(Michael Pineda in the Cheney Stadium dugout during an August game in Tacoma. Seattle Times photo).
Kevin Goldstein comes out with his Mariners’ Top 20 today, which provides hope of some impact players down the line. However, Goldstein concludes, “A couple potential impact players at the top but an overall shallow system where the talent level drops off quickly.”
In particular, Goldstein ranks two players as “five-star” prospects, and there’s no surprise who they are: RHP Michael Pineda and second baseman Dustin Ackley. Chances are strong both will be with the team at some point in 2011, and I wouldn’t rule out both of them breaking camp with the team. Pineda will certainly be given every chance to make the rotation; I believe the Mariners’ working plan is to have Ackley start the season in Tacoma, but if he has a dazzling spring, on top of his strong current showing in the Arizona Fall League, he could conceivably force their hand.
Beyond that, however, it appears most of the bright lights in the farm system are not quite ready for prime time, which will make the M’s rebuilding efforts in 2011 even more challenging. It would certainly help, of course, if some of their former prospects — Michael Saunders and Adam Moore, most specifically, as well as recently acquired Justin Smoak, took some major strides forward. Others from Goldstein’s list who could help in 2011 include relievers Dan Cortes and Josh Lueke.
Otherwise, they will likely have to wait awhile to get the benefit of most of the guys on this list, some of whom are quite promising. I’m particularly intrigued by shortstop Nick Franklin, who had an outstanding first professional season in the Midwest League and could shoot up the minor-league ladder, and 18-year-old outfielder Guillermo Pimentel, signed out of the Dominican Republic in 2009 by international scout Bob Engle, and a real power-hitting prospect. But you never know how a teenager is going to develop.