Each Monday, SeattleClubhouse takes a look around the Seattle Mariners system to break down the hot and cold players. The goal is to concentrate on prospects and give the readers a better look around the depth in the system.
Over the past month we have touched on a few familiar names with a break down of what they did to stand out from the pack. This week, we are taking a look back at the performances of some top prospects and comparing those to the pre-season expectations for each.
Here is this week's Three Up, Three Down:
Vinnie Catricala - Jackson Generals: .350/.422/.603, 181 H, 100 runs, 48 2B, 4 3B, 25 HR, 106 RBI, 17 SB, 57 BB, 91 SO
Vinnie is quickly becoming a favorite of the site here, and of Mariners fans all over. The right-handed hitting corner outfielder/infielder came into the season owning a career .302 average, but as a 10th round pick in the 2009 draft, he wasn't seen as a top prospect in the organization, much less in minor league baseball as a whole.
After a monster season which has seen him rack up an OPS over 1.000 at two stops while ranking 2nd in the minors in extra base hits, 3rd in the minors in hits and doubles, 4th in average and 8th in RBI, it is very likely that Catricala will crack some Top-100 lists come 2012. The 22-year old has six homers and 11 RBI in his last nine games and now has a higher OPS in the Double-A Southern League (1.061) than he had in the hitter haven that is the California League (.996).
Vinnie has made strides at the plate in his plate discipline (career high 57 walks and 21 fewer strikeouts than 2010) and his power (25 HR, up from 17 a year ago) and has even chipped in with 17 stolen bases this season while starting 30-plus games at three separate positions in 2011. Vinnie Catricala is certainly a prospect that should be on Mariners' fans radars going forward.
Jose Campos - Everett Aquasox: 5-5, 2.32 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, .214 oAVG, 9.4 SO/9, 6.54 SO:BB ratio
Jose was somewhat of a known commodity heading into 2011, though he was usually referred to as Vicente Campos during his two seasons playing in the Venezuelan Summer League. The reports that came out on Campos typically were along the lines of, "big fastball, raw".
While the same can still probably be said, quite a bit of polish has been added to this gem over the last 3 1/2 months.
Although he still uses a mid-90s fastball, Campos has started to refine his secondary offerings and as a result the right-hander had more strikeouts than baserunners in seven of his final nine starts for the AquaSox. He did all of this damage while playing as the youngest representative of Everett, having just turned 19 at the end of July.
Campos ends this season undoubtedly in the Mariners Top-10, and although he is still a few seasons away, his future looks very bright indeed.
Taijuan Walker - Clinton Lumber Kings: 6-5, 2.89 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, .202 oAVG, 10.5 SO/9, 2.90 SO:BB ratio
While Walker was a high draft pick--selected 43rd overall in 2010--the timetable for his "arrival" as a prospect was certainly pushed forward considerably this season. And with just seven pro innings under his belt entering the year, no one could have expected what Taijuan accomplished in 2011.
He fanned 113 hitters while allowing 108 baserunners. He showed very good command of his mid-90s fastball. He pitched down in the zone with his fastball and curve and change, as evidenced by his 1.54 groundout-to-airout ratio on the season. And he was strong at the end of the season before being shut down due to innings.
Oh, and he did it all before his 19th birthday.
In my opinion, and based on what I've heard from others, a spot on the Top-100 prospect list is waiting for him before 2012. Walker is still young, but he has all the makings of a fast mover. Don't be surprised to see him pushed up to Double-A next season--possibly even right out of Spring Training.
Just missed the Top-3: High Desert OF Danny Carroll and Clinton left-hander James Paxton
Carroll has the High Desert caveat working against him, but he nearly quadrupled his previous career high in walks this season and showed a lot more power, even on the road.
Paxton, as a former first rounder, was expected to perform, but perhaps not this quickly. He shined throughout the season and has a shot at a big league spot in 2012.
Johermyn Chavez - Jackson Generals: .216/.312/.360, 95 H, 47 runs, 16 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 50 RBI, 6 SB, 49 BB, 124 SO
Coming off of a monster season in 2010, Chavez was a big question mark to a lot of so-called prospect experts: were his huge numbers a direct reflection of High Desert and the California League, or had he started to put together his immense talents and turned a corner as a pro?
Just one home run in his first 45 Double-A games seemed to make that answer glaringly clear. Plain and simply, the power never got going for Chavez this season, and frankly neither did any other part of his offensive game. His "best" month this season saw him hit .231/.333/.404. Hardly lights out, and while the Southern League in 2011 is much different than the California League in 2010, Chavez's OPS dropped from .964 last year to .672 this year, while the difference in the leagues is only .767 to .739.
The power ticked up in the second half for Chavez (7 of his 13 HR in roughly 30 fewer ABs) as did the plate discipline (33 BB to just 16 before the break), but this season is a big letdown. Due to the organizational depth at the position, it is very likely that Chavez will repeat Double-A in 2012.
Mauricio Robles - Tacoma Rainiers: 1-5, 8.91 ERA, 2.04 WHIP, .275 oAVG, 6.4 SO/9, 0.70 SO:BB ratio
Robles' season had a rough start as he was diagnosed with elbow problems in spring that led to surgery. That held the lefty out until mid-June, but the results at three different stops after his return were not encouraging, and he was eventually shut down for the year in early August with a forearm strain.
Even when things were going great for Robles, his control and command sometimes got away from him, but in 2011, he just never had it. 33 walks in 32 1/3 innings, three hit batters and four wild pitches speak to the extreme level of his struggles.
The good news is that his velocity did come back and that he is just 22-years-old. But the Venezuelan lefty is a ways down the list for starting pitching prospects now after a lost year in 2011.
James Jones - High Desert Mavericks: .247/.347/.378, 73 H, 42 runs, 16 2B, 4 3B, 5 HR, 29 RBI, 16 SB, 42 BB, 92 SO
After hitting .321/.387/.487 in the second half in 2010, some were ready to name Jones as the Mariners fourth best prospect heading into this year. That praise combined with his promotion to High-A High Desert spelled monster season for the 22-year-old left-handed hitting outfielder.
But that thorn in Jones' side known as "the first half" reared it's ugly head once again: .206/.313/.304 and just 2 HR were his numbers at the break.
James was absolutely killing the ball in July (.359/.446/.538, 9 XBH in 20 G), but he was injured and shut down for the year on July 23rd. Still, Jones is another outfielder that has struggled in what is a crowded outfield of prospects for the Mariners, and he is likely to repeat in High Desert next season. He'll play all of next season at age 23, so he does still have time to develop, but a 1st half not like his last two is required.
Just missed the Top-3: Everett infielder Marcus Littlewood and Jackson left-hander Edward Paredes
Littlewood had a demotion and the announcement of a pending position change (from shortstop to catcher) to deal with, but he ended the year below the Mendoza line with a lot of swings-and-misses.
All stats through games of 9/4.