Last year, I did a write up on some of the under appreciated prospects in the Mariners system. I called it the Ryan Anderson Relief Squad. Despite being the one that picked the name, it bothered me. Most of the prospects I chose were guys that were under appreciated and though not all didn’t have very successful seasons, others did just fine and even one had a gigantic breakout season.
This year, I’m changing the name but am going to continue the tradition. The idea behind it is of course a dash of being an under appreciated prospect (in my mind) but even more than that these guys have a cult following for one reason or another. Most of them have a specific trait that is easily recognizable and could even get them to the big leagues. George Mieses throws hard, Jonathan Arias misses bats, Johan Limonta gets on base, Jamal Austin is electric on the base paths. The majority that make this list will probably go on to be AAAA fodder or even won’t even make it above AA. But then again they could be potentially be pretty successful ball players.
Ryan Anderson was a top prospect from the day he was drafted. He showed amazing physical abilities and proved them statistically. These guys… well this is the other side of the coin. This is the cult of Scott Savastano.
The Starting Rotation
This is given in no certain order. Kyle Hunter was drafted last year in the 31st round. A shocker for me because I believed he would be taken before the 10th round. I’m still pretty excited about him being in the organization. He’s got a good change-up and can locate his fastball that sits about 88-90. He’s basically the ideal left handed back of the rotation pitcher for Safeco. But being that he pitched in the low level’s last year you can see him just absloutely abused those inexperienced hitters.
Much like Hunter, Cameron Hobson was a guy that I thought could go before the 10th round. He throws a bit harder and has more refined secondary stuff. Hobson also battered young hitters in the northwest league. But to an outrageous level. He’s quickly becoming a new version of Jimmy Gillheeney, and I like it.
Mauricio Robles is a guy that I think a lot of us have forgotten due to his injury last year. But, while he struggled quite a bit, it’s not out of the question that he could return and be more than just a shadow of what we once thought he could be. Remember he was right there with Michael Pineda, at the end of 2010, mowing down hitters and producing some dazzling moments (so long as they were before the 5th inning). The Mariners could have waived him in need of a roster spot back in December, much like what they did to Dan Cortes, but they chose to keep him. I think that’s a telling move.
I talked a bit about George Mieses yesterday. The guy has huge potential but has some issues with his mechanics and he’s yet to become anything more than a thrower. But, he’s only 20 years old and there is a ton of ceiling still left to him. He’s one of the few pitchers I’ve ever been interested in seeing sent to High Desert. He does such a great job of pounding the bottom half of the zone and making it difficult for hitters to really elevate his pitches. I’m more interested in him missing bats but just the thought of him battled the elements with that boulder of a fastball. It’s kind of fun.
Last of the rotation, you have the ever forgotten Mr. Andrew Carraway. He may very well be this years Anthony Vasquez. But, I doubt anyone can ever really do that poorly again. Carraway is very much a control specialist and though he doesn’t throw hard he knows how to get what he needs. He misses bats with his curve ball and he doesn’t walk very many hitters. I know everyone likes talking about Erasmo Ramirez, but if there was a real dark horse entering this season for a surprising rookie starter performance I’m not betting against Carraway.
Kesler, just is a really likeable guy. Oh and he isn’t a bad reliver either. Quietly the best reliever last year on the High Desert staff that included Steve Delbar and the young phenom Steven Pryor. Kesler is able to miss a few bats but makes his bread and butter off a crazy amount of ground balls. Here is to hoping that continues in 2012!
Reynaldo Sabala is a bit of an unknown. Only 20 years old he’s got a bit of velocity behind his pitches but limited control and near no secondary pitch. But who needs that when you strike out plenty of hitters. Coming out of the pen as the most dependable reliever for Pulaski it should be interesting to see if the Mariners ship him to Clinton or keep him back in short season again.
Bischoff has been a personal favorite for the better part of two years now. The guy gets ground balls and strike outs. There is exactly NOTHING wrong with that. He’s a old for his level but regardless he’s put up some pretty respectable numbers and I think he’ll do well in High Desert should the team finally decide to move him up.
LaFromboise is a guy I’m a little disappointed didn’t get invited to camp this year. The guy is one of the better lefty relievers in the upper minor league system and has shown the ability to get AA hitters out. I’d like to see him move up to Tacoma this year and sit in the wings waiting for his chance.
Jonathan Arias is formerly a weak hitting shortstop with a cannon for an arm that has become a pitcher with a cannon for an arm. He sits in the upper-90’s and while his secondary stuff is still developing he’s got a lot to like about him. Lonnie Mathias has been on him for the last couple of years and this is the year I buy stock in Arias. He pitched 63.1 Innings last year and struck out over 100 hitters giving him the best K/PA ratio in the system. I believe that he’s going to jump at multiple levels and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him sitting in Tacoma at years end.
C – Luke Guarnaccia
1b – Johan Limonta
2b – Scott Savastano
3b – Stefan Romero
ss – Gabriel Noriega
Guarncaccia is a guy that I haven’t talked much about but listening to G_Moneyball over at MarinersCentral and SSI. Luke appears to be a guy that has similar traits as Jack Marder with the added bonus of flying further under the radar. He’s got some good onbase skills, he’s got the defensive skill set and there is a bit of pop in the bat for small measure. All together he could be a really solid find. The Mariners have been after him the last few years and it’s good to see them get someone that they really wanted if for no other reason that the feel like they’ve achived something.
I’m not crazy about Johan Limonta. I’m not. But looking at his stats I think it’s fair to say that he’s gotten a bit of a bad break. Part of it is his own fault. He got comfortable in AA and had no real desire to move up the ranks. But looking at his stats over the years he’s never really struggled at a level. He’s basically been Lyle Overbay with a below average glove. I don’t think Limonta is a prospect in any right and I don’t think he’s an major league ball player. At most he’s a solid pinch hitter. But he drives the ball well, he works counts and doesn’t strike out too much. He’s pretty much what this type of thing is all about and we hope the best for him.
It wouldn’t be the Cult of Scott Savastano without Scott Savastano. He’s one of the best guys I’ve ever sat and talked to. Him and Erasmo Ramirez both blow just about anyone in the minor leagues out of the water in terms of “nice guy-ness”. That said he’s also got major on base skills. Leading all qualified hitters on Jackson in wOBA and coming in 18th in the entire Southern League. The weakspot that everyone points to is the fact he’s not quite a power hitter but the last two years in Jackson he’s posted ISO’s of .140 and then upper it this year with .163. He cut his strike outs down, he improved his walks. Oh, and he played most of the season between Third and Secondbase. Cult of Scott Savastano.
I’m pretty proud of my call for Vincent Catricala and his break out year last year. I’m not the only one that called it there were a few of us (Lonnie, Moneyball_G, a few others). But for the most part Vinny was pretty much an unknown. Let me introduce you to Catricala lite. His name is Stefan Romero. There are a lot of simularties between the two but the most important thing about Romero is that he looked like he would be drafted before the 5th round until he injured himself and fell to the Mariners in the 12th round. He doesn’t quite of the eye or even the raw power that Catricala has. All the same he drive the ball extremely well and he even has better contact rates. He also still has an outside chance of sticking at an infield position, which has value in and of itself.
Noriega hasn’t had much going for him with the bat since 2009, but there is a reason he continues to work himself up the organization ladder. That one specific thing is his glove. He is without a doubt the best defender in the organization and one of the better ones in all of major league baseball. He doesn’t get much press because of the fact that he is a poor hitter at the plate. But he just turned 21 and the fact that he is already a major league quality defender gives him some rope and hopefully a bit more of a chance to become a major league ball player.
Austin is pure fun. At 20 years old he went into the Applachian league, walking more than he struck out, tied for 4th in the league in stolen bases (20 out of 28 attempts) and lastly produced a .369 wOBA and a wRC+ of 122. All while providing solid defense in center field. It’s possible that this new 21 year old could be a better version of Ezequiel Carrera or a redux of Jamal Strong.
Julio Morban is a guy that had a lot of hype to him just a couple of years ago. But a lost season due to shoulder injuries and a rather boring season in Clinton has Morban a rather forgotten character. That said he still has the off the chart package of tools that once made him worthy of the 1.1 million dollar signing bonus. The SSI guys did a fabulous write up on him and for some reason it never works to link out to them but their study between him and Garrett Anderson and Carlos Beltran is fabulous. Suffice it to say that I’m not down out on this young man who doesn’t even turn 20 until next week. He’s got a sweet swing, speed and above average raw power.
Efrain Nunez was at a point that I think many people were about to give up on him. He made it stateside back in 2009 at the age of 18 but after a poor showing he ended up back in the DSL for his age 19 season. There he still didn’t produce and it was widely thought of him as a floop. However, last year he produced a .291/.367/.507 slash line in an age appropriate league. So one has to wonder if he continue to impress? He’s psyically strong, has a nice enough swing and most importantly shown the ability to cut down on his strike outs. I am curious as to know where he’ll start out at but I think he could have a pretty good season.
Jabari Blash is a pretty popular prospect. There isn’t much not to like. He has a solid eye makes good contact and has raw power to boot. The problem as I see it is he did all that it all at an age and level in which he should have produced those stats. I like Blash a lot but he’s got a few weaknesses that I’m tired of seeing associated with Mariner prospects. Yet, he makes this list because I love his phsyical talents and everyone I’ve ever talked to had a lot of really good things to say about him. That said, I am hopeful that puts together a good season in Clinton and hopefully they give him a chance to see High Desert or even Jackson too.
A few guys that I flirted with this year and earned honorable mentions Jean Acevedo, Rich Poythress (remember him?) and Carson Smith.