Seattle Mariners' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

Mike Rosenbaum@GoldenSombreroMLB Prospects Lead WriterJanuary 21, 2015

Seattle Mariners' Top 10 Prospects for 2015

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    For a system that graduated several key prospects in 2014, the Seattle Mariners still have plenty of talent left on the farm.

    D.J. Peterson, the No. 13 overall pick in 2013, raked last season between the High-A and Double-A levels, eclipsing 30 home runs in his first full professional campaign. Outfielder Austin Wilson, the Mariners’ second-round pick following Peterson, showed off similar raw power during his time at Low-A Clinton, as did 2013 third-rounder Tyler O’Neill.

    The team’s international crop of talent took a step forward, both individually and collectively, as outfielder Gabby Guerrero flashed his tools and upside in the California League, while 21-year-old shortstop Ketel Marte enjoyed a breakout campaign between the Double-A and Triple-A levels.

    The Mariners also added a pair of high school power hitters in the 2014 draft, selecting outfielder Alex Jackson in the first round (No. 6 overall) and then grabbing outfielder Gareth Morgan in the second.

    Lastly, the organization continues to house a promising collection of young arms, as Edwin Diaz, Luiz Gohara, Victor Sanchez or Tyler Pike, all four of whom are younger than 21 and have considerable upside.

    Here are the Seattle Mariners’ top 10 prospects for the 2015 season.

How They're Ranked

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    3B/1B Patrick Kivlehan
    3B/1B Patrick KivlehanChristian Petersen/Getty Images

    Position Players

    • Body type/athleticism
    • Speed
    • Hitting mechanics, bat speed
    • Injury history
    • Statistical trends
    • Age vs. level: how well a player fared at a certain level relative to his age and that of the competition
    • Tools: number of projectable tools a player possesses in relation to his position, age and competition; present vs. future tool grades
    • Hit tool: In the evolution of the prospect landscape, the hit tool is the most importantbut also the hardest to project.
    • League and park factors
    • On-base skills: approach; strike-zone management; pitch recognition
    • Makeup/character
    • Defensive tools and skill sets; present vs. projected position
    • Place on organization's depth chart
    • Positional scarcity; up-the-middle potential 

    Pitchers

    • Body type/athleticism/strength
    • Mechanics: delivery; arm speed; release point
    • Age vs. highest level of experience
    • Injury history (durability)
    • Statistical trends
    • Arsenal quality and depth
    • Pitch projections: present vs. future grades
    • Hitability: How tough is he to barrel? Does he keep the ball on the ground/in the park?
    • Control/command: Is he usually around the zone? Does he effectively command his stuff? How much development/refinement is needed?
    • Pitchability: feel (and confidence) for using and sequencing entire arsenal
    • Approach: Does he fearlessly attack and challenge opposing hitters?  
    • Projection: Does he project as a starter? If so, what type? Or is he likely to be relegated to the bullpen? If so, why?

    Resources

Close Calls

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    C John Hicks
    C John HicksUSA TODAY Sports

    Luiz Gohara, LHP

    Ryan Yarbrough, LHP

    Victor Sanchez, RHP

    Gareth Morgan, OF

    John Hicks, C

10. Tyler O'Neill, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 6/22/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2013 (Garibaldi Secondary School, British Columbia)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5055405045

    Scouting Report

    The 2013 third-rounder flew under the radar last year in his full-season debut, as the 19-year-old slashed .247/.322/.466 with 13 home runs in 245 plate appearances for Low-A Clinton.

    At 5’11”, 210 pounds, O’Neill’s compact frame is loaded with strength, and it shows through his plus bat speed and above-average raw power. The right-handed hitter has some serious juice in his bat as well as the makings of a solid approach, but he’ll need to limit the swing-and-miss in his game as he moves up the organizational ladder.

    Though he was a catcher in high school, the Mariners moved O'Neill to left field upon turning pro, where his build, fringy speed and average arm strength are all cleaner fits. His jumps and routes require some work, but that was to be expected given the position change.

    O’Neill will likely return to Low-A Clinton in 2015, with a chance for a midseason promotion to the California League if everything goes as hoped.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular)High risk

9. Tyler Marlette, C

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    Position: C

    DOB: 1/23/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 5’11”, 195 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fifth round, 2011 (Hagerty HS, Florida)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 9

    ETA: Late 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5050405550

    Scouting Report

    Marlette continued to hit his way up the organizational ladder last season, as the 21-year-old backstop posted an impressive .297/.349/.517 batting line to go along with 25 doubles and 17 home runs in 90 games between High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson.

    A right-handed batter, Marlette has good bat speed and solid-average raw power, but it will be interesting to see whether it translates next season outside of the California League. He shows a natural feel for hitting and is adept at both tracking and barreling secondaries, but he tends to struggle with driving pitches on the outer half.

    Defensively, Marlette is still learning the intricacies of catching, but his athleticism and plus arm strength have helped him throw out 37 percent of attempted base stealers in his career. His blocking and receiving skills are still raw and require a lot of development, but the potential is there for him to be an average defender at maturity.

    Ceiling (OFP): 45 (below-average regular/backup)Medium risk

8. Carson Smith, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 10/19/1989 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’6”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Eighth round, 2011 (Texas State)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Debuted in 2014

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderControl
    606045

    Scouting Report

    Smith, an eighth-round pick out of Texas State in 2011, saved 10 games and posted a 2.93 ERA with 45 strikeouts in 43 innings at Triple-A Tacoma last season. The 25-year-old right-hander earned a September call-up to the major leagues and dominated in his nine appearances, allowing just two hits and three walks while striking out 10 batters over 8.1 scoreless frames.

    The 6’6”, 215-pound right-hander works from a deceptive low-three-quarters arm slot, which makes his heavy low 90s fastball play up and his slider a legitimate swing-and-miss offering. His command requires further refinement, but there’s every reason to believe Smith will assume a late-inning role with the Mariners next season.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (second-tier closer/set-up man)Low risk

7. Edwin Diaz, RHP

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    Position: RHP

    DOB: 3/22/1994 (Age: 20)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 178 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Third round, 2012 (Caguas Military Academy, Puerto Rico)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 3

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Future Pitch Grades:

    FastballSliderChangeupControl
    60554550

    Scouting Report

    Diaz continued to impress last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Clinton, as the 20-year-old right-hander pitched to a 3.33 ERA with 111 strikeouts against 42 walks in 116.1 innings (24 starts).

    The 6’2”, 178-pound right-hander’s fastball sits in the low to mid-90s with considerable arm-side run, and he backs it up with a promising slider that projects as solid-average at maturity. Diaz made progress with his changeup last season and now demonstrates more consistent feel for the pitch, and it should aid his effectiveness against left-handed hitters at higher levels.

    Diaz is expected to move up to High-A High Desert next season, where he’ll face a potentially challenging assignment in the hitter-friendly California League.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (No. 3 or 4 starter/late-inning reliever)High risk

6. Gabby Guerrero, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 12/11/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’3”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Signed: 2011 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 5

    ETA: Late 2016

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4555507050

    Scouting Report

    The nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, Gabby showcased more consistent power as well as better plate discipline last season at High-A High Desert—albeit in the hitter-friendly environments in the California League—as the 21-year-old set career highs in most offensive categories, including home runs (18), doubles (28), RBI (96) and stolen bases (18). Overall, he batted .307/.347/.467 in 131 games.

    Guerrero’s loud tools have slowly turned into performance, but he’s still incredibly raw given his age and level of experience. The right-handed hitter possesses premium bat speed and plus raw power, but he’s still finding an approach and learning to adjust to quality pitching. Specifically, Guerrero’s swing can play long and prevent him from catching up to velocity, while other times he stays short to the ball and drive pitches with ease.

    Guerrero is still growing into his powerful 6'3", 190-pound frame, but he projects as a clean fit in right field thanks to his plus-plus arm strength, average speed and promising offensive profile. Guerrero has the potential to hit for both average and power at maturity, but he’ll likely need a full season in Double-A next year before making his major league debut in late 2016.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)High risk

5. Patrick Kivlehan, 3B/1B

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    Position: 3B/1B

    DOB: 12/22/1989 (Age: 25)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Fourth round, 2012 (Rutgers)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4550504545

    Scouting Report

    Kivlehan has done nothing but hit since the Mariners selected him in the fourth round of the 2012 draft. However, the 25-year-old Rutgers product didn’t jump on the major league radar until 2014, when he batted .300/.374/.485 with 41 extra-base hits (11 home runs) in 431 plate appearances at Double-A Jackson.

    A 6’2”, 210-pound right-handed hitter, Kivlehan has a lot of seemingly unnecessary pre-pitch timing mechanics to his swing, but he consistently gets the barrel on the ball and makes loud contact to all fields. Meanwhile, his improved feel for turning on the ball last season helped him tap into his above-average raw power.

    Kivlehan spent most of his professional career at third base until last season, when he began seeing playing time at multiple positions, including first base and all three outfield spots. Kivlehan is a surprisingly good athlete despite having only fringe-average speed, and, given his consistency at the plate, it’s easy to envision him assuming a utility role in the major leagues.

    Ceiling (OFP): 50 (major league regular)Medium risk

4. Austin Wilson, OF

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 2/7/1992 (Age: 22)

    Height/Weight: 6’4”, 210 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: Second round, 2013 (Stanford)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 6

    ETA: 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    4550506050

    Scouting Report

    Wilson was limited to only 72 games last year in his full-season debut at Low-A Clinton, as an Achilles tendon strain in late June kept him off the field for more than one month. However, the 22-year-old outfielder proved to be productive when healthy, batting .291/.376/.517 with 32 extra-base hits (12 home runs) in 299 plate appearances.

    At 6’4”, 249 pounds, Wilson is a monster on the field compared to his peers, but he’s also an impressive athlete who can flash an assortment of tools. At the plate, he’s moved away from handsy/slappy swing he had at Stanford in order to tap into his plus raw power more consistently. Wilson still lacks discipline in the box and employs an overaggressive approach, but he was able to maintain a respectable contact rate as an older player in the Midwest League last season.

    Wilson’s plus arm is his best tool and profiles perfectly in right field, although his track record of injuries dating back to college raises concerns about whether he’ll have durability to handle a full season at the position.

    The potential is there for Wilson to be a big leaguer, but the soon-to-be 23-year-old still has a large gap between the present and future.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)High risk

3. Ketel Marte, SS/2B

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    Position: SS/2B

    DOB: 10/12/1993 (Age: 21)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 180 lbs

    Bats/Throws: S/R

    Signed: 2010 (Dominican Republic)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NR

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    5030655055

    Scouting Report

    Marte received aggressive assignments to Double-A and Triple-A last year in his age-20 season, and the switch-hitting middle infielder responded to the challenge by batting a combined .304/.335/.411 with 42 extra-base hits and 29 stolen bases over 128 games between both levels.

    At 6’1” and 180 pounds, Marte, 21, has an impressive feel for making consistent contact from both sides but is noticeably more advanced as a lefty. Meanwhile, his present combination of on-base skills—a product of his advanced plate discipline and pitch recognition—and speed make his bat even more valuable as a potential top-of-the-order presence. With one home run in 185 full-season games, power will never be part of Marte’s game. However, he should have no problem accruing a high number of doubles and triples in a given season.

    Though he profiles at either middle-infield position, Marte has all the tools to stick at shortstop for the duration of his career, with smooth actions, above-average range and a strong, accurate arm. He’s received glowing reviews for his makeup and work ethic, so expect the Mariners to continue to challenge him moving forward.

    Chris Taylor and Brad Miller will likely keep Marte in the minors next season, though his age and track record at an up-the-middle position—not to mention the Mariners’ lack of patience with certain players—certainly bode well for his future.

    Ceiling (OFP): 55 (solid-average regular)Medium risk

2. D.J. Peterson, 3B/1B

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    Position: 3B/1B

    DOB: 12/31/1991 (Age: 23)

    Height/Weight: 6’1”, 190 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2013 (New Mexico)

    Last Year’s Ranking: 2

    ETA: Late 2015

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6060406045

    Scouting Report

    Peterson made quick work of the California League to begin his first full professional season, posting a .997 OPS with 18 home runs and 73 RBI in his first 65 games at High-A High Desert. The 23-year-old cooled off a bit following a midseason promotion to Double-A Jackson, but still batted a very respectable .261/.335/.473 with 13 home runs, eight doubles and 38 RBI in his first taste of the Southern League.

    Peterson was viewed as the most advanced college hitter—arguably the top overall hitter—in the 2013 draft class due to his potential for plus-hit and power tools, both of which were showcased last year in his first full professional season. In general, Peterson has an advanced feel for hitting with excellent bat-to-ball skills, a patient approach and good pitch recognition.

    There’s uncertainty regarding Peterson’s long-term defensive home; he’s currently a third baseman, but his lack of range, quickness and athleticism means he’ll likely shift to first base. Either way, Peterson’s offensive profile should be a clean fit at either infield corner, and the Mariners will find a way to get his bat in the lineup.

    Ceiling (OFP): 60 (first-division regular)Medium risk

1. Alex Jackson, of

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    Position: OF

    DOB: 12/25/1995 (Age: 19)

    Height/Weight: 6’2”, 215 lbs

    Bats/Throws: R/R

    Drafted: First round, 2014 (Rancho Bernardo HS, California)

    Last Year’s Ranking: NA

    ETA: Late 2017

    2014 Stats

    Tools Breakdown (Future Grades):

    HitPowerRunArmField
    6065456050

    Scouting Report

    Alex Jackson, the No. 6 overall pick in this year’s draft, suffered a broken bone in his left cheek in late July when he was struck by a fly ball after losing it in the lights during an Arizona League game. The injury kept the 19-year-old outfielder out of action for exactly a month, but he returned to finish his professional debut with a .280/.344/.476 batting line and 10 extra-base hits in 23 games.

    Viewed by many as the top prep hitter in the 2014 draft class, Jackson projects as a middle-of-the-order hitter thanks to his plus bat speed, natural hitting ability and big-time raw power. His swing can get long and prevent him from getting to hittable pitches like he should out over the plate; however, that’s a fairly common issue with young power hitters, and one that is often resolved naturally as they adapt to quality professional arms.

    Jackson’s projection for plus power stems from the combination of his explosive bat speed and the extension he achieves through contact, as he drives the ball with backspin carry to all fields.

    After spending most of his amateur career behind the dish, the 6’2”, 200-pounder was moved to right field upon turning pro. His athleticism gives him average range, while his plus arm is a clean fit at the position. Meanwhile, Jackson’s move to the outfield should get him to the major leagues faster than he would have as a catcher, as it allows him to focus on his offensive development instead of that and refining his skills behind the plate.

    Despite playing in only 24 games last summer, Jackson should receive a full-season assignment to Low-A Clinton to begin 2015.

    Ceiling (OFP): 65 (Potential All-Star)High risk