Before delving in to today's post, I should mention something real quick. Kevin Cacebelos over at seatownsports.net approached me about writing a guest post, and that is now up. It's a closer look at the two M's in the futures game, Tyson Gillies and Alex Liddi. Check it out, as well as the whole blog. As the name suggests, they cover Seattle sports, and have all sorts of interesting content.
Chris Shelton, 3B - Shelton definitely falls under the category of non-prospect that could help out the team. In fact, rumor is that he will be called up today. To call Chris a third baseman is being polite, but he has played there regularly for Tacoma all season. The 29-year-old is here for his bat, plain and simple. It will be interesting to see how what Don Wakamatsu does with him, especially if he hits really well, given his limited defensive abilities.
Mike Carp, 1B - The most advanced prospect the M's got in the Putz deal is enjoying a fine first season in AAA. Plate discipline is Carp's greatest attribute, and he has enough power to go with it to post good enough power numbers to be the first base prospect Bill Bavasi never drafted. Carp has been playing outfield from time to time in Tacoma too, though I think that has as much to do with getting everyone playing time down there as anything else.
Jeff Clement, 1B - That's right, Jeff Clement is no longer a catcher. I'm surprised this has not been talked about more. It was pretty clear when Guillermo Quiroz was called up in front of him. It's also clear considering that Adam Moore has been the everyday catcher in Tacoma since being called up a few months ago. Clement has been DHing primarily for the Rainiers, but played first base last night. At this point he is a bat without a position, and he is almost 26 years old. He should have been moved to first base years ago by the Bavasi regime once he developed elbow problems, especially with the black hole the M's had in the farm system at first base. I think Clement is one of the most likely Mariners to get traded at the deadline, and if not at the deadline, then in the offseason. He is no longer a key part of the organization's plans, and I would argue he isn't really a part of the plan at all at this point.
Doug Fister, RHP - One number stands out for the 6'8" righty, his walks. He only has five of them the whole year. That's a little better than one every other start. He gets hit around, but he also gets a fair number of strikeouts and keeps the ball in the ballpark fairly well. A pitcher with Fister's command and at least decent stuff is worth paying some attention to.
Bryan LaHair, OF/1B - Sometimes it is funny how things work out. Bryan LaHair was an outfielder in college, but the Bavasi regime switched him to first base because they did not believe he would stick in the outfield as he developed. Then, despite a black hole at first base for a couple years, he never got a look in the majors until the roof caved in last year. Now, with Mike Carp around, LaHair is back in the outfield. The 26-year-old is having his best pro season yet, but he is basically the same player we saw last year with a little bit more power.
Adam Moore, C - Adam is the Mariners catcher of the future, if they have one in the system at this point. He is a little bit older at 25 years of age, but year by year has progressed through the minor league system. His power numbers are down this year, and they will need to come up for Moore to seriously challenge for the M's starting catcher spot. His best bet for improving them is better plate discipline. Moore has room to walk a little more. Still, he is likely to get called up in September, and get more than a cursory look in spring training next year.
Prentice Redman, OF - At 30 years old, Redman definitely is not a prospect, but he has been pretty good in Tacoma for a couple years now. He never really got a chance in the majors, which is a shame because he is good enough to be a reserve outfielder and right-handed pinch hitter.
Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP - When can we expect Hyphen18 back on the Safeco mound? Maybe sooner than later. His velocity has come back, and his last start was by far his best of the year. He went seving innings and delivered a very strong performance, throwing over 100 pitches along the way. The question is whether he is a better option than Jason Vargas, and that's debatable.
Michael Saunders, LF - The Victoria, BC native is not far away from the majors. He needs just one more home run to tie his total for all of 2008, and most of that season was spent in AA. Saunders is progressing quickly, and it is really encouraging to see power starting to come out of his 6'4" frame. He should be a September call-up, and he is the early favorite to start in left field on opening day 2010 for the M's if you ask me.
The lack of pitching prospects in Tacoma should not be too surprising or discouraging. The M's are carrying extra pitchers right now, and have been depleting by injuries too. Both Garrett Olson and Jason Vargas started the year in Tacoma, Ryan Feierabend is out for the year, and Cesar Jimenez is working back from an injury as well.
This wraps up a quick four-day tour of the Mariners minors. Some notable prospects were left out, including everyone in rookie leagues, but in the end I looked at 33 players that have put together good (or at least intriguing) seasons, with varying levels of potential. Overall, the system looks stronger this year than last, thanks to a good final draft by Bavasi, the Putz deal by Zduriencik, and perhaps the new development approach. Nobody has been rushed through the system this year, which was definitely something Bavasi had a bad habit of doing. Just like everything Jack Z has touched in this franchise so far, the farm system is on the rise.