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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.

January 25, 2013 at 2:58 PM

Mariners’ farm system will be ranked No. 2 in Baseball America’s Prospect Handbook (and Ronny Paulino signs)

paulino.jpg

(Ronny Paulino wears an FDNY cap during batting practice on 9/11/11. Photo by Getty Images).

(The Mariners just made official what has been in the works for several days, signing catcher Ronny Paulino to a minor-league deal with a spring-training invitation. As I wrote last week, this doesn’t mean they are done in the catching depth department. I’d expect them to sign someone else, perhaps Kelly Shoppach).

A couple of weeks ago, I had a post mentioning that Jim Callis, the executive editor of Baseball America, ranked the Mariners as possessing the second-best farm system in baseball.

He revealed this in a chat, and said it was just his personal opinion, not the official stance of Baseball America, as reflected in the 2013 Baseball Handbook. That decision would come via a consensus of all the editors.

Well, the handbook has now been shipped, and will be available in bookshelves in early February. In an article in today’s St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it was revealed that the St. Louis Cardinals will be ranked No. 1 in the book (as Callis had them in his own rankings).

I contacted Callis today, and he confirmed that the Mariners are No. 2, behind the Cardinals, in the Prospect Handbook.

Now, keep in mind that the book had a mid-December copy deadline, so it only reflects moves up until that point. The final rankings of all 30 farm systems will take place in the spring, will be published in the magazine, and will take into account trades and signings that have taken place after the book went to print. For instance, Callis told me in an e-mail, “If Upton hadn’t vetoed a trade to Seattle, the system would have dropped.” He’s referring, of course, to the deal that would have sent two of the Mariners’ best prospects, pitcher Taijuan Walker and shortstop Nick Franklin, to Arizona for Justin Upton.

But if nothing changes, the Mariners should still hold the runnerup spot when the final rankings come out.

“Some teams will move up and down, but unless the Cardinals or Mariners are involved in a major trade, they should stay 1-2,” he said in an e-mail.

I asked Callis for his assessment of the Mariners, and the reason for their high ranking. Here’s what he said:

“Two things jump out immediately about the Mariners system: its pitching and the fact that all of the top prospects have had success at Double-A or above. When Jack Zduriencik and Co. took over, we rated Seattle’s farm system as the 24th-best in baseball, and now it’s No. 2. That shouldn’t be a surprise, because he presided over a similar turnaround in Milwaukee when he was scouting director there.”

It’s just one publication’s opinion, albeit a prestigious one; but I have a feeling the Mariners are going to do quite well in all the minor-league rankings that will be pouring out this spring. If you’re looking for positive signs involving the Mariners, you need to start with the farm system.

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