The best way to describe the Seattle Mariners farm system over the last several years has been “top heavy”. Fortunate to have three of baseballs young, top end pitchers, Jack Zduriencik and his staff haven’t had much success outside of that trifecta. That is, up until recently. The Mariners have turned their focus to acquiring offensive firepower, spending their first three draft picks on offense in 2013 and ’14, as well as their first two picks in 2012. Mike Zunino is the only of those picks to reach the Majors so far, though he recently broke the Mariners home run record for catchers. The other prospects are well on their way, including elite prospect Alex Jackson.
Recently Graduated: It goes without saying that Zunino, a 2012 first round draft pick out of Florida, has been a huge success both at the plate and behind it. Early returns on recent Minor League grads Taijuan Walker and James Paxton have been extremely promising, especially for the latter. Paxton has allowed just 11 runs over 53 Major League innings for the Wild Card bound Mariners. Had he received more work at the top level this season, Paxton might even be a lead vote getter for American League Rookie of the Year. His rookie counterpart in the rotation, Walker, has been up and down all season between Triple-A Tacoma and Seattle due to injury and inconsistency. Oddly enough, Walker has looked far better at the Major League level than at the Minor League level, and he should be a factor in the M’s plans if they happen to hold on to their Wild Card spot. Through 95 at bats in 2014, shortstop Chris Taylor has earned his spot with the big league team with a .295 average and an impressive .370 on base percentage. His defense has stood out as well. The only real disappointment from a recent promotion has been right fielder Stefen Romero, who has failed to cross the Mendoza Line. Even young infielder Nick Franklin was able to net Austin Jackson, a transaction that makes Franklin’s career with the Mariners a success. Seattle may not have a Rookie of the Year winner in 2014, but they are taking the right steps to putting together a core at the Major League level.
On the Way: No discussion of the Mariner’s farm system takes place without some mention of recently drafted catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson. Drafted out of high school, Jackson was the consensus top offensive player in the class. His bat is likely to carry him through the Mariner’s system quickly, though he has already transitioned away from catching duties. DJ Peterson, whom Seattle selected with their first pick in 2013, has a bat similar to Jackson’s, is a very projectable hitter and should let his bat carry him through the minors. The Mariners drew serious f?ire for drafting a first baseman that early, and paying that much for one, though they have to like what they have seen so far. After Jackson and Peterson, the third big bat acquired by Seattle recently was Austin Wilson, an outfielder at Stanford that the Mariners selected 49th overall in 2013. Wilson is a high risk, high reward type, as he has the athleticism and power to be a middle of the order difference maker. What differentiates Wilson from Jackson, though, is that Wilson is very raw, whereas Jackson has a defined set of skills.
2015 Breakout: The Mariners have no shortage of top-end young pitchers, and expect Luiz Gohara to join that conversation next season. An 18-year-old lefty from Brazil, Gohara struggled in his first season with the Everett Aqua Sox, though he should be able to adapt during another season at Single-A. Jonathan Mayo describes Gohara’s arsenal as “…fastball that reaches up to 93-94 mph, and he has a good curveball to go along with it. He also throws a slider, which isn’t as good as his other breaking ball, and he shows a really good feel for a changeup”.