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.
Part seven of our 10-part series of initial rankings of the 50 best prospects in the Seattle Mariners organization is below. Click the numbers to see Prospects No. 50-46, 45-41, 40-36, 35-31, 30-26 and 25-21
20. Jack Marder 21-years-old, catcher/infielder, High-A High Desert
It may surprise some people to see Marder this high on my list. After all, it isn't often that you see a 16th round pick make a club's Top-20 the year he gets selected. It also isn't often that player is a draft-eligible sophomore that posted a career .232/.351/.351 line in college. But the Mariners really like Marder, and when you look at what he brings to the table, its easy to see why as there is a lot to like.
Director of Scouting Tom McNamara told SeattleClubhouse that what the club likes in Marder is that he is a, "confident throw-back type. He's an aggressive versatile player with winning intangibles."
McNamara also said that the club felt he was much better than the right-handed hitter's college stats showed him to be. He was a shortstop as a high schooler and showed some great tools and a promising bat, but he wasn't highly thought of as he was an "old" senior (19), doesn't possess ideal size and is a Type-1 diabetic. He played right field, first base, and was primed to see a lot of time at second and third before he was shifted to catcher in his second season playing for the Ducks. He went on to throw out 63% of would be basestealers and earned praise for his natural leadership and work with the staff.
The Mariners liked him enough to take a chance on him in 2011 rather than wait and see what his bat would do with another college season. He rewarded the M's for their confidence hitting .324/.380/.493 with eight extra base hits in his 18 game introduction to pro ball at High Desert this season after signing. Marder started nine games at catcher and five at second base for the Mavs in 2011, and it looks like the plan moving forward for him defensively is pretty fluid as McNamara said, "he can catch and throw behind the plate and he also can play third base and second base." Wherever he ends up, Marder is one of those "winning" ballplayers that is destined to succeed.
Marder will probably return to High-A to start 2012, but he may not stay there long and he could be a very fast moving prospect if his bat keeps up because of his versatility.
19. Carter Capps 21-years-old, starting pitcher, Low-A Clinton
Capps is a converted catcher that pitched lights-out for Mount Olive (14-1, a 1.75 ERA and 7.2 strikeout-to-walk ratio) before being selected by Seattle with their supplemental third round pick this season. 6-foot-5 and 220-plus pounds, Capps pounds the lower half of the strike zone with a big fastball that got up to 99 in the Cape Cod League this past summer.
"Capps showed one of the best pure arms on the Cape," Scout.com's National Baseball Expert Frankie Piliere said.
"He was consistently able to command his fastball and work up around 95-96 MPH. There's a demeanor that a lot of scouts like and he goes at hitters very aggressively."
Tom McNamara added to that, telling me that Capps is, "a physical presence with a true power arm. He threw the ball well and opened up a lot of eyes in Instructional Ball."
He pitched as a starter for Clinton in his debut, but his profile looks like that of a late-inning bullpen arm in the long run. That said, the club will be in no hurry to shift him to the pen, and if his secondary offerings progress enough, he does have the potential to stay as a starter. With just four regular season pro appearances under his belt at this point, where Capps will land in 2012 isn't easy to project, but wherever he is, you can bet he'll be bringing the heat.
18. Johermyn Chavez 22-years-old, outfielder, Double-A Jackson
Chavez came to the Mariners in the Brandon Morrow/Brandon League trade and has the ability to tilt that trade in the Mariners favor, but his 2011 was a major disappointment following a great first year in the organization during the 2010 season. In 2010 Chavez set many career highs as he hit .315/.387/.577 with 30 doubles and 32 home runs...but...he did so at High Desert, and 23 of those long balls actually were hit in the ultra-thin air of Adelanto, CA. 2011 was a season that many felt the Venezuelan born right-handed hitter needed to build on that foundation and improve.
To say he failed to do that would be an understatement as Chavez's numbers fell to .216/.312/.360 with just 16 doubles and 13 home runs. His pitch recognition took a step back and he never really got on track with his power stroke. Still, Chavez is big and strong with plus raw power and a plus throwing arm that plays well in right field and--as with many international players signed at age 16--Chavez is still learning the game to a degree. One note that I want to add from seeing him extensively in Spring Training this past year is that he never, and I mean never, misses a pitch in batting practice. That may not sound like much, but guys that put on BP shows like Chavez usually have a good ability to hit in them.
With the sudden glut of outfielders filling the upper levels of the Mariners' system, a return to Double-A Jackson in 2012 to try and correct the issues that plagued him in 2011 is likely for Chavez, but as he is on the 40-man roster, a fast start could earn him a promotion to Tacoma and sustained success could even get him to Seattle before the year is out.
17. Phillips Castillo 17-years-old, outfielder, Arizona League Mariners
Just 17-years-old, Castillo made his pro debut in the Rookie Arizona League and hit a very encouraging .300/.366/.482 in 194 plate appearances. Signed out of the Dominican in 2010 for $2.2m, he was lauded for his above-average raw power. And while he only hit one home run this season, his 18 doubles (which tied for the league lead) and numerous screaming line drives that littered Arizona League parks give that report some validation.
Strikeouts were an issue (61 strikeouts and 51 hits in 48 games isn't a great ratio), but he was one of the younger participants in the league and it was his first pro ball exposure, so I wouldn't be too worried at this point. Baseball America rated Castillo as the 2nd best prospect in the league and said that he showed, "an aptitude for making adjustments in the batter's box," during this season.
His arm is strong enough for right but he reportedly isn't great with his routes in the outfield at this point in his career. But again, he's 17. Lots of time to develop here, and his bat will be his carrying tool anyways...and it could be a good one. He should see either Pulaski or Everett in 2012 and figures to be a one-stop a year type of player, at least until he matures a bit.
16. Alex Liddi 23-years-old, third baseman, Triple-A Tacoma
The famous "first born and raised Italian Major League Baseball Player", Alex Liddi made it to the big leagues this season and hit three home runs while posting an .820 OPS for the big club in 15 late season games to nearly match the .821 OPS he put up in the hitter friendly PCL in 2011. Although 2009 counts as Liddi's break out season, 2011 was a banner year for him, too. he reached the 30-homer plateau for the first time in his career and he also made strides defensively as a third baseman where he has soft hands and a strong arm.
That said, he still doesn't have ideal quickness and reflexes for the hot corner and he probably will never be better than average there defensively. But if his bat has major league home run power in it, the defense will be an afterthought, especially if he hits enough for first base. Of course, if his pitch recognition and ability to hit and/or lay off of breaking pitches out of the zone doesn't improve then his power will be an afterthought, too. 170 strikeouts in 138 Triple-A games and 17 strikeouts at the major league level and you can see that swings-and-misses are an issue. He does have decent enough bat speed and that gives him plus power--particularly to his pull side, but his swing gets long at times.
He is once again playing Winter ball in Venezuela this season, but the strikeouts are there right now, too (8 in 24 at bats).The key for Liddi is to try and maintain his new found power stroke while limiting the strikeouts. If he can make that difficult process a reality, then the Mariners will find a spot in the lineup for his bat. If he can't, he could end up sitting in Triple-A for a while as he tries to refine that part of his game.
That's it for prospects 20-16. Be sure to check back next Friday as we move closer to the Top-10 in our countdown to the top prospects in the Mariners system here at SeattleClubhouse.