Future Forty 2.5
The Future Forty has been updated for September, and with it comes a minor yet significant change. At the suggestion of one our commenters during last month’s thread, the “Stock” column, which never really filled any useful role, has been replaced by a “Present” column, which shows how valuable that player could be expected to be in the major leagues today.
The goal of the Present column is to show just how close to contributing to the Mariners a player on the farm is, and perhaps help answer some of the questions for why players with high reward rankings aren’t yet considered projected regulars. As you’ll note looking through the list, the Mariners have a significant amount of talented players in the lower levels, but they’re almost all extremely raw, and each are going to need a lot of development before they can contribute to the big league team. Adding in a Present Value column will hopefully help give an idea for where a player is on the development path.
Please keep age in mind when looking at the Present Value column. Jose Lopez is tagged with a current value of 6, but for a 22-year-old, that’s pretty darn good. Despite the fact that he hasn’t hit a home run in about four years, Lopez shouldn’t be viewed as any kind of disappointment. He’s going through the normal growing pains of a young player adjusting to the major leagues.
Beyond the new column, we also welcome three new players at the expense of three well known names. Clint Nageotte, Jesse Foppert, and Scott Atchison bid adieu, and their removal from the Future Forty could be followed by a removal from the organization this winter. Replacing the three pitchers are first baseman Bryan LaHair, who we’ve talked about, and long term projects Alex Liddi and Gerardo Avila.
Liddi and Avila, along with current Future Forty members Carlos Peguero, Greg Halman, and Kuo-Hui Lo represent the next wave of young hitting talent the Mariners have in the lower levels of the organization. All these guys are just kids, many years from Seattle, but all have shown flashes of major league talent. If you’re looking for a lower level hitter to get excited about, you should probably pick one of these five.
However, these guys all have something else in common – they were pushed to levels they weren’t ready to handle, and full season ball pitchers exposed serious flaws in their hitting approach. Take a look at this little chart:
Halman (Everett): 116 AB, 3 BB, 32 K
Peguero (Everett): 93 AB, 2 BB, 34 K
Avila (Wisconsin): 88 AB, 1 BB, 22 K
Liddi (Wisconsin): 38 AB, 1 BB, 8 K
That’s 339 at-bats with a combined 7 walks and 96 strikeouts. Holy Reggie Abercrombie.
Now, it’s pretty easy to dismiss these numbers, since these kids are all very young. Avila is 20, Peguero is 19, Halman just turned 19, and Liddi just turned 18. These were aggressive promotions (shockingly) for kids who had not spent more than a few months playing baseball stateside, and while the results weren’t what you would hope for, it was also fairly predictable.
As we’ve discussed before, Bill Bavasi has instituted a very aggressive approach to pushing minor leaguers through the system, causing them to fail before they reach the major league level. It works in some instances, as the players respond to the hardships and become better for it, but it also runs the risk of slowing a player’s development by creating bad habits, especially in approach at the plate.
The Mariners currently have a line-up full of hitters who attack the ball and don’t wait for their pitch, and with their aggressive promotions, they’re breeding another group of swing-at-anything-hackers. At some point, the Mariners are going to have to admit that a disciplined approach at the plate has tangible value and start taking steps to instill that into their young players. Right now, the organization stresses aggressiveness at the plate, believing that patience will come as a player gains experience, but the team needs to be proactive in helping their players develop an approach at the plate that will lead to successful hitting.
As talented as Peguero, Halman, Liddi, and Avila might be, they’re not going to become major leauge players without a serious improvement in the way they approach hitting. As we saw with Wladimir Balentien this year, that can be much easier to say than to do. If the organization is not willing to help these kids learn how to identify when to swing and when to keep the bat on their shoulder when these kids are teenagers, they’re going to regenerate the offense we see now at the major league level, and that’s not in the best interests of the players or the team.
Somehow, someway, the Mariners are going to have to change their instructional techniques. They can’t keep relying on pure athletic talent to develop major league hitters. These kids need help, and they aren’t getting the instruction they need from the coaching staff.