We did a mid-season update and posted the new Top-35 following the 2015 draft, but wanted to look back at our earlier rankings. With the minor league regular season in its final month of action, now is a good time to look back at our preseason Top-10 prospect rankings at SeattleClubhouse to see how the 2015 season has shaken down for those players deemed to be the brightest in the M's farm system at the start of the year.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Gohara came to camp in much better shape and much more prepared to compete this season than in 2014.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: He has still had a lot of trouble with being consistent -- both in terms of mechanics and in terms of results.
Gohara's physical and mental preparedness seem to have taken big steps forward here in his second go-round with Everett, and his stuff is still among the best in the Northwest League, but the consistency remains an issue for the young Brazilian. After having allowed three earned runs or more in eight of his 11 games with Everett a season ago, he's allowed two earned runs or less in six of his 11 starts this year, including both of his starts for Midwest League Clinton. Still just 18 and still very young in terms of his development as a baseball player, Gohara is far from being able to channel all of his ability into the dominating force that he may well someday become at this point, and it could be a slow climb until the light fully comes on. But if/when it does, Gohara has great upside as a power arm from the left side with the frame to be a horse for a long time.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Morgan has been driving the ball more, hitting for more power than he did in 2014.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: He still is barely making contact at all, posting one of the highest strikeout rates in baseball in year two in the AZL.
When the Mariners selected Morgan out of a Canadian high school, he come with a lot more experience than your typical high school player has under his belt, having competed against the M's club in the Dominican and in a number of tournaments that the highest level of U.S. amateurs also play in. With that in mind, it was reasonable to assume that his game would be further along than the typical high school signee. That just has not been the case. While the tools are present and are very loud, Morgan's ability to have those tools show in game action is still very infrequent. He is about as raw as they come in terms of approach and being able to have and execute a plan at the plate. The strikeout rates north of 40 bear that out, and they suggest that perhaps it will be a long climb for the 19 year old. But even with the struggles with the strike zone, he's tied for third in the AZL in home runs and just outside the top-10 in total bases.
8. Victor Sanchez – RHP
Sanchez is definitely the worst story of anyone on this list, and one that caused me a lot of personal feelings of loss and reflections on mortality as a lover of a young man's game and as a father. Sanchez is someone who I watched in person a lot during his time in Everett, and whom I interacted with on a few occasions. But more than that, I talked to people -- coaches, teammates, broadcasters -- about Sanchez. And the picture that was painted of him in my mind from all of those things really gave me a sense of "knowing" him. I was actually a little surprised that I met his passing in that very manner; like I'd lost a friend. A 2011 international free agent signing who was climbing quickly through the organization with a no-hitter under his belt and success at Double-A as a teenager in 2014, Sanchez was struck by the propeller of a boat while swimming in his native Venezuela on Valentine’s Day and died about six weeks later. Just 20 years old at the time, it sounds as though Sanchez wasn’t even supposed to still be in Venezuela on the day of the accident, having missed a flight out the night before.
The team released this statement following the news of his death: "Victor was a tremendous young man and a wonderful teammate. He was a very talented player who was close to fulfilling his promise as a Major Leaguer. He will be missed by his teammates, and the coaches and staff at the Mariners."
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Diaz dominated in the California League and earned an early season push up to Double-A, where he showed that he has the stuff and the pitchability to consistently get outs against advanced bats.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: Consistency with command has been an issue, and working out of any trouble that he gets himself into without any plus secondary offerings has been harder for Diaz at Double-A.
Diaz has been very good in half of his 14 Double-A starts, but he's been pretty bad in four. What usually gets him into trouble is fastball command. He can still run it up there at 95-97, but commanding down in the zone and working ahead are key for the slightly built right-hander. Because of that build, and because of him lacking a consistent plus secondary offering, Diaz may end up in the bullpen long term, but he has the most easily recognizable future rotation piece upside of any arm in the system when he's on. Still just 21, Diaz needs to continue to refine the consistency, effectiveness and use his slider and changeup to reach that potential upside
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Kivlehan has handled the outfield -- and all defensive positions -- at least adequately and has hit for power and shown speed on the bases.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: In a hitter's league in the PCL, Kivlehan hasn't been close to the hitter in terms of AVG and OBP for Tacoma that he showed the past three seasons in the system.
Kivlehan ended a fantastic 2014 season with a very good showing in his second turn in the AFL which had many considering him among the closest prospects in Seattle's system to being MLB-ready, just needing to get fully broken in to his new defensive role as a corner utility guy. But while the defensive shifting hasn't been much of an issue for Kivlehan (he's even played decently in 10 games in center field), his performance at the plate hasn't been what it was during his first three seasons in the system. The power (17 homers) and speed (13 out of 15 in stolen bases) have been there, but Kivlehan has struggled to hit for average and control the strike zone, seeing his average below .250 for much of the season and ending play Saturday night with a 22.8% strikeout rate. The 25 year old right-handed hitter still has potential, but he seems destined for at least another year in Triple-A at this point.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Marte played in the Futures Game, the Triple-A All-Star Game and in Seattle as a 21 year old while showing continued improvement in all phases of his game.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: Marte's wrist injury that caused him to miss significant time is really the only mark against him this season as he's continued to perform very well at a very young age for the competition level when healthy.
Marte was strictly a high-contact, hit the ball on the ground, speed guy when he was in Everett just four seasons ago and didn't crack .300 in any slash stat. He did play good defense and run well, but he didn't look like a player that could ascend to "top prospect" status any time soon. Just 21 now, Marte very well may be Seattle's top prospect, having transformed himself as a hitter into someone who was among the PCL leaders in hits and average before he missed several weeks with a wrist injury. Upon his return from that setback Marte did well for himself in the Futures Game and in the Triple-A All-Star game and is now getting a chance to show his skills as a middle infielder and center fielder -- which may end up being his permanent position in the future -- for the big league club. Marte's speed (100 steals in 444 minor league games) is something that the Mariners are definitely lacking on their roster, and his athleticism and natural instincts could make him a great fit in the outfield, where he has already shown some ability in his few chances there. The switch-hitter has made remarkable strides in the right-handed batter's box the past few seasons and his unique (at least to this organization) set of tools could make Marte a fixture in Seattle if he continues to progress and improve near the same impressive rate that he's done so far.
4. Gabby Guerrero - OF
As the big league team struggled to find offense early in the season, Seattle included Guerrero -- who was really struggling himself in Double-A Jackson -- in the package they dealt to the Diamondbacks to bring back Mark Trumbo. After hitting .307/.347/.467 with 48 extra base hits, 18 homers, 18 steals and 96 RBI for High Desert in 2014, Guerrero was hitting just .215/.262/.305 with 12 extra base hits, two homers, three steals and 15 RBI in 48 games for the Generals when he was dealt away and has hit just .234/.266/.410 with 21 extra base hits, four homers, six steals and 21 RBI in 53 games for Arizona's Southern League affiliate, Mobile, since the deal.
When Arizona GM Dave Stewart acquired Guerrero he stated, "we believe he can play center field," and he's played about 40% of his games in his new organization at that position. But his bat -- his clear driving factor to being a legitimate prospect -- continues to lag behind the pace he set earlier in his career. That isn't to say that the M's don't miss his presence in their system, because they clearly do, but Gabby is less of a hot prospect now than he was in 2014.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Wilson has already played in a career high number of games and has started to show signs of breaking out of his season-long slump the past three weeks. He has also continued to play good outfield defense, displaying a strong, accurate arm.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: Playing close to home in a familiar environment and in an offensive league, his strikeouts are way up, his power is way down and his "Stanford swing" still doesn't appear to be letting him tap into his power nearly frequently enough.
As a 23 year old in the California League, it seemed that Wilson was primed for a big year in 2015. But Austin struggled right out of the gate for the Blaze and hit at or below .200 in each of the season's first three months. He's slugging just .286 against left-handed pitching and has hit sixth more often than any other spot in Bakersfield's lineup, which -- looking at the rest of the roster -- has to be a disappointment to the organization. And as was the case at Stanford, Wilson has proven to be a little injury prone as a pro, and true to form again this year, he missed a couple of weeks last month after running into the wall in San Jose. But since his return to the lineup he's seemed like a different hitter, collecting six of his season's 16 multi-hit games in those 18 games while hitting a robust .339/.453/.532. Wilson may take a bit longer than other prospects his age, but he's shown signs of still having that prototypical right fielder ability in him.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Jackson started to experience some success and put together much better showings in the batter's box following his move down to Everett. He has played very well and looked very comfortable and capable in the outfield defensively.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: Two injuries (shoulder and wrist), a terrible showing in Clinton, lots of strikeouts, very few walks and not much power showing up in games.
While he did come into the pros with the reputation as a highly advanced prep bat, Jackson's assignment to Clinton out of spring training was very aggressive in my opinion, and the numbers that the 19 year old put up seem to back that up. But after taking a month off in Arizona recouping from the shoulder injury, Jackson has looked much better for the AquaSox. Yes, he is still striking out a lot and has appeared very pull conscious at times, but he's also had games where he has hit multiple missiles the other way. Back healthy again now, it is likely that Jackson gets a taste of the postseason in the middle of the order with Everett to end his 2015 before looking to attack the Midwest League again to open 2016.
WHAT’S GONE RIGHT?: Peterson saw himself promoted to Triple-A Tacoma after a small string of success with Jackson after the break.
WHAT’S GONE WRONG?: Basically everything else. On the DL for Tacoma now, Peterson's 2015 has been a huge disappointment all around.
Peterson has been a consensus Top-100 prospect in baseball prior to each of the last two seasons. He more than lived up to the hype in 2014, ranking second in the minors in RBI with 111 as one of just five players in MiLB to club 30+ HR and drive in more than 100 runs. He did so while hitting very well at High-A High Desert and in Double-A with Jackson, leading most to believe back in March that he'd spend a majority of 2015 in Triple-A with the Rainiers. That didn't happen. Peterson put up just a .510 OPS in April for the Generals and didn't have any real stretch of sustained success until about a month ago. He remains the club's top prospect for me because he is in the upper minors and has tasted success there. If he ends 2015 with some better results in Tacoma then perhaps he can salvage this year and look to bounce back big in 2016.
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