Prospect Watch: Top 10 Starting Pitchers

InsidethePark's minor league expert Jason A. Churchill breaks down the top 10 starting pitchers in the Mariners minor league system. Felix Hernandez ranks atop the list - that's a gimme - but where it gets interesting is from numbers 2-10. Get an sneak peak at who the top candidates are to make the trip to the Safeco Field mound in the years ahead, right here at InsidethePark.com.

1. Felix Hernandez, 18, RHP, San Antonio Missions
San Antonio: 3 G, 18.0 IP, 1-0, 2.50 ERA, 15 H, 18 K, 8 BB
Inland Empire: 16 G, 92.0 IP, 9-3, 2.74 ERA, 85 H, 114 K, 26 BB
The 18-year-old showcased his stuff last week in the MLB Futures Game, and came out as the talk of the event. Kid K, with his high 90s fastball and advanced curveball, is a secret no more.

2. Clint Nageotte, 23, RHP, Tacoma Rainiers
12 G, 67.2 IP, 4-6, 4.92 ERA, 71 H, 57 K, 31 BB
His fastball and slider combo are still as good as any in the minors. Needs to polish command to stick in the big leagues.

3. Bobby Madritsch, 28, LHP, Tacoma Rainiers
12 G, 62.1 IP, 5-2, 3.75 ERA, 61 H, 53 K, 26 BB
The advanced age (28) is the only thing keeping the southpaw from being a blue-chip prospect. Madritsch, a former independent leaguer, could have a spot in the M's rotation or bullpen in 2005.

4. Bobby Livingston, 21, LHP, Inland Empire 66ers
19 G, 126.2 IP, 8-4, 3.69 ERA, 121 H, 103 K, 22 BB
Control specialist is finding ways to stay competitive as the league begins to catch up with his style. Don't expect a sub-3.00 ERA from the left-hander, but don't expect the league to completely figure him out either. B-Liv is too smart for that to happen.

5. Shawn Nottingham, 19, LHP, Everett Aqua Sox
5 G, 30.2 IP, 3-1, 1.17 ERA, 19 H, 29 K, 8 BB
Left-hander is off to a great start and is showing the pitch arsenal that could vault him up the prospect charts in a hurry. Nottingham's advanced approach is a key component to his winning ways.

6. Ryan Feierabend, 18, LHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
17 G, 105.1 IP, 7-5, 3.59 ERA, 101 H, 71 K, 31 BB
The youngest pitcher in the Midwest League has been steady all season and without interruption. Feierabend is developing some top qualities on the mound, including a fiery competitive drive.

7. Aaron Jensen, 20, RHP, Everett Aqua Sox
6 G, 29.2 IP, 3-1, 3.64 ERA, 27 H, 29 K, 27 BB
Jensen has a plus heate and a plus curve to his disposal. So why isn't he using them? Good question. Jensen's off to a slow start and his "stuff" seems less than par for the 2003 19th-rounder.

8. Thomas Oldham, 22, LHP, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers
17 G, 101.2 IP, 6-4, 2.83 ERA, 96 H, 116 K, 28 BB
Tough to gauge the status of a 22-year-old pitching in the Midwest League. Until the Creighton product gets a chance to produce at a level more equal to his age, he won't be seen as a top prospect.

9. Ivan Blanco, 20, RHP, Everett Aqua Sox
4 G, 14.2 IP, 0-1, 11.05 ERA, 21 H, 20 K, 12 BB
Armed with the stuff of a top-of-the-rotation starter, Blanco needs experience to polish the tools that brought him to the organization.

10. Rett Johnson, 25, RHP, Tacoma Rainiers
No 2004 Stats
Johnson simply needs to get back on the field. After returning from injury in 2003, Johnson ripped through the Texas and Pacific Coast Leagues and found himself high on the pitching ladder for the Mariners. At 25, the red-headed right-hander hasn't pitched this season due to off-the-field matters.

LHP Travis Blackley does not appear on this list because he is currently up in the big leagues. If he were still in the minors, he'd be behind Clint Nageotte and ahead of Bobby Madritsch.

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