International Free-Agency 2011: A Look Back


As anyone that has frequented this site knows, a lot of my focus and effort has and is predominately on the June Rule-4 first year players draft (or just the MLB Draft). Because of that I’ve neglected a few of the other things that are going on with the Major League team and I’m sorry for that.

But, now that the draft is out of the way I have to find some other way to completely neglected the Major League team. Not that I’m actually looking for a way to get out of talking about a huge talking point. But I do like to bring another angle to the blogsphere. So with that said we’re going to take a look at upcoming International Free-Agency.

This is usually a very busy time for the Mariners organization. Which is headed up by non-other than the epic Bob Engle, responsible for the likes of  Michael Pineda, Yuniesky Betancourt, Jose Lopez, Rafael Soriano, and oh yeah, some guy by the name of Felix Hernandez.

There are others but these are just the quick ones off the top of my head. This week I’m going to be doing a bit of profiling some of the July 2nd International Free Agent targets of not just the Mariners but some of the “head of class” guys. But prior to doing that I thought we’d sit down and have a look at some of the names of the past classes and what the Mariners have done in previous years.  It may help provide some context for what this has done for the Mariners minor league system.

Class of 2010

Noteable Signees:

  • Phillips Castillo, OF
  • Esteilon Peguero, SS
  • Jose Torres, RHP
  • Yordyn Calderon, 3B

Obviously, it’s too soon to really say anything about this class but the Mariners got perhaps the best player in IFA (Peguero) and the best power bat (Castillo) and one of the most under rated pitchers of the bunch (Torres). This in my opinion was one of the Mariners best years for player development. People talk about the lack of star power but in my opinion Peguero could be just that. I realize that it’s early but in my mind he’s Jurickson Profar and then some…

Class of 2009

Noteable Signees:

Looking back it seems like this class was a little under hyped. Of course Pimentel was a HUGE get and the best pure hitter in the entire class. But then A lot of what the Mariners did was low on the radar. Mieses and Campos didn’t generate much interest if any at all but have come on big with their stuff the last couple of years.

While Mieses is still developing and has a lot of potential, Campos is exciting with his high-90s fastball. He’s a favorite of Prospect Insiders’ Jason Churchill and as has been said that’s definitely  something to note.

Choi most likely will need his bat to serious carry him the rest of the way. He’s pretty big for his age and from all that I’ve heard it’s not likely that he’ll play anything other than first. Though I’ve yet to see him with my own eyes. He has been sidelined for most of the year with back problems which talking with a couple people think it pretty much extinguishes any chance for him to stick behind the plate. But he has time to continue to grow and it’s possible that his bat takes a couple more steps which would make him a legit first basemen.

My personal favorite out of this and really was a throw in to get Choi. That would be Seon Gi Kim. He impressed me last year with the control of his pitches and his breaking ball stuff. I think that he could end up being the better player out of the Choi/Kim duo. But that’s purely my opinion.

Class of 2008

Noteable Signees

This class has been underwhelming simply due to the amount of injuries they have had. Jose was brought stateside and had Tommy John surgery. But he’s a big guy and they expect him to bounce back this season. Talking with Tony Blengino he called him a “Big Body, Big Arm guy” and they still expect good things from him.

Morban also struggled with injuries the last couple of years and took off a lot of time to get healthy. He showed up late last year sprinkling some starts and playing fill-in for teams that needed it. This year he has been assigned at Class-A Clinton and impressed early in April with a slash of 288/345/413. However, since his quick start he has dropped to 253/302/361 line. He’s only 19 and it wouldn’t hurt if he got demoted to Everett. Morban’s major tools consistent of a good contact driven swing, speed and defense. I read somewhere that he could develop more power but I would think he would have too at this point. He could stick in center

Class of 2007

Noteable Signees

DeJesus has been kind of bittersweet. We outspent the Yankees to get him (though some think it was Bob Engle’s relationship with the young man that turned the tide.) and immediately he threw up some big numbers between Arizona rookie ball and Everett. Baseball America had a good write up on him here. But injuries and inconsistent have derailed him.

He’s still only 21 and once he finishes rehab work outs according to Mariners PR folks he should be assigned to Everett. Hopefully he’ll get some time in Clinton as well and next year be back on track in High Desert. If he can do that he’ll be just about average in developmental time. But that’s a lot to ask, for now we’ll see how he does in Everett.

Noriega and Phillips don’t get a lot of love for the specific reason that both of their bats are extremely light. But both do profile to have major league capable gloves at short with Noriega being the better overall player. But the value of the glove keep them moving up and keep them in the organization.

Diaz is an interesting arm still and only 20. He’s been assigned to the Everett Aquasox and short season ball. Nunez a switch hitter hasn’t gotten a lot of love from the organization. While his bat hasn’t played up he has shown to have a good eye but there is something keeping him in the DSL. That’s usually a bad omen.

Morla was hyped big time this off-season and has figuratively fallen on his face in Clinton. It’s not the end of the world but he needs to figure things out as his clock is ticking. He’s not exceptional with the glove and if he wants to be a third basemen they need value from his bat.

Class of 2006

Noteable Signees

This has been a rather productive class for the Mariners. All of which are at least in single A or above. Liddi still could be an average major league at third, though that’s hotly disputed. Mario Martinez has made great progression at the plate and is a sure fielder that some say resemble Adrian Beltre defensively.

Fray Martinez was clocked throwing in the high 90’s by Jason Churchill  this past winter and though pure velocity doesn’t get you anywhere it’s a great place to build on. Fernandez has been purely average so far in his starts for Clinton and High Desert but he gets a ton of ground balls and seems like a younger version of Anthony Vasquez.

Carlos Triunfel has seemingly over come the discipline problems that had been killing his career up until now. He has lost weight and his athletcism has improved because of it. I’ve seen him on about 12 different occasions and the last time couple I saw him in Montgomery I was completely surprised and impressed. His actions were very smooth and of course as always his arm is a rocket. I personally believe that Triunfel is back on track to be a viable major leaguer. That said he still has work to do.

Then of course J.C. Ramirez was one of the main chips in the Cliff Lee deal.

Class of 2005

Noteable Signees

Immediately, the first guy that jumps out for current Mariner fans is Michael Pineda. But at the time the big name was Betancourt. It’s really tragic to see how he has fallen from grace but at the same time isn’t it interesting that his career looks to be much more stable than that of Jose Lopez. My how far we’ve come since the start of 2009.

Medina is an interesting guy that has come on late in the last year. Peguero has been a valuable piece of the 2011 Mariners and then Juan Diaz was used to acquire Russell Branyan.

Class of 2004

Noteable Signees

Both are major league…ish players. Both still have serious holes in their game and while I think Halman is the better player and have the more productive career, Valbuena isn’t a bad guy either. Rumor has it that prior to the season the Mariners attempt to make a play to acquire him back from the Indians.

Time will only tell what comes of these two players.

Class of 2003

Noteable Signees

Oh yeah…. I almost forgot about this guy. Not sure whatever happened.

Other notables:

Cesar Jimenez (2002), Asdrubal Cabrera (2002), Oswaldo Navarro (2002), Ryan Rowland-Smith (2001),Jose Lopez (2001),Wladimir Balentien (2001), Shin-Soo Choo (2000), Travis Blackley (2000), Chris Snelling (1999), Cha-Seung Baek (1998), Rafael Soriano (1997)