Baseball America Top 10 List Is Out
Our friends over at Baseball America released their list of the Top 10 Mariners prospects today, as ranked by USSM alum Conor Glassey. The scouting reports are only available for subscribers (or, for those who purchase the 2012 Prospect Handbook, which contains scouting reports on the Top 30 prospects for each organization), but the list itself is free. Here’s Conor’s take on the top guys coming up through the farm system:
1. Jesus Montero, c
2. Taijuan Walker, rhp
3. Danny Hultzen, lhp
4. James Paxton, lhp
5. Nick Franklin, 2b/ss
6. Francisco Martinez, 3b
7. Chance Ruffin, rhp
8. Tom Wilhelmsen, rhp
9. Vinnie Catricala, 3b/1b/of
10. Phillips Castillo, of
The top five names shouldn’t be any surprise, though some people may switch up the order depending on their risk tolerance. For instance, I’d probably take Danny Hultzen ahead of Taijuan Walker, as I’m less of an upside guy and more a present value guy when it comes to prospects. But, as everyone knows, the M’s have three premium pitching prospects on the way, and Montero and Franklin give them as good of a top 5 as anyone in the game.
There’s a pretty big drop-off between #5 and #6, but it’s nice to see Conor say some positive things about Francisco Martinez. I didn’t love the Doug Fister trade when it happened and it hasn’t grown on me since, but if Martinez can figure out how to translate his tools into performance, that could go a long way to helping make it a better deal for the franchise. I’m generally skeptical of tools guys with lousy plate discipline, but Martinez is young, so there’s some hope there. I do find the separation between his ranking and Carlos Triunfel’s a little odd, given that they’re pretty similar in a lot of ways and only seven months apart in age, but Martinez doesn’t have the “disappointing former big hype guy” label attached to him as Triunfel does. Still, this feels a bit high to me for Martinez – I’m glad BA is optimistic about his future, but I’m not sold yet.
That Ruffin and Wilhelmsen show up at 7/8 on the list tells you the size of the drop-off after Franklin. Both project as potentially good relievers, but they’re relievers. You never really want to have a relief prospect in your top 10, much less two of them.
In the write-up on Carticala, he talks about his potential move to left field, since he’s not really a third baseman and the team already has Justin Smoak at first base. Indeed, that seems to be the direction the organization is going, as they listed Catricala as an outfielder on the press release announcing his invitation to big league camp. It’s the best spot for him, both in terms of his defensive abilities and the organization’s depth chart. If Casper Wells doesn’t impress this year, there’s a roster spot waiting for Catricala to grab, and he could potentially play himself into the mix for a starting role in 2013 if Carp shows that he’s not the answer. At third base, the defense is a real issue, so they’ll just let him settle in as an outfielder and go from there. I know some people have brought him up as an option for that right-handed 3B upgrade I’ve been talking about, but you don’t really want to have him in a job share just yet, so he’s best off as Tacoma’s regular left fielder in 2012.
At the bottom of the list, Castillo represents one of the young bonus babies that the team has signed lately. They’ve invested a lot of money in power hitting teenagers from Latin America, and Castillo is probably the best of the bunch. He’s nowhere close to the Majors, but there’s some thump in his bat, and if he develops into what his physical skills suggest are possible, he could be an intriguing option in 3-4 years.
The M’s system is definitely in good shape, and probably ranks as one of the five or so best in the game right now, though part of that is that they swapped not-a-prospect Pineda for prospect Montero, so there’s a bit of artificial inflation from moving talent off the big league roster. Still, the M’s can stack up their young pitching next to anyone in the game, and there are enough interesting bats on the way that the farm isn’t too lopsided overall.
If you have questions about the rankings, Conor told me he’ll monitor the comments section here and swing by to answer what he can. If you’re a BA subscriber, he’s also doing a live chat over there at noon, or you can ping him on Twitter. Also, I’m sure Jay will be around to chip in his thoughts as well, so consider this a good place for all your prospect related discussions.