While failing to secure big names via the free agent market, Seattle Mariners General Manager Jack Zduriencik has been more than proficient in at least one area. That is building the organization’s farm system.
In a publication that will be on bookshelves in early February, Baseball America and its senior editorial staff have declared the Mariners as having MLB’s second best farm system, trailing only that of the St. Louis Cardinals.
While having a highly ranked farm system doesn’t correlate to immediate success in the coming season, it does show that success is not far away, provided, of course, that things hold true.
When Zduriencik inherited the Mariners franchise near the end of 2008, he inherited a club with the 24th ranked farm system in baseball and one whose major league talent was sub-par as well after finishing 61-101 with a measly 671 total runs scored and 811 allowed. In four years at the helm, he has completely flipped around the talent base and, as Seattle fans hope, is close to seeing signs of that success show at the major league level.
The basis for such a high ranking falls on the shoulders of perhaps the game’s best young pitching and elite position talent at two of the most important defensive positions in the game, all of which at the AA level or above.
The unquestioned top five prospects of the Mariners — P Taijaun Walker, 20, P Danny Hultzen, 23, C Mike Zunino, 21, SS Nick Franklin, 21, P James Paxton, 24 — have all had success at the AA level or above. That fact, couple with their respective ages and the ceilings that each possesses, leads almost everyone in the business to be excited about this farm system.
All farm systems go beyond five players, though, and that’s another area where the Mariners’ really shines. Its blue-chip talent at the top, may be better than anybody’s one thru five, but it also is as deep as anybody’s six thru 30.
It has pitching depth behind the elite talent of Walker, Hultzen and Paxton with names like Brandon Maurer, Victor Sanchez, Stephen Pryor, Carter Capps, Jordan Shipers and Tyler Pike. It also has solid hitting talent up and down the system in players like SS Brad Miller, 3B/OF Stefan Romero, C Jack Marder, OF Julio Morban, 3B Joseph DeCarlo, SS Martin Peguero, OF Leon Landry and OF Guillermo Pimentel.
So while it has been a challenge for Zduriencik and his staff to bring in the elite talent during free agency, with hitters like Josh Hamilton, Prince Fielder and even Justin Upton (who nixed a trade earlier this month) declining to come to Seattle, the front office has done an exceptional job procuring that talent via other means to give the franchise a bright future it was without not long ago.
That is something to be excited about.