With big league graduations, minor league promotions, the 2014 MLB Draft, 40-man moves, injuries, DFAs, struggles and breakouts, a lot has changed in the hierarchy of Seattle's prospect world. With all of these players having an updated 2014 professional profile, it is time for a quick look at our updated Top-35 Mariners prospect list.
The extended detail breakdowns that were offered here at SeattleClubhouse during the 2014 pre-season gave in-depth looks at the Top-50 Seattle Mariners
prospects (according to me) before the year of playing on the field got underway. In this installment of the organization prospect ranking, I have removed all players that have exhausted their rookie status already this year and factored in 2014 production for a post-2014 look at the best prospects in the organization. This, of course, is just a brief overview of the players before we get into the pre-2015 ranking list which will be much larger and detailed.
With all of that out of the way, here is the updated Top-35:
35. Lars Huijer - RHP
High-A High Desert
5.08 ERA, 1.52 WHIP, 124 IP, 4.4 BB/9, 5.5 SO/9, .273 oAVG
Huijer led the minor leagues in hit batters (26) and generally struggled with his command in 2014, but he has a great frame and is still maturing into his repertoire. Just 20-years-old, he has time to develop his four-pitch mix and has already shown the ability to be very good in stretches. Likely to repeat High-A.
34. Matt Brazis - RHP
2.36 ERA, 1.00 WHIP, 72 1/3 IP, 2.2 BB/9, 10.5 SO/9, .211 oAVG
Brazis escaped his 65 appearances in the California League with a 3.95 ERA having allowed only seven homers in 98 innings. That's impressive. But more impressive is that the 2012 28th round pick has posted a 1.19 ERA in 35 games outside of High-A. Good fastball-slider combo should find him in Triple-A in 2015.
33. Jack Reinheimer - SS
High-A High Desert
.276/.338/.355, 579 PA, 30 XBH, 39-for-50 SB, 43 BB, 88 SO
Reinheimer's offensive numbers got a boost when he was promoted to High Desert for the season's last 20 games, but his profile hasn't changed: he's a defense-first shortstop with plus speed and a solid gap-to-gap, contact approach at the plate. Ranked second in the system in steals. Likely to start in High-A.
32. Guillermo Pimentel - OF
High-A High Desert
.333/.440/.667, 25 PA, 3 XBH, 4 BB, 8 SO
Pimentel lost most of the 2014 season to injury, but he remains a prospect because of his short, powerful stroke from the left side. He needs to make improvements to his pitch recognition and plate discipline and he needs to stay on the field to get more consistent plate appearances under his belt, but he has real power that is starting to play in games more frequently. Will probably start in High-A in 2015 until he proves that he's healthy and ready to be moved up.
31. Austin Cousino - OF
Short Season Everett
.266/.341/.402, 309 PA, 24 XBH, 23-for-27 SB, 28 BB, 54 SO
Lauded for his defensive abilities but considered a question mark at the plate because of his approach at draft time, the M's 3rd round pick in this year's draft showed better patience and more of a willingness to lay off of tough pitches for Everett. Slumped in August, but handled lefties well and showed some pop. Should be a fixture in Clinton's outfield in 2015.
30. Dario Pizzano - OF
.244/.353/.432, 490 PA, 48 XBH, 68 BB, 54 SO
Pizzano has a knack for contact and a keen eye at the plate, and even though his average slumped this year, he showed increased extra base power. After a miserable start in Double-A following an early promotion, the left-handed hitter turned the offense on in the second half, hitting .280 with 28 walks and 19 extra base hits over the season's final 45 games. Still has some defensive work to do, and will probably start back with Jackson.
29. Marcus Littlewood - C
High-A High Desert
.246/.335/.394, 373 PA, 28 XBH, 43 BB, 66 SO
Littlewood stuck around Low-A Clinton for quite a while, but he showed improvement at the plate in 2014 and actually earned a promotion to High Desert to close out the year. The switch-hitting converted infielder matched or set career highs in a number of offensive categories and continued his improvement as a defensive catcher, throwing out 38.7% of would-be basestealers. He could put up big numbers in the California League in 2015 as a 23-year-old.
28. Stephen Landazuri - RHP
4.33 ERA, 1.22 WHIP, 95 2/3 IP, 3.7 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9, .219 oAVG
Landazuri pitched fairly well for the Generals in 2014 in his first taste of Double-A competition, but while he allowed the third lowest average in the league at .219, he allowed the second most HR/9 on the season at 1.22 -- the same rate he allowed with High Desert a year ago. Seattle's 22nd round pick in 2010, Landazuri allowed three earned runs or less in 14 of his 19 starts. The right-hander held right-handed hitters to a .657 OPS this season but also held lefties down, as they managed just a .696 OPS off of him. Tacoma is Landazuri's likely destination in 2015.
27. Jabari Henry - OF
High-A High Desert
.291/.398/.584, 511 PA, 61 XBH, 69 BB, 109 SO
Henry's entered the 2014 season with 19 home runs and 99 RBI in 161 games in the first two seasons of his minor league career, but he took off in High Desert, hitting 30 homers and driving in 95 -- one of only seven players to reach both marks in the minors this year. Henry ranked eighth in the minors in SLG and also drew the fourth most walks in the system during his breakout season. 2015 will be a true test in Double-A, but Henry has impressed well beyond expectations so far.
26. Jordan Pries - RHP
3.86 ERA, 1.24 WHIP, 154 IP, 3.1 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9, .240 oAVG
Pries, a 30th round pick out of Stanford by the M's in 2011, has moved quickly through Seattle's system, but 2014 was the biggest jump he's made to date. After never pitching above High-A, it took just two dominant Double-A starts to move him up from that level, and the right-hander continued to show strong command of all of his pitches and a great understanding of keeping hitters off-balance in his 25 appearances for Triple-A Tacoma. Pries surpassed his previous career high in innings by 29 2/3, ending the year with a minor league organization best of 154 innings, and he allowed one or no earned runs in half of his 26 starts on the year.
25. Forrest Snow - RHP
4.01 ERA, 1.26 WHIP, 76 1/3 IP, 2.9 BB/9, 8.8 SO/9, .244 oAVG
Snow threw the ball very well after returning from his drug suspension but tailed off towards the end of the season as his ERA jumped nearly two full runs over his last four appearances. The 6-foot-6 right-hander uses his size very well and works with a four-pitch mix (FB, CH, CV, CT) that can see his fastball touch the mid-90s. Potential middle inning bullpen option in 2015 for the big club or starter for Tacoma again.
24. Logan Bawcom - RHP
4.72 ERA, 1.57 WHIP, 47 2/3 IP, 5.1 BB/9, 6.6 SO/9, .277 oAVG
Bawcom had a very difficult 2014 in Tacoma, struggling with his command and posting easily his worst numbers of his five year minor league career to date. His fastball can work in the mid-90s and he has a sharp slider, but the command wasn't there all season and that led to his rough outings: in the six games where he allowed two or more earned runs, Bawcom walked nine and struck out only three while throwing barely over 50% strikes. He's likely ticketed for Tacoma again in 2015 but could see some MLB time soon.
23. Ji-Man Choi - 1B/OF
.282/.386/.403, 296 PA, 16 XBH, 40 BB, 44 SO
Choi's 2014 included a 50-game suspension for PEDs, and it also included a major drop off in power production from his 2013 breakthrough (12.0% extra base hit rate to 5.4%). How much of the latter is related to the former physically and how much is it mentally and/or due to the layoff? Tough to say at this point, but regardless, Choi has a very good contact bat and a patient and disciplined approach at the plate. If that power returns and Choi maintains his plate discipline, Choi -- who played 26 games in the outfield for Tacoma this season -- is a good bet to see some MLB time in the near future.
22. Tyler Smith - SS
.284/.384/.422, 579 PA, 40 XBH, 12-for-20 SB, 73 BB, 94 SO
Smith -- who was the Appalachian League Player of the Year in 2013 -- doesn't have tools that jump out at you and scream "prospect!", but he jumped over some older, higher draft pick shortstops in the system and made it to Double-A in just his second pro season, more than holding his own at the plate over the season's final 20 games (.271/.414/.386) while playing solid defense. He'll likely start back in Jackson to kick off 2015, but he isn't far away from being a 40-man candidate at this point, even with Seattle's depth at the position.
21. John Hicks - C
.290/.351/.403, 323 PA, 20 XBH, 27 BB, 66 SO
Hicks struggled quite a bit in 2013, but 2014 saw him get back to being the player he can be at the plate and continuing to improve and impress behind it. Threw out 26 of 68 attempted base stealers (38.2%) while being charged with just two passed balls in 71 games. BB% reached a career best 8.4% this season and he hit .320/.376/.462 in 47 games from May 1st-July 30th. The right-handed hitter turns in consistently good at bats and handles the pitching staff well. Probably ready for a longer look at the big league level this coming spring as Zunino's potential backup, but will likely serve as Tacoma's number one option.
20. Tyler O'Neill - OF
.251/.326/.468, 258 PA, 24 XBH, 21 BB, 85 SO
The strikeout rate is very high (32.9%) and the injury (from punching the dugout wall) raises some concerns, but O'Neill did a ton of damage as a 19-year-old in the Midwest League, posting a .216 ISO overall, good for 8th best in the organization. No other teenager ranked in the top-20 in the league in SLG and no one with fewer PA in the league came close to out-homering O'Neill. Still refining his approach at the plate and his defense in the outfield, but the bat has a lot of promise. Could do some real damage in 2015 in the Cal League (if Seattle is still there) with his easy raw power.
19. Jabari Blash - OF
.221/.347/.467, 352 PA, 34 XBH, 45 BB, 92 SO
The drug suspension hit Blash when he was probably very close to getting a look in Seattle as he had homered 10 times and walked 10 times in 21 games just before the penalty became known. Still growing into his frame, Blash already has easy plus power all the way around to right center and has shown better pitch recognition and plate discipline as he's advanced. Triple-A pitchers were still able to expose some of his weaknesses with sequencing, but Jabari has improved as a hitter overall in the past couple of years, too. 25-year-old should get another long look in 2015 camp.
18. Tyler Pike - LHP
6.44 ERA, 1.75 WHIP, 110 1/3 IP, 6.5 BB/9, 7.3 SO/9, .269 oAVG
Pike tied for the most starts in the system in 2014 with 27, but only about one-third of them were any good. His walk rate went through the roof and the 20-year-old lefty allowed hitters an OBP of exactly .400 on the year, racking up the fourth most walks in the minors (80) despite barely averaging four innings a start. Pike actually ended up with the exact same number of innings as he had in 2013 but allowed 40 more hits and 10 more home runs this year than last year. Command of the fastball will be key for him in 2015, when he's likely to start back in Double-A.
17. Jordy Lara - 1B/OF
.337/.392/.581, 585 PA, 71 XBH, 46 BB, 101 SO
Lara broke out in a big way in 2014, leading the minor leagues in hits (177) and ranking third in extra base hits and fourth in RBI (104) while setting career highs in nearly every category while playing across two levels. Dramatically lowered his strikeout rate in Double-A over the last five weeks of the season while continuing to show the ability to hit for both average and power. Signed in 2009 but still just 23, Lara is a corner guy only on defense, with first base probably being his best position although he has some athleticism and a strong arm. Lara's bat will determine where he lands -- as far as level and position -- to open 2015.
16. Julio Morban - OF
.248/.309/.322, 237 PA, 12 XBH, 19 BB, 67 XBH
The broken leg that ended Morban's 2013 delayed the start of his 2014, and when he finally did get on the field the results didn't match what he'd shown in the past. Julio homered just once in 59 games and saw his OPS dip almost .200 (.830-.632) from 2013 while his ISO fell from .173 to .074, which was among the lowest in the whole organization. On the bright side he hit .326 vs LHP and trimmed a little bit off of his strikeout rate despite being pushed up to the minor's highest level at age 22. He's still never come to the plate more than 352 times in any of his six seasons in the system thanks to his frequency of injuries, but Morban has tools at the plate that aren't equaled by many in the system. On the 40-man, Morban will get another long look in big league camp prior to 2015.
15. Gareth Morgan - OF
.148/.244/.252, 178 PA, 11 XBH, 16 BB, 73 SO
Morgan, Seattle's 2nd round pick this past June, had about as poor of a first season as a high pick has ever had in recent Mariners' memory. He didn't hit at all, but he also struck out in a whopping 41.0% of his plate appearances. He played 45 games and struck out multiple times in 22 of those. He went strikeout free in just three games in which he came to the plate three or more times. Morgan did walk in 9.0% of his plate appearances, but his offensive contribution was still next to nothing. A strong throwing arm and good current speed allowed him to see time at all three outfield positions, though right remains his likely long-term home. Big time power that comes from a quick bat will be his calling card, though, if the plate discipline ever kicks into gear. Expect him to head to Everett out of extended in 2015.
14. Carson Smith - RHP
2.93 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 43 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 9.4 SO/9, .265 oAVG
Smith missed significant time twice during the PCL season and was pitching with an ERA north of 5 for much of the year, but the overall numbers were once again very good for the big sidearm-ing right-hander. Smith allowed just five earned runs over his final 25 appearances (1.50 ERA) and generated a 65.9% groundball rate and 3.65 GO/AO ratio in his 43 Triple-A innings on the year. Smith's 2.89 FIP was just outside of the top 10% of all minor league pitchers with 40+ IP and he allowed just five extra base hits (one home run) all season. He's in Seattle's pen now, which is likely where he'll stay going forward as he's getting big league hitters out and showing good command.
13. Luiz Gohara - LHP
Short Season Everett
6.66 ERA, 1.66 WHIP, 50 IP, 4.7 BB/9, 9.5 SO/9, .279 oAVG
After an impressive, albeit abbreviated, debut in 2013, Gohara got a late start on 2014 due to lingering shoulder fatigue. But after building up stamina and arm strength in two dominant outings in the AZL, he headed to Everett where he proceeded to get throttled in most of his starts. He went just one inning three times in 11 games for Everett, went less than four seven times and worked into the sixth just twice. He was noticeably heavier this season and went in for right knee surgery after the season, reinforcing that what we saw from Gohara in 2014 did not represent his best. He could return to the NWL in 2015 but the now 18-year-old should reach Low-A by late next season at the worst.
12. Tyler Marlette - C
.297/.349/.517, 375 PA, 42 XBH, 28 BB, 71 SO
Marlette's power started to show in games more regularly in 2014 and he maintained the ability to hit for a high average while taking more strides as a defender behind the plate. A lot of that damage at the plate came in High Desert (.348/.396/.574 at home), but his extra base hit, BB and SO rates stayed pretty consistent throughout, which is an encouraging sign. Converted to catcher from third base late in high school, Marlette's defense and command of the game from behind the plate has impressed scouts. He's the best catching prospect in the minors for Seattle and could be a potential MLB starter down the road, but he'll likely be back in Double-A at age 22 to open next season.
11. Patrick Kivlehan - 3B/1B/OF
.295/.363/.507, 587 PA, 61 XBH, 11-for-15 SB, 56 BB, 110 SO
Kivlehan, the former collegiate defensive back at Rutgers, is passed the point of being a novelty because of that fact now after an MVP (NWL in 2012) and three strong seasons as a pro that saw him reach Double-A -- and play very well there -- in 2014. He finally saw 22 games of errorless action in the outfield in the 2nd half this year and showed to be a quick study, and the outfield is likely where his defensive home will be going forward. Regardless of where he plays, though, Kivlehan's right-handed bat -- which produced 32 doubles, 9 triples, 20 home runs and 103 RBI this season in 138 games -- is going to determine when he reaches the majors. He ranked fourth in the Southern League in SLG (.485) during his time in Jackson. Patrick also has a touch of speed to throw in as the big guy has stolen 40 bases in 51 tries in his three pro seasons so far. He should be a lock for at least Triple-A Tacoma in 2015 and should get a long look in big league camp, too.
10. Edwin Diaz - RHP
3.33 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, 116 1/3 IP, 3.2 BB/9, 8.6 SO/9, .226 oAVG
The slightly-built right-hander with the electric arm-speed handled himself very well as a 20-year-old in the Midwest League in 2014, throwing a nine inning complete game, 3-hit shutout late in the year and ending his season with 5 no-hit innings and nine Ks. Although he wasn't sharp all season and didn't have a great run of consecutive good outings until the end of the year, Diaz still allowed two earned runs or less 17 of his 24 times out and still has never allowed more than four in any outing as a pro. Diaz kept lefty (.626) and righty (.623) hitters from doing too much damage all season while posting the seventh best SO/9 and K% (23.0%) in the Midwest League and rakning fifth in batting average against among starters at a young age for the league. He will likely see the M's new High-A affiliate in Bakersfield in 2015.
9. Victor Sanchez - RHP
4.19 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 124 2/3 IP, 2.5 BB/9, 7.0 SO/9, .268 oAVG
Sanchez was among the most consistent and best pitchers, statistically, in the Southern League all season, working in a career-high number of innings and going more than five in 11 of his 23 starts. He had a rough last two starts after a brilliant run through July and the early part of August and he had some trouble with the home run ball (17 allowed) for the first time in his career and did all of that as the youngest pitcher in Double-A all season. Sanchez has a thick build and doesn't go mid-90s with his fastball or possess a wipeout breaking pitch, but he knows how to sequence and spot up his pitches better than most and has a great, workhorse build that helped him throw 90+ pitches 12 times this season. Triple-A at age 20 seems like a very likely spot for Sanchez in 2015, and he could be knocking on the door in Seattle before the end of the season.
8. Gabby Guerrero - OF
High-A High Desert
.307/.347/.467, 580 PA, 48 XBH, 18-for-24 SB, 34 BB, 131 SO
Guerrero's success as a player during the 2014 season has hopefully eclipsed his bloodlines (Vlad Guerrero's nephew) as the top talking point about him now. The right-handed hitting outfielder finished tied for 15th in all of MiLB in RBI with 96 and finished 2nd in the Cal League in hits (165), 20th in OPS (.814) and 25th in ISO (.160) as a 20-year-old. Gabby also swiped 18 bases and threw out 10 baserunners from the outfield while seeing his most extensive playing time to date. He slumped in June but finished the season with a flurry, picking up four extra base hits during his season ending seven game hitting streak and OPSing .829+ for the fourth time in five months. Guerrero will get a real challenge from more advanced pitching in Double-A in 2015 and he needs to work on his plate discipline, but his bat is proving very powerful.
7. Ketel Marte - SS/2B
.304/.335/.411, 562 PA, 42 XBH, 29-for-39 SB, 27 BB, 78 SO
Two years ago, Marte looked like just a slick defender without much of a shot at any real big league future, but some tweaks to his swing to drive the ball more without sacrificing much of his great contact skills has really pushed him into the next level as a prospect. The switch-hitter nearly doubled his previous career high in extra base hits (23) while hitting over .300 combined as he reached Triple-A in his 20-year-old season. Ketel collected seven multi-hit contests in 19 games with Tacoma and posted a strong walk rate there (8.9%) while racking up 29 steals on the year and continuing to play smooth defense at shortstop. He's showing more power from the right side but was a .300+ hitter from both sides of the plate in 2014. Tacoma's likely starting shortstop in 2015.
6. Chris Taylor - SS/2B
.328/.397/.497, 346 PA, 34 XBH, 35 BB, 74 SO
After playing at a level that seemed like it was over his head in 2013, winning recognition as the organization's Minor League Player of the Year, Taylor made an impression in big league camp this spring and then carried that success into the Triple-A season for Tacoma, ranking among the PCL leaders in hitting while playing very strong defense at short and second for the Rainiers. Thanks to struggles and injuries at the big league level, Taylor got up there in the second half and continued to show that he can hit top-level pitching, using an all-fields approach and his speed and continuing to be a plus defender. The M's find themselves with more middle infielders than spots on the roster, but Taylor has proven that he deserves a spot on a big league roster, for sure.
5. Austin Wilson - OF
.301/.384/.543, 308 PA, 35 XBH, 27 BB, 67 SO
If not for injuries that limited his time on the field, Wilson may very well have been another player in the system to get at our near 100 RBI, and he likely would have earned himself a promotion in 2014, too, as he had a few streaks were it seemed like the Midwest League wasn't much of a challenge at all for him. He slugged .517 in a league were the average mark was just .370 and posted a 10.7% extra base hit rate for the LumberKings in his age 22 season. Wilson also picked up seven outfield assists in 51 games in right field. The big, strong, right-handed hitter could do some serious damage in the California League in 2015, and a healthy year could see him end the season at or above Double-A.
4. Alex Jackson - OF
.280/.344/.476, 94 PA, 10 XBH, 9 BB, 24 SO
A bad hop line drive off the face put an unfortunate break in Jackson's rookie season that cost him a month on the field, but the No. 6 overall pick still had enough time to show what all of the hype over his bat was about. He ran a high XBH% and BB% in the AZL and managed to hit for a very respectable average even though his strikeouts were high. I got good reports on the converted catcher's limited play in the outfield and the right-handed hitter demolished left-handed pitching (.348/.385/.652) in limited looks. He uses the whole field well at the plate and has a strong arm on defense. Jackson was considered the bat with the brightest future in the 2014 draft and he should continue to live up to that as he most likely moves up to Low-A ball in 2015. Still a ways away, but a lot of power and average potential in there for Jackson.
3. James Paxton - LHP
2.06 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 65 2/3 IP, 2.7 BB/9, 7.4 SO/9, .206 oAVG
Paxton's consistent ability to pound the bottom part of the strike zone with some of the best velocity of any starting pitcher in the game from the left side make him a rare talent. His ability to repeat his delivery since coming to the big leagues is what has really made the difference, though, as the 25-year-old has walked just 2.7-per-nine through his first 14 big league starts after walking 4.0-per-nine in his 74 minor league outings. The lat/shoulder injury that kept him on the shelf for nearly four months this year was certainly cause for concern, but Paxton has shown no ill effects of the injury or the layoff in the seven starts since his return and looks sharp as ever. Looking good to be Seattle's No. 3 starter in 2015.
2. D.J. Peterson - 3B/1B
.297/.360/.552, 547 PA, 63 XBH, 45 BB, 116 SO
Peterson's first full season of minor league ball ended in Double-A and as one of only five minor leaguers to homer 30+ times and drive in 100+ runs, ending the year with the second most RBI in the minors at 111 despite a few prolonged slumps. Peterson also just missed hitting .300 and made only four errors in 45 games at third base for the Generals, showing improved hands and feet at the position. But the real talk about Peterson is all about his bat. His power is real and his plate discipline improved as the season went along. He's headed to play in the Arizona Fall League next month and is likely to start 2015 in Triple-A Tacoma, but his future in Seattle -- quite possibly at first base -- is not far away at this point.
1. Taijuan Walker - RHP
3.00 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 30 IP, 5.1 BB/9, 8.4 SO/9, .241 oAVG
Walker's elite arm speed and off-the-charts athleticism are difference makers for the right-hander, but his delivery looked like it took a step back early this season as he had trouble repeating and commanding his pitches. But those issues and the curve appear sharper since his return with his modified windup, and that is allowing Walker's devastating repertoire to get better results. He's only two years into using his cutter and that is already an amazing pitch that helps to keep left-handed hitters honest. If he can sustain the command and keep throwing those offspeed pitches for strikes, Walker could be a weapon either starting or out of the pen for Seattle down the stretch towards the playoffs. Still just 22, Taijuan is among the most talented arms in all of baseball. Working out these little kinks is a part of natural development, and his ceiling is still very high. Very near a lock for the 2015 rotation.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Be sure to check in during spring training when the big list of the pre-2015 Top-50 breaks the Mariners' system down five players at a time, but it is certain to include the 35 players above. Still a very strong system for the M's, even with all of the MLB graduates of the last two seasons.
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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