Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Our weekly look at the Mariners organization covering three standout players and three who struggled over the past seven days.

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.

As the full season minor league teams hit their All-Star breaks and the Short Season and Rookie campaigns get underway there will be even more roster shuffling in the coming days and weeks. The players who have consistently been putting up good numbers -- and consistently showing up in these weekly reports -- stand a good chance of getting challenged with a promotion.

Let's check in on this week's list with Three Up, Three Down.

THREE UP

Stefen Romero - OF, Tacoma Rainiers: .391/.417/.870 (9-23), 3 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 9 RBIm BB, 3 SO
Romero may have fallen down the depth chart a bit when the Mariners started having Dustin Ackley play the outfield in Tacoma, but that happened right when his bat started heating up. He's been hitting for a solid average all season but the power was the missing ingredient for a while for Stefen. He now has eight extra base hits in his last 10 games for the Rainiers and has a .172 ISO on the year.

Romero has seen a couple of games' worth of action at second base now, but I think that the left field experiment is going quite well. Where does he fit long term for the Mariners? That's hard to say, but his .315/.382/.469 slash over his last 32 games is a sign that the bat he showed last season is legit.

Stephen Landazuri - SP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-0, 1.80 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 5 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 7 SO, .176 oAVG
Landazuri only had one five inning start in the past seven days, but it was the continuation of a trend for him that landed him here. He hasn't allowed more than two earned runs in his last six starts for the Mavs and he has struck out 37 while allowing only 38 baserunners in 31 2/3 innings over that stretch. Stephen continues to get a lot of ground balls and limit his walks while piling up the strikeout totals.

A former 22nd round pick out of Carter high school in California back in 2010, Landazuri has an ERA under 3.00 and good strikeout to walk numbers going back to the beginning of last season. He isn't a big guy (6-foot, 175 lbs) and doesn't blow people away with his stuff, but he pitches smart and locates well, allowing him to maximize everything that he has.

Erasmo Ramirez - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.63 WHIP, 8 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 7 SO, .185 oAVG
Erasmo has been completely in control of the game in each of his three starts for Triple-A Tacoma, and this last week's effort was his best yet. 18 strikeouts and just 20 baserunners allowed in 20 2/3 Triple-A innings for Ramirez as well as the return of his good fastball velocity is encouraging. He now has a 1.05 ERA and 0.97 WHIP in four rehab starts after his late start to the season following the spring injury, and it is clear that he is one of the Mariners' best starting options right now.

With both Aaron Harang and Jeremy Bonderman coming off of some pretty strong starts lately, it isn't clear how or when Ramirez will be up, but if Seattle is interested in getting better in the rotation, it should be soon. The 23-year-old earned a rotation chance in 2013 with his strong second half of 2012 and his recent outings for Tacoma prove that he is ready to show what he can do.

THREE DOWN

Ji-Man Choi - 1B, Jackson Generals: .125/.125/.188 (2-16), 2B, 2 RBI, 0 BB, 3 SO
Promoted from the hitting dream that is High Desert shortly after his 21-game hitting streak ended, Choi got off to a bit of a rough start in Jackson. And although four of his six hits have gone for extra bases thus far for the Generals leading to a decent OPS (.706), his struggles in getting hits see his average at just .129 as of this writing. Choi is a former catcher that has a ton of pressure on his bat if he's going to move through the system like a prospect, and without true plus power he'll have to hit for a high average to reach his peak.

Choi has drawn five walks and struck out only eight times through his first 37 Double-A plate appearances which is a good sign that his plate discipline -- which produced 27 walks and just 33 strikeouts in 48 games for the Mavs -- is translating. The hits will likely come for the lefty swinging Choi, but this isn't the start he imagined, I'm sure.

Steven Baron - C, High Desert Mavericks: .143/.188/.143 (2-14), RBI, BB, 4 SO
Baron was the M's third 1st round pick in the 2009 draft after Ackley and Franklin. To say he's been the least successful to this point is putting it mildly. The timetable on high school catchers isn't the same as your typical prospect in most cases, but while Baron's defense continues to be a strong point in his game, his bat still isn't producing now five years into his minor league career. He has hit just .160/.169/.309 away from Adelanto and his BB:SO ratio of 6:46 is downright ugly.

This is Steven's first full shot at High-A (he played five games for the Mavs a couple of seasons ago) but his career line of just .216/.260/.334 is nothing that hints that the success is just on the horizon. Another extra base hit-less week and more strikeouts over his last seven days seem to say that things aren't getting much better for Baron. The bright side is that he is hitting left-handers still, and that may be more and more likely that he starts to see more of a platoon role.

Carson Smith - RP, Jackson Generals: 0-1, 1 SV, 13.50 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 3 G, 2 IP, 5 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 2 SO, 3 HBP, 1 WP, .455 oAVG
Smith has been wildly inconsistent in his first season in Double-A this year, with this past week being more of the same. After a rough start to the season Carson had a 12-game stretch without allowing an earned run, but now he's seen his ERA climb nearly a run and a half and his average against climb more than 50 points in his last four outings. It all comes back to command and control with Smith, and the three hit batters and wild pitch only start to show how inconsistent he was this past week.

Smith remains very hard for right-handers to handle and he's holding them to a .232/.295/.268 mark on the season. He also has an unreal 6:1 GO:AO ratio in 22 games on the year, again showing how great his sinker can be. Add in that and the 11.8 SO/9 and it's clear that Carson can be a big leaguer in time, but he still needs a lot of work on his fastball command and the control of his slider.

. . . . . . .

As I stated in the intro, we should expect a flurry of roster moves at the minor league level in the next few weeks. We can also expect the return of some key prospects from injuries. Stick with SeattleClubhouse for those updates and more and check back again next Monday for another installment of Three Up, Three Down.

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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