Mariners 2010 organization preview
Club boasts one of deepest, most talented farm systems
The future success of every Major League team lies largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind, each preseason, MLB.com takes a comprehensive look at the farm systems of all 30 organizations, from top prospects to recent Draft picks.
You'd be hard-pressed to find an organization deeper in talent and potential across the board than the Mariners right now. From homegrown draftees to some remarkable young international talent, including top outfield teenage signee Guillermo Pimentel, who was inked to a $2 million bonus and will debut this year, they have been rapidly adding to their cache of prospects.
While there is little turnover in the Mariners' 10 Prospects to Watch list from last year, that is mainly because the list was heavily skewed toward youth, and none of those players lost rookie eligibility for 2010.
Maybe the biggest additions to the "system," though, was the newly installed trinity of general manager Jack Zduriencik, farm director Pedro Grifol and scouting director Tom McNamara, who will oversee the further development of an already stacked system. The team signed its first 15 picks in that group's first Draft, focusing primarily on more advanced college players (10 of the first 12 were from the college ranks).
Mike Carp, 1B
Acquired from the Mets during 2008 Spring Training in a three-team deal, he was originally a ninth-rounder in 2004 and now could be the Mariners' first baseman. At Triple-A Tacoma last summer he hit .271 with 15 homers and 64 RBIs and batted .315 in 21 games in his big league debut with the Mariners.
Dan Cortes, RHP
The lanky 6-foot-6 23-year-old was originally drafted in the seventh round of 2005 by the White Sox and has been dealt twice, most recently from Kansas City this past summer for Yuniesky Betancourt. He pitched at two Double-A stops in 2009, with a 3.92 ERA in 16 games for Northwest Arkansas with the Royals and a 4.94 ERA in 10 starts at Double-A West Tenn, fanning 112 in 135 innings combined. He throws a fastball with late life in the low-mid 90s and a hard curve. A starter for most of his career, don't rule out a shift to the 'pen for now.
Adam Moore, C
A sixth-round pick in 2006 out of Texas-Arlington, Moore enjoyed his breakthrough season in 2007, when he hit .307 with 22 homers and 102 RBIs in his first full season at High Desert. Since then he's continued to hit, batting .319 with 14 homers at West Tenn in 2008 and .287 with 12 homers and 56 RBIs between West Tenn and Tacoma last summer before making his debut, hitting .217 in a brief time in the bigs. He has raw power to all fields and is improving his defense.
Michael Saunders, OF
The closest of the Mariners' preseason Top 10 from 2009 to losing eligibility on the list, the Canadian-born Saunders has good tools across the board and gap power that should translate to more homers soon. He hit .310 with 13 homers and 32 RBIs in 64 games at Tacoma last summer, after starting late due to shoulder surgery, and hit .221 in 46 games in Seattle, maintaining his rookie status with just 122 at-bats. He could be the club's starting left fielder as early as this season.
How does someone who hit .294 with 30 homers, 104 RBIs and a .570 slugging percentage end up under the radar? When he's in this deep system that produced several players with glittering numbers. But the fifth-round pick out of Oklahoma in 2007 had a breakthrough All-Star season and if he can keep it up at West Tenn this summer, you won't keep this left-handed hitter under that radar for long. In his first full season in 2008 at Wisconsin, he had 14 homers and 31 doubles, so the pop is there.
Ezequiel Carrera, OF
Carrera became the first West Tenn player to win the Southern League batting crown, hitting .337 in a season that saw a few bumps and bruises along the way. Acquired along with Carp in the 2008 deal from the Mets, the Venezuelan-born 22-year-old also led the loop with a .441 on-base average, third among all full-season Minor Leaguers. He missed time with ankle and thumb injuries, but his average remained well over .300 all summer.
Julio Morban, OF
The Mariners have a wealth of raw teenage talent signed out of Latin America, and the left-handed-hitting 18-year-old from the Dominican Republic is one of the most exciting. Though limited mostly to DH in his stateside debut due to a sprained shoulder, he hit .270 with five homers and 23 RBIs between the Arizona League and short-season Pulaski last summer. He has a smooth swing and strong arm when healthy.
Alfredo Morales, OF
Morales is so far under the radar right now you will really have to search for information on him, but those who got to see the just-turned-17-year-old play during instructionals came away very excited. The youngest player there in the fall, the Dominican native will make his pro debut this summer. A left-handed hitter with an athletic build, he has a solid approach at the plate, good speed and a strong arm.
2B Dustin Ackley (1), the second pick overall, might have been a slam dunk first overall pick in any year without a Stephen Strasburg in the mix. Instead the North Carolina star was grabbed by the Mariners with the next pick, and they're not complaining. He played outfield and first base in college, the latter as he recovered from Tommy John surgery, but the high school shortstop's future for now appears to be at second base. He hit .417 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs this season at UNC and will make his pro debut this spring, and should be a true fast-tracker. ... SS Nick Franklin (1) adds to the club's cache of intriguing middle infielders, signing out of high school in Lake Brantley, Florida, with the 27th overall pick. He combined to hit .333 in 16 games between the Arizona League and short-season Everett. ... C Steve Baron (1S) made a good first impression in his big league Spring Training debut, and the high schooler from Miami was one of the best defensive catchers in the Draft. He hit .179 at Pulaski in a brief debut. ... 1B Rich Poythress (2) was one of the premier power hitters out of college this year. The Georgia product spent a week getting his feet wet in the Arizona League before going straight to West Tenn. He hit just a pair of homers in his month-long pro debut, but the long ball potential is there. ... 2B Kyle Seager (3) was a teammate of Ackley at UNC and is also going to be fast-tracked, as he combined to hit .261 with one homer and 22 RBIs at three levels on the move up through the ranks. ... OF James Jones (4), a left-handed hitter from Brooklyn who played his college ball at Long Island University, could be one of the stars of the Draft. A great athlete, he added 50 pounds to his skinny frame while in college, so now he's just lanky at 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds and still very projectable. Many teams liked him as a pitcher, no surprise with a fastball that touched 95 from the left side, but the Mariners opted to go with his considerable offensive upside. He hit .311 with three homers, 24 RBIs and 12 doubles in his debut in 45 games at Everett, with a .463 slugging percentage. ... RHP Tyler Blandford (5) out of Oklahoma State signed at the deadline and brings his power stuff to a starting pitching role for now. He served as both starter and reliever in college and has stated a preference for the former. ... 3B Vinnie Catricala (10), out of University of Hawaii, was an Appalachian League All Star as he hit .301 with eight homers, 40 RBIs and a .493 slugging percentage at Pulaski.
Hitter of the Year -- Dustin Ackley, 2B
Though he will no doubt be fast-tracked, Ackley should see enough time in the Minors as he continues his transition to second base to qualify for this honor at season's end. He can also play outfield and first base, but second appears to be his future destination. The North Carolina star is a power-hitter who batted .417 with 22 homers and 73 RBIs as a junior. He holds all sorts of school records, and it will be interesting to see what he does with all those tools in his pro debut this spring.
Pitcher of the Year -- Michael Pineda, RHP
Our preseason pick for this honor in 2009, injuries sidelined him for part of the year to take him out of the running, but when healthy between DL stints, he did shine, with a 2.84 ERA in 10 games, striking out 48 batters and walking just six in 44 1/3 innings, scattering 29 hits and limiting batters to a .190 average. That was particularly impressive in High Desert, which is a tough place to pitch. He came off a 2008 first full season in which he posted a 1.95 ERA. A healthy Pineda, who stands 6-foot-5 and has put on plenty of muscle since signing, will be one to watch.
Lisa Winston is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.