A few days ago, our friend and Good Guys supporter, Chris, posed a question on Twitter.
Can someone explain to me why our farm system can churn out quality pitchers year after year but our hitting prospects come up and suck?
Chris is a knowledgable sports fan and this question seems to be common one among Mariners fans. I saw the question, one we’ve all pondered, and decided it was time to address it. I’m going to try to find an answer and I’m going to do it in a series. This is the first post in that series.
Before we dive into possible answers, we have to figure out if the question is right in its assumption. All Mariners fans have had this sentiment but maybe it’s unjustified and all of this is normal? That’s what we have to figure out before the answers come. First, I’ll see the amount of successful pitchers the Mariners have had that have come from their farm system and compare that against the hitters. In the next post, I’ll compare those numbers to other teams around the league.
We’ll use a sample size of the last 10 years and my sampling of a player being successful is going to be a little bit subjective. I’m not looking for guys who were good for a season and then dropped off but rather guys who have prolonged success over at least 3 seasons. I will make exceptions to that for recent guys (Hello, Roenis Elias). I also will factor in players who were traded once they graduated from the Mariners farm system (I’m looking at you Adam Jones). I won’t count a player more than once. With all of those caveats out-of-the-way, let’s get into the data.
2004 Seattle Mariners
Successful Pitchers (home-grown):
Joel Pineiro, Freddy Garcia, J.J. Putz, Rafael Soriano, Matt Thornton.
Gil Meche is right on the cusp here too, so include him if you’d like to. Freddy Garcia wasn’t technically home-grown but he hadn’t pitched in the major leagues until he was with Seattle. There’s a lot of talent here and all of these guys were 27 or under at this point.
Successful Hitters (home-grown):
Edgar Martinez, Bret Boone, Raul Ibanez, Jose Lopez
This is right at the end of the Mariners run with some great players. This was Boone’s second stint with the Mariners. It’s hard to qualify Lopez as a success at times but he did have a pretty solid 5 years stretch. Willie Bloomquist and Miguel Olivo are right on the cusp but I mean, come on.
King Felix, George Sherrill
Most of the guys from the year before were still around and not many graduated from the minors. Obviously, Felix should be viewed as more important than George Sherrill (who later was traded to Baltimore) but for now they’re both just viewed as 1 point each towards the pitchers.
Mike Morse, Shin-Soo Choo
Both hitters who went on to succeed with other teams. Choo has been a very consistent borderline all-star. Morse struggled here and there but overall has had a pretty solid career. Yuniesky Betancourt would have fallen under this year but… Who am I kidding, no one likes that guy.
Mark Lowe was good for a while, and he would be considered here, but I wouldn’t term him as a success.
Adam Jones, Asdrubal Cabrera
Moment of silence.
He’s had a really interesting career but, all in all, I guess it was successful. I guess? The other two who could possibly qualify are Sean Green and Sean White.
Crickets. The closest we come is Jeff Clement, Wladimir Balentien, and Rob Johnson. I’ll wait for you to stop laughing. Okay, let’s move on.
Nope. Roy Corcoran anyone?
We’ve definitely entered the ‘You suck, Bavasi!’ zone.
He was fine but this might be a stretch.
There is nothing available to stretch here.
He wasn’t successful right away but then he really was.
Michael Saunders has been the toughest consideration so far. I’m not going to consider him a success yet but he is right on the cusp. By the time I’m done with this series, I may change my mind. Aside from Saunders, there were barely any home-grown hitters on this team.
Charlie Furbush, Tom Wilhelmsen, Michael Pineda
All three of these are a little bit questionable. Pineda due to health and the others due to consistency issues. For a while though each of these guys were completely dominant.
Seager is clearly the crown jewel of the recent position player farm system graduates. Here’s where we start to see a bunch of hitters who haven’t had consistent success in the majors, most notably Justin Smoak and Dustin Ackley.
A pretty down year all the way around. Carter Capps, Stephen Pryor, and Blake Beavan all could be considered but aren’t there yet, if they ever will be.
The only one I considered has been a colossal failure so far in Jesus Montero.
He’s not actually home-grown but he came out of nowhere after spending time with the Rainiers.
If I’m going to consider Roenis Elias a success than Zunino definitely needs to be treated as such. He’s got a lot of room to improve but he’s still one of the best catchers in baseball already. There was also Brad Miller and Nick Franklin from this year but neither can be viewed as successful yet.
Yoervis Medina is right on the cusp but really annoying to watch pitch so I’m not going to count him. Elias is a sensation and incredible so far.
James Jones could get there but is not quite to the sample size I’d like yet. Stefen Romero and Abe Almonte were the only other options and were not options.
Looking to the future:
A lot of this sentiment that we’re investigating comes from the pitchers that are waiting in the wings in the minors. We’ve seen glimpses of how good Paxton and Walker can be. Danny Hultzen was moving quickly through the minors before his injury. On the hitting side, there isn’t much to be excited by. I like the Ji-Man Choi a lot. Jabari Blash is exciting. D.J. Peterson is by far the Mariners best hitting prospect but hasn’t played above A ball. With three great pitching prospects waiting to get healthy, the pitching in the minors appears to be well ahead of the hitting and that is only magnified after you watch Nick Franklin, Justin Smoak and others strike out constantly while Roenis shuts out the Tigers.
Final numbers over the last 10 years:
Successful Pitchers: 16 (not including Gil Meche who should probably be included over Shawn Kelley)
Successful Hitters: 10
The hitters include Edgar Martinez (who’s biggest contribution was in the 90’s), Bret Boone (who was amazing in 2001, over 13 years ago), Raul Ibanez (who spent half the time with another team), Jose Lopez (who flamed out at an incredible rate), Morse, Choo, Jones, Cabrera (who all succeeded with teams other than the Mariners). In other words, the Mariners have had 3 successful position players that were home-grown in the last decade and 2 in the last 5 years.
When you break it down like that for the pitchers there are about 8 who are left.
To conclude, this isn’t just in our heads. Putting out 3 successful position players in the last decade that had a long stint with your team is a real problem. If anything, this shows us that the pitchers aren’t quite as successful as it may seem but the organization has been better at finding talent to fill holes.
My next step is comparing this to other teams and I’ll put that out in the next few days.
Thanks for reading!