Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive information on Seattle Mariners players from the rookie leagues all the way to the major leagues. Looking beyond the numbers and using input from respected baseball resources -- as well as contributing our own input -- we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking, and maybe even pinning some future hopes on. Our determination of where the prospects land on the list is a combination of potential ceiling, the player's likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster.
These types of rankings are very fluid and things can change very quickly, particularly in the bottom half of a list this large, but this compilation is our best effort at a look at the 50 best prospects in the system right now.
The breakdowns are being done in groups of five for subscribers, with the complete list (sans scouting info) being posted to the forums for discussion once the pieces are complete. Each player section will be headed by the player's position, age (as of the date of article publishing), hitting and throwing handedness and level at which they ended the 2012 season.
After struggling out of the gate in Low-A last year, Blash was sent to Everett where he became a Northwest League All-Star, leading the Short Season circuit in Slugging Percentage. That performance led us to rank him 23rd on last year's Top-50, counting on him to grow in 2012. But his return trip to Clinton, while improved, wasn't impressive enough to keep him in the top half of this year's list. While Blash boasts among the best combinations of patience and power in the system at times, he gets himself out at others by being either too selective or by not being selective at all. Just looking at Blash on the baseball field, he is a very impressive athlete -- tall, lean and strong. But his approach and focus seem to waiver from game to game and it just isn't always there, and because of that his tools don't always shine through.
Blash posted an .829 OPS in the 2nd half for Clinton, much better than the .744 he had before the break, but he also struck out 134 times in 113 games on the season and had a 30.5% strikeout rate in the 2nd half. He hasn't been playing organized baseball for very long, but the 23-year-old now has just under 1,000 pro plate appearances under his belt and hasn't shown any noticeable improvements in his areas of weakness.
The 6-foot-5, 224 pound right-hander has big plus power around to right center and the ability to take a walk, meaning the Mariners' 8th round pick in the 2010 draft figures to have a long shelf life as a prospect, but at this point he needs a big leap forward soon to be considered a legitimate future big leaguer.
Forrest was a hot prospect at this time last year, lighting up the Arizona Fall League with a sparkling ERA after pitching impressively at three levels for the Mariners during the regular season and ranking 27th on our Mariners prospect countdown. But the local kid from Lakeside School and the University of Washington had a rough time of it as a starter in Tacoma early on before getting demoted to Double-A and then to the bullpen to finish off the 2012 season.
Although Forrest's struggles on the mound were big this year -- a 6.35 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and a walk rate nearly double that of a year ago (5.1 to 2.6) -- Snow does still have the ability to be a quality big league pitcher in short time. The biggest key will be for him to regain the command of his low-90s fastball down in the zone. Snow has a five pitch mix and works well with his fastball, change-up and occasional split-finger when the command is on, but both his slider and curve were also inconsistent in 2012.
Snow will likely head back to Triple-A Tacoma to try his hand at starting once again to kick off of 2013, but his future could still be in the bullpen -- where his fastball picks up a few extra ticks. That move could also allow him to pick one breaking ball and refine it. Snow has the stuff to get big league hitters out, and he has a fantastic attitude and great head on his shoulders, too. And after how far he has already come, I wouldn't bet against the former 36th round pick.
Pimentel was a big International FA with a big $2m bonus back in 2009 and seemed to validate the M's spending on him in 2010 when he was ranked the top prospect in the Arizona Rookie League by Baseball America, collecting 19 extra base hits as a 17-year-old. He has a quick bat and shows off easy plus power in BP, but it has only translated to games in spurts thus far. The left-handed hitter also walked just five times in 51 games that first season, just 15 times in 65 games in 2011 and just 19 times in 105 games this past season for Clinton. Pimentel was still just 19 playing in the Midwest League and he hit a very solid .284/.331/.415 over his final 79 games after struggling to a .122/.151/.211 start in his first 26 games of the year. But because of the questionable approach at the plate and to the game in general, he doesn't look like a prospect that will be skipping levels any time soon.
His 28.9% strikeout rate this year was the 5th worst number in the organization among players with 300 or more plate appearances, but Pimentel still has the promise that made him a highly sought after prospect in him. One person within the front office of Clinton said that Pimentel seemed immature and lacked focus. "He's got easy power, it just doesn't show up all the time in games. But he's young," said a scout that watches the Midwest League area for an AL club. The reason it doesn't show is that strikeout number which is a result of his pitch recognition. Again, he's just completed his 19-year-old season, but big power alone doesn't make a complete prospect.
And that is the main reason why Pimentel -- who ranked in our Top-10 last season -- slid a bit this year. It wouldn't be surprising to see Guillermo repeat in Clinton in 2013, working hard to get a grasp on his plate discipline. If he can advance in that phase, he still has potential to get the hit tool to at least average, too. As he matures and grows physically the foot speed and range -- which are just average now -- will likely decline, meaning the bat will have to carry him, so a 50 grade hit tool would be a huge plus to go along with the plus power.
Ranking a just-turned-16-year-old kid from Brazil this high on the prospect list of a strong organization may seem a little stunning, but in all the talks I've had with those that have seen him pitch, Gohara has all the makings of a top prospect. Gohara is very physically mature, leading one coach to call him a "mini-C.C. Sabathia", standing 6-foot-3 and weighing around 220 pounds, and while he comes from an area not known as a hotbed for baseball talent or baseball instruction, it seems that he has a good grasp on the game for a young kid, too.
He's a long-limbed, big bodied left-hander with clean, standard mechanics that he repeats well. Add all that up and it leads to a fastball in the low- to mid-90s and a curve with plus potential among his four pitch mix. Everett AquaSox pitching coach Rich Dorman, who saw Gohara extensively in Fall Instructs, said that Luiz has a ceiling, "on par with Victor Sanchez". Sanchez, of course, pitched for Everett this year and will be talked about at length as we climb toward the top of our Top-50 rankings here.
If Gohara stays healthy, picks up the language well enough (he has a personal translator) to follow instruction well and develops as expected, we could see him pitching in the Northwest League for Everett after extended Spring Training wraps up, but before he turns 17 next year. The Mariners have been known for their pitching prospects lately, and Luiz Gohara could be a name added to that list very soon.
Another left-handed pitching prospect that is opening some eyes is Pike. The M's 3rd round pick in the 2012 draft, Pike was named an AZL All-Star selection after leading the league in ERA at 1.78 and the former Florida State commit has impressed all the right people along the way. "He's got a different gear between the lines. He likes to compete, and he likes to win," said one Mariners' staffer that saw Pike pitch this year. Tyler allowed two earned runs or less in every one of his 11 starts in Peoria and had more strikeouts than baserunners in a league that sometimes eats up high school pitchers.
He usually pitches is in the 88 to 91 range with his fastball and already has a decent change-up and potential for a plus breaking ball, but it may be his competitiveness that leads him to excel as a pro. Athletic with a clean delivery and good command, getting a few more MPH out of his fastball -- which seems to be something that most scouts think he can do -- could vault Pike up these rankings in the coming years. And that competitiveness and mental toughness is a great asset.
Although he pitched a full slate of high school innings before throwing the 2nd most innings of any Mariners arm in Arizona, Pike also competed in Fall Instructs, where he showed himself well, despite being "obviously a little gassed," according to one staffer. Pike could push for an assignment to Clinton, by Pulaski or Everett are more likely landing spots for him when 2013 breaks.
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