Organizational depth is what can turn a franchise with talent into a franchise set up for long-term success. Get the right pieces in the right places while developing top players and role players alike and the system can feed the big league club top to bottom.
Everyone now knows about the upper end of Mariners prospects, but in these Seattle Mariners Prospect Depth Chart series we will show you what lies behind the first few prospects to give you an idea as to the quality of depth at each position. This information is used by clubs in planning for draft strategies, targeting players in trades and free agency and knowing which in-house players should be the highest priority for locking up to extensions.
For the purpose of this series, we're only considering players that still have MLB rookie status, based on innings, at bats or big league service time. We are also only considering players who's 2012 will be their age 26 or younger season. The depth chart standings are a combination of the player's developmental ceiling, floor and big league ETA. These rankings, while based on information and input I have received from many sources, are mine alone and do not necessarily reflect the same for the Seattle Mariners.
1. Jesus Montero 6'3", 235 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: Regardless of how little Montero actually catches this year, the Mariners do want to at least try the rookie out behind the plate. His bat is far and away the best in the system right now and that will carry his career, whatever position he plays. He figures to hit in the middle of the M's order right out of the gate. He has a plus throwing arm behind the plate but is big and doesn't have the best mobility.
2. Jack Marder 5'11", 185 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: A converted infielder, Marder is a gamer with a great mentality for catching and controlling the action. He's only been catching for a little over a year but he is a quick study and has a strong, accurate arm and isn't afraid to get dirty blocking pitches. He has a live, fast bat and could develop into a nice gap hitter with some pop and plus speed for the position.
3. John Hicks 6'2", 205 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: Hicks was the M's fourth round pick in the draft last season and came with a sound bat with questionable power and questions about his defense. He started very slow as a pro but hit .358/.376/.568 in 21 August games and threw out 19 of 43 runners for the year. Big and strong, his bat speed may limit his offensive production, but he gives quality at-bats and has a chance to be a big leaguer fairly quickly.
4. Marcus Littlewood 6'3", 194 lbs, S/R
BREAKDOWN: Littlewood, drafted as a shortstop, made the somewhat unusual transition to catcher over the winter. All reports are that he is handling it great, and many of the skills that made him appealing as an infielder transfer well to catching. That said, his bat will determine how far he goes. A switch-hitter with good power and patience, he needs to cut down on his strikeouts and work on understanding counts better.
5. Tyler Marlette 5'11", 195 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: Marlette was the M's 5th round selection in '11 and commanded a big bonus as a high schooler. He got a brief taste of the pro game in Pulaski after signing but didn't fair too well. He has good power to all fields and a plus throwing arm, but the approach at the plate and his mechanics behind the plate need some fine tuning. Just 19, he's a few years away from the big leagues, but he could be an impact bat if he develops as his tools suggest he can.
6. Angel Salome 5'7", 199 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: Salome has always been a good hitter, but he told the Brewers he didn't want to catch anymore a few years back when he was having what he and the club termed "mental issues". They moved him to the OF, then moved him off the 40-man a few weeks later. Eventually he ended up a FA and the Mariners -- and Jack Zduriencik, who drafted him -- signed him. He returned to primarily catching for the M's and the bat showed promise again. More background on his issues in Milwaukee: He was suspended 50 games for failing a PED-related drug test that allegedly was tied to his anxiety medication. When he stopped taking those meds, he became unstable mentally. Short and not fleet of foot, he'll have to catch -- and stay in shape mentally -- to maintain a shot at the big leagues.
7. Steve Baron 6'0", 205 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: You would be hard pressed to find another Mariners prospect as maligned as Baron. Very advanced and polished for a high school pick behind the plate with a great arm and soft hands, he's had no luck at the plate as a pro. He is big enough and strong enough with a decent swing that generates loft and backspin, but he doesn't leverage his strength well and leads with his hands a lot, leading to weak outs. A .566 OPS in 730 PAs to this point, his bat will determine if he can become an impact guy or just a backup, defensive catcher.
8. Trevor Coleman 6'1", 221 lbs, S/R
BREAKDOWN: Coleman has solid catch-and-throw skills (his CS% has increased each year), the perfect catcher build, and a decent eye to go along with his switch-hitting ability, but he doesn't have good bat speed and hasn't shown any real power, despite his size. Likely has the ceiling of a backup, but with some skills that could make him valuable with small improvements at the plate.
9. Mike Dowd 5'9", 205 lbs, R/R
BREAKDOWN: Dowd has a good, strong, accurate arm and has solid receiving skills, but at the plate his tools fall off a bit. He's strong enough to hit for some power, but he doesn't have ideal bat speed and doesn't drive through the ball well. He showed great plate discipline in college and didn't strike out a lot in his pro debut, but he has a lot of room to improve. Backup ceiling.
10. Luke Guarnaccia 5'11", 210 lbs, S/R
BREAKDOWN: Guarnaccia has similar strengths and weaknesses as Hicks, Coleman and Dowd, with a little less bat than the first two but a little more athleticism than the latter two. He has decent bat speed, but the swing is a little long and there are holes there. Still, another guy that offers defensive help and switch-hitting that could develop some power, especially from the right side where his swing looks much better.
A lot of young guys here and a lot of questions, but all in all not a bad group. I'll cover the best in the system for the corner infielders next.