Edit- Shortly after I posted this last night, Lueke and Beavan were promoted to Tacoma. So that’s nice. Expect to see Lueke in Seattle sometime this season. Also, Cortes has been phenomenal in a handful of relief appearances so far. If he keeps it up, he could be on the fast track too.
AA West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx (Southern League)
When the season started, West Tennessee (WT from here on out) had maybe the best collection of talent in the system. That’s been dampened slightly, as Tacoma’s gain of Ackley and Pineda was WT’s loss, but there’s still plenty to keep an eye on here.
The Tarnished Golden Child
Carlos Triunfel- SS (3B) Triunfel has been in the system for four years now, and he’s still the youngest guy on the team at 20. During his early years, he was seen as a potential Miguel Tejada type. He had a good contact bat, was a bit of a free swinger, and seemed likely to add very good power for an infielder once he got some experience and filled out a little. That description hasn’t really changed drastically, which is okay, I guess, but disappointing. 2008 seemed like a minor breakout, as he hit 8 homers with a .287/.336/.406 line. Nothing incredible, but pretty good for an 18 year old in high-A ball, even if he was in an incredible hitter’s park at High Desert (more on that in the next post in this series). 2009 brought a gruesome broken leg and a lost season, however, and now at 20 he’s in AA and showing flashes but struggling regularly too. His OPS is currently .645, which isn’t good, but he is a 20 year old in AA after missing nearly an entire year.
It’s really hard to say where he goes from here. Scouting reports are generally positive but lukewarm, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him either breakout or continue to struggle next year. Further clouding the issue is whether he can stay at shortstop or not. Most have assumed he’d have to move off short (probably to third to take advantage of a cannon arm), but the Mariners have kept him there, and now scouts seem to think he might be able to stick for at least his first few years in the bigs. I’m betting on an A-Rod-esque track, shortstop for the first 5 years or so before moving to third. Doubt he’ll ever be as good at short as A-Rod was initially though. 2011 is the year to really watch Triunfel. He’ll likely start at AA again, and if he’s going to put it together, I’d bet that’s when he does it.
The Donuts (Pretty Great, Full of Holes)
Alex Liddi- 3B (1B) I love Alex Liddi, for no apparent reason. Maybe because he’s one of the first Italian-born players in baseball, maybe because most people doubt him. Liddi had one of the best seasons in minor league ball last year, with an OPS of 1.005, BA of .345 and home runs galore. But given his home park* and the sudden breakout, no one was fully on the bandwagon. This year, he started fairly slowly before picking it up in recent weeks. His current OPS is .822, very respectable, but the home run power hasn’t been there like last year (12 total, but half in the last few weeks). He has good tools offensively though, and could be an above-average third baseman. As always, scouts are divided on his defense though, and a move to 1B might be in order. He’ll be 22 in a couple of weeks, which is still young for this league.
*I’ll touch on this more in the next post on High Desert, but the California League and High Desert in particular are known as maybe the best place to hit in all of baseball. Numbers are always significantly skewed towards the hitter. Consequently, great offensive easons are taken with a grain of salt, young pitchers often have brief stays, and Double-A is seen as the real proving ground in Mariner world. Just something to keep in mind, as most of these guys played there last year.
Carlos Peguero- OF Peguero excited everyone with a a phenomenal first month of the season, but he’s been a whole lot of mediocre since. Another in the Greg Halman mold, he has big power, poor pitch recognition, and questionable contact. Not really a major prospect, to be honest. Take away one month of his career and he’d be a longshot to see the majors for any extended period.
Mauricio Robles- LHP Acquired in the Washburn trade, Robles is a little guy with a big arm. He got a lot of attention in spring training for throwing hard and showing good offspeed stuff, but his season has been just okay. He’s getting 9.5 K/9 innings (very good), but his walks are fairly high. He has a ways to go, but there’s definite promise. Seems like a hit and miss middle of the rotation guy, but he could be slightly better, or he might end up a reliever.
Daniel Cortes- RHP Acquired for Yuniesky Betancourt, Cortes will always be appreciated for being acquired for Yuniesky Betancourt. A top Royals pitching prospect a couple of years ago, he was recently moved to the bullpen. There’s a chance he could be a high-leverage reliever. He has a big arm but needs to find some control. That’s a recurring theme in the minors, if you haven’t noticed.
The New Guys (Former Texas Ranger Division)
Blake Beavan- RHP Think Doug Fister and you’re on the right track with Beavan. He’s tall. When drafted out of high school in the first round, he was throwing in the mid-nineties. He now sits around 90 with solid command, etc. He doesn’t give up too many walks or homers, but he also doesn’t get a lot of strikeouts. Baseball America recently listed him as one of the guys who most improved his stock in the first half of the year. He could move fast, but upside is probably short of a top of the rotation starter.
Josh Lueke- RHP Lueke is a hard-throwing reliever who’s been dominant since the trade. He reportedly has a a mid-90s fastball and a plus slider. Seattle Sports Insider recently threw out Jeff Nelson as a comparison. I’ve never seen Lueke throw, but the idea fits what I’ve heard and Jeff Nelson was great, so we’ll go with it. There’s a better than good chance that he’s in Seattle next year, if not sooner. He’s had some serious legal problems that I’m going to gloss over for two reasons. First, I don’t really know enough to feel at all sure of saying anything more. Second, he’s served his time and appears to be working hard towards starting over in his life. While I don’t condone anything he might have done, I’m all for second chances. If he can pitch the 8th inning at Safeco, so much the better.
Matthew Lawson- 2B Except for having a good name, Lawson doesn’t excite me too much. It sounds like his most likely big league role is a good hitting utility infielder, which is cool, but we’ll take this opportunity to move on.
Hey, Where’d You Come From?!
Nate Tenbrink- OF/CIF I don’t think I’d ever heard of Tenbrink before he started out this year hitting like Albert Pujols in High Desert. He’s since been promoted, I believe was injured for a while, and has not hit at quite the same level. Still, he’s been decent and has established himself as a legitimate prospect. He’s slightly older than Liddi, but probably has the same shot of being an average-ish starter in the bigs. He’s listed as an OF on the official roster, but he’s seen time at first and third as well. It’ll be the bat that carries him, if anything does. Definitely one of the better surprises in the system this year.
See You Someday. Maybe.
Josh Fields- RHP Bavasi’s controversial final first round pick, I don’t think Fields is ever going to make it. He’s been hurt a lot, and seems to have little to no command. If he finds that someday soon, he reportedly has a mid-90s fastball and a hammer curve that could make him a shutdown reliever.
Nick Hill- LHP Hill’s an Army man, which is cool, and got a lot of buzz at the end of a good year last year. Some even thought he might make the big league roster early this year. He didn’t, and has taken a step back. He has a middling repertoire, and I think the upside at this point is a late-inning lefty reliever.
Steven Hensley- RHP Hensley’s a starter, who I know next to nothing about, but he’s sort of a prospect and a candidate to see the back of Seattle’s rotation in a couple of years. Not having the greatest year, though.
Joe Dunigan- OF Another powerful outfielder, he doesn’t offer a whole lot. Not someone you really need to remember.
Johan Limonta- 1B An ever so slightly more interesting version of Dunigan at 1B. Best bet is these guys being the new Mike Wilson or Bryan Lahair in three years.
Wow, that was a lot of guys. Apologies to the roughly four people I left out. Next is the oft-discussed High-A ball High Desert. Have a good weekend. Believe big!