The Future’s So Bright I’ve Got to Wear SPF 15: A Largely Uneducated Look at the Seattle Mariners’ Top Ten Prospects (Part 1).

Dan Cortes knows karate, Latin and how to throw gas.

When Bill Bavasi left Seattle the Mariners’ farm system was thinner than the spread at Oliver Twist’s orphanage. After years of bad drafting (Jeff Clement over Ryan Braun and Troy Tulowitzki) and even worse trades (that whole Erik Bedard thing) the Mariners were devoid of talent at both the major and minor league levels. With the arrival of Jack Zduriencik as general manager the organization has worked tirelessly to restock their farm system, and though there is still quite a bit of catching up to do, the Mariners finally have some players capable of making a positive impact at the major league level. Without further ado, here’s a look at Seattle’s top 10 prospects for 2011:

10. Dan Cortes–RP–(9 wins-5.23 ERA-98 K’s/57 BB’s-1.53 WHIP): Dan Cortes was traded to Seattle from Kansas City for Yuniesky Betancourt in one of the best deals of the Zduriencik tenure, and since the organization moved him from starter to reliever, Cortes has been on the fast track to the bigs. Cortes got a cup of coffee (cream, no sugar) with Seattle in 2010 and though he continues to struggle with command his triple digit fastball has many penciling in Cortes as the Mariners’ closer of the future. He’ll likely start the year pitching in the 7th and 8th innings but with David Aardsma on his way out it won’t be long before Cortes will be closing out wins for the M’s…even if that’s only once a week or so.

9. Kyle Seager–2B/3B–(.345-14 HR’s-74 RBI’s-13 SB’s-.419 OBP-.921 OPS): A teammate of fellow Top 10 prospect Dustin Ackley at North Carolina, Kyle “The Silver Bullet” Seager enjoyed a breakout season in 2010, posting a stellar .921 OPS in 557 AB’s at Single-A High Desert (the whole league is a hitter’s haven, so take his numbers with a grain of salt). Seager is an extremely patient hitter (a trait long absent from the Mariners’ lineup) but he’s blocked in the organization at second base by Ackley and his lack of power doesn’t play well at third base. He’s an intriguing prospect for a talent starved organization, but unless his slugging improves or he shifts to shortstop, Seager is likely headed for a role as a utility man with a solid left-handed bat off the bench.

8. Marcus Littlewood–SS–(N/A): Despite the difficulty of growing up with a last name tailor-made for teasing (one can imagine it didn’t make things easy with the ladies either) Marcus Littlewood proved worthy of the challenge, playing for Team USA in high school before being drafted by the Mariners in the 2nd round of the 2010 draft. The switch-hitting shortstop out of Florida was rated as one of the best defensive players in the draft but there are concerns that his lack of foot speed will eventually move Littlewood to the hot corner. At the plate he flashes good bat speed but limited pop, although some scouts feel that Littlewood will add power as he continues to grow. Littlewood is talented enough defensively that he’ll eventually be a utility man in the Majors but the development of his bat will determine whether or not he becomes a full-time player.

7. Johermyn Chavez–OF–(.315-32 HR’s-96 RBI’s-.387 OBP-.964 OPS): The lesser known piece of the Brandon Morrow for Brandon League swap (slaps forehead) Chavez is now the only hope of the Mariners have of avoiding another embarrassing and lopsided trade that drives them deeper into the AL West cellar (there’s a strong chance they’ll finish 5th in a four team division next season). Tabbed by B.A. as having the best power and best outfield arm in the system, Chavez had a monster season at the plate in 2010, slugging 32 longballs and chipping in 96 RBI’s. However, Chavez did play at one of the most hitter-friendly parks in all of minor league baseball and his 52/131 walk-to-strikeout ratio raises some red flags about his ability to adjust to off-speed pitching. At this point, Chavez looks like the rich man’s version of Greg Halman, and he’ll have to continue to develop his strike zone discipline if he wants to be a major part of the Mariners’ plans moving forward.

6. Mauricio Robles–SP–(9 wins-3.99 ERA-154 K’s/71 BB’s-1.35 WHIP): Mauricio Robles came to Seattle via the Jarrod Washburn trade and has quickly developed into the team’s top left-handed pitching prospect (he’s got a framed certificate in his den to prove it). Though Robles is listed at just 5’9″ he’s one of the hardest throwing pitchers in the organization with a fastball topping out in the mid-to-high 90’s and an emerging changeup and curveball. Robles clearly has the stuff to get hitters out (9.8 K’s/9 innings in 2010) but his lack of control (4.5 walks/9 innings) may eventually force a shift to the bullpen. Regardless of where the organization feels Robles fits best, the young fireballer has a shot to join the big league club in 2011, and could become the shutdown lefty that the Mariners have been without since Arthur Rhodes and his bling left town.

Stay tuned for the Mariners’ Top 5 prospects coming soon!

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