APPLETON, Wisc. - The Seattle Mariners and their fans feel they have a few gems in their minor…
Prospect Power Rankings: 4/16
2. Matt Tuiasosopo, SS – Making the early season transition look easy, Tuiasosopo is limiting his strikeouts (just two in 25 PA's), while hitting the baseball as well as can be expected of an 18-year-old in the pitcher-friendly Midwest League. Now, if he could only find a defensive position.
3. Shin-soo Choo, LF – Choo's first 31 plate appearances in Triple-A weren't kind to the Korea native. Nine strikeouts and just two extra-base hits aren't the way the 23-year-old wanted to start the year.
4. Adam Jones, SS – "Showtime" has had a decent start with the 66ers, hitting three home runs in his first six games. Still striking out a bit too much early on with six whiffs in 26 plate appearances, Jones is off to a solid start.
5. Yung-Chi Chen, 2B – One of the more exciting players in the system, Chen has played second base and third base, while hitting .364 with a team-leading nine RBI. Chen might be the first promotion off the Timber Rattlers squad.
6. Bobby Livingston, LHP – The Lubbock native has been sensational in his first two starts of the year, allowing just two earned runs in 13 innings. Furthermore, Livingston has recorded 10 strikeouts and issues just one walk. Drawing a walk off of Livingston is becoming an accomplishment all by itself.
7. Yunieksy Betancourt, SS – After an impressive spring, the Cuban has carried the momentum into the regular season. Dazzling with the glove and surprising with the bat, Betancourt is living up to the major league contract the Mariners handed him in January.
8. Cha Seung Baek, RHP – Two solid starts to begin the season have Baek on speed dial for the M's – in case another starter goes down for the big club. Baek is a safe bet to see some time in the majors before the end of the year.
9. Wladimir Balentien, LF – Balentien's four home runs lead the entire organization and he's hitting over .300, too. Same goals for Wladimir as has been since he began affiliated baseball – more consistent contact, less strikeouts = even more power.
10. Jorge Campillo, RHP – Campillo, like teammate Baek, could be seeing the majors at any point, as soon as Ryan Franklin implodes or the club deems Meche's sore elbow as a serious issue. The control specialist could be a solid addition to help stabilize the back end of the rotation.
11. Thomas Oldham, LHP – Oldham, 23, could surprise some and earn co-ace status with fellow Missions left-hander Bobby Livingston. Two solid outings have him well on his way to another strong showing, this time in a tougher league.
12. Michael Morse, SS – While his defensive situation will continue to be decided, Morse's offensive skills are on display every day. The 23-year-old has the physical tools to develop plus power, much like that of another sizable shortstop, A's Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby. This is a big year with the bat for Morse's future prospect status.
13. Jamal Strong, CF – Healthy again and plugging right along, Strong is hitting, running, playing defense, and forcing pitchers to go deep into the count on a regular basis. Now, if he can stay physically sound, Strong is a top candidate to add some life to the Mariners bench in the big leagues. At this point, Strong's ceiling has probably dropped down to being a reserve outfielder.
14. Jason Snyder, RHP – Off to a solid start in the Midwest League, his first in full season ball, Snyder could earn a mid-to-late season promotion with consistent outings.
15. Jeff Heaverlo, RHP – A healthy Heaverlo could see prominent time in the Seattle bullpen this season. after missing two of the last three seasons with two separate arm injuries, the former Washington Husky star is back on the hill in a relief role and is taking advantage of his opportunity with three scoreless outings and just one walk issued.
16. Rene Rivera, C – The Mariners know Rivera can catch. They know he can throw. They've seen him block pitches in the dirt, block the plate on a play at home and gun down runners trying to steal. They are conifdent that his ability to call a game will be strong with more experience. Now they need to see him hit. Catchers aren't expected to hit as much as prospects at other positions, but Rivera must hold his own with the bat to stick in the majors. Rivera has seven hits in his first 23 at-bats (.304) at Double-A San Antonio.
17. Mark Lowe, RHP – Last year's fifth round pick is the surprise starting pitcher of the season with 12 shutout frames to start the 2005 campaign with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers. The Texas-Arlington product has allowed just six hits in two starts, walking four and striking out 10.
18. Aaron Jensen, RHP – After a disappointing 2004 season, Jensen is starting to show why he was so highly thought of coming out of high school in Utah. the rght-hander still has room to improve his control but is showing the necessary stuff to be a successful starting pitcher.
19. Roman Martinez, RHP – The right-handed middle reliever is showing the stuff that could ultimately land him a closer's role this season. At just 20 years of age, Martinez has surrendered just three hits in six innings and has truck out seven of 23 batters faced. At some point, Martinez may get a shot to join the rotation, but until then, he's off to a hot start in relief.
20. Rob Johnson, C - The University of Houston product came to the Mariners in last June's draft with a reputation as a good hitting backstop with solid catch and throws skills. The 21-year-old didn't hit much in 20 games at Everett last season (.234, HR, 7 RBI in 77 AB), but the Butte, Montana native has his bat working early this season. Johnson is hitting .320 in Wisconsin, with a home run and eight RBI, already eclipsing his totals with the AquaSox in 2004.
21. Mumba Rivera, RHP – After spending most of his first season as a pro in the bullpen, Rivera is back in the rotation in Wisconsin this season. After one start, Rivera's looking like he might break out and make a move through the system this summer. Five innings isn't muchto go on, but five strikeouts, one walk and four hits allowed is a nice beginning.
22. Aaron Trolia, RHP – The Tacoma native and former Washington State hurler has made one relief appearance and one start, totalling 4.2 innings. Eighteen batters faced – one hit allowed, six strikeouts. His stuff is working early on in the 66ers season and if he keeps this up, he'll justify the somewhat surprising assignment to the Inland Empire roster.
23. Eric O'Flaherty, LHP – Three appearances, three innings pitched, three shutout frames. O'Flaherty seems to be back on track with a strong spring and a perfect start to 2005, after a tough season in the Midwest League last year. The Walla Walla native is currently serving as one of the closers for the Timber Rattlers and notched his first save last week.
24. Chad Fillinger, RHP – Fillinger is holding opponents to a .118 average through his first five innings of work. Fillinger is sharing the closing duties with O'Flaherty and is also flourishing early on this season.
25. Oswaldo Navarro, 2B – Navarro is again showing his defensive prowess up the middle, playing both second base and shortstop to near perfection. At the plate, Navarro is still slapping singles through the infield (.281) and stealing bases (3), as always.
NOTE: Chris Snelling, Shawn Nottingham, Casey Craig, Travis Blackley, Clint Nageotte, Ryan Christianson, Scott Atchison, Greg Jacobs and Jesus Guzman were not considered due to their inactive status.
Jeremy Reed was not considered due to being on the 25-man roster, though technically he retains prospect status.
Justin Leone was not considered due to spending all but two days of the minor league season on the 25-man roster, through April 14.
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