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.
30. Greg Halman 24-years-old, outfielder, Tacoma Rainiers
Halman has seen some time in Seattle each of the last two seasons, and while some of his tools have been displayed and have impressed, his biggest weakness has been the most apparent part of his game. That weakness, of course, is the strikeout. More specifically, his lack of pitch recognition.
Halman has swung at just over 38% of the pitches thrown outside the zone in his 121 plate appearance career in the big leagues to this point and made contact with just under 38% of those swings. Because of that, he has an unsightly 43 strikeouts paired with just three walks over that time. His tools--118 home runs and 109 steals in his minor league career, spanning seven seasons--make him intriguing. His weakness makes him frustrating. He has plus raw power, plus speed on the bases, gets good reads in the outfield, has a strong arm and is oozing with athleticism, but the strikeouts mean he is not a major league player right now, period.
He is out of options and pre-arbitration for 2012, meaning he either makes the roster at the pro-rated MLB minimum or has to clear waivers to give it another go in Triple-A. He could be a complimentary piece in a trade, but he certainly isn't ready for an everyday job. And given the sudden glut of outfielders on the Mariners roster, it is very likely that his career with the team could already be over. That said, he is still relatively young, and his potential still lands him on this list.
29. Tyler Marlette 18-years-old, catcher, Pulaski Mariners
Marlette was the M's fifth round selection in June's draft out of Hagerty high school in Florida. He was one of the top prep catchers in the country and was committed to Central Florida before signing with the Mariners. The right-handed hitter has the profile of a slugging, bat first catcher with quick hands, good bat speed and plus pull-side power.
His defensive skills aren't terrible--he actually has a very strong and accurate arm--but as a high schooler, he still has a ways to go to be considered a polished defensive catcher in the pro game. Marlette only saw 45 plate appearances in Pulaski this season, and he didn't exactly light things up: seven hits, two doubles, no walks and 13 strikeouts. That said, he certainly has the profile to be a force in a few seasons for the M's if his development goes as planned. Look for Marlette to start 2012 in Everett as the primary backstop for the AquaSox.
28. Chih-Hsien Chiang 23-years-old, outfielder, Jackson Generals
Chiang came over from Boston in the three-way deal that involved Erik Bedard and Trayvon Robinson. He was an International signing by the Red Sox out of Taiwan (where they are one of the more active and successful teams) back in October of 2005 for a reported $375,000 as a second baseman, but he was moved to the outfield after the 2008 season due to his struggles in the infield. Chiang's first half in 2011 was a breakout of sorts for him as he repeated in Double-A Portland for the Sox, but after the trade to Seattle he struggled mightily with the bat.
Some feel that his .340/.402/.648 line in the Eastern League was primarily because of his repeating the level, and that theory holds water based on his .208/.255/.262 mark with Jackson in the Southern League after the trade. But his baBIP also dropped from .373 to .265 after the trade, meaning that a lot of his struggles could have just been bad luck. While he lacks ideal bat speed, the left-handed hitting outfielder has a level swing that stays in the zone a long time allowing him to make good contact, has decent gap power and has a strong arm in the outfield. He is one of the Mariners' seven representatives in the Arizona Fall League and he has already started a game in center field there--a position that would greatly increase his value if he can handle it. He needs to be added to the 40-man this Winter and he'll most likely head back to Jackson to start 2012, but he has the ability for a quick promotion if he rights himself.
27. Forrest Snow 22-years-old, starting pitcher, Tacoma Rainiers
Snow's numbers from this season aren't eye-popping, but he impressed the right people along the way and he is pitching in the Arizona Fall League right now, where he earned a win in his first start (3 IP, 0 H, 0 BB, 3 SO). He absolutely dominated in 2010, posting a 0.60 ERA and 0.73 WHIP in 25 relief appearances which is really impressive considering that he was a 36th round pick in the draft as a hometown guy (University of Washington). And he's Washington through and through as one of his pre-pro-ballplayer jobs was working at Starbucks.
He was moved into a starting role this season but once again was promoted quickly and ended up in Triple-A as sort of a swing man. He pitched very well in spots for Tacoma and earned the confidence of skipper Darren Brown while he was there. Pedro Grifol said of Snow, "he turned into a legitimate Triple-A starter for us this year,". The Mariners obviously like what they've seen of him considering his promotion schedule and assignment this fall. Snow works with a fastball that he has been able to get up to 95 in shorter stints, but it mostly sits 90-92 with good run. His breaking ball is decent but he's really progressed with his changeup which shows good depth and is now a good swing-and-miss pitch for him. Talking to Forrest the other night, he also mentioned that he has been working with a split-finger that he rarely gets to use in game.
Tall (6-foot-6) and lanky (listed at 195 pounds, though likely closer to 215 now), the right-hander has had a crisp delivery since being drafted but has not only added velocity, but also is better using his height and plane to generate movement. He should be back in Tacoma to break camp in 2012, but he could potentially see Seattle out of the pen or in a stop-gap starting role at some point next season.
26. James Jones 23-years-old, outfielder, High Desert Mavericks
Jones had an extremely rough first half for the second straight season in 2011, and he was in the process of putting together a strong second half for the second time in as many tries when he was shut down for the season. His final line for the year is just .247/.347/.378. But with 42 walks in 83 games and a .324/.412/.520 mark in 27 second half games, Jones' season wasn't a total loss.
He probably isn't as far along now as a prospect as some thought he would be, but the tall left-handed hitting pitcher-turned-outfielder still has the tools that made him a fourth round pick in 2009. With great bat speed, plus foot speed (though not enough to play center), developing power and a cannon of an arm in the outfield, Jones needs to work on cutting down his strikeouts (23.3% strikeout rate career) by continuing to cut down on his stride and put together a full healthy season in 2012 to move back up the prospect lists.
That's it for prospects 30-26. Check back next Friday as we reveal the next five players in our countdown to the top prospects in the Mariners system.