Seattle Mariners Top 10 Prospects

Moderator: Jim Callis will begin taking your questions at 5 p.m. CT

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
What's the deal with Michael Garciaparra? He hasn't done much since he was drafted in 2001. Any chance he can be half the player his brother is?
 A: 

Jim Callis: That's a little typo above, as I'm taking your questions at 5 ET. Let's go . . . It's not realistic to expect Michael to become another Nomar. But while he has struggled as a pro, his backers think he can become an Adam Everett--a good defender and average runner who needs to get stronger so he can do more at the plate. Jose Lopez is clearly the franchise's shortstop of the future, but the Mariners haven't given up on Garciaparra.

 Q:  Thom from Ann Arbor, MI asks:
Is Wladimir Balentien really as young as listed, and did that change how he was ranked? How does the organization view his future?
 A: 

Jim Callis: As far as the Mariners know, Balentien's listed birthdate (July 2, 1984). He has tremendous power, not to mention at least average speed and arm strength, but he also has an ultra-aggressive approach and will need a lot of refinement at the plate. He killed Arizona League pitching but still has a long way to go, which is why I ranked him in the 11-20 range on my Mariners Top 30 list. I assumed his age is correct as listed. He's from the Netherlands Antilles, and I don't think Agegate has extended to there.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Jim. Can you confirm if Felix Hernandez's age has been confirmed or is it possible that he may be older than 17? Also, could you please comment on any studies you may be aware of regarding the likelihood that a pitcher this young already in professional baseball, will not encounter serious arm problems before reaching the majors. Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: As with Balentien, the Mariners have checked out Hernandez' birthdate (April 8, 1986) and believe it to be correct. As many of you might have guessed, he'll be the youngest player on our Top 100 Prospects list when it comes out. Many Latin pitchers sign at age 16 or 17. Pedro Martinez did and he pitched 86 innings in the Dominican Summer League at age 17, while Hernandez threw just 69 innings at that age last year. The Mariners are going to be as patient as they can with Hernandez, but if he keeps pitching like he did last year it's going to be hard to hold him back.

 Q:  Lisa Westman from Ann Arbor asks:
How healthy is Greg Dobbs, and will he see any playing time in seattle this year? Justin Leone seems to be in the same position that Dobbs was at this time last year. Is he considered more of a prospect than Dobbs was last year, and has he past Dobbs currently?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Dobbs hasn't played much in Double-A and missed almost all of 2003 after rupturing an Achilles tendon in April, so I wouldn't expect to see him in Seattle. If he can play third base, and that's a big if, I think he has a higher ceiling than Leone. Leone was MVP of the Texas League, and I ranked him slightly ahead of Dobbs in the 11-15 range, but he needs to show that 2003 wasn't just a career year.

 Q:  Jim Osmer from Seattle asks:
I saw Travis Blackley and Matt Thornton pitch consecutive games at San Antonio last year and they both hit 91 on the radar gun. So why is Blackley considered a soft thrower and compared to Moyer and Kenny Rogers? Also Justin Leone looked like a real major league third baseman in all ways (defense, effort, good eye, speed, power). Do you or the Mariners view him as a potential everyday player in the big leagues?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Thornton was coming back from Tommy John surgery and, when healthy, consistently throws harder than Blackley. I don't think anyone thinks Blackley is a soft tosser, though. He was up to 88-92 mph by the end of the year, and the Mariners refer to him as Jamie Moyer with better stuff. Seattle likes Leone and thinks he could handle second base and possibly shortstop if needed. Scott Spiezio's three-year deal poses a roadblock, however, and Leone may have to settle for a year or two as a utility guy.

 Q:  Mattt Pick me from Hawaii asks:
Hey Jim , got a question about 2 guys …what kind of stuff does Aaron Jensen have , does he profile as a 1 or 2 guy? Also why is SEA not starting Soriano the guy is a stud and I don’t think they are using him to his full potential ….ohh yea I purchased the 2004 prospect book and was wondering if there is a ship date yet …thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: Jensen has a 90-94 mph fastball and a hard curveball. I like him, that was a great late-round flier to take and a great move to sign him. I'm a little more conservative on the young guys, and while he might have a ceiling as a No. 2 it's safer to project him as a No. 3. I too would start Soriano, but it also wouldn't shock me if he were one of the top 2-3 relievers in the AL this year if he's used that way. Prospect Handbooks should start shipping next week.

 Q:  Bob from Baltimore, Maryland asks:
Without commenting on the Ibanaz deal who do you think the M's will select with their first pick in the draft? Are there any HS position players of note from Maryland?
 A: 

Jim Callis: If you read Ask BA, you know I wasn't a big fan of the Raul Ibanez signing. Seattle's first pick is in the third round at No. 93 overall, so that's nearly impossible to project. Maybe they'll go local and take Gonzaga RHP Eric Dworkis. Nick Adenhart (Hagerstown, Md.) is the top HS prospect right now, but he's a righthander. We don't project any Maryland HS hitters going in the first five rounds at this point.

 Q:  Jim S. from Milwaukee asks:
Looking at the current contract status Seattle's OF and given that Snelling and Choo seem to be more highly regarded than Strong, what are the chances that Strong will get a fair shot with the M's. He seems to have what it takes to be a leadoff hitter. Do his chances hinge on a trade?
 A: 

Jim Callis: "Fair" might not be the best word. I'm on the fence about whether he should be a regular or a fourth outfielder on a contender. With the Ibanez signing and the re-signing of Randy Winn, and Chris Snelling and Shin-Soo Choo coming, I'm not sure Strong will ever start in Seattle.

 Q:  Justin from Capitol Hill asks:
How would you compare Felix Hernandez with former Mariner prospects Ryan Anderson and Rafael Soriano in terms of long term potential at a similar stage?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Soriano was playing the outfield and two years away from pitching at the same age, while Anderson wasn't nearly as polished. Hernandez is much more advanced on the mound than either of those guys was. He seems almost too good to be true, doesn't he.

 Q:  Jim Osmer from Seattle asks:
Aaron Taylor has really struggled in two stints with the M's. Is he the second coming of Tom Davey or should we be patient?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Taylor has pitched just 18 innings in the bigs, and he probably wasn't 100 percent last year. He has the mid-90s fastball to pitch in the late innings, but he needs to gain a more consistent slider, splitter and command. Be patient.

 Q:  Kris from Burlington asks:
Hi Jim, where do you stand on Nageotte? Top 3 starter or dominant reliever? Though he rarely uses it how is the change up? Thanks
 A: 

Jim Callis: I'll say top 3 starter. His fastballslider combination has worked so well that he hasn't been forced to throw his changeup. It's not bad and can be an average pitch if he throws it more.

 Q:  J from Seattle asks:
TJ Bohn seemed to be the top offensive producer for Wisconsin last year, but he seems to have gotten little attention for it. What's your take on him?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Well, he was 23 in low Class A. He has pretty solid tools across the board but needs to prove himself against competition more in line with his age.

 Q:  alec from ft. worth asks:
how would you rank the 4 a.l. west teams?
 A: 

Jim Callis: If we're talking about their 2004 performance, I'd rank them: Oakland, Anaheim, Seattle, Texas. If we're talking about the strength of their farm systems, I'd go: Anaheim, Seattle, Oakland, Texas. Not a good time to be a Rangers fan.

 Q:  Bob from Baltimore, Maryland asks:
How far down has the system fallen during the last couple of years as some good prospects have moved on to the show...and others failed? It seems to me the position players in the system arent as plentiful as one would hope!
 A: 

Jim Callis: We ranked the farm system No. 4 entering 2001 and No. 2 in 2002, and now it's at No. 12 (a complete listing is in the Prospect Handbook). They still have pretty nice depth but don't have as many impact player as the teams we've rated ahead of them.

 Q:  Bob from Baltimore, Maryland asks:
Are there any good catchers in the system worth mentioning since Ryan Christianson doesnt look like the catcher we all thought he was going to be? I have always wondered has their ever been a catcher to throw sidearm naturally...or do they make them change arm slots?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rene Rivera is the best catching prospect in the system. He has good catch-and-throw skills and some pop in his bat, but he's a few years away. Christianson still has his backers but must stay healthy. Not sure if there's never been a sidearming catcher, but I would think teams would want a higher arm slot.

 Q:  Kris from Burlington asks:
Was Rich Aurilia signed to a one year deal because the Mariners expect Jose Lopez to be ready for next year? How close is Lopez, some reports have him ready defensively now.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I believe that's Seattle's hope. Lopez probably could hold his own defensively, but he's 12-18 months away with the bat.

 Q:  Steve from Conway, Arkansas asks:
Do you think the Mariners will have the best AAA rotation 1-5 in baseball this year? With Nageoette, Johnson, Blackley, Madrisch, Craig Anderson and others competing for spots, it looks like it will be pretty formidable.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I hadn't looked at it that way, but they might. Cha Baek and Jeff Heaverlo are two more options for the Tacoma rotation.

 Q:  Tom from Seattle asks:
Another teenager in the Mariners system put up some lopsided numbers this year, Wladimir Balentien, who destroyed the Arizona league HR record. While there have been rumors about Balentien's age being older than listed, there are no such rumors about Hernandez. Why is that? Obviously BA believes the rumors about Balentien, otherwise he'd have to be in the top 5, right?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I've addressed this about Balentien but wondered why Balentien would rank in the top 5 in a good organization? Because he tore up the Arizona League?

 Q:  Tom from Seattle asks:
Who are the position prospects who project as above average big league regulars?
 A: 

Jim Callis: After picking on Tom, I'll answer another of his questions. Trying to be conservative rather than overly optimistic, I'd say Jose Lopez at shortstop and maybe Shin-Soo Choo and Chris Snelling in the outfield. Shortstop Adam Jones and Balentien have the chance to do so but are much further away.

 Q:  Franky from Puerto Rico asks:
Did Miguel Martinez rank in the Mariners' Top 30?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He did not. He missed a lot of bats in the Midwest League, which was good, but he did it by fooling hitters with a changeup. He throws 85-86 mph and his breaking ball is nothing special, so he's going to have to prove he can get outs with his stuff at higher levels.

 Q:  John from DC asks:
What are the Mariner's plans for Ryan Anderson? Does he have any chance at rebounding this year?
 A: 

Jim Callis: They'd love to get him on the mound at some point this year. After he has torn his labrum for three years running, I have a hard time envisioning he'll ever do much in the majors.

 Q:  Mike from Woodbridge, NJ asks:
Jim, how does Blackley stack up to the other heralded left handers, like Kazmir, Hamels, and Miller? Also, what are the organizational thoughts re: Chris Snelling? If healthy, is he going to see time in the bigs? Thanks!
 A: 

Jim Callis: Those guys have significantly better pure stuff than Blackley, though his stuff is good and his pitchability can't be denied. All three of those guys ranked in the Top 20 on our soon-to-be-revealed Top 100 Prospects list, while Blackley checked in at No. 64. The organization just wishes Snelling could keep himself in one piece. I think he'd be starting for the Mariners already if he could have done so. I think Seattle would like to see him get at least a solid half-season in Triple-A. He could replace Edgar Martinez at DH in 2005.

 Q:  Kris from Bulrlington asks:
If the Mariners had a starter go down or get traded who out of Nageotte or Blackley do you see more ready to succeed at the big league level?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Blackley is more polished, so I'd say him. I could also see that if a bullpen need arose that the Mariners could look to Nagoette for a K-Rod-like contribution.

 Q:  jake from Olympia asks:
Where does Craig Anderson rank in the top 30? His numbers were pretty darn good last year. What kind of future do you think he has? Love the chats and thanks a lot.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Thanks, Jake. Anderson didn't make the Top 30. He was a lot more hittable last year than in the past, and he's still throwing in the low 80s. The Mariners have several finesse lefties (Ryan Ketchner, Troy Cate, Glenn Bott, Bobby Livingston) with brighter futures.

 Q:  Shane from St. Stephen, New Brunswick asks:
Hi Jim, Why don't the Mariners get any real grief over their continued negligence towards utilizing, or throwing away of #1 Draft picks. It's seems odd, because unlike a lot of organizations, they really seem to draft well, and this approach seems to be only hurting themselves. Thanks for your time.
 A: 

Jim Callis: I think they get some grief, as I know I've dealt with this in Ask BA and in the Top 10 Prospects package. They haven't drafted especially well recently, either. I wouldn't say it's necessarily been a conscious effort to forego first-round picks as much as the Mariners have been aggressive (maybe too aggressive) with free agents.

 Q:  Mark from Seattle asks:
Is there a everyday player in the minor league system who's can become a run producer in the major league level? Seems to me they have alot of pitchers, middle infielder, and center field type but no potential big bat(i.e John Mayberry Jr.) Thanks,
 A: 

Jim Callis: They don't have a real middle-of-the-order hitter who's close. Greg Dobbs is probably the best chance for that in the upper levels, and that might be reaching a bit. Wladimir Balentien might be that guy, but he's so far away to bank on that.

 Q:  Russ from NY asks:
Will Ruchti move quickly through the system because of his good defense?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I feel like I'm dragging today, so let's head to the lightning round and see if that gets me jump-started. Lots of questions remain and I've got about a half-hour left . . . Justin Ruchti is very polished behind the plate but his bat is in question, so I don't think he'll move fast.

 Q:  Jim from Connecticut asks:
What would you guestimate the Mariner rotation will look like in 2006 and how will it rate in the AL West? (assuming no significant free agent pitchers are signed).
 A: 

Jim Callis: Pineiro, Nageotte, Blackley, maybe Freddy Garcia, Baek. Felix Hernandez won't be there quite yet. That would probably rank second in the division behind Oakland.

 Q:  Jim from Connecticut asks:
It appears that the Mariners have a load of pitching prospects, but are thin on position players. Given that there are only so many pitching spots on the big league roster, wouldn't it make sense to trade some pitching prospects for position prosepcts from a team that has alot of positional prospects (Texas?), or is there a reason that this isn't done?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Teams generally don't make prospect-for-prospect trades. If they deal prospects, it's usually to fill a major league hole, and the Mariners could use their minor league arms to do that.

 Q:  Lee from Issaquah asks:
Shin Soo Choo, Chris Snelling, Josh Womack, and Mike Wilson. Do any of these guys profile as a .280 20 HR 100 RBI guy?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Maybe Choo or Snelling, as the Mariners believe their power will come, but they haven't shown that kind of pop yet.

 Q:  Tom from Seattle asks:
I don't understand your "ultra-aggressive" comment regarding Balentien. 22 walks in 187 ABs is perfectly acceptible. Is the high K rate really that much of a concern? Any time a prospect breaks a league HR record by that big a margin, he really ought to be taken seriously.
 A: 

Jim Callis: Tom, I just think you're jumping the gun on this guy. We don't know for sure that his age is suspect, but he whiffed in nearly a third of his at-bats and employed a grip-it-and-rip-it approach that may not work against pitchers who can consistently find the strike zone.

 Q:  Jim from Connecticut asks:
Are there any lower level prospects that haven't made it on the radar screen that you like and think can possibly become something special? (not just fill-in major league players)
 A: 

Jim Callis: Ryan Feierabend, a lefty taken in the third round last year. Infielder Jeff Flaig (second round) can really hit but has had a lot of shoulder problems. In general, anyone with a realistic chance of being pretty special is going to rank pretty high on our lists.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
Jim. Is Mike Wilson ever going to make it as a Baseball Player or should he try to go back to College and be the Linebacker many thought he would be at the University of Oklahoma?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He has some intriguing tools but has developed much slower than hoped. The Mariners haven't given up on him but it's time for him to get going.

 Q:  J. Schacht from Milwaukee, Wisconsin asks:
Is Jose Lopez (a) clearly a shortstop rather than someone who will wind up at 2d, (b) someone with the chance to be a special player, or just an adequate major leaguer? Does he have power potential, or would Orlando Cabrera represent a fair idea of his potential?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Clearly a shortstop, "special" might be much but he can be more than adequate, and Orlando Cabrera is a realistic ceiling.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
I noticed in the write up on Hernandez that you tried to temper your comments, but it was not hard to see your enthusiasm for the kid, He's really that good at 17?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He seems to good to be true, but his birthdate is believed to be real and his stuff is unquestioned. He just needs to stay healthy and get some experience.

 Q:  Dave from Winston-Salem, NC asks:
Clint Nageotte has a mid-90's fastball and a plus slider. Felix Hernandez has a mid-90's fastball and a plus curveball. Neither one has a change-up. Nageotte is 3 years ahead in development and could contribute in the majors in 2004. Hernandez still has to survive the period where most young pitchers learn the words James Andrews. Isn't this an instance where the slight difference in potential is more than offset by the drastic difference in risk?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Nageotte would have been a safer pick. But everyone I've talked to had a hard time containing their enthusiasm for Hernandez, and I think his ceiling is higher.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
Obviously the M's like Jones as an IF'er, but was there any talk about him being a pitcher?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He wants to play shortstop, and the Mariners will let him. A number of teams clocked him at 96 mph last spring and preferred him on the mound.

 Q:  M.O. from Austin, TX asks:
Which minor league pitchers are most likely to contribute to the Mariner bullpen or starting rotation in 2004?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Rett Johnson, J.J. Putz and Clint Nageotte in the bullpen. I don't see the Mariners giving a rotation spot to a rookie this year.

 Q:  Mark L. Peel from NorthSideBaseball.com asks:
It looks like the top of Seattle's list has at least 1 possible impact talent, maybe more. Would you care to tell us about how Seattle's players rated in your top 50, as you did a few other teams in AskBA?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hi, Mark. Felix Hernandez ranks 30th, Clint Nageotte 45th, Travis Blackley 64th and Jose Lopez 70th. Incidentally, Angel Guzman is the top Cub at No. 26.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
Of the 3 HS LHP's picked early, which do you like best, Feierabend, Fagan or O'Flaherty?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Feierabend, though all three bear watching.

 Q:  Dave from Winston-Salem, NC asks:
Last one Jim, I promise. Is there anyone in the game worth rooting for more than Ryan Ketchner?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Not many. He's a great story, a legally deaf pitcher who had a very nice year in the California League last year.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
Would Sheldon Fulse, who was traded to Boston for rule 5 pick Matt White, make the top 30?
 A: 

Jim Callis: No, just hasn't hit consistently enough for my taste.

 Q:  Kevin from Springfield, MA asks:
What kind of player is OF Greg Jacobs?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Hard to say. He tore up high Class A at age 26, needs to do it at higher levels.

 Q:  James from Guthrie OK asks:
Jim. My last question, Will Miguel Villilo, Luis Ugueto, Chris Colton and Evel Bastida - Martinez ever reach the potential once expected of them? Thanks.
 A: 

Jim Callis: None of those guys figures prominently in Seattle's plans these days.

 Q:  Chris from Cambridge, MA asks:
Rett Johnson put up stellar numbers as a starter at Tacoma last year and Clint Nageotte's KIP and heavy reliance on the slider suggests he might ultimately be better as a short reliever. How would you compare Rett Johnson with Joel Pineiro at the same stage of development, and how would you compare Clint Nageotte with Jeff Nelson?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Pineiro was more well-rounded, and I think Rett Johnson could be Seattle's next Jeff Nelson. I still believe Nageotte will wind up as a starter, with relieving as a fallback.

 Q:  Medea's Child from Los Angeles asks:
If you could pick the five minor league pitchers with the highest upside, who would they be (Felix Hernandez? Greg Miller? Edwin Jackson? Cole Hamels? Zack Greinke? Scott Kazmir?) and in what order would you rank them?
 A: 

Jim Callis: Factoring in upside and their chances of reaching it, my top five would be Edwin Jackson, Greg Miller, Zack Greinke, Dustin McGowan and Scott Kazmir.

 Q:  Tom from Seattle asks:
What exactly goes into looking into a prospect's age? Is it anything more than looking at him in a serious way and asking, "Son, is that really your age?"
 A: 

Jim Callis: All teams really can do is check the documentation available, which is more reliable in some cases than in others.

 Q:  Shana from Federal Way asks:
Jaime Bubela has been solid every year but doesn't get much attention. He did well in the AFL, can play in the majors.
 A: 

Jim Callis: As a role player. I don't see him as a regular.

 Q:  bp from Washington DC asks:
Hi Jim, thanks for doing the chat. Last year you said "second baseman Ismael Castro was the short-season Northwest League’s MVP, batting .303-9-48. He shows a quick bat and power from both sides of the plate." He just missed the top ten. What about this year. Is he in the top 30? Does he have a chance at taking over at 2B in Seattle in a couple of years?
 A: 

Jim Callis: I didn't rank him this year. There was some skepticism about his age a year ago, and he had a disappointing year in the high Class A California League. He's not much of a defender, so he has to hit.

 Q:  Ryne Sandberg and Bobby Grich from Head and shoulders above contemporaries asks:
According to BBA columns, Jeff Flaig was considered very good with the glove and feet at SS, and lost arm strength due to surgery. Is there any talk of trying to convert him into a quite very tall 2bman instead of third base?
 A: 

Jim Callis: He had more labrum surgery in November. While he'd fit better at third, it remains to be seen is his shoulder could hold up there. The outfield might be a more realistic spot than second base.

 Q:  Kurt from Chicago asks:
Jim, Interested in your opinion of Glenn Bott. He put up some nice numbers last year. What's his upside potential?
 A: 

Jim Callis: End-of-rotation guy or middle reliever. He only throws 83-88, but his fastball has nice life and he has a good changeup. He's the kind of guy who'll have to keep proving himself.

 Q:  J from Seattle asks:
The M's 2002 Draft seems especially weak with the loss of Mayberry and their third round pick. Do there seem to be any positives from this draft?
 A: 

Jim Callis: OF Josh Womack (second round) and LHP Troy Cate (sixth) are the highlights, but the Mariners will regret not signing John Mayberry Jr. (now at Stanford) and Eddy Martinez-Esteve (Florida State).

 Q:  Jason from Seattle asks:
What does BA and yourself take into considration when putting together a prospect list? What's the formula?
 A: 

Jim Callis: This is a good one to wrap it up on. I always try to balance a guy's ceiling with the likelihood that he reaches it. And I try to balance his raw tools with his performance. His age relative to his league is important as well. There's no specific formula.

Moderator: Thanks to everyone for all the insightful Mariners questions. We'll be back Monday with our final prospect chat of the offseason, featuring the Rangers.