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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.

February 9, 2012 at 9:54 AM

Mariners have five players in ESPN’s top 100 prospects list

Here is a nice story about Danny Hultzen donating $100,000 to the University of Virginia baseball program.

Yes, another ranking of prospects is out today (hidden behind ESPN’s pay wall). This one is by Keith Law, who yesterday had his organizational rankings (the Mariners were 11th), Law, who used to work for the Toronto Blue Jays (and recently turned down a job offer with the Houston Astros), is one of the most well-connected evaluators in the biz, so his rankings are ones I look at a little more closely.

Law gave a clue yesterday how the Mariners would end up, with his comment that their top 5 prospects are outstanding, but that there’s a fall off after that. Sure enough, the Mariners have five players ranked in Law’s first 57, and none thereafter — and none in the list of 10 prospects who barely missed the list. In other words, no one in the Seattle organization ranked from 58 through 110.

The five Mariners he names are easy to figure out: Jesus Montero at No. 9 (one of three catchers in the top 10, though Law is not kind in evaluating his catching skills), RHP Taijuan Walker at No. 24, LHP Danny Hultzen at No. 30, LHP James Paxton at No. 51, and shortstop Nick Franklin at No. 57.

Montero, Law says, “is a monster bat with a chance to produce MVP-caliber offensive lines from the DH slot, as soon as the Mariners accept that’s where he needs to be.” If he can put up MVP numbers, I think the Mariners can accept the fact he’s not a catcher, though I think they want to see for themselves before making that decision.

Of Walker, Law says that if the industry had a do-over on the 2010 draft, Walker would be a consensus Top 10 pick. M’s scouting director Tom McNamara astutely grabbed him with the 43rd overall pick. Law says that once he hones his secondary stuff, he’s got the potential to be a No. 1 starter.

Interestingly, he doesn’t see Hultzen — the No. 2 overall pick last year — as a potential No. 1. He rates him as a “solid No. 3 in a good big league rotation, maybe slightly less than that, but with the advantage of needing very little time in the minors to continue to develop.” I couldn’t help but notice that third baseman Anthony Rendon — the player that I and most everyone else thought the Mariners would draft, but fell instead to the Nationals with the sixth pick — is ranked 13 spots above Hultzen at 17.

Paxton, he says, “looks like a potential No. 2 in a big league rotation who’ll rack up a lot of strikeouts.” Franklin has the potential to be an above-average second baseman if he moves to that position, Law says, but could be a star if he shows he can play major-league shortstop.

In case you’re wondering, he picked Angels’ outfielder Mike Trout as the No. 1 overall prospect ahead of Washington’s Bryce Harper. Rounding out the top 10 are LHP Matt Moore (Rays), shortstop Manny Machado (Orioles), RHP Shelby Miller (Cardinals), C Travis d’Arnaud (Blue Jays), SS Jurickson Profar (Rangers), C Devin Mesoraco (Reds), Montero, and RHP Gerrit Cole (Pirates).

Finally, Law unveiled his top 10 rankings by organization. Behind those five are third baseman Francisco Martinez, RHP Erasmo Ramirez, OF/IF Vinnie Catricala, OF Phillips Castillo and OF Guillermo Pimentel.



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