Prospect Watch: On the Hot Seat

High draft picks, injured prospects and those with disappointing progress reports litter the hot seat top 10.


Top 10 "On the Hot Seat" Prospects

1. Chris Snelling, OF - Someday, and soon, Snelling needs to stay healthy before he looks up and realizes he's a 30-year-old career minor leaguers who averages 45 games played per season. A physically sound Snelling (.319 career average in six minor league seasons) is a Jeremy Reed clone with a better arm and less speed. Still just 23, the Aussie has time to get back on the field and prive his worth. But the clock is ticking.

2. Michael Garciaparra, SS - Injuries have riddled Garciaparra's career and at age 22, he needs to take a full step in both the health department and in the production area to hold off the "bust" tag. A permanent move to second base could be in his best interest, and might be forced as he shares the infield with Adam Jones.

3. Jamal Strong, OF - Strong can play. He can play center field and has a better throwing arm than he gets credit for. He can hit. Has hit .300 or better four times in five minor league seasons and his best asset, his speed, has produced 236 steals in 269 attempts. The problem for Strong is two-fold; opportunity and recent health issues. In 2003, Strong deserved a shot at the big leagues but didn;t get much more than a sip of java. Last season, the 26-year-old would certainly have received the call if it weren't for season-ending knee surgery. It's now or never for Strong, at least as a Mariner farmhand.

4. Ryan Christianson, C - Christianson fought back from injury to put up some decent offensive numbers last season, splitting time between Double-A and Triple-A. Now it's time to prove he can catch, too. Oh, wait. First he has to serve a 15-day suspension for failing a drug test in March. Ho, Hum.

5. Justin Leone, 3B - Leone has power to spare, but has issues making contact, and found a hole in his defensive throws that he must fix if he wants to stay a big leaguer for any length of time. Athletically, Leone has the tools to be a regular, but the hole in his offensive approach relegates the Las vegas native to a reserve role.

6. Jeff Flaig, 3B/OF - Flaig was a second round pick in the 2003 draft but has been limited to 32 games played and 107 at-bats by numerous injuries, specifically a back and knee problem. Flaig was a shortstop in high school and moved to third upon being drafted. The 6-foot-2 Californian may move to the outfield to aid in staying healthy.

7. Chris Colton, OF - Blessed with three average or better tools, Colton has yet to put them together on the field. Colton has 20+ home run power to go with 20-steal speed and solid defensive skills. Another disappointing season might erase Colton from the back end of the Mariners top 50 prospect lists.

8. Aaron Looper, RHP -Looper, like many others appearing on this list, is battling back from injury. The son of the club's Director of Scouting and Player Development has very little time to make something of his major league aspirations. Now 28, Looper's recovery from surgery isn't going as well as expected and he is still in Peoria working through the rehab process.

9. Josh Womack, OF - Womack was the M's second rounder in 2002 and hasn't developed as fast as the Mariners would like to have seen after two pro seasons. Being drafted 69th overall, and before fellow 2002 draftees such as Detroit's top prospect Curtis Granderson, Womack needs to make some progress. The San Diego native is also one of the most likely to breakthrough this season.

10. Jeff Heaverlo, RHP - The 27-year-old is a former Washington Huskies pitcher and the son of former major leaguer, Dave Heaverlo. After speeding through the first two seasons of pro ball, Heaverlo ran into Tommy John surgery and missed all of 2002. After fighting through a tough 2003 season, Heaverlo suffered another injury under the arm and missed most of last season. A healthy Heaverlo has the stuff to be a quality reliever in the majors, but time is running out.



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