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 nine 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, 25-21, 20-16 and 15-11.
10. Chance Ruffin 23-years-old, relief pitcher, Seattle Mariners
Ruffin came to Seattle as the Player to be Named Later in the Doug Fister trade with Detroit. He is a right-handed reliever with good bloodlines (dad Bruce pitched 12 seasons in MLB), a big fastball, a plus slider, experience from a major college program (Texas) and that always-coveted "closer mentality". He was a starter his first two seasons in Texas then moved into the closer role as a junior in 2010 where he shined. The Tigers then took him with a 1st round compensation pick (48th overall).
As one would expect with a player of his pedigree, Ruffin found little resistance in the minor leagues, posting a 2.03 ERA and striking out 11.1 batters-per-nine in 44 minor league games between Double-A and Triple-A in his pro debut before being dealt to Seattle. While he didn't see a ton of action for the M's (13 appearances), he still did a good job of limiting hits (.245 BA against) and getting his strikeouts (9.6 SO/9). What he didn't do well was limit his walks as he allowed nine free passes in those 14 innings of work.
Mariners Manager Eric Wedge said that Chance, "Looks just like his old man," He added that Ruffin had, "a good arm that is very accustomed to a bullpen role."
Although he doesn't have the typical bullpen flamethrower's build (a common theme among several M's bullpen prospects), he does come with the repertoire: a fastball that can get up to 95 and sits 92-94 with good late life and downward movement, a wipeout, swing-and-miss slider that is 81-83 with a lot of break and a changeup that he mixes in. He throws a slower breaking ball, mainly to lefties, but it is unclear if that is a true curve or if he just takes something off of his slider in certain situations. Getting back to those walk numbers, Ruffin's control obviously isn't ideal at this point, and his command--particularly with the fastball--can escape him at times, but 2011 is his first pro season and he and the Mariners know that should be the area of focus for him.
He has been compared to fellow Longhorn alumni Huston Street in the past, and they are pretty similar in their stuff, size and approach. He figures to be about as close to a sure thing for the 2012 MLB bullpen as any other arm on the 40-man not named Brandon League at this point and he could easily develop into the next closer for the club in short order if he can clean up his command and learn to maximize the use of his offspeed pitches.
9. Guillermo Pimentel 19-years-old, outfielder, Rookie League Pulaski
Despite being just 18 all season, a good two years younger than the Appalachian League average, Guillermo Pimentel played very well in 2011 for the Rookie level Pulaski M's, even winning a Player of the Week Award in the process. But Pimentel is used to playing with older competition. Guillermo says he was just 10 when he hit his first home run on a regular field. "I was surprised I could hit it that far," he said. That was in a league made up of primarily 14- and 15-year-olds back in the Dominican. Scouts first started talking to him when he was just 13.
Signed by Mariners' International Super Scout Bob Engle in 2009 for two million dollars when he was 16, Pimentel is a potential five-tool player, though it is his power and smooth left-handed swing that get the most attention. He hit .265/.308/.441 and tied for fourth in the league with his 11 homers this season, but he hit five of those in a four game span early on when he won that Player of the Week Award. He was also tied for third in the league in strikeouts, and he drew just 14 unintentional walks in his 266 plate appearances, something that the Mariners coaches are working with him on constantly.
"He could be more selective at the plate, but overall he's pretty sound," Pulaski manager Rob Mummau said.
The walks were actually a big step up from the six he coaxed in 2010 in his pro debut and the strikeout rate dropped, too. And although the power was streaky, it was readily evident. Once again, he is young, having turned 19 after the season ended, so he is still realistically at least three seasons away from the major leagues at this point. If he continues on his current path of development he definitely has the potential to become a middle of the order bat in an outfield corner down the road for Seattle. Having played in two shorter season leagues, it is possible that he skips Everett and heads to Clinton in 2012 to start next season as long as Spring Training goes well for him.
8. Jose Campos 19-years-old, starting pitcher, Short Season Everett
I have talked about (and with) Campos a few times in the past couple of months already. A product of Venezuela with a big fastball and good mound presence playing in a league with much older competition in 2011, he already is drawing comparisons to King Felix Hernandez. The AquaSox even had a "Campos' Court" promotion in his final home start this year at Everett Memorial. His 2.32 ERA and 0.97 WHIP helped earn him
Like his fellow countryman, this right-hander is relying heavily on his fastball at this point in his development. Everett Pitching Coach Andrew Lorraine said, "Developmentally, he is pretty close to everyone else we have here; he just has a better arm,". Indeed, that fastball regularly sits 93-95 and reaches the high-90s at times with good arm-side run and sink when he keeps it low in the zone. He also throws a breaking ball that isn't very consistent in command or velocity right now, though he was making advancements in those areas later in the season. His changeup also improved dramatically throughout the season and could be the key to how good Campos can become, much like Felix.
He showed very good control and had plus command at times in 2011, but the command of the secondary offerings will be another key to Campos' continued success as he advances through the organization. He, too, should see Clinton in 2012 and could end up being the type of arm that skips a level at some point. That said, he is at least two full seasons away from being a legitimate big league option for Seattle.
7. Trayvon Robinson outfielder, Seattle Mariners
Confession: Perhaps I started attacking this project of doing such a big list--Top-50 prospects instead of Top-20 or maybe Top-30--at the wrong time, but that had more to do with the timing of my arrival to SeattleClubhouse than any grand plan I had. Robinson, as you probably know, technically is no longer a rookie, having surpassed the 130 at bat mark in late September. As such, he is the only player that no longer qualifies as a rookie on this list. But he passed that at bat mark after I had already started the process of putting these posts together, and honestly there is a chance he may still spend the majority of 2012 in the minor leagues. So there you go.
Moving right along to the point of these pieces, let's get to what kind of ballplayer Robinson is. Robinson was always seen as very toolsy with those tools leaning more towards the speed side of the game than the power side. His performance in 2011 may have shifted the scales a bit as he cracked 26 home runs in Triple-A before adding two more in the big leagues with Seattle. A switch-hitter that has shown the ability to take a walk, his strikeout rate in September was atrocious (35 Ks in 74 at bats) and that really erased a lot of the good he did in his first month in the big leagues.
He put up a triple-slash of .261/.301/.420 with nine extra base hits in his first 20 big league games and made two or three highlight-reel catches in left field in August, too, making it look like he may never again see the minor leagues. But he made three ugly outfield errors in September to go along with the strikeouts and the .162/.203/.257 line which definitely suggest that there is work still to be done in his development before he is ready for an everyday big league job. He struck out in half of his at bats in Safeco Field (33 Ks in 66 ABs) and hit just .158/.200/.237 in 40 plate appearances versus left-handers.
As things stand here in early November, the Mariners have far more options for their big league left field job in 2012 than they did in 2011, and realistically I think Robinson is down that list a bit, but the toolset that his complete package offers is probably the best of that bunch if he gets some more time in Triple-A Tacoma to refine his approach in the first half next year. Because of his ability to play center field, it is possible that he breaks camp with the club as the number four outfielder, too, but I'd say that his best bet for long term success lies with a demotion included.
6. Francisco Martinez 21-years-old, third baseman, Double-A Jackson
Martinez came over from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade with Ruffin, and while he is probably the least known piece of the trade, most prospect experts consider him the best piece. He did his best to give those opinions some weight after his trade to Seattle by posting an .807 OPS in his 33 games in Double-A Jackson. His combined numbers on the season were .289/.321/.426 with 38 extra base hits and 10 steals in 124 games.
Martinez is playing in the Venezuelan Winter League, too, where he is posting a .316/.350/.386 line through his first 14 games for Navegantes del Magallanes. Those numbers certainly suggest he can hit a little, but when you consider the fact that he just turned 21 on September 1st and has been playing with competition 2-3 years his senior most of his career, the numbers look even better. And while some fans have compared him to Carlos Triunfel in a not-so-flattering way, Martinez is already showing some of the power expected to be developing in his swing and he has already produced at a higher level overall than Triunfel.
Martinez shows the ability to have 15-20 home run power as well as enough speed to makes him a threat on the base paths. It is possible that we could have a 20/20 threat playing good defense at third base down the road. He may very well return to Double-A to open 2012 so that he can continue to play third base on a daily basis, but a promotion to Tacoma--and possibly even the big leagues--would not be out of the question for him.
That's it for prospects 10-6. Be sure to check back next Friday for the final set of five in the Top-50 prospects in the Mariners system here at SeattleClubhouse.
Looking for more Mariners news and articles? Follow SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.