In a preview of many of the top prospects in the organization, SeattleClubhouse posted this preview article before the season with our educated guesses predicting who would lead the Seattle Mariners system in a number of categories. And while we weren't right about all of the things that took place within the organization this year, it wasn't a terrible effort at baseball fortune telling. Let's look at what did happen.
**Must be stateside and must qualify in innings pitched to be on this list
Roenis Elias defected from Cuba prior to starting his baseball career within the Mariners organization at 22-years-old. Mavericks coach Pedro Grifol, current High Desert Mavericks manager, told Kyle Glaser of the Victorville Daily Press this of Elias' poise: "The one common denominator is if you ask (Cuban players) about pressure, this is not pressure for them." Elias, 24, mirrored those words perfectly in 2012, posting an organizational high 11 wins with a 3.76 earned run average. Elias raised his strikeout-to-walk ratio from 1.95 in 2011 to 3.12 this season. All of his 26 starts came in the hitter friendly confines of the California League, where he posted a 2.84 ERA going 5-1 in his final 10 starts of the season. Brandon Maurer would finish tied for third in the organization with nine wins on the season.
If not for a mid-season knee injury I would likely be writing of Paxton in this category as he finished sixth in the organization at 110 Ks despite missing the whole month of June. Hultzen finished 2012 with 136 Ks in 124 innings pitched with a 25.7 strikeout percentage. In case you missed it that means Hultzen struck out 25.7 percent of the batters he faced this season; a whopping 27.2 percent in the Southern League where the league average for 2012 was 19.5%. His 136 Ks is the 25th highest total in all of minor league baseball tying him with fellow top prospect Gerrit Cole, who is known for his plus velocity. Hultzen finished 2012 with a combined 9.87 strikeouts per nine innings ratio, including a 10.54 K/9 mark in the Pacific Coast League where the league average was 7.14.
Trevor Miller finished 2012 as the only qualified Mariners minor league starter to post a sub 2.00 walk per nine innings ratio in throwing a 1.44 for the season. He threw five starts in the California League with the High Desert Mavericks, following a late-season promotion, posting a 2.12 walk per nine innings ratio while his previous 22 outings (17 starts) with the Clinton Lumber Kings gleaned with a 1.27 ratio over 120+ innings pitched; the average BB/9 ratio of the Midwest League for 2012 was 3.33. His 1.44 BB/9 ratio is 34th in the minor leagues; a full 85 spots ahead of Dylan Unsworth who was second in the organization with a 2.00 BB/9 ratio. Andrew Carraway posted a 2.22 BB/9 good for 5th in the organization.
Projected Lowest ERA: Taijuan Walker – RHP, Jackson Actual Lowest ERA: Danny Hultzen – LHP, Jackson/Tacoma
Hultzen's 3.05 ERA, which led the organization among qualified starters, might surprise a few people who watched his Triple-A numbers closely. Overall he pitched a strong season recording an unfairly low 1.19 ERA in Double-A through 75+ innings. Hultzen threw 48.2 innings with Tacoma allowing 32 ERs for a 5.92 ERA. Despite the 4.73 difference in runs per nine innings allowed Hultzen allowed the same amount of home runs with Tacoma as he did with Jackson striking out batters at a higher rate (10.54 K/9 in Tacoma – 9.44 K/9 in Jackson). His 0.24 home runs allowed per nine innings ratio in Jackson was considerably lower than the league average of 0.65; same in Tacoma with a 0.37 HR/9 compared to league average at 0.95.Taijuan Walker, who battled his own mechanics for much of 2012, finished 13th in the organization with a 4.69 ERA.
**Must be stateside and have thrown 1/3 of the innings of the lowest qualified starter in their league to be on this list
Capps debuted with the Seattle Mariners on the third of August; a full month before the wrap of the minor league season. Despite his final minor league save coming on the 26th of July Capps finished the season leading the Mariners minor league organization in saves at 19. He flashes triple digit velocity which helped him post a 1.29 ERA with Jackson recording a 13.04 K/9 ratio over 49 innings. Want to know how well he can throw his stuff? Capps jumped over the league average for strikeouts per nine innings in the majors this season throwing a 9.00 K/9 ratio over the league average 7.33 K/9. Jonathan Arias recorded seven saves at the beginning of 2012 before being promoted out of the closer role at Jackson from High Desert; finishing 7th in the organization in saves. Of note is Mariners Logan Bawcom who recorded 26 saves on the season; 20 of these took place before the Mariners acquired him in the Brandon League deal and he is therefore awesome, but exempt.
Projected Lowest ERA: Stephen Pryor - RHP, Jackson
Actual Lowest ERA: Stephen Pryor – RHP, High Desert/Jackson/Tacoma
Pryor finished 2012 with the Seattle Mariners after throwing 38.2 innings in relief across three different minor league levels (two game rehab assignment with High Desert) totaling a 0.93 ERA. Pryor began 2012 with Jackson and earned a promotion to Tacoma tossing a 1.13 ERA in 16 innings. Pryor would go scoreless in Tacoma before his MLB call-up and after his brief California League rehab assignment in 20 total innings. That's a total of zero runs in 20 innings in the Pacific Coast League; just in case you were wondering. If Capps can throw his pitches than Pryor is the master of his pitches recording an 11.30 K/9 ratio in the Major Leagues this season against that 7.33 K/9 average. Pryor was ranked as the Mariners sixth overall prospect in the system by MLB.com after the 2012 season.
Projected Highest Strikeouts-Per-Nine: Stephen Pryor – RHP, Jackson
Actual Highest Strikeouts-Per-Nine: Matthew Vedo – RHP, Everett
Matthew Vedo was a 24th round pick of the Mariners in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft. Vedo wasted no time flashing his velocity, which can reach 94 mixed with a plus slider, in recording his organizational high 13.50 K/9. Vedo has been branded as having control problems since college as he posted a 6.53 BB/9 ratio with Everett allowing a .411 BABIP against. If Vedo can work his control up to the level where his velocity sits he could be a useful piece of the Mariners bullpen in the future. Pryor's 10.94 K/9 for the season placed him 4th in the organization while Matt Matt Brazis, a fellow 2012 draftee, posted a 16.6 K/9 but failed to qualify for this list on innings pitched.
**Must be stateside and qualify in at-bats to be on this list
Pizzano led all of minor league baseball in hits for the month of August and finished the season with the Everett Aqua Sox going .330/.440/.476 in six games there. In his previous 56 games played with Pulaski he hit .356 with 23 extra base hits; three in his six games with Everett. Pizzano was a 15th round selection of the Mariners in the 2012 draft out of Ivy League school Columbia.
Stefen Romero really exploded the ball this season in becoming the Mariners tenth overall prospect as ranked by MLB.com. Romero joined fellow farmhand Steven Proscia as one of twenty three minor leaguers to total over 100 runs batted in for the season while totaling 64 extra base hits. His .379 batting average on balls in play through 276 California League at-bats was .054 points higher than the league average. Romero played 116 games between High Desert and Jackson hitting 23 home runs and driving in 101 runs.
Projected Most Home Runs: Johermyn Chavez - OF, Jackson
Actual Most Home Runs: Steven Proscia – 1B/3B, High Desert/Jackson
Projected home run King Johermyn Chavez hit 10 out of the park in an injury shortened 2012 season opening the door for the organization's eventual home run leader Steven Proscia who hit 28 out of the park in 2012; 24 in 106 games with High Desert and four in 21 games with Jackson. Proscia, in two minor league seasons, is a .311 hitter with a .548 slugging percentage hitting 40 home runs over 171 games. Proscia registered a .382 BABIP on the season through 467 California League at-bats; besting teammate Stefen Romero by 0.03 points in nearly twice the time played. His defense at 1B has been strong while the transition to 2B/3B is a work in progress.
Projected Best On-Base Percentage: Jabari Blash - OF, Clinton
Actual Best On-Base Percentage: Dario Pizzano – OF, Pulaski/Everett
This honor Pizzano has all to himself as he recorded a .422 on-base percentage on the season. Hitting for a .356 average certainly helps get the OBP up but his 30 walks to 37 strikeouts as a rookie is very impressive (1.23 K/BB ratio). More impressive is Pizzano's 59.2% of balls in play going for line drives or ground balls with a .411 BABIP; a skill-set that sits very well in Safeco Field. His 18.5% of balls in play hit as line drives is 5% higher than the average for the Appalachian League.
Projected Most Stolen Bases: Jamal Austin
Actual Stolen Bases: Jamal Austin
Austin stole 36 bases; which happens to be 119 short of the minor league record set this season by Billy Hamilton at 155, but who is counting, right? Austin stole 75% of his bases being caught 12 times on the season while hitting .283 in 110 games with Clinton.
Projected First Player Called Up to "The Show": Vinnie Catricala
Actual First Player Called Up to ‘The Show": Stephen Pryor
Anyone surprised? You shouldn't be. Pryor makes his second appearance on our list of seasonal winners for the Mariners and given his relief ERA crown it's not surprising he was Seattle's first call-up in 2012. Pryor would post a 2.51 ERA with the Seattle Mariners striking out 11.30 batters per nine innings in 16 games. The idea of a Carter Capps and Stephen Pryor back-end has been exciting those around Seattle baseball the past two seasons and we got to see a glimpse of that towards the end of 2012.
Projected Best Comeback From Injury: James Jones
Actual Best Comeback From Injury: James Jones and Brandon Maurer
Brandon Maurer threw 79.1 innings in 2011 compiling a 4.99 ERA before finally giving in to an elbow injury that would cut his season nearly in half. Maurer bounced back in 2012 winning the Southern League Outstanding Pitcher of the Year award despite pitching alongside ‘The Big Three' much of the season. Maurer's walks were up and strikeouts were down on the season though he allowed just 0.3 home runs every nine innings for the season compared a 1.1 ratio in 2011. Maurer finished his 2012 season logging a 2.40 ERA over 60 innings of work making five quality starts over his last six outings.
James Jones had just started heating up in 2011 after a string of minor injuries when he was struck down 83 games into the California League season with High Desert; he would finish hitting .247. Jones made his return to High Desert this season batting .200 in April while sliding in the lineup day-in and day-out. His bat slowly heated up hitting .299 in May and .341 in June while peaking at .359 in July and finishing strong at .314 in August. Jones finished with 54 extra base hits and joined Mariner farmhand Leon Landry as two of twelve minor league players to record 10 stolen bases, 10 doubles, 10 triples, and 10 home runs in 2012. He would finish the season batting .306 as the teams dedicated lead-off hitter moving into the California League playoffs.
Gabriel Guerrero, the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, was named the 2012 DSL Most Valuable Player and finished his time stateside with the AZL Mariners; a far cry from 2011. Guerrero put up a .238/.288/.298 line in his first DSL season as a fresh Seattle Mariners prospect at just 17-years of age. Of notable concern was his 1 home run through 57 games played given his 6-foot-3 180 pound frame. Guerrero would return to the DSL in 2012 10 pounds heavier and much more prepared for the competition that waited within. Guerrero hit .355/.409/.605 in 50 games while leading the league in home runs with 11 and runs batted in with 54. Guerrero spent the final 18 games of 2012 with the AZL Mariners hitting .333/.350/.560 with 4 home runs and 18 runs batted in. Something I look for in a strong season, especially a comeback season, is the percentage of at-bats that end in a walk or a strikeout in which Guerrero bested the league average in the Dominican Summer League and the Arizona League in both.
Mickey Wiswall often goes unnoticed in the Mariners minor league system. If you haven't heard of him do not be alarmed because I am sure you are not the only one. He was a 7th round pick in 2010 for the Mariners and immediately hit .293/.330/.533 out of the gate with Everett and Clinton putting up 9 home runs in just 45 games played. Wiswall would hit only 10 home runs in all of 2011 through 130 games played at Clinton with 104 strikeouts for a .240/.281/.340 line. His .621 OPS for the season was near the bottom rung of minor leaguers to play a full-season. He showed the organization enough to earn a promotion to High Desert in 2012 and was a part of the record breaking offense in a big way. Wiswall led the team in runs batted in with 98 and hit 21 home runs on his way to posting a .280 batting average. His .489 slugging percentage was nearly .150 points higher than his previous season and .065 points higher than the season average for the California League.
Projected Biggest Mover Among Foreign Rookie Leaguers or International Imports: Victor Sanchez
Actual Biggest Mover Among Foreign Rookie Leaguers or International Imports: Victor Sanchez
We just talked about Gabriel Guerrero so I decided to give this one to Sanchez all by himself. Victor stuck to his label of being well advanced for his age in getting rave reviews on his pitch selection and maturity. Everett pitching coach Rich Dorman told the Everett Herald his reaction to hearing Victor Sanchez saying he would go out and bring a ball game home himself, "I just looked him in the eye and I believed him." Sanchez doesn't turn 18 until 2013 and quickly put together one of the best stateside seasons of minor league baseball for a player under 18-years of age. Sanchez threw 85 innings for Everett finishing 6-2 with a 3.18 ERA while allowing a .223 average against; well below the league average of .250. His 1.129 WHIP was good for 7th in the league among qualified starters, his ERA 9th, and he was second in innings pitched. The last 17-year-old pitcher to throw for Everett was Felix Hernandez in 2003. Felix debuted a short two years later for the Seattle Mariners; Sanchez could be on an ‘advanced schedule' to the major leagues as well after this year's showing.
Current Minor Leaguer to Crack the Top-10: Jabari Blash
Actual Minor Leaguer's to Crack the Top-10: Capps, Pryor, Catricala, Miller, and Romero.
Good timing for this piece as MLB.com just released their reorganized Top-10 baseball prospects for each club this week. Here are the guys that are new to the list that were in the organization before this year's baseball draft:
• Stephen Pryor – Sixth overall
• Carter Capps – Seventh overall
• Vinnie Catricala – Eighth overall
• Brad Miller – Ninth overall
• Stefen Romero – Tenth overall
Top Mariners Prospect for 2014: Taijuan Walker
Not hard to imagine this selection as Taijuan was named the fifth overall prospect in baseball this week by MLB.com amid an at times frustrating 2012 season. In his first nine starts of the season Walker looked like the fifth overall pitcher in all of baseball let alone the minor leagues as he went 4-1 with a 2.24 ERA and a 3.14 strikeout to walk ratio. His next seven starts from June until the middle of July seemed like they were out of a horror film as Walker allowed 28 earned runs over 31.2 innings for an 8.07 ERA cutting his strikeouts more than half with a 1.43 K/BB ratio. Whichever mechanics Taijuan was fighting at mid-season he regained control of in posting a 3.90 ERA over his next eight starts raising his velocity back up to post a 2.83 K/BB ratio. In his final start of the season Walker allowed seven runs over 3.1 innings striking out seven and walking one. His 3.55 BB/9 while not fantastic was below the league average and his 8.38 K/9 was above league average. People seem to forget that he is freshly into his twenties, being a high school draftee in 2010, and was the youngest player in the Southern League at mid-season by nearly an entire year over Los Angeles Dodger pitcher Zach Lee. The average age for the Southern in 2012 was 24.5 years old meaning Walker sat five years younger than his average competitor in 2012.
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