Seattle Mariners Top 20 Prospects: 20-16

The Mariners have a lot of talent in their farm system, much of which has been acquired by Jack Zduriencik, or had their development tweaked for the better by the present regime. Last week I detailed 20 guys that didn’t quite make the cut for the Mariners top 20 prospects, and in this installment we look at prospects 20-16.

20. Anthony Varvaro, RHP, 25 years old

2010 Minor League Stats: 65 IP, 4.02 ERA, 10.0 K/9, 4.8 BB/9

Varvaro is a prospect who has been in the Mariners system since 2006, and has had a very up-and-down career in terms of prospect status. Varvaro was originally slated as a starting pitching prospect, but after an ineffective 2008 at High Desert, Varvaro was sent to the bullpen.

The transition has worked well for Varvaro, who has averaged 10+ K/9 in each of the two season’s he’s been a reliever. Like many starters-turned-relievers, Varvaro battles his own command and control from time to time. At nearly five walks per nine innings, Varvaro’s strikeouts will have to translate to the majors for him to be successful. He’s probably an adequate middle-reliever in the bigs, though his history of higher pitch counts certainly lends to flexibility for the 25 year old right-hander.

Estimated 2011 Level: AAA

MLB ETA: Mid-2011

19. Mike Carp, 1B, L/R, 24 years old

2010 Minor League Stats: .257/.328/.516, 29 home runs, 17 doubles

Carp was a part of the J.J. Putz trade that brought Franklin Gutierrez and Jason Vargas to Seattle also. Though Carp hasn’t been universally panned in prospect circles, he’s never profiled as a guy who would have an enormously productive major league career at the plate.

However, Carp showed some pretty significant improvement in 2009, as he sacrificed doubles for home runs without striking out much more often. A .259 BABIP is basically entirely responsible for his lower batting average in 2010, as he’s generally sat around the .300 in the minors so far. His .110 ISO in 106 MLB plate appearances is uninspiring, and could potentially represent a true talent level despite a small sample size, as Carp’s power has been limited in the minors until this year. If Carp’s bat is truly developing, he could make an interesting platoon partner at DH, or first base if Justin Smoak doesn’t pan out, but an average defending, average hitting first basemen isn’t particularly useful on a team lacking power.

Estimated 2011 Level: AAA

MLB ETA: 2012

18. Greg Halman, OF, R/R, 22 years old

2010 Minor League Stats: .243/.310/.545, 33 home runs, 21 doubles, 4 triples

Halman is a very polarizing prospect among Mariners fans. If one were selling baseball action figures without stats to accompany their physical credentials, Halman would be a great choice to design them after. However, despite looking the part of a top prospect, Halman has some enormously glaring weaknesses.

Halman has power that even Safeco Field can’t hold, but he also has really struggled to make consistent contact. Halman however, isn’t a “three true outcomes” kind of guy, as his walk rates aren’t high enough to support a strikeout rate which has hovered at almost exactly 40 percent for the past two seasons. A tremendous all-around athlete, Halman projects as a guy who could play plus defense in the pros, and his total zone rating in the minors has him at about average in center, well above in right, and about average in left field. Ultimately, Halman will have to figure out how to make more consistent contact to have a long big league career, but for now, he’s simply and undisciplined hitter with massive unfulfilled potential.

2011 Estimated Level: AAA

MLB ETA: 2013

17. Gabriel Noriega, SS, B/R, 19 years old

2010 Minor League Stats: .227/.280/.283, 15 doubles, 28.9 K%

Noriega received some serious attention after a strong 2009. In his second run at Rookie ball, he improved his numbers almost across the board. An aggressive promotion to A ball in 2010, and a return-to-earth for Noriega’s BABIP (.417 in 2009) have really indicated that Noriega’s offense isn’t quite as promising as we may have thought going into 2010.

However, Noriega’s frame lends itself to growth, and power potential. And at 6-2, Noriega may fit the mid-90’s paradigm for offense-first shortstops, but unlike Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, Nomar Garciaparra or Miguel Tejada, Noriega is a switch hitter, and also, his defense should let him stay at shortstop for a long time, while only Jeter remains, or has remained at the position his whole career. Also, Noriega was two years younger than the league-average A-ball player. If Nick Franklin receives a promotion from AA to AAA or the Majors, Noriega’s numbers will likely represent true talent, but Noriega seems like an ideal candidate to have inflated numbers at A+ High Desert.

Estimated 2011 Level: A+

MLB ETA: 2014

16. Joshua Fields, RHP, 24 years old

2010 Minor League Stats: 28.2 IP, 28 K, 18 BB, 0 HR Allowed

Fields represents the last draft-blunder of Bill Bavasi’s much maligned career. Fields was the Mariners top pick in 2008, and didn’t sign until mid-2009. With two small samples so far to his credit, Fields has put up good peripherals, but inconsistent results. His 3.14 ERA in 2010 is promising, but he seemed unlucky in 2009, posting a 6.48 ERA despite a 3.89 FIP.

Fields may have a hard time becoming the Mariners future closer, as guys like Dan Cortes , Brandon League, and David Aardsma probably hold spots much higher on the depth chart. However, if Fields proves that he can actually succeed in a late-inning, high-leverage role, he may make nice trade fodder. Maybe Fields best comparison is Chris Perez, once a St. Louis Cardinal farmhand who was traded for Mark DeRosa at the height of DeRosa’s value. Perez has had considerable success in his two years with the Cleveland Indians, and strikes out about a batter an inning. Even if Fields isn’t attractive in a trade, having a polished late inning reliever with two plus pitches holds some value for the Mariners in the future, even if only in future negotiations with the latter three relievers. If Fields makes one of the three top relievers in the Mariners organization expendable, he’ll have equaled Perez’s value.

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To see 20 guys that didn’t make the cut, click here.

For Fixing the 2011 Seattle Mariners profiles, check out the following:

Ted LillyRamon HernandezMichael SaundersColby RasmusAdam DunnChone FigginsDustin AckleyFelipe LopezWilly Aybar, Jack/Josh WilsonYu Darvish

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