The Clinton LumberKings are a team that, as a Low-A squad tucked away in the Midwest League, often get overlooked as an uninteresting and not terribly important team. Last season’s breakout of Nick Franklin put them back on the radar for many Mariners’ fans, and they’re looking to further up their profile by fielding what might just be the most interesting overall squad in the system right now.
Frankly, I wanted to include several more names, but I’ve been keeping to a format, so a few guys had to get left out.
Prospects To Watch:
- SS Marcus Littlewood: The organization’s second round pick last June, Littlewood is an intriguing prospect. Big for a shortstop and somewhat lacking in the range typical of the position, he makes up for it with soft hands and good instincts. Add that to a good approach from both sides of the plate, and there’s a lot of good things to dream on with Littlewood.
- C Steven Baron: I’m not going to sugarcoat this: I was tremendously disappointed with Baron when I saw him last year in Everett, and I only became moreso the more I saw him. However, his swing has improved, and it sounds like his head is screwed on better now, so there may be some hope. As a potentially premium defensive catcher and former first-round pick, there are reasons to like him.
- RHP Forrest Snow: Snow is being converted to the rotation after a stellar pro debut as a reliever in 2010. Snow has a good fastball that gets in to the low-to-mid 90’s, and a change and slider that both flash as becoming at least solid-pitches, as well as a useful curve. He attacks all areas of the strike zone and makes up for what he lacks in pure stuff in pitching know-how.
- 3B Ramon Morla: Morla has the technical skills to be the best defensive third baseman in the system right now, and gets a lot of power out of his swing. If he can improve his plate discipline and contact rates (a familiar story in this system),
- RHP George Mieses: Mieses locates his low-to-mid 90’s fastball well, and also offers a workable curveball and intriguing splitter to hitters. His secondary stuff needs work if he’s going to advance and stick in the rotation, but the groundwork is there, and as he doesn’t turn 20 until May, he has plenty of time to develop still.
Other Notable Prospects:
- OF Kevin Rivers: Rivers went from being a non-prospect going in to last year to being an intriguing fringe guy this year, and wants to take another step forward. Great approach at the plate and a sound swing could help him do that, though his power is only average and he could stand to improve some in the OF.
- LHP Anthony Fernandez: A lefty version of Snow with slightly lesser stuff, Fernandez throws four decent pitches with command, with his change as his best pitch. He shows no fear on the mound and has an aggressive approach, and could really draw some attention with another strong performance in 2011.
- OF Julio Morban: Morban was once one of the Mariners’ prospects on the rise, but injuries essentially wiped out his 2010 season. Now he’s looking to regain that status, and has the physical skills to do so.
- RHP Ty Burgoon: A pure reliever, Burgoon’s stuff isn’t as overwhelming as a Stephen Pryor or Jush Lueke type of pitcher, but he’s smart with his arsenal and takes a bulldog’s mentality to the mound.
- LHP Edlando Seco: An intriguing lefty because of his good velo and huge slider, Seco has to refine his command if he wants to advance.
Breakout Prediction: 1B Mickey Wiswall
Wiswall is a very entertaining player. He’s the kind of high-effort, high-intensity player that fans love, and he has some talent to go along with it. He’s got some pop in his bat from the left side (9 HR in 199 professional PA’s last year), and can get his bat on to a lot of balls, extending at-bats for himself to get something better to hit.
There are some downsides to Wiswall, though. He doesn’t draw a lot of walks, and he isn’t a particularly good defender. The M’s have tinkered with him at third base last year and left field this year, and he’s a comedy routine at best at both spots. Even at his natural position, first base, he’s average at best.
Still, if he hits well enough and stays at first, his defense is only a secondary concern. Wiswall has the swing to become successful, it’s just a matter of improving his approach, and the Mariners’ development staff have had some success with working with their hitters on that over the last couple of years.
Wiswall’s 2011 batting line prediction: .278/.318/.498, 22 HR, 31 2B, 83 RBI