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.
40. Yoervis Medina - RP, 24, R/R, Double-A Jackson
2012 was Medina's 7th season in the Mariners organization, and following his disaster of a 2011 campaign, the year he put together for the Generals was exactly what he -- and the Mariners -- needed. Having been added to the 40-man roster before 2011 to avoid being exposed to the Rule 5 draft despite throwing only 5 2/3 IP above A ball, Medina rewarded that show of the Mariners confidence in him during 2012. But while the end of season numbers look nice for Yoervis, he struggled terribly to start the year.
After winning just one of his 15 decisions in 2011 (while posting a 6.18 ERA and 1.66 WHIP in 131 innings), Medina started 2012 with an 8.14 ERA over his first 11 appearances after allowing six earned runs on six hits in a blowout May 14th loss to the Tennessee Smokies. But Medina would allow only six earned runs for the rest of the year from that point -- covering 35 games and 48 1/3 IP -- ending the season with a 3.25 ERA and 77 strikeouts in 69 1/3 innings.
Working out of the bullpen the big right-hander's fastball got back to the mid-90s regularly, and his slider showed harder bite. His strikeout rate, oAVG and ground ball percentage all were fantastic after the Double-A All-Star break, and Medina truly turned into a shut-down type of reliever. There are still bouts of wildness and he isn't the youngest pitcher making noise in the organization, but what Medina showed in his first full tryout as a reliever in 2012 is that he still has big league stuff and a likely big league future. Chalk him up as just another power arm from the right side for Seattle that is close to MLB-ready.
39. Chance Ruffin - RP, 24, R/R, Triple-A Tacoma
Speaking of relievers close to MLB-ready....Ruffin was the PTBNL in Seattle's trade with Detroit in 2011 in which Doug Fister landed with the Tigers. A 2010 1st round pick who pitched in 18 big league games during his first pro season in 2011, this past season can't be classified as anything but a disappointment for Ruffin. But even though he struggled through much of the year and dropped from 10th on our Top-50 last year, his talent is still evident and worthy of a spot on our list.
Also like Medina, Ruffin is a fastball-slider arm from the right side that had a terrible start to the season and some problems with command. Not like Medina, Ruffin never really fully broke out of the funk. His 7.50 April ERA ballooned to 9.92 in May and fell just slightly to 7.11 in June, and Ruffin ended the first half of the Triple-A year with an ERA of 7.77 while allowing 1.73 baserunners per inning. The second half was a true second chance for Chance, and he responded with a 2.59 ERA and 1.23 WHIP, but even during his late season rebirth of sorts, something was missing -- strikeouts.
In 2011 Ruffin struck out 11.1 batters-per-nine in the minor leagues and 9.2 in the majors. But that strikeout rate tumbled to 6.9 in 2012, and even more troubling is the fact that his walk rate rose, from 4.1 to 4.5. In my opinion the right-hander would be best served by scrapping pitching from the windup, but his struggles certainly run deeper than that. The stuff still looked good -- mid-90s fastball and good, hard slider -- but the command and the ability to finish hitters was nowhere to be found for the guy we named as the club's top reliever prospect heading into 2012.
38. Andrew Carraway - SP, 26, R/R, Triple-A Tacoma
Everyone was surprised when it was Carraway that was the starter who earned the first promotion from Jackson in 2012. His seven starts in Double-A were so good, though, that the Mariners had little choice but to challenge the now 26-year-old with the bump. There were some bumps, and even a few bruises, during Carraway's Triple-A time, but the right-hander held his own while continuing to rely more on outsmarting opponents than overwhelming them.
The fastball is just a high-80s version with some arm-side run and sink, there is a cutter, a change-up and a curveball, but where Carraway succeeds is that he sets batters up well, doesn't hurt himself with walks and sequences his pitches well to keep hitters off balance. That sequencing led him to taking a perfect game into the 7th inning in his first start at Triple-A. It led him to a 2-hit, complete game win against Fresno in June.
Because of his stuff, the former 12th round pick -- also taken by the M's out of Virginia -- isn't going to blow anyone away and be slated for a major league rotation spot, but if and when he gets his chance, Carraway will be very prepared and his smarts will help him succeed. Not that his stuff isn't good, it just isn't textbook prospect stuff. He'll likely be back in Tacoma to start 2012, but he could likely fill in comparably at the big league level if injuries strike.
37. James Jones - OF, 24, L/L, High-A High Desert
While he did manage to break quickly from his customary slow start during the first half, Jones still tantalized prospect watchers with his raw tools while frustrating them at times with his approach or execution. A slash of .306/.378/.497, 54 extra base hits, 54 walks, 26 stolen bases, 109 runs scored and eight outfield assists speak to the talent that Jones possesses. 124 strikeouts, 17 times caught stealing and .250 average versus lefties speak to the hills he still has to climb. What is he working on? Jones himself says that it is "baserunning, hitting and being consistent every day," that the club focuses on with him.
Drafted out of LIU-Brooklyn where he was a pitcher and outfielder, Jones has plus bat speed, easy power and graceful speed, but the 2009 4th round pick still hasn't reached Double-A at age 24 and his non-High Desert numbers from 2012 look pretty pedestrian. A slash of .270/.355/.413 and only three long balls for the long-limbed, athletic Jones have some ready to pull the plug on the hitter side of his prospect status, encouraging a return to the mound for the left-hander.
The Mariners don't seem ready to go that route, and Jones' overall success in 2012 -- which included improving plate discipline and extra base hits rates in his 2nd half -- should have bought him at least another season or two before the Mariners try to shift plans to center around his talented, strong left arm. Look for Jones to take another step forward with his game in 2013 in Double-A.
36. Joe DeCarlo - 3B, 19, R/R, Rookie Arizona League
The Mariners 2012 2nd round selection out of Garnett Valley High School in Pennsylvania -- the first player ever drafted from the school -- DeCarlo is a very physically mature kid for a high school draftee, but still a ways off in terms of his baseball timetable. With roots in a very athletic family -- a college football playing father and three siblings that competed in college athletics as well -- its not surprise that DeCarlo is ahead of a lot of kids on that front.
Tom McNamara raved about his bat on the post-draft conference call, and it will be the bat that guides DeCarlo's timetable as a prospect. Already moved off of shortstop, Joe has good feet, soft hands and a strong arm and should be able to stick at third base, but his power will need to continue to develop in order for him profile as a big leaguer at the position. Right now there is more line drive than long ball in the bat, but the swing is nice and sound, the hands are relaxed and quick and DeCarlo was among the most patient hitters in the Arizona League, drawing 31 walks in 53 games there, good for 7th best in the league.
His draft stock wasn't sky-high and some called his selection an overdraft, but that seems to be more because of his lack of exposure than his lack of talent. He has the bat speed and the build to turn into a power hitting corner infielder in time, and that is definitely worth the 2nd round pick that the Mariners spent on him.
That concludes our look at prospects 40-36. Be sure to check in next Monday as we continue the countdown toward the top.
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