Mariner Minors
Friday, September 23, 2005
  BA's NWL Chat Wrap

M's were very well represented in this chat wrap, and even outside of that, there were a few interesting questions...
Q: Matt D from Seattle asks:
Can you tell us a little more about Luis Valbuena? Had a solid strikeoutwalk ratio and a good amount of homers & rbi's but mediocre rate stats. How does his bat project, and will he be able to stay in the middle infield? Thanks

A: Will Kimmey: I think Everett manager Pedro Grifol's Ray Durham (young version, not the current always injured one the Giants have) comparison could be a good one. That is a solid defensive player who makes the routine plays but doesn't do a lot of spectacular stuff while being an above-average offensive player because of the ability to rack up base hits and take bags when on base. That homer total is a bit inflated because of Everett's dimensions, but Valbuena could have average to above pop for the normal second baseman, again like Durham where he might challenge for 20 homers one year but settle in around 8 or 12 most years.

Q: Tibor from the big island asks:
What do you think is Jeff Clements ETA in seattle given his recent performance, does this put him on the fast track?

A: Will Kimmey: I'd say Clements' defense could rate how fast he moves, but then again that depends on how important that skill ultimately is for the Mariners. There's no question Clement is an extremely advanced hitter and all the pitching around him teams did last year at USC only helped him maintain his patience and discipline at the plate. He could likely hold his own at the plate in the Mariners sometime next year. If Ryan Zimmerman's already doing so for the Nats, there's no reason Clement could not. Clement's defense, by all accounts, has improved in the last year, and that's been a giant hole for the M's in recent years. Most likely some time in early 2007 might make the most sense for his M's career to begin.

Q: nick from canada asks:
No jays prospects?..i think there starting to produce so ggod talent

A: Will Kimmey: There aren't any Jays affiliates in this league. That makes it pretty hard for one of their players to crack the 20. The Blue Jays are affiliated with Auburn of the New York-Penn League.

Q: Patrick from Milwaukee, WI asks:
Of all of the rookie leagues, which offered the most impressive collection of talent, and how would you rank them?

A: Will Kimmey: The NWL, like the NY-P, is not technically a rookie league, but a short-season one. But I'll lump them in for the sake of your question because I'm such a wonderful person. Stack them up like this, from best to worst: GCL, Appy, AZL, NY-P, Pioneer, NWL. Also, let's note the NWL has the fewest teams of any of these leagues, so it is harder for it to accumulate the total talent count that a 14- or 12-team league owns, but still it was a thin year with lots of top players either playing a level down or above it this summer.

Q: Joseph Rentz from Ridgecrest California asks:
Will Stephen Kahn become the pitcher every one think he can be ?

A: Will Kimmey: Depends on who those people are and what their expectations entail. If they think Kahn can be a solid late reliever, I'd say yes. His fastball has plenty of heat and his breaking ball can also be a plus pitch. He tended to be either really good or not good at all this summer, a boom or bust type. He didn't allow a hit in nine of his appearances, but when he got hit managers felt he didn't handle it well and could be very hittable. Riding momentum like that isn't exactly what you'd want out of a reliever in the late innings, but as a guy who was a starter in college, perhaps that's a mentality that can be learned.

Q: J from Seattle asks:
Thanks for doing the chat, Will. How do you think this year's Everett team compared with last year's squad, talent wise? How about as far back as the 2002 team? Valbuena's performance seemed pretty similar to that Ismael Castro, though hopefully, his knees will stay healthier.

A: Will Kimmey: Valbuena compared favorably to the solid crop of middle infielders from last year, with Asdrubal Cabrera the guy then. There wasn't a Matt Tuiasosopo there this year and certainly not a Felix Hernandez from a few years back, but a guy I really liked was Michael Saunders. He kept rising up my list every time I looked at it because of his upside and relative youth age and experience wise. He really came on over the second half. Edgar Guaramato is a big time arm, a converted outfielder, whom I also like. The M's often seem to stock this club with some interesting Latin signees that find success in their debut. That's a good thing, too, because the club hasn't had the benefit of a lot of early picks lately, and missed on Mayberry a few years ago when he failed to sign in the first round.

Q: jeff sullivan from belchertown MA asks:
Who has the most power in the league? I would say John Mayberry, but who do you think?

A: Will Kimmey: That's probably fair. Managers said his batting practice shows were unmatched. In the games, Lizahio Baez could absolutely launch baseballs, though he's not a real prospect-type profile because he lacks a position.

Q: Pete from nyc asks:
Why a 7 a.m. chat for people on the west coast about the Northwest Leage?

A: Will Kimmey: Unfortunately it's a scheduling thing, kind of like making the Red Sox play all those late west coast starts in the first round of last year's playoffs. That's why we opened the questions up last night, so there'd be more access to everyone. Or you can just blame it on East Coast Bias if you'd like.

Q: Plastic Bohemia from Osaka, Japan asks:
How did Jeff Flaig look? Is he done as a middle infielder? Is there still any chance of him reaching his early pre-draft projections?

A: Will Kimmey: He looked like first base would be the best place for him. His overly pull conscious approach didn't leave many observers predicting a ton of success for him power or average wise as he moves up the system.

Q: Dug from Portland, OR asks:
I know that Travis Buck and Jeff Clement only played a combined 13 games in this league but where would they have graded out in this list?

A: Will Kimmey: Clement would have battled for the top spot while Buck would have sat before or after Copeland.

Q: Brian Chase from Everett WA asks:
I don't get it. Some of your guys have holes in their swings a mile wide, and some throw hard but are straight as a string with no command, then you leave off guys like Rohrbaugh, Gilmore and Prettyman. I think both BA and the scouts make a lot of mistakes... any thoughts?

A: Will Kimmey: This will be the last one, and it's a question more about the process of this list, so it's a fitting summation. Putting together prospect lists at the lowest levels often presents the most difficult jorb of any league because the age groups and experience levels vary wildly. Also, players are still adjusting to all that goes into professional ball, including playing everyday, the traveling, and even finding a new culture for foreign players and coping with culture shock for domestic ones adjusting to parts of the country they've never seen. These off the field factors can strongly color on the field performance. So stats aren't quite as important at these levels, while players are finding their way and making changes their ne organizations have suggested. Dominant years for very young players will stand out more positively, while giant struggles for much advanced players tend to hurt. In general, big tools are favored because they can lend to star potential. Polished command pitchers like Jeff Gilmore, Robert Rohrbaugh, Mike Madsen, Trey Shields, Brent Carter often show well at these levels, but their stuff won't lead to as large an impact if they make the majors as a guy with even one dominant tool. It's the nature of the game. And by that nature, these lower-level lists are often very boom or bust, hit or miss. Check the five years ago future for evidence in that regard.
Yeah, that was me asking for the comparison to last year's squad, and I got pretty close to what I was looking for. I wasn't really thinking about it at the time, but between the higher profile DSL/VSL players, the draft-and-follows, and the polished college southpaws, the M's keep the Aquasox in contention year after year. I left the power question in because, well, it's interesting, it mentions a former M's draftee, and I'm guessing that's the same Jeff that runs Lookout Landing. Edit: No, Jeff says it wasn't him.

Good stuff all around, I saw a few names that I recognized from various places, which is always cool. This should be enough conversation fodder for a while. Midwest League, comin' up on Monday.

Thursday, September 22, 2005
  BA's Top NWL Prospects

Four M's represented on this one, which is pretty darn nice...
6. Luis Valbuena, 2b, Everett
13. Michael Saunders, of, Everett
15. Edgar Guaramato, rhp, Everett
17. Stephen Kahn, rhp, Everett
I'm a big Guaramato fan. Also making an appearance on the list were former M's draftee John Mayberry Jr, local Everett product Zach Simons, and Jeremy Reed's little brother.

The chat will start at 10 am EST, or 7 am for those of us in the Pacific Time Zone, so you might want to submit those questions ahead of time.

Monday, September 19, 2005
  AFL Roster Note

If you've checked the Peoria Javelinas roster for the Arizona Fall League recently, you'll notice that one name is now absent. Yuniesky Betancourt, having spent his rookie eligibility, is no long on the team. Who will replace him? Well, they haven't quite decided that yet.

  BA's Top AZL Prospects

Baseball America released their top 20 Arizona League prospects earlier in the day. Unfortunately, there weren't any Peoria M's on the list. I used the Q & A chat to bring up Tim Auty, Ronald Garth, Jose Graterol, and Eddy Hernandez, and whether it was age, lack of at-bats, or just plain outperforming their tools that kept them off the list.

My question... wasn't answered (they don't seem to like it when I try to list myself as J from, but I can't blame them for not wanting to give out free advertising), but there was a similar question that did get in, just swap in Andy Hargrove for Tim Auty...
Q: David Heckendorn from Andover MA asks:
Dear Allan, Eddy Hernandez: .356.424.552 Andy Hargrove: .314.464.482 Ronald Garth: .357.430.616 Oswaldo Graterol: .345.446.464 These guys all look like prime-time hitters to me- even if none of them was a top-ten draft pick. With minimal pitching, the Mariners' AZL team stayed in contention until the final day with lots of hitting. Where's the love?!

A: Allan Simpson: Unfortunately, the Mariners didn't get much love from managers. All the players on your list were at least 20--Hargrove, son of M's manager Mike Hargrove, was almost 24. Hernandez, a 6-foot-3 lefthanded-hitting right fielder from the Dominican, was the only one of the four to get any measureable play.
So, there you have it. It appears to be a combination of age and lack of at-bats, but there were a lot of players competing for time on that roster.

There was another more general question that also had some relevance to it...
Q: Steve from Chicago asks:
Does a smaller percentage prospects who start out in the rookie league make the majors than prospects who start out in a higher league, such as short season or low A ball.

A: Allan Simpson: It's only natural that a smaller number of players who start out at a lower level would reach the big leagues than players who start out at higher levels. Teams typically place players at a level where they can succeed, yet still be challenged. Players in the complex leagues are not ready for the most part to compete at higher leagues initially and, where more projection is involved, the risk is higher they won't succeed.
This question probably came from the list of the top ten AZL prospect from five years ago, which has Clint Nageotte at number nine as the only player to make it to the bigs. Another interesting note is that, number two on that list five years ago was former M's prospect Miguel Villilo, who never came remotely close to duplicating that performance and dropped off the map a few years later.

Northwest League rankings, coming on Friday.

  International Player News

(no, I haven't gone into cryogenic sleep yet)

Don't know how regular a feature this will be, but there are a couple of interesting bits of info that have come my way in recent days that I'd like to share.

The Taiwan Baseball Blog has recently added a scouting report on OF Kuo-hui Lo, which has an impressive amount of detail to it.

Also, noted blogosphere commentor Jon Helfgott passed along a link concerning a VSL signing, in Spanish, of course. The Mariners have acquired the services of Jessie Nava, a 17-year-old Venezuelan pitcher who throws a low-90s FB, a slider, a curve, and a change-up. What makes this signing fairly interesting is that Nava cites being in the same org as Felix as one of the major selling points for him, so I guess we're already seeing dividends on that end. It also mentions that there's a possibility that Nava will see some time with the Lara Cardenales in the LVBP, but considering the league has it's own minor league system, he'll probably spend time there with the other Venezuelan M's.

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

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