M's Prospect Positional Rankings: Shortstops

Matt Tuiasosopo turned down a football scholarship at the University of Washington to pursue a career in baseball with the Mariners, further strengthening the team's deepest position in farm system. Where does Tui rank with the other high-profile shortstops in the organization? Who else is in the picture? You'll have to read to find out.



 
Matt Tuiasosopo

Opening Day Age: 18
Born: Woodinville, WA
Height/Weight: 6-2/200
Bats/Throws: R/R
2004 Teams: Peoria, Everett

2004 Positional Ranking: N/A
2005 Positional Ranking: 1

   
2004: .412, 4 HR, 12 RBI at Peoria, .248, 2 HR, 14 RBI at Everett

Breakdown:
Seattle sports fans didn't know what to think when the Mariners selected Tuiasosopo with their first pick (a third round selection) of the 2004 amateur draft. Tuiasosopo had already signed with the University of Washington to be the next member of his family to play football in the Purple and Gold, at quarterback nonetheless. When the Mariners offered what was a record signing bonus for a third rounder, the athlete out of Woodinville, Wash. choose baseball over the gridiron. The mixed emotions of Seattle sports fans faded away, and by mid summer the city embraced Tuiasosopo's decision.

The Mariners didn't come out bad either, signing a player who many experts called a "first-round talent" 93rd overall. Other teams were scared to draft him due to his ties to football and signability concerns, letting him slide to the hometown nine. Tuiasosopo reported to the M's rookie league team in Arizona with fire in his belly, knowing he had something to prove right off the bat. He didn't disappoint, batting a torrid .412 with four home runs and 12 RBI in 20 games in the desert. A highly-advanced hitter for someone straight out of high-school, Tuiasosopo handled breaking pitches well enough for one member of the M's organization to say "he could hit at Mid-A Wisconsin right now."

Tuiasosopo moved up to Everett for the final 29 games of the season, playing just 20 miles from his friends and family in Woodinville. While with the AquaSox, he played mostly at designated hitter as the organization eased him into the shortstop position at the pro level. When in the field, the teenager showed he still had a ways to go both fielding and throwing if he intends on staying in the six-hole. He batted .248 with two home runs and 14 RBI for the AquaSox, and in 20 games at shortstop in Peoria and Everett he finished with 11 errors. Cutting down errors in the field and strikeouts at the plate will be key parts of Tuiasosopo's development.

2005 Projection:
Chances are good that Tuiasosopo's days playing ball in the Pacific Northwest are over for at least a couple years, when a return could be made by playing at Tacoma and/or Seattle. He'll likely start his second professional season at Mid-A Wisconsin, and barring any unforeseen disasters he'll leave Everett in the rear-view mirror for good. Wisconsin's harsh spring climate will be a good early test for Tuiasosopo in a number of ways. His offense, defense and mental approach to the game will all be tested early and often. Don't be surprised if Tuiasosopo is in a different positional ranking this time next season, as third base and right field remain two very real possibilities if shortstop doesn't work out as planned.




 
Adam Jones

Opening Day Age: 19
Born: San Diego, CA
Height/Weight: 6-2/190
Bats/Throws: R/R
2004 Teams: Wisconsin

2004 Positional Ranking: 3
2005 Positional Ranking: 2

   
2004: .267, 11 HR, 72 RBI

Breakdown:
Jones, the Mariners No. 1 pick in the 2003 amateur draft, was tested in 2004 as an 18-year-old in the Midwest League. Playing at a position many consider the most difficult on the field, Jones struggled early in his second pro season both at the plate and defensively. In May, however, he hit his first career home run, and the confidence that came with it – combined with warmer weather - seemed to boost his play. Jones finished the season with 41 extra-base hits and stole 8 bases in 12 attempts, but also struck out 146 times.

In the field, the former high school pitcher routinely put his rocket arm on display, showing an innate ability to make the dazzling play. He started 120 games at shortstop, providing excellent range to both directions. Still erratic at times with his throwing arm, Jones finished the season with 31 errors, a total he'll look to hope to considerably trim down cut in future seasons.

2005 Projection:
Jones will return to his roots in Southern California and become the every-day shortstop at High-A Inland Empire (San Bernardino, Calif.) for his third season as a member of the M's organization. As a 19-year-old, he'll focus on cutting down his strikeouts and errors, drawing more walks and becoming a bigger threat on the base paths.




 
Asdrubal Cabrera

Opening Day Age: 18
Born: Venezuela
Height/Weight: 6-0/170
Bats/Throws: B/R
2004 Teams: Everett

2004 Positional Ranking: N/A
2005 Positional Ranking: 3

   
2004: .272, 5 HR, 41 RBI

Breakdown:
Few minor league shortstops at any level possess quite the God-given talent on defense like Cabrera, a slick-fielding Venezuelan who made his American debut with the AquaSox in 2004 at the age of 18. While holding his own with the bat and hitting the ball well from both sides of the plate, Cabrera made a name for himself across the Northwest League for his stellar defense. Everett's radio announcer Pat Dillon went as far as to say that he was already "major-league ready" defensively in his first season in the United States.

With superb range, terrific footwork, a quick release and strong arm all working in his favor, Cabrera played 43 games at shortstop, 17 at second base and five at third. He did lead the team in errors with 19, but part of the reason was because he got to balls others simply couldn't. At the plate, he finished with 24 extra base hits in 239 at bats with a batting average that hovered around .300 until the final weeks of the season.

2005 Projection:
Cabrera isn't just a player who will go as far as his glove will take him; the kid can stroke as well. He will likely begin his second pro season at Wisconsin along with an incredibly talented cast of infielders around him in Yung-Chi Chen, Matt Tuiasosopo and Oswaldo Navarro. If he hits well with the Timber Rattlers, a midseason promotion to Inland Empire would hardly be out of the question.


 
Michael Morse

Opening Day Age: 23
Born: Plantation, FL
Height/Weight: 6-5/185
Bats/Throws: R/R
2004 Teams: Birmingham, San Antonio

2004 Positional Ranking: N/A
2005 Positional Ranking: 4

   
2004: .287, 11 HR, 38 RBI at Birmingham, .274, 6 HR, 33 RBI at San Antonio

Breakdown:
One of the "next generation" shortstops, Morse brings a height (6-foot-5) to the position rarely seen before the days of Alex Rodriguez. Whether he stays at the position beyond next season will largely be determined on the field. Reports are that Morse, who came over to the Mariners' organization in the Freddy Garcia trade with the Chicago White Sox, is a hard-worker who is showing slow improvement at the position. The problem is Morse has a long way to go before the M's would ever trust him in the six-hole at Safeco Field. While tall, his range remains questionable at best and his future at the position is a bit up in the air. Morse had nine errors in 40 games with San Antonio after the trade, not great numbers but surely far from horrendous.

A third round draft pick by the White Sox in 2000, Morse had a career-year at the plate in 2004 between his two stops at Double-A, busting out for 17 home runs, 71 RBI and a combined batting average in the .280 range. He never hit more than 10 homers in any previous season. The bad news is he didn't steal a base, going 0-for-5 on the season. And at a position like shortstop, being no threat on the basepaths could work against him.

2005 Projection:
Morse proved enough in Double-A in 2004 to earn his first promotion to Triple-A next year. He'll be given every chance possible to be Tacoma's primary shortstop, but with an abundance of infielders figuring to be at Triple-A the hook could be short if Morse struggles to grasp the position early in the season. A move to first base, third base or the outfield could be in store if that happens.


 
Jeffrey Dominguez

Opening Day Age: 18
Born: Puerta Rico
Height/Weight: 6-2/155
Bats/Throws: B/R
2004 Teams: Peoria

2004 Positional Ranking: N/A
2005 Positional Ranking: 5

   
2004: .222, 0 HR, 15 RBI

Breakdown:
Dominguez was the Mariners' ninth-round selection in the 2004 amateur draft, a slightly built kid out of Puerto Rico who didn't turn 18 until July 31. At Peoria with the M's Rookie League team last season, the switch-hitter struggled at the plate. He'll need to add offensive consistency and better plate discipline as he matures and moves up through the system. In 162 at bats, Dominguez struck out 39 times and drew just 12 walks. His ability is advanced for his age, however; he was a perfect 10-for-10 in stolen base attempts.

2005 Projection:
Dominguez's less-than-stellar 2004 season might force him to begin his second pro season back at Peoria, but the chances are good that he'll move up to Everett at some point during the season. Beginning the year with the AquaSox isn't entirely impossible, either, and would be made more possible if Dominguez impresses during spring training.


Next Up: Dec. 6, 2B


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