Prospect Watch: Top Promotion Candidates
Top 10 "Promotable" Prospects
1. Felix Hernandez, RHP - Hernandez may not be the first of the prospects to get the call, but he's easily the most deserving. The problem is, he just turned 19 and may not be ready to make the jump, without repercussion. The Mariners want the Venezuelan to deal with some adversity in Triple-A - and battle through it - before they give him the call. The workload issue has been overblown somewhat, but it would be shocking to see the right-hander total more than 190 innings this season. Expect to see the King in a Seattle uniform by August.
2. Jorge Campillo, RHP - The "Mexican Maddux" might be the first arm to get the call to the bigs after a strong start in Tacoma. Campillo throws a lot of strikes and needs to have confidence in his high-80s fastball to be effective long term, but has a solid array of offspeed pitches to keep hitters off balance. If the Mariners need a starter before Hernandez is ready, Campillo tops the list.
3. George Sherrill, LHP - The left-hander probably should have made the 25-man roster in Seattle out of spring training. Some politics got in the way of that, as did the 28-year-old's dull showing late in Peoria. Sherrill's command is imperative for his success - at any level. When he regains the form that sported a 2.32 ERA and a 62/9 K/BB ratio in Triple-A last season, the Mariners will make an overdue phone call.
4. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B/3B - Chen is the system's best second base prospect, though he began the 2005 season as the starting third baseman in Wisconsin. Chen is quickly becoming one of the most well-rounded prospects in the system with his plus speed, gold glove defensive skills and a torrid start at the plate. Chen is almost certain to end up in the California League before too long.
5. Jon Nelson, OF - Nelson's power and speed combination make him a prime candidate to get a look in Triple-A late this season. The 25-year-old stole 26 bases at Inland Empire last season, proving his athleticism and aptitude for base theivery. Nelson's biggest weakness is the Utah native's inability to level out his strikeouts-to-walks ratio (418-55 in three pro seasons) and must show great strides in this area in order to be considered as an option in Tacoma.
6. Jose Lopez, 2B/SS - Lopez is likely to be groomed as the second base replacement for Bret Boone in 2006. But don't count out the 21-year-old from making several appearances at the Mariners shortstop this season. Lopez is due back in May, following surgery on his wrist, and could force the M's hand with strong start in Triple-A.
7. Jamal Strong, CF - Strong missed a golden opportunity last season when the Mariners were burning up the 253 area code and bringing up the most qualified of Rainiers players. A knee injury sidelined the former Nebraska Cornhusker and stripped him of his best chance at making an impression. A healthy Strong vaults to the top of the list when the Mariners send for a quality defensive outfielder with solid baserunning skills.
8. Yunieksy Betancourt, 2B/SS - The 23-year-old is highly skilled defensively and is off to a hot start with the bat at Double-A San Antonio. The logjam in the middle infield positions in Triple-A could delay a promotion for Betancourt, so look for the Cuban to stay in the Texas League until Lopez is called up to the big leagues or Mike Morse is pushed off of his pedestal at shortstop.
9. Rene Rivera, C - If Rivera puts up offensive numbers that reflect his 2003 performance, he might end up in Triple-A sooner than later - and the ascent may not stop there. The M's second-rounder in 2001 made an appearance in Tacoma and in the bigs with the Mariners late last season. Defensively, experience is the only thing lacking and the Puerto Rico native is the top catcher in the farm system. Rivera will go as far as his bat will carry him.
10. Mumba Rivera, RHP - Rivera has the stuff to ride his way to Inland this season, but probably not as a full-time starter. The Bethune-Cookman graduate has an arsenal that fits the relief role and could get the 24-year-old through the system quicker than if he stayed in the rotation.
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