Mariner Minors
Friday, February 20, 2004
I feel as if today I've provided the most posts with the least content. Original, at least.

Trent over at Mariners Rumblings and Grumblings (formerly, What the Hell Happened?, In Constant Pursuit of Mediocrity, etc) has been going over his list of the NRI players with his MLB comparisons for this point in time. Part one can be found here, part two followed here, and part three is here.

ESPN prospect guru John Sickels ran a chat in Baseball Prospectus. There weren't any real M's questions, but he was asked to rank Joe Blanton, Zack Greinke, Felix Hernandez, Kris Honel, and Matt Riley (the last two of which I hadn't heard of) and his projections for long-term potential ran Greinke, Hernandez, Blanton, Honel, Riley. Not that bad, Hernandez has more velocity to his pitches, but Greinke has near perfect control. It's like comparing a Maddux-type pitcher to "Bartolo Colon before he ate David Wells," as I heard someone recently put it.

Oddly enough, later today, there was a new article by Sickels where the question was regarding the top pitching organizations in baseball. The Mariners weren't even mentioned. Ouch.
Sickels is running a "Down on the Farm" chat at noon PST this Monday, so ask him about that if you feel inclined.

Speaking of chats, Everett announcer Pat Dillon will be in the ITP chat at 4 pm PST this coming Wednesday. I'll post a link as we get closer to the chat time.

The chat transcript for the BA chat is now up.

I had a couple of my questions answered, not in depth though, and someone else asked another for me (regarding the three high school lefties). The nasty obscure question was about Blanco, Guzman, and Santiago, and it was ignored entirely.

The depth of the chat didn't seem to tell much that we didn't already know, but it was good to see some familiar faces in there. Tom, who has commented a few times here, had some of his questions about Balentien responded to. It's possible that others were there and I just didn't recognize them, possibly P.B. and some others.

Spring Training should ease some of the withdrawl now. At least for some of us.

Whoa now, it was a typo, they're taking questions now! Go!

Due to my posting tendencies, I'm a little late picking this up, but there's a fine article on former Winnipeg lefties Bobby Madritsch and George Sherrill in The Winnipeg Sun today.

Apparently, Sherrill's been down there for the past three-and-a-half weeks. He also seems to be going for the Doug Creek look, though we can easily expect better success out of him.

They are taking Mariners questions in the BA chat right now. The chat itself isn't up yet, it says 5 pm CT, which will be 3 pm here. Plan to drop by in an hour or so.

Pitchers and catchers reported today. What does this mean for me, here at Mariner Minors? Sixteen days until minor league pitchers and catchers report. I'll try to post any stories or information I find in the meantime.

Speaking of which, the Mariners have announced a number of signings, eleven, to be more precise. The unsigned players are Willie Bloomquist, Justin Leone, Clint Nageotte, Julio Mateo, Chris Snelling, Rafael Soriano, J.J. Putz, Aaron Taylor. There seems to be a trend where those who might have an impact remain unsigned, so hopefully this is good news for the Leone backers of the blogosphere.

Thursday, February 19, 2004
I've added a number of fine links to the sidebar. 'bout time, right?

The Safe, San Shin, From Basketball To Baseball..., and Rooftop Report are now on the list.

The others you have probably found at some point or another. Rooftop Report is a Cubs blog that's run with a level of quality similar to Mariner Musings and Mariners Wheelhouse. I feel obligated to put a Cubs blog on here because I have relatives back in the Chicago area on my dad's side and thus we all have a soft spot for the Cubbies.

Jeff over at San Shin (one of those great blogs that haven't quite made it to the sidebar yet) has found a blurb, on Wladimir Balentien, or the Blurbentien as he calls it, via USA Today.

Wlad is the number three kid to watch in Spring Training, pretty impressive considering the sheer size of the minor leagues.


• Wladimir Balentien, Mariners: You'll have to wait until the minor leaguers report to camp in Peoria, Ariz. But this lanky Aruban teen is a budding Jim Thome (though right-handed) or Rob Deer. Homers, strikeouts and a big swing make him worth the price of admission (OK, so you can roam the minor league fields for free).


I'll cut them some slack for the Aruban comment; I actually thought he was Venezuelan until recently (he's actually from Curacao, in the Netherland Antilles).

The long-awaited Mariners top 10 is now up at Baseball America. Dig it.

Top Prospect: Felix Hernandez, rhp

Age: 17 Ht.: 6-3 Wt.: 170 Bats: R Throws: R
Signed: Venezuela, 2002
Signed by: Pedro Avila

Background: The Mariners expected Hernandez to be good when they signed him for $710,000, but not this good, this fast. Seattle is not inclined to challenge teenagers with an assignment to the short-season Northwest League, populated mostly by former college players, but when Hernandez threw in the mid-90s last spring, he punched his ticket to Everett. The youngest player in the NWL by nearly eight months, he was dominant despite being kept on tight pitch counts. He pitched scoreless ball in five of his 11 outings. He was an easy choice as the NWL's No. 1 prospect. Promoted for the low Class A Midwest League stretch drive, he responded with two quality starts in as many tries. In the season finale, he shut out Kane County with 10 strikeouts in seven innings. Hernandez succeeded against even more experienced hitters this winter, going 1-1, 4.23 in six starts for Lara in his native Venezuela. The Mariners shut him down in December so he wouldn't exceed 100 innings in 2003.

Strengths: Hernandez has scary upside. He'll open this season as a 17-year-old and he doesn't need to develop any more stuff. The only guy in the organization with a comparable arm is big leaguer Rafael Soriano. Hernandez has the best fastball in the system and commands his mid-90s heat well. He regularly touches 97 and could reach triple digits as his skinny frame fills out. Hernandez' curveball is also unparalleled among Mariners farmhands and gives him the possibility for two 70 pitches on the 20-80 scouting scale. Though he's young and can easily overpower hitters at the lower levels, he understands the value of a changeup and is developing a good one. He can pitch down in the strike zone or blow the ball by hitters upstairs. He has poise and mound presence beyond his years.

Weaknesses: Hernandez just has to learn how to pitch. He needs to tweak his command and refine his pitches. Typical of a teenager with a lightning arm, he'll overthrow at times but should grow out of that. Arm problems would appear to be the only thing that could derail him from stardom, and Hernandez has been perfectly healthy so far. The Mariners will go to great lengths to make sure he isn't overworked in the minors.

The Future: Seattle wants to move Hernandez slowly, but he may not let that happen. He's not going to need to spend a full season at each level and might need just two more years in the minors. He'll probably start 2004 back at low Class A Wisconsin-- the Mariners concede he could have spent all of last season there-- and could be bucking for a promotion to high Class A Inland Empire by midseason. It's easy to get overexcited about young pitchers, but Hernandez has the legitimate potential to become the best pitcher ever developed by the Mariners.

Everett (SS) 7-2 0 2.29 11 7 55.0 43 17 14 24 73 .218
Wisconsin (Lo A) 0-0 0 1.93 2 2 14.0 9 4 3 3 18 .176

That's all I'm allowed to post, but my original prediction held.

1. Hernandez
2. Nageotte
3. Blackley
4. Lopez
5. Choo
6. Snelling
7. Johnson
8. Baek
9. Jones
10. Strong

Unfortunately, they no longer have the players who were on the bubble or those who could breakout next season. So get over to their chat at 1 pm PST tomorrow and ask them. I have a few questions I'd like answered as well. Really nasty obscure ones.

Wait Til Next Year has added some new info/rankings, this time the rankings go up to 90 and the team ranks have been added, where the Mariners come fourth behind the Halos, the Brew Crew, and the Cubbies.

The additional prospects were as follows...

56. Chris Snelling (SEA OF)- U.S.S. Mariner says Snelling’s ceiling is Tony Gwynn, and while I’m not that high on him, the Australian needs to stay healthy for an entire season to really prove his potential.
70. Jose Lopez (SEA SS)
84. Rett Johnson (SEA SP)
90. Felix Hernandez (SEA SP)

No disagreements so far as Snelling goes.

On Deck Baseball now has an option where you can refine the list to either AL or NL prospect only. The list remains identical to the original, the only difference is the context given to the names.

I've already said my piece about the original rankings and what they appear to mean, so here's the refined list, sans commentary. Except... Antonio Perez is still on this list... and above Ryan Christianson... odd.

Top 243

16. Clint Nageotte, RHP, Mariners
25. Felix Hernandez, RHP, Mariners
31. Chris Snelling, OF, Mariners
32. Jose Lopez, SS, Mariners
44. Travis Blackley, LHP, Mariners
69. Ryan Christianson, C, Mariners
71. Shin-Soo Choo, OF, Mariners
73. Rett Johnson, RHP, Mariners
74. Cha Seung Baek, RHP, Mariners
90. Wladimir Balentien, OF, Mariners
91. Ryan Anderson, LHP, Mariners
167. Jeff Flaig, 3B, Mariners
180. Miguel Martinez, LHP, Mariners
181. Ryan Feierabend, LHP, Mariners
183. Adam Jones, SS, Mariners
205. Jesus Guzman, 3B, Mariners
220. Ryan Ketchner, LHP, Mariners
222. Emiliano Fruto, RP, Mariners
232. Bobby Madritsch, LHP, Mariners
243. Justin Leone, 3B, Mariners


6. Ryan Christianson, Mariners

Third Base

12. Jeff Flaig, Mariners
15. Jesus Guzman, Mariners
16. Justin Leone, Mariners


4. Jose Lopez, Mariners
12. Adam Jones, Mariners


8. Chris Snelling, Mariners
14. Shin-Soo Choo, Mariners
19. Wladimir Balentien, Mariners
54. Jamal Strong, Mariners

Right-Handed Starter

6. Clint Nageotte, Mariners
10. Felix Hernandez, Mariners
30. Rett Johnson, Mariners
31. Cha Seung Baek, Mariners

Left-Handed Starter

6. Travis Blackley, Mariners
13. Ryan Anderson, Mariners
27. Miguel Martinez, Mariners (editor says: reliever, NOT STARTER)
28. Ryan Feierabend, Mariners
36. Ryan Ketchner, Mariners
41. Bobby Madritsch, Mariners

Relief Pitcher

8. Emiliano Fruto, Mariners

Hey, Justin Leone was the last one! Also, this makes me realize how low Ketchner is ranked... hmm...
Mariners make up a little over 8% of the list. Nice.
Also the Mariners are cornering the market on left-handed starters named Ryan.

The Mariners have the #7 farm system in the AL, according to On Deck. The Halos are #2, Rangers are #9, and, in an odd turn of events, Oakland is dead last at #14 (#28 in mlb).

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Transaction Update:

The Mariners have promoted VSL RHP Francisco Graterol to the Peoria Mariners roster.

Graterol will be 20 for the duration of the 2004 season. He played three years in the VSL, though he did not throw a single pitch last season or the season before, for reasons unknown. The earliest data I can find on him indicates that he had a 7.40 ERA. He was used mostly as a reliever, he allowed 20 ER in 24.1 IP, 26 hits, 15 walks, 20 SO. Those stats are a mess, and considering he hasn't pitched for two years, it seems, I can't say why the Mariners would have decided to promote him.

I've also found some info on Francisco Gerez, who was promoted to Peoria earlier in the month. Infielder, bats and throws righty, will be 24 to start Peoria's season. A little late to be making his first appearance on a US team, but maybe they know something I don't.

Fox Sports put up their 41-50 top prospects today, but no Mariners made the list. So far the only one to appear was Nageotte at #58.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004
In the meantime, while we wait for more news, U.S.S. Mariner has the first Future Forty and the top ten for this year. David's thrown in some major league comparisons as well, check it out.

I've managed to track down a new prospect ranking. Actually, to be more precise, I pilfered it off At Least The Red Sox Have 1918. These come from Wait Til Next Year's top 50 prospects.

23. Clint Nageotte- RHP- Seattle Mariners
If you like sliders, you’re going to love Mariner right-hander Clint Nageotte. There is little question that Nageotte’s slider is the best of any prospect, which led to a dominating Texas League performance in 2003. His 3.10ERA (higher than most prospects on this list) is caused by a high walk ratio, but I am a believer that control can be learned. Nageotte also boasts a big fastball, a picture of the perfect power pitcher. Refining his changeup would put him in the top 10, for now, just be wowed by those sliders.
*- I’m under the opinion that the 2005 Mariner rotation will be very different than the current version. I expect Soriano, Nageotte, and prospect #37 will join Moyer and Pineiro full-time next year.

37. Travis Blackley- LHP- Seattle Mariners
This kid may not have the potential of some pitchers, but he sure has the results. The 2003 Texas League Pitcher of the Year, Blackley led all minor leaguers with seventeen wins last year. His H/9 and K/9 were good for a soft-throwing southpaw, but Blackley understands the art of pitching. The Australian sets up hitters well, changes speeds, and throws a plus curve to strike them out. He walks more than his scouting report would suggest, but that shouldn’t be a problem at upper levels.
*- Blackley is behind Soriano and Nageotte on the depth chart, but the Mariners will stick him on Jamie Moyer in camp. Travis should have a job in 2005, unless Rett Johnson leapfrog’s the Aussie.

Quick Notes:
*Control is a bit of a factor for Nageotte, but this is partially attributed to his pitch selection, or lack thereof. Nageotte's slider is the nastiest pitch in all of the minor leagues, but it would look a lot more biting after seeing some carefully placed fastballs and change-ups.
*It's questionable as to whether Soriano will make it into the rotation. Right now, there is a great need for him in the bullpen; until that need can be filled by another guy, he'll stay there. Furthermore, where's Meche going?
*Blackley gets the soft-tossing lefty rep a lot of guys will get, but imagine if Moyers help really rubs off on him. Blackley's a great pitcher, but he has the potential to be something bigger.

Wait Til Next Year is hosted on All-Baseball, a great site, if you haven't been there. All-Baseball is also the new home of Mariner Musings. Speaking of which, Peter found my NRI article and is now referring to me as "the mad genius behind Mariner Minors." Yeah... I guess that works. (grin)

Well, for those who haven't already found it in the comments, some information about the BA top 10 prospects has been leaked via an online article and a reader who helped me find it. That's right, we have some of the info on the goods early.

The article was focusing on the ability of the Mariners team to fill in draft holes with international signings. I've covered this in some depth before, but they go over more, like the value of former scout and current Dodgers pitching coach Jim Colborn (I'm of the opinion that the loss of Colborn is disappointing, but the things he set into motion are still carried on). It has also indicated that in years where the first pick was lost, there were significant international signings. We've already seen this begin with the signing of four Australian players and the one Taiwanese player. As I've stated before, international scouting is one of the great strengths of the M's and will probably continue to be so for a long time.

But let's get right to the info, here's what we now know...

1. Feliz Hernandez (RHP)
3. Travis Blackley (LHP)
4. Jose Lopez (SS)
5. Shin-Soo Choo (OF)
6. Chris Snelling (OF)
8. Cha Seung Baek (RHP)
9. Adam Jones (SS)
16. Wladimir Balentien (OF)
19. Matt Thornton (LHP)
25. Michael Garciaparra (SS)
29. Ryan Christianson (C)

These are all based off their 2003 Prospect Handbook, so where we'll find out the top ten from the magazine, the rest may be guesswork for now.

Number two is going to be Clint Nageotte, without question. Rett Johnson would be the seven and I can say that with similar confidence. Ten, right now, I'm thinking Jamal Strong. They could surprise us and pick someone like Ryan Ketchner or even Rene Rivera, but Strong seems to be the most likely candidate. The remaining two of those will probably be somewhere in the 11-15 range, along with Justin Leone and Bobby Madritsch.

And because one can't avoid the coverage, I'm getting in some shots at current baseball affairs, since it's all seeming to be going to hell of late.
*I don't like the A-Rod trade by any means, I think that the players union and the owners both have serious faults and I think that more needs to be done to restrain such moves. But A-Rod does not make the Yankees a lock; it may get them a win or two over Soriano, but no lock.
*Maddux? Well, he's not getting any younger. That staff is an injury or a few nagging aches from collapsing, not even considering the defense.
*Steroids cheapen everything the game means.

But at least the Yankees can't take prospect watching away from me!

Thank you and good night... er... morning.

Monday, February 16, 2004
Well, the chat transcript with Mike Saeger is now up. Interesting stuff, many excellent questions asked all around.

And to the fellow who e-mailed me about Delucchi a while back, I asked Mike and he described him and the other indy league signings as being "hungry" players whose determination rubbed off on the team and definately contributed to their success. As for Delucchi specifically, Mike said that he'll have to continue to prove himself along the way. "A big player has to prove he can’t play, a small player has to prove he can" was how he put it.

For those interested in the other transcript with the beat writer for the San Antonio Missions, it can be found here.

In the recent issue of BA, there was an article about the "all-star team" of players who missed out on their team's top 10 prospect list. This one covered the AL, whereas the one four issues ago covered the NL. The Mariners have TWO representatives on this all-star team. This could be considered as a testament to the depth of the system, or you could take it as indicating that we have additional players that would be productive soon if not now.

I probably can't post the article without having someone try to come after me, but the two players are 3B Justin Leone and LHSP Bobby Madritsch. It talks about how if Dobbs wasn't injured, Leone would have never had his breakout season, etc, and additional things I've also said here. With Madritsch, they talk about how he was their Independant League Player of the Year in 2002 and how he needs a better breaking ball, etc. Nothing too deep.

BA also makes note of the signing of catcher Juan Fuentes. I haven't been able to find much information on him, aside from every story relating to when JUAN Pierre and Brian FUENTES were still both on the Rockies, but the transactions site indicates that Fuentes was signed to a contract for the Venezuelan Summer League. It's unusual that BA makes note of VSL or DSL signings, so I'll be watching his name in the box scores this coming season. (Also, apparently, Jason Mackintosh is a LHP)

I'm reminding all of you again, that InsideThePark is having a chat tonight at 6pm PST with 66ers radio announcer Mike Saeger. These chats tend to be interesting, there was a great chat with the San Antonio Missions broadcaster not long ago which I, unfortunately, missed. There should be a transcript available later, or at least part of one, but feel free to drop in and ask a question or two. I'll try to be there as well. Keep in mind that you don't even have to be a member of either ITP or the ITP message board to join in.

Sunday, February 15, 2004
According to BA, the Mariners prospect review will be up Feb. 20th. Finally.

As an aside, writing for ITP is pretty interesting. We were running a small chat tonight; Joe and I were talking with everyone and someone whose name we hadn't seen before asked both of us, in a private chat window, if they could see the Michael Garciaparra prospect file for free. I told him my account's currently bugged and I can't see it either (true statement) and Joe suggested that he sign up for the free trial. A few minutes later, his name shows up in the sign-up log: it was Michael Garciaparra, Scottsdale zipcode and all.

BTW, tomorrow night there's a guest speaker; IE 66ers announcer Mike Saeger will be in the chat at 6 pm.

Well, now that I've gotten that out, another question has come up regarding the M's international scouting, this time regarding Rayon Lampe, who is currently on the Peoria roster for the coming season.

Lampe is from Aruba. He is currently listed as an infielder, though in Aruba he played as a CF and I'm more inclined to think that he'll be a CF in the minors as well, considering the glut at SS. He has plus speed, a strong arm, and can drive the ball to the opposite field (reports indicate he handles the bat very well). A number of teams were interested in him, the Orioles among them, but he signed a contract with the M's late in the summer and should see some time in Peoria for the coming season. He'll be only seventeen for the entire season, so a player with his kind of abilities at that age is rare.

I've been getting a lot of questions and positive feedback in the inbox lately, and I want to thank all of you for the interest you've taken in this endeavor. I've been able to learn a number of things by bouncing ideas of the e-mailers and I think that helps to make this a better resource overall.

Also, my first article is up at ITP, a small piece on the NRIs this year. Check it out. (end shameless self-promotion)

Originally, I was going to make this post on a Francisco Gerez, who had been moved from the Dominican Summer League to the Peoria team a couple of days ago, according to the Mariners transactions site. Unfortunately, I can't find any information on him. He did not play for any affiliated team last year, Baseball America seems to know nothing of him. He must be somewhat impressive, though, considering that it's not common for new players to make a jump to the US.

This is not about him, however.

When I was looking for information, I poked around the Venezuelan Summer League site for the Mariners. I had meant to go back there for a while and see how many home runs OF Wladimir Balentien hit in 2002, and compare that to 3B Jesus Guzman's numbers in 2003 (for reference, Balentien had ten, Guzman had five, which is still above average power for that league). What I also found was a statistical resource that puts all American statkeepers to shame. Why? Because in 2002, Balentien had a 51% success rate in advancing runners. Because, on average, Caesar Jimenez faced 32.92 batters in the games he pitched. Because Casear Quintero had a .250 avg when being used as a pinch hitter. It's insane.

But this isn't about that either, as fun as that is, and I'll save those goodies to look at later.

This is about what appears to be a great success in Venezuelan scouting and the ability of the Aguirre team to produce players.

Thirty-six percent of the players on the Aguirre roster in 2002 were on the roster for a US minor league team for 2003.

RHP Nibaldo Acosta, Venezuela (A-)
OF Wladimir Balentien, Curacao, Netherland Antilles (R)
RHP Cibney Bello, Venezuela (R)
RHP Jonathan Castillo, Panama (R)
RHP Kenly Chang, Nicaragua (A-)
LHP Casear Jimenez, Venezuela (A)
SS Oswaldo Navarro, Venezuela (A-)
C Casear Quintero, Panama (R)
LHP Victor Ramirez, Venezuela

Two more of the players on this roster, RHP Ivan Blanco and 3B Jesus Guzman, will be on an American affiliate this summer. As will two players from the 2003 roster, SS Asdrubal Cabrera and LHP Julio Santiago. All are Venezuelans, except Santiago who is a Columbian.

To me, this is astounding. Nearly half of the 2002 Aguirre roster will be making an impact on the Mariners affiliates in the US, representing four different countries. The Mariners Venezuelan scouting is having the strongest impact, not even considering potential ace RHP Felix Hernandez who made a direct jump to Everett this season, SS Jose Lopez, and all the other players already making a name for themselves. But additionally, Curacao? The guy who might be the top offensive prospect in the system was signed out of Curacao? As I said before to someone in a recent e-mail, of all the organizations in the MLB, the M's may have the farthest reaching international scouting. A couple of years ago, we had a Russian LHP in Everett. This year, we signed a South African RHP. It's amazing.

A closer look at the minor league system of the Seattle Mariners baseball club.

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2006 Minor League Splits
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2003 Prospect Lists:
Rotoworld Top 100 Prospects
Rotoworld Top 10 Mariners Prospects
The Minors First Top 100 Prospects
Inside The Park's 21-30 Mariners Prospects
On Deck Baseball's Mariners Prospect Rankings
On Deck Baseball's Future 500
On Deck Baseball's Future 500 (AL Only)
Wait Til Next Year's Top 50 Prospects
Wait Til Next Year's 51-90 Prospects
The Sports Network's Top 10 Mariners Prospects
Creative Sports' Top 10 Mariners Prospects
CBS Sportsline's Top AL West Prospects's Top 10 Mariners Prospects's Top 50 Prospects
Seattle PI's Top 15 Mariners Prospects
2003 Runs Created (Current system players)
2003 Runs Created (New acquisitions)
2003 Secondary Avg. (Current system players)
2003 Secondary Avg. (New acquisitions)
2003 WHIP Charts (Current system players)
2003 WHIP Charts (New acquisitions)
2003 K/BB Charts (Current system players)
2003 K/BB Charts (New acquisitions)

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