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2009 West Tenn Diamond Jaxx At a Glance

Ezequiel CarreraMy Mariners midyear organizational review continues with a look at their AA team, the West Tennessee Diamond Jaxx. It has been a tough year for the team, though they are hot right now with six wins in a row. Even with the winning streak, their overall record for the season is 38-48. Still, there are a few Mariners prospects on the team worth mentioning and watching in the second half of the season:

Phillipe Aumont, RHP - The M's 2007 first-round draft pick was recently promoted to West Tennesee from High Desert, and so far so good. The new M's regime switched Aumont to the bullpen because they feel his mentality is better suited for it, and it also puts him on a faster track to the majors. His stuff is ready for the majors (remember how silly he made David Wright look in the World Baseball Classic?), but it is a matter of consistency for Phillipe. Considering he is only 20 and still growing into his 6'7" frame, a little inconsistency is more than understandable. It is only a matter of when Aumont joins the M's bullpen, not if. I think at least half a season in Tacoma would do him good, but a strong spring training in 2010 could land him a spot on the opening day roster. I would definitely send Phillipe to the Arizona Fall League after this season for a little extra work.

Ezequiel Carrera, CF - With all the players the M's acquired in the Putz trade that have already contributed at the major league level, it is easy to forget about the younger prospects in the deal. Carrera was one of them, and all he is doing is batting .320 with a .438 on-base percentage and great speed at the top of the Diamond Jaxx lineup. He just turned 22 and should be in Tacoma by next year. Carrera is similar to High Desert prospect Tyson Gillies.

Josh Fields, RHP - Last year's first round draft pick has a 4.70 ERA so far, but in his case that is a terrible judge of the season he is having. Josh is all about a power fastball and power curve, and after nearly a year off thanks to how long contract negotiations were, he figured to be rusty. He was, as evidenced by his high walk rate. However, his batting average against is under .200, and he is striking out well over a batter per inning. Moreover, half his walks came in April, and his ground ball to fly ball ratio has gone from around .5 to 1 at the start of the season to around 1 to 1 now. Josh is getting the ball down and in the strike zone as he shakes the rust off. His stuff is already major league quality, so it is only a question of command. I would definitely send Fields to the Arizona Fall League once the season is over, and prime him to come into spring training next year and compete for a spot in the Mariners bullpen. He is closer than his season statistics indicate.

Greg Halman, OF - A break-out 2008 season transformed Halman from a toolsy talent to one of the M's top prospects. Just 21 years old, Halman is having an interesting season in AA. His batting average is only .215, which is not surprising with his 114 strikeouts and just 17 walks in 274 at-bats. His plate discipline leaves plenty to be desired. However, 34 of his 59 hits are for extra bases, including 20 home runs! Halman has serious power, especially for his age. He also has good speed, though his stolen base numbers have plummeted this year. Halman needs to work counts more, and shortening his stroke would not be a bad idea either. Still, despite major flaws that would sink most 21-year-olds in AA, Halman is staying afloat. He probably has the most raw talent of any Mariner farmhand.

Nick Hill, LHP - The 24-year-old West Point graduate has found a home in the bullpen this year. Though a southpaw, he has been more effective against righties, but the split is not too drastic even in a limited sampling size. Hill keeps the ball on the ground and strikes out more than his fair share of batters. He should be in Tacoma next year, but also could be a dark horse to make the M's 2010 opening day roster, like 2008 Diamond Jaxx pitchers Chris Jakubauskas and Shawn Kelley did.

Kyle Parker, RHP - The 24-year-old UW graduate is putting together a solid season for the Diamond Jaxx. He has been solid and productive at every level so far, and though nothing stands out, he is a local product on track to be in Tacoma next year. Parker reminds me a bit of Ryan Franklin as a prospect - nothing real flashy, but if he gets a chance in the majors, he may stick around for a while.

Justin Souza, RHP - Justin split last year between low and high A, pitching primarily out of relief. This year, he has pitched primarily as a starter, and despite the new level and role is putting up comparable numbers to his 2008 performance. Souza generally does not work deep into ballgames, so his home may ultimately be in relief. He is also a fly ball pitcher, though those fly balls do not leave the ballpark often. Souza's good command certainly helps.

Between Aumont, Fields, and Hill, it seems likely that at least one player currently on the West Tennessee roster will play for the Mariners at some point next year. Looking down the road (perhaps as early as 2011), Aumont and Fields could be an end of the game tandem unlike Seattle has ever had. Can you imagine King Felix or Brandon Morrow handing the game to those two after seven strong innings of work? It is fun to think about.

Tomorrow wraps up the minor league portion of the Mariners midseason review with a look at AAA Tacoma. It will be a bit of an anticlimactic finish because so much of the talent has been up with the Mariners already, but it is where any help from inside the organization this year will come from.