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M’s Prospect Spotlight: Top 25

Posted by Jason A. Churchill on June 9, 2006

So the draft is over and it's back to the grind that is the rehabilitating farm system of the Seattle Mariners. At this point in the season it's a safe move to consider a prospect's 2006 performance when analyzing their overall potential value to the organization.

Many prospects are aging without shoring up their status and the trends are dragging them down in the rankings. With the organization moving on with a new crop of pitchers, the formerly worthy are becoming merely useful and more apt for the bullpen.

The fact that three of this week's draft picks are among the top 25 is a sign that the system lacked pitching depth – the understatement of the week.

Brandon Morrow is likely to start his career in A ball, but which level of A ball remains to be seen. If he signs in late June, he's probably going to get a tune-up start or two in Everett before heading to Inland Empire.

The club would like to enter 2007 with Morrow part of the Double-A rotation, but I couldn't slot the right-hander ahead of Chris Snelling, who has but one thing keeping him from being an impact player in the major leagues.

Morrow could skyrocket to the top spot with a dominant showing at Inland Empire and strong stint in San Antonio before the year concludes.

Clement's injuries do not effect his overall status as the top prospect in the system. He's still as close to the show as any of the top five and his defensive position is the only reason he wasn't assigned to Triple-A Tacoma in April.

As you will see, there are a lot of fringy rotation candidates in the top 25 below and a few more (Shawn Nottingham, Julio Santiago, Jose Escalona) just missed the cut.

For those of you wondering where Bryan LaHair is… the next time he has a good, comfortable at-bat versus a left-hander will be the first in weeks. He hasn't homered in a month and his slugging has sunk well under .500. The pitchers have made an adjustment and now LaHair's true aptitude as a hitter will be tested.

A strong finish will vault the former 39th rounder right back into the top 25. If he finishes the way he started the spring he could crack the top 15. But that's easier said than done.

[Emiliano Fruto was not considered after he was recalled on June 8. He would have ranked 16th.]

Top 25
1 Jeff Clement, C – AA
L/R Injuries, opposing pitchers are no concern for lefty power bat.
2 Adam Jones, CF – AAA
R/R Streaky, but flashes absolute brilliance at plate and in field.
3 Chris Snelling, OF – AAA L/L Regaining form after knee surgery. Safeco's DH in July.
4 Brandon Morrow, RHP – N/A R/R Signs point to majors for top pick. Likely to see Inland in July.
5 Matt Tuiasosopo, 3B – A+ R/R Hitting at Inland but needs time to develop power, defense.
6 Asdrubal Cabrera, SS – AAA S/R
Striving for consistent offense, showing strong on-base skills.
7 Rob Johnson, C – AAA
R/R Defense needs another year, struggling bat needs two more.
8 Francisco Cruceta, RHP – AAA
Poor track record, but in control in the PCL. Command is key.
9 Ryan Feierabend, LHP – AA
Improving stuff and progress are exciting. Very young for AA.
10 Chris Tillman, RHP – N/A R/R
Projectable arm has potential plus heat and curve. Sound mechanics.
11 Wladimir Balentien, OF – AA
R/R Power is moot with alarming K rates. Pure slugger with plenty of risk.
12 Travis Blackley, LHP – AA R/R Southpaw has swagger back, and his curve ball isn't far behind.
13 Clint Nageotte, RHP – AAA
R/R Winning but command is inconsistent – at best. Likely bullpen bound.
14 Shin-soo Choo, OF – AAA
April – .962 OPS. Just .581 since and hasn't homered in six weeks.
15 Bobby Livingston, LHP -AAA L/L Control went south, pitcher went north in May. Still sitting 83-85.
16 Mark Lowe, RHP – AA
Plus fastball, potential plus changeup may return to rotation.
17 Robert Rohrbaugh, LHP – A+
L/L Plus command, ground ball tendencies; Sounds good, keep him.
18 Oswaldo Navarro, SS – AA R/R
Defensive wiz projects as backup unless bat spikes soon.
19 Stephen Kahn, RHP – AA
Setup prospect with power arsenal needs better command.
20 Yorman Bazardo, RHP – AA R/R Destined for 'pen without improved change. Arm may not be sound.
21 Michael Garciaparra, 2B – AAA
R/R Flashing family talents in AAA – including on-base skills and defense.
22 Anthony Butler, LHP- N/A
L/L Third rounder has projectable size and stuff. Hello, Peoria.
23 Justin Thomas, LHP – A
L/L Has better stuff than assignment suggests. Inland bound in July.
24 Eric O'Flaherty, LHP – AA
R/R Dominating out of pen, could return to rotation in '07. Plus stuff.
25 Yung Chi Chen, 2B – A+
Sound talent needs challenge in AA. Intriguing infielder with speed.

68 Responses to “M’s Prospect Spotlight: Top 25”

  1. slim said

    I’m curious where Mike Wilson would be on this list. He’s currently head and shoulders above any other hitter in the system in terms of OPS, I believe.

    Also, what are your thoughts on JB Tucker? Last I checked he was the only Wisconsin hitter posting an OPS over .800. Is he really a catcher or no?

  2. DIQ said


    Are Tillman and Butler locks to sign?

    Also is there any place to keep track of who we sign from this year’s draft?



  3. Jerry said


    Baseball America has a draft database that includes information on who has signed. It will be updated periodically for the rest of the season. After a player is signed, his name will be changed to bold type. Here is the link:


    If you subscribe (which is expensive but worth the $$$) you get scouting reports on a lot of the players as well.

  4. Jerry said


    Do you still think that the system is as good as it was before the season started?

    From my POV, things are looking bleak. There are no players who are really taking off. While you can give a lot of these guys a pass because the organization is promoting them aggressively, there are a lot of guys who are not doing well: Saunders, Valbuena, Boucher, Choo, Nageotte, Foppert, Livingston, etc.

    Hopefully, these new draftees will get signed and help bolster the system.

    And perhaps the M’s will make some good trades at the deadline to inject some talent into the farm system.

    But right now, things aren’t looking that good.

  5. DIQ said

    Thanks Jerry.

    Looking at the draft, on a positive note, with some arms looking like they were drafted solely bullpen purposes, it may give the farm flexibility to experiment with possible arms in the rotation arms in at the low minors.

  6. Butler and Tillman are pretty much locks to sign…

    And yes, Jerry, the system is the same as when the season began, except now it’s a little deeper from the draft, of course. Why is it bleaker today than it was in March?

    None of the disappointing NUMBERS are all that disappointing, in fact, what Jones is doing in AAA is downright impressive and Cabrera has done a little better than expected offensively.

    You say some get a “pass”, but that’s all they were getting before the year began. I had the system ranked the same then as it ranks now… right in the 18-22 range in baseball.

    If Morrow turns into something between the median and the higher side of expectations and Tillman too, the system in actually GOOD again.

    Mike Wilson is not a prospect.

    It took him 2+ seasons to get out of rookie ball because he’s not a worker. He’s a bad defender with some power at the plate.

    But he’s 23 in high A — not impressive at all. I have zero faith that he can take that success and repeat it in AA.

    Low A to high A at 22-23 is nothing special.

  7. Re: Tucker

    Yeah, he can catch, but he’s pretty old for that league and his skills are pretty average across the board.

    He’s an organizational guy.

    After Clement and Johnson, Jair is the next interesting catcher.

  8. BTW, is anyone going to frown on it If i take the day off?

    I’m exhausted and need to sleep more than 70 minutes straight… haven’t done that in 8 days.

  9. Andren said

    Man with all the amazing content on this site you deserve a round of applause and a weekend on the beach as far as I’m concerned. Thanks.

  10. Awesome, thanks for the kind words, Andren.

    But ya know what, and I’m going to sound all cliche-ic when saying this but…

    It’s the comments that make this good, it’s the commenters that make this great, and frankly, it’s the readers in general that make it worthwhile for me.

    It’s just nice to know there are other geeks out there just like me.

    Thanks again… now I get to go to sleep for the weekend.

  11. Andren said

    BTW, if you need help with the podcast audio etc. I would be happy to contribute.

  12. I very well may… though I did find a place that will host my audio files, which means I can linl them anywhere I want.

    But I may need help turning my files into WAV files or some other file form, just to make sure everyone can listen.

    nap time!

    Talk to you all again in a day or so…

  13. Jason –
    Thanks for all the hard work you do! I too really love this site.

    Now, go relax this weekend and catch up on some sleep!

    But, when you wake up, please answer me this…

    Before this season, Michael Garciaparra compiled minor-league totals of .257/.357/.342. Can half of a season in AAA really shoot him all the way up to being our 21st-best prospect? Do you feel his improvements are legit, or is it more just a reflection of our weak system?

  14. dnc said


    You’ve gotten 70 minutes of sleep straight?


    Get to work.



  15. Marinerhomer said

    I don’t know how you do it, if I hadn’t slept more than 70 minutes straight in a few days I would not be able to write anything logical and definetly not anything worth reading. I love your site!

    Hope you have a relaxing sleep filled weekend.

  16. Goose said

    I echo what everybody here has said. This site easily provided the best draft content on the web bar none. You went above and beyond the call of duty on this one Jason. You more than deserve a break.

  17. 2quarters said

    Haha JAC

    You need to take a god damn week off man!

    Ease up!

    Those sleeping patterns can be deadly!

  18. Willmore said

    Great work, Jason. When you do podcasts, I hope you don’t do wav files, those would be a pain to download. mp3 or the realplayer format should work fine.

  19. Knuckles said

    mp3, please. Not Real. I beg you.

    And yes, Jason, this site is a must read for any M’s fan.

  20. Paul said

    I’m a Tiger fan, but I’ve been reading your site for a few weeks (mostly due to our teams’ similar draft positions). I just wanted to compliment you on your excellent work. I really appreciate all the time and effort you put into this site. I’m really impressed.

  21. Replacement level poster said

    I’m jealous of Paul and his Andrew Miller having ways.

  22. Goose said

    Realplayer is the scurge of the universe.

    Unless you have Real Alternative so that it plays in Media Player Classic, then it’s all good.

  23. Willmore said

    I’m stuck with realplayer, because it plays content from a web-site I need, and I use for the softy podcasts to listen to Jason and Clayton. Other than that, I use winamp and windows media player.

  24. Paul said

    I’m sure they’d swap ya for Felix 😛

    The proper noun “having ways” comment is great by the way. As a comic in LA, I fully support your sense of humor.

    Apparently I really enjoy the good people of Seattle.

  25. And that’s what I’ll need help with… turning a file into an MP3…

    thanks everyone… I love this site, too.

  26. dnc said


  27. Goose said

    Yo Willmore Click this it’s a codec called Real Alternative.Download and install it. It will allow you play real media files in Windows Media Classic.

    And Jason, if your on later tonight or tommorow or whatever, I could probably hook yeah up with a program that can easily convert stuff into MP3.

  28. Brian said

    With a strong catcher at he major league level, and two catchers in the top 7 prospects (Clement #1, Johnson #7)…. what happens 2 year from now when Clement and Johnson are major league ready? With stock in Clement very high, is he potential trade bait? Could Johnson be the catcher of the future?

    How would you guess this will all play out?

  29. dnc said

    Clement is the catcher of the future. If Johnson continues to progress (I’m not as high on him as some), he’ll become trade bait. Whenever Clement’s ready Johjima will become DH or trade bait as well.

  30. Goose said

    The Mariners would be borderline insane to trade their #1 prospect. Especially with somebody that has legitamate 30+ homer power like Clement.

  31. Johnson is just going to take longer to get to the ML ready point.

  32. DIQ said


    Thanks for the link. Was in real need of that.

  33. Goose said

    No problem. Realplayer and Internet Explorer are the two scurges of the universe, so anything I can do to get people off of them, betters humanity in a small way.

  34. Willmore said

    Thanks, goose but that’s not the problem. I’m using a web-site that uses realplayer’s GUID feature, which windows media does not provide. Basically, I’m stuck with it. It’s not too bad really.

    But yeah, mp3 would be best. And yeah, it’s an easy thing to convert any format to mp3, so Jason shouldn’t have any problems.

  35. But I’m not that smart, so maybe I will have issues.

    Goose and I will probably hash it out at 3AM one Tuesday morning.

  36. Willmore said

    Cool. If you have problems, I can probably help.

    Anyway, how prized is Morales in the Angels organization ? He’s a guy with no position, so to speak. If he were with us, I would love him as our everyday DH for the next dozen years or so. (trade Ibanez, Everett etc. etc.) He has some very good on-base skills, which he has yet to trully show in the majors, and the guy can pound the ball when given the cahnce. To add to that, he’s a switch hitter with almost equal splits from the two sides (small sample size).

    What do you think ?

  37. warner28 said

    I wanted Morales badly when he was coming to America.

    Would have sacrificed signing Sexson to get him.

    But alas it was not to be.

    Maybe in 6 years we can go get him.

  38. Willmore said

    Oh, and Jason, here’s a short, quick and fairly easy way of convertin to an mp3. This is not THE easiest way, but it’s the one I use, because it also has some extra features and it’s free.

    1. Download

    2. Install it.

    3. Download the

    4. Unzip the contents to soemthing like c:\lame

    5. Start audacity, and import your audio file (drag and drop works). Click File->Export as mp3. The program will ask you to direct it to the lame coded dll. Go to the directory you unzipped lame into and select the only dll file there.


    If you have any questions, look me up on AIM: Alvar2k1

  39. willmore2000 said

    Eh, i screwed up the html. anyway, you get the idea.

    1. Download audacity.

    2. Install it.

    3. Download the lame codec.


  40. WAB said


    That real alternative thing is gold. Installed it a few days ago after I was about ready to punch in my monitor after Real Player kept opening when I plugged my ipod in (even after I turned that feature off…how nice).


  41. Goose said

    Yeah……buffering……buffering…..realplayer is……buffering………buffering…….buffering……crap.

    There’s also a quicktime Alternative.

  42. willmore2000 said

    Yeah I know about them, and I use realplayer only in extreme cases.

  43. Okay, the audacity thing works…

    And the lame thing works, too.

    I now found a site that hosts audio for free… So I guess I could put audio files here doingit that way…

    Is there an easier way? 

  44. Goose said

    To do what? Convert the files to mp3, or to put audio up on the site?

  45. put them up.

  46. Knuckles said

    Goose: Love that Real alternative. Real is the devil’s tool (as well as the biggest goddam RAM hog outside of some local apps I use in the office). Thanks for posting that link.

  47. JH said


    Switching directions a bit: have you heard anything from the team about how Anthony Varvaro’s rehab is going and where/when he’s likely to start throwing competitively?

  48. CL said

    What is Jesse Foppert up to now? Injured?

  49. willmore2000 said

    Injured, Ineffective, you name it, he’s got it.

  50. John Rishold said

    I don’t understand. Why is Brandon Morrow only being projected as a No.2 or No.3 starter in the future? Doesn’t he have the “stuff” to be a potential ace?

  51. willmore2000 said

    He can shoot up and become an ace by performing beyond his current potential. It happens, look at Pujols. What projecting is, is a more or less realistic estimate at where he might end up if nothing goes wrong in his developmental process.

  52. Foppert has a hip pointer…

    Re: Varvaro…

    Possibly this month.

  53. willmore2000 said

    Jason, a couple of questions for you:

    1. I don’t have the splits for Tui, maybe you do. Is he walking more in recent weeks and getting more extra-base hits ? Can you look up his stats over the last several weeks ?

    2. Is Shawn Nottingham quietly turning into a top pitching prospect ?

  54. MatthewCarruth said

    Nottingham a top pitching prospect? I don’t see that. I would call him worth paying attention to. It would be nicer if his K rate were higher considering the level, but 20 in A+ and faring decently isn’t a non-prospect. He’s just not a top prospect unless he were doing that at the same age in AAA or putting up K rates in the double digits with the same BB and HR rates.

  55. Nottingham’s K rate is what has brought him back into the picture – nearly 9.00.

    Not a top guy, but he’s a No. 4 type future starter. His command is what left him last year and then he was injured.

    Re: Tui…

    He’s at .325/.388 in June, with four walks and three XBH. He spiked for a week at the end of May, gathering four xbh’s and 3 walks.

    But, he has fanned just 8 times in his last 22 games.

  56. Jerry said

    It is a bummer that Tui isn’t hitting for more power.

    But I have to say that I like how he is progressing. He is making decent contact and getting on base OK.

    He is pretty young for that level, so I think he could develop more power later on. He definitely has raw power. Eventually, I think that he will start driving the ball a bit more.

    Hopefully, that starts to happen more in the second half of the season. I was hoping for a breakout year for Tui in the Cal League. If he starts to hit for more power, you would expect the walks to increase as pitchers become a little more worried about him taking them deep.

    But it would be nice to see him start to develop that power this season, as he will be facing a tough jump up to AA next year.

  57. Jerry said

    I wonder who we will see getting promotions soon. These are the guys I figure are deserving:

    Mike Wilson
    Yung Chi Chen
    Travis Blackley

    I really want to see what Wilson does in AA. He is way too old for his stats to be impressive in A+. But he did lose some time to injuries and has great tools. If he can handle the jump to AA without a significant drop in his production, it would be a huge step forward in legitimizing his success this year.

    The other guy who is suprising is Little Garciaparra. I keep expecting him to fall back to his normal sucktitude. But he is getting on base at a crazy clip. I don’t know much about his defensive skills, but he could be a viable Willie Bloomquist clone in a year or so if he keeps developing.

    If he starts to drive the ball a bit…..ahhh, never mind. That is like saying ‘if only Balentien could K less than he walks’…not worth talking about.

  58. JH said

    Some preliminary roster moves for Everett and Peoria have shown up over at milb.com. Any word on why the Ms decided not to promote Halman Jason?

  59. Wilson has one GOOD tool, ZERO great tools. A power swing, but it lacks consistency.

    He used to run well, but he’s a dozen pork steaks from even average speed.


    I’ve been assured that he’ll see ABs in Everett this year. Maybe he doesn’t start the year there, though.

    We have to remember, Everett is NOT a logical step after Peoria’s rookie league. The ARL averages about 20 years old while the NWL is typically in the 23 range. It’s a rather large diff in age, and even worse in experience.

  60. Jerry said


    I had heard differently on Wilson. I know that he is not as fast as he used to be. But I though that the had a plus arm as well. And, if he can continue to hit like he has, then you can add hitting as a tool.

    But I agree. He has to continue to hit at higher levels. When he does this in AA later this year, then we can start talking about him as a legit prospect.

  61. Wilson has an above average arm as far as strength goes, but he doesn’t throw anyone out. I wouldn’t call it a plus arm, not for RF. Left, yeah. Be nice to have a thrower in left.

    He’s probably destined to be a fourth outfielder or a DH… But I don’t buy his bat, not at all.

  62. StandinPat said

    7 of our top 10 prospects have come via the draft, and 3 of those 7, including 2 of the top 5 have come in the past two drafts under Bavasi and Fontaine. How many bad Gm’s drastically improve a farm system in two years?

  63. Exactly. Bavasi was smart enough to know that Fontaine can get it done, and he’s smart enough to pretty much let Fontaine do his thing without getting in the way.

    not that Bavasi has no say, he’s right there burning the midnight oil helping the crew put together the draft board. But in the end, if Fontaine would have much prefered Tillman at No. 5 over Morrow, for example, that is who the M’s would have taken.

    7 of 10 is both a credit to Bavasi/Fontaine, but a discredit to the poor drafts by Gillick/Jongewaard and Mattox.

  64. Rob said

    Funny Bavasi/Morrow cartoon about the made up Thiel column. Check it out:


  65. Jerry said


    Have you ever considered splitting up the pitchers and the hitters in your prospect lists?

    It is always so tough to compare hitters and pitchers. Hell, it is tough enough to compare Clement and Jones. I think that you could make a good argument for both as the Number 1 guy in the organization, mainly because they are so utterly different.

    Comparing pitchers and hitters is even more tough. I don’t really disagree with any of the placements of guys on your list. But how do you really compare, say, Rob Johnson and Francisco Cruceta?

  66. When i do a full list at year’s end/first of next year, I’m going to split them up by positions, but every individual position.


  67. 1996Coug said


    Anything new you’re hearing about Tillman signing? Getting him to sign makes this draft real, real good. Being in the Bay Area I’ve seen Murrow pitch three times. He’s very good, but I worry about his control. My take is he got away with a lot of pitches ML hitters would never swing at. He’s got a great arm. I’m excited!

  68. All college arms get away with stuff that pro hitters wouldn’t swing at… but they also have an advantage… those college hitters dont get to use those aluminum bats anymore, either.

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