The future success of every Major League team lies
largely in its Minor League pipeline. With that in mind,
MLB.com is looking at the top 10 prospects from each farm
system, with only those who still maintain rookie status
entering 2011 being eligible.
When the Seattle Mariners obtained Cliff Lee before the 2010 season, they obviously had a different outcome to the season in mind.
Of course, to paraphrase Robert Burns, the best laid plans
of mice and men often go awry, and the Mariners ended up
dealing Lee to Texas last summer for some young talent.
Justin Smoak gets most of the pub, but the Mariners also got some intriguing upper-level arms in the trade in reliever Josh Lueke and starter Blake Beavan, who comes in at No. 9 on the organization's Top 10 list (see below).
"The first time to get traded, for anybody, you're just kind of shell-shocked," said Beavan, who was initially taken in the first round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft by the Rangers. "I was happy to go to the new organization, try to get to know the guys, build some camaraderie.
"I was fortunate to go up to Tacoma this year, be around
some of those guys. Some of the guys that played in Texas
with me were there, with Smoak and Lueke, so it wasn't like I was going into a room of strangers."
The 6-foot-7 right-hander spent most of last season at the
Double-A level, making the Texas League All-Star team and
being named that circuit's Pitcher of the Year, even though
he was traded away from it after 17 starts. After three
starts in the Southern League post-trade, Beavan made seven with Triple-A Tacoma, the team he'll likely begin the 2011
season with. There were some positive moments -- including
getting to make two postseason starts as the Rainiers went
on to win the Pacific Coast League championship -- but he
finished with a 6.47 ERA over 40 1/3 innings of work.
The lumps he took were not without lessons, however. Now a
bit more familiar with his surroundings, Beavan is in
big league camp showing the big league staff what he can do for the first time.
"Just consistency, pitch after pitch, knowing what you're
doing, not just going out there and throwing, having a
purpose with whatever you do, on and off the field," Beavan said about what he learned. "In Triple-A, it's kind of up
to you to do what you need to do. That level is so close to the big leagues, they expect everything, no excuses, just go out there and handle business, put yourself in a position where your team can get a win. I'm going to keep trying to throw strikes, giving the offense the chance to score some runs and getting the defense some work to help me out."
Mariners Top 10
1. Dustin Ackley, 2B: He began his pro career very
slowly, came on, earned a promotion to Triple-A and finished
by winning Arizona Fall League Most Valuable Player honors. The next stop for
MLB.com's No. 5 prospect (No. 1 among all 2B prospects) is
second base in Seattle. He's still learning the position,
but his advanced bat and speed are pretty much ready. If
it's not Opening Day, he'll reach the bigs at some point
soon this season.
2. Michael Pineda, RHP: Pineda could join Ackley in
Seattle this year. The No. 13 prospect in the Top 50 (and No. 4 among
RHP prospects) is getting a serious look in camp this spring
for a spot in the rotation. He's got the size (6-foot-5) and
the stuff (fastball, slider and changeup) to succeed, with a
ceiling as a No. 2 starter behind ace Felix Hernandez.
3. Nick Franklin, SS: Ranked No. 38 on the Top 50
(and No. 2 among shortstops), Franklin has an intriguing
combination of power and speed that allowed him to be one of
three players in the Minors to have 20 homers and 20 steals. He's got the skills to stay at short but
might be an even better second baseman down the road. He jumped two levels from Class A Clinton to Double-A West Tennessee at the end of 2010, and that's
where his 2011 campaign could begin.
4. Guillermo Pimentel, OF: It's going to be a while
before Seattle sees the outfielder ranked No. 7 on the top
10 outfield prospect list this offseason. He'll play all of
this season at age 18, with just 51 games in the
rookie-level Arizona League under his belt as far as
experience here in the United States. He's got serious raw
power and good bat, and once he learns the strike zone better, he could become a monster run-producing right
5. Taijuan Walker, RHP: A terrific athlete who played
more than one sport in high school, Walker is still
obviously learning the nuances of pitching. What he does
have is a live arm, projectability and plenty of
athleticism on the mound. He can crank the fastball into the
mid-90s already and has shown a plus breaking ball. He won't
be rushed, but he has the chance to be an outstanding
6. Mauricio Robles, LHP: In his first full season as
a Mariner (he came over in the Jarrod Washburn deal), Robles
pitched across two levels and is now knocking on the door of the Majors.
He's not the biggest guy in the world, but he's got a plus
fastball to go along with a very good changeup and a curve.
He doesn't have the highest ceiling in the world -- think
No. 4 starter or maybe a setup man -- but he's not far off
from helping out in Seattle.
7. Johermyn Chavez, OF: While some of it undoubtedly
came as a result of playing for High Desert in the
California League, Chavez's 32 homers and 96 RBIs in 2010, both of which were
good for second in the Mariners organization last year, can't be discounted. His
power is legit, and he improved as an overall hitter. The
move up to Double-A should provide a good test for the
22-year-old corner outfielder.
8. Dan Cortes, RHP: Sometimes a change of scenery and
a change in role is all a young player needs. Cortes joined
the Mariners in July 2009 and made the move from starter to
reliever last year. That enabled him to move from Double-A to
Triple-A and up to the big leagues late last year. Command
is still an issue, but not as much in short stints, where
his power stuff plays up. He's got a shot to make the Mariners'
bullpen out of Spring Training.
9. Blake Beavan, RHP: He's a strike-thrower in a big,
power pitcher's body, but when Beavan is on, he's got three
decent pitches he can throw for strikes at any point. He
goes right after hitters and mixes his offerings well. He
could be a future workhorse in the back half of the rotation
and might get the chance to show what he can do in Seattle
at some point this year.
10. Alex Liddi, 3B: The Italian import showed his
California League breakout in 2009 was no fluke with an
All-Star season in Double-A and his second straight Futures Game appearance. He's still learning the nuances of the
game, yet he'll be in Triple-A in 2011, just a phone call
away. His defense gets mixed reviews, but he could be the
Mariners' third baseman of the future.
Under the Radar
Brian Moran, LHP: This University of North Carolina
product, a seventh-round selection in the 2009 Draft, is making a
beeline through the Mariners' system. He began in the
Midwest League and finished with a brief stint in Double-A.
Combined, he had a 1.73 ERA, 78 K's and nine walks in
67 2/3 innings of work. The Mariners don't have a ton of
left-handed depth in the bullpen, so Moran is definitely
worth keeping an eye on.
Anthony Vasquez, LHP: Guys taken as college seniors
in the 18th round don't typically generate much buzz, but
it's time to start paying attention to Vasquez, the USC
product. He may have started 2010 too old for his level in
the Midwest League, but he finished the year two levels up
in Double-A. When he was done, he had led the organization
with his 2.46 ERA, finished tied for second with 11 wins and
was fifth with 125 K's (vs. just 24 BB). He's now at the
upper levels at age 24.
Hitter of the Year -- Nick Franklin, SS
He'll show his first full season was no fluke, pulling off
his second straight 20-20 season, all while making the jump full-time to Double-A at age 20.
Pitcher of the Year -- Taijuan Walker, RHP
Some might feel Walker will move a bit slowly, as a raw high
school arm. While still learning how to pitch, though,
Walker will force his way into the Clinton rotation and,
even if not for a full season, be among the
organizational leaders in ERA and strikeouts.
Mayo is a reporter for MLB.com and writes a blog, B3. Follow @JonathanMay
oB3 on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.