Though the unofficial halfway mark for the MLB, the All-Star Break, is still a month away, minor league teams are about halfway through their seasons now. Since the low level leagues divide the season into two halves, conveniently around the draft, it's fairly typical to see players who have done quite well so far this year to get promoted throughout the system. So, here's a look at some Mariners prospects that are most likely to get promoted:
Andrew Barb, RP - Barb, acquired in the Jamie Moyer trade, has served as the closer for the TimberRattlers and he's been sensational, with a sub-1.00 WHIP and striking out well over a batter an inning. Like Kantakevich, he has nothing more to prove at this level.
Joseph Kantakevich, RP - Another product of last year's draft class, Kantakevich has done everything that can be asked of a reliever, even pitching multiple innings at times. He's got nothing left to prove at this level.
Kyle Parker, SP - Parker, a UW product, was drafted last year and so far has stood out, thanks to a dazzling whip hovering around 1.00. Nothing else is especially great about his numbers, but especially given how weak the High Desert staff has been, he's done enough to deserve a promotion to see what he can do. The lower minor league levels are going to have to be cleared out some anyway to make room for all the pitchers drafted this year.
HIGH DESERT (A-Advanced)
Casey Craig, OF - Craig has served primarily as High Desert's leadoff hitter, and he's done a marvelous job. He has shown good speed, a little power, but most impressively great plate discipline and the ability to hit for average. Craig has been on a tear the last couple weeks and has raised his batting average to almost .350 on the season. Though he's playing in a very hitter-friendly park, plate discipline and speed are not impacted by friendly confines.
Michael Saunders, OF - Saunders is on pace for a 20-homer, 40-steals year, all while hitting .300 with an OBP around .400. As with Craig, his stats are buoyed by the hitter's paradise he plays his home games in, but at the same time nobody else on the ballclub has flashed power and speed like Saunders.
Adam Moore, C - I wasn't happy when the M's drafted yet another catcher last year, but that guy turned out to be this guy, Adam Moore. All Moore has done is flash 30-homer potential with good hitting and plate discipline. He looks like a good, old-fashioned slugger. However, his power numbers could be largely a product of the ballpark he plays in. Still, I'd gladly demote current Diamond Jaxx backstop Rene Rivera to High Desert to see if Moore could bat better than .200 with just a hint of power in AA.
WEST TENNESSEE (AA)
Travis Chick, SP - Chick got hammered in a brief stint in Tacoma, but he's flat-out dominated AA in a couple outings. He's not getting challenged right now, so it's time to move him to Tacoma.
Brent Johnson, OF - Johnson has quietly hit well at all levels, and he's continued that trend at West Tennessee. He hasn't shown much power, but he can definitely hit. He's right on the bubble, but I would push him to Tacoma to make more room for Saunders and Craig. Still, there's a playing time issue in Tacoma too, thanks to Jeremy Reed, Adam Jones, and Wladimir Balentien.
Adam Jones, OF - The improvement Adam Jones has made in the last two and a half years is astounding, and he continues to get better seemingly every day. His strikeout rate is still worrisome, but he's batting .330 with a ton of extra base hits. On top of that, he's developing into an excellent defensive player. If the M's could find a decent deal for Jose Guillen, I would trade him, move Ichiro back to right field, and hand center over to Adam Jones. Jones has as much power as Guillen, and his defense is much better at this point.
Mike Morse, IF - It could be argued that Morse isn't a prospect anymore, but what can't be argued is that Morse is hitting very well for the Rainiers right now, and his versatility makes him even more enticing as a bench player for the M's right now. If I were in charge, I would bring up Morse and send down Bloomquist, because little versatility is lost and a legitimate right-handed pinch-hitter is gained. Jason Ellison could become the main pinch-runner, and maybe even get to play a little more in the outfield too.
Wladimir Balentien, OF - Balentien seems to have put power and discipline together this year for the very first time. Two years ago, he had lots of power with few walks, and last year lots of walks but diminished power. Maybe Wladimir is a one-year wonder, but there's plenty of reason to believe this is simply him developing. What's also overlooked is his versatility (he can play all three outfield positions), and his speed (he's on pace for over 20 steals this year). Much has been made about his strikeouts, but he's actually struck out less than the more-touted Adam Jones. It could even be argued that Balentien is more major-league ready than Jones at this point. I'd consider moving Raul to first base full time, benching Sexson, and seeing what Balentien can do. However, more realistically, Balentien will compete for a spot with the Mariners next year.
Jorge Campillo, SP - Though it was Ryan Feierabend that got called up for a few spot starts this year, it's Campillo that has been the best pitcher on the Rainiers staff all year long. He's no ace, but he doesn't give up many home runs, and he could be a reliable starter at the back end of the rotation right now. The only problem is that Campillo is not on the 40-man roster, which prohibits him from being called up without someone already on the 40-man getting released. However, if the M's don't protect Jorge somehow, I think someone will be smart enough to purchase his contract and give him a chance.