Prospect trade values, Hitters
Part 1 - cuz I write too much
Haven't had a lot of time this offseason, but figured since we were talking about trade options, I might as well lay out my feelings (again, probably) on the top players that still count as "Down on the Farm," - a top 15-20 exploration.  
First up: hitters.  Numbering is for ease of reference, and I'm not including 2014 draft picks or international free agents since they can't really be traded til a year after they signed.  The offseason is a little soon for an 8 month PTBNL delay.  For the record, I like Alex Jackson to acquit himself well and see all sorts of former high-dollar international signees in Morgan - none of whom did anything.  Here's hoping Morgan can build himself up one step at a time, but Jackson was always gonna be on a faster track. Brayan Hernandez has nice tools and a swing that isn't overly ambitious, so I'm hoping he can avoid the pitfalls of our myriad other international hitting disasters... but he's 16, so let him play a little state-side first.
I'm also leaving off major-league guys - you've all seen Brad Miller, Chris Taylor, James Jones, Michael Saunders, etc for yourselves.  Spoiler alert:  we have a LOT of tradable pieces, but few real headliners. Ages are as of Opening Day 2015.
8) Tyler Marlette - 23 yo RH catcher
Upside: Lance Parrish
Downside: Any of a hundred catchers who didn't make it. Let's go with Ryan Christianson.
Heat Meter: 5 (Half-time catcher in offensive park)
Trade value: 2nd or quality 3rd option to talent evaluators, but harder sell to fans.
Marlette is an offense-first catcher, but don't let that fool you: his defensive tools are just fine.  The guy has a gun and throws out almost 40% of runners (compared to Jeff Clement's 26% or Jesus Montero who could barely pass 20%). The Mariners are making sure he can handle a pitching staff, get better at pitch framing, those sorts of things... but the guy has all the tools to make a go of it behind the dish.  
Including a pretty nice power swing.  When he first got to the minors it was a pull-happy swing but he's getting better at using the whole field. He's just raw, and the Ms are taking it slow with him.  He hasn't caught more than 90 games in a season, and they're not using him at DH either (only played in 2 games the last 2 years where he wasn't catching).  And that's a bit odd considering he's a .290/.335/.460 hitter while being a couple years under level at every stop.  You'd think at some point they'd either have him catch more games or play more 1B/DH when he's not behind the dish.
His eye's not the best currently (and got worse this year), but it's survivable at this point. I really don't expect him to hit that Lance Parrish upside, but ya never know - and somebody like Russell Martin isn't out of reach. The kid has a lot of promise and has gotten a bit of national buzz. He might be our best hitting prospect at a glove position in the minors, and could be a piece that would sway a deal in our favor.
7) Ji-Man Choi - 23 yr old LH 1B/DH
Upside: Victor Martinez / Mike Sweeney (stop laughing, I'm not kidding)
Downside: Casey Kotchman 
Heat-meter: 4 (had some shade thrown his way with the 'roid suspension and lackluster season)
Trade value: A rusty bucket and some balls to toss in it
Victor Martinez at first base is not a bad thing to aim for.  Like V-Mart, Choi worked behind the plate.  He won't do it going forward thanks to his back issue, but also like V-Mart Choi hits pretty equally against lefties or righties (and at home or away), and doesn't have tremendous power.  His value comes from gap hitting, a good eye and willingness to take first by any means necessary, and the ability to hit .300. It's basically impossible to project whether Choi's .109 (!?) iso this year is indicative of a man without any extra juice in his swing, or whether it was just a down half-season (even V-Mart has had those himself). 
Ji-Man's template is to hit .280+, have around hundred points of patience (a decent portion of which are HBP) with a relatively even batting eye, and ISO in the .180 range.  He does it at every level, no matter how raw he is compared to his league mates.  This is the Mike Sweeney / Victor Martinez / whoever template at 1B or DH.  Victor wasn't a full-time big-leaguer til 25, and Sweeney almost quit baseball when he figured it out - also at 25.  Choi's countryman, Shin-soo Choo, was thrown away as a 4th OF til he found his stride and began racking up large seasons... at 25. Choi doesn't have Shin-Soo's problems with left-handed pitching, either. So my message to the Mariners is: don't quit too early. Choi is a return-to-form from being your DH of the future who can play a good 1B to boot.  I'm not throwing in the towel on him until I'm absolutely sure his ability to hit has cratered for good - because huge HR power was never the reason he had value.
6) Gabe Guerrero - 21 yo RH OF
Upside: Vlad-Guerrero-lite
Downside: Johermyn Chavez / T.J. Bohn
Heat-meter: 7 (bloodlines value, Cal League All-Star, "raw")
Trade value: A name-value 2nd piece, recognizable and with credentials.
Gabriel's style is incredibly reminiscent of his uncle Vlad's - except Gabe struck out more this year than Vlad did in his entire minor league career. Vlad never struck out 100 times in a season in his pro career, while Gabe has done it in back-to-back seasons.  I'm leery of bloodlines selections or name value alone, and asking our Guerrero to hit like THAT Guerrero is like asking another outfielder to copy Ichiro's style and have similar success.  What worked for that unique player may never work for another one in my lifetime quite that well.  Gabe's swing is not ideal because it requires him to be another unique snowflake - tough to do when it takes a plethora of different talents to succeed hitting that way.
I'm afraid he's about to fall off the prospect cliff when he gets out of the Desert and into AA. Guerrero is a .300-hitting OF with a ton of raw power potential (that hasn't made it into many games yet) who is very raw and inexperienced.  He could absolutely turn into a minor star - or fail entirely.  He just reminds me an awful lot of Johermyn Chavez, who looked like he might be putting it together at 20-21 but then faced harder pitching in AA and couldn't correct his fatal flaws.
Perhaps Gabe's strong wrists and learning curve can overcome his large strike zone and approach. We know it's possible, and he's seen it first-hand with Uncle Vlad.  But I wouldn't bet on it.  If Gabe has the same trade value as Kivlehan (or more), then I would absolutely move Gabe first. He's very high on my Tradable List this offseason before he hits any of the struggles I expect for him. 
5) Tyler O'Neill - 19 yo RH OF
Upside: Josh Willingham / Nelson Cruz
Downside: washout like our other international sluggers who can't hit breaking balls
Heat-meter: 6 (intriguing teen in full-season ball, missed half the year)
Trade value: A David-Arias-style throw-in (who is better known now as David Ortiz for you young-uns)
Tyler gets little respect nationally, but as another raw international player he started off this year by taking it right to the MWL.  He has a bit of a competitor's temper, and lost half the year to a broken hand that he got by punching a dugout wall in frustration.  His father was an international body-builder and Mr. Canada, and "Tank" picked up that weight room affinity in a Gabe Kapler kind of way. He does not have the body of a teenage baseball player, so his power growth isn't likely to be there as he ages - but luckily he's already a thumper so that's not a big deal.
Some of you may remember my aphorism that if you OPS .800+ in the MWL that your chances of being a rather notable player go way up.  It's a hard thing to do.  Tank OPSed .790 in half a year, with a .220 ISO and while doing more damage against same-handed pitching. He needs to not strike out every 3 plate appearances, obviously, but that happened after his return from the broken hand.  He was basically angry, and K'ed 45% of his August ABs while slugging .600.  His first two months of the year his K rate wasn't that outrageous.  Once he stops swinging from his heels and trusts his swing and natural power he should be fine.  And he'll still be 19 through June of NEXT year - the kid has time to get it together. Next year could be a huge one for his value.
If my "Trade Value" comments are unclear, let me clean it up here:  none of these 4 guys can headline their own major trade at this point.  ANY of them could following good performances next year. So do you hold em and hope that they demolish the competition next season, or trade them in a package while they still have some value? 
Considering some of the positional redundancy in the minors as they move up, we're gonna have to figure that out. But for now, onward and upward.  Part 2 of this list here



Isn't that what the first guy in used to say at LL when they got like 500 comments to a Jeff Sullivan thread ...
Re-timestamp to put the bottom of the list first, correct?
Saving my own "Tomorrow's News Today" sofa time for Thursday morning Gordon .... thanks mucho!


's a great point about people 'subconsciously' pairing him with Vlad -- whereas we're likely to never again see Vlad Guerrero.  That is a conversation-ender.
A lot of times when I see prelim Top 100's, it has three M's hitter on it ... DJ, Alex Jackson (solidly), and ... Gabe Guerrero (fringe).  For example, the M's own site has Guerrero 3rd in the system, behind only those two.
Any comment on that?  You've got "7" on the heat meter, acknowledging the excitement, but .... does it have any merit to rank him ahead of Austin Wilson, Kivlehan, Marte, Hultzen, etc?   Can't imagine drafting Guerrero (today) ahead of the likes of those guys.
If you had to argue in a court of law that Guerrero is the M's #3 protectee in an expansion draft (per the M's-site list) how would you argue it?


As DJ could now, I take it you're saying.
Very provocative, that any of these 4 players could emerge like that imminently.  That's a generic comment about big years for minor leaguers or an admiration of their special talent?


These two threads are an analogue for "Hey Bill" at BJOL, except it's micro-targeted to the M's minors.
Youse guys should exploit the opportunity.  .... In fact maybe that's a feature we should nest on the front page?
Hey Gordon for the minors, Hey Mojo for political/legal issues, Hey Matt for math-intensive saber, Hey Doc for requests to take the site down ... I'm not entirely kidding on some of those.


Thanks Doc. :) I keep wishing for more time in my schedule to talk baseball, but for a little bit longer I'm trapped away from the site for large swaths of the day. Shouldn't be much longer, I hope.
And the case for Gabe Guerrero goes like this: He was just 20 in the Cal League, was chosen to play in the Futures Game (alongside Peterson) and was chosen as a mid-season All-Star OVER DJ.  He's about Saunders-sized and can swipe 20+ bags a year if he wants to. That rawness in his approach makes people dream about his upside.
I guess I've just seen too many "Electric Bat" Pimentels in my time as an Ms fan who can't adjust to better pitching.  Now, Gabe DID get better from his first stint in full season in the MWL last year (where he OPSed .660 in a pitcher's league but average park).  He OPSed .770 on the road in the Cal League, which is a nice improvement.  I'm not saying he doesn't have interesting tools, because he absolutely does.  He can hit the ball hard, and he can put balls sharply in play that were not in the zone, like his uncle, but I'm way leery.
It's like Marte.  Ketel has a great baseball attitude, is a total gamer, can make some special plays in the field (when he's not messing up other plays), hits .300, is a flat baby out there compared to his competition... but it just feels to me like cheering for David Eckstein.  There is absolutely nothing wrong with having one of those in your system, but I wouldn't consider him your most valuable prospect if you have any kind of system.
Gabby is a good prospect, has lots of upside and time to grow into it - but he's not the third best prospect in our system for me.
If he's valued by other teams as the third best player in our system and fairly equivalent to Peterson, then by all means let them give us a vital piece for Guerrero at that price.  I'm all ears.


Part of it is situational:
- O'Neill and Wilson should start off in the Cal League next year, with Wilson on the Peterson/ Kivlehan half-season promotion plan.  We're switching parks, thankfully, but Bakersfield is still decently offensive-minded (though not to the ridiculous degree that High Desert was, or Lancaster is) so both guys should look good there hitting balls into the setting sun.
- Choi is repeating AAA (sort of, since he didn't have a full year there) and without the suspension breaking up his year I expect him to do well.
- Austin Jackson should get into full-season ball and have a chance to really impress.  
- Kivlehan and Peterson should both be healthy and ready for AAA.
- And we still have room for surprises (like Pizzano, Marte, Guerrero, Smith, Marlette... whoever).
I expect the hitters in the system to do well next year.  Not so sold on our starting pitching, but there are some guys who could still really impress in the low minors, and Diaz will be ready to start his climb up to the upper minors to join Sanchez, Landazuri and co (assuming they're still here).
This was a weird year with injuries for several of our top prospects (Wilson, O'Neill, Landazuri, even DJ a bit among others).  Nothing especially serious or career-threatening, which is good.  Just some missed time masking a bit of the talent in the system.  I expect those clouds to clear next year.
When Austin Wilson is pulling a Kris Bryant-like explosion next year in the Cal League, that value will climb. Here's hoping, anyway. ;-) He's got the talent for it. If he has the year he SHOULD have, he's another headliner.  O'Neill can absolutely be a top-100 player after next season, especially with his power potential - which can be Springer-esque. 
Marlette has me really curious - if he can handle a full-time catching gig, his performance could be pretty special.  Just a lot of guys who could take off - and at least a couple of them should. I'm feeling pretty strong about our young hitters.
Top Ms hitters, 2008: Clement, Triunfel, Balentien, Saunders, Tui... and nobody
Top Ms hitters, 2014: Jackson, Peterson, Kivlehan, Wilson, O'Neill, Marte, Guerrero, Marlette, Morgan and more
Even if Marte and Guerrero turn out to be Triunfel and Balentien, I like rest to be better than Clement, Tui and Saunders for sure. 
It's nice not to have to have EVERY decent prospect hit his upside in order to tread water. Rather than having to pray for luck, we just have to NOT get unlucky - normal prospect success rates will bring us a couple of good major leaguers without any special thumb on the scale.  If we can add a hitter and a pitcher every year from the farm, the Mariners can be a self-sustaining contender even with our weirdly-constricted budget.
Let's hope that's how it works out, anyway.

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