Mariner Minors
Thursday, October 27, 2005
  New Coaches and Other Promotions

I don't usually get into the decisions surrounding the major league club too much, but the Mariners official site is now stating Rafael Chaves has been hired as the new pitching coach, and Jeff Pentland is their new hitting coach. This is a bit of a curveball, as the public rumblings were that Roger McDowell (who I would've been okay with) and Mel Stottlemyre (not so much) were the major candidates for the job, and the TNT even suggested that Chaves had not been contacted as recently as a few weeks ago.

I was a big supporter of the campaign to bring Jim Colborn back, primarily because of his ability to adapt to changing staffs and get something out of them regardless of their talent level, but also because of his Pac Rim connections and his emphasis on communication. After he took the sure job with the Pirates, I was pretty much in the Chaves camp and would have been there all along, had Colborn not been in the discussion. Stottlemyre had his upside in that he could deal with pressure and was a "proven winner", but he also had quite a bit of talent to deal with for the early part of his tenure and the categories which his pitching staffs led in (frequently, wins, saves, etc) aren't as concrete as those that Colborn had.
In Chaves, we have someone familiar with the system who doesn't seem to have a need to put his fingerprints on every pitcher, and for that alone, I'm quite thankful. His minor league track record, quick rise to the top, and the support of those who have pitched under him speaks to his abilities as well.

Petland, I don't have as strong a read on, but he's not a big name (those who can't do, teach, and vice versa) and some credit him with shortening Sosa's swing and making him a more consistant producer. He also seems to understand the physics and biomechanics of hitting, which is an interesting field of study as well (now if only we can talk Chaves into doing some similar work with the pitchers). These aren't your "safe" signings, but those haven't worked out too well for us in the past anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

In addition, at the end of the article, we find that Dan Rohn is remaining in the organization as an administrative coach who will be in uniform and work primarily on coordinating the scouting information on both our players and those of other teams. This seems to be a good move, and I certainly can't complain about keeping him in the organization, but this is going to be more of a "wait and see" move than something that will give us clear results immediately. With how many times we've been beaten up by no-name pitchers in the past few years, I don't think it'll hurt.

As expected, Dave Brundage is expected to (finally) take over in Tacoma, which is something I fully support (I'm on the record as being a bigger Brundage fan than a Rohn fan), which leaves two managerial vacancies, one in San Antonio and one in Everett, where Pedro Grifol has left to take Mike Goff's old job as the coordinator of minor league instruction. Minor league managerial vacancies don't draw a lot of press to begin with, but there's probably a possibility that the M's have Jim Horner take over as Aquasox manager, or somewhere else on the lower levels). That's purely speculation on my part though.

  Auty Update

Tim Auty's agent, Trevor Jarret of BJS Player Management, stopped on by to inform us that Auty was quickly picked up by the Phillies, who have eight Australian players in their system already.

Best of luck to Tim in his new org.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005
  Minor League FA News (10/26/05)

I just checked and saw where the BA transactions page had been updated. It looks like the Mariners re-signed Dan Wright, who was out this year with an injury, Rich Dorman, and Jeff Heaverlo.

None of these are terribly surprising. I had figured before that giving Wright a contract in spite of his injury was a "good faith" move that would ensure that he re-sign for the 2006 season, and with Dorman and Heaverlo both pitching down in the LVBP for the Lara Cardenales, who have close ties with the Mariners organization, I figured it was only a matter of time before these were announced.

  More Peoria Releases

As if it wasn't bad enough to see Lamont go after his flashes of potential, I got an e-mail from Tim Auty this morning telling me that he and Kent Dixon were also released. All parties involved seem to be in shock right now, but Tim suggested that he'd just have to go out and hit .400 next time, so he seems pretty upbeat about it. Other organizations are still interested and he said he'd keep me posted on that.

Although it does raise the question... if we're releasing these guys, then who are we keeping?

Tuesday, October 25, 2005
  Tyrone Lamont released

I just got an e-mail from Tyrone's dad telling me that he was just released, not long after G and I decided he was the fifth-best pitcher on the Peoria staff.

To this day, I still don't have the slightest idea what Tyrone throws, but I know that his peripheral stats were among the best both of his seasons in Peoria. I'm a little disappointed that he didn't get much of a chance, but I wouldn't be surprised if he turned up with the Brewers or the Royals next year.

Monday, October 24, 2005
  M's Minor League Review, pt 2a

As I mentioned below, things were kind of going slow with the Sixers, so we decided to jump ahead and post the T-Rats while we're still getting the rest of the stuff together. You know, to prove we're actually doing something. Discussion is over here, again.

Coming into the season, we knew that the T-Rats had a ton of relatively untapped potential in both the pitching staff and the starting nine, but there were going to be a lot of times when a few kids were going to be headed through the usual hairpin turns on the learning curve and damned if it wasn’t going to be frustrating at times.

Sure enough, that’s pretty much how it played out, with the added x-factor of injuries rearing their ugly heads from time to time, though they got off without anything career threatening, so far we know. And even though individual players had their own issues at any given time, the team as a whole pulled through and came quite close to taking the league title.

So what do we have now? Still a lot of unharnessed potential, but there seems to be some fight in these guys.


Top 5 Pitchers:

Jason Snyder: 4/6/1983, 6’6”, 205 lbs, RHP
9-7. 4.82 ERA in 114.0 IP, 128 hits (13 HR), 76 runs (61 ER), 77K/31BB
J: Snyder’s all business. Give him the ball and he’ll go do his thing, then call him back in another five days and he’ll go at it again. Some people refer to this as a sort of intensity, but you’ll get no complaints from me. Whatever helps a guy focus.

After he signed on as a draft-and-follow early last year, he tore through the Arizona League and the Northwest League after that, and with a power repertoire backing it up, he seemed like as good a candidate as any to have a “breakout” season, or at least start getting noticed by the minor league baseball publications.

For a while, Snyder was doing just that and had a 3.55 ERA through June 2nd. Not great, but showing signs of potential and racking up Ks at a decent rate. But from then on, things seemed to go downhill, and that all culminated with a shoulder tweak in early July. Even worse, he had to come back a bit ahead of schedule less than a month later, as Wisconsin started to run out of arms.

They kept him to bullpen work to ease the strain a bit, but I would’ve felt better had they shut him down for longer. We probably won’t know until spring training whether or not he’ll be back at full-strength.

G: I kept stats at three-week intervals through June 11th, just to try to keep an eye on how players are developing over the first half of the season, and to have something to compare their final numbers to.

Snyder, on 6.11:
7-4, 3.64 ERA in 71.2 IP, 81 hits (5 HR), 41 runs (29 ER), 43K/16BB.

He was scaring me a bit, since his Wild Pitches (11) and Hit Batters (5) equaled his walks for the year and I couldn’t exactly determine what that meant. Wild but starts throwing over the plate in order to avoid walking people? That could explain the high number of hits for a guy with a hard FB/Slider combo, as well as the fewer-than-expected strikeouts.

Harnessing his stuff correctly would clear all that up – he just never got that chance. Once that injury hit, his inconsistencies turned into disasters (though not as badly as it happened for star-crossed Mark Lowe, below) and balls started leaving the park, his K/BB ratio sank…it all went south. Snyder limited the NW League to 6.5 H/9 while striking out 8 per. His walks actually improved over his numbers there this year, but Jason’s got a power pitcher’s dilemma of how to be most effective with the stuff he has.

He got groundballs, but not as many as I thought he would. More Ks and fewer hits are needed, especially when going up to hitter’s leagues. But Snyder is a fairly tenacious fighter – something else he shares with Lowe besides stuff and bad luck – and it’s plenty early in his career yet. Assuming health next year, there’s nobody from Wisconsin I’d expect to take a bigger leap forward in performance than Jason Snyder.
Julio Santiago: 12/8/1985, 6’0”, 155? lbs, LHP
7-3, 4.44 ERA in 99.1 IP, 110 hits (10 HR), 58 runs (48 ER), 66K/23BB
Note, 11:33 AM: A commentor noted that the listed weights for Julio are still the same as the signing weight, and he's probalby closer to 200+ now and "built like Felix", apparently. That puts our concerns about his build to rest, but the reason why he's been missing months at a time is more of a mystery now. I'll probably have to change some of the things I wrote here later.
11:56 am: Changed it from the third paragraph on. Will ask G later if he wants to do the same.

J: For a few choice weeks every year since they’ve signed him out of Columbia, Julio’s been among the most exciting pitchers in the system. This year, August was his time to shine, and he mixed up two mediocre starts with three incredible ones to post a 2.51 ERA in 32.1 innings on the month, punching out about seven and a quarter per nine (big thanks to PRC for doing the legwork on the monthly splits).

And then he disappeared, and no one could seem to tell you where he went.

Originally, I thought this stemmed from his listed weight, which is usually in the 150 range. Smaller pitchers, you always have concerns as to whether or not they’ll be able to develop the endurance to stick around as a starter long-term. But apparently, he’s anywhere from twenty to seventy pounds heavier now, which just raises a new set of questions. Is he having back issues, or are they arm issues? Months after the fact, I still don’t know, and neither the M’s or the local papers ever seem to report anything. He may be a guy who suddenly bust on the scene in another year or so and gets some recognition as he finally manages to get a healthy season in, or he might not ever get that far.

G: Yep, there’s Julio teasing us again. He’s not even 20, though, so I’ll let him keep on teasing for a few more years if necessary. I’m glad his offspeed stuff has improved over the course of the season – Lord knows we couldn’t let a kid come through our farmland without making him throw a decent change – but I’d like to see him start well, pitch well, and finish well one of these years.

It’s his own fault I have these expectations, really. When he comes out and blows away guys without any apparent effort for about 6 weeks, then evaporates, I never know what to think. Is he that good all the time and his age and lack of experience just isn’t letting him be consistent, or does he just get lucky in the middle of summer every year?

His control was great (just over 2 walks per 9) but he’s gonna have to get the hits against under wraps or higher level hitters are gonna tattoo him. Still, I don’t expect a 19 year old to have the art of pitching down to a science just yet. We’ll see if his low walks and high hits are because he’s just dumping pitches into the zone without spotting them.

I also share J’s concern about Julio – the same one that I have about Marwin Vega from the last update: can his frame hold up for 200 innings a year?

If it’s a warm-weather thing, I’m definitely voting for him to get a promotion to IE next year. Put Julio wherever he’s most comfortable and see if you can’t get that kid’s spark to ignite into a full-borne blaze.
Eric O’Flaherty: 2/5/1985, 6’2”, 195 lbs, LHP
4-4, 3.75 ERA in 69.2 IP, 73 hits (2 HR), 35 runs (29 ER), 51K/30BB
J: Here’s another guy that we want to see back in the rotation, but it just hasn’t happened yet. O’Flaherty’s main issue is his back, which has been flaring up on him at times ever since he turned pro. That was what sidelined him for most of last season, after a tremendous first season where he had a sub-2.00 ERA and a sub-1.00 WHIP down in Arizona, which is the kind of thing that usually has me searching around the floor to see where my jaw went.

Back in high school, he was throwing his fastball with an average major league velocity and it looked like he was capable of adding more to it. More than impressive for left-hander, and enough to get the Braves to consider spending a first round pick on him, considering he also had a good sinker and a solid breaking pitch.

He was nails through most of the first half, but his performance dropped off in the middle months before rebounding at the end. I don’t know whether that’s the back flaring up or just the weight of having to carry the bullpen while Craig James and Chad Fillinger moved to greener pastures, but he was pitching just about every third day on average, so he’ll get a pass from me.

G: I actually disagree with J here – I thought Eric was better in the later months. J's Note: We aren't really disagreeing here, I'm just thinking of him running something like a 0.00 for the first month.

O’Flaherty’s BAA in the middle of June? .342. Ouch. 39 hits in 27 IP will do that to you. But Eric wasn’t used to bullpen work and was coming off of an injury-plagued previous season, so some adjustment was needed. Some of his troubles in the middle months seemed more like bad luck than bad pitching, and over the balance of those months he seemed to put together more consistent work than he did in his first couple. (Editor's note: J would like to say for the record that that's almost exactly what he said, so there's no disagreement. So nyah nyah. End quote.)

He only gave up 34 hits in his last 42.2 IP, racked up 33 of his Ks (‘bout 7 per) and 18 walks (3.8 per). Seems like a power pitcher getting better with his stuff to me, though he’s gonna have keep refining that control. My concerns about him lie with that bad back. If he can find his way back to the starting rotation he could be a gem. Otherwise, he’s trapped in the pen and thus limited to a certain value. There’s nothing wrong with him being a bullpenner, but I’d certainly like to see him get another crack at the rotation. And he’s still just 20, so we’ve got some time to get him finessed into the best pitcher he can be.

More than anything else though, I just want him to stay healthy. He can’t do anything for us just sitting in the dugout waving a towel.
Mark Lowe: 6/7/1983, 6’4”, 180 lbs, RHP
6-6, 5.47 ERA in 103.2 IP, 72 runs (63 ER), 107 hits (12 HR), 72K/49BB
J: There were times in the first half when Lowe was pitching like he was the best pitcher on the T-Rats staff, inducing groundballs left, and there seemed to be just as many times when you were gnawing your fingernails down to stubs, trying to figure out if he’d be able to get out this jam, before resigning yourself to the inevitable and shutting off the radio feed. But Lowe is another guy that we don’t want to sell short just yet.

For one thing, he had a liner bounce off his pitching hand in early June as an awful sort of birthday surprise. I’m not trained in the medical field or anything, but I can imagine where even after it’s supposedly healed, that’s something where it won’t feel just right afterwards, not to mention the month spent on the DL.

For another thing, his primary pitches are mostly sinking in nature, and the issues he experienced with the busted hand and the month off would certainly be further exaggerated if he were throwing a bunch of “feel” pitches.

Not a great season by any means, but the surrounding circumstances make it a bit easier to swallow.

G: For me, Mark was perhaps the most aggravating pitcher in all the low minors. I expected good things from him this year, and I got them – but only about every third start. The other two were either “eh” or “Holy Cow that’s gruesome.”

After his first two starts: ERA was 0.00
His third start: 4.1 IP, 10 hits (2 HR), 8 runs (all earned), 3K/3BB
His fifth start: 2.2 IP, 10 hits (1 HR), 9 runs (8 ER), 2 K/1BB
His ninth start: 6.0 IP, 4 hits, Zero runs, 7K/0BB

It was as schizophrenic a season as I’ve seen in a while.

For a sinker/slider guy in the low 90s he gives up a lot of flyballs. I still think his is one of the best arms that was at Wisconsin this year, but he’s gonna have to learn how to keep the big inning/trainwreck game from getting out of hand.

6.25 K/9 and 4.25 BB/9 are not especially notable for a power pitcher. He was all over the zone, and just had some spectacularly Tin Cup type of games. “What, that didn’t work? Okay, we’ll try it again. What’s that, another HR? I am unafraid, try to hit this…”

However, before the hand injury JFrom mentions his Ks were about 7 per while his Ks were under 3.5 – in other words, he was holding his own even with the occasional (nuclear) meltdown. If he can get back on that track next year and keep his fastball out of the heart of the zone he should still be a prospect of note.
Stephen Grasley: 8/5/1981, 6’0”, 190 lbs, RHP
9-0, 3.71 ERA in 89.2 IP, 84 hits (5 HR), 44 runs (37 ER), 70K/34BB
J: Being the college guy who had a good track record, but not the exciting stuff, Grasley’s role this year was to bridge the gap between the starter and the tougher arms in the ‘pen, if the guy in the rotation just couldn’t bring it that day. The bad news for the T-Rats is that those days seemed to come almost once a week, but Grasley was more than capable of going the distance and logged the most innings of anyone in the ‘pen.

Since he’s a right-handed control artist who relies on staying away from the free pass, he’s dealing with a potential uphill battle for his whole baseball career, but I find it difficult to argue against his approach or his results. For his minor league career, he’s a perfect 13-0, and there’s a good reason behind it. He doesn’t back down, doesn’t give in, and he’ll make the adjustments when he has to.

Grasley on 6/11: 2-0, 4.43 ERA in 42.2 IP, 44 hits (4 HR), 27K/20BB
Grasley after 6/11: 7-0, 3.06 ERA in 47 IP, 40 hits (1 HR), 43K/14BB

Without his 2nd half of the season, Grasley would not be on this list. Even with it, it’s hard to put a RH bullpenner with average stuff on here. But Grasley reworked his mechanics this year, was extremely effective after he got comfortable with those mechanics, and has done nothing wrong in his minor league career thus far. He’s filled every bullpen role imaginable and succeeded at all of em. I’ve heard his breaking ball is improving as well, which could really help his stock.

He went to college with Tom Oldham, and I can only hope he adjusts to better hitting at least as well as Tom has. Grasley’s an unknown commodity until he hits AA – at least as far as future success goes. He has a hunger to learn the game and get better, and that fire is gonna have to serve him well.

Alms for the Poor

Jon Lockwood: 12/12/1981, 6’2”, 210, RHP
3-0, 2.12 ERA in 29.2 IP, 18 hits (0 HR), 12 runs (7 ER), 43K/14BB

J: Think Craig James, except older, and with a smaller sample size.

When he was in Everett, he was straight-up the most dominant reliever in the league, holding the other guys to just three hits and a walk in sixteen inning while clocking out nineteen. He lost a little bit in the transition to the Midwest League playoff race, but he was still one of the most reliable arms in the league by a considerable margin.

We like him, a lot. But we’d also like him better if he were younger and got a couple dozen more innings in.

G: I don’t care much about pitcher age – at least not from AA up. Down at this level, it has to matter. But Lockwood’s obliteration of the Northwest League in his brief time there and his continued decimation of the Midwest upon his arrival does remind me a bit of the last relief arm that blasted onto the scene from the hinterlands.

“How much can you tell about a guy in 27 innings?” I was asked.
“I can tell how badly I want to see him pitch next year.”

That was George Sherrill. And if Lockwood had done this at AA he would have made the list – but this is low-A, and down here pitchers have the edge. So instead, look forward to his time at Inland Empire as a nice little proving ground for the taste he gave us this year.

Lockwood is a guy I’m just itching to see work next Spring. His season line against for ~46 IP? .134/.222/.172/.394. No Homers either (interesting for having such a flyball season). Doesn’t that set your mouth to watering? A fastball/slider guy who loves the zone? C’mon…

Aaron Jensen: 6/11/1984, 6’2”, 195 lbs, RHP
10-13, 5.56 ERA in 157.0 IP, 190 hits (21 HR), 115 runs (97 ER), 87K/55BB

J: The discussion of whether to put Jensen in came down to a Gil Meche thing in the player comps. Jensen certainly has a lot of potential, but my main complaint with him is that he doesn’t always throw like the power pitcher he is.

But he certainly came along towards the end of the season, and was a pitcher to be counted on during the T-Rats playoff run. I’m not saying the light bulb went off for certain, but it’s a fine starting point and I’m hoping that he continues to improve next season.

G: JFrom’s being nice. Aaron Jensen throws a decent 90’s heat with a good curve – and he got lit up like a Christmas Tree at the Griswold’s in the Midwest League. 190 hits in 157 innings? That’s an awful lot of meat pitches left over the heart of the plate. He also got punked in the Northwest League the previous year.

The problem with pitchers is that the lightbulb can come on at any time in their careers - there’s just no telling. I’m certainly not ruling it out in Jensen’s case. He’s in the Top Five here because the building blocks are there for a great starter. But I’m trying to think of the last great starter who got bent over in 2 successive years at the lowest levels of the minors, and nobody’s coming to mind. So that’s two strikes against Jensen being able to contribute in a meaningful way – certainly as a starter. Hopefully he doesn’t whiff next season too.

Aaron had a good last 20 innings or so of the season; we’ll see if he can turn that into anything next year. I can’t really imagine him earning a promotion from his work this season though. And if he doesn’t start off strong, he may go the way of Casey Abrams – a much higher draftpick from 2003 that we cut loose halfway through this season.

Get it together, Aaron, so we can root for you like we want to. Because we really do want to.

(Note from G: Just so you know, I blame JFrom for the size of the T-Ratts list. By AAA we'll be discussing which batboy runs fasted from dugout-to-home-plate. I think we're turning a Top Five into a list of every player who might ever get noticed - and honestly I don't mind a bit. The more the merrier. On with the show.)
Note from J: If you wanted my reason for not doing a traditional top x prospects list, well, there ya go.

Top Five Hitters

Jeff Clement: 8/21/1983, 6’1”, 210 lbs, LH C
.319/.386/.522 in 113 ABs, 36 hits, 5 2B, 0 3B, 6 HR, 12BB/25K
J: Hope. But I can’t really get by with a one-word summary, so I guess I’ll have to expand that a bit…

Back in high school over in Marshalltown, Iowa, Clement set the record for most career home runs by a prep player with 73, if I remember correctly. There are a lot of factors that can skew high school records like that, but when he went to USC and played in a pretty tough PAC-10 conference for his college career, he was doing pretty much the same thing and still projected to 30+ HR, according to most.

Except he’s a catcher and he still has a bit to learn about handling the position. Such is the price one sometimes has to pay for premium offense at a premium position. His release point while throwing out runners is a bit off, and our view of quality pitch blocking may have been skewed for having a former hockey goalie behind the plate for more than a decade, but the M’s have one of the best catching instructors in the business in Roger Hansen, so I have some hope.

If he can’t stick behind the plate, his bat will still play anywhere, but it would be super cool if the M’s got a MOTO bat from a position that doesn’t always inspire tremendous offensive numbers.

G: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with Clement. Other than we drafted him as a catcher at #3, of course. There just haven’t been a lot of top-5 pick catchers who’ve come through on the promise of their bats.

In fact, let’s list all the ones in the top half of the 1st round since 1990 who’ve done ANYTHING: Joe Mauer. Eric Munson made it to the show. Our own Ben Davis. 1994 was a good year with Varitek and Konerko back-to-back in the first. Mike Lieberthal and Dan Wilson in ’90, not exactly power-hitting backstops. And that’s it.

But Clement may indeed be one of those rare, once-a-generation-or-so hitters who can pull off 30 homers every year while squatting behind the plate for 9 innings as well. And if he can’t hack the D, he should be able to pull off a 1B switch like Konerko did.

He has a chest like a water buffalo and a clean power stroke that reminds me of Thome or Abreu, with the hands loaded far back and the rotation of the torso creating most of the power. He does seem to keep his hands closer to him than either of those guys do, however, so he may not be as pull-happy as a Thome could be.

Then again, at the Safe we don’t care how pull-happy he is, as long as he’s hitting the dingers. His catching skills need work, but we have coaches for that. His eye at the plate in college was very good, and was just fine at Low-A as well.

Whaddya want me to say? He’s the best hitting prospect we have, and he’s living up to the potential. He loves catching, he’s gonna give it his best effort to stay at catcher, and all he has to do is have “all right” defensive skills if his bat progresses as expected. If we can stuff him into Safeco in ’07, I’ll be ecstatic.
Matt Tuiasosopo: 5/10/1986, 6’2”, 210 lbs, RH “SS”
.276/.359/.386 in 409 ABs, 113 hits, 21 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 44BB/96K
J: A lot of scouting types who dig on physical tools fell hard for Tui following the ’04 season, but while most were listing him as a breakout candidate, his performance wasn’t quite as exciting as they had hoped for. Still good, for a teenager in the Midwest League, though, and his on-base abilities and raw power showed some potential.

Tremendous tools, he still does have, but there were more than a few things working against him in his first full season. You have to take into account that this is the first year that he’s focused solely on baseball, and furthermore, the first year he’s been just a position player (yes, he did pitch in high school). He could have also been distracted by the demands of playing a tough defensive position, which he just isn’t going to stick at anyway. And finally, you have the league itself, which can get into the heads of inexperienced batters and drag them down in the early months, leaving them with a steep incline to claw their way back up.

But hey, Adam Jones didn’t have an easy time in his tour of the Midwest either, and he seems to have broken out this year. Put Tui in a hitter-friendly league and give him a position that lets him think a little more about his bat, and he could be on pace for a similar explosion.

G: Adam Jones at Wisconsin: .267/.314/.404/.718. So that would mean Tui’s just about on-pace – except he’s not a SS or a CF of the future. If he’s gonna be a LF of the future, then those power numbers have to go waaaay up.

If I had my wish he’d also have been trending up in the 2nd half instead of down – but then Jones didn’t exactly go on a tear the 2nd half of his inaugural year in full-season ball either.

I hope they'll see what he's got at 3rd before shunting him to LF, but more than anything I'd just like him to be able to focus on putting the bat on the ball and making it go far. If left - or right - field is where he can do that, then put him there. He's got a cannon of an arm, good speed, and serious bat potential – but he’s not a SS, especially not in our system, so stop wasting his time. At the plate, he did nothing particularly WRONG in the Midwest League this year; he just didn't blow everyone away. Lots of Ks + lower-than-expected power = questions.

Don't let that get you down on him. For a guy who's only gonna turn 20 in May, his future is still awfully bright. Give him warm weather, easier-to-reach fences and A Plan, and let him grow from there.
Rob Johnson: 7/22/1983, 6’1”, 200 lbs, RH C
.272/.319/.430 in 305 ABs, 83 hits, 19 2B, 1 3B, 9 HR, 20BB/31K
J: Not one, but two catchers on the list? Hey, when you’re playing what is viewed as the best defense in the league behind the plate and batting MOTO most of the time, this is what happens. I’m not saying that Johnson projects as a comparable threat in the big leagues, very few big leaguers bat or pitch in the same slot as they did in the minors, but he’s shown a consistent ability to make contact and has some decent power numbers, so I think he could become a solid contributor.

Rob is another guy who’s shown some potential, but doesn’t have an extended track record to go off of. He only started playing baseball seriously in JuCo, and he was mostly an outfielder there, but he’s been improving by leaps and bounds and seems well worth the high draft slot.

I do like the strength of our catching corps in the low minors right now, but if I’m picking one guy to rise above the pack and form the duo of the future with Clement, I gotta go with Rob.

G: First off, does this guy even know HOW to strike out? You aren't supposed to make contact EVERY time, Rob, especially as a white boy from Montana. A K every 9.83 ABs in the Midwest League is pretty darn special. For his career (452 ABs above AZL) he's at 8.21 AB/K, which is still extremely good. All he has to do is walk a leeeettle more and he could be awfully special - considering his defense is better than his already-pretty-good offense, Johnson is everything you'd want from a low-level catching prospect. He's 22, which is a little old for Wisconsin, but just about right for Inland Empire where he finished off the season.

I’m with J on this one – I like him to come out of the pool of non-Clement catchers we’ve got. He’s not as young as Santin (in Everett and just missing that list) but the same age as Rivera (AA with a stint in the bigs) and Oliveros (also AA). And thus far he’s shown better power than all of em (small sample size alert). So at this point consider Rob Johnson right about where he should be on his ML track - taking into account, of course, that catchers are almost impossible to predict.

And since as J points out Rob isn’t exactly a polished product just yet, I’m looking forward to another year of him figuring out this baseball thing. Two catchers from within the org both making it to big-league success? A guy can dream, can’t he?
Marshall Hubbard: 4/16/1982, 6’2”, 215 lbs, LH 1B
.297/.387/.496 in 391 ABs, 116 hits, 25 2B, 1 3B, 17 HR, 54BB/95K
J: Hubb put together some pretty nifty power numbers for the season, even keeping himself in the system home run chase for most of the year, but there are two things that have been keeping me from getting more enthusiastic about him.

For one, everyone ahead of him on that list was either younger, playing at a higher level, or (in most cases) both. As a college guy, he should be hitting, and his craft there should be pretty refined. The other thing is that the added intrigue I have in him as a prospect, I suspect is the novelty surrounding him being a first baseman and an apparent offensive threat, a combination that has been otherwise limited to a series of quad-A guys lately in the M’s system.

I wanted badly for him to be promoted to the California League before the end of the season, which would’ve given me a little more to talk about, but that never came to pass and he seemed to cool down towards the end, rather than heating up with the weather. Wait ‘til next year.

G: Marshall's 2004 year in Everett was not exactly something to write home about. Average? Okay. OBP? Good. SLG? Bad. Strikeouts? REALLY Bad. All in all, as a 22 year old college-boy in a league of teenagers, it was just short of a faceplant for our 8th round pick. (Kinda reminds you of Sabatella this year, don't it? That bodes well for Sabs next year, I guess)

Hubbard started slow (.253/.336/.394 on 5/21) but he just went on an absolute tear in the middle of the season. It didn't seem like there was an RBI that Wisconsin had that didn't come off Marshall's bat, and it got that slugging % up around where you'd want your power-hitting 1B to be. He walked a lot during the season, but struck out an awful lot too. I don't mind the K specifically, but when it's coming against A-Ballers who haven't perfected their craft yet it's a bit unsettling. He also doesn't have the excuse Wlad Balentien had last year of being an inexperienced kid in a foreign country. Marshall's gonna have to rein in his tendency to whiff in order to reach the majors, but at least now he's back on the ML track to begin with.

For getting his game on track, he definitely deserves props. But I want to see him take the next step in the Cal League next year.
Mike Wilson: 6/29/1983, 6’1”, 238 lbs, RH RF
.266/.360/.464 in 463 ABs, 123 hits, 29 2B, 3 3B, 19 HR, 57BB/107K
J: Seriously, Mike Wilson? Wasn’t this guy supposed to be a football player?

The tools were in place all along, but it took him a while to get there. In reality, this year’s isn’t too different from last year, except his BB/K improved a bit, as did his power, and, to whip at the dead horse again, the Midwest League does strongly favor pitchers in the first half. He also seemed to improve on the field, racking up quite a few assists out there.

I don’t know what else to say with him, but for now, I’m not calling it a breakout, partially due to the level and partially because it wasn’t that big a jump from last season. I’d also like to see him improve the ol’ batting average just a little bit.

G: Mike Wilson. Also known as The-Draftpick-Who-Should-Have-Been-Dan-Haren. Or Casey Foppert, if you prefer. But it’s not Mike’s fault we wanted to draft Bo Jackson instead of an arm. After all, Bo does know baseball, and we paid Mike Wilson a “decent amount” ($900K) to forego his scholarship to Soonerville and join up with us.

He is an absolute Brick – that weight probably isn’t wrong, and it ain’t fat either, all thighs and chest – so it’s good he found a decent HR swing. I haven’t seen a guy that big switch-hit in a while, but it’s got to be an interesting sight. I actually thought swinging from both sides of the plate was hampering his game last year, but this year was just a decent one and not a great one so if it was holding him back it wasn’t much. At least he finally got into full-season baseball; we drafted him in ’01 and this was his first year above Everett. It showed promise, but also that he’s very much a work in progress.

In fact, just cut and paste what I said about Hubbard striking out and such in here, replacing “first baseman” with “outfielder” wherever necessary.

He’s got work to do, but this was a decent campaign for a hitter who was very well thought of coming out of HS, so I’m willing to wait and see. At least for another year…

Discount Rack

Brent Johnson: 5/21/1982, 6’2”, 185 lbs, RH UT
.310/.403/.378 in 378 ABs, 117 hits, 21 2B, 1 3B, 1 HR, 55BB/57K

As late as July 2nd, Brent was only batting .224 for the season, but an incredible hot streak bumped him up to over .300 for the season. That’s an impressive run, but the odd thing about it is that he didn’t have too many extra-base hits in that stretch, which kind of makes you wonder if the bloopers and bleeders weren’t just finding holes.

I like his athleticism and his eye at the plate, but he really ought to be slugging more.

G: I dunno, I just see Carlos Arroyo with more walks whenever I look at Brent. 2 HRs in 600+ ABs at the age of 23 isn’t exactly a calling card for an OFer. The plate discipline’s great, but if he can’t clock one now and again he’s never gonna get the chance to show off his ability to saunter casually to first base.

If you don't like the Arroyo comp, I didn’t think there was such a thing as Jamal Strong Lite, but Brent might be it. If so, he’s gonna have to figure out an answer to the power outage, because if Jamal couldn’t crack a lineup with those skills Brent doesn’t have much chance with his lesser versions.

Yung-chi Chen: 7/13/1983, 5’11”, 175 lbs, RH IF
.292/.339/.416 in 503 ABs, 147 hits, 27 2B, 7 3B, 7 HR, 37BB/76K

Speed is probably Chen’s best tool, but while he snagged 25 last season in Everett (60+, assuming a full season), he only managed to get 15 this year, and his accuracy was down too. It still showed up in his seven triples, but they aren’t the kind of thing you can count on happening too often.

Even then, there are questions as to whether or not he’ll be able to stick in the middle part of the infield, and he spent a lot of time at third this year. He probably won’t slug enough to stick at a corner if he does have to move over there. Tweener infielder?

G: When the rosters were announced, Chen instantly became my odd-on favorite for "first promotion to Inland Empire." He had the age advantage over Tui and Cabrera, he was a budding steals machine at Everett with solid doubles numbers and a good enough glove, and he'd had part of his year truncated by an Olympic trip so he was primed to do good things in a full season of ball, right?

Not quite. Chen was EXTREMELY streaky all year -and his last streak to the finish line got his numbers to their above, respectable levels. But for a guy as fast as he can be, the lack of doubles and steals are a telling sign that his game is not where it needs to be. He put up almost exactly the same year in full-season ball as last year's 200ish ABs would have prorated too. That's not growth, it's treading water.

His K rate was excellent, his BB/K wasn't terrible, but Chen just didn't do much more than keep himself afloat as a 22 year old. Here's hoping age 23 in a more hitter-friendly league gives him more to show for the skills he has.

Oswaldo Navarro: 10/2/1984, 6’0”, 150 lbs, SH IF
2005 Stats: .269/.329/.393 in 450 at-bats, 121 hits, 29 2B, 0 3B, 9 HR, 39/60 BB/K

Last season, I remember being asked why I wasn’t higher on Oz after he had just led Everett in doubles. It came down to a couple of factors, one being that he had started in Wisconsin and been demoted, and the other being that Asdrubal Cabrera, who was younger and supposedly better defensively, was outslugging him by .034 points.

This season, Drubie tore out of the Midwest League by the middle of the season and Oz was left in the dust back in Appleton. He didn’t have a bad season, overall, he flashed more HR power than I thought he’d show immediately, and he put together a season that was nearly equal to last year’s in a league that isn’t so nice to hitters, but he did little to make himself stand out from the pack, so to speak. He’s nice sleeper, but for our needs, he looks more like a utility infielder than a starter right now.

G: Oz is one of those enigmatic guys for me. His D is believed to be quite good, but he makes throwing errors all the time. His bat could also be good, but he keeps repeating levels (especially if he's back at Wisconsin to start next year).

He just turned 21, but his power is an odd duck: He hit 9 of his 10 HR this year, but his doubles rate declined proportionately, and he's still not legging out any triples (a mere 2 in 1000+ career ABs). He may be getting stronger, but his overall XBHs don't seem to be showing much - if any - improvement. And his batting average seems pretty steady around .260 no matter what level he's at.

His walks are all right, his Ks were down, but I still don't really know what to think about Oz. He's going to have to splash down with some serious impact in High-A (whenever he gets there) due to the high population of middle-infielders in the Ms system. It's hard to be a glove-first IF when our other glove-first guys have so much bat potential as well...

More soon, I swear.

Sunday, October 23, 2005
  Winter League Stats Wrap (10/23/05)

Because I meant to start it last Sunday...

Arizona Fall League:
RHP Chris Buglovsky: 0-1, 18.00 ERA in 7.0 IP, 15 runs (14 ER), 20 hits (HR), 2/3 K/BB
C Jeff Clement: .360./500./680 in 25 at-bats, 2 2B, 2 HR, 5 runs, 5 RBI, 7/5 BB/K
RHP Mike Flannery: 0-0, 2.79 ERA in 9.2 IP, 7 runs (3 ER), 11 hits, 9/2 K/BB
OF Gary Harris: .286/.333/.393 in 28 at-bats, 3 2B, 7 runs, 1/6 BB/K
OF Adam Jones: .154/.214/.333 in 39 at-bats, 2 3B, HR, 6 runs, 3 RBI, 3/9 BB/K
RHP Clint Nageotte: 0-1, 2.25 ERA in 12.0 IP, 3 runs (3 ER), 9 hits (HR), 12/1 K/BB

Nags just struck out nine in five innings. That's your big news for this week. Otheriwse, no one's pitching to Clement, and Jones contines to have his rare hits go for extra bases, with a home run to his credit this week. Flannery's ERA is looking quite nice right now, as is his K/BB, but the number of hits he's been giving up is making me think that ERA's going to jump soon. Bugs gave up a run in two and one-third innings this week, along with six hits. Improvement, but not much.

Venezuelan Winter League:
RHP Yorman Bazardo: 0-0, 0.00 ERA in 5.2 IP, 0 runs, 2 hits, 3/4 K/BB
OF T.J. Bohn: .357/.379/.500 in 28 at-bats, 2B, HR, 3 runs, 6 RBI, 1/3 BB/K
SS Asdrubal Cabrera: .182/.250/.182 in 11 at-bats, RBI, 1/3 BB/K
RHP Renee Cortez: 0-0, 12.00 ERA in 3.0 IP, 4 runs (4 ER), 6 hits, 1/1 K/BB
RHP Rich Dorman: 0-0, 8.53 ERA in 6.1 IP, 7 runs (6 ER), 13 hits, 12/6 K/BB
RHP Emiliano Fruto: 0-1, 10.80 ERA in 1.2 IP, 1 save, 2 runs, 3 hits, 3/0 K/BB
IF Jesus Guzman: .200/.200/.200 in 5 at-bats, 0/1 BB/K
RHP Jeff Heaverlo: 0-0, 6.75 ERA in 4.0 IP, 4 runs (3 ER), 5 hits (HR), 2/2 K/BB
LHP Cesar Jimenez: 0-1, 5.79 ERA in 4.2 IP, 3 runs (3 ER), 5 hits, 0/1 K/BB
LHP Chris Key: 0-0, 13.50 ERA in 2.0 IP, 3 runs (3 ER), 2 hits (HR), 3/1 K/BB
C Luis Oliveros: .000 in 2 at-bats
LHP Ryan Rowland-Smith: 0-0, 4.50 ERA in 2.0 IP, 1 runs (1 ER), 1 hits, 0/1 K/BB

What to say... well, Bohn is continuing to do his thing, and Rich Dorman's K/BB is back at extactly 2:1, which means that all must be right in the world. Otherwise, the samples are too limited to be able to pick anything of interest out of them, other than Bazardo running together a string of nice appearances.

The Dominican Winter League has also started up, but they only have three games in right now and the only guy in the M's system from this year who's seen any time is Ramon Santiago. That'll have to wait until next week, and I'm hoping that by that time we see a Julio Mateo, Rafael Soriano, or even a Juan Sandoval appearance.

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

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