SeattleClubhouse Top-50: Year in Review

Reviewing our pre-season Top-50 rankings and giving a status report of which direction their 2013 seasons have their prospect status trending.

50. Jamal Austin - OF
A decent season handling more advanced pitching while continuing to show that his profile plays despite the lack of any power has to move Austin and his combination of speed and defense up this list. Austin led the organization in steals (40 in 53 attempts) and hit .288/.346/.356 for High-A High Desert.

49. Chih-Hsien Chiang - OF N/A
Chiang -- who the Mariners acquired from Boston in the 2011 Erik Bedard trade -- ended up signing a minor league free agent deal with the Rangers last December. He hit .263/.298/.416 in Double-A for them this season as a 25-year-old.

48. Tyler Burgoon - RP
Burgoon basically maintained his level of performance from a season ago that he posted in High-A while playing in Double-A and Triple-A this year. A 5-foot-10 right-hander, Burgoon throws hard and has a 10.6 SO/9 rate in his four minor league seasons working out of the bullpen and looks like he could be in the mix to contribute at the big league level soon.

47. Mickey Wiswall - 1B◄►
Wiswall missed the entire season with an injury. I was told a few times during the season that he was in Arizona rehabbing, but never got the full story. He had a very strong 2012 when he hit .280/.325/.489 with 58 XBH (21 HR) and 98 RBI.

46. Martin Peguero - IF◄►
Peguero's stock fell quite a bit in 2012 and he did little to improve that this season. He has hit just .249/.282/.316 in his three seasons in the system but he still has tools that show from time to time. That, his youth and his position are keeping him from falling off of the Top-50.

45. Edwin Diaz - SP▲▲
Diaz showed a strong arm but no command in his maiden voyage in pro ball last year for the Peoria Mariners, but this season he took among the biggest steps forward among M's farmhands. He was named the Appy League Pitcher of the Year, struck out 79 in 69 innings and his 18 walks were just one more than he allowed in 19 innings in 2012. Diaz looks like a legitimate Top-15 prospect in the organization.

44. Alfredo Morales - OF
Morales made some strides in his plate discipline this season, but his power is still not showing up in games as he slugged just .323 on the year between three levels. He turns 21 this winter and is already pretty mature physically, so the fact that the power isn't translating is troublesome.

43. Rich Poythress - 1B
Poythress saw a bump in his power as he reached Triple-A for the first time, but a lot of that could be attributed to league conditions. His average dropped more than 50 points and his strikeout rate nearly doubled. It doesn't look very promising for Poythress as his bat speed is limiting him now.

42. Tyler Marlette - C▲▲
Marlette had a mini-breakout in 2013, posting an OPS more than 100 points above the league average despite still being young for the level. Relatively new to catching, he also had another strong season throwing runners out. But the bat is what's going to punch his ticket, and it is looking promising and earning praise.

41. Chris Taylor - SS▲▲
Taylor destroyed the Cal League then continued hitting well (though for noticeably less power) in Jackson after a mid-season promotion. He led the system in a number of offensive categories and is one of the best defenders in the middle infield in the system, too. Huge step forward for Taylor.

40. Yoervis Medina - RP
Medina was the one player who's spot on the 40-man roster was always questioned over the past few seasons. He broke through in the big leagues this season, seeing a lot of high-leverage situations for the M's depleted, underperforming pen. The walks are still high and the advanced metrics suggest that he has been quite lucky, but Medina has still shown that he's a worthy 40-man roster guy.

39. Chance Ruffin - RP◄►
Ruffin started the year 2013 back in Double-A, trying to make the transition to starting pitcher. He fared decently and was "only" 24, but the stuff and peripheral numbers ticked down. When he went back up to Triple-A he was quickly shifted back to the bullpen and upon his recall in September to Seattle he's stayed in the pen. The stuff has ticked back up -- with his fastball touching 94 with regularity again -- but the command issues have resurfaced, too. He remains a big league bullpen option but still needs some work.

38. Andrew Carraway - SP
Carraway, who pitches with his fastball in the mid- to upper-80s, has always been more of a thinking pitcher than most. He turned 27 earlier this month and posted a 5.61 ERA for Tacoma, getting passed over by a number of younger and older guys for big league spot starts. He now sports a 5.15 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 9.9 H/9 and 1.3 HR/9 in 42 Triple-A starts and it's looking like he just won't have enough stuff to make a meaningful stop in the big leagues.

37. James Jones - OF
Jones avoided his trademark slow start this season, hitting .299/.365/.506 in April on his way to a .278/.350/.421 year in (101 games) Double-A and (four games) Triple-A. He made strides in his plate discipline and continued to show tools defensively and on the basepaths, but his power took a step back. Still, the overall package is looking like a true prospect with MLB potential, even if a backup role is the most likely outcome.

36. Joe DeCarlo - 3B◄►
DeCarlo took a baby step up to Pulaski this year and was just starting to see his production pick up right when he sprained his wrist in late July, ending his season. He's posted a 14.2% walk rate since signing as the club's 2nd round pick in '12, but his strikeout rate rose from 21.1% in '12 to 36.8% in his abbreviated second season of Rookie-level action. He's still very young, but 2014 will be a big year in his development.

35. Jabari Blash - OF
I've always liked Blash and thought that there was more inside him than was showing up on the field and in his stats, and he finally took some steps forward in this season's second half playing at High-A and Double-A. His 25 homers led the organization and he also drew 60 walks and stole 15 bases. Blash is a very good athlete, big, strong and patient, but he started excelling more this season as his aggression at the plate stepped up while remaining selective. 2014 is his 24-year-old season and the right-hander from the Virgin Islands should see Triple-A at some point.

34. Forrest Snow - RP
If I had written this before Snow's 50-game suspension for a positive test for a drug of abuse (Snow says marijuana) the outlook would be better, but regardless of that misstep, the right-hander from the UW still had a season on the field moving in the right direction. Focused on a bullpen role again after two years of yo-yo-ing, Forrest struck out more than a batter an inning and got his control back in order while showing better ability to get hitters out earlier in counts. He has a deep arsenal of at least average pitches, and that stuff obviously plays up out of the pen. He may still be able to make some noise in the second half of 2014, but his suspension certainly hurts.

33. Guillermo Pimentel - OF◄►
Pimentel's late season showing in High Desert (.333/.358/.603, 8 XBH, 4 HR in 15 games) really saved what was shaping up to be a lost season for him. Repeating the Midwest League to start the year, he started on an impressive stretch of plate discipline but by the time his season was paused with injury, the strikeouts were once again taking over his game. All told he set career highs in extra base hits and walks, but it would've been nice to see him take the next step with his impressive tools. Likely back to HD for 2014, where he could post some monster home run numbers if he hones in.

32. Luiz Gohara - SP
The youngest prospect in the system when the year started, Gohara was also one of the most hyped. He lived up to the hype early on in Pulaski, turning in six strong starts with an 11.2 SO/9 number, but he experienced shoulder discomfort and the M's understandably took a very cautious road with him from there on out. He threw a bit off of flat ground before reporting to Arizona, but he isn't on the Instructs Rosters. A mature body with an advanced approach as a pitcher to match, Gohara could follow a very aggressive promotion schedule if he regains full health entering next spring and will be hot on the minds of prospect watchers throughout the game.

31. Tyler Pike - SP▲▲
Pike is another lefty with a mature pitching repertoire and approach, and he has a bulldog mentality to match. Chad Seely sent out some game notes late in the season comparing Pike's 19-year-old year with the LumberKings to the one that Taijuan Walker turned in there as an 18-year-old and there were a lot of similarities. He more than doubled his innings workload from '12 to '13 and should be in line for another big bump when he heads up the ladder again -- possibly to Double-A -- to open 2014.

30. Marcus Littlewood - C
Considering that Littlewood opened in Clinton back in 2011 after being drafted the prior June, the fact that he returned two years later and could only muster a .230 average and .366 slugging has to be considered a loss. He has made an impressive defensive transition from shortstop to catcher as he is handling the position very well and earning good grades from scouts behind the plate, but the strikeouts and lack of rhythm at the dish is a concern going forward for the now 21-year-old switch-hitting former 2nd round pick.

29. Jordan Shipers - SP▼▼
Following a very strong season in the Midwest League in 2012 that included a no-hitter, Shipers got a tough assignment to the Cal League in 2013. It wasn't pretty. He turned in one quality start all season for the Mavs and ended the year with a 6.50 ERA for them in 11 trips to the mound. Shipers actually improved his strikeout rate from 2012, but it still isn't at a level that bodes well for his future as an undersized, finesse lefty.

28. Timmy Lopes - 2B◄►
Lopes was OPSing .513 after the first game of June for Clinton, looking overmatched and seeing less and less playing time. But he took off from there and hit .313/.352/.429 over his final 200 plate appearances while playing solid defense at second base and providing excellent value with his baserunning, too. Lopes was the 13th youngest player who spent time in the Midwest League this season and it is reasonable to think he'll be back there to open 2014.

27. Gabriel Guerrero - OF
Guerrero had a good amount of hype surrounding him entering the season, and rightfully so. He won the DSL MVP and hit very well after his promotion to the AZL to close out the season. And, of course, he's Vlad's nephew. He played the entire MWL season as a 19-year-old and held his own, capping off the season by hitting three of his four homers over the season's last five games. He's still extremely raw, but the way he finished out his year and the 36 multi-hit games gave us glimpses of the promise in his bat.

26. Steven Proscia - 1B▼▼
Proscia led the organization in homers (28) and RBI (103) a year ago, and some of that even came at the Double-A level. But in returning to Jackson this season, he looked lost at times and hit just .201/.249/.331 with 10 homers in 90 games with the Generals. He did seem to get back on the right track in his three weeks in High Desert (.306/.371/.565), but overall his production was cut in half as he had a lot of trouble with breaking balls. It will be back to Jackson again in 2014 for Proscia as he looks to rebound.

25. Denny Almonte - OF▼▼
Almonte looked primed for a breakout after the 2011 offseason, and he started off very well in 2012, but the power quickly dissipated and his season ended up very mediocre overall. I bet he would've one anything for mediocre in 2013. He went 0-for-5 with five Ks in his first Triple-A game to start the year and never really recovered. Along the way he temporarily gave up switch-hitting but picked it back up when even that didn't help. A 37.5% strikeout rate and a .175/.240/.313 slash for the 2007 2nd round pick as he enters his minor league free agency winter doesn't look good for Denny.

24. Logan Bawcom - RP
Bawcom came over in the Brandon League trade a season ago and he's lived up to his billing as a near-MLB-ready reliever. He is among the MiLB leaders in saves with 74 in the last three years and he pitched very well in the hitter-friendly PCL this season with a 2.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP, 7.8 H/9 and 8.9 SO/9. A 6-foot-2 right-hander, Logan could very well be in competition for a big league bullpen job when he reports to 2014 spring training for the Mariners.

23. Phillips Castillo - OF▼▼
Castillo has the uncomfortable distinction of having the lowest average in the entire Northwest League this season at just .183. He struck out in almost 29% of his plate appearances and got himself out weekly by swinging at bad balls countless other times. Perhaps his highlight was finishing 2nd in the NWL All-Star Game HR derby, and his tools are still very apparent (18 extra base hits attest to that), but the translation to game action hasn't happened for Phillips. He could be back in Everett in 2014 as he tries to improve his plate discipline.

22. Anthony Fernandez - SP◄►
Fernandez had an injury setback in spring and got a late start to the season as a result. That start wasn't good and the end of the season wasn't good, either, but in between Anthony made 10 strong summer starts where he looked like the pitcher he was in 2012. He's on the 40, is left-handed and his stuff ticked up during the 2012 season so he is likely to be in the Rainiers' rotation to open the 2014 season.

21. Patrick Kivlehan - 3B
A hitter has had a monster breakout minor league season partially tied to time in High Desert in each of the last three years for Seattle, and this year it was Kivlehan. The 2012 NWL MVP hit .320/.384/.530 in 68 games with the Mavs and improved in every facet of his game in his second pro season. The former Rutgers defensive back had a 25-game hitting streak, cut down his strikeouts and bumped up his walks and improved defensively at third base, too.

20. Carlos Triunfel - SS
Triunfel started so hot that it seemed it could be the former top prospect who got the first extended shot in the middle infield with Seattle. He did get called up a few times, but his bat cooled and his plate discipline issues resurfaced as a major issue, and he was quickly passed up on the depth chart by both Nick Franklin and Brad Miller. Triunfel has improved defensively, can handle three infield positions and has pop in his bat, but he may still need more minor league time before he could adequately fill a big league backup infield role.

19. Francisco Martinez - 3B/OF N/A
Martinez continued to struggle to show any signs of life offensively to open the 2013 season for Jackson and the Mariners decided to DFA him near the end of May and he was picked back up by Detroit. He hit just .268/.315/.341 on the year despite spending more 2/3 of his time back down in Low-A, a level he last played at in 2010.

18. Leon Landry - OF
After an absolute monster campaign in 2012, no one had more plate appearances and did less in 2013 for the Mariners than Landry. Another who transitioned from the Cal League to the Southern League, the difference between the two seasons' numbers for Landry are big enough to have their own slash: .125/.109/.281. His walk rate did tick up slightly and he continued to effectively use his speed when he was on the bases, but that wasn't often. And to cap it all off, he rarely played center field in a very talented Jackson outfield crowd. Repeating Double-A is likely in the 24-year-old's future.

17. Carson Smith - RP
Smith continued to have a few bouts of inconsistency, but in looking at his overall numbers, that is really just nitpicking. Carson improved his rate stats across the board and again saved 15 games in his second season in the pro ranks while getting an insanely high rate of ground balls. His unorthodox delivery could be battling for a big league bullpen spot this spring and even if he doesn't break camp with the club I expect we'll see him debut at some point during 2014.

16. Julio Morban - OF
Morban started to get noticed more in spring training when he had, among other things, a two-homer game with the big club. He carried his success into the regular season and was leading the Southern League in average for a stretch. He ended his year at .295/.362/.468, showing that his 2012 for the Mavs was no mirage. But his season ended August 19th when he suffered a bad break in his high ankle after fighting through a number of smaller injuries during the season. That is Morban's usual path as he's still never played 90 games in a season.

15. John Hicks - C
Hicks missed some time with injuries this year, too, but the difference between he and Morban is that Hicks didn't do much when he was healthy. His OPS dropped nearly 200 points (.824 to .632) from the season before and his strikeout rate climbed while his power disappeared. He again proved very formidable behind the plate, but at the plate Hicks -- who is 24 -- is likely to repeat in Jackson to open the 2014 season.

14. Jack Marder - 2B▼▼ Marder is one of many on this list who seem to have suffered a High Desert hangover in 2013. After he hit a robust .360/.425/.583 in 2012 there, he petered out to a .218/.298/.313 mark in Double-A Jackson this year, collecting 40 fewer hits and about half as many total bases in almost an identical number of plate appearances. Marder is no longer catching and has a lot of defensive versatility, speed and savvy, but his bat basically had a wasted year that will likely land him back in Double-A to start '14.

13. Vinnie Catricala - 3B N/A
It was a pretty fast and far fall for Catricala, who was the M's MiLB Player of the Year with a monster year in 2011. After a season and a half of struggles after that, the M's DFA'd him and lost him to Oakland. He hit just .221/.273/.312 for their Double-A team the rest of the way and cleared waivers for Oakland late in the season when they, too, DFA'd him.

12. Brandon Maurer - SP
Maurer was probably not ready for the big league rotation out of spring, but he pitched so well in the Cactus League and had such a great 2012 in the minor leagues that I understand why they took him north when camp broke. But the league quickly recognized his shortcomings against left-handers and, very wisely, stacked their lineups to take advantage of that against Brandon (he's faced 207 lefties and 172 righties this year). He could benefit from being moved toward third base on the rubber and getting better at sequencing his pitches, but his stuff has been impressive even when the results haven't.

11. Erasmo Ramirez - SP
Ramirez, who many expected to be in the rotation out of Peoria, had a setback in spring training and got a late start to the season, but he's come on late with some very strong performances for the M's. He's still not being very economical with his pitches and has been hit very hard at times this year. He's also been hit uncharacteristically hard at Safeco Field, despite owning a very good fastball/changeup combo. Erasmo is still quite young and could be a key cog in the rotation for the M's going forward if he can improve on some things, but I don't think it is time to write his name in with ink just yet.

10. Victor Sanchez - SP
There was an oblique injury to start the season, an extended mid-season absence due to a death in the family followed shortly thereafter by a no-hitter for Sanchez in 2013. It was up and down, but he quietly posted another outstanding season: 2.78 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, better than 4-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio and a .241 oAVG in 113 1/3 innings. And he did it as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League. Very impressive season, again, for Sanchez. The lack of physical projection and the lack of a big fastball are marks against him, but he is something special.

9. Stefen Romero - OF◄►
All things considered, Romero hit better than you may initially think when glancing at his numbers on the surface, and the late season power surge (five homers in his last 11 games) is certainly encouraging. But after his breakout 2012, the season lacked "noise" and the soon-to-be 25-year-old didn't receive a September add to the 40-man. He was also learning a new every day position (left field), which he handled fairly well. But 2014 is going to be a big make or break type of year for Romero.

8. Stephen Pryor - RP◄►
Pryor's very early returns this season were encouraging as his command of the fastball looked much improved and his new slower breaking ball was functioning very well as a change of pace. But the early season pectoral injury that eventually ended up costing Pryor the season prevents this season from being one of a step up for him. Hopefully he can rekindle the success he was seeing when 2014 kicks off.

7. Brad Miller - SS
Everyone was concerned with Miller's defense as he was quickly climbing up the minor league chain for the M's, and he isn't going to be a Gold Glove caliber defender at shortstop, but it seems clear that he can handle the position defensively. And Brad's bat and approach have continued to translate well enough that he can be counted on as a big plus at the position for Seattle heading into 2014 as their starting shortstop and a top of the order hitter.

6. Carter Capps - RP
Capps has been a troubling case this season. One of the reasons that I liked him better than Pryor -- his unorthodox delivery -- has seemingly become a problem, and he hasn't located his fastball well at all. He's allowed 12 home runs, 73 hits and a .304 opponents' average in 57 1/3 innings despite still being one of the hardest throwers (average 95.5 MPH on his fastball, 19th in baseball) in the game. The pitch is very straight and Capps seems completely adverse to elevating it to the level of the hitter's hands, which I've preached about, and his secondary offerings simply haven't been good enough to keep hitters from sitting back and waiting for the fastball. Big step back.

5. James Paxton - SP◄►
Paxton, who will start the season finale for Seattle on Sunday, has been nothing short of brilliant in his first four big league starts. That has been somewhat surprising considering the inconsistent nature of his first season in Triple-A this year, which saw him post a 4.45 ERA for Tacoma. The mechanics and command issues should still be in the back of people's minds, but it is clear that his plus stuff and workhorse stamina is going to make it very hard for him to have a long-term role as "just a reliever" as many predicted prior to 2013 starting.

4. Nick Franklin - 2B
Franklin took a major step forward in his Triple-A performance from late-2012 to early-2013 and was the first of the M's prospects to be called up and handed an MLB job. Just when Nick was starting to ease all concerns of an Ackley-esque fall after his hot start, the floor fell out from underneath him. He hit just .099/.180/.198 and struck out 35 times over a 100 plate appearance stretch that ended with August, but he seems to be getting himself back on track and scaling back on his chase rate for low breaking balls in September. His offensive potential from second base looks very good and Nick could be a huge impact player for the Mariners in 2014 if he's fixed his plate discipline issues.

3. Danny Hultzen - SP
Hultzen battled minor shoulder troubles this year that kept him out of action for most of the year. When he was healthy he was very, very good 2.02 ERAA, 0.81 WHIP, 5.6 H/9, 1.8 BB/9, 10.6 SO/9), but the recurrence of the shoulder discomfort after his first two month layoff is concerning. He was going to pitch in the AFL to try and help alleviate those concerns, but now word is he's on his way to meet with Dr. Andrews, furthering concern that the "minor shoulder troubles" could lead to surgery and a lost year in 2014, too.(

2. Mike Zunino - C
Thrust into MLB duty probably a bit early, Zunino rebounded from a slow start and bounced back from an injury in the big leagues, showing promise with the bat and showing better defense, athleticism and natural leadership behind the plate than Seattle has had in a catcher in quite some time. The Mariners' catching position is his going forward and his bat figures to be able to impact more than a Seattle catcher's has for many years very soon.

1. Taijuan Walker - SP
Walker started the season in Double-A and ended it making three starts in Seattle. He pitched in the Futures Game for a 2nd time along the way and has to be considered a front runner for a 2014 rotation spot with Seattle. Taijuan added a cutter, changed how he threw his curve and showed more promise with his change along the way and turned in a number of dominating performances that seem to further suggest he has front of the rotation potential, and he showed enough in his 3-game coronation to the big leagues that anything less than a big league rotation spot out of spring training to open 2014 would be disappointing.

. . . . . . . . . .

We will give another detailed breakdown of the new Top-50 in the Seattle Mariners' organization this offseason that takes this trends into consideration by covering five prospects at a time. With all of the graduations and players no longer in the system in addition to the 2013 draftees, there will be a lot of new players covered in those pieces. Stay tuned for those reports and more updates on the Mariners' system from SeattleClubhouse.

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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