High Desert Mavericks (California League)
We’ve arrived in Adelanto, CA, home to absurd amounts of home runs, terrified pitchers, and the High Desert Mavericks. HD is in the High-A California League, which essentially means it’s the third highest level in the Mariners system, ranking ahead of full season Clinton and short-season Everett and Pulaski. It’s a common landing spot for advanced college draftees and the first spot where you start to see prospects really get a lot of attention, unless they were big name signings or draftees. As I mentioned in the West Tennessee post, it’s also a hard place to guage prospects. Due to some small parks and thin air, the Cal league and High Desert in particular is maybe the best place to hit in all of professional baseball. Every year brings some gaudy numbers, which means that hitters are examined very closely and don’t really get the benefit of the doubt until they’ve shown more at a higher level. Pitchers are kind of given a break if they put up bad results. Just looking at stats, a casual fan often overrates a hitter’s year. Conversely, I think some hitters get underrated by prospect watchers, but that’s easily remedied by playing well once they reach West Tennessee.
After a fairly loaded roster in 2009, 2010’s is a little weaker. Due to that factor and just that these are younger guys or players who haven’t been in the system long, my knowledge is much more limited (and that will only increase further down the system). There are some definite prospects though, so let’s see what we’ve got.
Anthony Vasquez- LHP Vasquez was called up to West Tennessee shortly after I wrote their post. He’s a smallish starter having a very solid year. Sounds like he has decent stuff, but his upside is probably Jason Vargas-ish, solid contributor but not a consistent high-level guy. Here’s a good ProballNW write-up with a lot more info.
The Big Boppers
Rich Poythress- 1B A 2009 second rounder, Poythress was regarded as maybe the best college power bat in the draft. A big right handed hitter, he’s having a solid year with an OPS currently at .918, but again it’s High Desert and his strikeouts are a little high. There’s good hope here, but he hasn’t quite set the world on fire.
Dennis Raben- 1B/DH Going back a year, we have another power hitting 2nd round pick. Drafted as a big outfielder, Raben missed most of last year after microfracture surgery. He was somewhat forgotten about, but he’s rebounded to have a great year (.356/.413/.681 in about 40 games at HD). He’ll be more valuable if he can return to the outfield, but that’s sounding doubtful. That lefty power is impressive though, so I’ll be watching closely to see what he can do next year when he’s another year past surgery and probably in West Tennessee at some point.
Johermyn Chavez- OF The other guy in the Brandon Morrow trade, Chavez was seen as a “wish upon a star” type prospect. He’d shown good power and decent other skills, but strikeouts and so forth cast a big shadow on his future. After a somewhat slow start, he’s really turned it on lately, currently sitting at .317/.384/.586. His K/BB ratio is almost 3, which is still high, but it’s slightly improved from last year and as a 21-year-old, he’s making decent progress. Yet another slugger who will be very interesting to watch as he moves up a level. Keep your fingers crossed on all of three of these guys.
Tar Heel Power!
Kyle Seager- 2B Dustin Ackley’s college teammate was drafted in the 3rd round last year and has proceeded to hit over .400 since the all star break. He has middling power but good on-base and contact skills. Nearly every scouting report says something about how he just knows how to play the game, so take that how you want. If nothing else, it probably means that he’ll move fast. Second or third looks to be his future, but whether he can be an above average starter is unclear. Best bet is a quality utility guy, but I wouldn’t be surprised at more. He’s really standing out the last couple of months.
Thank You, J.J. Putz. Thank You.
Maikel Cleto- RHP Yet another product of the fabled J.J. Putz dealings of 2008, Cleto’s a high upside arm who hasn’t really been able to show anything yet. After the trade, he spent most of last year dealing with visa issues that kept him from entering the country. This year, he’s spent decent amounts of time on the disabled list. He’s still young and is doing alright when he’s on the field, but a breakout next year would be reassuring. Weird side note: I vaguely remember a dream I had last night in which Cleto was starting tonight’s Mariners game. Pretty sure that’s not happening.
We’ll call that a day for High Desert. There are some other guys who are maybe worth watching, like pitchers James Gillheeney, Kenn Kasparek, and Brian Moran (control lefty who could see M’s bullpen soon), among others, as well as OFs Kuo Hui Lo and Denny Almonte, but I don’t know much about them and won’t pretend I do. If you want to know more, check out Prospect Insider, ProballNW or Jay Yencich at Mariner’s Minors or USS Mariner. They all are usually willing to answer questions in the comments. Baseball America’s a lot of fun too, but you’d probably have to buy a prospect handbook to find info on these guys, and I’m not even sure that would have it.