SeattleClubhouse Top-50: 45-41

Morales is still very young with promising power

Each Monday for 10 weeks, SeattleClubhouse gives you an inside look at the Top-50 prospects in the Mariners organization as things stand at the end of the 2012 season. Rankings are complete with scouting notes (when available), quotes from various baseball sources and extended player info. Part two in our series is inside and covers a 2012 draftee among others.

Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive information on Seattle Mariners players from the rookie leagues all the way to the major leagues. Looking beyond the numbers and using input from respected baseball resources -- as well as contributing our own input -- we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking, and maybe even pinning some future hopes on. Our determination of where the prospects land on the list is a combination of potential ceiling, the player's likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster.

These types of rankings are very fluid and things can change very quickly, particularly in the bottom half of a list this large, but this compilation is our best effort at a look at the 50 best prospects in the system right now.

These breakdowns will be done in groups of five for subscribers, with the complete list (sans scouting info) being posted to the forums for discussion once the pieces are complete. Each player section will be headed by the player's position, age (as of the date of article publishing), hitting and throwing handedness and level at which they ended the 2012 season.

Part one of our 10-part series ranking the 50 best prospects in the Seattle Mariners organization -- detailing prospects number 50 through 46 -- can be found here, and our second installment, covering numbers 45 through 41, is below.

45. Edwin Diaz - P, 18, R/R, Rookie Arizona League
Diaz was the M's third round selection in June out of a very strong class from Puerto Rico. Diaz was the fourth Puerto Rican player taken (Carlos Correa went 1.1, of course) but was the first from the Caguas Military Academy school. Diaz reported to the Rookie Peoria Mariners in Arizona and threw in nine games between June 23rd and August 29th. Definitely much more of a thrower than a pitcher at this point, he struck out 20 in 19 innings during those nine outings, but walked 17 and hit five more batters. He has a ways to go, but there is a lot of upside in his arm.

The Mariners really liked his easy, loose arm and reports had him routinely sitting 93 to 95 in pre-draft workouts. Tom McNamara said that the Mariners had him up to 97 a few times in one of their trips to watch the right-hander. He does have a big breaking curveball, too, but his command of that pitch isn't good. I spoke with minor league pitching coach Rich Dorman who saw the 18-year-old extensively in fall instructs and he said that Diaz really, "gets in the zone when he's on the mound." Dorman said that there is a lot to like in the arm, obviously, and that Edwin's thin, wiry build and big velocity, "reminds me of a young Pedro Martinez."

It seems likely that Diaz will start out 2013 in extended Spring Training before heading to Pulaski (or possibly even staying in Arizona again), but once he starts to hone his mechanics and understand himself as a pitcher the talent in his arm should enable him to ascend through the ranks quickly.

44. Alfredo Morales - OF, 19, L/R. Short Season Everett
After a very impressive push across three levels in 2011, we ranked Morales 33rd on this list a year ago. He has dropped down in the rankings this year, but mostly due to the improvements in the organization. Although he only tallied five homers, Morales still flashed his easy plus power during his time in Everett this year and that is the primary tool that will push him through the system. Right now the biggest weakness in Alfredo's game is the strikeout. He whiffed 101 times in 339 plate appearances on the season, with 88 of those coming in 70 games in the Northwest League, 2nd most in the league.

Despite the big strikeout numbers, Morales still showed a good understanding of the strike zone, enough discipline to lay off of tough pitches -- even late in the count -- and an advanced understanding of the situation to put the ball in play when necessary to get the run home at times during the year while I was in attendance. His 30 walks as a 19-year-old are an encouraging sign and continue a trend that started last season of not being afraid to get deeper into at bats.

Morales' left-handed swing generates power because of good balance, great hands and a quick bat that produce good loft and natural backspin. A good athlete that has played some center field, his 6-foot-2 frame has room for Morales to add muscle and size while remaining a solid defensive outfield option as he advances. His arm isn't great, but it is strong enough that right field looks like his best bet at this point.

43. Rich Poythress -1B, 25, R/R, Double-A Jackson
As we covered back in early September, Poythress' move through the system may not be going exactly the way that was envisioned when he was selected in the 2nd round back in 2009, but he is still a prospect. The power isn't showing the way that the Mariners expected (only 20 home runs in the last two years after 31 the season prior), but Poythress -- a 6-foot-4, 235 pounder -- is still bringing skills to the table. Ranked 31st on our countdown last season, Poythress slides a bit from depth and a bit from that disappearing power.

Poythress obviously has shown the ability to get the ball in the air with good backspin for carry in the past, but he lacks ideal bat speed for a power hitter. And with his defense being limited, his bat is going to have to carry him. So while he had the best BB rate (15.1%) of any player in the organization with 300 or more plate appearances and he and Luis Rodriguez were the only two players in the organization with 300 or more plate appearances and more walks than strikeouts, the quality of the contact and the power in that contact are still what are going to drive Rich towards the big leagues.

A college draftee in 2009, Poythress needs to be added to the 40-man roster with Seattle this off-season or risk being exposed to the rest of the league. He finished 2012 as a 25-year-old that had not yet cracked Triple-A, so it stands to reason that the Mariners may not want to add him just yet -- and that other teams may not take a risk on him. The raw power does still exist, Poythress just needs to rediscover the keys in his swing and approach to unlock that power in game action. If he can do that, Rich still may become an option as a big leaguer in the future.

42. Tyler Marlette - C, 19, R/R, Short Season Everett
Marlette returned to Pulaski in 2012 for a full season in the Appalachian League and he put up decent numbers, leading all league catchers in hits (59), doubles (14) and extra base hits (19) before getting a promotion to Everett to end his regular season. His quick hands and raw power showed in game action regularly, but so did his rawness in approach and discipline as he walked just six times and struck out 47 in 219 plate appearances.

Drafted out of a Florida high school in the 5th round in 2011, I placed Marlette 29th on last year's Top-50, but "raw" was to be expected. But Marlette did show some good signs on defense -- specifically in his throwing -- this year as he nailed 25 of 64 attempted base stealers. That part of his game is still behind his offense, however. "He's strong and he can hit the ball a long way," said one scout familiar with Marlette. He then added, "But he is by no means a sure-fire big leaguer for me." Marlette does have the goods to possibly one day be an impact bat if he develops as his tools suggest he can.

The catching position has quickly become one of the biggest strengths for the Mariners over the past few seasons and Marlette is among the more talented backstops in the organization, but he looks like an offense-first right-handed hitting catcher that will move one level at a time while he learns, and hopefully adjusts to, the pro game.

41. Chris Taylor -SS, 22, R/R, Low-A Clinton
The first thing that most people notice when they watch Taylor play are his great hands and smooth actions on defense at shortstop. In fact, when I bumped into Chris Gwynn in Everett this past season the first thing I mentioned was his hands, to which Gwynn jokingly replied, "oh you noticed that, huh?" Great hands, plenty of range, a plus arm and great baseball instincts at the shortstop position aren't common traits, so Taylor already has quite a bit going for him. Add to that his plus plate discipline and he is an intriguing prospect.

A 2012 5th round pick out of Seattle's recent Virginia pipeline, where Taylor still needs some polish is with his bat. He has quick hands at the plate to go along with his good eye, but what Chris does not have is the strength or bat speed to consistently pick up line drives or extra base hits. He can get balls in the gaps on ocassion, but he also showed that he gets beat my good velocity, mainly due to a slow load/long start in his swing.

Taylor was hitting very well in Everett before his promotion to Clinton, posting a .905 OPS in 37 games. And he handled himself well at the plate in his limited time in Clinton, not collecting an extra base hit but batting .304/.373/.304 in 12 games. As a college draftee the 22-year-old Taylor is ready for the middle minors at least heading into 2013, with a return assignment to Clinton for the start of the year the most likely scenario. But being the purest defensive shortstop in the system, he will move quickly, and if his bat picks up a few ticks he could turn into a big leaguer quickly.

That concludes our look at prospects 45-41. Be sure to check in next Monday as we break into the 30s.

Looking for more Mariners prospect player interviews, news and articles? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse's Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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