With the All-Star breaks nearing for full-season affiliates, the Short Season clubs underway and the 2015 MLB Draft in the rear view mirror, it's time for SeattleClubhouse to give our readers an updated look at the top prospects in Seattle's system. This update takes into account the on-field performance in 2015 and includes indications as to trends that the players have seen so far during this year. While a lot of input from both inside and outside the organization has been considered, these rankings are the opinion of SeattleClubhouse solely.
1. D.J. Peterson - 1B, Jackson Generals: ETA, mid-2016
Peterson performed like he was one of the best young right-handed power hitters in the minor leagues in 2014, hitting a combined .297 with a .912 OPS, 63 extra base hits and 31 home runs in what was his first full year of professional baseball. Those numbers included a .261/.335/.473 slash in 58 games for Double-A Jackson that included an 8.5% extra base hit rate and a manageable but not great 20.6% strikeout rate. Back in Jackson for 2015, though, the 23 year old has hit just .207/.288/.326 with only four homers, a 7.0% extra base hit rate and a 23.2% strikeout rate. D.J. has also been shifted to more of a first baseman than a third baseman in 2015, seeing almost three times as many starts at first than at the hot corner. That was always likely his long term home, but that move paired with his big decrease in offensive production has dimmed the star some for Peterson.
Peterson still has easy plus power that make 30 homer seasons within his reach and a short swing that generates loft while also covering in a way that it's conceivable he could hit in the .270-.280 range at the same time. He has a strong throwing arm, too, but as he is likely a first baseman, the more important tool for him to develop is his pitch recognition and batting eye.
2. Alex Jackson - OF, Everett AquaSox: ETA, 2018
Jackson had his rookie season cut short when he took a ball off the face in the outfield for Peoria and had a shoulder injury that likely added to his struggles during his aggressive assignment to Clinton to open 2015. Now healthy and dropped down to Short Season Everett, the right-handed hitter is showing signs of being the bat that the club was after when they picked him at No. 6 overall in last year's draft. He's very short to the ball and easily whistles line drives up the middle and the other way and can pull the ball in the air with great authority, too. The body is very mature and physical looking and the backwards drift that was in his pre-swing before the draft looks to have been eliminated completely. He's hit only two home runs in 232 pro trips to the plate, but the power is definitely in there. Jackson just needs to be a little more consistent in his approach and gain a better understanding of what pitchers are trying to do to him to get better patience at the plate.
New to the outfield last year, the a former catcher, he looks very comfortable and capable in the outfield, where his plus throwing arm has already been on display a few times. But his bat is his key to reaching the big leagues, and it is very possible that it is the best bat in the whole system, both in terms of hitting for average and hitting for power.
3. Ketel Marte - SS, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, 2016
Marte has transformed himself from a full-time slap hitter that tried to make the most of his speed to steal hits into a tough out that can reach the gaps regularly from both sides of the plate in just over three seasons. Prior to his injury with Tacoma, he was hitting .343/.394/.434 with 13 extra base hits, 17 steals, 18 walks and just 20 strikeouts through his first 51 games. Just 21, he's played 70 games at the Triple-A level already and boasts a .335 average in 311 plate appearances there. The switch-hitter still uses his speed to beat out infield grounders and turn singles into doubles at times, but he also has picked up 55 extra base hits since the start of 2014, including six home runs. A gifted defender with plenty of range and arm to stick at shortstop, Marte had cleaned up his work on the routine plays defensively with both the glove and his arm in his most recent stretch before the injury, but there is still a chance that he gets moved off of shortstop if those issues persist.
The wrist injury isn't too concerning long-term, but -- as history has shown us with these types of injuries -- could lead to some struggles once he gets back on the field in 2015. Regardless, Marte has made huge strides in his offensive game and is a legitimate big league roster candidate immediately upon returning and proving to be healthy thanks to his combination of speed, defensive ability and bat-to-ball skills.
4. Edwin Diaz - RHP, Jackson Generals: ETA, mid-2016
Diaz dominated out of the gate for Bakersfield, allowing two or fewer runs in six of seven starts in the Cal League. The slim righty then struggled following his promotion to Double-A Jackson, where he became one of the youngest arms in the league, giving up four or more runs in his first three games for the Generals. But he appears to have righted himself now, and is on a run of four straight starts of two earned runs or less again, striking out 22 in 24 1/3 while limiting damage when trouble does arise. He's doing that by better understanding his own repertoire and adding or subtracting from his fastball and slider depending on the situation more. His changeup has been more consistent in recent outings and the command is catching up to the control -- which has been very good -- for all of his pitches.
A true power arm, he's now struck out 187 in 191 innings dating back to the start of 2014, and his growth and responsiveness to coaching is pushing the 21 year old up the ladder quickly. Diaz is unquestionably the top pitching prospect in the organization, and one that has the ceiling to be a legitimate No. 3 starter in the not too distant future for a club suddenly thin on upper-end pitching prospects.
5. Patrick Kivlehan - IF/OF, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, late-2015
Kivlehan hasn't hit in 2015 the way he had done up to this point as a pro, but he's been hitting for power more consistently and has continued to learn on the defensive side of the ball, playing five positions for the Rainiers this year. The 25 year old ranks third in the system in total bases (113) and 2nd in home runs (13), but his walk (6.9%) and strikeout (22.1%) ratios have started trending in the wrong direction as he is faced with Triple-A pitching for the first time in his career. It is still a remarkable transition that Kivlehan -- the former Rutgers defensive back -- has made after sitting out from baseball entirely for four years in college.
The developmental progress that he's made as an outfielder still is pretty obviously not complete, but he is athletic, quick and strong and can play the outfield corners decently now. Often compared to Hunter Pence, Kivlehan isn't always the best looking prospect, but it is hard to argue with his success to date.
6. Tyler O'Neill - OF, Clinton LumberKings: ETA, late-2017
The son of a professional body builder, O'Neill's physical strength and raw power immediately stand out. He's leading the Mariners' organization and is sixth in the California League in home runs with 14 -- a very impressive accomplishment for a 20 year old. O'Neill does still have huge plate discipline issues, with 78 strikeouts and just 10 walks in his 241 plate appearances on the year, but his power is playing in games more frequently at an earlier age than many prep power hitters. Another player who was transitioned to the outfield as a pro, Tyler isn't as far along or as smooth out there as Kivlehan or Jackson, but he has shown a strong arm and works hard on his defense.
Intensely competitive, maturity was a question after he broke his hand by punching a cement wall in 2014, but O'Neill has admitted to that mistake and appears to have grown from it. Growing in his approach and maintaining flexibility as his body matures are the next steps for the young power hitter.
7. Austin Wilson - OF, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, mid-2017
In a season where many of the top prospects in Seattle's system have had hard times, Wilson has struggled perhaps more than any, hitting under .200 and slugging under .300 in a league that -- considering his age and his background -- one would expect him to really excel at. He has been healthy all year, avoiding any DL trips, which is an encouraging sign. He's also kept up a strong walk rate, building on last season's improvement there. But Wilson, a streaky hitter as a pro so far, hasn't had any extended periods of success at all in the 2015 season to date.
Wilson still has the best true right field profile of any prospect in Seattle's system, and he could turn things around in a hurry if he gets hot, but this has definitely been a disappointing season so far for the the Stanford product.
8. Luiz Gohara - LHP, Everett AquaSox: ETA, 2019
After a disastrous 2014 (8.20 ERA in 11 starts for Everett), Gohara spent a lot of time in extended spring training getting himself in improved shape and working to be more consistent with his mechanics. He's made just two starts so far (one for Clinton and one for Everett), but, so far so good here in 2015 for the big lefty. He's yet to allow an earned run in those two outings and has been in much better command of his body and of his pitches. Still just 18, Gohara looks much more trim than he did a year ago and his fastball has reached the upper-90s in his early action.
Gohara could earn himself a promotion out of Everett if he builds on the success he saw in his first start, but having come from a non-baseball area in Brazil, he is still very young and very raw as a baseball player. The ceiling is high, but the timetable is probably quite a bit slower than many projected back in 2012 when his name first surfaced.
9. Tyler Marlette - C, Jackson Generals: ETA, mid-2016
Marlette ended 2014 in Double-A and started 2015 in High-A, and the early returns were very positive on that move for the M's. He hit .345/.406/.569 in April for the Blaze, driving their offense as the key member of the lineup. But he fell apart in May, collecting just 10 hits in 21 games and seeing his slash sink to .120/.189/.229. He's back in Double-A now and starting to show signs of breaking out of that slump, but the 22 year old isn't producing anything close to what he did a year ago (.297/.349/.517).
As a converted infielder his senior year in high school, Marlette still has some improvements to make defensively, too, but he's already progressed into a solid catcher. His bat has the ability to be a difference maker, though, with the ability to hit for power and average, and that is what will drive him towards the big leagues.
10. John Hicks - C, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, mid-2015
A 2011 draftee out of Virginia, Hicks has already spent 75 games at the Triple-A level for Seattle, and while the results there overall haven't been the best (.246/.294/.377 in 294 PA), the right-handed hitting backstop has had stretches where he's looked like he's very close to MLB-ready. John is hitting .286/.345/.408 in 16 games in June for the Rainiers while also throwing out 42% of would-be base stealers in 2015. For his career, Hicks has gunned down 156 of those attempting to steal while allowing 177 successful swipes.
An athletic defender who is quick for his size (6-foot-2, 210 lbs), Hicks is also a good base runner himself, stealing 47 bases in his five minor league seasons with a personal best of 22 in 2012. Although he's hit better versus right-handed pitching (.748 OPS) than against left-handed pitching (.734 OPS) for his career, Hicks should at least carve out a career in the big leagues as a part-time/platoon starter at some point.
11. Mike Montgomery - LHP, Seattle Mariners: ETA, now
Acquired from the Rays for an out-of-options Erasmo Ramirez prior to the 2015 season, Montgomery was moved back to the rotation -- where he was once one of the most highly-regarded pitching prospects in baseball when he was in the Royals' system -- by Seattle and he immediately paid dividends for the M's, pitching well in nine Triple-A starts and earning a spot in Seattle when injuries struck their starting rotation. The big lefty has changed from a flamethrower (touching 97) in his younger days to someone who sinks and cuts his fastball at 90-92, relying on weaker contact more than strikeouts. His big curve is his out pitch, but even that offering doesn't put Montgomery in the strikeout pitcher category.
While Montgomery, now 25, isn't the prospect that he once was, he has shown that he can pitch in the big leagues. He's done very well in each of his four starts for Seattle to date, posting a 2.73 ERA and 1.14 WHIP (3.60 FIP) in his first 26 1/3 innings as a big leaguer and definitely earning himself more chances to show what he can do at this level.
12. Ryan Yarbrough - LHP, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2017
Yarbrough, a cheap senior sign out of Old Dominion from the 2014 Draft, blew by everyone's expectations a season ago, dominating in shorter outings in Everett and finishing his debut season with 58 strikeouts and just five walks allowed in 42 2/3 innings. That earned him a jump up to the California League to open 2015, and while he hasn't been as consistently dominant against hitters in High-A, Ryan has gone six or more innings in six of his 11 starts and has allowed just four home runs in 240 plate appearances thanks to keeping the ball down.
Yarbrough works the bottom of the strike zone with his sinking fastball that gets up to 92-93 regularly and backs that offering up with a plus changeup well. His arm angle can be tough on left-handed hitters but his average at best breaking ball leads to right-handers being damaging against him. If he doesn't make it as a starter with improved breaking ball, he could still be a tough left-handed reliever thanks to the angles he creates.
13. Jordy Lara - 3B, Jackson Generals: ETA, 2017
Lara exploded with the bat in 2014, picking up 71 extra base hits, 177 hits and 104 RBI in his most extensive action as a pro across High-A and Double-A. But it was his sixth season in the system, with the previous five being between "meh" and "solid". Still, there was hope that something had clicked for Jordy and that he was now a different player than when he originally joined the system. But halfway through 2015, it is looking like last year was more aberration than break through.
Lara has added muscle to his 6-foot-3 frame and been given another shot to stick at third base this season. He's also worked counts and shown more discipline than at any time before in the states for the Mariners. But the big time power he showed last year has yet to materialize in 2015, and Lara has just three homers and a 6.4% extra base hit rate. If he isn't going to hit for power, there likely isn't enough in terms of other tools to get him to the big leagues. But this half season of down isn't enough to erase the massive progress made in 2014...yet.
14. Nick Neidert - RHP, Peoria Mariners: ETA, 2020
Seattle's first selection in the 2015 Draft (60th overall), Neidert has a fastball that can touch 97 and a changeup and slider that he all command well from a low three-quarters delivery. His arm is clearly talented, but his lack of ideal size (6-foot-1, 185 lbs) and a bout of elbow tendinitis during his senior season at Peachtree High School in Georgia allowed him to slip down to the Mariners' first pick at 60. He's been compared to Tim Hudson but it sounds like he has a bigger arm and a longer stride than the A's, Braves and Giants veteran.
Neidert was assigned to Peoria in the AZL and will likely only see limited action this summer and fall. Neidert will surely go to fall instructs, and we're likely to see him pitch for Everett next season. If he adds some bulk to his frame while maintaining flexibility, athleticism and his command, Neidert could turn into a potential No. 3/4 pitcher down the road.
15. Mayckol Guaipe - RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, now
Guaipe has already made his MLB debut for the Mariners, pitching 2 1/3 perfect innings against the Yankees back on June 1st while showing off his four-pitch mix. The 24 year old right-hander has really taken off since being moved into the bullpen full-time early in the 2013 season, and is pitching well for Triple-A Tacoma now. Guiape's command is what is making him so good right now as he's walked just 1.4 batters-per-nine dating back to the start of the 2014 season.
Guaipe's fastball can touch the mid-90s with good, late, arm side run and he also throws a curve, and changeup. I had scouts compare him to recently traded Yoervis Medina in terms of stuff and physicality recently. Seattle's bullpen remains a little in flux this season, and it is reasonable to expect to see Guaipe -- who is on the 40-man -- back up with the Mariners prior to roster expansion on September 1st.
16. Danny Hultzen - LHP, Jackson Generals: ETA, 2016
Hultzen has the ability to rank much higher on this list and he showed that he still had good stuff early in spring training and in his first few appearances of the 2015 season following his complex should surgery that held him completely out of action in 2014. But that surgery and the history behind pitchers coming back from it, paired with Seattle's (rightfully) cautious approach with Danny so far in 2015 are holding him down. He did get much of his velocity back in his early outings, and he told me during the off-season that he felt his breaking ball was better now with the mechanical changes that were made, but...
He's thrown just eight innings this season and just 167 2/3 in all since being drafted 2nd overall in 2011. If Hultzen can get back close to what he was when Seattle picked him out of Virginia, he can be a very good No. 3 starter from the left side. But at this point in the comeback, that is a very big if.
17. Jabari Blash - OF, Jackson Generals: ETA, 2016
Blash has been disappointing in Triple-A and disappointing in some of his off-field decisions (50 game suspension for marijuana), but he's been a dominant hitter for most of his time in Double-A. Back in Jackson after a rough start to the 2015 season, Blash has hit .297/.396/.600 with 10 home runs in 43 games in the Southern League to bring his three partial season total at the level to .280/.404/.554 with 25 home runs and 69 walks in 109 games. He's the Mariners' new "three true outcome" player, and his 5.4% homer rate, 11.7% walk rate and 27.8% strikeout rate are all among the highest in the system.
Blash turns 26 on the Fourth of July and has hit just .202 in multiple tries at the Triple-A level, but the Mariners will have to challenge him there again soon to see if he can figure things out and make that next step to give himself a shot at big league playing time.
18. Dan Altavilla - RHP, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2018
Altavilla is a sub-6-foot right-hander with a powerful build that gets a lot of ground balls and misses enough bats to project as a starter long-term. He's handled the California League very well so far in his first full season, improving on nearly every one of his numbers from a year ago after the same number of starts (14). Half of those 14 starts have been Quality Starts (6+ IP, 3 ER or less) and he was one out away in two others. His made big improvements against left-handed hitters this season, but his secondary pitches still need work.
But Altavilla has a fastball that works comfortably in the 92-94 range, velocity that he sustains well throughout his starts. If he can make small improvements in either his changeup or breaking ball, Altavilla could climb even higher on the prospect list for Seattle quickly.
19. Tyler Smith - SS, Jackson Generals: ETA, late-2017
Smith jumped over a few older middle infielders in the system thanks to his heady play, great baserunning, patience at the plate and line drive approach. And when Seattle traded away Jack Reinheimer, Smith moved right back over to take his place at shortstop and hasn't missed a beat. The 23 year old has a 15.0% walk rate and 37 walks -- good for second in the system -- this season and he's only struck out 41 times. He hasn't hit for the power that he did a year ago, when he cracked 40 extra base hits, yet, but he's playing well as a young player in the Southern League.
Even though he doesn't boast a tool shed full of standout skills, Smith comes out of a very good college program at Oregon State and has the work ethic, speed, defense and line drive approach of players who stick around this game for a long time.
20. Brayan Hernandez - OF, DSL Mariners: ETA, late-2020
He's played just four games a half a world away in the very lowest levels of professional baseball, but word of the talent of Brayan Hernandez has already started to build his profile here in the U.S. Just 17 years of age, Hernandez is a switch-hitter that has displayed plus power potential -- with his wiry-strong frame -- and a solid approach, hitting line drives to all fields from both sides of the plate. He's also a plus runner and plays well in center field.
We aren't likely to know how Hernandez will profile as he matures for another few years, but he has all the tools present right now to make it clear why he was one of the most well-regarded prospects coming out of the Venezuela in 2014.
21. Gareth Morgan - OF, Peoria Mariners: ETA, 2019
Morgan had among the worst showings in all of pro ball in his debut with Peoria in 2014, hitting .148 and striking out 73 times in 178 times up to bat, but the big, strong, right-handed hitting outfielder has loud tools and a lot of experience against top talent as an amateur that lead many to believe that he'll develop into an offensive force down the road. To open 2015, the M's 2nd rounder from 2014 will be back in the AZL trying to erase the memory of that ugly first go 'round at the pros.
Morgan, 19, could end up getting a mid-season promotion if he proves the struggles with pitch recognition and plate discipline are behind him. The 6-foot-4, 220 pounder also has good speed and a strong throwing arm from the outfield.
22. Tyler Olson - LHP, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, late-2015
Olson cracked Seattle's roster out of spring and pitched well in some big spots early before getting hit around a bit in his last six appearances. That led to a DL stint before a demotion to Triple-A Tacoma, but the 6-foot-3 lefty out of Gonzaga has been up and down in his four minor league appearances. Olson's delivery and arm angle present a tough matchup for left-handed hitters, and he's held them down well as a pro. Where he's struggled is keeping right-handed bats honest.
A starter until this season, it doesn't seem as though Seattle is sure yet which way to go with Olson, but his versatility is still working in his favor at this point. Whether he ends up a starter or a reliever, he'll need a third pitch to compliment his fastball/slurve mix to be more than a LOOGY.
23. Andrew Moore - RHP, Everett AquaSox: ETA, mid-2018
Not many people liked the pick when the M's tabbed more with their 2b pick in this year's draft, but the "undersized righty" has shown the ability to get his fastball up to the 94-95 range. That type of arm speed paired with a consistent ability to work down in the zone while complimenting the fastball with solid secondary offerings can lead to a college arm moving quickly. Now, he hasn't shown any of that in pro ball yet, but the Mariners obviously think highly of the package that Moore offers.
Moore pitched at a very good college program in Oregon State and his delivery (straight over the top) should alleviate some of the regular concerns that come with "short" righties. If he has early success in Everett and shows that that profile plays in his pro career, he could be an arm that moves multiple levels in future seasons thanks to his competitiveness and drive.
24. Rayder Ascanio - SS, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2018
Ascanio drew universal rave reviews from the M's PD staff during my talks with them over the winter, and their confidence in him showed when they assigned the 19 year old to Clinton to open 2015. He's now playing up in High-A with Bakersfield, and he's handling himself quite well; at the plate with a .276/.309/.329 slash with just 15 strikeouts and in the field with 18 games of sometimes very impressive defense at shortstop.
The young switch-hitter has a lot to prove and a lot of things to work on as a hitter, but his defense will carry him along as far as he proves he can go. Low-A would probably be a better place for him to get his feet under him as a hitter, and you may see him move back down to Clinton once the organization gets a little more healthy in the middle infield, but Ascanio will likely be climbing these rankings.
25. Paul Fry - LHP, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2016
Fry has been a dominant reliever in his three seasons in the system, and this year he's taken that dominance to another level. An outfielder who hadn't pitched until his senior season in high school, Fry is now a California League All-Star as a pitcher, ranking fourth in Seattle's system in strikeouts despite working exclusively out of the bullpen.
The left-handed Fry has been more than just a left-handed specialist, working with his fastball-slider combo to hold right-handed bats to a .212/.252/.231 slash against him this season. His 11.9 SO/9 is the seventh highest mark in the minors this year among qualified arms. He definitely looks like he could have a future in a big league bullpen.
26. Ji-Man Choi - 1B, Tacoma Rainiers: ETA, mid-2016
Out with a broken leg suffered early in spring training, Choi has had quite an up-and-down ride as a prospect during his time in the system. Signed as a catcher, he ended up needing back surgery to move him off of the position and over to first base that cost him the 2011 season. He had huge, bust out type seasons in both 2012 and 2013, hitting .295/.394/.535 with 60 extra base hits at three stops in '13, but then 2014 was marred by a 50-game PED suspension that cost him all of May and parts of April and June. But in August, Choi was a very good hitter again, hitting .286/.402/.452 for Tacoma, and doing a lot of that as an outfielder.
Now with the broken leg he's missed all of 2015, but the promise in his bat is still there. Can he hit enough to stay at first base? Can he be passable defensively in the outfield? And how will the layoff affect him. Choi's gap power and patience at the plate could be a legitimate weapon in the big leagues, but time is running out on his prospect clock.
27. Joe DeCarlo - 3B, Clinton LumberKings: ETA, 2018
DeCarlo has big time power potential and big time defensive potential that draw raves from the M's PD department, but the on-field performance hasn't yet matched the hype for Seattle's 2nd round pick in 2012. He's struck out 238 times in 219 professional games and in his second season with Low-A Clinton, he has hit just .219/.351/.401 through his first 55 games. He does lead the club in home runs with seven and ranks third in walks with 32, but DeCarlo hasn't yet taken that step that many expect him to.
The good news is that he is still just 21, and he looks to have the ability to stick at, and be an asset at, third base. The walks have been coming more often and the power is showing in games more frequently, too, but DeCarlo is still a long ways away from being a finished product or sure fire prospect.
28. Trey Cochran-Gill - RHP, Jackson Generals: ETA, mid-2016
Cochran-Gill is a ground ball machine that has pitched at three levels this season and done a tremendous job of getting outs on the ground, running a 61.1% ratio on the season that is right in line with the 58.8% number he put up in his pro debut in 2014. Another short right-hander, Trey can touch 94 with his fastball and it obviously has a lot of movement down. He's run into some command issues recently with Jackson, but when he works the bottom of the zone his ball is a worm killer.
He doesn't have the stuff or the funk of Carson Smith, but he could get similar results and move similarly quickly as the big righty as a middle relief arm if his command stays sharp and his secondary offerings continue to get better.
29. Dylan Thompson - RHP, Peoria Mariners: ETA, 2020
Thompson, picked out of a South Carolina high school and signed to an over-slot deal, will pitch for the Peoria Mariners in the Rookie Arizona League this season. He is a 6-foot-2 right-hander with a three-pitch mix headlined by his low-90s fastball. Scouts praise his athleticism and expect him to add bulk to his frame in the coming years.
Hitting 93 on the gun at time, he also has a changeup that's shown good depth and a hard curve that he has good feel for. High school arms often take a while to develop, but Thompson has the arm, frame and athletic ability that could spell good things down the road for him.
30. Dario Pizzano - OF, Jackson Generals: ETA, mid-2017
Pizzano is a pure hitter that knows how to work the count and consistently barrels balls thanks to having a great plan and approach at the plate. He is rebounding from a very difficult 2014 in Double-A by repeating -- and raking -- in Jackson this season. He had a 25-game hitting streak earlier this year and has walked (178) more than he's struck out (159) for his minor league career to date (359 games). On the downside, he doesn't have a ton of power, doesn't have speed and doesn't have a defensive position. He's also 5-foot-11. But, he's also a left-handed hitter that can flat out hit, draw walks and that doesn't strike out.
An Ivy League product that studies hitting and understands what pitchers are trying to do to him very well, Pizzano doesn't look like a future Hall of Famer, but if he finds a way to crack a big league roster I wouldn't bet against him hitting for average, even if only in a part-time role.
31. Nelson Ward - 2B, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2017
Ward is a hard working, "does things the right way" ballplayer that earns high grades for his effort and headiness, but the University of Georgia product is turning himself from scrappy ballplayer to big-time producer this year on the field. A 2014 draft pick, he's already been promoted in season in each of his two pro years and is now the everyday second baseman for the High-A club, where he's turned in eight multi-hit efforts in 19 games.
Ward hasn't stood out to any of the scouts I've spoken with the last two seasons and didn't stand out to me personally when I saw him a few times in Everett last year, but he's consistently hitting the ball hard from the left side, climbing up the ladder and playing good defense with good speed in his second pro season.
32. Braden Bishop - OF, Everett AquaSox: ETA, 2019
Bishop is a phenomenal defensive talent with speed on the base paths that just needs to hit. That is admittedly a huge piece of the puzzle for any hitter in making it, but Bishop has shown good bat-to-ball skills and occassional gap power during his collegiate play and some obvious tweaks (like using his lower half more) should be coached up in pro ball, potentially letting his offensive game take off in time.
Defensively he gets great jumps, has plus range and has a penchant for the flashy play, and he's already made a couple very good grabs in center for Everett. His frame should fill out some as he continues to mature which could help his offensive game, but his play in center field should survive that. Playing in Everett now, it will be interesting to watch what he does with the bat.
33. Kyle Wilcox - RHP, Everett AquaSox: ETA, 2018
Wilcox -- who debuted for Everett the other night while I was in attendance, striking out his first pro batter on three pitches -- has shown the ability to hit the upper-90s at times, working consistently at 91-93. He also throws a slider and changeup that have been very good for him at times that he's used effectively at times. Seattle got him in the sixth round primarily because he's had his bouts with control and command.
He pitched out of the bullpen in his debut and that would be the fast track for him, obviously, but the club may give him a chance to start still. Wilcox has great arm speed and a long stride, and it is easy to see where the velocity comes from, and if he can command his pitches he could look like a steal as a sixth rounder.
34. Tyler Pike - LHP, Bakersfield Blaze: ETA, 2018
Pike has fallen dramatically down the prospect lists over the past couple of seasons, and this year he was dropped from Double-A to High-A early on because of continued struggles with command. I had a scout give me a Tom Glavine comp on Pike a few seasons ago, but his ability to command his pitches and work both sides of the plate has regressed.
He's still a well built left-hander that can work right around 90 and use his changeup effectively. The curve can be slow, soft and sloppy, and the mechanics often get in the way of the naturally talented arm, but Pike still has the tools to turn himself into a big leaguer, but he's regressed from where he was a few years ago.
35. Drew Jackson - SS, Everett AquaSox: ETA, late-2018
A glove-first college shortstop in the 5th round has been the usual route for the Mariners and Tom McNamara in recent drafts (Chris Taylor, Jack Reinheimer), and Jackson -- out of Stanford -- follows that path this season. The younger brother of a former top Cubs prospect (Brett Jackson), he has good range, a great arm and plenty of athleticism to stick at shortstop. 100% of the question with Jackson as a prospect is about his bat. He didn't hit at all during his first two seasons in college and struggled to reach the gaps at all as a junior despite hitting for a solid average.
Even if all of Jackson's value comes out of his defense, he will get a lot of chances and a lot of playing time over the next several years to try and figure out the offense. If everything breaks right for him, he could become comparable to Taylor down the road.
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