2011 Outlook: Other Players To Watch

2011 Team Outlook series:
Tacoma Rainiers, Jackson Generals,
High Desert Mavericks, Clinton LumberKings

Despite all of the players mentioned in the Team Outlooks linked above, there’s still a few other players worth noting in the system who are interesting for one reason or another.  So, let’s take the time and see who some of them are.

Seon Gi Kim, RHP, Clinton LumberKings
Kim is an intriguing 19 year old right hander from Korea who made his professional debut last season.  He made seven starts and seven relief appearances, mostly for the Mariners’ complex team in Peoria, and in 61 1/3 innings ran an impressive 71/12 strikeout to walk ratio, including a 7/1 mark in his three innings for rookie-level Pulaski.  

Standing at 6’2″ and a little thin for his frame, there are some reasons to hope that he can add some velocity as he strengthens and adds weight.  He is by all reports a mechanically sound pitcher, featuring a fastball of “improving” velocity (reports vary on how hard he throws, but the general consensus is that it’s better than when he signed), and a slider that at times gets a wicked hook.

Reports very on a third pitch; I’ve seen references to none, a curveball, a changeup, and a splitter before.  Hopefully now that he’s in full-season ball, we can get better information on Kim, but for the time being he stands as an interesting prospect to keep tabs on.

Stefen Romero, UTIL, Clinton LumberKings
Romero is making his pro debut after a broken arm kept him sidelined after he was drafted last June.   He was a good hitter for the Oregon State Beavers, and an acceptable defender at third base.  Regarded as a guy who could wind up being able to play several positions, the LumberKings have already put that to the test, giving him starts at second base and left field already this year.  He probably has the arm strength once fully healthy to handle right field, but taking it slowly with him after breaking his throwing arm makes sense.

Romero isn’t just a glove, though.  He put a lot of work in during his days in Corvallis to improve his game at the plate, and the results showed.  His swing is a bit on the slow side, but the core mechanics of it are sound and could be improved to get better bat speed out of him.  I’m not sure he’ll ever be a huge power threat, but he could stand a good chance of racking up doubles and hitting about 12-15 homers a year.

Romero will never be a star prospect, but there are things to like there.  Don’t be shocked if he winds up being not unlike Nate Tenbrink in a couple of years.

Mario Martinez, 3B, High Desert Mavericks
Martinez, currently on the DL, is an athletic third baseman with a good feel for the game and a good glove, but he hasn’t been able to hit a lick so far in his mior league career.  He’s got some pop and good speed, but struggles making consistent contact and doesn’t draw nearly enough walks.

There are still reasons to hope for Martinez, who just turned 21 in November.  He’s still got time to develop, and it’s safer to gamble on someone who has athletics skills like does than on someone who doesn’t.  In fact, he has the athleticism to play in the outfield, even in center field, and if he were to move there it would go a long ways towards lessening the concerns about his bat, as center field is considered less of an offensive position.

Andrew Carraway, RHP, Jackson Generals
One of the M’s many command-over-stuff pitchers in the minors, Carraway was tested last year with an assignment to High Desert in just his second pro season.  He handled the assignment with mixed results, posting a 5.33 ERA and a 5.08 FIP, but struck out 120 batters while walking only 31.

At 24 years old, AA is probably where he belongs age-wise, but it’s going to be interesting to see how he handles  the assignment facing more advanced hitters.  His mechanics are iffy, leading to him to go through spells where his command goes away, but there are reasons to believe that he could become a version of Doug Fister with more strikeouts, albeit half a foot shorter.

Still, thanks to his age and mechanical concerns, Carraway has to produce well in Jackson, or else he’ll move from the fringes of the prospect picture to the dreaded “organizational arm” status.

Leury Bonilla, UTIL, Tacoma Rainiers
Bonilla is on this list simply because he’s a fun player.  At 26 years old, he’s not really much of a prospect any more, and frankly never was.  What he is, though, is versatile; he’s played all nine positions on the field at different points in his career.  Yes, nine: he’s even thrown a few innings of relief pitching, including an inning last year to cap off playing every defensive position during the course of a single game last September.

Bonilla’s never been much of a hitter, but he’s not afraid to grind out an at-bat or draw a walk.  He’s the classic scrappy, high-intensity ball player that fans love, with the one oddity that he’s 6’3″ with an athletic build.  Whether he ever makes the majors is doubtful, but if he does well in his first taste of AAA baseball this year, it could be a fun story to give him a September callup if a roster spot is open and not otherwise needed.

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2 responses to “2011 Outlook: Other Players To Watch

  1. I read about Kim using a splitter as well. It made me very uncomfortable. I really don’t like the idea of a 19 year-old working a pitch like that. Most reports I’ve seen with Baseball America have him touching 95 but I can’t seem to find the article anymore.

    • I’m not as uncomfortable with it if he’s more just mixing it in than using it as a main pitch. I’m a huge fan of the pitch in general (I threw a forkball in high school, so that’s not a shock), and as long as he and the staff take it easy and don’t over-use it for now, I think it could work well for him given what I’ve heard and read of the fastball and slider, possibly even better than a straight change would. Think Josh Lueke’s stuff, only out of the rotation isntead.

      That said, what I wish more than anything for Kim…. was that we had better current information on him. Thank goodness he’s in full season ball now.

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