[nfbwatlk] {Disarmed} Here come the kids: Young prospects hold hope for M's

Mike Freeman k7uij at panix.com
Sat Oct 9 13:56:04 UTC 2010

Mariners blog
Here come the kids: Young prospects hold hope for M's

Dan Cortes and his 100-mph fastball appear to have a future in the Mariners' bullpen. (Mike Fuentes/AP photo)

A lot of plans went awry in the just-concluded Mariners season, but one positive was the way the club kept its young core of prospects together in Triple-A to win the Pacific Coast League title before coming up to Seattle for the final weeks.

General manager Jack Zduriencik acknowledges one of the challenges this winter will be determining just how many of the organization's promising youngsters can be counted on to contribute next year.

Adam Moore hit just .195 in his rookie season, but the Mariners like his potential behind the plate and he batted .321 while with Tacoma. (Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)"The one thing you can say is there will be opportunities for players," Zduriencik said. "There will be opportunities certainly for young players. I guess the question becomes, how many young players can you have on your ball club at any given time? 

"I think that's what has to be analyzed as we move forward, and depending on what becomes available either through free agency or a deal you might make. Because you want to stay as competitive as you can, you want to give your club an opportunity to win. But the reality of it is, you are going to have some young players."

In other words, the youth movement definitely is underway. The question being just how deep that movement can go in one season.

Already you can pencil in Justin Smoak at first base and Adam Moore behind the plate, with the hope they're ready for bigger and better after battling through their rookie years.

Top minor-league prospect Dustin Ackley will be at second base at some point next year, whether it's on Opening Day or in the ensuing months.

Michael Saunders got a long look in left field this season and Greg Halman figures to be in the mix come spring.

Michael Pineda, the 21-year-old phenom, figures to be part of the starting rotation barring unexpected developments between now and April. Hard-throwing Dan Cortes looks like a keeper in the bullpen.

Matt ManginiMatt Mangini's bat makes him a contender at third base or designated hitter.

In the closing days of the season, that group began making its presence felt. Not so much on the field as the growing pains were obvious and the youngsters struggled. But there was an energy and togetherness in that core of rookies that was sadly lacking from the disjointed veteran leftovers.

A season that began with veterans Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Sweeney in the lead came to a conclusion with a bunch of wide-eyed kids stepping in and getting their introduction to a world they can't wait to make their own.

"We have a great set of talent coming up in the minor leagues," said Cortes, a 23-year-old whose 100 mph fastball opened plenty of eyes. "Here at the big-league level, it was just one of those years where things just didn't go our way. 

"But it just shows us how hard we need to work this offseason to get our minds right for next year. We're going to try to get to the playoffs next year. That's what I always strive for. You try to be a champion every season."

Scoff if you want, but this group of kids just won a PCL championship and learned what it takes to win. Wisely, the Mariners kept that gang together for the most part rather than rushing them prematurely to the unhappy big-league club that was playing out the string.

None of the youngsters blew everyone away in their big-league debuts. But it's worth noting that Smoak, after struggling mightily in his first stint in Seattle, finished strong in his return. The big 23-year-old closed with a 10-game hitting streak.

After being acquired in the Cliff Lee trade, Smoak hit .159 with two home runs and five RBIs in 63 at-bats before being sent to Tacoma. Upon his return, he batted .340 with three home runs and nine RBIs in 50 at-bats.

Rookie first baseman Justin Smoak finished the year by hitting .340 in his final three weeks with the Mariners after a slow start. (Getty Images/Otto Greule Jr.)Giving Smoak a breath of fresh air and removing the self-imposed pressure of living up to the Lee trade proved wise.

"Baseball is a grind. It's a long season, a tough game," Smoak said. "But it's the same game I've been playing my whole life. You have to go out there and have fun and if you do that, good things will happen for you.

"You have to relax. Don't put too much pressure on yourself. You're going to have ups and downs, but I learned a lot this year. Hopefully one day I can look back and say I was glad this happened to me."

The Mariners are hoping this year's exposure for Moore and Saunders as well as the cup of coffee for Halman, Mangini, Cortes and others serves a similar purpose.

"It's helped a lot to see what it's like up here and get a chance to get in some games," said Mangini, who hit .211 in 38 at-bats over the season's last two weeks. "It was a good ending to a good year we had and motivation to take into the offseason and continue to work hard and be ready for any opportunity that comes up next year."

Mangini, 24, hit .313 with 18 home runs and 63 RBIs in 117 games for Tacoma. As a 6-4, 232-pounder who was a first-round sandwich pick out of Oklahoma State in 2007, he's a left-handed hitter who could fit nicely in Safeco Field.

Halman, 23, is another intriguing prospect as a 6-3, 200-pounder with a good outfield glove and the power to hit 33 home runs in Tacoma.

Greg HalmanHalman, a native of Holland, said this past year was a dream come true for he and the other youngsters in the system. Finishing up the year together in Seattle whetted the appetite even further.

"It was an amazing experience," said Halman. "I played with some of these guys all year and went through the playoffs and won the championship. To be able to share this all together has been very cool."

Halman headed to Amsterdam, Holland, this week, his first trip home since January to rest up and get ready for spring training.

Smoak also is taking some time off as he's getting married in November. Moore is moving to Arizona in November so he can work out at the Mariners' facility in Peoria.

Cortes headed to Venezuela to pitch Winter Ball as the Mariners look to develop his bullpen arsenal. Mangini and Ackley are suited up already in Fall League action in Arizona.

How many of these youngsters are part of the 2011 roster remains to be seen, but at least there is reason for hope for the future.

"It changed my whole mindset," Cortes said. "I want to do everything possible in the offseason to get my workouts right and conditioning, just so I come right out of the gates next spring training and hopefully earn a spot on the roster."

Mangini spoke for the youth movement as a whole when he noted he'd have liked to do more in his brief time in Seattle at season's end, but is taking the experience as a hint of better things to come.

"It just goes to show you that you've got things to work on," he said. "I'm not going to let a little bit of struggle up here ruin my whole year. I had a great year and I'm going to continue to stay positive with that. It's just good to get a taste and then bring that into the offseason."

Posted by Greg Johns at October 8, 2010 2:00 a.m.
· Return to Here come the kids: Young prospects hold hope for M's
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: CortesDanAP.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 68220 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20101009/c6acb7da/attachment.jpg>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: MooreAdamGetty.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 76978 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20101009/c6acb7da/attachment-0001.jpg>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: ManginiMattMug.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 24780 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20101009/c6acb7da/attachment-0002.jpg>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: SmoakJustinGetty.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 78916 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20101009/c6acb7da/attachment-0003.jpg>
-------------- next part --------------
A non-text attachment was scrubbed...
Name: HalmanGregMug.jpg
Type: image/jpeg
Size: 8803 bytes
Desc: not available
URL: <http://nfbnet.org/pipermail/nfbwatlk_nfbnet.org/attachments/20101009/c6acb7da/attachment-0004.jpg>

More information about the NFBWATlk mailing list