No baseball asset is quite as volatile as the minor league prospect. They come and go, some turning into Albert Pujols and others becoming the Brandon Woods and Corey Pattersons of the world. Yet fans continue to love their young stallions. We invest our hopes and aspirations into untapped potential; we place the dreams of the future into the immortal… what if? History, however, offers a grim warning: more often than not these governors of our dreams, don’t pan out.
Mariner fans should be accustomed to disappointment in the prospect arena. Jeff Clement, Chris Snelling, Ryan Anderson, Jeremy Reed, Clint Nageotte, Travis Blackley, and Wladimir Balentien, are all names that at one point in time evoked unbridled hope and enthusiasm from fans throughout the Pacific Northwest. Watching their careers unfold since, has been a sobering experience. A few of these players have spring training invites this season, and at least one of them is playing in Japan. They didn’t make it. The Seattle Mariners aren’t the only organization to suffer this attrition; it happens to every team around the league. It’s a sad truth; not all prospects make it.
Presently, the organization is stocked. Keith Law has the Mariners Farm system rated the 11th best in all of baseball. For the first time in ages, the Mariners have depth. You won’t find any of the players below on any current top prospects list, but at one time or another their names have been included on past lists. These are players are fading into oblivion, and without a rebound or a stellar performance this year, they could be lost for good.
Still Hold’n Out Hope
- Carlos Triunfel
- Mauricio Robles
- Nate Tenbrink
Certainly an interesting group of players. Each has experienced their own peaks and valleys, but the talent still exists. Triunfel is probably not going to stay at SS, which at this point can only help his assent to the Majors. Since breaking his leg, Triunfel seems to have lost a step or two, suggested by his drop in stolen base totals since recovering. But the most crucial aspect of his game that must improve is his power. He doesn’t need to become a monster at the plate, but in order to offset somewhat poor plate discipline, Triunfel is going to have to be able to drive the ball with a bit more authority. I’m not going to go too in depth with Robles, as Harrison has already written an exceptional article on the subject. I will say that even if he projects more as a reliever, he has the stuff to start, and there is no doubt he will create more value with a big SP next to his name. I fully expect Robles to separate himself from this list by the end of the season, but he’ll need to put together a strong season just like everyone else here. Tenbrink didn’t generate a ton of interest after being drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, and putting together a less than eye popping performance in Everett didn’t help his case. But then, his season in Clinton began and suddenly the Mariners had something interesting on their hands; roll in 2010 and Tenbrink, out of nowhere, became a prospect. Last year was not as kind to Tenbrink, who now has expectations that his season in Jackson did not meet. He still has multiple positions on his record which stands in his favor, but his offense cannot endure another step back. Expectations for Tenbrink next season should be kept realistic, yet an improvement is now necessary to keep him relevant.
On The Cusp of Irrelevance
- Dennis Raben
- Rich Poythress
- James Jones
- Jharmidy DeJesus
Once upon a time, this list held much more intrigue. Today, each of them has lost a little luster. Raben has been drafted by Seattle twice now, and he decided it was probably a good idea to sign the second time. After playing exceptionally well with the Aquasox in 2008, Raben missed all of 2009 with an injury most common in basketball players. The surgery didn’t seem to affect his play, as he picked up right where he left off putting up a .291/.367/.570 slash line. Performance isn’t what is making Raben slide into nothingness; it’s his position, or rather lack there of. Drafted as a left fielder and first baseman, Raben is no left fielder and the 1B/DH route is extremely crowded. Only 23, Raben needs to get out of high desert and show the organization that his production is worth finding space for. After Raben, we have another powerful position-less prospect. Ah, amazingly awesome alliteration right there. Rich Poythress drew a lot of praise after his name was called out by Jay Buhner during the 2nd round of the 2009 draft, and during his first full season a year later, he didn’t disappoint. Poythress smacked 31 bombs while putting up a .315/.381/.580 slash line… with the High Desert Mavericks. Since moving away from his hitter-friendly confines, his production flat lined. On top of his recent poor production, Poythress also suffers from the same ailment as Raben; he is blocked organizationally. Poythress is probably going to have to start the year back in AA and display massive improvements. Next, we have James Jones, a tall, toolsy, athlete with tons of projectability. When Jones was drafted, he drew comparisons to Adam Jones, Mike Cameron, and Torri Hunter; all tall, ground-covering, power hitting, center fielders. In his first two seasons Jones impressed by showing an excellent ability to get on base, and demonstrating some of that pop scouts raved about. I almost put Jones on the “Still Hold’n Out Hope” list, but after such a poor showing in High Desert and the emergence of Jabari Blash, it’s going to have to take a dominant season repeating A ball for me to regain interest. Finally we have Jharmidy DeJesus; interesting name and at one point an interesting talent. DeJesus jumped right into things in 2008 showing the ability to hit the ball with authority and displaying somewhat acceptable plate discipline. While the plate discipline remains decent, the the power is gone. DeJesus is still young and has shown the organization he can get on base, but unless he wants to end up a utility guy, he is going to have to rediscover that power stroke, and soon. These prospects are teetering on the edge. With a strong season, they are likely back in the mix of things; moving back up the prospect charts. On the other hand, with another poor season the organization will probably abandon any future plans they had for them.
Probably Gone For Good
- Gabriel Noriega
- Ryan Royster
Noriega is not going to hit. He’s not, and that would be fine if he had the ability to get on base, but that is a skill he lacks as well. His defense is said to be outstanding, and I have no reason to doubt that, but even with outstanding defense his offensive production would be hard to swallow. Noriega was one of those projectable guys that has yet to really come into fruition, and since he’s still very young, he may very well make me look foolish. I still have to believe, however, that Noriega is going to have a difficult time producing well enough offensively to stay a top prospect. Following Noriega is Ryan Royster. If you don’t know who he is, don’t worry because I don’t know where he is. He isn’t on any of Seattle’s minor league rosters, and his BR page stats just stop after 2010. I’ve scoured the news feed for any information such as a release or injury and I can’t find a thing. Anyways, Royster was always a little old for his level and after being drafted in the 13th round, you could probably categorize him a fringe prospect. After a short stint in 2008, Royster put up some impressive numbers in 2009 between Everett and Clinton. After that it wasn’t as pretty, though Royster still showed the ability to man all three outfield positions and get on base. I don’t know where he is, but he is becoming far to old at the age of 26 to still be kicking it down in low A ball. So even if Royster is still a part of the organization, his prospect status is dead in the gutter. In case you’re curious, here is some video of Royster and his surprisingly pretty swing. On a final sour note, here is a group of players who are another terrible season away from joining one of these list above: Johermyn Chavez, Julio Morban, and Mickey Wiswall.
Having Jack Zduriencik and Tom McNamara on board has helped immeasurably in coping with those prospects who might not pan out. The trust has been built and fans believe that if a prospect busts, we have plenty of other options to fill the void. That “no baseball asset is quite as volatile as the minor league prospect” may be a true statement, but it’s impossible not to hope and pray that some of these players that we have invested so much interest in becomes the stars that we believed they could be.