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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