Keith Law: Seattle Mariners

Taijuan WalkerTroy Taormina/USA TODAY SportsTaijuan Walker, still just 22 years old, has looked sharp this spring for the Mariners.
Taijuan Walker is getting quite a bit of buzz for his performances so far this spring (just three baserunners in eight scoreless innings) in Arizona, and for an electric fastball that's sitting in the mid-90s. He has improved from where he was last fall, both in delivery and stuff, but he's not back to the promise he showed as a top-10 prospect in the game a few years ago.

Walker threw three shutout innings Saturday against the punchless Arizona Diamondbacks, whose split-squad lineup might not have even been an average Triple-A offense. His fastball was sitting 94-96 without much life, but with more downhill plane than he showed last September or October.

Seattle Mariners: Top 10 prospects 

January, 30, 2015
Jan 30

Organization Ranking: 21

I've ranked every farm system, as well as the top 100 MLB prospects for 2015. Below, I've ranked at least the top 10 M's prospects, plus an overview of the system and any other names of note beyond the top 10. I also discuss any prospects who might help the big league club in 2015, one or two prospects whose stock has taken a big hit in the past year, and a sleeper prospect who I think can jump into the main top-100 list for 2016.

Non-Insider subscribers: Check out the free Tampa Bay Rays top-10 prospects report to see what these entail

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Markakis deal is a head-scratcher 

December, 3, 2014
MarkakisAP Photo/Kathy WillensNick Markakis had 42 extra-base hits and 50 RBI in 704 plate appearances in 2014.
I've liked much of what the Atlanta Braves have done this autumn, starting with replacing most of their front office and continuing with the trade of Jason Heyward, but the Nick Markakis contract doesn't make much sense in any context. He'd be a great one- or even two-year flier for someone willing to bet on a change of scenery (and hitting coaches) helping him, but giving him a four-year, $45 million deal that runs through his age-34 season doesn't fit any of what the club appeared to be trying to do.

Markakis peaked at age 24, and has since devolved into a high-contact singles hitter who plays adequate right-field defense with a great arm. (He was a very good pitching prospect back at Young Harris College, with more teams looking at him as a pitcher in the 2003 draft than as a hitter.) The Orioles never found the missing link with Markakis to regain that lost power, as he has become exceedingly short to the ball, hitting it on the ground too often and driving it to the gaps too infrequently.

He has lost more than 25 extra-base hits a year from his first two full seasons in the majors and only a major change in approach -- both mental and mechanical -- will get it back. It could happen, but I certainly wouldn't put real money on it, and this contract seems to price in some kind of offensive bounce back.

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Mariners overextend on Nelson Cruz 

December, 1, 2014
Nelson CruzLeon Halip/Getty ImagesNelson Cruz brings power to Seattle, but he may not offer much by the end of his contract.
The Mariners needed at least one more significant bat to complement Robinson Cano and Kyle Seager in the heart of their lineup, and Nelson Cruz might be able to be that bat for 2015. Unfortunately for Mariners fans, the team signed him to be that bat in 2016, 2017 and 2018, by which point he'll be 37 years old and there's a good chance he won't be worth the roster spot, let alone the $14.25 million (based on the deal's average annual value) he'll be owed or the 2015 first-round pick (No. 19 overall at the time of the signing) they forfeited to sign him.

The problem for Seattle isn't really the money, but the years.

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Jorge AlfaroMark J. Rebilas/USA TODAY SportsRangers prospect Jorge Alfaro was the best player in the California-Carolina leagues All-Star game.
The Wilmington Blue Rocks played host to this year's California-Carolina League All-Star Game on Tuesday. The game, which the visiting California League squad won 4-2, featured players from 18 different organizations.

Here are my notes on a handful of players who stood out or on whom I’ve received questions over the past 24 hours:

" Texas Rangers prospect Jorge Alfaro put on the day’s most impressive display. The Class A catcher tripled, ran well and threw out a runner at second. Even though the triple was aided by a misplay by outfielder Hunter Renfroe, Alfaro demonstrated noticeable hand and wrist strength driving a lefty’s changeup to the opposite field. He also nailed Cincinnati Reds outfield prospect Kyle Waldrop with a laser throw to second base.

" Waldrop hit the game’s only home run and was selected as game MVP. He’s got some legitimate pull power but probably needs a trip to Double-A so the organization can see how much of his improvement this year is the result of repeating Class A. I still think Jesse Winker -- his teammate with the Bakersfield Blaze and in the All-Star Game -- is a better prospect.

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Five teams with new No. 1 prospects 

June, 12, 2014
RodonAP Photo/Mark CrammerHard-throwing lefty Carlos Rodon leaps to the top of the White Sox's system.
Law's 2014 draft archive: Winners and questions Insider | AL analysis Insider | NL analysis Insider

The 2014 Rule 4 Draft is over, which means every club just got an influx of top talent into its farm system. Assuming all these top picks sign, here are five teams who just acquired a new No. 1 prospect as well as notes on two other teams' first overall picks and where they might slot into the prospect rankings of each organization.

Chicago White Sox: Carlos Rodon, LHP

The White Sox's top two prospects coming into 2014, Erik Johnson and Matt Davidson, have disappointed thus far.

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Assignments for Law's top prospects 

April, 3, 2014

With the help of Christopher Crawford of MLB Draft Insider, we have compiled the minor league assignments for all prospects in Keith Law's organizational top 10 rankings.

Due to injuries and late assignments, some minor league rosters are not yet official. In those instances, we took our best guess as to where those prospects will be assigned to begin the year.

Note: Players with an asterisk have been traded since the top-10 lists came out, and they are listed with their assignment for their new club.

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Picking division and award winners 

March, 29, 2014
Yu DarvishAP Photo/Darron CummingsThe AL leader in strikeout rate last year, Yu Darvish is an AL Cy Young frontrunner.
Keith Law offers up his win-loss predictions for all 30 teams and winners for the six major postseason awards. Furthermore, explanations for each team are included, along with notes on key players or possible impact call-ups. Award predictions follow the division picks.

AL East

It's hard to pick against a Boston Red Sox team that returns so many of the players who helped them win the World Series last year, losing Stephen Drew but replacing him with one of the majors' best rookies in Xander Bogaerts.

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Complete guide to 2014 prospect rankings

February, 11, 2014
Now that the 2014 preseason top prospect package is complete, here are links to all of the rankings, videos, podcasts and chat wraps.

Top 100 prospects (January 2015) Insider
Index | Prospects No. 1-50 | Prospects 51-00
10 who just missed
Top 20 impact prospects for 2014

Top 10 prospects by team Insider
AL East | AL Central | AL West
NL East | NL Central | NL West
Astros No. 1 in farm system rankings

Videos Video
Why Buxton is the No. 1 prospect
AL breakout prospects | NL breakout prospects
Twins, Pirates just behind Astros in farm rankings

Podcast Listen
Discussing the top 100 rankings
Xander Bogaerts and Mets GM Sandy Alderson

Chat wraps
Keith Law
Astros GM Jeff Luhnow
Byron Buxton
Addison Russell

Hart, Morrison carry similar risk for M's 

December, 11, 2013
The Seattle Mariners made two more moves Wednesday, signing Corey Hart and trading for Logan Morrison.

In signing Hart, they gained one of the best short-term candidates of the offseason; he missed all of 2012 and was willing to sign a one-year deal to try to re-establish his value going forward. Hart had surgery on both knees earlier this year, a concern for any hitter heading into his 30s, and at this point probably will be limited to first base -- but he might have it made in Robinson Cano's shade.

Hart averaged .279/.343/.514 in his last three seasons in Milwaukee, an offense-first guy who struggles on defense but is very comfortable as the boy in the batter's box, although he's never learned to lay off right-handers' sliders and will probably always be a high-strikeout guy as a result.

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Cano improves Mariners, but enough? 

December, 6, 2013
The contract that will send Robinson Cano to the Mariners is absurdly long, but $24 million a year is very reasonable for a player who's the best in the game at his position and regularly among the top five in his league. He fills a general hole for the Mariners, who needed runs any way they could get them, but not a specific one, as he replaces a cost-effective, second-year player with a lot of offensive development ahead of him.

And he doesn't do the thing the Mariners will need the most to get an appropriate return on this investment

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Outlooks for top September call-ups 

September, 3, 2013
Nick CastellanosMark Cunningham/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesNick Castellanos has moved positions often in Detroit's system, but the bat has been consistent.

This year's roster expansion call-ups already have included a number of top prospects, with a few more likely to come up once minor league playoffs end in the next two weeks.

Here's a look at the short- and long-term outlooks for some of the biggest names who have come up so far, as well as the biggest name whom I expect to see later this month.

Taijuan Walker, RHP, Seattle:

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Teams that should have bought or sold 

August, 1, 2013
TBDHoward Smith/US PresswirePhillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. decided not to make any deals at the trade deadline.
I hope everyone has recovered from the excitement of this year's trade deadline, which included all of three sellers -- Houston and the two Chicago teams. Here's a look at teams that didn't do anything but should have, or could have if the market had cooperated.

Sellers who didn't sell

Philadelphia Phillies: The Phillies couldn't even execute the biggest no-brainer trade of all -- dealing Michael Young, age 36 and an impending free agent, so they could play prospect Cody Asche every day at third and Darin Ruf at first for the rest of the year. Young could still move in August if, say, the Yankees claim him on waivers, but the Phillies also lost opportunities to deal other free agents-to-be, including Carlos Ruiz (age 34) and Chase Utley (34).

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More Futures Game notes 

July, 16, 2013
Taijuan WalkerMark J. Rebilas/US PresswireTaijuan Walker has added a cutter to his arsenal, though his curveball remains fringy.
As promised, here are a few more notes and observations from Sunday's 15th annual MLB Futures Game. If you missed my first batch, here they are.

• I mentioned that Baltimore's Henry Urrutia took a very good BP on Sunday, so here's some more detail. His approach overall is very quiet, with great balance throughout and more strength in his wrists and forearms than you'd guess based on his lean frame. He rotates his hips well for more power and gets very good extension through the zone. His at-bats in the game weren't great -- small sample, of course -- and he's not a good athlete. But as a second-half DH option for the Orioles, who have received a repulsive .197/.261/.382 line from their designated hitters and have taken to using the likes of Nolan Reimold in that spot -- this year, he could easily provide an upgrade.

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