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.
This is the seventh set of five of the best prospects in the organization for the Seattle Mariners. The first six sets, covering prospects number 50 through 21, can be found at the following links:
Now into the Top-20 of the Annual SeattleClubhouse Top-50 Countdown of the best Mariners prospects, the reports are getting even more in-depth, with more complete scouting notes and more quotes on each player. My hope is that you will get to know these players a bit more through this series. Get excited!
Jones may be the most under-the-radar name to most people in this year's Top-50 for SeattleClubhouse. While he earned some buzz when Keith Law unexpectedly ranked him as the No. 100 overall prospect in baseball three years ago, I had him at 37th on this countdown before 2013 and at 26th the season before that, and he's generally been written off by the so-called experts covering the Mariners' minor leagues over the past couple of years, with them questioning when the time would be right to give up on him as a hitter and try him out on the mound once again. But Jones put together his second straight very strong season in 2013, when he played the majority of his year in Double-A Jackson and made the Southern League All-Star team. He hit .278/.350/.771 in 105 games, trimming his strikeout rate all the way down to 17.5% while improving his stolen base success rate and stealing a career high 28 bags. His extra base hit percentage dropped from 9.7% in 2012 to 7.6% in 2013, but the trade off for more contact paired with moving out of the California League make those numbers seem like more of an alarming sign than I actually believe them to be. In all I think that Jones took a significant (and needed) step forward in his development in 2013.
A player who had notoriously been a slow starter as a pro until 2012, Jones was having a better second half than first half for Jackson again this year when he went on the shelf with a triceps injury in his left arm. He hit .333/.433/.474 in 67 second half plate appearances for the Generals before the injury, and when he was healthy enough to come back, he went straight to Triple-A Tacoma, where he started three of four games in center field. Generals' broadcaster Chris Harris had a lot of great things to say about James when we talked. "On the field he is a freak athlete," said Harris, "and he truly is a dynamic base runner. I really think the sky is the limit for him and if he can handle the bat relatively well, he will have a long career due to his great defense and speed." On top of Jones the player, Harris also raved about Jones the person. "There really is so much you can say about James. He carries himself probably better at such a young age as any player that has come through Jackson. He is constantly smiling and uplifting teammates. Outside of what he does on the field, every good team has a guy like James Jones in the clubhouse. Literally everybody loved him."
Of course James being a nice guy -- someone who former Mavs' Media Relations guy and current Inside the Halos Publisher Taylor Ward called the best person he'd met in baseball back when he was writing for us here -- doesn't shoot him to the Top-20 of the organization's prospect list. That is done with the his tools, and Jones is a true 5-tool talent. His arm is his best tool, as a former pitcher that could touch 95 from the hill, he has a powerful and accurate throwing arm that can handle all outfield spots and is the best in Seattle's system. Jones has racked up 43 outfield assists since breaking into the system back in 2009 and he had seven to his name in 85 games in the outfield in 2013. His speed, which has helped him steal 94 bases so far, is his second best tool, and Jones appears to be learning how to read pitchers and pick his spots more effectively as he's progressing, too. His speed has also shown up in his extra base hits, as Jones reached double digits in triples for the third time in four seasons in 2013. That speed is being used on defense, too, as Jones has improved his defense in the outfield. He only saw 21 starts in center field in 2013, but that was primarily due to Jackson having a loaded outfield. His range and jumps in the outfield enable him to be average in center and a plus defender in right. At the plate Jones improved in his strikeout rate but also in hitting left-handed pitching this past year, posting a .742 OPS against them. He's hit .294 the last two years following a down 2011 season and owns a career mark of .281 now, and he's done that even though he tends to hit a lot of balls on the ground, indicating that he should be able to continue to hit for average. While the home run numbers took a step back last season and he's never hit more than 14 in any pro year, Jones does have fast hands and good bat speed, and he can hit the ball a long ways when he elevates it, so the power still could come and he could be someone who flirts with 20-home runs in the future.
Again, while none of the numbers are all that flashy for James, I feel that Jones took a big step forward for the M's in 2013, not just handling Double-A but improving his overall game there. The former fourth round pick will be in big league camp and will likely start the season down at Triple-A Tacoma, but he could prove to be a valuable piece of the MLB roster for Seattle very soon.
I had Bawcom 24th on our Top-50 a season ago after his first couple of months in the M's system, and his 2013 season -- his first spent at the Triple-A level -- was good enough that he earned an add to Seattle's 40-man roster as well as climbing a few spots here. Acquired in the package for Brandon League in 2012, Bawcom has been a closer for most of his minor league career, finishing games in 131 of his 170 career minor league appearances and racking up 76 saves since the start of the 2011 season. His 21 saves this past year were good for fifth most in the PCL while he missed averaging a strikeout an inning for the first time in his professional career, he showed markedly improved command, walking only 3.3 batters-per-nine on the season. The overall numbers for Logan -- who pitched all year as a 24-year-old -- were very strong considering the offensive environment of the PCL, where the league posted a 4.43 ERA and 1.45 WHIP. Bawcom made a habit of working fast, working ahead and really dictating the pace and tone of his outings with a mature and confident approach that sees him fit into the late innings very naturally.
A Texan that fits the stereo type as a solidly built, hard throwing right-hander, Bawcom was in big league spring training in 2013 and it was actually somewhat surprising to me that he didn't pitch in the majors at any point this past year considering his success and the struggles that the Seattle bullpen endured. He only pitched in back-to-back games three times for Tacoma this season, but he also went more than one inning in 19 of his 51 appearances and threw 30 or more pitches 12 times. Although Seattle is among the teams that likes to stretch their relievers out like that in the minors, Bawcom showed that he could excel in that role as he posted a 1.93 ERA in those outings of more than one inning, and it stands to reason that he could be prepared for some long relief in the big leagues, too.
Bawcom -- who only pitched for one year in college, transitioning from being a first and third baseman -- is primarily a fastball/slider pitcher, with his fastball working between 92-94 and occasionally touching higher. His slider has short, sharp break and can be up to 86-87. Despite not having a great third pitch (a seldom used changeup), Bawcom has been able to hold left-handed hitters to just a .197/.311/.293 slash over the last three seasons by pounding the ball low and away. He does a great job of keeping the ball down to hitters on both sides of the plate, and he's allowed only 14 home runs in his 222 1/3 minor league innings (0.6 HR/9) despite his fastball not having much movement. Logan pitches from a high arm slot and gets good downward plane on the ball on all of his pitches, but the fastball is fairly straight. Because of that lack of movement and the velocity that doesn't get to the upper-90s, most see his ceiling as a 7th inning arm, but as Seattle has seen over the past few years, that is a very valuable piece in today's game. Look for Bawcom to battle for one of the seven bullpen spots for the M's in spring training and pick up some MLB innings in 2014 regardless of which way that battle goes this.
Marlette started the 2013 season splitting time behind the plate with fellow prospect Marcus Littlewood, but it became evident pretty early on to everyone that Tyler was the better player of the two, and he grabbed a lion's share of the catching duties for most of the year for the LumberKings. I had Marlette 42nd on this countdown a season ago and number 29 the year before that, but 2013 was really a big year for the M's former 5th round pick out of high school in terms of production on the field and buzz among scouts. A converted infielder, his defense is improving and impressing all the right people, but the power and quickness in his bat are starting to play in games more and more, and the results are impressive for the young right-handed hitter.
"He's strong and he can hit the ball a long way," one scout told me a while back on Marlette, but he questioned his long-term future defensively and with the bat. This year a lot of those questions went away as Tyler once again proved to be a solid defender behind the plate while making big strides in seeing his tools translate into games at the plate. Marlette drew 24 walks (8.1%) in 2013 and cut his strikeouts down, too (17.8%) while knocking out 25 extra base hits (8.4%) and hitting over .300 in a pitching-heavy league as a 20-year-old. And the scouts started to come around on his projection, as one AL East scout told me back in August, "At first, he's a guy that you're like, 'okay, he's a nice little player.' Then you check back on the series and he was on once or twice in every game. He's a ballplayer. And I don't think I could give him a better compliment than that." Marlette the ballplayer is coming along nicely for Seattle, and his offensive ceiling is such that -- paired with his defensive position -- he could be a very highly rated prospect for the M's, and across the entire minor leagues, if his development path continues the next year or so.
Marlette's strong frame and short arms are complimented by quick actions, giving the stout athlete good bat speed, plus power potential coming from raw strength, good backspin and excellent extension in his swing. The former third baseman also has a plus throwing arm, and while his mechanics behind the plate are still developing, he's made noticeable improvement in that area. He's earned rave reviews for his leadership and makeup dating back to his amateur days and he's only getting better in that regard, too. Still just 20 (21 in a little over a week), Marlette will be brought along slowly, but he has the ability to become a starting catcher in the big leagues in time. Look for him to separate from Littlewood and be given the reigns to a team as the clear number one catcher in 2014.
One of the youngest players in the U.S. minor leagues in 2013, Gohara had an impressive -- albeit brief -- pro debut for Pulaski and the Mariners. Pitching as a 16-year-old, the big left-hander out of Brazil made six starts in the Appalachian League and struck out 27 hitters in his 21 2/3 innings, posting a 3.0:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio while allowing only two extra base hits. He also got ground balls at an impressive rate, with a 63.3% number overall and a 2.45:1 ratio of ground outs to fly outs. He struck out more hitters than he pitched innings in all but one of his starts and only allowed more hits than innings in just two of them. All while being the youngest player in any stateside league by three weeks, and pitching in the Appalachian League, where the average hitter was nearly four years his senior. He was shut down after just a month of action in late-July as he experienced some shoulder tenderness as the Mariners are obviously and wisely being very cautious with the young phenom, but Gohara still had perhaps more helium than any other prospect in the system for the M's in 2013.
Obviously the youngest of the impressive teenage quartet of pitching prospects that Seattle has, Gohara is surprisingly polished for an arm coming out of an area (Brazil) not known for its amateur baseball programs. He has shown a great ability to adapt, working hard to learn English and fit in with his peers as he adjusts to the massive cultural change of being in the U.S., and has taken very well to instruction and coaching from the Mariners. He's shown a good feel for his breaking ball and coach Rich Dorman told me this time last year that Gohara's fastball, "plays better than any 16-year-old I've seen around." He's so young and so big that there are naturally going to be concerns about his body, but the "mini-C.C. Sabathia" worked hard even after the shoulder setback last summer and into fall instructs and he figures to be even better prepared in 2014.
Gohara's four pitch repertoire consists of a fastball that he can run up to the mid-90s with good late life, both a slider and curve that he uses at different speeds and a fading changeup that he shows very good feel for. He has a solid delivery that he's shown an ability to repeat well, even though it can get soft in his finish, releasing from a standard 3/4 arm slot which allows him to command his pitches decently considered the almost unnatural firepower coming out of his young arm. Considering how early he was shut down and how young and tender Luiz is, it stands to reason that Gohara could start as low as repeating Pulaski or Everett or even seeing Arizona to open 2014. But his talent could also see him skip up to Clinton and pitch as a 17-year-old in the Midwest League, something that very few prospects can say. Wherever he ends up for 2014, it will be very interesting to continue to track the development of one of the few elite prospects to come out of a relatively un-scouted country that isn't known for baseball as he progresses through the upcoming season and beyond.
Guerrero, the MVP of the DSL in 2012 with a monster campaign (.355/.409/.605 in his second year in the league), was pushed all the way to the Midwest League as a 19-year-old with just 18 games of stateside ball under his belt in 2013. He climbs here after ranking 27th overall in our countdown last year, and while the overall numbers were unimpressive on the surface, they don't do his talent justice. Of course we have to talk about the bloodlines, as the nephew of possible future HOFer Vladimir Guerrero closely resembles his uncle physically. He even wore Vladdy's number 27 this year for the LumberKings, surely giving some longtime scouts and fans flashbacks to when he was coming up through the Expos system in the mid-90s. He held his own at the plate throughout the season -- despite 113 strikeouts -- posting 36 multi-hit games, authoring a couple of double-digit length hitting streaks and turning in a stretch run to close the year out that really saved his season and his ranking here.
Guerrero hit only four home runs total on the year, but he hit three of those over the season's final five games, the tail end of what was a year end 7-game hitting streak, wherein he also hit his third triple of the year. His OPS went up .034 during those last seven games and gave Gaby a line of .306/.340/.396 in 65 games after the All-Star break. So while the full season numbers don't jump off the page at you, Guerrero really did show some signs of having the potential of a big time prospect along the way. The right-handed hitting outfielder hit .285/.321/.369 against right-handed pitching and saw his strikeout rate come down a bit in the second half, too (23.6% to 21.7%). His pitch recognition and overall plan at the plate still need some work, but this is a talented player. "Guys can have all the tools, but they only take you so far," said Jack Howell when we talked early this month, but he pointed out that Guerrero had shown signs of starting to figure out patterns of how pitchers were setting him up as the season wore on.
Guerrero's tools are again reminiscent of his uncle, with a powerful throwing arm, near-elite level bat speed, great hand-eye coordination and easy plus raw power. The approach, pitch recognition and sometimes bad routes in the outfield all speak to his youth and inexperience. Recognizing and adjusting to being worked with offspeed pitches and learning to hit the other way and not chase bad balls are the immediate challenges facing Guerrero. Even though his season ended strong and his overall production was encouraging considering the league environment, it stands to reason that he could start off in Clinton once again to open the 2014 season as he tries to refine the finer points of his game.
That wraps up our report on Seattle Mariners' prospects numbered 20 through 16 in the Top-50. Check back next Monday as we cover numbers 15 through 11, and stay in touch with SeattleClubhouse for more details about the Top-50 and all things Mariners-related leading up to the 2014 season.
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.