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.
We have worked our way around the defensive positions as in a scorebook, and have already covered starting pitchers, relief pitchers, catchers, corner infielders and middle infielders. The outfielders wrap this series of quick looks up with a good group of 15.
BREAKDOWN: An easy choice as the organization's minor league hitter of the year for '11, Catricala has hit at every level since being picked in the 10th round back in '09. A quick, short, strong swing paired with a good eye and line drive power to all fields, he is the type of hitter that can succeed anywhere. Defensively he is still refining his skills at 3B, but he has quickened up his feet enough that playing the outfield could work for him, too. He'll most likely see the big leagues in '12 at some point.
BREAKDOWN: Extremely young and very raw in most aspects of his game, Castillo showed an advanced approach at the plate and hinted at burgeoning power in '11. He recognizes balls and strikes well, but is still a little too aggressive at times, but he uses the entire field well and hits with easy bat speed. He is quick right now, but figures to bulk up into a run producer's body as he matures. His bat is definitely his carrying tool, and he could turn into a middle of the order force in time.
BREAKDOWN: Once thought of as a potential five-tool guy, it is now obvious that his best tool -- and likely only plus tool -- will be his power. He's a year ahead of Castillo on the development path, but behind him by a bit in ceiling at this point. He still has easy plus power, but his pitch recognition and plate discipline didn't get much better in '11 while with Pulaski. The M's may push him with a tough assignment in '12 to try and light a fire under him.
BREAKDOWN: Chiang shook off some second half struggles with a good showing in the AFL where he flashed better than expected power. A former 2B, he'd be a better bet at big league success if he could handle CF, but he just doesn't have the speed for the position. He has enough arm to play a corner but with just average power, he'll need to maintain a high average and show better plate discipline to get a big league spot there. Now that he has his diabetes under control and is using the whole field more consistently, '12 could be a big year for him.
BREAKDOWN: Chavez definitely took a step back in '11, but the power in his bat in undeniable. The High-A-to-Double-A jump is the hardest in the minor leagues, and the better pitching took advantage of Chavez's aggressiveness. If he can reel-in his plate discipline and let the ball travel more he could rebound nicely. He has one of the best throwing arms in the system and is decent in the OF, making him perfect for RF.
BREAKDOWN: Blash borders on freakish athlete status with his combination of size, strength and speed. He admitted in his interview with us that he gets too passive at the plate at times, which lead to a lot of his struggles in Clinton to open the year last season. But he does have a good eye, plus power, a plus arm and even plus speed right now. A little old for his level and still a little raw, if he handles Low-A well repeating to start '12 he could be pushed up early.
BREAKDOWN: A notoriously slow starter, Jones needs to buck that trend -- and find a way to stay healthy -- to continue progressing as a prospect. The former left-handed pitcher is equipped with a great arm, very good speed and easy power, Jones is another on this list that oozes athleticism. But his health, approach and his streakiness are seeing him slip down the prospect lists. A strong start to 2012 would put him back on everyone's radar, and have him knocking on the door for Triple-A.
BREAKDOWN: Morales is another international signing with a lot of tools and a questionable approach. High strikeout totals are the most glaring line from his stateside debut in '11, but if you look deeper you can see a lot of promise. He has a quick bat and great hands that help him show easy plus raw power. He has a strong enough arm for a corner and enough range right now to cover center. The club wasn't shy in pushing him last season and may continue to do so in '12.
BREAKDOWN: Carroll is a blazer on the bases and has shown the ability to draw walks and hit line drives when he's been healthy. But he hasn't been healthy very often. And he has been piling up the strikeouts, too. A true defensive center fielder with a good arm and good range, he showed much improved power in '11. Some of that was certainly the Cal League parks, but his approach improved last season. The power totals aren't nearly as important as the walk totals and health, and Carroll could play himself into the '13-'14 conversation with Seattle if he can focus on improving those parts of his game.
BREAKDOWN: Almonte, who was the M's 2nd round pick in '07, is frustrating to a lot of fans because while he has all the tools you want, he just hasn't progressed much if at all as a pro. A switch-hitting, speedy outfielder with easy power and a good arm, he has very poor plate discipline and an approach that gets him into bad hitting situations. He's hit 108 extra base hits the last two seasons, but he's also struck out 353 times in 998 at bats. Entering his sixth year in the organization, he'll get a shot at Double-A in '12, where he will have to adjust.
BREAKDOWN: McGee is a great baseball IQ and great makeup guy. He also was the 2010 John Olerud Two-Way Player of the Year winner at Florida State, where he pitched and played the OF. Listed as a pitcher in the draft database, the confidence the M's showed in his bat seems to have been correct as he's shown good plate discipline and gap power to go along with good outfield defense and a great arm. Drafted as a senior out of college, he's got to progress quickly to have a big league shot down the road.
BREAKDOWN: Austin is the only player in the system with more raw speed than Carroll, but he showed more than just that in his pro debut for Pulaski. He collected 20 multi-hit games in 55 contests and hit .335 while drawing 22 walks (to just 21 K's) and being recognized as the Player of the Year for the little M's. Small but not weak, he has a quick bat and handles center field easily defensively. He won't hit for power, but if he can keep his average up he will be useful.
BREAKDOWN: Morban shows flashes of the hitting ability that made him a big dollar international back in '08, but he also has been injury-plagued and very streaky. He has a smooth left-handed swing and good speed, but his routes and fringe-average arm make him a corner outfielder only. Now 20, he is beginning to fill out his body and could start to show more power, which could make his profile a lot better. But first and foremost he needs to stay healthy.
BREAKDOWN: Palma hasn't played outside of Venezuela yet, but he has plus raw power and a good enough approach to have one of the best BB:SO ratios you will ever see in the VSL. A good throwing arm and a long swing are the only other bits of info out there, but the numbers for a youngster are encouraging. Just 19, he figures to get a shot in the U.S. for the first time in '12 where the club (and I) will be able to get a better handle on where his defense and other tools project him as he matures.
BREAKDOWN: Zamarripa posted just a .660 OPS in his AZL debut in '11, but his draft profile has a lot of "does things the right way", "good baseball student" type of comments. He also is a good athlete and is viewed as an advanced defender in center for a high schooler. He has a short, quick stroke from the left side and has plus raw speed on the bases and in the field.
That concludes our initial six part look at the Seattle Mariners Prospect Depth Chart. I'll be updating these around mid-season and again at the end of the minor league campaigns.