After ranking first as a team in MLB.com's preseason prospects list, the Mariners have fallen to a tie for 11th in a midseason re-ranking of that list. But that's not necessarily a bad thing, since the primary reason for the drop is that some of Seattle's well-regarded youngsters are now starting to pay dividends at the Major League level.
Two of the Mariners' top-rated position prospects -- catcher Mike Zunino and second baseman Nick Franklin -- earned early-season promotions and enough playing time in the first half that they're no longer eligible for the prospect rankings.
Thus, while Seattle still has three players in MLB.com's Top 100 list -- right-hander Taijuan Walker at No. 4, left-hander Danny Hultzen at 28 and shortstop Brad Miller at 94 -- their overall MLB ranking dipped with the midseason promotions.
Miller also is now with the Mariners and establishing himself as the team's starting shortstop, but he's yet to reach the rookie eligibility limit of either 130 at-bats or 45 days on a Major League active roster that will graduate him off that list.
The standard is 50 innings or 45 days for a pitcher, which was a level met by three other youngsters who were on the Mariners' Top 20 Prospects preseason list -- relievers Stephen Pryor and Carter Capps and starter Brandon Maurer.
That youthful influx is a welcome sight for a club that has been grooming its Minor League system since general manager Jack Zduriencik's arrival four years ago and now is starting to see the payoff.
"It's a little bit of a different-look club, but it's guys we all thought we'd see at some point in time this year," Zduriencik said of the arrival of the youth group. "You could make a good argument that we probably saw them a little sooner than we should have. However, there are circumstances that happened that made that come to fruition.
"That said, I think you have to be proud of what these kids have done up here in a short time. They've shown things where you can look forward and say, 'This has a chance to be a pretty good group of kids.' And that bodes well for our future."
The Mariners had five players from their preseason Top 20 list gain enough first-half experience that they're no longer eligible for "prospect" status. That's a positive sign for a club that has been waiting for its youthful core to mature, though it does dramatically change Seattle's prospect status.
Zunino (third on the team's preseason list), Franklin (fourth), Pryor (sixth), Capps (seventh) and Maurer all saw enough playing time that they're now no longer listed as prospects. Maurer, 23, and Capps, 22, both are back in Triple-A Tacoma now, but they gained invaluable experience and are big parts of the future. Pryor is another hard thrower with a big upside and is expected to return from the disabled list soon, while Zunino and Franklin have quickly established themselves as key starters since their midseason promotions to the big league club.
FIve players who were near the bottom of the Mariners' Top 20 preseason list have either been traded or dropped off the list. Third baseman Vinnie Catricala (15th) was traded to the A's in early June for cash after being designated for assignment after batting .253 in 48 games with Double-A Jackson. Center fielder Francisco Martinez (19th) was dealt to the Tigers in a similar deal after being DFA'd when he was hitting .206 through 34 games at Jackson.
Three other youngsters -- left-hander Jordan Shipers (16th), catcher Jack Marder (17th) and third baseman Joe DeCarlo (18th) -- are still in the organization, but have been replaced on the latest rankings by new additions.
With all their promotions and departures, the Mariners have a pretty significant midseason shift in their Top 20 Prospects rankings. First-round Draft pick D.J. Peterson immediately slid in to the No. 4 spot, while second-rounder Austin Wilson was placed at No. 9.
Eight other players debuted in the Top 20, including shortstop Chris Taylor at No. 6. Also moving in were catcher Tyler Marlette (13), right-handers Carson Smith (14) and Edwin Diaz (15), third baseman Patrick Kivlehan (17), second baseman Timothy Lopes (18), outfielder Guillermo Pimentel (19) and shortstop Ketel Marte (20).
mariners' top prospects
Taylor, a fifth-round Draft pick last year out of Virginia, made a big jump into the Mariners' Top 20 at No. 6 after hitting .335 for Class A Advanced High Desert and then continuing to produce after a promotion to Jackson a month ago. Marlette, a 20-year-old drafted in the fifth round out of the Florida high school ranks in 2011, has impressed with a strong first half at Class A Clinton and comes in at No. 13.
Smith (14) is establishing himself as a quality closer for Double-A Jackson, while the 19-year-old Diaz has pitched well as a right-handed starter for Rookie League Pulaski.
On the downside, right-hander Victor Sanchez was dropped eight spots (from No. 9 in the preseason to 17), but remains a prized prospect as an 18-year-old Venezuelan who threw a no-hitter earlier this month for Clinton.
Top 100 representation
When it comes to the Top 100 Prospects in all of baseball, the Mariners had three players crack that prestigious list, with Walker at No. 4, Hultzen at 28 and Miller moving in for the first time at 94. Walker moved up one spot from the preseason rankings and Hultzen dropped 10 spots after an injury-plagued first half.
The Mariners were first as a team in the preseason rankings based on having five players in the Top 100, but they dropped to a tie for 11th in the midseason rankings after seeing Zunino and Franklin both lose their prospect eligibility and left-hander James Paxton dropping out of the Top 100 after an inconsistent first half for Tacoma.
Team rankings are based on a point system where the No. 1 overall prospect earns 100 points, the No. 2 prospect earns 99 and so on down to one point for the 100th overall prospect.