The Seattle Mariners are widely recognized as having among the best minor league talent of all the teams in Major League Baseball, from the talent at the top in the likes of Taijuan Walker, Mike Zunino and Danny Hultzen, down to the depth that they have with a few handfuls of future potential MLB-caliber relief pitchers. A lot of these names are well known in prospect circles, but the Mariners have some talent further down the list that, while unknown now as Spring Training is about to get underway for the minor leaguers, could vault up lists with a strong showing in 2013.
SeattleClubhouse takes a closer look at 10 such players, giving you the details on what they offer and what their future potential is with scouting notes and quotes from people within the organization and around baseball.
Joe DeCarlo: 19, 3B, .236/.368/.401, 19 XBH, 13.9 BB% in 1st season
Seattle's 2nd round pick in 2012 out of a Pennsylvania high school, DeCarlo showed patience, pop and a strong arm in his debut in the Arizona Rookie League last year, ranking 15th in both extra base hits and RBI (31) while drawing the 7th most BB (31) of all players in the desert. The right-handed hitter did a majority of his damage against right-handed pitching (.889 OPS) which is a good sign, although he did seem to tire as the season went on. "I was impressed with his baseball actions," said Mike Moriarty, the M's scout that signed him, adding, "and his swing is what a baseball swing should look like." DeCarlo should see at least Everett in 2013 and be fresh for his first full season of pro ball.
Anthony Fernandez: 22, LHP, 3.45 ERA, 1.29 ERA, 7.7 SO/9 in 527 2/3 MiLB IP
An under-the-radar add to Seattle's 40-man roster following the 2012 season, Fernandez is a left-hander that operates with great command, but he saw his stuff really take a jump forward during this past season. Pitching in High Desert and at Double-A Jackson, he pitched to a combined 3.51 ERA and 1.23 WHIP with an impressive 3.53 SO:BB ratio. His fastball still won't blow anyone away as he works in the high 80s and low 90s, but Fernandez pitches with smarts and works down in the zone, limiting the damage that hitters can do against him, as evidenced by his career 0.4 HR/9. I was told by one former PD director that Fernandez pitches, "with cojones".
Luiz Gohara: 16, LHP, NO PRO PLAYING EXPERIENCE
Although he's yet to throw a pitch in regular season organized baseball for the Mariners, the 16 year old Brazilian is already earning rave reviews from around the scouting community. The praise is so universal, in fact, that Baseball Prospectus was compelled to put him in their Top-10 prospects in the entire Seattle organization. With an imposing frame and potential for three plus pitches in his arsenal already, Gohara could see Everett at some point in 2013 and follow a similar path as Victor Sanchez did a year ago. The two are similar in their development progress at the same age according to Rich Dorman, Sanchez's pitching coach in Everett last year who also saw Gohara in fall instructs.
Gabriel Guerrero: 19, OF, .303/.351/.472, 7.4 BB%, 13.7 K% in 511 MiLB PA
The comparisons to his uncle, Vladimir Guerrero, are easy to come by, and you can see why; from his build to his lack of batting gloves to his powerful right-handed swing, Gabriel has a lot of the same traits that made Vladdy a nine time All-Star and MVP during his 16 year big league career. Guerrero is a guy that already this spring, "is jumping out at everyone" according to M's minor league field coordinator Jack Howell. "Easy plus power," is something I got from inside and outside the M's organization on Guerrero. The physical skills have been obvious for him all along, and as he continues to learn the game and grow as a player his stock will rise as a prospect.
Patrick Kivlehan: 23, 3B, .301/.373/.511, NWL MVP in 1st season
The defensive back turned offensive force came away with the Big East and Northwest League MVPs in his first year back on the diamond in 2012. With a combination of power (12 HR, 10.1% XBH rate) and speed (14 steals in 15 attempts) and the athleticism and mental makeup that it takes to play big time college football, Kivlehan could wind up being a steal as a 4th round pick if he continues to refine his approach and defense. The four years of college football are an unusual path, but were not necessarily a detriment. Moriarty also signed Kivlehan and opines that he should advance quickly because, in part, "he is so developed physically and from an athletic, coordination standpoint" from his time in football. Howell also said that he could see Patrick sticking at third base.
Timmy Lopes: 18, 2B, .313/.375/.476, 9.4 BB% and 11.7 K%
Lopes led the AZL in hits (68) and triples (12) and ranked 5th in the league in total bases (103) while posting strong walk and strikeout rates in his first shot at pro ball in 2012. He played well enough that he was rewarded with a late season jump to High-A, where he got into four games and smacked his 13th triple, moving him into a 5th-place tie for the most in all of MiLB for the season. "He can really hit and consistently turns in quality at bats," is what Howell said of Lopes. The right-handed hitting infielder has good speed (7 for 10 on steals) and played solid defense at second base and is one of the prospects that put in extra work in fall instructs.
Julio Morban: 21, OF, .308/.352/.530, 17 HR, 9.9 XBH% in '13
Morban just turned 21 earlier this month and -- as a freshly minted member of the 40-man roster -- is in big league camp with the big leaguers and other top prospects for Seattle. Maybe 2012 was his breakout as his bat took a huge step forward in High Desert last year and that doesn't appear to be a mirage; he has a chance to be special. Meaning that breaking out further could be around the corner. And he seems to know it. From his "Singles Suck" shirt that he sports in BP to his reported comfort around the other top guys in camp, Morban is starting to look and apparently feel the part of a prospect on the rise. Chris Gwynn told me that he sees "an extremely talented player...an all-around player." He's played some center field and has some speed, but the left-handed bat is his ticket to becoming a highly touted prospect and future big leaguer.
Tyler Pike: 19, LHP, 1.78 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, 10.1 SO/9, 6.0 H/9
The M's signed Pike, a Florida native, away from a commitment to Florida State with over slot 3rd round money last year and he certainly seems worth the investment so far. He led the Arizona League in ERA and ranked 4th in strikeouts (57) and didn't allow more than two earned runs in any of his 11 starts. It sounds like he was close to gassed in fall instructs after a long season, but he still impressed people there, too. Everett manager Rob Mummau, who also scouts for the M's and who signed Pike, said that the left-hander has the stuff and the makeup to be a good one: "Nothing rattles him on the mound -- he's very even-keeled. He doesn't blow guys away with velocity, he's more of a command and location guy. But he throws three pitches for strikes with an easy delivery." The opinion of scouts is that the curveball and changeup both have plus potential, and the fastball is already playable right around 90 mph and there is potential for more velocity in there as the 6-foot left-hander matures.
Guillermo Pimentel: 20, OF, .245/.289/.366, 27 XBH, 4.8 BB%, 28.9 SO%
The numbers above aren't a great output for Pimentel by any stretch. But he was still playing at a league filled with 21 year olds and showed a lot of improvement throughout the season. "You don't often see big numbers for Latin guys [in the Midwest League] because it is so cold early," is what Howell said when speaking with me about Pimentel, adding, "that league is a big leap from the Appalachian League." And his second half was strong: .272/.312/.408, lower SO% and six of his nine homers. The league HR rate was just 1.7% in the Midwest League, only one player(Miguel Sano) hit 20+ while just 44 guys reached double-digit HR. Scouts still give "plus" or "plus-plus" on the power potential for Pimentel, and even Stefen Romero only hit 16 HR in this league when he was 22. There is still a lot of potential for Guillermo, and 2013 could be the season we start to see it show in his stats.
Carson Smith: 23, RHP, 2.90 ERA, 11.2 SO/9, 0.3 HR/9
Smith was a 2011 draftee (8th round) that debuted in 2012, and his debut was very impressive. After a bit of an up and down start, Smith allowed only two earned runs over his final 28 appearances and struck out 13.6 per nine in that stretch. The delivery is a little unusual, but it's hard to argue with the results. His hard sinker and wicked slider continued to baffle hitters into the playoffs for the Mavs and in the Arizona Fall League, where former M's scout Bernie Pleskoff saw him and said, "He doesn't mess around out there. He just gets the job done. He sinks the ball really well, he's going to be tough to hit." Smith is in big league camp and could be on the fast track to the big leagues.
It isn't likely that all of these players will break out in 2013, but it is a safe bet that a few of them will build on their success and put together their tools, potential and approach and end the year with a much higher prospect profile than they currently have.
Looking for more Mariners 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 Contributing Writer Josh Dobner on Twitter at @JPDobner and site Editor Rick Randall at @randallball.