Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to get information on Mariners players to the fans that want the knowledge. Looking beyond the numbers and using input from scouts and other baseball personnel and putting that together with my own input, I am going to give you a brief rundown on quite a few names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking. Keep in mind that while the top five or seven players are fairly secure in their rankings, the rest of these players' positions in the rankings will be very fluid going forward.
40. Jordan Shipers 20-years-old, starting pitcher, Short Season Everett
Shipers is the left-hander whom the M's drafted in the 16th round out of high school despite the fact that his high school had no baseball team. 5-foot-10, 160 pounds and no high school pitching record doesn't typically scream "mid-round pick", but Seattle was high enough on Jordan to pull the trigger and give him the same signing bonus ($800k) as sandwich pick Taijuan Walker.
Shipers only won one game this year in Everett, but he has some good tools. He has a long delivery and high leg kick that makes him look a bit bigger than he is. He has very good arm speed and his fastball sits in the 88-91 range and touched as high as 93 at times this season. He also has a slider in the 80 mph range with decent depth and a solid changeup with fade and sink that really worked as a strikeout weapon this season in the Northwest League. His 4.71 ERA was the result of a 7.32 ERA after the third inning this season, but he does still figure to stick as a starter. All told, his 8.5 strikeouts-per-nine and good groundball ratio are a good start for a kid in his first pro season.
39. James Gillheeney 23-years-old, starting pitcher, Double-A Jackson
Gillheeney was an eighth round pick by the Mariners in 2009 out of NC State. Although he has moved fairly quickly in his three seasons in the system, the 6-foot-1, 200 pounder is your prototypical lefty with good command and an average, at best, fastball.
Topping out at 88-89 with his fastball and working in a slow curve and changeup, Gillheeney gives up a lot of fly balls and, as one would expect, was hit pretty hard in High Desert this season (though he did have a decent 4.78 ERA on the road in the Cal League), but for his career he has allowed fewer hits than innings and has a solid 2.68 strikeout-to-walk ratio aided by a decent 8.3 strikeouts-per-9 number. He threw seven no-hit innings in his final start in 2011 and held lefties to just 4 hits in 26 at bats while in Double-A to end the year. He's been durable, logging 147 and 152 innings in his two full seasons in the organization. He figures to spend 2012 in Jackson. A lot of people don't think much of Gillheeney, but if you look outside the numbers it is clear that he knows how to pitch and maximize his stuff. I would not be surprised if he turned into a legitimate swing man or spot starter and he has a chance to be even more if he can refine his control a bit further.
38. Mauricio Robles 22-years-old, starting pitcher, Triple-A Tacoma
Robles was perhaps the organization's second highest rated hurler coming into 2011, but a spring training injury that required elbow surgery all but ruined his season. He, of course, came to the M's in the Jarrod Washburn deal from the Tigers (who originally signed him as a center fielder) back in 2009, and although he's only 5-foot-10, he has the makings of a power left-handed starter.
Robles has an easily repeatable delivery (not as high effort as many others opine) with great arm speed and he works with an over the top release, above three-quarters. His fastball can get up to the mid-90s at times, both before and after the injury, but he usually works in the 91-93 range. Robles' changeup is a plus pitch with good depth, decent fade and good speed separation. It generates a lot of swinging strikes. His curveball is hit and miss, sometimes it flashes as a plus offering with tight rotation and late break, sometimes it isn't as sharp. The biggest thing holding Robles back is his command. Despite a career 9.6 strikeouts-per-9 number, back in Spring Training 2010 he told the Seattle Times that he didn't fancy himself a strikeout pitcher, saying, "I'm trying to keep all of my pitches down low. If I get a ground ball for an out, that's all I care about." But over the past two seasons, his command often leaves him after four or five innings--and some feel that is because he is trying for strikeouts, especially since he has sound mechanics.
37. Anthony Fernandez 21-years-old, starting pitcher, Low-A Clinton
Fernandez's month-plus in High Desert didn't go well (7.39 ERA, 2.18 WHIP, .384 opponent's average) but what he did in Clinton was right in line with what he has shown even since breaking into the foreign rookie leagues for the Mariners back in 2007. The one encouraging sign from his 7-start stint with the Mavs was his strikeout rate. His 8.4 strikeouts-per-9 figure in a league where he was still pretty young is impressive. Also worth considering is that in the 14 starts after he returned to Clinton, Fernandez went 6-2 with a 2.07 ERA, a .226 OAV and 8.3 SO/9 while not allowing more than 2 earned runs in any of his final eight starts. He held left-handers to a .200/.264/.274 mark in Low-A and had a 1.89 groundball ratio combined on the season.
Fernandez works low in the zone with a fastball in the 90-92 range with late run, a decent changeup and either a slider and a curve, or a slurvy curveball, depending on who you talk to. His command is what allows him to be so successful, and at just 21, he shows great poise and understanding of how to pitch. He should be back in High Desert to open 2012.
36. Andrew Carraway 25-years-old, starting pitcher, Double-A Jackson
Carraway was drafted as a senior out of the University of Virginia in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. He has a nice build (6-foot-2, 200 pounds) and has performed well for the Mariners thus far, working both as a starter and a reliever.
As a starter, he sits 89-91 with his fastball, which he commands very well, and can touch 93. He also throws a decent slider and a changeup that has improved a lot since he was drafted. In fact, lefties managed just a .227/.279/.320 slash off of him this season including 48 strikeouts (and just 13 walks) in 225 at bats. He nibbled a bit in the second half and his stats suffered as a result, but he can get hitters out if he trusts his stuff. He ranks this high on my list because, 1) I think his command and secondary stuff is close to being able to contribute at the big league level now, and 2) although he is already 25, I think that he has 2-3 more MPH in his arm in a bullpen role. He does all of his work with what I consider a very reliever-like delivery, and I expect him to be converted to the bullpen full-time soon.
That's it for prospects 40-36. Check back every Friday as we reveal five more players in our countdown to the top prospects in the Mariners system.