Future Forty Update – End of Season
With the minor league seasons coming to a close, it’s time for our last monthly Future Forty update and a look back at the year that was in the farm system.
Big Steps Forward
Adam Jones – Really, I don’t think we need to say much more about AJ.
Carlos Triunfel – the best prospect in the system and one of the best alive proved he could hold his own at 17 years of age.
Wladimir Balentien – Refined the rough edges of his game, made better contact, and probably made himself prime trade bait.
Matt Tuiasasopo – Showed that he could actually drive the ball into the gaps, drastically improved approach at the plate, and re-established himself as a potential everyday major league player.
Michael Saunders – Turned athleticism into performance, though playing in High Desert certainly didn’t hurt.
Chris Tillman – Recovered from disastrous performances after promotion to California League, showed flashes of brilliance despite a general lack of command.
Kameron Mickolio – Added cut fastball, improved command, and went from interesting late-round steal to putting himself in contention for a bullpen spot in 2008.
Up and Down
Jeff Clement – had a few great months and a few terrible months, providing evidence to both his supporters and his critics. Still something of an enigma but continues to work hard.
Tony Butler – Arm and back problems led to reduced velocity and a couple stints on the DL, but when healthy, showed why he’s got as much upside as any arm in the system besides Felix.
Brandon Morrow – Showed a legit 98 MPH fastball that can overpower hitters at times, but also had very little idea where the ball was going or anything to complement the fastball. Move to rotation is likely going to include significant growing pains.
Greg Halman – Horrible in Wisconsin, but when shipped back to Everett, made big strides. It’s scary how much he looks like Alfonso Soriano when hitting, and while he won’t be that good, he’s got a similar skillset.
More Down Than Up
Alex Liddi – One of my favorite bats in the system, Liddi failed to make enough contact to do any damage to MWL pitchers and has a lot of adjustments to make. Still very talented and worth keeping an eye on.
Rob Johnson – Mariners still love his leadership and catching skills behind the plate – I remain convinced that he’ll never hit high level pitching.
Doug Salinas – Age is the main thing on his side, as he rarely topped 90 MPH and showed a couple of 62-68 MPH breaking balls that have no chance of getting real hitters out. Stuff did not match the hype.
You can’t categorize 2007 as anything other than a big win for the farm system. The top talents had successful seasons almost across the board, the best arms avoided surgery, and a few guys took steps up from interesting to legitimately intriguing. There’s no doubt that the organization has more young talent in it now than it has in any year during the Bavasi era, which has only seen significant improvement in minor league development since he took over as GM. Bob Engle, Bob Fontaine, and their staffs deserve every plaudit that can be thrown at them – the Mariners have a lot of talent on the way to Seattle.
However, that doesn’t mean everything is perfect. As an organization, they still fail in installing any kind of real approach to hitting, and the club continues to churn out a plethora of the exact same types of hitters they already have on hand. When you look at the major league line-up and see Adrian Beltre, Jose Guillen, Jose Lopez, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Kenji Johjima, you see five shades of the same thing – right handed, highly aggressive line drive pull hitters. When you look at Adam Jones, Wladimir Balentien, Carlos Triunfel, and Greg Halman you have (to differing degrees) four more right-handed, highly aggressive line drive pull hitters.
With a couple of exceptions, this is the kind of player the M’s are both developing and pursuing at the major league level, and while they’re valuable players and good prospects in their own right, it’s time for the organization to diversify. They have a park that harms right-handed pull hitters moreso than any other player type, but significantly rewards left-handed flyball power hitters. Jeff Clement is the only guy in the organization who fits that mold, and it’s not even a given that he’ll still be a Mariner past this coming offseason.
The M’s scouts are doing a great job of finding talent – now they just need to find different kinds of talent. But, make no mistake, the farm system is in good shape, and the Mariners have a significant quantity of high ceiling guys that could add real pieces to the major league roster in the next several years.
As always, feel free to use this thread for any questions you may have, and I’ll do my best to answer as many as I can.