's Tool Time

With top prospects possessing dozens of top physical abilities, ranks the best of the bunch. Find out who has the best fastball or change up, or which hitter has the best plate discipline.

Seattle Mariners Prospect Tool Box

Best Fastball- Felix Hernandez
Hernandez not only reaches the mid-90's consistently, he locates it well and rarely leaves it out over the plate, making it a hittable pitch.

Runner-up- Matt Thornton
Thornton's fastball runs in the 92-96 range and with good movement. If he could harness control of it, the plus velocity would form a plus-plus pitch for the former first round choice.

Best Curve- Felix Hernandez
A devastating overhand curve is what sets Hernandez apart from most flamethrowers in the minor leagues. With good control and a late break, it's an out pitch- one of three potential strikeout pitches for the Venezuelan.

Runner-up- Jason Snyder
Snyder's curve has more of a slurvy break to it but the velocity is that of a true overhand style breaking pitch. With improved command it could be a plus pitch for the righthander.

Best Slider- Clint Nageotte
When Nageotte has a feel for his slider it is easily one of the best pitches in all of the minor leagues. Better command and a developed change up will make the slider even more dominating.

Runner-up- Felix Hernandez
Most haven't seen Hernandez throw his slider, due to the club asking him to shelf the pitch to avoid added strain on his young arm. He did break it out on occasion and it could very well end up being his best pitch. Yeah, I know, it's amazing.

Best Changeup- Bobby Livingston
Livingston's change is sometimes overused, but only because it's good enough to consider throwing three times in a single at-bat. The Texas native could ride his change to the majors.

Runner-up- Thomas Oldham
While some believe Cesar Jimenez's change to be the best in the system, Livingston and Oldham have proven that their's are just as effective after going through the lineup three or four times. Oldham's change gains effectiveness as his primary pitches, the fastball and slider, get better.

Best Control- Bobby Livingston
Five words; Thirty walks in 186.2 innings.

Runner-up- Thomas Oldham
Oldham's control was very good in Wisconsin where he walked just 30 in 116.2 innings, which was good enough. Then in 42 innings in the California League the 22-year-old walked only nine.

Best Defensive Catcher- Rene Rivera
Good hands, quick feet and a strong arm make Rivera the clear-cut winner here. Rivera has a mind for catching and plays the position like Tom Brady plays quarterback.

Runner-up- Justin Ruchti
A good thrower and perhaps the best game-caller in the system, Ruchti is often the favorite target of many pitchers in the organization.

Best Defensive Infielder- Asdrubal Cabrera
With the natural instincts and footwork of a player far beyond his years of experience, Cabrera is capable of playing 3B, SS and 2B at all-star levels.

Runner-up- Oswaldo Navarro
Navarro has the tools to play gold glove defense at second and has the range to play shortstop, though his arm may keep him from much more time there.

Best Infield Arm- Adam Jones
Clocked as high as 96 MPH before the draft, the former high school pitcher shows off his rifle any chance he gets.

Runner-up- Mike Morse
Morse's arm strength is solid and would allow for a position change to anywhere on the field. His accuracy is average and his judgment could use a fine tuning.

Best Defensive Outfielder- Jeremy Reed
Reed has the physical tools to play center field, even without a great throwing arm. More experience at Safeco Field will allow the 23-year-old to sharpen his routes and get better jumps.

Runner-up- Jamal Strong
Strong runs down balls in the gap with his plus speed and takes solid routes. His jumps on liners in the gaps could be better.

Best Outfield Arm- Shin-soo Choo
A converted pitcher, Choo was gunned in the mid-90's as well and has plus-plus arm. Improving his accuracy could give the 22-year-old one of the best arms in all of the minors.

Runner-up- T.J. Bohn
Bohn's arm is his best tool and he does not hold back. Often firing the ball in laser form on routine plays, most runners have learned not to test him by trying to take the extra base.

Best Athlete- Matt Tuiasosopo
A five-tool prospect, "Tui" has solid speed, a strong arm and the natural physical abilities that will allow for a smooth transition to whichever position in which he ultimately ends up playing.

Runner-up- Brent Johnson
With speed to cover center field adequately and the great reactions and arm strength to play 3B, Johnson is easily one of the best athletes in the minors. Watch for his athletic ability to show up more in the upper levels.

Best Pure Hitter- Jeremy Reed
With a keen eye, a quick bat and great wrists, Reed's plate skills should allow for several seasons of .300 or better to show up on his baseball card at the end of his career.

Runner-up- Chris Snelling
A healthy Snelling is a more aggressive version of Reed. Good plate discipline, a solid eye for the zone and quick hands have let Snelling hit .300 at every level in which he has spent a full season.

Best Power Prospect- Wladimir Balentien
The Aruban-born Balentien has raw power that could produce 30 or more home runs a season. With more contact and a reduced swing, the 20-year-old could reach the majors on his only plus tool.

Runner-up- Matt Tuiasosopo
Already capable of driving the ball deep to the opposite field, Tuiasosopo's power potential is limitless and could thrust the 18-year-old through the system very quickly.

Best Plate Discipline- Jeremy Reed
Reed limits his strikeouts and rarely watches strike three fly by without putting good wood on Mr. Baseball. At times, Reed takes several pitches just inches off the plate, frustrating the pitcher and aggravating the opposing manager.

Runner-up- Jamal Strong
Strong has prototypical leadoff skills and his propensity to take pitches and still put the ball in play consistently is perhaps his best attribute.

Best base stealer- Jamal Strong
A close call, Strong gets the nod due to more experience reading pitchers, cementing his advantage as the best and fastest baserunner in the system.

Runner-up- Yung-Chi Chen
Chen could prove to be as adept as any player in the organization at getting his reads right and turning walks into doubles.

Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at

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