Jul 14, 2013; Flushing , NY, USA; USA pitcher Taijuan Walker throws a pitch during the second inning of the 2013 All Star Futures Game at Citi Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Mid-Season Top Prospects List: Part 2


Yesterday I posted the first half of my mid-season top prospect list, and now I present to you my top 10 prospects in the Mariner organization.

10.       Stefen Romero

Age: 24   Position: 3B/2B   Height: 6’2”   Weight: 220

Romero is an interesting case because he hits the ball well but lacks great power, on base ability, or even a clear position. He hits lots of line drives which have justified fairly high BABIP’s throughout his minor league career, but his strikeout rate has leaped since coming to AAA Tacoma. Some prospect lists will have him higher, but personally, I don’t think a lot of Romero. All I see is a one-tool player who is 24 years old, and I don’t think that one tool will be great enough to make him an everyday player at the major league level. If he does pan out, it probably won’t be in Seattle, but he may get one shot this September.

 

9.       Julio Morban

Morban after hitting a homerun in spring training. Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 21   Position: OF   Height: 6’1”   Weight: 205

Morban was a big international signee in 2008, but he has had ups and downs. In class AA Jackson this year, he has needed a .411 BABIP to hit .297. He has struck out a lot, which is cause for concern, but he has also shown good power, and his glove will play up in a corner outfield position. If his hit tool develops, Morban will be a good ballplayer at the major league level, and he still has a few years to make that happen.

 

 8.       Austin Wilson

Age: 21   Position: OF   Height: 6’5”   Weight: 245

Wilson was a probable first round pick going into the 2013 collegiate season, but an injury set him back and Seattle stole him in the supplemental round. The beginning of his pro career has been rocky, but the tools are there and he has an excellent build to go with it. Give him time to transition and hopefully the player that was a possible top 15 draft pick will shine through.

 

7.       Gabriel Guerrero

Age: 19   Position: OF   Height: 6’3”   Weight: 190

Guerrero’s transition from the Dominican Summer League to baseball in America has not been smooth. His strikeout rate has nearly doubled while his walk rate has been cut to a fraction of its previous number. Nevertheless, he seems to be coming around. His month by month OPS in 2013 has gone .476 in April, .648 in May, .713 in June, and .871 so far in July. He’s trending in the right direction. Defensively, he projects well in right field with a good arm and nice defensive tools to accompany it. If Guerrero’s mid-season production is indicative of his true ability, the Mariners could have a pretty impressive prospect on their hands.

 

6.       Tyler Pike

Age: 19   Position: LHP   Height: 6’0”   Weight: 180

Pike was an exciting selection for Seattle in the third round of the 2012 draft. He throws in the low 90’s from the left side, but also has a changeup that gets lots of swings and misses, while his curveball should work into a good offering as well. His command was excellent in high school, but he has surrendered more walks than expected in his year of pro baseball. If he trims down his bases on balls, he could be another pretty exciting arm in the Mariner system down the road.

 

5.       Victor Sanchez

Age: 18   Position: RHP   Height: 6’0”   Weight: 255

Let me begin by saying that Sanchez threw a no-hitter for class A Clinton Wednesday night. Although still a teen, Sanchez is fairly far along in his development. He doesn’t issue many free passes, but he doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts yet either. Don’t write him off as another Blake Beavan, though, because he already throws harder and has the potential to possess a good curveball and changeup down the road. Sanchez has lots of time, but he may not need it if he continues with his steady development.

 

4.       James Paxton

Paxton in spring training. Credit: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

Age: 24   Position: LHP   Height: 6’4”   Weight: 220

Paxton sits in the low to mid 90’s with a great curveball, but there is uncertainty concerning his command. Over the course of his pro career, he has averaged nearly five walks per 9 innings. In Tacoma this year, his ERA is 4.58 as a result of an unlucky BABIP and LOB%, but the walks have still come too often. If Paxton can improve his control and develop a serviceable changeup, he will have a spot in the middle of Seattle’s rotation, but those are two ifs that seem farther and farther away from achievement with every year that Paxton ages. He’s still a great prospect, but he may be destined for a life in the bullpen.

 

3.       DJ Peterson

Age: 21   Position: 3B/1B   Height: 6’0”   Weight: 205

Going into the 2013 draft, Peterson was considered to have one of the best pure bats in the class, and the Mariners got him with the twelfth overall pick. There is no doubt he can hit; in 23 pro games in class low A Everett, he has put up a line of .293/.353/.522 with a BABIP of .301. The bat is undoubtedly going stick around, but his position is a question mark. His glove may not stick at third base, but his body isn’t great for first base. If Peterson can continue his offensive output as expected, the Mariners will find a place in the field for him. Just because he is in the short-season level doesn’t necessarily mean he is a long ways from the majors. Zunino was in the same place at this time last year. Peterson is a mature hitter that could certainly skip some levels if warranted.

 

2.       Danny Hultzen

Hultzen in the 2012 Futures Game. Credit: H. Darr Beiser-USA TODAY Sports via USA TODAY Sports

Age: 23   Position: LHP   Height: 6’3”   Weight: 200

Injuries have plagued Hultzen thus far this year, but in the 28.2 innings Hultzen has thrown in Tacoma, his ERA has been 2.20 and his FIP 2.33. Despite his ailments, he is still the second best prospect in the Seattle farm system considering that he has the potential to throw three above average pitches, and his command appears to be back on track following a miserable end to the 2012 season.

Once Hultzen is healthy again, expect him to turn some heads with his stuff and force his way into the rotation within the next year.

 

1.       Taijuan Walker

Age: 20   Position: RHP   Height: 6’4”   Weight: 210

The Mariners got a steal when they took Walker in the supplemental round in the 2010 draft. Now heralded as one of the top pitcher prospects in baseball, Walker has dominated this year after a less-than-stellar 2012 campaign. In class AA Jackson, Walker posted a 3.13 FIP in 84 innings of work.

Walker earned a call-up to AAA at the end of June and has started three games there thus far.  In sixteen innings scattered over three starts, Walker has allowed just eleven hits while striking out a batter per inning and posting a 0.95 ERA. Walker’s command has improved this year, and there is no doubt that he has electric stuff, so he may get a taste of the majors this year as a September call-up.

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Tags: Austin Wilson Danny Hultzen DJ Peterson Gabriel Guerrero James Paxton Julio Morban Seattle Mariners Stefen Romero Taijuan Walker Tyler Pike Victor Sanchez

  • Carl

    Wow…I think your missing someone. He was the third position player from the 2012 draft to advance as high as AA (Zunino was 1st and James Ramsay was 2nd). Leads the organization in hits, triples, walks, stolen bases…all as a “glove first” SS.

    • JJ Allen Keller

      If its taylor, just say it. No need for the snarky comment.

      • Carl

        Snarky?? In what way? Just providing some support for a player that I feel should easily be in the top 10 rather than throwing a name out there. With the stats listed, it was no secret that it was Taylor

        • JCondreay

          I consider myself to be a snarky person, so I don’t mind the snark (if that’s what it was) at all.

          That being said, I am well aware of Taylor, but here is the main reason I left him off: He has no ceiling. Let’s go through his tools one by one.

          Hitting: He strikes out way too much to call him a plus hitter, and he has relied on ridiculous BABIP’s throughout his career.

          Power: Everyone hits homeruns in High Desert; he’s has far below average power.

          Speed: Pretty good speed, no doubt, but is that a great tool? No.

          Glove: Solid, but he is a borderline shortstop at the major league level, so a position change to second or third is in order, and he doesn’t have the bat for third.

          Arm: I honestly don’t know how his arm grades out, but It’s not a major difference maker in this scenario.

          All in all, I would say that Chris Taylor’s ceiling is that of a backup utility infielder/pinch runner. At best, he’s Robert Andino with better plate discipline.

          He’s nearly 23 years old. He’s not a great prospect.

          It’s nice that he’s moving quickly through the system, but that’s largely circumstantial considering that he hit well in High A (like almost everyone else) and two middle infielders were taken out of the farm system in the past few months.

          Sure, I probably could have put Taylor in the honorable mention list instead of Marder, but that was a tossup and I went with Marder.

          Bottom Line: Taylor isn’t a great prospect.

          • JJ Allen Keller

            I disagree a little. All accounts seem that he is a great defender. The bat is a question, but I think the upside is more of a lower end starter than a backup. He is definitely better than Marder though. Plays SS, and has some potential in the stick at least. Cant say the same about Marder.
            On top of that, he had a 153 wRC+ in High Desert. Thats adjusted for the park and league, so he is hitting even better than you would expect. And he has continued to hit in AA.
            Plate discipline is ignored when looking at tools, and that is what hurts the evaluation of Taylor. The dude walks like crazy, which make up for everything else being a little meh.

          • Carl

            After reading that, I agree with you… you ARE a snarky person. I’d be interested in how often you’ve actually seen Taylor play because you’re way off in a lot of areas.

            Ever thought that there might be a reason for the “ridiculous BABIP”? He doesn’t hit a lot of fly balls (which also accounts for the lack of HR’s) so his performance this year was not really skewed all that much by the launching pad that is High Desert (as evidenced by his home-away splits there and the fact that he is doing pretty well in Jackson despite the big step up to AA). As for the K’s, sure they are high, but if you’re going to call him out for that, as JJ Allen Keller pointed out, you certainly need to give him credit for the walks. Besides, IMO any amount of K’s is OK if you’re sporting an OBP over .400

            He’s not a huge XBH guy, but they are there…they just come as 2bs and 3bs.

            The glove and arm are MLB calibre SS and if you’d spent some time watching him, you’d know that. The errors are high, no question, but they will come down as he gets into his comfort zone in pro ball (this is his first full season in pro ball)…go back and check some of Ryan’s fielding percentages in the MILB
            Bottom line: In YOUR opinion Taylor isn’t a great prospect…in this case, it just happens to be wrong. Keep posting though. I enjoy the content (and obviously a good debate) :)

          • JCondreay

            Sorry I’m not
            replying to this until now, I’ve been out of contact with the world for a week.

            No, unfortunately I
            do not live in SoCal or Tennessee so my only experiences watching him play came
            in a few northwest league games last year.

            I understand that he
            doesn’t hit tons of flyballs, but a .407 BABIP is ridiculous weather you like
            it or not. Rod Carew is the only man to have a BABIP higher than .407 over an
            entire MLB season since 1925. If only man has done it in the last 87 years, I think
            it’s safe to call it ridiculous.

            Also, saying that his
            stats weren’t skewed by High Desert seems a bit absurd. He averaged a homerun
            every 82.5 ABs in 37 games in Everett. He didn’t have a HR in 12 games in
            Clinton. He is averaging a HR every 142 ABs in 31 games in Jackson. Yet somehow
            he had a longball every 46 ABs in High Desert. He got a lot of help. Since
            leaving the hitters paradise in High Desert, his ISO has dropped 65 points, his
            BABIP has dropped 66 points, and his average has fallen 77 points as a result.

            You’re right, I
            didn’t give extended adulation to Taylor for his BB%. He walks a lot, which is
            awesome. No doubt about it.

            The point remains
            that his OBP won’t be .400 without a huge BABIP. He only had the .400 OBP in
            Everett because he was facing pitching he was much better than and therefore
            rarely struck out. His OBP in High Desert was a result of an unsustainable
            BABIP. Now that he is in a league where his BABIP is no longer historically
            notable and the pitching is respectable, his OBP is now .369. Again. the walk
            rate is nothing short of impressive, but it can’t support a player with his
            strikeout problem and no power.

            This statement you
            made intrigues me, “The glove and arm are MLB caliber SS and if you’d
            spent some time watching him, you’d know that.” True, I haven’t seen him a
            lot, but I am going to play the percentage game and speculate that you are not
            a paid major league scout who has watched him extensively. If by some crazy
            chance I am wrong, I apologize profusely, and my next argument is invalid. With
            the knowledge that I am not a trained talent evaluator and with the assumption
            that you aren’t either, I don’t think either of us have the right to say that
            he is or isn’t a pro caliber shortstop. However, a majority of scouting reports
            I have ran across from primary sources seem to indicate that there are big
            question marks concerning his future as a shortstop.

            Lastly, yes, this is
            just my opinions. These are, however, drawn from the opinions of people far
            better informed than either of us (still assuming you aren’t a scout who has
            followed him.) Stating your opinion that my opinion is invalid is quite
            hypocritical, but you knew that when you said it. Forgive me for stating that
            obvious fact.

            Please reply, I love
            a good baseball debate.

  • maqman

    I worry about Hultzen’s arm now that it’s set him back twice. 35% of pitchers on major league rosters at the start of the season have had Tommy John surgery. Given the wear on his arm it will be amazing if Felix doesn’t have to have it done, especially given that they found fraying of his ulnar collateral ligament when he took the physical for his contract extension. The condition rarely happens at one moment but rather is a result of accumulated wearing. The good news is the new ligaments usually last five years. Although I believe Hultzen’s problem is shoulder related and not an elbow issue. Trouble is shoulder problems are harder to cure than UCL elbows.

    • JCondreay

      You’re right, shoulder problems are more difficult to work with than elbow injuries because the ball and socket joint is much more complex than the hinge. The Tommy John success rate is about 85%. One thing to note about the UCL fraying is that over half of pitcher have experienced it by the time they are seniors in high school, so it’s not terribly uncommon and certainly not putting his wing in eminent danger.
      I don’t have details concerning Hultzen’s injury, but I would hypothesize that the problem is with the labrum since that is hurt so commonly by pitchers. Labrums are often difficult to diagnose and repair to repair but usually take less time to heal than UCL’s so that’s something to think about. Injuries are never good, but I still think that Hultzen is a great prospect weather his career takes a detour or not.

    • Evan Webeck

      Yeah…I’m going to have to dispute those numbers…What is/are your source(s)?