Preseason Review: Seattle Mariners top positional prospects

Not just arms in this system

A lot is made of the arms in Seattle’s system, but that doesn’t mean you should overlook the bats.

The system isn’t nearly as strong in this department, but still has some exceptional young players. The top level players are definitely Top 100 prospects in the MLB, and the others could be cracking that list sometime soon.

Taking a look around the diamond, here’s a breakdown of Seattle’s top positional prospects heading into 2013.

5. Gabriel Guerrero, OF

The nephew of Vladimir Guerrero, Gabriel Guerrero is a name to start watching (if you aren’t already).

Signed as an international free agent two years ago, Guerrero tore up the lower level leagues last season as an 18-year-old. He hit .349/.393/.593 with 15 home runs between the Dominican Summer League and rookie level ball last year.

It’s a little early to judge Gerrero’s tools, but the return looks promising. He’s got a big body, a lot of raw power and an arm perfect for a corner outfield spot.

If he can develop some speed, comparisons to his uncle will be inevitable.

4. Stefen Romero, 2B

Romero isn’t a name many people talk about, but man can this kid hit.

Keep your eye on Stefen Romero this year. (Photo: Jesse Skoubo, Gazette-Times)

Keep your eye on Stefen Romero this year. (Photo: Jesse Skoubo, Gazette-Times)

A product of Oregon State University, Romero hit a ridiculous .352/.391/.599 last year between High-A and Double-A. Enjoying his first Spring Training, he’s hitting .500/.500/1.000 in seven preseason games.

Romero isn’t the most toolsy guy out there, but he has a mature and smooth swing. The ball flys off his bat, and he could be an ideal leadoff hitter with a high average and 15-15 potential.

If Dustin Ackley continues to struggle—or gets moved across the diamond—Romero could crack the Major League roster sometime in 2013.

3. Brad Miller, SS

Miller is a little underrated in the system, but has caught a lot of people’s attention after his .334/.410/.512 season between High-A and Double-A last season.

Offensively Miller has good doubles potential (he hit 40 last season) and could knock out the occasional long ball. He might not be a .300 hitter year in and year out, but could hover around that range.

The thing Miller needs to improve on is the mental side of the game. He’s a slick defender, but forces plays which causes unnecessary errors. On the base paths he’s got speed, but gets caught too often. If he can get smarter, it’ll take him a long ways.

2. Nick Franklin, SS

Franklin struggled to adjust at Triple-A last season, but that doesn’t dismiss his .322/.394/.502 line at Double-A to start the year.

Zunino should have no problem cracking the Big League roster in 2013. (Photo: Seattle Times)

Zunino should crack the Big League roster in 2013 (Photo: Seattle Times)

The young shortstop is definitely toolsy, with a solid swing and fluid mechanics. The big department he needs to work on is discipline . He owns a .351 OBP in the minors, and had eight strikeouts in 14 games this spring.

Franklin’s power has diminished a bit, but he’s still capable of producing 30-40 doubles a season with a handful of home runs. If he can refine his pitch selection, he should hit for a strong average as well. That makes him an ideal two-hole hitter.

The only question mark is defense. Is he a pure shortstop, or better suited for a corner infield spot? We could find out our answer midway through this season if Franklin can produce at Triple A.

1. Mike Zunino, C

No one has made more noise in such a short time with the Mariner’s organization than Zunino.

The former Gator was drafted by the M’s in the first round of last year’s draft (No. 3 overall). and is already considered the top prospect in Seattle’s system.

As a catcher, Zunino has huge offensive upside. He has a smooth swing and great mechanics, not to mention his discipline at the plate. He can generate a lot of power with his bat, and should hit for a decent average year-to-year as well.

The x-factor with Zunino is that he plays good defense. His arm is strong, and he’s fearless with defending the plate. The only thing he could touch up on his game calling ability, but he’s still an upgrade over Jesus Montero in that department.

Topping out at Double-A last season, Zunino should be considered a lock for a September callup. As long as his development continues, expect full playing time in 2014.


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