Top Prospects: Seattle Mariners

Kiley shares his rankings, reports & videos of the top prospects in the Mariners system.

Links & Disclaimer

See my Top 100 Prospects list and the AFL content index for previous scouting reports and videos from every team in the league. For draft fans, here's my ranking of the top prep prospects for the draft. I'm currently doing an updated college rankings series right now but ranked my top 50 overall prospects for the draft back in August. See all of my previous rankings at the rankings index

For an explanation about how to use asset values, how I grade players and their tools, what order I'll be breaking down each organization and what players are eligible to be ranked, see this primer of the minor league org prospect rankings series. Also, check out the Prospect Rankings Central for more information.

Covered in the primer is the cut-off for players to qualify for this list. Among the young, MLB-ready pieces that will be included in the MLB rankings because they're too old/experienced for this list: RHPs Brandon Maurer (video), Erasmo Ramirez, Yoervis Medina and Stephen Pryor, C Mike Zunino (video), SS Brad Miller (video), 2B Nick Franklin (video), DH Jesus Montero and OF Abraham Almonte. That's a solid recently-graduated list but rather than dream about the system with those guys included, it might be more accurate to take two more players off it.

RHP Taijuan Walker and LHP James Paxton both rank in the top 3 of the list, but both could be on the Opening Day roster, as I wasn't sure at the time of Top 100 list publication how many arms the Mariners would add in their aggressive off-season. They still haven't added any and RHP Hisashi Iwakuma got hurt, shifting that expectation. Walker is now banged up, too but will play a big role in the rotation regardless, so you cold technically remove him and Paxton from the list, significantly hurting the system ranking.

System Overview

This system was above average recently but a slew of prospects graduated in 2013 and once Paxton and Walker get promoted, Seattle will be in the bottom third of the league, possibly the bottom five. The organization is in turmoil with GM Jack Zduriencik on the hottest of seats after a number of moves backfired and led to a bizarre offseason. A number of high-profile Latin signings have flopped recently and, when combined with the hitting struggles of Dustin Ackley, the shoulder troubles of Danny Hultzen and the outright disasters that Justin Smoak and Jesus Montero have become, the personnel people haven't stood out in many of their high-profile decisions.

The draft has been much stronger than trades and international, with some real successes like Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino, Brad Miller, Nick Franklin and Kyle Seager mostly coming from the college ranks, where the Mariners have skewed recently. The lower rungs of the system have some talent that could emerge this year, along with the #6 overall pick and the 6th biggest international spending pool in a crucial year for the organization.

Dollar Value Of The System

Total Value
Boston Red Sox
$430 million
Kansas City Royals
$340 million
Tampa Bay Rays
$280 million
Seattle Mariners
$230 million
Philadelphia Phillies
$200 million
Milwaukee Brewers
$130 million

The $230 million value is average to slightly below but, as mentioned before, if you take out Paxton and Walker (combined $67.4 million), you're in the clear lower rungs of baseball, with only the recent 1st round pick standing out. You could also add back in recent graduates like Mike Zunino, Brad Miller and Nick Franklin (which add up to well over $100 million for those three), but a number of systems recently graduated that much talent. For example, Boston would be well over $500 million with Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and Will Middlebrooks added back in and they've consistently picked lower in the draft.

50+ FV Group (Asset Value Range: $40 - $54 million)

1. Taijuan Walker, RHP

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 21.6/AAA, 6'4/210, R/R

Drafted: 43rd overall (sandwich round) out of CA high school in 2010 for $800,000 bonus

PV/FV: 45/65, Asset Value: $53.4 million, Ranked 9th in the Top 100

Fastball: 65/70, Cutter: 55/60+, Curveball: 50/55, Changeup: 45/50+, Command: 45/50

Walker took a huge jump in prospect status when his velocity spiked soon after going in the sandwich round out of high school, where he also focused more on basketball. He looked primed for another jump when he skipped High-A altogether and held his own in AA at age 19, but, while he reached the big leagues at age 20 last season, he's plateaued a bit, lacking direction in development.

Walker is a big, athletic righty that has easy plus-plus velocity (93-96, touching 98 mph) and feel for four pitches. There's tons to work with, but his delivery has been an issue, with a stiff, upright finish and soft front side contributing to command and health issues (shoulder soreness). His go-to off-speed pitch was a plus curveball that was a 65 on the 20-80 scale at times, but he's moved more towards a plus upper-80's cutter and has lost feel for the curve altogether. The cutter is a legitimate weapon, but the third pitch is now lacking as the curveball is no better than 55 and the changeup is solid-average at best and too firm.

The athleticism is there for above average command, though it's been fringy at best the last few years, particularly late in starts. There's a #2 starter in here and he's still young, so hopefully the coaching during Walker's upcoming extended big league trial will bring some clarity to the finer points of his craft.

2. D.J. Peterson, 1B

2014 Opening Day Age/Level: 22.3/Hi-A, 6'1/215, R/R

Drafted: 12th overall (1st round) out of New Mexico in 2013 for $2,759,100 bonus

PV/FV: 20/55, Asset Value: $40.5 million, Ranked 56th in the Top 100

Hit: 20/60, Power: 60/65, Run: 45/40, Field: 45/50+, Throw: 50/50+

Peterson drew lavish praise from scouts leading up to last year's draft, with comps like Billy Butler and Jeff Bagwell thrown out by experienced evaluators. The stout righty power bat may look physically like a lot of 4-A sluggers, but Peterson is looser and more fluid than those types, blessed with shorter arms for a quicker path to the ball, but the bat speed and raw strength to still produce plus power. He currently plays third base and his solid-average arm and good hands are enough to stick, but his below average speed should only get worse with age, as will his below average range.

Peterson's hands are good enough that he should be at least average at first base and with a 60 or better bat and power, plenty to play every day. Peterson's separators at the plate are his plan, plate discipline and ability to hit any ball where it's pitched. His younger brother, 2B Dustin Peterson, went in the 2nd round last spring to the Padres out of the same Arizona high school that D.J. attended. D.J. was drafted out of high school by the Mariners.

45 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $6 - $14 million)

3. James Paxton, LHP: I mentioned above that Paxton may not technically be eligible for the list, depending on how Seattle finishes their off-season. He's still not a finished product: a plus fastball up to 97 mph with sink and an above average curveball that's plus at times, but fringy command/changeup, a stiff delivery and long limbs give him trouble sticking as a starter. It's a 4th starter or low-end closer upside with a decent chance he tops out lower than that.

4. Luiz Gohara, LHP: The 6'3/215 Brazilian lefty signed for $880,000 in 2012 and pitched in the Appy League at age 16, with outstanding results. Gohara has added weight and velocity since signing, now working 90-93 with sink, but he's been as high as 95 mph with a changeup that's above average. His breaking pitches run together and are below average now, but there's at least average potential in his curveball and Gohara's smooth delivery/arm action portends more consistency with physical maturity, if he can keep his weight from ballooning.

5. Edwin Diaz, RHP: The 6'2/170, projectable 20-year-old won't make his full-season debut in 2014 but the 2012 3rd rounder out of Puerto Rico has already improved a good bit since signing. Diaz has an above average to plus fastball-slider combo, with his heater hitting 96 mph and his athletic, simple delivery giving him better feel than his peers. 2014 will be his full-season debut: a big test to see if he can add weight/stamina and how his changeup/command progress.

6. Austin Wilson, RF (Video): Wilson is an enigma for scouts, famous since his junior year in high school, turning down seven figures to go to Stanford where the coaching staff ruined another power hitter, but the tools are still there. Seattle gambled $1.7 million on Wilson in the 2nd round and the 22-year-old, 6'4/245 giant has the tools to make it work: plus raw power, above average bat speed, solid-average speed, good instincts and an above average arm. The question is how Wilson's bat will play against advanced pitching and given the excuse of un-teaching the groundball-oriented Stanford Swing, we won't know for a few years.

7. Tyler Marlette, C: The Orlando-area prep product got an over-slot $650,000 bonus to pass up nearby UCF and had a solid full-season debut in 2014. He has well below average speed, but above average to plus arm strength and improving defensive skills that give him a good chance to stick behind the plate. The 21-year-old could have a breakout 2014 in High-A with a full-season of at bats at the hitter-friendly level; he has solid-average raw power, but can get pull-happy at times and is more of a fringy hitter for average.

8. Chris Taylor, SS (Video): Taylor was a 5th rounder out of UVA in 2012 that signed for $500,000 and has made steady progress since signing, with his bat and plate discipline consistently beating expectations. At first glance, he seems like a utility profile with below average power and fringy defensive tools at shortstop, but he makes the most of what he has with good instincts, an above average arm and above average speed. Taylor could be a low-end starter and one scout compared him to Jason Bartlett; Taylor will open 2014 at AA wit a chance to contribute regularly as soon as 2015.

9. Tyler Pike, LHP (Video): Pike was a scout's favorite from the 2012 draft class, passing up a chance to play two ways at Florida State out of a central Florida high school for $850,000. The 6'0/185 Pike doesn't have any projection left but is an excellent athlete with great deception and a true plus changeup that can baffle hitters. He doesn't have much plane and a fringy fastball that works 88-92 mph, but he expertly uses his solid-average curveball like vintage Barry Zito to change eye levels and give hitter's fits. The 20-year-old is another 2014 breakout candidate after mediocre numbers in his 2013 full-season debut.

10. Dominic Leone, RHP (Video): 5'11/185 righty was unheralded 16th rounder out of Clemson in 2012 that signed for just $100,000, but his arm speed ticked up after singing to where he's a threat to get high leverage MLB innings in 2014; the 22-year-old should start the year in AA. I got reports Leone hit 100 mph late in the season and saw him in the Arizona Fall League in October, where he sat 95-96 mph with an above average to plus cutter at 88-91 mph and a solid-average 81-84 mph slider.

11. Victor Sanchez, RHP: 19-year-old Venezuelan righty drew Ray Lewis body comps for 6'0/255 frame, which backs him into a corner profile-wise since there isn't projection and the stuff hasn't progressed much since signing for $2.5 million as the top July 2nd arm in 2011. He runs it up to 94 but often works 87-92 mph with his fastball while his easy delivery creates solid-average command and his changeup is above average at times, but his fringy breaking ball is a concern with arm speed stagnant. Sanchez is still young, so natural maturity could help him progress, but a 2014 assignment to the hitter-friendly High-A Cal League will be a challenge.

40 FV Group (Asset Value Range: $2 - $6 million)

12. Carson Smith, RHP: 6'6/215 righty gives up potential plane by throwing almost sidearm but has heavy stuff that creates lots of ground balls headlined by a 93-95 mph sinker that hits 97 mph. He's been counted out due to his low slot and clear reliever fit ($215,000 bonus in the 8th round out of Texas State) but his slider is above average at times, making him a good MLB ROOGY in 2014 and possible long-term set-up guy if his changeup/command progress.

13. Tyler O'Neill, RF: A third round pick out of Canada in 2013, O'Neill has tried catching and playing third but looks to profile best in right field. He's often compared to Brett Lawrie due to being Canadian, having a bulky, powerful build and possessing above average bat speed and raw power. He has to hit to be valuable and can be too aggressive at times, but the tools are here for a strong 2014 full-season debut.

14. Danny Hultzen, LHP (Video): The 2011 #2 overall pick out of Virginia was a slight surprise at the time, as Hultzen was seen as more of an above average stuff/command guy with a crossfire delivery that could cause injury issues down the road, as opposed to some of the possible aces that went around him (like Orioles RHP Dylan Bundy and Diamondbacks RHP Archie Bradley). While the cause of injury is debatable, the injuries came and Hultzen will miss most if not all of 2014 due to a labrum surgery after playing and performing inconsistently since signing, despite nearly getting an MLB shot. At his best, Hultzen had advanced command of a 90-93 mph fastball with plus life, a plus changeup and an above average breaking ball, but now he may never be that good again.

15. Ketel Marte, SS: The 6'1/160 athlete got all the way to High-A at age 20 and has the glove to play shortstop in the big leagues. The bad news is his arm may limit him to second base, but the bat is far enough behind the glove that he doesn't project as more than a utility guy. Seattle will throw him in the deep end and hope Marte learns to swim, with above average speed and a slap contact approach hopefully being enough.

16. Stefen Romero, LF (Video): Romero has above average bat speed and raw power to his pull side, but has a tough profile as a righty bat in left field, due to below average arm strength, fringy speed and fringy hands. He's too aggressive at the plate so the power doesn't completely show up in games, but he could be a solid platoon bat with some adjustments.

17. Jochi Ogando, RHP: 6'5/210 righty is raw due to being the rare Dominican kid that grew up playing basketball, but quickly showed velocity as an amateur to receive $275,000 in 2009. Ogando is regularly up to 95 with his off-speed making progress and flashing above average potential; his 2014 will be a challenge in High-A High Desert.

18. Gabriel Guerrero, RF: 6'3/190 nephew of Vladimir Guerrero kinda looks like his uncle if you squint, but is nowhere near the same kind of prospect. He'll show you above average raw power in BP but not in games yet and the below average plate discipline holds back the bat, despite good bat speed. He also has above average arm strength but some scouts feel the last name is his only carrying tool; there's real questions about the bat and he isn't a great athlete.

19. Julio Morban, RF: Dominican originally signed for $1.1 million in the 2008 July 2nd class for his advanced lefty bat, which is still in place; he hit .295/.362/.468 last year at AA as a 21-year-old. He's missed a lot of time with hamstring injuries and is limited to a corner, but his average speed, above average arm and fringy raw power help him profile as a solid 4th outfielder if he can stay healthy.

20. Ji-Man Choi, 1B: Korean lefty bat has ordinary power for the position (fringy to average) and isn't big (6'1/195) but advanced approach and smooth cut helped him rush through the system after missing all of 2011 to injury. 23-year-old should start 2014 in AAA with a chance to become a bench bat soon.

21. Timmy Lopes, 2B: Lopes signed for an over-slot $550,000 bonus out of a SoCal high school in 2012 and had a solid full-season debut in 2013, but his upside is limited. Lopes has below average power, just solid-average speed and is limited to second base, so his feel to hit has to carry him, but the aggressive early-count hitter can consistently hit line drives to any part of the field.

Sleeper: Wilton Martinez, RF

Martinez signed at age 17 out of the Dominican for just $192,500; he was a later bloomer in July 2nd terms. The tools have developed nicely for the 20-year-old, but the baseball ability isn't there yet for the long-limbed 6'4/195 athlete that has struggled to put up numbers in short-season leagues. The upside comes from leverage and quick hands that give him above average bat speed and raw power, but you've really got to dream on it.

Other Notes

Some bats with tools to watch out for, but some real concerns that kept them off the list: 3B Patrick Kivlehan (video), who is a former Rutgers football player that will be in AA in 2014 at age 24, 3B Joe DeCarlo (Lo-A at 20, former prep 2nd rounder), RF Jabari Blash (AA at 24 after breakout 2013 season) and LF Guillermo Pimentel (Hi-A at 21, $2 million bonus in 2009 July 2nd class). I also have video posted of some other prospects that didn't make the list this year, if you click on their names for previous content: 3B Martin Peguero, 3B Greifer Andrade, C/1B Corey Simpson, C Onil Pena, RF Ronald Rosario and SS Lonnie Kauppila

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