Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

A look at the best and worst showings from the abbreviated first week of minor league action in the Seattle Mariners system.

For the fifth season, SeattleClubhouse will check in each Monday with a rundown of the best and worst performances in the minor leagues from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal with this weekly piece is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.

While the roster in Seattle doesn't have a lot of soft spots, the talent in the system still is a very important part of the ability for the Mariners to sustain success. And there is still quite a bit to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Hopefully Three Up, Three Down helps with that learning, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who have not exhausted their MLB rookie status.

In this first regular installment of the 2015 season, we take our first look at six players who hope to make some positive strides in their game on their way towards Seattle this season. Here we go, Three Up, Three Down.

THREE UP

Edwin Diaz - RHP, Bakersfield Blaze: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 8 SO
Diaz didn't pick up a win in his Opening Day start for the Blaze, but that was through no fault of his own. The right-hander struck out three in his first High-A inning and limited Rancho Cucamonga to five baserunners while holding them scoreless in his five innings overall, leaving with a 2-0 lead. But the bullpen surrendered nine baserunners and three runs in their four innings, costing the 21-year-old righty a win, but also further speaking to the fact that Diaz was again working with the stuff and polish that helped him capture the co-Starting Pitcher of the Year award for the Organization in 2014.

The California League has been skipped over by most of Seattle's top pitching prospects since Chris Gwynn took over as the lead in player development for the organization, and even though they are out of High Desert, Bakersfield still won't be an easy place for Diaz to pitch this year. He had a GB% of just 38.8% last season in Clinton, and repeating that number wouldn't figure to spell success for him in the offensive environment he'll be pitching in in 2015. Diaz left after 81 pitches in the opener and rarely got over 85 in a start for Clinton a season ago as the M's are being careful with their young arms, but his three pitch arsenal -- headed by that live, riding fastball that can get up to 97 -- is enough to stick as a starter long term if he can continue to improve his command and refine his secondary pitches.

Patrick Kivlehan - OF, Tacoma Rainiers: .385/.467/.923 (5-13), 2B, 2 HR, 2 BB, SO
After another very good year in the regular season in 2014, Kivlehan made his second trip to the AFL for Seattle and hit .280/.387/.473 in over 100 plate appearances, earning the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. Kivlehan followed that up by getting a big league invite to camp, where he saw extensive time and hit .259 with a home run. He's continuing with that success so far in his first action at the Triple-A level with Tacoma as the 2015 minor league season starts, clubbing three extra base hits and reaching base at least twice in each of the first three games of the year for the Rainiers.

Sure one of his home runs came off of a position player pitching in Tacoma's 17-to-5 Opening Day blowout win, but regardless of who is on the mound, Kivlehan is consistently stinging the ball right now and the 25 year old former football player looks like he's adjusting well to the outfield, too. While he doesn't have the prettiest swing -- leading some baseball ops people I've talked with about him to compare him to Hunter Pence -- it is hard to argue with the results that he's put up to date at the plate, and he's managed to do well for himself at every defensive position that the club has thrown at him. If the Mariners find themselves in a pinch at an infield or outfield corner this year, Kivlehan could potentially be the first name on the farm to hear his name called.

Trey Cochran-Gill - RP, Bakersfield Blaze: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 3 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 5 SO, .000 oAVG
One long relief appearance doesn't usually warrant consideration for this weekly snapshot, but Cochran-Gill was good all last year, got a lot of mentions as I was working on the off-season Top-50 list and had a debut that backed up the hype. Bottom line, Trey is a ground ball machine, and he did it again in his first appearance in High-A. A post-season All-Star in the Appalachian League last year, Cochran-Gill's 58.8% ground ball rate was bested by only one stateside arm with 35 or more innings in Seattle's system in 2014 -- Carson Smith. His relief appearance against the Quakes on Friday encompassed 10 hitters, and he handled them about as impressively as possible: retiring five via strikeouts and five via groundouts.

A 5-foot-10 right-hander selected in the 17th round by the M's last year, Trey has allowed just one earned run and only six extra base hits (in 149 plate appearances) as a pro to date in his 39 1/3 innings, striking out 49 and getting tons of ground ball outs. That is exactly what he'll need to continue to do if he wants to put up strong numbers in the Cal League. He has good raw stuff, too, touching 94 with his fastball and showing a plus slider at times. He commands the ball down in the zone and could move quickly if the secondary pitch is enough to keep lefties honest and if he continues to get ground balls at such an awesome rate.

THREE DOWN

D.J. Peterson - 3B/1B, Jackson Generals: .000/.063/.000 (0-15), BB, 2 SO
Peterson went 0-fer the week to kick off 2015, only reaching base one time by walking in his third plate appearance in the opener. While we'd certainly like to see Peterson start off better, especially considering that he finished 2014 in Jackson and that many probably expected him to start this year in Tacoma, the early struggles are nothing new for Peterson. He opened his pro career in Everett with a 4-for-24 stretch before getting going there, had just two hits in his first 21 trips after his promotion to Clinton in 2013, had a pedestrian .724 OPS after his first month in High Desert last year, and then started just 7-for-32 after his promotion to Jackson in 2014. As we all know, each of those stops ended up just fine for Peterson, and we should anticipate the same happening here in 2015.

Seattle's Minor League Co-Player of the Year in 2014, Peterson posted the fifth lowest OPS of all players who had 10-plus at bats this spring, showing everyone who was pleading for him to come north with the club before the season started that while there is a ton of promise there, he does still need some time to grow as a ballplayer. He will eventually earn his way to Tacoma this year, and when he does, keep an eye on his offense, obviously, but more telling, keep an eye on D.J.'s playing time at first base, as increased reps there will likely be a clue as to when Seattle is planning on pulling the trigger to bring Peterson up to the big league club.

Gabby Guerrero - OF, Jackson Generals: .125/.125/.188 (2-16), 2B, 7 SO
Another power bat stumbling out of the gate so far is Guerrero. But while Peterson's early struggles are nothing that I see as alarming, Guerrero could potentially be in for a tough year in Double-A. With pitchers being more advanced in the Southern League -- especially with their secondary offerings -- Guerrero could find his weaknesses being exploited on a more regular basis in 2015 than in 2014, and without the park conditions around to help mask some of those shortcomings. Much like his uncle (obligatory mention), Guerrero is an overly aggressive hitter, and while he has great bat speed and hand-eye coordination, he's still at an age and at a point in his development that a pitcher with a plan and a command-able repertoire often holds the upper hand.

This isn't to suggest that Guerrero isn't one of Seattle's best prospects -- and maybe even one of the better overall right-handed power hitting prospects in baseball -- but as has been told a million times over, the jump from High-A to Double-A is the second hardest step on the ladder in all of professional baseball. I believe that the power he started to show the final week or two of 2013 that carried through into 2014 will continue to show in Jackson in 2015, but if he doesn't adjust to the way that these more talented pitchers are working him, the average and overall production could fall off significantly this season.

Jordan Pries - SP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-1, 13.50 ERA, 2.50 WHIP, 4 IP, 9 H, 6 ER, HR, BB, 2 SO, .500 oAVG
Pries, Seattle's Minor League Co-Pitcher of the Year along with Diaz in 2014, pitched often and pitched well for Seattle in big league camp this year (11 innings, just six hits and a 1.64 ERA) and was awarded with a nod as Tacoma's No. 1. But after being handed a 4-2 lead heading into the fourth inning of that first game, the right-hander couldn't get an out in the 5th against El Paso as everything he threw was getting hit hard. The end result was the fourth instance (and second in a row) of Pries allowing six or more runs in his 26 appearances as a member of the Rainiers, allowing 10 of the 19 hitters he faced reach base in what turned into a blowout 11-4 loss. Not exactly what Jordan or the M's were hoping to see, for sure.

While Pries showed enough in spring training for McClendon to throw a, "he's pretty good" on him, he doesn't have a big time power arm or plus secondary offerings. What he does have is a big league quality sinking fastball (89-91), good command and decent secondary offerings tat helped him really hold left-handed hitters down a year ago (.206/.290/.329). He also tends to get his fair share of ground balls, helping to limit any damage that would normally be done. Pries isn't on the 40-man roster right now, but he lines up as probably starting pitching option number seven (behind the MLB rotataion and Roenis Elias) in the M's plans for 2015. He'll turn things around and be a solid arm this season for Tacoma, but he won't be immune to outings like this in the future.

. . . . . . . . .

That does it for the first of our weekly looks at the high in low in on-field performances in Seattle's system. We'll do it more than 20 more times as the year goes on, so check back in with us as each week as we incorporate "Three Up, Three Down" into our regular reports. And make sure to stick with SeattleClubhouse throughout the entire calendar year for reports from all of the Mariners' affiliates and prospects.

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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