mariners

Prospect Watch: A look at bats on the rise for the Seattle Mariners

Hitters, not just pitchers, showcase farm depth

As profiled by the first “Prospect Watch” piece, the Seattle Mariners have three amazing pitchers in their farm system. That doesn’t mean you can discount the bats.

Seattle is learning that pitching can’t win games if you don’t score a run. That’s imperative, because it’s been a long time since this system produced a worthwhile bat.

Hitters used to be the MO of a farm system that developed such players as Edgar Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Alex Rodriguez. The only notable position player to come through the system since A-Rod is Adam Jones—traded to Baltimore for Erik Bedard.

Jack-Z has put a new importance on drafting hitters, as evidenced by his first draft pick—as Seattle’s GM—Dustin Ackley.

With a new focus on developing players on both sides of the diamond, where does most of the hitting talent lie?

Francisco Martinez

Francisco Martinez, Seattle Mariners

Francisco Martinez has the potential to add some runs in the big leagues.

Acquired in 2011 as part of the Doug Fister trade to Detroit, Francisco Martinez has some of the rawest upside in the Mariners system.

Signed as a 17-year old out of Venezuela, Martinez is your prototypical five-tool talent, with all the potential and rawness in the world.

Martinez has the ability to be an offensive monster. He belted 10 home runs and stole 10 bases last season between AA Erie and Jackson, while hitting .289/.321/.426.

His biggest mystery tool is defense. Despite a cannon arm and smooth transition, he’s had trouble developing the instincts that come with third base. In the long term, there’s a great chance he’s moved to a corner outfield spot.

Currently, Martinez is having a bit of an underwhelming season. He’s hitting a mere .253 with 1 home run at AA Jackson. However, he’s shown great instincts on the bases, swiping 21 bags while being caught just three times. Walking just 23 times in 2011, Martinez already has 25 in 2012, showing a great increase in plate discipline.

Given his tool set, he’s essentially a less defensively savvy version of Adam Jones. That means if the current trends of patience and speed continue, Martinez could be a great leadoff man at the Major League level.

Nick Franklin

Nick Franklin‘s a name that’s been tossed around for a long time amongst Mariner fans. With a valiant effort in 2012, the kid is putting his name back on the map.

A switch hitting high schooler out of Florida, Franklin was the Mariner’s other first round pick (27th overall) of the 2009 draft.

He immediately impressed the brass. As a 19-year old at A Clinton, Franklin slugged 23 home runs and swiped 25 bags for the LumberJacks. Unfortunately, the power would seem to tap out as Franklin had just 2 homers at AA Jackson in 2011. However, he did hit .325 and post an OBP of .371.

Determined to get his name back on top, Franklin has been a stud in 2012. The power is still lackluster, but he’s continued to hit above .300 while posting a solid OBP of .394. His .896 OPS at Jackson is the highest of his minor league career, and it’s since earned him a promotion to AAA Tacoma.

Mike Zunino, Seattle Mariners

How quickly will 2012 draftee Mike Zunino rise through the Mariners farm system?

A solid defender with average arm strength, Franklin profiles at either second or short. With Dustin Ackley at second, it’s most likely Franklin remains at short. He’s not going to pocket any Gold Gloves, but he’s good enough that he won’t become a liability.

Though Franklin’s had trouble hitting bombs, he’s still showed impressive line drive abilities and doubles power. He definitely has the ability to be a 20-20 player at the major league level with an OBP well above .370.

If Franklin stays at short (which I believe he will) those kinds of numbers make him an instant All-Star.

Mike Zunino

Okay, I might be jumping the gun here.

Mike Zunino, the Mariner’s first round pick (3rd overall) of the 2012 draft has yet to sign.

But this isn’t football and very rarely do college players return to school to finish their senior year. Especially those taken as high as Zunino. So, it’s not “if” he’ll sign, but “when.”

There’s not enough to say about this kid. He displays amazing tools for a catcher, and was by far the best college level position player in the draft. Zunino was awarded the 2012 Howser Award—think of it like the Heisman of baseball—and was just named Baseball America’s College Player of the Year.

A big bodied catcher, Zunino displays great hit tools. In 2012, he hit .322/.394/.669 for the Gators with 19 home runs, 67 RBI and 9 stolen bases in 10 attempts. He also smacked 28 doubles.

Defensively, Zunino has the makings of a great backstop—something Seattle hasn’t had for some time.

He features above average game calling with an ability to frame pitches. Great quickness on his catch and release should allow him to throw out plenty of runners.

All-in-all, the M’s have something special in Zunino. What’s there not to like about 20 home runs, 30-40 doubles, a .380 OBP and gold glove defense from a catcher.

Though he’s yet to play in a professional game, Zunino is still the most promising bat in the Mariners farm system.

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