Last week, MLB.com prospect analyst Jonathon Mayo delivered his top 100 prospect rankings entering the 2012 baseball season. Regarded highly, Mayo’s rankings give teams and, most especially, their fanbase an accurate understanding of where the franchise stands in regards to top end talent. His are by no means the only rankings distributed for consumption but well respected.
With three prospects in the top 20 and five in the top 80, the Mariners fared very well. In fact, according to Mayo’s rankings the Mariners are one of five teams in baseball with five or more prospects in the top 100 and produced the highest rating (329) among those teams. Kansas City coming in second at 290.
Jesus Montero, the newest addition to the Mariners, came in as the No. 12 rated prospect. The 22-year-old catcher is expected to be a fixture in the Mariners lineup beginning opening day. He was joined in the top 20 by 19-year-old right-hander Taijuan Walker (No. 18) and last year’s No. 2 overall pick, lefty Danny Hultzen (No. 16). Of the two, Hultzen at 23-years-old is the closest to the big leagues. It is expected that he could debut as early as April but more likely by mid-June of 2012.
The other two players to make the rankings were shortstop Nick Franklin (No. 52) and left-hander James Paxton, ranked 77th. Paxton completes the trio of future aces the Mariners have coming through the pipeline ready to join the rotation by mid-2013. In fact, these three (coupled with others like Erasmo Ramirez, Blake Beavan, Charlie Furbush and Forrest Snow) enabled Seattle to swing the deal for Montero with the Yankees, giving up Michael Pineda and young Jose Campos in return. All three of the highly touted arms have the potential to be better than Pineda down the line, that’s how good they are.
Going deeper, the Mariners not only have one of the top systems as far as top-end talent is concerned but also as far as depth is concerned. It was rated by Baseball America as the fourth best system in the majors as of January and is clearly on the rise.
The depth seems to come in through pitching and outfielders. In addition to those previously mentioned, the Mariners also have arms like Chance Ruffin, Stephen Pryor and Mauricio Robles that have high upsides. The outfield is well stocked with players like Guillermo Pimentel, Trayvon Robinson, Casper Wells, Chih-Hsien Chiang, Johermyn Chavez and Denny Almonte.
Additionally, the Mariners have begun to stockpile some solid to outstanding third base talent. Youngsters Francisco Martinez (picked up from Detroit in the Doug Fister/David Pauley deal), Alex Liddi, Vinnie Catricala, Carlos Truinfel and Kyle Seager (favored to be the Opening Day starter) are all players in the top 20 of the system with high level talent.
General Manager Jack Zduriencik has re-made the Mariners system from one that was completely dereft (decimated?) of any talent when Bill Bavasi left in 2008 to one that is now top five in the game and bursting with both elite pitching and some quality young bats. Another draft (the Mariners have the third overall pick in 2012) and year of seasoning and the Mariners system will be even better.
Things are indeed looking up in the Pacific Northwest.