Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive information on Seattle Mariners players from the rookie leagues all the way to the major leagues. Looking beyond the numbers and using input from respected baseball resources -- as well as contributing our own input -- we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking, and maybe even pinning some future hopes on. Our determination of where the prospects land on the list is a combination of potential ceiling, the player's likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster.
These types of rankings are very fluid and things can change very quickly, particularly in the bottom half of a list this large, but this compilation is our best effort at a look at the 50 best prospects in the system right now.
These breakdowns will be done in groups of five for subscribers, with the complete list (sans scouting info) being posted to the forums for discussion once the pieces are complete. Each player section will be headed by the player's position, age (as of the date of article publishing), hitting and throwing handedness and level at which they ended the 2012 season.
Part one of our 10-part series of rankings of the 50 best prospects in the Seattle Mariners organization is below -- ENJOY!
50. Jamal Austin - OF, 22, R/R, Low-A Clinton
Austin is a small guy (5-foot-9, 170 lbs), but he has more raw speed than anyone in the system, and he led the organization in stolen bases in 2012 with 36 (in 48 attempts). His walk rate took a big dip (from 9.2% to 5.8%) and his strikeout rate saw a big jump (from 8.8% to 13.3%) as he moved up from the Rookie Leagues (where he was named Pulaski's Player of the Year) to the Midwest League in 2012, but he still put together a respectable season for Clinton, hitting .283 while starting every game he played in center field, where he gets good jumps and has shown good range.
At this point in his development, Austin's speed is his one plus tool, with none of the other tools generating anything more than "OK" responses from anyone I've spoken with on the diminutive outfielder. One NL scouting director said to me, "He's a nice little player for that level, but he's just too small" to become a legit prospect. That said, Austin is still young and has shown an ability to get the bat on the ball at the plate and run the ball down in the outfield. If he can make some (admittedly unlikely) advances in his offensive game, he could become a marginal possibility to get into the discussion for a backup outfield spot for a big league team down the road.
49. Chih-Hsien Chiang - OF, 24, L/R, Double-A Jackson
Chiang -- who was acquired by Seattle at the deadline of 2011 from Boston -- ranked 28th on our Top-50 last year, but now a year older, a year further removed from his great performance in his old organization and having been passed through waivers and removed from the 40-man roster after struggling at two levels throughout most of 2012, he's clinging to the bottom end of our list this year. He hit just .249/.281/.363 combined this season and struck out 24 times over his final 27 games on the season.
It appears by those stats and by the few times that I saw him play this season that the questions surrounding his bat speed are legitimate concerns. And while he has shown extra base power in the past, his sub-.400 slugging as a 24-year-old isn't an encouraging indicator that there is any more projection in Chiang. That said, offense across the Southern League was down in '12 (league-wide OPS dropped from .739 to .709),
His 40 games of Triple-A experience exposed Chiang to more advanced, better executing pitchers and he struggled greatly against them in getting only eight extra base hits and drawing just 5 walks in those 168 plate appearances there. He's been passed up by several outfielders on the organization's depth chart since this time last season and it's possible he won't even return to the organization in 2013. But if he does, he still has some ability as he does have a level swing from the left side and he can handle an outfield corner defensively from a tools standpoint easily. Best case scenario here is still replacement player production however.
48. Tyler Burgoon - RP, 23, R/R, High-A High Desert
Burgoon was on our list last season, too, as he ranked 46th on the original Top-50 look. But while Chiang struggled in 2012, Burgoon pitched very well, all things considered (league, home park, etc.). His profile hasn't changed much if at all from last season and he was phenomenal over the season's final three months or so. So why did he drop in our rankings? It primarily has to do with the depth in the M's system all around, and particularly at the right-handed reliever spot. There was also a significant uptick in his BB/9, from 2.2 to 4.4, all while pitching in High-A in his 3rd pro season as a 23-year-old after being drafted following his junior season out of Michigan.
Which isn't to say that Burgoon's stock is falling, just that he didn't take a big enough step forward during the 2012 season -- even in that very good 2nd half -- to push himself higher on the list. His SO/9 jumped from 9.5 to 11.3, good for 3rd best among RP with 50+ IP in the system, and he had 38 strikeouts and a 1.10 ERA in 32 2/3 innings after June 20th.
As for his scouting report, while Burgoon isn't your typical big guy out of the bullpen (5-foot-10, 160 lbs), he does still have power stuff as he can rush his fastball up there at 94 with some late arm side run and he has a good hard slider that can be -- and has been -- a plus pitch for him at times which he throws in the low to mid-80s, all out of a compact three-quarters delivery. The big key for Burgoon is command, and after a rpigj first half in that regard he got back on track and in line with his performance as a pro and his numbers responded. Don't let his "low" ranking here fool you: he can be a fast mover and legitimate big league contributor for the Mariners in short order.
47. Mickey Wiswall - 1B/OF, 23, L/R, High-A High Desert
Following a pretty strong debut season in 2010, Wiswall -- who was primarily drafted in the 7th round out of Boston College on the strength of the power in his bat -- had a really tough 2011 season in Low-A Clinton, seeing more than a 200 point drop in his OPS. As such, he wasn't on our Top-50 last year. And while the first half started slowly for Mickey this season, he really picked things up in the 2nd half, posting a .311/.357/.549 slash, crushing 14 home runs and driving in 62 in 64 games after the All-Star break for the Mavs and finishing up 3rd in the Mariners organization in RBI (98) on the year.
Wiswall has power from left-center around to right when he's going well, and he was certainly going well in the 2nd half. He doesn't take a huge swing or have a big leg kick like a lot of power hitters, using more of an early toe-tap stride in the left-hand batter's box to move toward the pitch before unloading with his hands. The swing produces natural loft and good backspin allowing for extra base power. He still strikes out too much and doesn't walk enough, but those numbers each got noticeably better in the 2nd half (24.2% to 22.2% and 5.4% to 7.0%) as his bat picked up.
While High Desert certainly didn't hurt Wiswall in 2012, he actually hit for a better average with alower strikeout rate on the road and he only slugged 26 points lower. And hitting mainly in the fourth through seventh spots in the Mavericks lineup, he was leaned on heavily for a team that won the first and second half titles. Mickey does still struggle more versus left-handers (.226/.297/.411 vs .298/.335/.515) and while he's played a decent amount in the outfield, his most likely defensive home is first base, meaning that the bat needs to mature more -- as does his overall game. But as far as pure, raw power goes, his name is worthy of mentioning near the top in the Mariners system right now.
46. Martin Peguero - IF, 18, R/R, Rookie Pulaski
Peguero was originally signed for a large bonus of $2.9m, but he later had that bonus cut to $1.1m with no reason given. That move isn't all that uncommon, and it even happens to really good prospects, like current Mariners catcher/DH Jesus Montero, for example. But Peguero was signed by Patrick Guerrero, who was recently let go by the Mariners, and he trained with Enrique Soto, who was the father of a former Mariners' farmhand who had age issues discovered and has since been released.
Conspiracy theories aside, Peguero had his prospect status questioned a bit this year, with many people souring a great deal on the 18-year-old because of his lack of game power shown and his defensive inconsistencies. To that point, only one of his final 14 starts came at shortstop and it is very likely that his long-term home will end up being second base, but Peguero -- who we ranked 22nd last year after a strong debut season in the AZL for the Mariners -- does still have upside in his tools.
At the plate Peguero shows strong, quick wrists and a nice level swing-path. He makes solid contact (only 12.5% SO rate this season), despite getting poor marks on his pitch selection (he drew only 12 walks, but all of those came in the season's final 42 games), while playing gap to gap with his approach. He's still only hit one pro home run in well over 400 plate appearances thus far, but the bat is quick and the build is enough that you see where some power should come as the young man fills out. And while he doesn't have much of a shot to stick at short, his arm is plenty strong (though not super accurate at this point) to handle other infield positions.
Looking for more Mariners prospect player interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.