Mariners Top 10 Prospects

A "dog days of summer" look at the top 10 prospects in the M's farm system. Updated to include 2005 draft picks and the newly acquired pitching from the weekend's trade frenzy.

1. Felix Hernandez, RHP (19)
Hernandez is slated to make his major league debut on Thursday at Comerica Park in Detroit. This coming after the 19-year-old dominated the Pacific Coast League with a 2.25 ERA and 9-4 record. The top hitting league in all of minor league baseball hit just .196 of Hernandez, who finished his Triple-A season with exactly 100 strikeouts in 88 innings pitched. King Felix has been all he was cracked up to be - and then some.

2. Chris Snelling, LF (23)
The M's finally made room for Snelling by dealing Randy Winn to the Giants, and though the 23-year-old has to wait it out until Friday before being eligible for a recall, you can bet he'll be ready after ending his week with the Rainiers on a 10-for-17 tear to raise his PCL average to .375. Snelling has been healthy all season (crossing fingers) and will get a long look in left field for the final two months.

3. Adam Jones, SS (19)
Showtime Jones has made progress offensively this season, despite the same defensive struggles from a year ago. While many scouts believe Jones, who will be 20 later this week, will be forced to move to center field, the former first rounder from San Diego's Morse High School will be given another full season to improve his defense at shortstop. With the stick, Jones is looking like a .280s hitter with 25-homer power.

4. Jeff Clement, C (21)
Clement's prospect status is based solely on his college days and the tools that scouts all agree on; plus power and a quality approach from the left side of the dish. The 21-year-old's work behind the plate will determine the speed in which he climbs through the minors. Clement's throwing mechanics are the area where the M's top pick will need to improve the most. His bat speed, strikezone judgement and sweet stroke is an unparalleled combination in the M's system.

5. Yuniesky Betancourt, SS (23)
Betancourt's glove was enough to open the eyes of the M's brass this summer, but his surprising consistency at the plate has created a buzz about the Cuban. The 23-year-old finished his minor league season with 34 extra-base hits and 19 steals. If he learns to work the count, Betancourt is going to be special.

6. Asdrubal Cabrera, SS (19)
Cabrera is the third best shortstop in a system stacked with quality middle infielders. In most organizations, Cabrera would likely be the top defender and one of the top few offensive shortstops. With the M's, he's behind Betancourt with the glove, for now, and Jones is outhitting the Venezuelan - though not by much. Cabrera may end up sliding over to second base in the big leagues, but not because he can't handle shortstop. Imagine this: A middle infield that consists of Betancourt and Cabrera - two true blue gold glove potential defenders. Has a chance to be the flashiest defensive duo up the middle since Little O and Robby Alomar in the late 90s.

7. Clint Nageotte, RHP (24)
Nageotte has allowed just 11 hits, no homers, and struck out 21 in his 18 innings of work with Triple-A Tacoma. A fresh right arm and a new role in the bullpen has the Mariners thinking about a few things, concerning Nageotte's future: Julio Mateo-like role in 2006, or back into the starting rotation later this season. It's unlikely that the 24-year-old will start any games this season, but it's not out of the question that the club goes down that road again with the slider specialist. As a reliever, Nageotte has a chance to be an ultra-effective late-inning setup type arm.

8. Yorman Bazardo, RHP (21)
Bazardo began the year as one of the Marlins top prospects and was having a solid, yet unspectacular season in Double-A Carolina. Scouts are mixed on Bazardo's future, but many believe he will ultimately end up in the bullpen where he may be able to put his mid-90s fastball and plus change-up can be put to better use. One question being asked about the 21-year-old right-hander is why doesn't he miss more bats with such great velocity? Bazardo pitches to contact and needs to develop his below-average slider into an effective option if he is to become a No. 3 starter.

9. Bobby Livingston, LHP (22)
Livingston's first three starts in the PCL have proven one thing - the 22-year-old left-hander knows what he is doing on the mound. Using average stuff, with the exception of a plus change-up, Livingston has been consistent in his first 15 frames in Triple-A, allowing just 11 hits and only one long ball. The southpaw has been bitten by the one-inning struggles but has been solid as a Rainiers starter. Still a year away, Livingston will likely repeat with Tacoma in 2006.

10. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS (19)
Tuiasosopo has battled all season with defensive struggles and the competition in the Midwest League. Just 19, the M's top pick from the '04 draft has shown the aptitude to make adjustments as the season goes. Tui could explode in the California League next season, especially if the club removes the "shortstop" tag from his name to allow him to focus on his plus power potential instead.


The Next Group:Thomas Oldham - LHP (23), Justin Thomas - LHP (21), Stephen Kahn - RHP (21), Jeff Flaig - 1B (20), Rob Johnson - C (22), Ryan Feierabend - LHP (19), Casey Craig - LF (20), Rene Rivera - C (22), Shin-soo Choo - LF (23), Wladimir Balentien - LF (21).
Jason A Churchill is the Executive Editor at InsidethePark.com and can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsideThePark.com

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