Prospect Watch: The Breakthrough Bunch

InsidethePark.com's Jason A. Churchill takes a dive into the Mariners' farm system and brings back a group of 10 prospects that are primed and ready for a breakout season in 2004. While some are already known names in the organization, a few have yet to make their mark. Check out which Mariners could be the next household name in the minors.



1. Josh Womack-OF
The multi-talented Womack has had two solid seasons in pro ball since being the M's 2nd-Round pick in the 2002 draft. In 84 career minor league games Womack has hit .283 with four homers and 30 RBI. The primary numbers do not tell the story however. The San Diego native smacked nine triples and 19 doubles and posted a .350 on-base percentage over the same span. The left-handed hitting outfielder is primed for bigger and better things as he sneaks up the ladder in the M's farm system. Womack will likely develop a reasonably significant power surge in the next year or so, and combined with his solid speed and defensive skills, could slide into the Mariners top group of positional prospects in a hurry. The 20-year-old could turn into a solid corner outfield option over the next few seasons.

2. TJ Bohn-OF
Bohn has the offensive skills to end up in Triple-A in 2004. The 24-year-old has displayed solid plate discipline and better-than-average power in his two seasons in the M's organization. The 2002 season was a bit dark and gloomy ending with a with a paltry .245 average and just three homers. Bohn turned up the heat in 2003 and bashed 13 homers with 31 doubles in a tough league for hitters. The right-handed hitting outfielder flashed more patience and power than his draft position would suggest. The 30th-Round pick in the 2002 draft will step into a hitters paradise in 2004 with a chance to use his 6-foot-5, 205 pound frame to his best advantage.

3. TA Fulmer-RHP
Thomas Fulmer has done everything asked of him since being the Mariners 13th round selection in 2002. The right-hander has pitched well at two levels as well as in two different roles. Fulmer threw the ball very well in 2002 with the Everett Aqua Sox, finishing the year with a 3.24 ERA in 12 games, four as a starter. The Citadel product took it a step further in 2003, posting a fine 2.58 ERA while compiling a 9-8 record in 167.2 innings of work. Fulmer walked just 30 batters and led the Midwest League in complete games with five. Armed with a solid arsenal of pitches and great command, Fulmer is ready to make a splash in the upper levels.

4. Ryan Feierabend-LHP
This 18-year-old southpaw draws rave reviews for his mound presence and overall maturity. Feierabend began his career in the Arizona Rookie League by posting a stingy 2.61 ERA in six games, five of which were starts. The M's 3rd-Round Pick in the 2003 draft might have the system's best changeup by year's end and possesses a smooth delivery that will aid in his development as well as assist in avoiding arm injuries. Feierabend could skyrocket up the charts with a strong 2004 season, and will not be 19 years of age until August.

5. Hunter Brown-3B
Hunter Brown has an opportunity to put himself in a unique position this summer with a strong showing at the plate. The 24-year-old improved his numbers in nearly every category last season including a major jump in the power department. Following his seven homerun, nine double performance in 2002, The Rice University grad raked out 15 bombs and 34 doubles this past season. Brown has shown the ability to take a walk and showed the necessary power development to open the eye of some Mariner scouts. A 2004 campaign where Brown proves worthy of a promotion to Double-A San Antonio or even Triple-A Tacoma, would certainly peak the interest of the organization.

6. Michael Wilson-OF
Wilson is a former HS football star who possesses every athletic skill you can think of, even beyond five tools. Blessed with a power swing, a conducive batting eye, better-than-average speed and a plus arm, it's a mystery as to why the former 2nd-Round pick hasn't developed quicker. The repeated seasons at Peoria may have paid off for Wilson, who took his .238 average in 2002 up to .311 last season. The improved k/bb ratio and extra base-hit production are the signs of a player learning how to hit. Wilson could get an opportunity to prove his worth with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers at some point this season.

7. Bobby Livingston-LHP
Probably the most underappreciated of the M's pitching prospects, Livingston has had a truly fantastic start to his baseball career. The 21-year-old followed up a six-win, 3.02ERA campaign in short-season Everett with an even better 2003 with Wisconsin of the Midwest League. The Lubbock, Texas native posted 15 wins, a new Wisconsin team record, and a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts. The southpaw's control has been flawless, walking just 42 batters in 258.1 innings in two years. The anticipated move to the California heat and a better hitter's league with the Inland Empire 66ers is a great challenge for the M's 2001 4th-Round pick.. Another strong showing and Bobby Livingston will soon be talked about among the top prospects in the system.

8. Eric O'Flaherty-LHP
O'Flaherty is next in a long line of quality left-handers in the Mariners farm system. The 6-foot-2 inch Walla Walla product spent the bulk of his first professional season in Peoria as a reliever posting a 1.95 ERA in 13 games that included just one start. O'Flaherty also saw action with Everett and finished with a solid 3.38 ERA in three games. The M's 2003 6th-Rounder was named Peoria's Pitcher of the Year and ended his Everett season with a solid six-inning start. The 19-year-old could be primed for a breakthrough season in the starting rotation in 2004.

9. Greg Dobbs-3B
Dobbs rivals fellow third-sacker Justin Leone as the organizations top minor league option at the hot corner. The left-handed Dobbs is a solid fielder and a steady bat and could have broken into the big leagues this spring had it not been for a season-ending achilles injury during the second game of the 2003 season in San Antonio. The 25-year-old topped this list last season after a 2002 season that produced a .296 average, 15 homers, and 63 RBI while splitting time with Wisconsin and San Antonio. The Mariners' 10th-Round selection in 2000 will try it again in Double-A and look to continue his success in the Texas League after a .385, 5HR, 15RBI showing in 2002.

10. Cha Seung Baek-RHP
Baek returned to form after missing nearly two full season with back and elbow injuries in 2001 and 2002. The Korean-born Baek compiled a solid 8-4 record to go with a 3.13 ERA in 112.2 innings in 2003. The 23-year-old Baek could push to the forefront of the M's starting pitching depth charts with a hot start in 2004. The 6-foot-4 inch right-hander is armed with two solid power pitches, a solid changeup and plus command. All are quality attributes of a top-of-the-rotation starting pitcher.

If you dare to contest any of the above findings or have a few of your own to submit, feel free to email Jason at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com.


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