10 Mariners prospects to watch
Blossoming hurlers start season at Class A Advanced High Desert
With the 2009 season quickly approaching, MLB.com takes a look at 10 of the Mariners' most intriguing prospects to keep an eye on.
Phillippe Aumont, RHP: Aumont's upside is as high as they come, but that ascent has been stalled a bit due to elbow trouble, which sidelined him for two months during his pro debut in 2008. Drafted in the first round of the 2007 Draft out of high school in Quebec, the 6-foot-7 220-pounder has the kind of power stuff you'd expect from someone with that physique, including a fastball considered the best in the organization. Still something of a raw product, he's working on refining the rest of his repertoire. In '08 at Class A Wisconsin, he posted a 2.75 ERA in 15 games, including eight starts, striking out 50 in 55 2/3 innings while limiting Midwest League hitters to a .224 average. His official destination for '09 is still up in the air at press time, but he's expected to head to Class A Advanced High Desert where he will work out of the bullpen for the time being. That role shift could definitely expedite his arrival in Seattle.
Josh Fields, RHP: As a college senior, Fields did not have to sign by the Aug. 15 deadline like underclassmen did, so the 2008 first-rounder out of Georgia didn't ink with the club until mid-February, setting back his ETA. But the true closer prospect with a fastball in the mid-90s and a power curveball could move up quickly to make up for lost time. The 20th pick overall, he'd been drafted in the second round in 2007 by Atlanta before returning to college for that extra year. The Mariners were still mulling whether to start him in the High Desert or Double-A West Tenn bullpen. He becomes the third Josh Fields in pro ball, not to be confused with the White Sox's third baseman or the former White Sox reliever who spent 2008 in the independent leagues.
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Greg Halman, OF: Halman fell one home run short of being the Minor Leagues' lone 30-30 guy in 2008. He combined to hit .272 with 29 home runs and 31 steals between High Desert and West Tenn, but was unable to notch that last long ball in the final week. A terrific athlete signed out of the Netherlands -- whom he represented in the recent World Baseball Classic -- he has shown increased plate patience and maturity in the last year, emerging as the system's most exciting young hitter. Halman, who speaks four languages, led the organization in homers, was second in steals and ranked third in RBIs. Just 21, he has a plus arm as well and is putting all his tools together.
Mario Martinez, 3B: He is coming off of a season in which he hit .319 with five homers and 32 RBIs at short-season Pulaski, good for eighth in the Appalachian League batting race and second overall in the system. The 19-year-old Venezuelan continues to work on refining his defense at his new position after moving over from shortstop. The arm and talent is there, so it's just a matter of time. He hit .281 in the Arizona League in 2007 during his stateside debut.
Adam Moore, C: Moore, a sixth-round pick in 2006 out of Texas-Arlington, had a huge breakthrough year in 2007 when he hit .307 with 22 home runs and 102 RBIs in his first full season at High Desert. He proved in 2008, though, that they weren't just "High Desert numbers," as he batted .319 with 14 homers and 71 RBIs at West Tenn. He added a .396 on-base average and led all full-season hitters in the system in batting. His defense is still a work in progress as his 23 passed balls might attest. The 24-year-old could project as more of a utility guy down the road, but his .306 average in three pro seasons thus far guarantees he'll get his shot to move up.
Carlos Peguero, OF: The Mariners are looking forward to a big year from the left-handed hitter. At 6-foot-4 and 245 pounds, he is an imposing figure at the plate, but a surprisingly good runner for his size. His 2008 campaign ended early when he underwent wrist surgery in July, but before that he was hitting .299 with 12 homers and 74 RBIs in 92 games at High Desert. He was 10th in the system in hitting while boasting a .480 slugging percentage.
Michael Pineda, RHP: Pineda leads a list of exciting young pitchers who will be heading to High Desert to start this season. He's coming off a year in which he was the Mariners' Minor League Pitcher of the Year, leading the organization in ERA and strikeouts as he posted a 1.95 ERA, fanning 128 while walking 35 in 138 1/3 innings at Wisconsin. Just 20, he throws a fastball around 90 and continues to work on consistency and mechanics. In his first full season, the 6-foot-5, 180-pounder saved his best outing for last when he tossed his lone complete game, striking out 14 during a nine-inning one-hit shutout.
JC Ramirez, RHP: Known as Juan prior to this winter, the 20-year-old from Nicaragua posted a 4.14 ERA at Wisconsin in his first full season, striking out 113 batters while walking 38 in 124 innings. He finished seventh in the organization in ERA and third in strikeouts with those stats. He's limited opposing hitters to a .220 average over three pro seasons with a hard slider and plus fastball. He should join Pineda in the Mavericks' rotation this spring.
Michael Saunders, OF: Drafted in the 11th round of 2004 out of high school in Canada, Saunders' career got a delayed start as most Canadian prospects did that summer due to visa issues. He's made up for lost time and is on the verge of the big leagues now. Between West Tenn and Triple-A Tacoma last year he hit a combined .269 with 11 homers, 46 RBIs and 12 steals in 91 games, with a trip to the Olympics with Team Canada in between. He's recovered from arthroscopic surgery on his shoulder last autumn.
Carlos Triunfel, SS: The 19-year-old from the Dominican has the best arm in the system and is one of its top pure hitters as well. Playing his first pro season, 2007, at age 17, he still hit close to .300 in 93 games, though he didn't hit a home run all summer. He opened the season at High Desert without a long ball until June 10, but saw a power surge down the stretch as seven of his eight home runs came in July and August. He batted .371 in July and .305 in August. Triunfel, whose 30 steals ranked fourth in the system, could possibly move to second base somewhere down the line.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.