Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Another week of minor league action in the books for the Mariners' minor league affiliates means another check in on three notable performances on each side of the statistical spectrum. Enjoy this Memorial Day version of Three Up, Three Down.

Each Monday during the 2013 minor league season, I will again give our readers a rundown of the best and worst from the minor league week that was within the Seattle Mariners system. The goal is to concentrate only on true prospects (age 26 and under and not on the big league roster), but if any player has an exceptionally noteworthy good (or bad) week, he could appear here as well. The goal is to not only keep you up to date on the goings on, but to try and give you a better look of what talent is in the system by spreading the coverage around.

This week's installment of Three Up, Three Down had a lot more candidates good than bad, partially because there wasn't a full slate of action for a couple of levels. I've avoided getting the VSL involved in these because of the lack of solid video or first hand accounts to go on from over there, but I do have my eyes on a few of those players. Here are the six players for this week.


Jabari Blash - OF, High Desert Mavericks: .450/.577/1.000 (9-20), 2 2B, 3 HR, 7 RBI, 6 BB, 3 SO
Blash ended the week riding an 8-game hitting streak that has seen his already impressive OPS jump 150 points up to 1.131 in 32 games for the Mavericks. He leads the organization in home runs with 12, three of which he hit this past week, but the most encouraging sign from the streak he's currently on may be the plate discipline that Jabari is showing. The six walks he's drawn in his last six games are almost as many as the eight he'd taken in his first 26 games and with only three punchouts in his last nine games Blash has his K% on the season down to 25.4%.

Blash has always been a very talented baseball player and a gifted athlete, but he's had trouble putting it all together and sustaining success. He's doing it so far this season, and it isn't looking like a High Desert mirage as he's posting great numbers on the road (1.035 OPS) and against right-handers (1.090 OPS). He's probably a touch old for the level as I've mentioned before, but Blash appears to be getting beyond some of his past issues with pitch selection and aggressiveness at the plate.

Gabriel Guerrero - OF, Clinton Lumber Kings: .429/.455/.667 (9-21), 5 2B, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 4 SO
Guerrero has definitely been a hot and cold hitter this season and he's on a hot stretch right now. With four multi-hit games in his last seven the right-handed hitting 19-year-old has his May numbers up to .291/.313/.430 in 22 games now following a .193/.225/.253 April in the same number of contests. Guerrero is a key cog in the Clinton offense and has been delivering in the clutch of late for the LumberKings despite his free swinging style that has led to 41 strikeouts against only seven walks.

Guerrero also hasn't left the yard in the Midwest League yet, but he does have 14 extra base hits on the year, 10 this month. As he continues to get familiar with more advanced pitchers, pitching patterns, etc., Gaby's natural power should show in games more and the K's should go down, too. But even during his growth and acclimation to advanced baseball competition, Vlady's nephew is showing plenty of natural talent and promise for the future.

Ramon Morla - 3B, High Desert Mavericks: .350/.480/.500 (7-20), 3 2B, 4 BB, 6 SO, 2 SB
Morla was off to a very strong start for the Mavs in his debut season in High-A before missing almost a month with an injury. After the long layoff, the 23-year-old right-handed hitting third baseman has barely missed a beat, hitting .281/.378/.469 in nine games. The most impressive development for this past week with Morla was the four walks. The most he's ever drawn in a full season in 22 (in 2011), so a four walk week is not a common occurrence for Ramon.

Morla's been in the organization since 2007 and has yet to truly break through as a prospect, but his early showing in High-A is lending a little more validity to his 2010 and 2012 numbers that opened up a few eyes. And adding some much needed patience to his solid power and hitting abilities could be a huge step for him, especially as his defense at third base remains questionable. Remaining healthy enough to get on the field 120 or more times could do the same.


Steve Baron - C, High Desert Mavericks: .200/.200/.250 (4-20), 2B, 2 RBI, 10 SO
Baron has received more than his fair share of criticism from Mariners' fans who follow the prospects since being the club's supplemental first round draft pick in 2009 out of a Florida high school. But here we are five seasons later and he still is struggling hitting in High-A. This past week Baron fanned 10 times and didn't manage much of anything as a hitter. On the season he's hitting a lowly .218/.250/.364 and only .130/.143/.241 away from Adelanto. And the strikeouts are troubling because Baron finally made some real progress in that area last season.

For all the negatives, Baron remains a very strong catch-and-throw defender and game manager behind the plate and he owns a 45.8% career success rate in nailing would be basestealers. But if the bat never comes around his plus defense won't get much of a chance to show anywhere near the big leagues. He's hitting left-handers fairly well, but the bat needs to give the club more and the 22-year-old Baron needs to show some progress in his development in that area.

Rusty Shellhorn - SP, Clinton LumberKings: 0-1, 13.50 ERA, 3.19 WHIP, 5 1/3 IP, 13 H, 8 ER, 4 BB, 1 SO, .481 oAVG
Shellhorn had a fantastic first season in the Mariners system, posting a 2.75 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and winning seven of his 10 decisions across three levels after being signed as a 31st round pick. But his 2013 hasn't brought Rusty the same results so far. He's bounced around two levels and between roles and now has a 5.60 ERA after a rough two start week in Clinton. The first start was simply a disaster as the 5-foot-10 lefty allowed 10 hits and nine runs (seven earned) in just 2 1/3 innings and his second start Sunday yielded six baserunners -- three via base on balls -- in three innings. After two strong starts while building up his pitch count, Rusty has seen his oAVG jump from .222 to .333.

Not blessed with great size or overwhelming stuff, Shellhorn succeeds on location, deception and smarts, but the outcome just hasn't been there for him so far here in 2013 as he's been challenged with tougher competition. Lefties have been hurting him a lot in Clinton (.421/.500/.579) and even though that is a small sample size, being a lefty reliever is Shellhorn's fallback option from starting, so that is going to have to improve regardless of where his long-term home is.

Nate Tenbrink - UTIL, Tacoma Rainiers: .111/.200/.278 (2-18), HR, 3 RBI, BB, 8 SO
All things considered, Tenbrink has probably been the Rainers' MVP so far in 2013, handling six defensive positions and hitting in eight different spots in the lineup while leading the club in walks (31) and posting a solid .259/.391/.427 slash. But this past week he didn't get on base, didn't get hits and racked up eight strikeouts while Tacoma had a rough go of it in the PCL. A 26-year-old who's had some injury issues the past few seasons, Tenbrink has shown enough in the outfield that he could have a future as a utility type player against right-handed pitching some time soon if an opportunity opens up.

There isn't a ton of power or upside to his game and he isn't a plus defender in the middle of the diamond, but Tenbrink is solid across the board and has always earned great remarks from scouts and staff about his attitude and leadership. Like several of the Rainiers, he's struggled to hit in Tacoma this season (.179/.378/.357) but has been a difference maker on the road (.310/.400/.471) where he has collected seven of his nine multi-hit games.

. . . . . . .

Our No. 1 Mariners prospect, Taijuan Walker, continued his up and down season this week for Jackson as he was tagged with a tough loss on Sunday, going 7 innings and allowing only one earned run on three hits. Walker is 3-5 on the year but has a 2.59 ERA and now hasn't walked more than two hitters in a start since April 25th (five starts). I've heard from a couple of people that Double-A is starting to look like it isn't a big enough challenge for Walker and he could find himself in Tacoma as soon as the beginning of the second half if everything continues to go well. Maybe once he lands up in Tacoma he could start to tally some more wins and make it back on the "Up" list for us here. Check back next week and see who makes it in the meantime.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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