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Hot Stone League

Larry Stone gives his take on a wide array of baseball issues and weighs in about the Mariners, too.

March 4, 2010 at 10:53 AM

Unveiling the CHOO Index to rate Mariners’ traded prospects on their “hauntability” (Oh, and vote for me, please)


I wasn’t going to ask for votes in the Brock and Salk media pool, but I was just on their show, and they urged me to do so. Far be it from me to disrespect their wishes. I have a tough second-round matchup against Brock Huard himself, so I need your support. Follow this link for all the details. I’m in the Wayne Cody Region. The deadline is 3 p.m. (Pacific time) today, so there’s not much time left. Thank you, all!.

Traveling around Florida, and talking to some of the ex-Mariner phenoms (or, more accurately, ex-Mariner ex-phenoms) sprinkled around the Grapefruit League, it struck me (or re-inforced) that Jack Zduriencik has guts.

Jeff Clement. Brandon Morrow. Phillippe Aumont. J.C. Ramirez. Tyson Gillies. In order to get the players he wants, Zduriencik has shown little hesitation in dipping into the club’s inventory of young players.

The fact that most of those players were acquired and developed in the previous regime – which I’ll explore in an upcoming story for the newspaper – means that Zduriencik didn’t have the same emotional investment in the players. And, of course, it might say something – volumes – about what he thinks about the potential of those players.

Yet anytime a young player is traded, especially ones that were once well-regarded enough to be high draft picks, the possibility exists that those players will come back to haunt you. Nothing is more frustrating to fans than to watch touted (or untouted, for that matter) youngsters thrive in another organization.

Mariners fans have many living, breathing examples of the hauntability potential of trading prospects, of course, starting with the still-painful duo of Derek Lowe and Jason Varitek, not to mention David Ortiz. And we won’t even get into this.

A more recent example is Shin-Soo Choo (pictured above in spring of 2003), whom the Mariners traded to the Indians three years ago for the long-departed Ben Broussard (whom they just had to have to solidify the DH spot along with, ahem, Eduardo Perez), and has now developed into one of the more dangerous hitters in the American League.

In honor of Choo, I have developed a rating system to evaluate the potential of the young players traded by Zduriencik to come back and make the Mariners wince, I call it the Career Hauntability Or Obscurity index – or the CHOO index. The higher the number on a 100-point scale, the more the likelihood the player will come back to haunt the Mariners during the course of his career. The lower the number, the more likely the player will fade away to obscurity — like Juan Gonzalez (not that one), whom the Mariners acquired for Carlos Guillen.

Brandon Morrow, Blue Jays (traded to Toronto for Brandon League, December 23, 2009) 75 CHOO Index. No doubt Morrow has electric stuff, but the yo-yoing between relief and starting didn’t serve him well. Nor did starting his first full season as a professional in the majors rather than learning his craft in the minors. But now the Blue Jays say he will be solely a starter. I wouldn’t be surprised if the change of scenery, along with the cessation of Tim Lincecum comparisons, allows Morrow to thrive.

  • Phillippe Aumont, Phillies (traded, along with Ramirez and Gillies to Philadelphia for Cliff Lee, December 16, 2009) 72 CHOO Index. It’s still unclear what role the Phillies have in mind for Aumont. They say he’ll be a starter this year in the minors, but they haven’t ruled out an eventual bullpen return. Wherever, Aumont has the arm to move rapidly up through the system, and could be eventually be an impact pitcher in either role. Remember, Aumont just turned 21.

  • Jeff Clement, Pirates (traded, along with pitchers Aaron Pribanic, Nathan Adcock and Brett Lorin to Pittsburgh for Jack Wilson and Ian Snell, July 29, 2009), 65 CHOO Index. It was Clement’s potential as a left-handed hitting catcher that prompted the Mariners to draft him No. 3 overall in the loaded 2005 draft (ahead of Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun and Ryan Zimmerman, among others.) Clement never developed defensively as a catcher and was plagued by knee issues, so now he’s a first baseman, lowering his value. Yet I still am a believer in his offensive skill-set, the combination of power and selectivity that led to some high OPS numbers in the minors. On a team without high expectations like the Pirates, without the defensive worries of catching, I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Clement develop into a productive offensive player.

  • Tyson Gillies, Phillies (Traded with Aumont and J.C. Ramirez to Philadelphia for Cliff Lee, Dec. 16, 2009). 60 CHOO Index. There’s just something very intriguing about this guy, way beyond the human-interest element of overcoming his hearing disability. He’s lightning fast, a skilled defender, a physical specimen, and a dynamo of energy. I think we’ll be seeing him in the major leagues, perhaps even as a starting outfielder.

    J.C. Ramirez, Phillies (Traded with Phillippe Aumont and Gillies to Philadelphia for Cliff Lee, Dec. 16, 2009). 50 CHOO index. The Phillies project him as a middle-of-the-rotation starter. Whether he’s more or less than that depends on his development – he’s just 21 – but the potential is there.

  • Wladimir Balentien, Reds (traded to Cincinnati for RHP Robert Manuel, July 29, 2009). 35 CHOO Index. Balentien has yet to show that he can eliminate the major holes in his swing, but he possesses such raw talent, and prodigious power, that you can never rule out that he’ll put it all together. Right now, however, I see more Wily Mo Pena than David Ortiz.

    Aaron Pribanic, Nathan Adcock, Brett Lorin (traded to Pittsburgh for Ian Snell and Jack Wilson, July 29, 2009). 30 CHOO Index. Of course it’s patently unfair to lump these three as a group. They are individuals with distinct differences. Yet I’m going to do it anyway, since they were traded together as low minor leaguers, and were lightly regarded by scouts. Not much hope was given at the time for a breakout, but players sometimes take an unexpected leap, whether via maturity, a new pitcher, a change of scenery, or whatever. You have to leave that possibility open. Most scouts believe the 6-foot-7, 240-pound Lorin, who was 5-4, 2.44 in Class A for Seattle, and 3-1, 1.57 in A ball after the trade, with a combined 116 K’s in 123 innings.

  • Fabian Williamson, Red Sox (traded to Boston for David Aardsma, Jan. 20, 2009). 30 CHOO Index. I confess, I don’t know much about Williamson, who is just 20 and spent last year at Class A. But he did put up some pretty good numbers (10-5, 2.42, just 71 hits in 108 innings, 104 K’s…but 53 walks), so you have to give him a chance.

  • Mike Morse, Nationals (traded to Washington for Ryan Langerhans, June 28, 2009). 20 CHOO Index. It’s apparent by now that Morse will probably never develop in a front-line everyday player, but he could be a pretty good utility man and bat off the bench. Not enough to haunt very scarily, however.

    (Seattle Times photo by Mark Harrison)

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