2005 Mariners Farm Report: Top 10 Disappointments

Heading into every baseball season, even the most trained baseball eyes never know with 100 percent certainty who will shine and who will falter. New seasons mean new leagues and new challenges. Here's a look at the Top 10 Mariners prospects who had disappointing seasons in 2005.

1. Cha Seung Baek, RHP, Tacoma
8-8, 6.41 ERA, 25 G, 113.2 IP, 147 H, 81 ER, 36 BB, 73

Baek didn't exactly pitch like Felix Hernandez in his seven big league appearances last September, but he did pitch well enough for consideration on the Mariners pitching staff for years to come. He went 2-4 with a 5.52 ERA, striking out 20 in 31 innings with the Mariners, numbers that appeared much worse than they actually were. With a smooth delivery, the Korean pitcher seemed to be on his way. But whatever progress he made during his injury-riddled '04 season, Baek lost this season in his second year of Triple-A. Baek, who went 5-4 with a 4.21 ERA with the Rainiers in his first season at Cheney Stadium, regressed badly in his encore campaign. The 25-year-old simply couldn't get Pacific Coast League batters out, losing all confidence in himself on the mound. He allowed a whopping 147 hits in 113.2 innings, which led to his embarrassing 6.41 ERA despite only allowing 36 walks. Once regarded as an end-of-the rotation starter who could factor into the big league picture by late '05, those plans have had to be scrapped. Baek may have pitched his way out of the organization.

2. Justin Leone, 3B/SS/OF, Tacoma
.243, 313 AB, 7 HR, 38 RBI, 5 SB, .351 OBP, .383 SLG

The progress of Leone stalled in a major way this season, a surprise considering that the 28-year-old managed to end the 2004 season as the Mariners starting third baseman before going down with a hand injury. Being called up on the second day of the season was maybe the worst thing that could have happened to Leone, as Rainiers manager Dan Rohn was able to get a good look at Hunter Brown, who the club planned to use as its main utility infielder. Brown's superior defense put Leone in a bad place from the start, and an early-season stay on the disabled list only worsened the problem. Leone is versatile enough to play at shortstop and left field as well as third, but doesn't stand to have much of a long-term future at any one position. Hampered by a wrist injury all season long, the wiry Las Vegas native saw his home run production take a dip from 21 in '04 to seven in '05. With little future in Seattle and his age creeping closer to 30, Leone could very well be in a different organization in '06.

3. Jon Nelson, LF, San Antonio
.235, 375 AB, 15 HR, 62 RBI, 10 SB, .266 OBP, .424 SLG

No Mariner farmhand had a bigger season in 2004 than Nelson, who hit .303 with 19 home runs, 95 RBI and 26 steals while at Inland Empire. When tested at the Double-A ranks in '05, however, those numbers fell drastically as the strikeout-prone Nelson was often exposed by the improved pitching talent of the Texas League. An early-season hand injury that occurred when Nelson took out his frustration on a drinking fountain forced him to the disabled list, and the Utah native never recovered from that setback. He had 129 strikeouts in 375 at-bats, a tendency that the 25-year-old has been unable to break in his minor league career.

4. Jesus Guzman, 3B, San Antonio
.258, 453 AB, 9 HR, 53 RBI, 6 SB, .330 OBP, .393 SLG

A season removed from a breakout year at Inland Empire, where he hit .310 with an impressive .393 on-base percentage after being thrust into a starter's role, Guzman fell back to earth this season in his first taste of Double-A. The year got off to a rough start for the young third baseman, as Guzman was the biggest name of the group of Mariners' minor leaguers busted for using illegal substances. With average tools across the board, Guzman will likely repeat at San Antonio in '06 looking to improve on his mediocre numbers from his first go-round in the Alamo City.

5. Aaron Jensen, RHP, Wisconsin
10-13, 5.56 ERA, 28 G, 157 IP, 190 H, 97 ER, 55 BB, 87 K

Jensen was one regarded as a draft-day steal, falling all the way down to the 19th round in 2003 before being picked by Seattle. As a high school star in Utah, Jensen was regarded as a high-round pick but teams passed on him due to signability concerns. Jensen struggled through 2004 at Everett, his first pro season, but optimism remained heading into '05. With a 90 mph fastball and a signature 12-to-6 curveball, Jensen was set up to thrive in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. To his credit, Jensen was the innings-eater of the staff, leading the team by a long shot, but his erratic control haunted him all season long and his final numbers say it all.

6. Ryan Christianson, C, Tacoma
.245, 286 AB, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 2 SB, .331 OBP, .385 SLG

The idea of Christianson as the Mariners' catcher of the future was abandoned long ago, and that was further proven over the course of this season when Seattle used seven different catchers without ever calling up Christianson, a 1999 first round pick, from Triple-A. In his first full year with the Rainiers, Christianson split time behind the plate with Wiki Gonzalez and Rene Rivera, two backstops regarded higher by the organization. Still only 24, Christianson struggled mightily at the plate, striking out 96 times in less than 300 at-bats. His time may very well be over in the Mariners organization, especially with Rivera slated to be in Tacoma in '06.

7. Mark Lowe, RHP, Wisconsin
6-6, 5.47 ERA 22 G, 103.2 IP, 107 H, 63 ER, 49 BB, 72 K

Lowe, a fifth-round pick in 2004 out of the University of Texas-Arlington, was used exclusively as starter with Wisconsin this year after finishing '04 as a closer with Everett. The change didn't serve the hard thrower well. It didn't seem that way in the season-opener, when Lowe went six scoreless innings back in early April, but from that point on the right-hander struggled with command, as his walks indicate, and didn't attack the strike zone in the manner the Mariners hoped he would as a second-year pro. Without further improvement, Lowe could be in for a long season at Inland Empire in '06.

8. Rich Dorman, RHP, Peoria/San Antonio/Tacoma
PEO: 0-0, 5.40 ERA, 4 G, 10.0 IP, 7 H, 6 ER, 5 BB, 20 K
SA: 3-0, 0.45 ERA, 3 G, 20.0 IP, 7 H, 1 ER, 12 BB, 24 K
TAC: 4-4, 6.28 ERA, 10 G, 38.2 IP, 33 H, 27 ER, 26 BB, 22 K

Dorman followed up a solid 2003 season at Inland Empire with an excellent 2004 campaign at San Antonio, going 8-4 with a 3.48 ERA. With a low 90s fastball and a very good curve, the 26-year-old started this season at Triple-A hoping that great things lied ahead. But Dorman struggled badly early, particularly with control, then was sidelined with a finger injury that cost him most of the year. He returned late to provide a boost to San Antonio's rotation, going 3-0 and allowing just one earned run in three start, but his impact was still very minimal when one looks at the big picture. A minor league free agent, he'll be 27 heading into '06, and Seattle sounds interested in bringing him back for another go-round.

9. Mumba Rivera, RHP, Wisconsin/Inland
WIS: 7-0, 3.22 ERA 10 G, 58.2 IP, 46 H, 21 ER, 26 BB, 30 K
IE: 5-8, 7.49 ERA, 18 G, 91.1 IP, 118 H, 76 ER, 50 BB, 67 K

April and May treated Rivera just fine in the Midwest League. It was the rest of the season in California, after an early promotion, when the trouble started. After starting the season 7-0 at Wisconsin thanks to good run support and his ability keep runners off the basepaths, Rivera ran into trouble once he made his way to Inland Empire. Big trouble. The hard-throwing right-hander was tattooed, giving up well over a hit per inning, and it affected his confidence. Hesitant to go after hitters like he could in Wisconsin, he yielded 50 base on balls in only 91.1 inning with the 66ers. Expect the 2004 draftee to be back in Inland in '06.

10. Brandon Green, 1B/3B, Wisconsin
.216, 356 AB, 1 HR, 45 RBI, 3 SB, .282 OBP, .287 SLG

Green, a 19th round pick out of Wichita State in 2004, appeared to be another draft-day steal when he hit .272 with seven home runs and drove in a team-high 55 RBI later that summer for Everett. But the 24-year-old couldn't manage to carry that success over to his second pro season while with Wisconsin this year, never recovering from an ice-cold start at the plate. Green hit .216 with only one home run and 15 extra-base hits in 356 at-bats as a utility player. His offensive woes may end up meaning a quick end to his playing days in Seattle's organization. If not, he'll likely repeat at Wisconsin in '06.

Others: OF Shin-soo Choo, LHP Shawn Nottingham, RHP Ivan Blanco, OF Josh Womack, OF Jermaine Brock

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