 49.0

Hultzen’s status is buried by the uncertainty of his return from injury and subsequent surgery on his throwing shoulder, or his ranking and OFP would reflect that of a Top 10 prospect and surefire future major-league contributor. He’s adjusted his delivery and it appears to be one that can at least assist in the lefty’s effort to take pressure off his shoulder for the long term, which is truly the lone question attached to his resume.

The stuff remains above average; Hultzen’s fastball has sat 90-94 mph this spring with a couple of 95s and a 96 sprinkled within. The slider has been solid, yet flat at times, which is to be expected. The more he’s thrown it the more effective it’s been, however, and it’s an important pitch for him since it’s his only weapon inside on right-handed batters.

Hultzen’s best pitch remains a plus changeup that he feels through very quickly. He repeats his delivery well, even the new one, and his arm speed on the change is terrific, generating sink and fade, but with command and consistency.

The former No. 2 overall pick still has a long road ahead, but he should begin 2015 in Double-A Jackson (warmer weather as he builds arm strength) with a chance to get to Tacoma and set himself up well for next season. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, however, that the 25-year-old gets a cup of coffee in The Show this season, depending on how his season goes and how many bullets are left in his ’15 campaign once the club is ready for him.

No. 12 — Ryan Yarbrough, LHP
FB CB CH CMD/CTL DEL OFP
50/50+ 45/50 45/50+ 50/55 50/50 49.0

Yarbrough was very good in short outings at Short-season Everett in 2014 after being a cheap, 4th-round senior sign ($40,000) out of Old Dominion. Basically, Seattle drafted the inexpensive Yarbrough because doing so helped them give Morgan top-15 money to get him to pass up college. The move may pay off more than most thought.

The southpaw possesses some projection, still, despite being 23 years of age. He’s 6-foot-5 and 205 pounds, stays on top from a three-quarter arm slot to get some plane and sink on his fastball that touched 95 mph. Yarbrough, as he stretches out into longer outings as a starter, likely will sit 90-92 mph and complement with an average changeup that has a shot to be plus. His curveball flashes average and he throws strikes with everything.

If I were the Mariners I’d get aggressive with Yarbrough and test him in Advanced-A Bakersfield to start the season and get him some time in Jackson before schedule is completed. Doing so puts him position to compete in spring training for a back-end gig next March; remember, J.A. Happ is a free agent at season’s end, as is right-hander Hisashi Iwakuma, and Yarbrough, a four-year college player, may be the next option to fill the opening.

No. 11 — Carson Smith, RHP
FB SL CH CMD/CTL DEL OFP
65/65 55/60 40/45 55/60 55/55 49.0

Smith finished 2014 strong, including 8 1/3 lights-out frames in the big leagues that included 10 punchouts and just three walks. Smith’s delivery is deceptive, employing a low three-quarter arm slot, the former Texas State starter stays on top of his pitches, creating heavy sink on the fastball and late, sharp bite with the 84-86 mph slider.

Smith also has a chanegup that can be useful but in a one-inning relief role hasn’t used it much and isn’t likely to do so anytime soon.

The 24-year-old pounds the strike zone and while I don’t see a closer’s role in his future, necessarily, he gets groundballs and misses bats, strongly suggesting a high-leverage role, and for dirt cheap for now, for several years.…

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. 16-30, in reverse order.

No. 30 — Corey Simpson, OF
HIT POWER RANGE ARM RUN OFP
25/40 40/60 45/45 60/60 45/45 40.5

Simpson has struggled to hit for average in pro ball, entering 2015 with a .214/.274/.349 triple-slash in 122 minor league games played. His raw power remains undeniable, however, and he possesses a plus arm that fits well in a corner outfield spot.

In order to get to the power Simpson must shorten the swing some and make a few crucial mechanical adjustments, including the path itself; he tends to collapse on the backside and get under the ball with a loopy, uppercut angle, which contributes significantly to his extreme strikeout rate. Even the slightest of adjustments can alter such results dramatically. If Simpson can hit .260 his slugging percentage alone will carry him to the big leagues, and he has shown a willingness to be selective, suggesting he has a chance to put up acceptable on-base marks.

The 21-year-old is likely to begin 2015 at Class-A Clinton, or perhaps even Advanced-A High Desert with a strong spring showing.

No. 29 — Matt Anderson, RHP
FB SL CB CH CMD/CTL DEL OFP
55/55 45/50
40 40/45 45/50 50 41.5

Anderson, still relatively new to pitching after starting his career at Long Beach State as an infielder, likely is destined for the bullpen where his stuff may play up enough to suggest a big-league future. The 23-year-old will touch 96 mph in shorter stints and there’s a chance if he focuses on one of his secondary offerings — preferably the slider — the combo may progress enough in quick fashion to move him beyond Triple-A Tacoma inside a year or so. Anderson is built for starting at 210 pounds, and there is a shot enough upside remains in terms of command and the development of a major-league second and third pitch to warrant another go in the rotation in 2015.

Anderson likely will begin the season in Double-A Jackson after finishing last season with Advanced-A High Desert in a relief role, despite spending a good part of the year in the Southern League as a starter.

No. 28 — Marcus Littlewood, C
HIT POWER RANGE ARM RUN OFP
35/45 50/55 40/45 55/60 45/45 43.0

I’ve liked Littlewood since before the 2010 draft, but now he’s a different player. First of all, the switch hitter now is donning the tools of ignorance after beginning his pro career at shortstop.

Littlewood, 23 now, continues to hit well from the right side, struggle something fierce from the left side while continuing to learn the nuances of the catcher position. The physical tools are there, including a plus arm that has gained accuracy as he polishes his technique and footwork. His left-handed swing still needs more simplifying, but he sees the ball well from both sides, despite the rather large discrepancy in production.

The former second-round pick posted a .320/.485/.660 line versus lefty pitching at Class-A Clinton last season after a near-.800 OPS in the same league from the same side in 2013. Littlewood may be one of few legitimate candidates to give up switch hitting at some point, but even his .236/.305/.339 performance from the left side isn’t likely to force such a move just yet.

Littlewood likely opens 2015 with Advanced-A Bakersfield after ending last season in the California League and showing well in nine games. I’d like to see him get to Double-A Jackson by the end of the year, but he’ll have to show more consistency at the plate and take another full step forward behind it in order to earn a promotion.

No. 27 — Mayckol Guaipe, RHP
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The 24-year-old Guaipe was protected this past winter when the Mariners placed him on the 40-man Reserve List and the reason why is a a 92-96 mph fastball, a slider with a present grade of at least fringe-average and solid-average command coupled with plus control.

Guaipe pounds the strike zone with the fastball and slider, creating plane on the four-seamer and getting some armside run to go with it. He’s not afraid to pitch inside to left-handed batters but he doesn’t command the pitch well to that side of plate just yet.

When he stays down with the slider the short-breaking pitch is effective and he’s shown the ability to get called strikes with it, backdooring it to lefties and keeping it away from right-handers.

The right-hander is likely to start 2015 at Triple-A Tacoma where his biggest challenge is tightening up the slider and improving the fastball command one more grade to keep experience batters from taking advantage of what some might call “being around the plate too much.”

No. 26 — Jabari Henry, OF
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The Mariners have cornered the market on ‘Jabari’s’ in baseball, and Henry has proven to be a sleeper worth watching. He’s already 24 but has hit some at each stop, and took full advantage of the Cal League a year ago, blasting 30 home runs and slugging .584.

Henry possesses above-average raw power, creating good loft and turning well on fastballs middle-in. He also displayed the capability to stay back on breaking balls and reach the gaps, a sign of progress and maturity.

Henry is an average runner with an average throwing arm and range that fits in left field.

The Florida International product will start the season at Double-A Jackson where the ballpark will test him, and so will the pitching. Henry must show he can use more of the field and avoid getting pull happy — which is where all of his power happens to be.

At his best, Henry likely is more of a hitter than a power hitter, so don’t expect too much in the home run department in 2015.

No. 25 — Stephen Landazuri, RHP
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Landazuri, a 22nd-round pick in 2010, has exceeded all expectations, not just as a result of his draft slot but because he wasn’t even turned in by most area scouts that year and many preferred Cesar Aguilar, a friend of Landazuri’s that also played in the area.

Landazuri is at a disadvantage in terms of size, but at 6-feet and 195 pounds, he’s used his athleticism well to create a delivery that allows him to sit 89-92 mph with his fastball deep into games. Despite his height, Landazuri keeps the ball down well and the four-seamer shows some natural sink. His curveball is below average but flashes as a useful offering. He throws strikes and employs a changeup with promise.

If the right-hander can take the curveball up a notch and command the fastball a little better, it will be difficult to keep him from the majors, at least in a middle relief role.

No. 24 — Austin Cousino, CF
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40/45 35/40 60/60 50/50 55/55 45.5

Cousino reminds me of former Mariners outfielder Darren Bragg; both left-handed, both run well, throw well and when they get the chance they both hit for more power than their frames suggest.

Cousino gets terrific jumps and takes good, consistent routes in center field — he’s by far the club’s best center-field prospect — and he throws well for the position.

At the plate, Cousino gets to his power by selling out a bit; last summer that meant an increased strikeout rate and more fly balls, which isn’t his game. In lead-off mode, Cousino can work counts, hit line drives and is a factor on the bases. He handles the bat well, picks up the breaking ball and brings well above-average makeup to the ballpark every day.

Starting 2015 in the Cal League is ideal. Cousino’s future may be as an extra outfielder led by his glove, but there’s enough strength and bat speed to develop something to offer in the batter’s box, too.

No. 23 — Tyler Pike, LHP
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Pike appeared to be on the fast track after a strong start in pro ball, but scouts tell me he developed some mechanical concerns that likely explain his problems throwing strikes consistently and maintaining his velocity deeper into games.

Pike gets into hitter’s counts too often because on top of some delivery issues he tends to avoid the middle of the plate by trying the corners a lot. He’ll have to trust that his 88-91 mph fastball is enough, or perhaps look to create more plane and/or movement on the pitch; Pike is just 6-feet tall, but he does possess well above-average athleticism and pitchability.

His changeup is above-average and he can spot it on the corners for strikes or bury it and get the occasional swing and miss. Pike’s curveball has to get better, but it’s a decent pitch now changing eye level and offering a big velocity differential in the 68-71 mph range.

With more strikes, Pike still remains a potential No. 4 starter, and he’s just 21 years of age with experience in Double-A, which is where he’ll start 2015.

No. 22 — Tyler Smith, SS
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Smith, an 8th-round pick in 2013, has hit his way into big-league camp this spring and his plate skills and potential versatility make him a viable candidate for a job in the majors in a year or two.

Smith controls the strike zone well, hits the ball to right field and his swing generates line drives that occasionally turn into home runs. He can hit the gaps for doubles often, however, and will make pitchers throw strikes.

The right-handed batter plays a capable shortstop, but figures to end up at second if he plays regularly, or as a utility option. Smith likely returns to Jackson to start 2015, but he’s a polished, mature player that almost certainly sees Triple-A Tacoma at some point.

No. 21 — Tyler Olson, LHP
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If you haven’t figured it out yet, yes, the Mariners also have cornered the market on prospects named ‘Tyler.’ First it was Pike, then Smith and now Olson, and there are two more in the Top 15.

Olson, who dazzled this spring in a relief role, sits 87-89 mph with his fastball and offers a slider, curveball and changeup, all that play up due to a deceptive, medium-effort delivery that he repeats very well.

In relief, Olson touches 91 on the radar gun, hides the ball well and will change arm angles to further deceive hitters. His slider is his best secondary pitch out of the bullpen, while his curveball rivals the slider when he’s starting and facing more right-handed batters.

He backdoors both pitches well and gets good fade on his changeup. Best of all, he commands all of his pitches and is aggressive, despite lacking big velocity.

Olson’s rotation future likely is as a back-end option and in that role he’s a year or so away. But he could be a multi-inning option out of the pen immediately with the ability to dominate left-handed batters.

No. 20 — Greifer Andrade, SS
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Andrade, 18, played outfield and third base back home in Venezuela, but the Mariners switched him to shortstop immediately, simply to see if it sticks. He’s not a plus runner and possesses average arm strength, but some scouts believe he’s a good enough athlete to make the transition a possibility. If short doesn’t work, second base may be next, but he may end up in left field, ultimately.

Andrade’s bat may dictate, however, and there are differing opinions on what he brings in the box down the line. Most see him as a .270 hitter with 12-16 home run power, which only plays up the middle, barring superstar on-base skills, the most difficult skill to project in teenage prospects.

A few others suggest there may be more power there as he matures; he’s 6-feet and 190 pounds now, and even one tick up on the power slide makes him an intriguing third base or left field prospect, and perhaps this is what the Mariners see, too. Overall, his chances to stick at shortstop probably sit somewhere between zero and slim.

Andrade spent last season split between the VSL and DSL and displayed a strong, line-drive swing and advanced approach. His swing looked a bit long to me this spring but he appears capable from a tools standpoint to handle the Arizona Rookie League this summer, of not beyond.

No. 19 — John Hicks, C
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Hicks has progressed defensively and at the plate each year as a pro and his next stop is the big leagues as Mike Zunino’s backup, a tandem that could last several years.

Danny Hultzen’s college catcher at Virginia, Hicks has an average arm in terms of strength but his near-flawless technique and footwork produces crisp, accurate throws. He’s also shown improved ability to bock balls in the dirt and call a game.

At the plate Hicks does a solid job of putting bat to ball; he doesn’t walk or strike out much and there’s not much power at present, but Hicks shows flashes of creating more loft when he gets a pitch to drive.

He’ll start 2015 in Triple-A Tacoma with a chance to see the bigs in September, or if the club finds itself in need before then.

No. 18 — Carlos Misell, RHP
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Misell, a 22-year-old right-hander, sits in the 89-93 mph range with a sinking fastball and complements it with a slider that flashes plus. His changeup is often too firm and it floats some, but there’s a two-pitch combo here that projects well.

Misell’s delivery has some effort to it but he does get into rhythm at repeat it well. While his arm path is a bit lengthy he’s relatively quick to the plate with a three-quarter arm slot. When he stays on top, he gets some ground ball outs and can get the strikeout.

Misell, out of the bullpen in short stints, could be a high-leverage arm, particularly if the fastball plays up into the mid-90s. There’s still a chance his changeup improves, however, and coupled with average command could allow for a starting role long term.

Misell should see the Cal League this season with a chance to jump to Jackson later in the year. If the club puts him in the bullpen now, he could start the year with the Generals.

No. 17 — Jochi Ogando, RHP
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Ogando, a 6-foot-5, 215-pound right-hander from the Dominican Republic, has the long levers very much similar to that of James Paxton, and gets similar velocity with a similar arsenal, too.

The 21-year-old sits 91-96 mph with his fastball, can climb the ladder intelligently, offering a 12-6 curveball in the low-70s and an improving hard change or splitter as a third option.

Ogando’s problems throwing strikes, however, may overwhelm his stuff and relegate him to the bullpen, where that splitter may become even more important and his velocity may jump a few mphs.

He stays down in the zone for the most part and gets good plane on his pitches; one has to wonder if a slider isn’t a better pitch for him in any role.

Ogando will likely begin 2015 back in Jackson. Like Misell, a move to the bullpen now may mean a quicker path of promotion and a better shot to contribute in the big leagues, and with Ogando the time may be sooner than later to make such a decision.

No. 16 — Brayan Hernandez, OF
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45/55 40/55 50/50 50/50 55/60 47.5

Hernandez was among the top handful of international prospects last summer and he may be one of the top few athletes in the system. The switch hitter shows advanced feel from each side of the plate with a line drive swing that shows doubles power now and the potential for 15-20 homer pop down the road.

The Venezuelan, who was trained by the well-known Henderson Martinez, employs a quiet swing with consistent plane and above-average bat speed, giving him a chance to hit for average to go with good middle-of-the-field power.

Hernandez projects to stick in center long term thanks to effortless but quick reactions and at least an average throwing arm, despite merely above-average speed, although he looked more like a 60-grade runner on the back fields this spring.…