Organizational depth is what turns a franchise with some good top-tier talent into a franchise set up for long-term success. If a club can get the right pieces in the right places, developing top players and role players alike, the system can feed the big league club top to bottom, building a sustainable pipeline to young, cost-controlled players.
Everyone is familiar with the upper end of Mariners prospects and subscribers have seen the entire Top-50, but in these Prospect Depth Chart series we will show you what lies behind the first few prospects, giving our readers 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.
Recapping our guidelines laid out in the first post, in this series we are considering only those players who still have rookie eligibility based on innings, at bats or big league service time. We are also only considering players who's 2013 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 that we have received from many sources, are the opinion of SeattleClubhouse and do not necessarily reflect the same rankings for the Seattle Mariners.
So far we have covered:
Now let's get on to the list of our fourth group of prospects: The Outfielders.
1. Julio Morban 21 years old, L/L, 6'1", 205 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Morban was somewhat of a surprise addition to the Mariners' 40-man roster after last season as the then 20 year old hadn't played above High-A and had yet to turn in a fully healthy season. But he has all the tools -- flashing plus power, speed and defensive chops in center field. Morban showed very well in big league camp this spring and had the coaching staff saying good things about his game. He'll likely end up in a corner long-term, but if he can put together a few healthy seasons in the upper minors and continue developing his game, he could turn into a legitimate major league offensive weapon. The jump to Double-A can be a hard one, especially considering the offensive environment change, but Morban's sweet left-handed swing should continue to impress in 2013.
2. Leon Landry 23 years old, L/R, 5'11", 190 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Landry just became property of the M's at last season's trade deadline but he is already among the most exciting players in the system. The former Dodger farmhand led all of Minor League Baseball in triples (18) and tied for the 8th most extra base hits (65) in MiLB while hitting a combined .341/.371/.584 for the two franchises. The lefty-swinging Landry is a plus defender in center field who gets great jumps and has enough speed to outrun any mistakes. His detractors point to his lack of walks as a potential problem, but Landry doesn't strike out much, either -- he is just a very aggressive swinger with a great swing. And if the results continue, the club won't work too hard to change him.
3. Francisco Martinez 22 years old, 6'2", 210 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Now officially moved away from third base, Martinez's offensive skills figure to translate much better to the outfield, allowing his lack of power to still play. He is obviously still very raw in the outfield, but the hyper-athletic Martinez has good speed and a strong throwing arm. His biggest step forward in what was a down year offensively in 2012 (.232/.315/.311) was in his plate discipline as the 22-year-old more than doubled his walk rate, from 4.5% to 10.2%. Pair that with his new-found success on the bases (28 for 35 in steals) and Martinez's profile as a center fielder is a promising one.
4. Denny Almonte 24 years old, B/R, 6'2", 191 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Like Martinez, Almonte also made marked advancements in plate discipline in 2012. He told me last May that a lot of that improvement was simply from him understanding himself and understanding what the Mariners wanted and expected out of him better. The switch-hitter has power from both sides of the plate, good speed on the bases and in the outfield, where he also has a strong arm and gets good reads. The strikeout has always been Denny's biggest problem, and while he improved there last year, he was still at a 27.0% K rate. The upper minors are where players with contact issues really get exposed, so 2013 could be the season for Almonte to show if he can improve enough in that area to be a true prospect.
5. James Jones 24 years old, L/L, 6'4", 196 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Jones broke out of his usual course of first-half doldrums in 2012 and that allowed him to post his best season as a professional. He scored 109 runs and reached double figures in doubles (28), triples (12), home runs (14) and steals (26) -- one of just 12 minor leaguers to accomplish that "quadruple-double". Jones played 77 games in center field in 2012 after being in right field for a majority of his games prior to the season. The former pitcher has a very strong arm that can handle right, where he probably will end up. Already 24, Jones figures to get his first taste of Double-A in 2013.
6. Abe Almonte 23 years old, B/R, 5'9", 205 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Acquired from the Yankees for Shawn Kelley, Almonte had a decent showing in 2012 in Double-A for New York, posting his best OPS since 2007 and stealing 30 or more bases for the third time in the last four seasons. But he also missed significant time with injuries once again. Staying on the field is the biggest weakness in Almonte's game, but when he's healthy he has plus speed, a sound approach and is said to be rich with leadership qualities and a strong makeup. Add to that his switch-hitting and defensive abilities in center field and Almonte could be a strong candidate to take a big step forward in 2013. Again, if he can stay healthy.
7. Jabari Blash 23 years old, R/R, 6'5", 224 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Blash has big raw power, and it plays in games all the way around to right center field. But he also has an approach that at times is too passive, and even though his talent level is above most other players on the field, that doesn't always translate into success. But even with those shortcomings Blash still ranked third in the system in walks (60) and of the 15 M's minor leaguers who hit 15 or more homers, only two also stole more bases than Jabari. His standout tools include power and speed and his arm is solid, not really a plus tool. If Blash can show a heightened focus and urgency, leading to more consistency in 2013 he could put up some really big numbers in High Desert.
8. Guillermo Pimentel 20 years old, L/L, 6'1", 206 lbs
BREAKDOWN: A 2009 International signing for what still is the 3rd most money the Mariners have spent (and tied for 22nd most among all clubs) at two million even, Pimentel hasn't quite lived up to he hype yet as he boasts a career OBP under .300 and hasn't hit more than 11 homers in any season to date. But he was one of only 20 teenagers in the Midwest League last year, a league that is notoriously stingy on the longball (only Miguel Sano topped 20 HR in 2012). Pimentel should still be paid attention to, but his plate discipline and pitch recognition need to take a step forward in order for his power to play in games more.
9. Gabriel Guerrero 19 years old, R/R. 6'3", 190 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Vladimir's nephew (obligatory mention) was among the low level prospects with the most helium in the game last year. He followed up a lackluster 2011 by raising his OPS by .400 points (.586 to .986), winning the MVP and earning himself a late season promotion stateside. The right-handed hitter impressed the staff this spring and should be able to handle playing against older competition from the get go in 2013 as he advances up the minor league ladder. The only thing holding him this low on this list is his age and relative inexperience, but he should be considered one of the highest ceiling hitters in the organization.
10. Phillips Castillo 19 years old, R/R, 6'2", 198 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Another player among the youngest in his league in 2012, Castillo showed more power and decreased his SO% in his stop in Pulaski, but his average dipped to .209 as he struggled to make solid contact. Castillo advanced to Arizona in 2011 without ever playing in the complex leagues in his home country of the Dominican so he is still very raw, but he is also still talented despite the down year offensively. Probably limited to left field, the bat will need to carry him going forward.
11. Alfredo Morales 20 years old, L/R, 6'2", 190 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Morales got a test in the Northwest League in 2012 and had some good times and some bad times. He won league Player of the Week honors during his hottest stretch but he struck out 77 times in a 55 game stretch and 88 times in 265 at bats overall. He also barely registered offensively away from Everett Memorial, hitting just .173 on the road. Consistency and plate discipline -- familiar needs for many Latin players -- are the areas that Morales needs to focus on in 2013 when he'll head back for another shot at the Midwest League.
12. Jamal Austin 21 years old, R/R, 5'9", 170 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Austin's game is all predicated on his speed and the diminutive right-handed hitter uses it well. He led the organization in steals in 2012 and he still put the ball in play with great regularity (13.3% strikeout rate), but his flat-footed swing doesn't allow him to drive the ball at all and Jamal has tallied only 27 extra base hits in 735 career plate appearances so far. But he's a smart baserunner and good defender in center field, despite having a below average arm. As he advances and faces more polished pitching it will be harder for Austin to succeed, but because of his speed he does still have a chance.
13. Jabari Henry 22 years old, R/R, 6'1", 200 lbs
BREAKDOWN: There are two Jabari's in the history of professional baseball, and both of them are with the M's and both are on this list. Henry was the M's 18th round pick last season and he came on strong as the season progressed in Pulaski during his debut, capping the year with a .327/.427/.633 month of August before a three game reward appearance with Everett to end the year. He played mostly center field in Pulaski, but he's got a build that is easy to project him moving to a corner, where he should figure as a plus defender based on his athleticism. Henry has a solid stroke, good hands and plus raw power. His 2013 assignment should be a little more age appropriate and tell us a lot about Henry as a player.
14. Dario Pizzano 21 years old, L/R, 5'11", 200 lbs
BREAKDOWN: Henry's teammate in Pulaski, Pizzano is about the only player that outhit Jabari in that August in the Appy, but he really outhit everybody. 42 hits and a .429 average is what Dario's month looked like and the lefty-swinging Ivy Leaguer led the organization in hitting at .354 overall for the year. Although he certainly is working hard on his defense and is more athletic than you'd expect at first glance, most if not all of his value is going to come from his bat -- but the bat looks good. Pizzano hit left-handers better than right-handers in Pulaski and talked to me about being pitched to "backwards" a lot already in his amateur career, something that bodes well for his ability to adjust as a pro.
15. Wilton Martinez 19 years old, R/R, 6'4", 195 lbs
BREAKDOWN: A 2011 signee out of the Dominican, Martinez was a little under the radar in the DSL in 2012, but he put up some impressive power (10 HR, 20 XBH) and patience (20 BB) numbers. Then over the off-season I heard glowing reports on him from a few people after fall instructional league had ended. The optimism on his future was repeated to me enough this spring that I decided that he warranted a mention here in the last spot among the outfielders. Martinez has big raw power and has shown a good understanding of the strike zone. He should be challenged with a stateside assignment in 2013 and get more looks in center field, where he has been solid.
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