Last week I introduced some of the outfielders at the top of the Mariner organization, and this week I will highlight the best outfielding prospects in the lower levels of the farm system.
I will start in AA which has two players declining in their prospects statuses, Johermyn Chavez and Chih-Hsien Chiang. Both of these players started the season on the 40-man roster, but both were removed during the year which seemingly indicated that they are no longer a part of the long-term plans of the Mariners.
Denny Almonte was a second round pick out of high school in 2007 but was has been slowed down by having to repeat both class A and class high A. Random fact: Almonte was selected by then GM, Bill Bavasi, just one spot before the Marlins took a 17 year old outfielder named Mike Stanton. That is correct; we took Almonte instead of Stanton. SIGH. Yet another tear-prying mistake by Bavasi. Back to Almonte, he has struggled with his strikeouts but he has lowered his K% for each of the past three seasons. He also added 6 points to his BB% this year, so he is moving in the right direction. He also brings an interesting combination of power and speed that could translate to the MLB level should he be able to keep moving up the minor league ranks. Time is running thin for the 24 year old, however, so he needs to make a move quick if he wants to get a chance in the big show.
The High Desert Mavericks had much better play from the outfield this past season, but it is always difficult to judge the legitimacy of High A prospects since their power numbers are inflated by the favorable hitting conditions of the California League. Some of the outfielders at that level are Leon Laundry, James Jones, and Julio Morban.
Landry came over from Los Angeles in the Brandon League deal and instantly looked like an impact player after the trade. He doesn’t have a high tendency to strikeout that many young hitters have but he doesn’t walk enough. However, he still hits for a high average and has good speed and defensive ability that could help him stick in a major league outfield. His ridiculously high BABIPs tend to point towards a future drop in the batting average, but he is still an impressive prospect.
At 20 years old, Guillermo Pimentel has been one of the more fascinating prospects over the last few years. When the Dominican native signed with the Mariners as a sixteen year old, Pimentel was one of the top prospects on the international market. However, he has struggled in America. His power from the left side of the plate is undeniable, but his poor strike-zone awareness and tendency to swing and miss have translated into high strikeout rates and low walk rates.
Entering the 2011 season, MLB.com ranked him as the #37 prospect in all of baseball, but after a rough 2011 in rookie ball and a disappointing 2012 in class A, he has dropped all the way down to #20 prospect in just the Mariner organization. Although his rapid decline is discouraging, he still has lots of time. He will be 20 for all of next season, so he still has lots of time before he can be labeled as a bust. If he can improve his contact rate enough to tap into his great power, Pimentel will be well worth the wait and will be a big bat in Seattle’s order for the future.
Gabriel Guerrero is not a prospect whose name you will hear floating around the water cooler very often, but he is a sleeper prospect who I like. He is just 18, and has only played 18 games on this continent, but he has a good build and a solid approach. He played his first 50 games of the year in the Dominican Summer League were he posted a 1.014 OPS. In his hand full of games in rookie ball, he hit .333 and posted a .227 ISO. His respectable 16.3 K% seems to indicate that he will avoid the strikeout problems that have plagued so many other talented young hitters from the Caribbean Islands. The cherry on top of this Sunday is the fact that Gabriel is the nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, so hopefully an all-star bat is in his family genes.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Mariners don’t have a plethora of great outfield prospects, and they certainly don’t have any “sure things” at the position. However, there are a couple of guys that you may see transfer to the outfield from other positions. Among these potential transplants are Stefen Romero, Patrick Kivlehan, Steven Proscia, Francisco Martinez, and Jack Marder. These guys are just the surface of the possibilities of players that could move to the outfield. Let’s be honest, if Mike Carp learned to man left field, I think that just about anyone can. These prospects’ abilities to stick there will depend on their bats.