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.
We're getting into the true top talent in the organization now -- the top half of the Top-50 -- prospects number 25 through 12 are covered below.25. Denny Almonte - OF, 24, B/R, Double-A Jackson
Almonte is a former 2nd round pick by the Mariners, taken the pick before the Marlins selected Giancarlo Stanton back in the 2007 draft. The switch-hitter has always had impressive tools that include speed and power from both sides of the plate and enough defensive chops to easily man center field, but the one lacking piece to his game has always been plate discipline. Almonte entered the 2011 off season with 108 walks and 687 strikeouts in his 486 game minor league baseball career. Those numbers came in exactly 2,000 minor league plate appearances giving him a 5.4% BB rate -- not good -- and a 34.4% strikeout rate -- not good.
But Almonte told SeattleClubhouse that heading to play for Adelaide in the Australian Baseball League following the 2011 regular season was the first time that he realized that being more selective, taking more pitches and looking for the right pitch to drive was in his best interest. He walked in 9.5% of his plate appearances in the AUBL and that carried over to 2012, when he drew a career best 52 walks for Double-A Jackson, walking in 10.4% of his plate appearances. The strikeouts were still there as he fanned 135 times (27%), but that increased selectivity lead Almonte to a career best .331 OBP despite hitting only .249.
Almonte -- who hit 22 and 24 HR in 2010 and 2011, respectively -- hit only six home runs in his final 104 games in 2012 after hitting six in his first 20 games, but the increase in walks stayed fairly steady throughout the season. Denny is a gifted athlete with plus speed, a strong arm, a quick bat that generates the loft and backspin that you like to see from guys with power, but although he sees a majority of his at bats from the left side, his right-handed swing is actually better; he stays on the ball better and gets the bat through the hitting plane on a better level while using his lower half much better. From the left side a lot of his success just comes from his strength. He's gotten better in all regards as he's matured as a prospect and 2012 was a definitive step forward for him, but there are still limitations. "Too much swing-and-miss in him for me," one scout told me. He continued, "He has tools and he's a good defender, but he's getting old in baseball years and hasn't shown enough improvement."24. Logan Bawcom - RP, 24, R/R, Double-A Jackson
Bawcom became a Seattle Mariners prospect when he was moved at the 2012 deadline to the M's as part of the package for Brandon League. He's closed extensively in the minor leagues the past few seasons with L.A. and Seattle, tallying 53 saves since the start on 2011, the second highest total in all of MiLB in that time. Not a huge ceiling guy as he doesn't touch the high-90s or have a wipeout breaking pitch, Bawcom is also considered a relatively safe bet to reach the major leagues because of what he does have.
The 6-foot-2 right-hander works primarily with a fastball that usually sits in the 91-93 range but can grab a few ticks more at times and a slider that is sometimes sharp, sometimes flat and straight. He throws straight over the top with an easily repeatable delivery and prior to his trade to the Mariners he was showing good control and command of both pitches. But that command was gone early for the Double-A Generals and absent at times in the Arizona Fall League, too, leading to bloated ERA and WHIP numbers and leading one AFL regular to say that Bawcom, "isn't on my radar" as a prospect.
But Bawcom has enough stuff to get big league hitters out when his slider is working and his command is on. Already 24-years-old and ready for a shot at Triple-A to start 2013, Bawcom could find himself getting a shot in Seattle at some point in the coming season in a middle relief role, and if he can really fine tune his command he may be able to push his profile to that of a 7th or 8th inning arm.23. Phillips Castillo - OF, 18, R/R, Rookie Pulaski
Castillo, who ranked 17th on our countdown last season, stepped up to the Appalachian League in 2012 after being named the No. 2 prospect in the Arizona League for 2011 by Baseball America and he had some growing pains. Possessing big raw power but being young and unrefined, the more advanced pitching that Castillo saw in 2012 was more easily able to exploit his weaknesses in plate discipline -- which stem from an overaggressive approach -- and pitch recognition and the right-handed hitting outfielder struck out 60 times while walking only 13 in 225 plate appearances. He did hit six home runs, but posted just a .209/.286/.348 slash for last place Pulaski. Castillo also once again played primarily left field despite a strong arm, again pointing out his deficiency in reading fly balls and taking good routes.
Castillo was still an 18-year-old playing in a league with an average age of 20.3 in just his 2nd season of pro ball in the United States having been signed out of the Dominican, but the results were not what had been hoped for him. Following a strong July for Pulaski (.269/.333/.526, 5 HR) Castillo struck out 39 times in 100 at bats in August and Phillips, a right-handed hitter, also looked lost versus left-handed pitching for most of the season, managing just eight hits and a .546 OPS against southpaws in 53 plate appearances on the season.
But we must remember that Castillo is very young and very raw, with many pointing out that several of his tools could improve with time as he receives better instruction and learns the proper way to play the game. For now it seems that Castillo's power is the only tool that is ready to play, and while he should move to Everett in 2013, I wouldn't look for him to be skipping any levels any time soon.22. Anthony Fernandez - SP, 22, L/L, Double-A Jackson
Recently added to the Mariners' 40-man roster to protect him from the Rule 5 draft, Fernandez's stock really jumped this season (he was 37th on our Top-50 a year ago) as he started to see a few more MPH on his fastball. Now hitting 91 and 92 regularly, the left-hander with plus control and command is a legitimate prospect because of the added velocity and the addition of his cut fastball. But what really sets him apart is what former High Desert manager Pedro Grifol labeled his "well above average (guts)".
Fernandez worked 7-plus innings in four of his final five starts for Grifol in High Desert before being promoted to Double-A Jackson and firing back-to-back complete games for the Generals. In all he put up a 3.51 ERA and 1.23 WHIP in 164 innings and 27 starts in 2012. Since he has come stateside the Dominican native has walked just 2.46 batters-per-nine and that number was 2.09 in 2012. And despite pitching in High Desert for parts of both 2011 and 2012, Fernandez has allowed just 22 home runs combined in his last 317 1/3 innings.
Anthony repeats his delivery well and understands pitching and disrupting hitting at an advanced level. He could improve his ceiling and his ETA to the big leagues by improving either his slurvy curveball or his changeup (or both) but Fernandez is already a pitcher that could be in line for MLB spot starts as early as 2013, when he should pitch regularly for Triple-A Tacoma. Not a front line guy but not a soft-tosser, Fernandez will succeed more off of location and sequencing than pure stuff.21. Patrick Kivlehan - 3B, 22, R/R, Short Season Everett
Kivlehan's now well known story about being a college football player that returned to the diamond after a long layoff to win the Big East Triple Crown and Player of the Year award was made even more amazing when he took home the Northwest League MVP honors following his debut pro season for Everett. Like Seattle Seahawks rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, the former Rutgers defensive back was taken by Seattle in the 4th round. Unlike Wilson, Kivlehan showed that he has a bit more baseball player than straight athlete in him in his debut in pro ball.
A strong right-handed hitter, Kivlehan shrugged off a slow start in June that saw him hit just .255/.293/.382 by pounding 11 home runs and driving in 43 runs over his next 47 games while walking 19 times and stealing 11 bases while leading the AquaSox to the postseason from the middle of Everett's lineup. His final season numbers were a .301 average, 12 HR, 52 RBI, 17 2B and 14 of 15 in steal attempts. The 22-year-old also hit left-handers very well (.344/.394/.623).
Kivlehan defense was less than ideal as he committed 16 errors at third base and posted just a .911 fielding percentage at the hot corner. Kivlehan looks a little stiff on the infield and doesn't have the cleanest throwing mechanics but he does possess a strong arm. Patrick also struck out a league-high 93 times in 316 plate appearances (29.4% K rate) -- the 6th highest rate of all Mariners minor leaguers with 200 or more plate appearances. But the athleticism transferred into success in the batter's box, which is usually the place that it transfers the least, and Kivlehan should refine parts of his game as he once again becomes more acclimated to playing baseball every day.
That concludes our look at prospects number 25 through 21 . Be sure to check in next Monday when we crack into the Top-20 prospects for Seattle.
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