Prospect Watch: Top 10 Tools

The top 10 tools within the Mariners' farm system: Will Adam Jones' arm compete with the power bat of Wladimir Balentien, the wheels of Jamal Strong or the plate skills of Casey Craig? How does Rene Rivera's glove behind the plate stack up against the line-drive abilities of Jeremy Reed? Read on to find out which players have the best tools in the Mariners system.

1. Shin-Soo Choo's power-speed-arm combination.
You could call Choo a three-tooler for the three above skills but any player with the potential for 25 home runs, 10 triples, 40 doubles, 40 steals, and 15 outfield assists has the ability to become very special. Choo's arm would show up somewhere on this list if it stood all by its lonesome.

2. Adam Jones throwing arm.
Capable of reaching 95-mph on the mound, Jones has brought his cannon right arm to shortstop and shows it off any chance he gets. Watching him backhand a sharp grounder in the hole at short to gun down the runner by step or more is truly something to see.

3. Rene Rivera's defense.
Widely considered one the top defensive catchers in the minor leagues, Rivera has a plus arm and better than average game-calling skills leading the way. The 21-year-old needs to sharpen his skills at blocking pitches in the dirt as well as the plate on plays at the dish, but is advanced for his age and level. If his bat comes around, the M's have a gem.

4. Wladimir Balentien's power.
At 20-years-old, the Aruban-born right-handed hitter is the top power prospect in the system. Balentien could win a lot of home run hitting contests and may develop 30+ home run power if he can improve his strikeout ratio.

5. Jeremy Reed's strike zone judgement and batting eye.
Rarely a strikeout victim, Reed usually keeps his walk totals even with his strikeout totals, if not better. Not many pitchers can afford to get comfortable when they get ahead in the count on the 23-year-old outfielder. Reed has a little bit of Tony Gwynn in him in that situation.

6. A.J. Zapp's power stroke.
At 26, Zapp is a bit overaged to be a true prospect but his power stroke is pretty darned good. Always taking extra batting practice, the former Braves first-rounder constantly peppers the back road behind the outfield fences at Cheney Stadium. More often than that, his bombs end up scaring the daylights out of Foss High School, which sits 60 feet beyong the wall in right field.

7. Casey Craig's plate discipline.
Craig, just 19, has one of the most advanced approaches at the plate in the entire Mariner organization. Rarely swinging at pitches out of the zone, the 2003 draftee combines a line-drive swing with the top-drawer ability to go deep into the count and take a walk.

8. Jamal Strong's speed and stolen base ability.
Not quite the fastest runner in the system, but when healthy he can steal 40-50 bases. Any ball in the gap has a chance to end up as a three-base hit, and any time he gets to first the pitcher better pay attention. If he doesn't he will simply pay. Strong could lead off for a handful of Major League clubs right now considering his offensive skills, led by his speed.

9. Greg Dobbs' defensive play at the hot corner.
As sure handed as any infielder the Mariners have this side of Bret Boone, Dobbs adds a better than average throwing arm and solid ability to come in on slow rollers and bunts. Not as athletic as Justin Leone, Dobbs has slightly better skills at third base, mostly due to his consistent play at the position.

10. T.J. Bohn's outfield throwing arm.
Playing center field, you don't expect to get very many single-throw assists. Unless you're Bohn, of course. With Inland Empire he was scaring runners into holding up at first as he cocked his arm back to make the throw to second base on a hit to center, after gunning down runners one after the other early in the year. Capable of playing LF and RF as well, Bohn could be a future asset in the field and his bat isn't too bad either, though more production in the higher levels is necessary.

Stay tuned next week as Jason A. Churchill brings you the Top 10 Pitching Tools.

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