1. Michael Saunders: I have gone on record stating that Saunders is one of the very few prospects with true 30/30 ability. He has the skills to be a .300 hitter to boot. Judging by his brief major league debut, however, I am a bit leery of his ability to fully transition, leading me to believe that he will not live up to every bit of his potential. But he has a legit chance at stardom, and therefore he is the best that Seattle has to offer.
2. Carlos Triunfel: Triunfel’s 2009 was cut very short, which is a shame considering his youth compared to the level of competition he was facing. I think he can stick at shortstop, raising his value, and his overall bat is too good to ignore. His stock remains strong in my book, despite the lost season.
3. Dustin Ackley: While he has good bat speed and oodles of polish, Ackley is far too hyped for his projection. His power/speed combination faces question marks transitioning into pro ball and is simply not in the realm of fellow farmhand Michael Saunders’ skill set.
4. Alex Liddi: Liddi posted a monster season in the hitter-friendly and age-appropriate California League, but he still has much to prove. Double-A is always the first true test, especially for a player transitioning out of the California League, and I am still quite skeptical of his strikeout rate and ability to hit quality breaking stuff. The Advanced-A numbers cannot be ignored, though.
5. Rich Poythress: Poythress was selected in the second round of the 2009 draft for one simple reason: his mammoth power potential. His bat has holes and is a bit on the slow side, his approach needs work, his speed is a liability, and his defense is limited. But boy does he have a powerful bat. I’m torn on his stock, so I’ll just cautiously keep an eye on him.
6. Tyson Gillies: If it weren’t for Alex Liddi, everyone would be singing the praises of Gillies. Both starred for the High Desert Mavericks, but Gillies took a different approach. He demonstrated every skill necessary to become a good major league leadoff hitter. As with Liddi, though, I’m hesitating a bit until I see his performance against better competition in a more balanced league.
7. Phillippe Aumont: Everyone loves the stuff that Aumont brings to the ballpark, but, when it comes right down to it, he is now strictly a relief pitcher. While he could become Seattle’s closer in short order, his bullpen status hurts his stock.
8. Mike Carp: As a first baseman, Carp honestly isn’t anything special, and he probably never will be. But I like him. He has a solid shot at being an average first baseman with his polished all-around bat.
9. J.C. Ramirez: Don’t let his California League numbers throw you off too much. Ramirez has good upside with his strong fastball and potentially plus slider. His questionable strikeout total in 2009 does raise an eyebrow, but I’m willing to ride it out for another year.
10. Michael Pineda: For his age, Pineda’s control is spot on. His low-90s fastball has plenty of deception and has registered strong strikeout numbers. His durability and secondary offerings are concerning, though, leaving his value in limbo. He is another prospect that will be seeing Double-A competition for the first time in 2010.
1. Justin Smoak: The only valid question mark on Smoak’s resume is his projected home run power. Otherwise he has everything one looks for in a middle-of-the-order force. Texas could have Mark Teixeira Part 2 in its farm system.
2. Neftali Feliz: After a frustrating start to the 2009 season, Feliz turned up the heat as the weather warmed. His season culminated with a jaw-dropping 31-inning major league bullpen stint that left little doubt about his prospect status. Whether or not he has the repertoire and endurance to excel as a starter remains to be seen, but, if all else fails, he will be a prominent bullpen mainstay for years to come.
3. Martin Perez: It is virtually impossible to have a more impressive resume as an 18-year-old than what Perez can brandish. If you’re forcing me to nitpick, his slight build is concerning, leaving question marks about the upside of his velocity, and you always have to be cautious about the arm of any teenage pitching phenom. But that’s it. Otherwise I wouldn’t change a thing.
4. Robbie Ross: He has a long way to go and much to prove, but Ross has upside in his fastball, despite his short stature, and the makings of a true out pitch with his change-up.
5. Kasey Kiker: It’s tough to ignore the bulldog mentality that Kiker brings to the mound. He has to be a bulldog if he plans to survive as a 5-foot-10 starting pitcher. His repertoire is strong and varied but far from ace-like. He is one to watch as a potential mid-rotation starter, but his upside is limited.
6. Michael Main: Many were expecting a breakout 2009 performance, but Main’s health had other ideas. His velocity and confidence were down, and his control took a step backward. His immense upside is still present, however. Maybe we will get his breakout in 2010.
7. Tanner Scheppers: Scheppers has a reputation for delivering a plus fastball/curveball combination, but his control and mechanics may need an overhaul before he sees success as a professional. His past shoulder problems throw up a red flag as well.
8. Max Ramirez: The main question with Ramirez still lies in his ability to be a full-time big league catcher. He doesn’t project to hit for much of a batting average, but his power is noteworthy, especially from a backstop. I’m willing to overlook his injury-plagued 2009 and give his game a chance to regain its form.
9. Wilfredo Boscan: There is much to like about Boscan’s right arm. He has a diverse repertoire that is suited for a starter, his movement is lively, and his control is spot-on. The only thing that leaves him near the bottom of this top-10 list is his shockingly low strikeout rate in 2009. Maybe it’s a fluke, but if he doesn’t pick up the pace he will have a difficult time succeeding against better competition.
10. Wilmer Font: Font is a young man whose reputation is built on upside. His frame has room to grow, leaving many to believe that a consistent mid-90s fastball could be in his future, but consistent movement from all of his pitches has been lacking. His secondary offerings and control leave much to be desired at this point as well.