Mariners Prospect Notebook

I caught the upper level Mariners affiliates (Jackson & Tacoma) on a swing through the southeast late in the minor league season and there are a handful of prospects from those teams I haven’t written up yet. Both of these teams were deep with big leaguers and have some interesting prospects beyond the obvious elite guys.

Stefen Romero had the lowest draft profile player among these prospects, as a 12th round pick that signed for $100,000 out of Oregon State, but he kept barreling balls up when I saw him and he’s done it all year (.346/.387/.588 in Hi-A and AA). He does it mostly with a pull-oriented, aggressive, early count approach that normally doesn’t project well, but works for some guys in the big leagues, so you can’t rule him out. Normally this kind of approach comes with below-average hitting tools and allows the hitter to take advantage of the mistakes lower-level pitchers make, but falls apart against the advanced command of the upper levels. When Romero keeps raking in AA and picking his spots against better pitching, it starts becoming more likely he’s a useful big leaguer and he has some big league tools to back that up.

Romero has solid bat speed, above-average raw power to his pull side and a simple swing. His plate discipline is just okay, there is some stiffness to his swing and there’s occasional length to his bath path with a high finish that can become an uppercut at times. Going back to my three elements of a hit tool, his tools are solid-average, his bat control shows flashes of average and his plate discipline is below. That’s enough to be a big league hitter with the power to punish a mistake and the 6’3, 225 Romero was actually playing second base for Jackson. His big frame and below-average feet will limit him to a corner utility role in the big leagues, but his hands looked good enough that he may be able to play a solid third base. Even as strictly a corner outfielder, he can be a righty platoon bat with a chance for a little more.

Righty starter Erasmo Ramirez is interesting as a smallish (5’11, 210) finesse type, but his stuff and command were both just solid-average in my look. He keeps hitters off balance by working in all four quadrants of the zone and his best pitch was a 90-93 mph fastball that bumped 94, at times showing arm side run or cut. Ramirez’s heater was mostly flat and he tended to overthrow it up in the zone at the higher end of that range. He wasn’t getting swings and misses and he lost his release point a few times in the game, but at his best, would use his unpredictability to keep hitters off balance.

Ramirez’s best off speed pitch was an 81-85 mph slider that he would vary the break of and had occasional late bite, flashing solid-average potential. His changeup was mostly average at 78-80 mph with some late fade along with occasionally using a 77-78 mph curveball as a fringy fourth pitch to change eye level. Ramirez would land on a stiff leg at times and this would cause him to elevate at times when he didn’t mean to. He has a clean arm and solid, simple delivery otherwise. I saw his command a little spottier than some other scouts in other looks, but I could see the elements are here for a rotation piece. As a sub-six-foot righty with solid-average stuff, the command and sequencing needs to be advanced for him to be a back-end starter and he showed enough flashes that I can see Ramirez doing just that.

Francisco Martinez played center field for me in Jackson with one game at third. His actions are a little long for third base and his reads in center field are just okay. With solid-average speed, a slower first step and some projection left in his 6’2, 210 pound frame, he may fit best as a fourth outfielder than can play all three spots. His above-average arm can play anywhere and he could bring some value as a guy that can also play some infield in a pinch

At the plate, there’s some obvious bat speed, an ability to make contact and a line drive swing with future average raw power. Martinez’s biggest issue is loose plate discipline that hampers his ability to hit for average. He has some trouble identifying off-speed pitches and commits early to pitches, making it look like he’s guessing. He has solid bat control and an ability to square some pitches up, but his linear bat path holds him back. His plate discipline makes it harder to make contact, so a flatter bat path puts him in the zone longer to help with contact, but also limits his raw power: the saving grace of a similar hitter in teammate Romero.

Boiling it down, Martinez’s lack of feel for hitting is undermining his impressive tool package and now he’s getting old enough that performance outweighs tools. I can’t project Martinez as more than a cup of coffee guy with some versatility and upside that he likely won’t live up to.

Along with Martinez, another of the pieces acquire for Doug Fister, lefty reliever Charlie Furbush was rehabbing for Tacoma for me and the first two things you notice about him is his huge frame (6’6, 220) and his crossfire delivery. The delivery and his three-quarters slot ratchets up the deception and life on his pitches and when you combine those things with his length, Furbush’s stuff across the board plays up better than the raw scouting grades.

Furbush’s 90-92 mph heater has plus two-seam life and he spotted it consistently down in the zone. He backs that up with an above-average 77-80 mph curveball with 11-to-5 tilt, late snap and good depth. Furbush made some adjustments this year to unlock his potential and the numbers bear that out. A 6’6 lefty with two above average to plus pitches, plus-plus deception, heavy life and good feel is a shutdown setup guy and a potentially very rich man if he can stay healthy.

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Kiley McDaniel has worked in the scouting departments of the New York Yankees, Baltimore Orioles and Pittsburgh Pirates and has written for ESPN, among other outlets. Follow him on twitter for real-time thoughts on the players he’s seeing and hacky attempts at humor.

19 Responses to “Mariners Prospect Notebook”

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  1. Dan Greer says:

    I was under the impression that Erasmo Ramirez’ changeup was a tremendous pitch with nasty drop, which is how it looked to me when I saw snippets of one of his starts late in the season. Certainly doesn’t look just average to me, and it doesn’t match up with what I’ve heard either.

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  2. Bodybuilder on Cam says:

    I am so hard right now. Throbbing erection.

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  3. Dan Maben says:

    Ramirez’s change was clearly a plus pitch when he was starting for the M’s. Big drop and big velocity differential. Probably the author saw him on a bad day when he was getting stretched out to start. Also an undersell of his fastball, as he averaged 92.6 mph in MLB action and hit 95 pretty frequently. His rotation FIP of 3.24 bears out his effectiveness, even if you think he overperformed in 50 innings of work. The guy gets plenty of strikeouts, doesn’t walk anybody, and if he’s healthy there is no way to characterize him as a potential-if-things-break-right back end starter. He’s more than that this very moment.

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    • Basebull says:

      Agreed. Second best pitcher on the ML staff, as far as I’m concerned.

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    • wily mo says:

      i’ll go ahead and leap on this erasmo dogpile. he had an 11.3% overall whiff rate, 92.7 average FB velo and 5% walk rate in 60 innings in the majors. (all three of those numbers are better than what felix or greinke, to name two, did last year.) and i’ve never seen anyone rate his slider above his changeup before. you saw what you saw, ok, but it’s hard for me to see writing him up as a fringe back-end “finesse” starter without even mentioning these things

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      • Clifford says:

        first of all, id like to say that im a big Erasmo fan. have been for a few years now, as hes been one of my favorite fringe prospect guys to follow. however, lets all hit the brakes here a little bit. the fact that he was even mentioned in the same sentence as Felix of Greinke is absurd. period. secondly, its a very VERY small sample size to be making any kind of vast generalizations.

        furthermore, if you are going to look at his numbers, you cant just focus on the good ones. His BABIP was .243 during his run of starts at the end of the year. that would have been 2nd lowest in the whole league last year, and is simply unsustainable. His IFFB% was 14.8%, which would have been good for 5th best in the whole league. again, unsustainable is putting it lightly. third, opposing batters had a 24% LD% against him, which would have been good for 5th worst in all of baseball.

        Lastly, yes, his 11.3% whiff rate is very good…but it makes it low K/9 rate that much more disconcerting. If he’s getting guys to swing and miss a lot, as well as chase pitches, and he isnt walking a ton of guys, i think one of several conclusions can be made….

        1.) He’s not gonna strikeout a lot of guys, and when they do put it in play, they are hitting line drives at an above average rate…

        2.) He’s got no out pitch that he can go to when he needs a strikeout. most likely, this devastating change-up youve mentioned, isnt really all that devastating after all…

        3.) He throws too many strikes. Yes, its certainly possible. See: Lee, Cliff.

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      • wily mo says:

        well, i didn’t say he IS felix or greinke, just that his stats in the majors, small sample notwithstanding, seem to back up the better scouting reports i’ve seen more than they do the really tepid one given here. i mean sure, small sample, ok, but that’s less of an issue when you’re looking at velocity, which was really the main thing i was getting at. this report makes him sound like jamie moyer, so the fact that he was throwing harder than felix last year struck me as relevant.

        i haven’t looked this up but i think his strikeout rate got better towards the end of the year. (looks it up) ok, kind of. it was absurdly low early in the year, then 25% in august and 20% in september after he came back. overall much higher as a starter, later in the year. all in real small samples, like you say. i’d actually kind of suspect that swStr% stabilizes faster than K% and pulls the Ks along with it eventually, more so than the other way around, although i have nothing to back that up.

        the change sure looks good to me, and i’ve seen plenty of other people also say so.

        and, wait, are you saying that cliff lee throws too many strikes and that’s a bad thing. what

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    • Clifford says:

      Plenty of strikeouts? His K/9 rate in the minors averaged out to be 6.94. thats terrible.

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  4. joser says:

    Plate discipline (or rather, lack thereof) seems to be the universal failing throughout the M’s system. The only recent products where it isn’t a problem are the ones (Seager, Ackley, Carp) who spent the least time in it.

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    • Kazinski says:

      Good points but you should note that Micheal Saunders suffered from too much plate discipline when he came up, which caused a lot of his problems. He was taking too many strikes over the plate. Once he started swinging more aggressively at balls over the plate his strikeout rate went down, walks were pretty much unchanged, and no real change in his contact rates either.

      The narrative that he closed up some holes in his swing should have been backed up by a change in his swinging strike rate, but there really hasn’t been a blip in it, if anything in went up slightly. Although of course he is squaring up the ball better, as shown by his LD% and BABIP.

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      • algionfriddo says:

        Sure seemed like Saunders had a ton of pitches off the plate called as strikes last year. He’s capable of power to left if the pitch isn’t too far off, but he seemed to get jobbed more than most on the Mariners with pitches outside by a fair margin.

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  5. larrybernandez says:

    Not to pile on, but I also see Ramirez having a higher ceiling than a back of the rotation guy. His changeup and slider are already good enough to get swings and misses at the ML level, with his stuff, I’ve been a little surprised he doesn’t get more strikeouts. The potential for a better K rate is there though, and I think most people that have seen him pitch multiple times would agree. I wouldn’t be surprised if he pulls a Doug Fister, with or without the injuries.

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  6. Beau says:

    I really like Romero, I mean come on over .400 wOBA, over 130 wRC+ in all three places he played this season (High Desert, Jackson, AFL) but I’m surprised he hasn’t been brought up as a possible trade candidate. With Ackley and Seager being the impending future for the Mariners I don’t really see where he fits in.

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    • Clifford says:

      hes likely a corner OF guy in the future. maybe, maybe 1B, although that would certainly put a damper on his value. not like the Ms are exactly overflowing with corner OFs

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  7. Dongcopter says:

    Dongcopter pilot wants to cry because Doug Fister turned into Charlie Furbush and Chance Ruffin when he might’ve turned into Wil Myers this offseason if we’d waited. Now we are talking about signing or trading for ML-ready veteran pitching. Didn’t we trade Fister because we had an abundance of that? And now we don’t, and have a dearth instead? Oh noeesss…..Mr. Z, I think that’s the worst move you’ve made, if we call the FIggins signing an outlier.

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