Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Our regular Monday trek around the Mariners' minor league system to bring you the highs and lows of the last seven days. This week covers the first full week of minor league action and focuses on some former big leaguers for Seattle.

Every Monday we present a rundown of the best and worst performances from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.

With all of the recent MLB graduations, Seattle's system isn't nearly as top-heavy in talent as it has been in years past. But that means that there is more to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Three Up, Three Down should help with that learning, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who still have MLB rookie status.

Let's get it started with a look at those who stood out for their performances in the minor leagues' first full week of action.


Brandon Maurer - RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-0, 1.69 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 5 1/3 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 HR, 3 BB, 13 SO, .158 oAVG
Maurer suffered a setback in spring training, leading to an extended period of rest in Peoria and leading to him beginning the season in the bullpen for the Rainiers. He's made three appearances in relief for Tacoma so far but his latest this past week was a thing of beauty: 3 1/3, 1 H, 1 BB, 9 SO. Yes, nine.

Maurer has always had very good stuff but had a hard time keeping left-handed hitters honest during his time with the big club after jumping straight from Double-A last spring. But he's yet to allow a hit to a lefty so far in 2014 in limited exposure, striking out three of the seven lefties he's faced. He threw back-to-back changeups (albeit to a right-handed hitter) on Friday night, something he rarely did in 2013. If he can utilize that pitch to keep hitters from cheating on his big fastball then Maurer could find himself in the mix for some starts in Seattle once he's fully stretched out.

Nick Franklin - 2B/SS, Tacoma Rainiers: .364/.500/.773 (8-22), 3 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 6 BB, 5 SO
There was simply no place for Franklin to play on the big league roster so he found himself back in Triple-A Tacoma. And just like he's done at every stop throughout his career, Nick is showing that he's better this time through the PCL. From 2012 to 2013 he added plate discipline, and from 2013 to this season he's adding power. And a lot of it. The switch-hitter has six extra base hits in nine games, homering three times on the club's opening homestand. Franklin's quick, strong hands and long stride let him really hit balls with authority when he squares them up, and he's doing that often for Tacoma at the start of this year.

Whether he ends up at a different position for Seattle or with another organization altogether, it appears that Nick is ready to be in the big leagues now. His 3 home runs are the most in the system and his 11 RBI are tied for the organization lead, all coming from the middle infield. Franklin's bat could lead him to end up being a difference maker as a big league player.

Jabari Blash - OF, Jackson Generals: .353/.577/.706 (6-17), 3 2B, HR, 4 RBI, 8 BB, 4 SO
Blash had extra base hits in four of six games this past week, multiple walks in three of those and he currently leads M's minor leaguers in walks (11). He seemingly has progressed as a player quite a bit since reaching Double-A last August and the big right-handed hitting outfielder has an OPS north of 1.000, 31 BB and 11 HR in his 39 games at the level. Blash was one of the darlings of spring training for Seattle, launching a few tape measure homers in intrasquad and back field action.

For a club lacking in offense -- particularly in the form of right-handed hitting outfielders -- Blash is certainly a player that the big club is keeping a close eye on. For now he'll continue to drive the offense for Jackson, working to refine his plate discipline, pitch selection and outfield defense.


Chance Ruffin - RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-1, 7.45 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 9 2/3 IP, 9 H, 8 ER, 3 HR, 3 BB, 3 HBP, 5 BB, 10 SO, .250 oAVG
Ruffin has been back-and-forth between starting and relieving for the M's in the minor leagues and he's back starting in Tacoma for the time being. But if his first outing (and Maurer's first three) is any indication, the bullpen will be beckoning again soon. Ruffin allowed three home runs to ex-big leaguers last Monday in an ugly 9-5 loss to El Paso

His ERA was more than a half run higher and his strikeout-per-nine nearly 4.0 lower when starting last season, and while the gopher ball has been a problem in both roles, it stands to reason that the extra exposure of starting and going through a lineup multiple times isn't the best plan of attack for Ruffin. While he's just 25 and has 27 1/3 big league innings under his belt, it seems that the former 1st rounder has been passed up by a number of arms in Seattle's system.

Dylan Unsworth - RHP, High Desert Mavericks: 0-0, 18.00 ERA, 3.00 WHIP, 2 IP, 3 H, 4 ER, 2 HR, 3 BB, 2 SO, .333 oAVG
Unsworth isn't a big name in prospect circles, but many Mariners fans keep tabs on the South African right-hander because of his amazingly low walk rate for his career. But in his start this past week for the Mavs, Dylan walked three (or more) for the first time since July of 2012, a span of 22 starts. And when Unsworth walks hitters, he gets himself into the kind of trouble that his stuff can't really pitch out of. Particularly in the California League.

The 21-year-old was actually very good in his first Cal League start, and that was in Adelanto. This week's uncharacteristically bad outing was at Inland Empire, which is historically one of the best parks for pitchers in the league and all of minor league baseball actually. Unsworth is a bulldog that knows how to work with his four pitch mix, keeps the ball down and touches 90 with his fastball, but if his fastball command is off at this level, it probably will mean a long night most times.

Leon Landry - OF, Jackson Generals: .167/.286/.167 (2-12), RBI, BB, 3 SO, SB
A second straight appearance on the cold list for Landry, a player who seems lost since hitting Double-A to start 2013. Acquired in the Brandon League deal at the deadline in 2012, Landry is an athletic, speedy ballplayer that hit .341/.371/.584 in that 2012 season. But with his 3-25 start for Jackson this year, he's now hitting just .210 in the 121 games he's suited up for the Generals in.

While his speed and tools with the bat seem to suggest that there is a lot more in there for Leon, the results just aren't following. With a talented group of outfielders already in Jackson and more coming up behind at the A levels, Landry is running short on time to figure it out and remain as a starting option for the M's in their system.

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That does it for our second weekly look at the hot and not in the minors for the Mariners. Check back next Monday for the next edition, and keep in touch with SeattleClubhouse throughout the season for updates on the organization's best.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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