Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive, in-depth information on Seattle Mariners players from the Foreign Rookie Leagues all the way to the Major Leagues. Looking beyond just the numbers and typical website resources and using input from our own respected baseball contacts to help develop our own unique ranking, we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking for 2014, and maybe even pinning future MLB hopes on. Our personal taste plays into the determination of where the prospects land on the list; a combination of potential ceiling, likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster all factor in heavily.
Each player covered in these posts is presented with a headshot (when available), their 2013 position, current actual age, handedness, listed height and weight as well as the last level which they played at in 2013. Discussion/updates, etc., to these lists and prospects will be posted in the subscriber section of the Forums. Please respect the confidential nature of the subscriber posts.The first post -- covering prospects 50 through 46, and free for all -- can be found here:
With that out of the way, let's get on to entry number two in the Annual SeattleClubhouse Top-50 Countdown.
Command and consistency have long been issues for Valdivia, but this year he seemed to tame both of those demons to a degree. The results -- a 2.23 ERA, 0.93 WHIP, 10.0 SO/9 and just 4.5 H/9 allowed -- can at least be partially attributed to a nice spike in velocity this year. "We saw some 95s out of him. And he's another guy with a great changeup," Everett manager Rob Mummau told me recently. Valdivia also has a slider that flashes plus at times and good downward movement on the fastball. The body, delivery and fastball/slider mix remind me a lot of Yoervis Medina, but while Medina is way ahead in a number of areas, Valdivia clearly has a better third pitch with his changeup.
While Valdivia has been in the system for five years, he'll still be in just his age-22 season in 2014. That said, it's coming time for the M's to challenge him a bit and see what they have in the big righty. I expect him to reach at least High-A in 2014, although an assignment to Clinton to open the year isn't out of the question. Wherever he starts out, if he can use his three pitch mix to limit hits and rack up the strikeouts like he did in 2013 with Everett, Jose should be climbing up the minor league ladder and up our rankings in 2014.
As Paolini himself told us a year ago September, he'd like to get a set position to work at and focus on getting his defense up to the same level as his hitting there. While he played more first base than outfield still in 2013 with High Desert and Jackson, his work in the outfield was encouraging as he was looking more comfortable as the season wore on. A former pitcher, Dan has worked hard on his throwing mechanics and I heard good reports throughout the season that his throwing was getting better from the outfield. And on the season he handled 58 chances as a left fielder without an error -- hardly a true sign of defensive ability, as we know, but still nice to see.
Paolini's combination of great patience and plate discipline with plus raw power has led him to a 9.4% extra base hit percentage, 12.0% walk rate and just 15.6% strikeout rate in three years in the system, and if he were still playing second base and projected to stay there everyone would be hearing his name a lot more. But after he earned a promotion to Double-A Jackson his bat went ice cold, and he hit just .165/.289/.233 in 31 games down the stretch for the Generals, striking out 10 times in 31 plate appearances against lefties. Paolini hits the ball hard to all fields and showed more power up the middle and the other way in 2013 but he still has work to do. It seems likely that he'll be back in Jackson to open 2014, putting in more work in the outfield and trying to rebound from his late-2013 struggles.
One NL scout that saw Landry extensively in 2012 said, "The bat is quick, short and compact and he hits the ball hard, but he swings at about everything." Indeed, plate discipline has been an issue for Landry throughout his career so far, and that attacking style could be one of the main factors for his falloff in 2013 while playing Double-A ball for Seattle. The jump from High-A to Double-A is said by many to be the second hardest in pro ball (behind Triple-A to the Majors) and it is often players who lack plate discipline who get exposed the most. Landry's strikeout rate didn't jump much, going from 13.6% in 2012 to 15.4% in 2013, but swinging at bad pitches and putting them in play leads to a lot of weak contact, and Landry 's 2013 season certainly fits that description.
That said, Landry is far from a lost cause. He has 70 speed, good hands and a quick, line drive swing path, and he can really play center field, too. If Leon can learn a bit more patience and work on hitting good pitches more often in 2014 -- when he'll likely return to Jackson -- he could still show enough promise to be among the top center fielders in Seattle's system and regain much of the shine that he lost this year during his struggles.
Taylor, of course, was Seattle's 5th round pick the previous season and he had the same profile coming out of Virginia. Taylor bucked that "glove first" tag a bit this year, though, leading the organization in a number of categories and being named Seattle's Minor League Player of the Year. Reinheimer doesn't appear to have the same upside with the bat right now, but the defensive abilities he showed in Everett seemed very comparable to Taylor's. And Jack also showed patience (11.0% BB rate) and speed (18 steals in 23 attempts) that should help him remain an everyday player in the minor leagues for a while, building up his experience and exposure in the batter's box and possibly allowing his bat to develop a bit.
Reinheimer was named as Baseball America's No. 14 prospect in the Northwest League following the season, and that report and the scouts I spoke with really like his baseball smarts and his plate discipline. He has good feet, makes very quick and clean transfers when fielding and showed a very accurate arm. He also isn't afraid to work the count and hit from behind, using a short stroke and muted stride to make good contact with a level swing path at the plate. The total package doesn't blow you away right now but a plus defensive shortstop that has the ability to get on base and handle the bat should be around for a long time. Reinheimer will likely see Clinton to open 2014.
Athletic and quick more than fast, Smith hustled his way to a number of his steals and even stole some runs with his aggressive baserunning for Pulaski. While he profiles much more as a 1, 2, 8 or 9 hitter when all is said and done, Smith shouldered the load as the M's No. 3 hitter and hit well in pressure situations and in the playoffs. His short right-handed stroke produced line drives to all gaps and even line to line during his debut season, and while his power doesn't project to be much, he did consistently barrel balls this season. His range and arm are average, but Smith plays smart defensively and as one scout put it to me, "No situation is too big for him -- in the field or at the plate."
The lower levels of the Mariners' system are suddenly getting very flush with strong middle infielders, and Smith looks like he could be one of the better ones. Very strong contact and plate discipline numbers paired with a 9.0% XBH rate from a solid defensive shortstop with speed are definitely worth keeping an eye on. Add in that 'gamer' profile and his natural leadership abilities and Smith could be climbing up this list quickly as 2014 wears on. The coming year could start with him in Clinton, possibly splitting time between second and short.
That's a wrap for our second group of prospects in our Annual Top-50 Countdown. Check back in next Monday for five more (40-36), and stay with SeattleClubhouse to get all the latest info on the Seattle Mariners and their farm system.
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