Though the Ms are still in the playoff hunt, it’s never a bad time to take a look at the future. The Mariners have some top performers in the minor leagues, players you might see sooner rather than later in Safeco.
At the age of 22, outfielder, Michael Saunders, has risen quickly through the ranks from A-ball in Clinton, Iowa to AAA-Tacoma. In 2008 he played 67 games with the AA-Diamond Jaxx, posting an 0.858 OPS (On-base plus Slugging) and showing some speed with 11 steals. Though his strikeout rate (SO/At Bats) has been awful throughout his minor league career – hovering around 30% – he has shown recent signs of improvement. In his first full season with AAA Tacoma, he is only whiffing about 19% of all at bats, and his OPS has climbed to 0.922. With 13 dingers in just 64 games this season, Saunders could hit for some power for years to come.
Jeff Clement has shown his face in Safeco before, appearing in 75 games between 2007 and 2008. Despite a below-average 0.701 OPS in the show, Clement’s minor league statistics continue to show a ton of promise for the 25-year-old catcher. Since 2007, Clement’s minor league OPS has settled at an impressive 0.900, while hitting 28 homers in his last 138 games. During that time he has also maintained a healthy walk-to-strikeout rate. Given a steady run in Seattle, Clement could make his real splash soon.
First baseman, Mike Carp, was acquired this last off-season from the Mets and could show his potential if the Ms should trade the much-older Russell Branyan. Carp showed tremendous improvement in the Mets AA organization between 2007 and 2008, and that trend has continued in Tacoma. At 23 years old, Carp has hit a modest 10 home runs in 76 games this season, walks nearly 15% of the time, and sports an 0.845 OPS.
On the pitching side, while he may not have luckiest of names, Doug Fister has shown outstanding control to go along with other impressive peripherals in AAA Tacoma this season. Being the victim of some bad luck, Fister has allowed just under 4 runs per game while battling a brutal 0.363 BABIP (average on balls in play; see this post for more info). Though he just moved up from AA, all his key indicator stats have actually improved. Allowing well less than a homer per game, and flaunting a ridiculous 7.56 strikeout-to-walk ratio, Fister could be the next bullpen callup, especially if Wash is traded.
Other than the fist master, the pitching cupboard is pretty bare in Seattle’s upper minor league teams. However, looking deeper into the future, 24-year-old Jake Wild has been top of his class with the A+ High Desert Mavericks. In 2008 his pitching with the Mavericks resembled his name, but 2009 has seen a sharp decline in both walks and homers allowed. He is currently showing off a strike-out rate of 8.3 per 9 innings, with only 2.2 walks and just 0.38 home runs per 9. Strikeouts, walks and homers tend to be the three things pitchers have most control over, and Wild has excelled this year in those categories.
That about wraps up this mid-season minor league report. Thanks to Fangraphs for the minor league stats.