|Seattle Mariners Top 5|
|1||Phillippe Aumont||RHP||Hard thrower who's still raw; good competitor (21.6% K, 8.2% BB, 56% GB in Low-A last year)||19.8||A|
|2||Greg Halman||CF||Had .272/.326/.528 line (A+/AA); not much patience (5.9% BB), tons of K's (27.2%); .256 IsoP||21.1||AA|
|3||Michael Saunders||CF||Enjoyed his stay in AA (.363 wOBA in 288 PA) far more than AAA (.308 in 105) last season||21.9||AAA|
|4||Matt Tuiasosopo||3B||3rd rounder ('04) coming off best pro year: .281/.364/.453 (500 AAA PA); 9.4% BB, 20.8% K||22.4||AAA|
|5||Carlos Triunfel||SS/2B/3B||Higher BB, lower K rates in second Cal League season; .322 wOBA was highest as a pro||18.6||A+|
|Honorables: Josh Fields (RHP), Michael Pineda (RHP), Mike Carp (1B), and Dennis Raben (OF).|
|* Our rankings combine a player's ceiling with the odds that he'll reach it and favor recent production|
|** Ages are as of November 1st, 2008|
|*** Level is the highest level the player has reached|
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Phillippe Aumont – Only 20 years old, Phillippe Aumont has already been on display in the national spotlight multiple times – pitching for Canada. The hard-throwing (mid-90s fastball) former 1st round pick may be a few years from making an impact in the big-show, but he undoubtedly has the talent to get him there and become an impact arm. Aumont threw 55.2 innings in the Midwest League in 2008, and the 6-foot-7 righty showed no glaring weaknesses. He got ground balls (56%) and had a solid 21.6% strikeout rate to go with a strong 2.63 K/BB ratio – this should allow him an easy transition to the upper levels. If he sharpens up his command (8.2 BB%) and stays healthy– missed time last season with elbow soreness – Aumont and his potential plus curveball could surface in the big leagues in the near future. Aumont has a chance to emerge as an above-average MLB starter.
Greg Halman – Few players have the combination of speed and power that Halman possesses, resulting in a sky-high upside. Unfortunately, not many top prospects have displayed as poor discipline as Halman. This is part of the reason why his floor is so low – he may never become a big-league regular. Age is on Halman’s side, as he spent all of 2008 as a 21-year-old between High-A and Double-A. High Desert was friendly to Halman, as he posted a .304 isolated power, 5.7% walk rate, and 27.0% strikeout rate in 281 California League plate appearances. He also kept his head above water in the Southern League (.204 isoP, 6.3% BB, 25.8% K in 256 PA). It will be crucial for Halman to decrease his strikeouts (26.4 K% in 2008) and increase his walk rate (6.0%) if he is going to the impact center fielder that he has a chance to be.
Carlos Triunfel – A .322 wOBA in hitter-friendly High Desert is usually a bad thing. That’s not the case when you do it at the tender age of 18, especially if you are a middle-infielder. Although his production has been relatively poor, Truinfel's contact ability is remarkable for a player his age. Striking out a mere 10.9% of the time in High-A, Triunfel is clearly an elite contact hitter. But he hardly has any power. Don't be deceived, his .117 isolated power was considerably increased by the hitter-friendly confines of High Desert (he posted a .161 isoP at home, opposed to a .065 on the road). Due to his lack of power, Triunfel's value will decrease drastically if he cannot stick at shortstop or second-base -- he wasn't a good defender last season. He’s still young enough to make improvements in the power department, as well as showing he can stick at shortstop, but if he doesn’t, he may never live up to the hype that has surrounded him.
Michael Saunders – A solid defensive outfielder who can walk and hit for power, Michael Saunders has a chance to become a special talent. Already at 6-foot-4, 205 pounds, he may eventually move off of center field. But, though his strikeouts are concerning (28.6% in 105 AAA PA as a 22-year-old), his bat could play at a corner. Saunders had coupled his speed with decent line-drive rates, producing high batting averages on balls in play (.368 last season in AA). He's a good runner, but he's not going to maintain that high of a rate in the big leagues. Saunders only registered 393 regular season plate appearances last season, as he played for Canada in the Olympics. If Saunders can improve his contact skills, he could blossom into a very productive big league outfielder.
Matt Tuiasosopo – Steady progression has brought Matt Tuiasosopo to his current status as one of the top third base prospects in the game. No one are of his game really stands out, but he's solid in many aspects. A former 3rd round pick (93rd overall in 2004), Tuiasosopo spent most of the 2008 in Triple-A as a 22-year-old. He displayed solid power (.172 isoP) and discipline (9.4 BB%). His strikeout rate has room for improvement (20.8% in AAA last year). All things considered, Tuiasosopo's a safe bet to be a big-leaguer but doesn’t have star potential.
Josh Fields (8/19/85) – Selected 20th overall in the 2008 draft, Fields waited eight months before signing for a $1.75 million bonus in February. The 6-foot, 185 pound reliever figures to be ready to compete at the big league level sometime in 2009 – he pitched four years at the University of Georgia. He features a straight fastball that sits in the mid-90s and a plus curveball, according to MiLB.com. Fields' lack of fastball movement leads us to question his ultimate upside.
Michael Pineda (1/18/89) – Considering that he was a 19-year-old in Low-A last season, Michael Pineda was very promising. The 6-foot-5, 180 pound righthander threw 138.1 innings last season. He displayed excellent command (6.4% BB) and strikeout ability (23.2% K). Most impressively, Pineda got considerably better as the season went on. His final start (9.0 IP, 1 H, 0 BB, 0 R, 14 K) pushed his August rates to 2.8% walk and 28.0% strikeout over 118 batters. Pineda’s still at least a couple of years away from contributing in the majors, but he could be in Double-A by year's end.
Brett Sullivan can be reached at email@example.com.