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.
35. Felipe Burin 19-years-old, second base, AZL Mariners
2011 was Burin's third season in the Mariners organization, and he made that big step for internationals when he transitioned from the Venezuelan League to playing in the U.S. for the Arizona League team. In 41 games for the M's in Peoria he hit .319/.391/.393 after a slow start and showed a lot of promise with the bat.
As the numbers suggest, the switch-hitter can handle the bat from both sides of the plate, though he is better from the left side. Burin hit .260/.345/.312 as a right-hander and .377/.454/.494 from the left side. He shows very good pitch recognition and plate discipline and has quick, strong hands at the plate. Signed as a shortstop out of Brazil, he has handled second base well enough to this point, and his slight stature--5-foot-10 and 170 pounds--suggest the middle of the infield will be his best fit defensively. 51 extra base hits in his career to this point--including 30 doubles in 82 games this season--suggest there is at least legit gap power in the bat, despite just 3 home runs. I had a great video of an at bat from Arizona this season that shows an extended battle that ends in a double to rightcenter (left-handed), but alas, I have lost it. Look for him in Pulaski or possibly Everett next season.
34. Charlie Furbush 25-years-old, pitcher, Seattle Mariners
Furbush came over to the Mariners from Detroit as part of the Doug Fister trade. I was in attendance for his first start at Safeco Field and did a report here about what he brings to the table. A 6-foot-5 left-hander, Furbush struggled at times this season, but he also showed flashes of very good stuff and pitching IQ for the Mariners. In all, he posted a 6.62 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 11 appearances (10 starts) for Seattle.
As I touched on in that first report, he's usually 89-91 with his fastball, throws a not-so-great changeup at 80-81, but his curve is the pitch that has the most potential. It is a sweeping pitch that has a lot of depth to it, and although it slowed down a bit over the season--averaging 76.1 MPH on the year--it also has the most potential for being an out pitch. His changeup doesn't have a lot of movement and his fastball isn't anything special right now, but I think that Charlie's ultimate home will be in the bullpen, where he should be able to pick up a tick or two on the MPH for his fastball. In my opinion his 2011 extended tryout showed that he does have the ability to be an effective MLB arm, but he would be most effective when limiting his exposure to right-handed hitters.
Furbush had a 3.13 K/BB ratio vs lefties this season and his strikeout rate was about 50% higher vs them than vs right-handed hitters. His curveball is especially effective at changing the eye-level of the left-handed hitters. He also had a 2.42 ERA in 26 innings out of the pen in 2011 as opposed to the 6.83 ERA he posted in 59 1/3 innings as a starter between Detroit and Seattle. The M's are otherwise lacking an in-house option for a lefty in the pen, which is why I think that Furbush will grab that role in 2012.
33. Alfredo Morales 18-years-old, outfield, Rookie Pulaski
Morales was part of the great 2009 IFA class for the Mariners. A left-handed hitter out of San Pedro de Macoris, Morales played in Arizona in 2010 and was back there to start 2011, but after a .405/.452/.608 start in 19 games, he was bumped up to the Appy (with a pitstop in the Cal League for 2 games). In Pulaski he hit .266/.353/.357 in 39 games after a very slow start while playing mostly right field.
Morales has a plus throwing arm, good baseball instincts and enough range to play center now, although he certainly profiles as a corner guy down the road. His bat will be his ticket as he matures, and it could be a good one. Bob Engle said that Morales has, "Very good rhythm and uses his hands well." Add to that plus power and a good approach (despite the high strikeout totals). The Mariners haven't been shy about moving him along to this point, meaning that his 2011 should be enough to get him to Clinton in 2012, which would be aggressive for a kid that would be just 19. Even if he is "only" in Everett, Morales is still a prospect that could rise up these ranks quickly.
32. Brandon Maurer 21-years-old, starting pitcher, High-A High Desert
Maurer's numbers from 2011 don't scream prospect at first glance: 4.99 ERA and 10 homers allowed in 79 1/3 innings. But not only was he pitching in a league known for offense, he was doing it as a player two-plus years younger than the average competitor in the league. And as Pedro Grifol put it in my interview with him, "Maurer had a great year. I saw him pitch three or four times and he never gave in--kept throwing strikes, kept using his secondary pitches." Drafted in the 23rd round out of Orange Lutheran HS in California in 2008, the 6-foot-5 right-handed Maurer has already proven to be one of the steals of that draft in his four pro seasons.
He uses a fastball in the 91-94 range with strong sinking movement and decent run, a curveball and a changeup that is becoming a very good pitch for him. Since he is still rather young, the fastball could get a few more ticks before he is MLB-ready. Although his innings were limited in 2011 (after an injury-riddled 2010), he is expected to pitch in Double-A Jackson in 2012.
31. Rich Poythress 24-years-old, first base, Double-A Jackson
What a difference a year makes. Last season, Poythress was perhaps the most promising power hitter in the Mariners' organization having just put up a 30-plus homer, 30-plus double season for the Mavericks. But as California League stats often do to players, 2011 was a big letdown. Poythress' extra base hits dropped from 64 to 42 in roughly the same amount of at bats, but his average also took a nose dive and ended nearly 50 points lower in 2011. That's not to say that it was a total down year, but while Poythress regressed slightly, the system improved dramatically.
His walk ratio improved a bit (9.6 to 9.8)while his strikeout rate fell a good amount (18.4 to 16.0), but as a limited range first baseman or designated hitter defensively, all of Rich's value is tied up in his bat and his right-handed bat needs to be more than league-average for Poythress to have MLB value. Big and strong at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, I saw him in Spring Training and was a little frustrated by the type of contact he made. For a former second round pick as a college bat from a big power hitter, I expect bigger swings. Perhaps this is all part of the plan and the power will re-appear. He does get great loft and natural backspin and showed power to all fields, but a player of his pedigree should not go 34 games without a home run in Double-A ball in his second pro season. He did hit .316/.396/.445 in the second half and should see Tacoma in 2012, but right now I'd say he is a long ways away from being a big league option.
That's it for prospects 35-31. Check back this Friday as we reveal the next five players in our countdown to the top prospects in the Mariners system.