Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive information on Seattle Mariners players from the rookie leagues all the way to the major leagues. Looking beyond the numbers and using input from respected baseball resources -- as well as contributing our own input -- we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking, and maybe even pinning some future hopes on. Our determination of where the prospects land on the list is a combination of potential ceiling, the player's likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster.
These types of rankings are very fluid and things can change very quickly, particularly in the bottom half of a list this large, but this compilation is our best effort at a look at the 50 best prospects in the system right now.
The breakdowns are being done in groups of five for subscribers, with the complete list (sans scouting info) being posted to the forums for discussion once the pieces are complete. Each player section will be headed by the player's position, age (as of the date of article publishing), hitting and throwing handedness and level at which they ended the 2012 season.
You can check out the first 30 prospects in groups of five by clicking on the links for prospects:
We are getting into the cream of the crop now -- the 20 best prospects in a Mariners organization that is ranked among the best in baseball. Here now are Seattle Mariners prospects numbers 20 through 16.
20. Carlos Triunfel - SS, 22, R/R, Triple-A Tacoma
Once looked upon as the jewel of the Seattle system, Triunfel has fallen quite a bit in most talent evaluator's eyes despite still playing young for his level at all stops along his minor league pilgrimage. Once ranked as high as the 62nd prospect in all of baseball (by Baseball America before the 2008 season), Carlos still flashes some very good tools, but the polish isn't there in his game despite 2012 being his 6th season of minor league ball. There have been injuries and questions about his offense and defense along the way, but the 22-year-old Triunfel got his first big league cup of coffee in 2012, and he isn't someone who the books should be closed on just yet.
He attempted 60 steals and was successful in 38 of those attempts in 215 games before his serious leg injury early in the 2009 season but has gone just 11 for 28 in 392 games since. Triunfel's extra base power has shown itself more frequently during the past two seasons, but primarily in the form of doubles as the home run power that was forecast for him in his early days has never developed, despite the fact that the once slight infielder is now up to a solid 200 pounds. His defense -- which is still littered with mental or effort mistakes -- remains passable but not a strength, even though he possesses one of the strongest infield arms in the organization. And the Dominican's plate discipline and pitch recognition is still a glaring weakness, with a minor league career walk rate of just 4.4% -- just 3.8% in 660 Triple-A plate appearances during 2011 and 2012.
But 2012 saw Triunfel get extended action at second base (22 games in Triple-A and two more with Seattle), hit a career high 45 extra base hits, including a career high 10 games while playing in a career best 141 games (10 with Seattle). He made only one error in 36 chances with the M's and made a couple of long throws from shortstop that inspired "oohs and ahs" from the crowd. And you know what? Triunfel is still three months younger than teammate Jesus Montero, having signed out of the same class back in 2006.
Triunfel likely isn't ticketed for major league stardom any more, but he could still be a very useful big league piece for a team. When he makes good contact the ball jumps off of his bat and he has enough strength to reach the walls in all parts of the park, as he showed with his first pro hit in the major leagues -- a double to the right field corner in Toronto. He hits line drives all over the park and reaches the gaps with enough regularity to be useful in the extra base categories. His pitch recognition is what it is at this point, but Triunfel could still improve with his discipline at the plate and not only earn a few more walks, but also cut down on the bad pitches that he puts in play for easy outs, which could make him a more realistic option for consistent playing time. His arm is a big plus tool in terms of strength but he needs to be more accurate and not try to show it off so much -- something that he's already toned down some. The speed is a non-factor at this point, though he can still take an extra base from time to time.
With Robert Andino looking like the backup in the infield, Triunfel -- who was the No. 11 prospect for SeattleClubhouse last year -- may find himself back in Tacoma to start 2013, but he does have the ability to contribute to a major league club offensively and defensively as early as this coming season.
19. Francisco Martinez - 3B/CF, 22, R/R, Double-A Jackson
Martinez was the most highly regarded prospect who came over to Seattle from Detroit in the Doug Fister trade of 2011 and he itroduced himself well to the Seattle organization, hitting .310/.326/.481 in 33 games at the Double-A level to finish the 2011 season. But back in Jackson for 2012, Martinez struggled to get his offensive game off the ground, hitting only .220 with only two extra base hits after 16 games. Martinez would end the first half early with an injury, hitting .253 but with only one home run and a .335 slugging percentage. It didn't get much better from there as Martinez ended the year at .227/.315/.295 (.232/.315/.311 (between Jackson and his 8-game Rookie AZL League rehab sting) overall with only two home runs.
But along the way Martinez showed much better hands and more accurate throwing from his position at third base -- cutting his error total from 35 in 2011 to just 14 in 2012. He also showed more patience -- with 44 walks and a 10.2% walk rate, up from 23 and 4.5% in 2011 -- and more speed and understanding of the running game, converting on 28 of 35 steal attempts after going just 10 for 20 the season before. But Martinez's strange loss of power worsened as the season went along and he had only one extra base hit -- a double -- over his final 22 games of the year. With this seemingly changed profile from where he was at the end of last season -- a projected future 20/20 bat for the corner infield who was our Mariners' No. 6 prospect last November -- the Mariners began to experience a bit with Martinez in center field. He played 15 game in center, to be exact, all after the returning from the hamstring injury that ended his first half.
So is Martinez an outfielder, someone who will be a weapon more with his legs than with his bat, or is he still a potential 20/20-type third baseman? He has the athleticism and arm to play the center field position, but being brand new to the outfield in 2012, I had one scout tell me that it was obvious that Martinez, "lacked the instincts for center field. It looks foreign to him." The improvements made with the glove at third were encouraging, but if he can't hit enough for the position he won't stay there as a prospect, plain and simple. Like Triunfel, Martinez is still a little "young for his level", but also like Triunfel, the projections on the bat are still -- at age 22 and after five minor league seasons -- still projections that haven't been met.
With a 6-foot-2, 210 pound frame and an upright and slightly open stance, Martinez looks like he could hit for power, but he doesn't always extend his arms well and has a fairly flat swing. That led to 49.1% ground balls, just 12.0% line drives and only 23 extra base hits in 2012. Pair that with a strikeout rate that climbed over 20.0% last year and Martinez has some clear areas that he needs to improve on, regardless of his defensive position or his offensive profile.
Francisco could find himself back in Double-A for a third time in 2013, perhaps at third base and perhaps in center field. Wherever he ends up fitting defensively, it will be Martinez's offense that determines how fast he advances and how likely it will be that he can become a major leaguer. If he can return to being the type of hitter that participated in the 2011 Eastern League Home Run Derby and had an OPS of over .800 with Jackson in 2012, he could still become one of the Mariners top prospects.
18. Leon Landry - OF, 23, L/R, High-A High Desert
The addition of Landry at the deadline last year as one of two players acquired for Brandon League wasn't regarded as much of a coup by most, as a lot of people saw the former LSU Tigers' ceiling as that of fourth outfielder. But the 2012 season that Landry put together seems to have wiped away a lot of the doubt that his 2011 season brought into the picture. After being a 3rd round pick in the 2010 draft and hitting very well in the Cape Cod League before a .349/.399/.510 debut as a pro in the Rookie Pioneer League, Landry was seen as a Top-5 position player prospect for the Dodgers. But the Midwest League wasn't as kind to him and the .250/.307/.360 line in full season ball dropped him off the radar for some. But when you hit .341/.371/.584 and lead all of professional baseball in triples (18), the radar starts to pick you up again, regardless of the environment.
Friend of the site Kyle Glaser, who covers the Mavs and the Cal League for the Victorville Daily Press, said of Landry's relative low profile in the prospect world, "I honestly cannot believe the disconnect between what the national guys say about Landry and what those in the Cal League say about him." Kyle says that Landry's name was almost always in the second group (after Billy Hamilton) of names that scouts, managers and players would bring up as the best in the league. "He was one of the first five guys out of people's mouths to the question about the best player every time," he said. Glaser went on to say that Landry, who many grade with 70 speed, "is a fantastic contact hitter with great bat speed and is an absolutely ridiculous center fielder."
One NL Central scout that saw Landry pretty extensively early in 2012 told me that, "the bat is quick, short and compact and he hits the ball hard, but he swings at about everything." He went on to say that obviously wasn't bothering Landry now -- he struck out in just 13.6% of his plate appearances in 2012 -- but that plate discipline could become a problem as he continues to advance. Another contact with the Mavs praised Landry for his effort and dedication to the game; "He's a great athlete and he always gives his all -- even in warm-ups."
The left-handed hitting Landry has handled left-handed pitching pretty well to this point with a .290/.334/.402 slash in over 300 plate appearances and he had a 1.077 OPS as a member of High Desert against southpaws in 2012. Maintaining the ability to hit lefties, improving his plate discipline and showing a willingness to work the count a little bit more could go a long way in making Landry one of the big risers in the Mariners system in 2013 when he will likely be getting his first crack at Double-A.
If Landry can improve in those areas and show that 2011 was the fluke season by performing offensively in an environment like the Southern League for the Generals, he could soon be on his way to becoming more than a major league fourth outfielder. Landry has some of the tools that the Mariners are lacking and is one of the better candidates in the M's system to be a leadoff hitter down the road.
17. Carson Smith -RP, 23, R/R, High-A High Desert
A 2011 draftee who didn't make his pro debut until 2012, Smith made a name for himself this season pitching out of the High Desert Mavericks bullpen. The 6-foot-6 right-hander out of Texas State University was the M's 8th round pick in the 2011 draft that not many knew about before 2012. One Mariners staffer told me before the season, "It isn't always pretty with him. Bad delivery, bad mechanics, good results." Appearance and beauty aside, his performance and his final numbers were great in 2012; a 5-1 record, 15 saves, a 2.90 ERA and 11.2 strikeouts-per-nine with only two home runs allowed in 62 innings. In the 2nd half of the season Smith allowed only two earned runs and struck out 13.9 per-nine, holding hitters to a .162 average while saving 14 of those games as part of a dominant bullpen for the Mavs.
But Smith's biggest improvement may have come in his maturity. I had several contacts through the season talk to me about Smith's visible reactions and emotions on the mound, some questioning if he had the maturity or mental toughness. His manager mentioned "controlling his emotions" to me when we spoke around the end of the first half, and another contact said Smith was, "easily frustrated, screaming into his glove, stomping around if he didn't like calls," etc. It was a concern to those that I talked with early on but Smith reportedly grew out of it quickly, and Bernie Pleskoff said he saw and heard none of that with Smith in the Arizona Fall League. And Pleskoff liked Smith a lot in the AFL. "He doesn't mess around out there. He just gets the job done," Pleskoff said. The veteran scouting eye continued, "He sinks the ball really well, he's going to be tough to hit." Glaser added to that by saying, "when his slider is on, it's deadly, and that is his out pitch."
Smith should be a quick-moving prospect for the Mariners as he continues to mature on and off the mound. With a fastball that can hit the mid-90s and that hard biting slider, command is the biggest thing that the 23-year-old will be working on at the start of 2013. That start is likely to come at Double-A Jackson, but it isn't out of the question that Smith could move up quickly from there, possibly even becoming a big league piece late in the year, much like Carter Capps did for Seattle this season. Smith could join Capps, Stephen Pryor and Tom Wilhelmsen in making one of the best young right-handed bullpens in the game very soon.
16. Julio Morban -OF, 20, L/L, High-A High Desert
If Morban could just manage to stay healthy for 100-plus games one season, he would probably be a household name by now -- and not just among Mariners fans. But Julio can count fragile hamstrings, a thumb ligament, a shoulder problem and an oblique strain as his main detractors in terms of his prospect status. The 20-year-old 2008 international signing out of the Dominican saw his most extensive game action as a pro in 2012, stepping to the plate 352 times in just over half a season (82 games). He hit .308/.352/.530 with 35 extra base hits, 17 of those home runs, and drove in 55 runs while scoring 58.
But he rarely played five or more games a week and saw roughly 20% of his action as his team's designated hitter, despite being one of the younger and more athletic players on the team. Some of that was by design as Mavs manager Pedro Grifol said that they needed to, "take it easy with him," because of the injury history. But although he's fragile, a lot of people like the skills that Morban brings. Around early August, Chris Gwynn told me that Morban was an, "extremely talented player who is showing more power than we expected." Grifol called him, "a true five-tool player with great hands," that let him barrel balls exceptionally well. And one NL Scouting Director I spoke with back in June told me that he liked Morban a lot, too, and that the High Desert environment wasn't inflating his stats all that much in his opinion. "Obviously he's not a .350 hitter, but he's got a lot of talent at the plate. He's an aggressive hitter" he said.
Kyle Glaser gave me a great note on Morban's aggressiveness at the plate and a sneak peek at his personality with this little tidbit: "Morban had a favorite shirt he wore often under his jersey and in batting practice. It was black and said "Singles suck" in big white letters for everyone to see. That pretty much describes his game, swing and swing hard."
Morban does swing hard and the K's (70 in 352 PA) could become an issue at the higher levels without a little adjustment in that philosophy. But the 20-year-old did post a better OPS away from High Desert -- .977 to .849 -- and he hit lefties better than righties on the year (.333 to .307). The power that he showed in 2012 was an unexpected surprise, but Morban did put on roughly 20 pounds during last off-season in an attempt to get stronger and more resistant to injuries. The injury part didn't happen, but the stronger part obviously paid dividends.
But getting back to the main issue -- yeah, the injuries. The Mariners obviously think highly of Morban as they recently added him to the 40-man roster, but he is at the point now in his career that he really needs a full healthy season (i.e. 120+ games). Not just for his sake, but for the Mariners sake, so that they can have a better idea of what Morban is and could become. By all accounts, Morban is a bright, friendly, engaging personality, a good teammate, and a talented baseball player. But he will need to be more than that to be one of the organization's top prospects in 2013 and beyond -- he will need to be healthy.
That concludes our look at prospects No. 20 through 16 for the Mariners. Check back with SeattleClubhouse next week as we detail prospects No. 15 through 11 for Seattle.
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