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.
BREAKDOWN: Martinez came to the M's from the Tigers last year at the deadline and while his stats in the minors aren't overly impressive, he has always been playing very young for his level. He turned 21 near the end of last season while hitting .289/.321/.426 in Double-A. With good power and speed, he could have 20/20 potential in the near future as he matures but his plate discipline and his glove may be a little further away.
BREAKDOWN: Liddi made strides in his game offensively and defensively in '11, but he still isn't an ideal defender at third and has some pretty big holes in his swing that lead to big strikeout numbers. He still has plus power, a strong arm, sure hands and will take a walk. If he learns to trust his hands and let the ball travel more he could cut down on the strikeouts and increase his AVG potential while keeping his power intact.
BREAKDOWN: A 2011 draftee out of Virginia, Proscia has a solid approach at the plate and the ability for above average power to all fields. A third baseman in college, he split time between third and first in his pro debut. He doesn't have ideal range at third, but has soft hands and a strong, accurate throwing arm. His bat profiles best at third, and the Mariners will continue to play him there this year as he likely repeats High-A.
BREAKDOWN: Poythress showed a much better approach in '11, but it seemingly cost him a lot of his best tool -- his power. A strong hitter that gets the good natural loft and backspin required to hit for power, Poythress needs to square more balls up while remaining aggressive in the strike zone. If the K-rate climbs back to his '10 level, that isn't a deal breaker. Poythress' power is the lone tool that can get him to the big leagues as a 1B/DH.
BREAKDOWN: Raben has legit 70-grade power and consistently punishes line drives -- mainly to his pull-side -- but he just can't stay healthy. His '11 ended early with another surgery and what he really needs is a full, healthy season. He'll be 25 late this summer and hasn't conquered Double-A yet, but if he gets a sustained run of health, there is no reason that Raben can't turn into an MLB-option as a 1B/DH with 20-30 home run potential.
BREAKDOWN: Romero -- who was named Clinton's MVP in '11 -- is playing a lot of second base right now, but as his body continues to fill out, it's likely that his permanent position becomes third base. He has a solid line drive approach at the plate and, unlike most players on this list, he doesn't strike out a lot. Not afraid to go the other way, most of his homerun power is to his pull side, but he also offers good speed. '12 will be just his second year in the organization and he could blossom in High Desert.
BREAKDOWN: Calderon is the youngest player on this list, as he'll play the entire '12 season at just 18, but he has already shown great hitting ability. His power was his most apparent tool when the M's signed him during the July '10 international class, and that carried over in his professional debut last year. He led the club in 2B, HR and RBI and recorded 16 multi-hit games. His strikeouts and error numbers at third base weren't good, but he was just 17. A lot of potential down the road here.
BREAKDOWN: A left-handed power bat out of Boston College that impressed on the Cape, Wiswall had a strong pro debut in '10 before taking a step back last year. His XBH-rate cut in more than half last year and the walk-to-strikeout ratio got a little ugly, but Wiswall has power from left-center around to right when he's going well. He played some LF last year but profiles as a 1B/DH-type down the road, meaning the bat will need to carry him.
BREAKDOWN: Tenbrink is the best baserunner on this list, with 75 steals in his injury-riddled four year pro career. He also has pop from the left-side and will take a walk. His defense at third hasn't progressed as the club would like so he's seen about one-quarter of his starts in the outfield. Coming back from a fractured elbow, Tenbrink is likely to repeat Double-A in '12 where he'll need to show better power.
BREAKDOWN: DeJesus is a bit of a forgotten man for the M's after missing all of '10 with an ACL tear and then repeating in Everett last year. Originally signed as a shortstop, he did show improved defense at third during that second chance look, but his increased bulk from maturing, limited range, injuries and average arm may limit him to 1B down the road. He has an advanced approach at the plate and uses the whole field, he just needs to learn to trust his hands to turn on the ball with power more often.
There is some really good talent here, but as with most prospects, most of them come with questions. Can any of them stick at third base or hit enough for first base? We shall see. Next up we attack the list of middle infielders.