Prospect Positionals: Outfielders

The Positionals finish up with an exam of the outfield crop, starting with a new addition to the group manning the top spot.


Outfielders

1. Adam Jones

The M's screamed toward the 2004 offseason and looked up to see now viable option in center field after Mike Cameron signed a deal to play in New York with the Mets.

Randy Winn played center field for the majority of '04, holding his own but certainly not showing the club that he should remain there.

Enter the acquisition of Jeremy Reed in the Freddy Garcia trade.

With Reed seen as a short-term answer in center, the M's moved 2003 first rounder Adam Jones to center field late this past season. Jones also played the position in the Arizona Fall League.

Taking to his new position fairly well, the 20-year-old is now the future in the middle of Safeco Field.

The offensive dynamics that Jones brings to the table far exceed the expectations of a player that spent most of '05 as a 19-year-old.

Jones possesses better than average power for the position after smacking 15 home runs and tallying 53 total extra-base hits. Not to mention a solid .370 on-base percentage and improved strike zone judgment.

If Jones repeats the same progress in 2006, the M's may have themselves a blue chipper in the system.

The 6-foot-2, 190-pounder from San Diego's Morse High School has a tremendous throwing arm and all the tools necessary to make a successful move to center field and only needs to continue his current path to put himself in position to make the big club sometime in 2007 or 2008.

Offensively, Jones needs to continue to cut down on his strikeouts while working the count and selecting the best pitch to hit.
2. Shin-soo Choo
Choo scuffled through the first four months of 2005 until he was inserted into the leadoff spot in Rainiers lineup.

The corner outfielder played left all season and while he made strides defensively, he also turned around a poor offensive season for the final six weeks.

After hitting just .166 versus left-handers and .259 overall, Choo streaked towards the finish line , displaying his solid on-base skills and an improved approach at the plate.

Choo finished the year hitting .282, .323 over the final six weeks, and after fanning 74 times in his first 71 games, the 23-year-old took control of his plate appearances and ended the year with just 97 strikeouts.

Choo possesses the ability to hit second in the lineup as well as in the six-hole, though his power numbers never showed up in his first year in Triple-A, posting a disappointing .431 slugging percentage.

Choo has a plus throwing arm and solid speed, two areas that the Safeco outfield demands. Offensively, Choo needs another year in Tacoma to rediscover some of the pop he left in the Texas League.

Still a valuable prospect, the Korean-born Choo is probably in line to be included in a mid-season trade should the M's find themselves in the hunt come July.

3. Chris Snelling
Snelling would rank first here if not for the rap sheet-like injury tally he's put up since signing in 1999.

Still only 24, a healthy Snelling possess plus plate skills, 20-homer power and the ability to control his at-bats like no other current Mariners hitter- big leagues included.

If not for the injury bug, Snelling would likely be heading into 2006 as the Mariners' everyday left fielder, aiding the club's offensive woes.

Pencil Snelling in a for a return much earlier than originally anticipated, and the DH slot may be his in two years.

Snelling draws walks, rarely fans, works the count and punishes mistakes into the gaps. The Aussie gets better every year despite spending much of his time rhabbing from major injuries to his knees and wrists.

4. Wladimir Balentien

Balentien has one plus tool and one "minus" tool. The right-handed hitter has impressed all observers with his raw power, but his 302 strikeouts in 259 games is more than red flag.

After whiffing 142 times in his first two seasons, Balentien failed to show progress in this area and may be destined to be a career minor leaguer if he doesn't make great strides in 2006.

Continually offering at breaking balls out of the strike zone has kept the 21-year-old from shedding the "all-or-nothing" label.

There's no doubting his power potential, but without massive improvements in his approach and strike zone judgment, Balentien's 30-homer potential will be wasted.
5. T.J. Bohn

Bohn can be classified as a late bloomer, posting career bests in batting average and slugging percentage in 2005, a season he split between Double-A San Antonio and Triple-A Tacoma.

Bohn's athleticsm and defense abilities may get him a look at the 25-man big-league roster next spring, but don't sleep on his bat.

The 25-year-old has the raw power to put up 16-18 home runs and a slew of doubles, and clearly has an idea at the plate, posting a .321/.360 line in Tacoma.

At 6-4 and 220 pounds, Bohn's speed is sneaky - he may be the system's best base stealer - and though he fanned 119 times this past season, he did it over 550 plate appearances.

Bohn's plate skills have yet to reach their ceiling and he'll be 26 in January. It's probably time for the organization to decide what his future is - potential fourth outfielder/platoon starter or bench role for life.

Expect Bohn to at least challenge for a 25-man roster spot in spring training. Otherwise, he's Tacoma's center fielder to open the season.
6. Sebastien Boucher

Boucher destroye Midwest League pitching to the tun of a .326/.411/.461 line with 11 steals and 18 extra-base hits.

The Bethune-Cookman graduate took his show to the California League and did more than just hold his own.

Boucher used his solid plate discipline and plus speed to hit .352 with Inland Empire, posting a .453 on-base percentage and a .474 slugging percentage.

Despite a line that would suggest Boucher has a power bat in his future, his .133 isolated power index shows that most of his slugging percentage is dependent upon his batting average.

But the 24-year-old makes a lot of contact and limits strikeouts, leading to his impressive output in 2005.

Defensively, Boucher is solid in center, though he probably lacks the necessary tools to stick, mostly due to his throwing arm.

Boucher is a left-handed hitter, standing 5-11 and 175 pounds. The Canadian-born outfielder is slated to start the 2006 season in San Antonio where his future as a fourth outfielder will likely be decided.
7. Michael Saunders

Saunders signed as a draft-and-follow this past May and got his pro career under way a month later in Everett.

The 18-year-old put up solid numbers condiering he was significantly younger than most of the pitching in the Northwest League.

A left-handed bat, the 6-foot-4 Saunders' swing is a bit long and susceptible to hard throwers with a decent off-speed pitch, but possesses good strike zone judgment and a disciplined approach.

A pretty good throwing arm allows Saunders to play right field and his natural abilities suggest he could remain there throughout his career.

His raw power puts him in the 20-25 homer category, but the M's 11th round pick in the 2004 draft has work to do before he starts popping out long balls at a high rate.

Saunders has already shown the ability to draw a walk and has the approach and natural physical tools to build upon his .361 on-base percentage and .474 slugging percentage.

He'll have a tough go of it in Wisconsin in 2006, but could be primed and ready for a breakout season in two years in the California League.

Better plate coverage is necessary for Saunders to cut down his strikeout totals (74 in 227 plate appearances).
8. Jeff Flaig

Flaig stayed on the field this past summer, which was step one for the 6-2, 200-pounder.

Scouts see a potential plus bat for Flaig, but where he'll play in the field will dictate how fast he moves through the system and how his offense may translate to the upper minor league levels.

The 20-year-old hit seven home runs and posted a .755 OPS in the Northwest League in his first injury-less season since being drafted.

Flaig's impending move to left field could be move that allows him to concentrate on his bat, which is what got him drafted in the second round two seasons ago.

The Midwest League is a perfect challenge for Flaig, as he attempts to draw a more complete circle around his performance with the bat, drawing more walks and pounding the mistake pitch.
Others: Greg Halman, Eddy Hernandez, Jairo Hernandez, Jamal Strong, Chris Colton, Mike Wilson, Jon Nelson.

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