M's Prospect Watch - The Relievers

We've already seen the top rated starting pitchers. Now on to the relievers, a group that will have a chance to fill the bullpen openings the Mariners figure to have heading into Spring Training. Jason A. Churchill grades out the top five in the M's farm system.

1. Miguel Martinez, 21, 6-2/205, L/L
2003 Team: Wisconsin-A
2-1, 1.13 ERA, 55.2IP, 41H, 69K, 17BB

Outlook/2004: Martinez, a 37th round draft choice in 2001, completely dominated in middle and short relief in 2003 and could move into the closer's role in 2004. The southpaw's 1.13 ERA is downright stingy, though the Midwest League is unkind to hitters. Armed with a fastball clocked at 88 to 91 MPH and two off-speed pitches that both need some work, Martinez uses his command and entire arsenal to get hitters out. Expect Martinez to be given more responsibility in 2004 when he begins the year at Inland Empire.
MLB ETA: 2006
MLB Clone: Ricardo Rincon, Rheal Cormier

2. Ryan Rowland-Smith, 21, 6-3/230, L/L
2003 Teams: Wisconsin-A, Inland - High-A
3-2, 1.90 ERA, 52IP, 34H, 52K, 22BB

Outlook/2004: Rowland-Smith, another Aussie star in the Mariners' organization, projects as either a starter or reliever and has done both since joining the club in 2000. He spent all of 2003 patrolling the bullpen and did so with a lot of success. Sporting a 1.90 ERA in 52 total innings is impressive enough, but adding in his .186 opponents average against versus left-handers, you can see where his relief value begins to shine through. Using a fastball, sinker, slider, and change-up, Rowland-Smith works hitters in and out with great command and confidence. His fastball tops out around 90 MPH, which is up a few miles per hour from 2002. Watch for Rowland-Smith to begin his 2004 campaign at Inland Empire of the California League.
MLB ETA: 2006
MLB Clone: Jason Christianson, Joe Kennedy

3. Josue Matos, 26, 6-4/197, R/R
2003 Team: San Antonio-AA
7-2, 2.24 ERA, 88.1IP, 58H, 104K, 37BB

Outlook/2004: Matos could be the 2004 version of Julio Mateo. After struggling as a starter, Matos was tossed into the pen and quickly became the most dominant reliever in the Texas League, helping the Missions to their second title in as many years. The M's 27th round draft pick in 1996, he has put himself in a nice situation for 2004. Armed with a fastball between 89 and 92 MPH and a solid slider, Matos has taken his relief role by storm. With possibly as many as two spots open in the M's bullpen, Matos will try to earn a spot with the big-league club out of Spring Training. Look for the right-hander in Tacoma to start the year, but he will be just a phone call and a cab ride away from Safeco Field.
MLB ETA: 2004 (September)
MLB Clone: Miguel Bautista, Rodrigo Lopez

4. Brandon Perry, 19, 6-1/186, L/L
2003 Teams: Peoria-R, Everett-SS-A

Outlook/2004: Perry is what some would call the Silent Kamikaze. He quietly strolls out to the mound to face an opponent's best hitter, and his electric stuff does all the talking needed. His fastball tops out in the high 80's with potential to reach the low 90's by the time he is ready for the big leagues. His slurve is as nasty as you can expect from a first year pro, and a 19-year-old to boot. Perry should see time at both Everett and Wisconsin in 2004.
MLB ETA: 2007
MLB Clone: Scott Schoeneweiss, Gabe White

5. Jared Thomas, 23, 6-3/232, L/L
2003 Team: Inland Empire - High-A
5-3, 3.61 ERA, 87.1ip, 108K, 46BB

Outlook/2004: Thomas was the M's 11th round pick in the 2002 draft, and has pitched well in both seasons since signing his pro contract. The left-handed fire-baller showed signs of dominance in 2003 and even started seven games. He could project there as well as in a closers' role. Thomas' fastball is usually between 88 and 93 MPH, and he uses it to set up a hammer style slider for his out pitch. If he cleans up his control issue (46 walks in 87 innings) he could jump up the minor league ladder in a hurry. Watch for Thomas to start 2004 season at Double-A San Antonio.
MLB ETA: 2005 (September)
MLB Clone: Jason Christianson, B.J. Ryan

Michael Moorehead/23/Everett, Wisconsin
JJ Putz/27/Tacoma, Seattle
Aaron Looper/27/Tacoma, Seattle
Rich Dorman/24/Inland Empire
Brian Strelitz/24/Inland Empire,San Antonio

Jason resides in North Tacoma, Washington, where his father is his best friend, his mother has a better fastball than he does, and his nephew is the only person better suited for stardom. Jason continues his hatred of the ignorant fan, the slider speed bat, and anything to do with the New York Yankees. Questions and comments are welcome at DiamondGenius@hotmail.com

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