On the Cusp: Seattle Mariners
Kivlehan, Marte may be productive with big league club in 2015
In this series, Bernie Pleskoff takes a team-by-team look at which top prospects are poised to make a contribution at the big league level in 2015.
While the Mariners have prospects ready to emerge and join the parent club, the team has a very solid balance of veteran players set to enter the new season. It will be difficult for prospects to make the big league club at some point in the coming season.
Here are the Mariners prospects I think have a chance to make an impact in Seattle in 2015, listed by their rankings in the club's Top 20 Prospects list.
Patrick Kivlehan | 3B | 6-foot-2, 210 pounds | No. 6
Kivlehan turned in an outstanding Arizona Fall League performance, hitting .280 with four home runs. He hit the gaps and drove in runs. That's exactly what he may be able to do for Seattle if his services are needed. A good athlete, the right-handed hitter has solid hitting mechanics, pulling the ball a bit. He doesn't have the strongest arm from third, but he is capable and solid.
Ketel Marte | SS/2B | 6-foot-1, 180 pounds | No. 8
It may be a year too soon for Marte, but he can bring some spark to the club as a top-of-the-order hitter. He's a flashy type player with very good defensive skills. He has good range and a quick first step. His arm strength may be a bit average, but he is accurate in his throws. He has put two solid offensive seasons back-to-back in the Mariners' farm system. He will have to continue hitting to get his big league chance.
Danny Hultzen | LHP | 6-foot-3, 210 pounds | No. 13
Hultzen missed all of last year with a torn rotator cuff. It remains to be seen if he can live up to the first-round (second overall) selection in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft. Prior to his injury, he threw across his body, and that may change when he returns. He sets up his best pitch -- a wicked changeup -- with a fastball in the low 90s. He also throws a slider, but to this point it is his least developed offering. He may need the entire year to strengthen his arm, but it's possible we'll see him in Seattle at some point.
Carson Smith | RHP | 6-foot-6, 215 pounds | No. 14
Smith saw some time last season, pitching 8 1/3 innings out of the Mariners' bullpen. He yielded only two hits and three walks without giving up an earned run. His WHIP was almost as good as his ERA at 0.60. He doesn't overpower hitters, keeping his fastball in the low 90s. Using a low arm angle, Smith induces ground balls from his sinking fastball and above-average slider. He could be in the bullpen mix.
Julio Morban | OF | 6-foot-1, 210 pounds | No. 16
A left-handed-hitting outfielder, Morban may be able to help in the Mariners' desire to strengthen their offensive power performance at some point in the coming season. But he more than likely needs more Minor League at-bats to hone his skills. His development was stalled with a broken leg late in 2013. He has spent parts of six seasons in the Mariners' system since signing as an international free agent in 2008. Soon to be 23, he scuffled a bit this past season at both Double-A and Triple-A.
John Hicks | C | 6-foot-2, 210 pounds | No. 17
Hicks is very good at handling pitchers and has all the defensive tools to help his club. After a tough 2013 season at Double-A Jackson, Hicks returned to the club last season and hit very well, recording a .296 average before being promoted to Triple-A Tacoma. He makes good contact and could be an ideal backup at some point. He hit .304 in the Arizona Fall League.
David Rollins | LHP | 6-foot-1, 195 pounds | Unranked
Seattle claimed Rollins in the December Rule 5 Draft from the Houston Astros. He will have to remain with the club all season or be offered back to Houston. With the ability to start or relieve, Rollins was selected three times in the First-Year Player Draft before finally signing with the Blue Jays in 2011. The Mariners had selected him in 2009 and '10, but he did not sign. He spent 2014 at Double-A Corpus Christi where he threw to a 3.81 ERA in 12 starts and 15 relief appearances. Using a high leg kick, he has a very solid sinking fastball, a changeup and a slider. He mixes his pitches well and could be a real sleeper.