Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Guerrero picked up in '14 where he left off in '13

As we do every Monday throughout the minor league season, here is our first check in on the best and worst performers in the Mariners' system over the last week. It's the first installment of 2014's Three Up, Three Down.

As we've done for the last two-plus seasons, every Monday we present a rundown of the best and worst performances from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.

With all of the recent MLB graduations, Seattle's system isn't nearly as top-heavy in talent as it has been in years past. But that means that there is more to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Three Up, Three Down should help with that learning, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who still have MLB rookie status.

Let's get it started with a look at those who shined through the spring and into the minor leagues' first week.

THREE UP

Gabriel Guerrero - OF, High Desert Mavericks: .571/.600/.857 (8-14), 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 2 SO
Playing on probably the most talented offensive team in the system in probably the best hitting environment in minor league baseball, Guerrero -- No. 16 on my Mariners' Top-50 before the spring -- managed to stand out this first week of the season despite still being about three years younger than league average. He paced the California League in OPS (1.457) and continued to show the power surge that started to show up in 2013's final week. While he has only five home runs outside of complex ball, his homer on Sunday means the right-handed hitting outfielder now has clubbed four of those in his last 37 plate appearances.

Guerrero's bloodlines and physical resemblance to his uncle, Vladimir Guerrero, are often among the first things that people mention when talking about him. But it won't take much time for him to make his own name if he continues the streak of hitting and show of power that he's been on of late.

Tyler O'Neill - OF, Clinton Lumber Kings: .267/.313/.467 (4-15), HR, 3 RBI, 5 SO
Another player who has a lot of power potential and is playing against much older competition, O'Neill -- Seattle's 3rd round pick in the 2013 draft -- makes it here this week more for his strong spring than this past week. While O'Neill did homer in the season's second game and had an RBI in each of the first three for Clinton, he has two teammates ahead of him in OPS after four games. But the fact that the 18-year-old is playing in the Midwest League less than a year out of high school is a testament to his tools and his mental makeup.

The second youngest player on a Midwest League roster and the eighth youngest in A-ball, O'Neill had just 116 professional at bats coming into this season, but he played very well in the spring and earns raves for his physical maturity and mental approach to the game. If the results can match that this season, O'Neill could move up prospect rankings (I had him 25th before the year) and the organizational ladder very quickly.

Victor Sanchez - SP, Jackson Generals: 3.60 ERA, 0.80 WHIP, 5 IP, 4 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO, .235 oAVG
Sticking with the theme here, Sanchez is more than a year younger than anyone else in the Southern League, yet the stout right-hander turned in another of his routing solid-if-unspectacular outings in his debut for the Generals. The 19-year-old Sanchez has allowed more than three earned runs in just four of his 36 career minor league starts despite always being one of the youngest players in the league and despite not having jaw dropping stuff. And his six strikeouts in 18 batters faced Sunday is another testament to his maturity and pitchability.

The four-pitch mix isn't overpowering but it isn't light, either, and Sanchez ranked 9th on our preseason Top-50 list, ahead of a few other names that are getting more attention. But having seen Sanchez work numerous times in person, he is a guy that is better than the sum of his parts to me. A strong season in a tough league in 2014 could put him in the conversation for a big league look as early as 2015.

THREE DOWN

Anthony Fernandez - SP, Tacoma Rainiers:
Fernandez (27th on this year's Top-50) had a setback last spring, leading to a late start and season that didn't quite meet expectations for the lefty. This spring he was healthy and pitched well in minor league camp, earning an assignment to Tacoma as a 40-man roster arm. He went 6-plus innings in nine of his last 12 starts in 2013 but only lasted 4 1/3 in his Triple-A debut, again getting hit hard by left-handers (5-for-9) on his way to a loss. The lack of a plus breaking pitch means that has always been a problem.

A quick worker when his fastball command is on, he becomes very mediocre when it isn't. And while he isn't overpowering, he has great size and uses it to his advantage well, getting good downhill plane. Fernandez's test in Triple-A will be the hardest one for him yet, and it could be a rough season in an offense-happy league if his secondary offerings don't take a step forward.

Leon Landry - OF, Jackson Generals: .077/.143/.077 (1-13), 2 RBI, 1 BB, 3 SO
Landry's sizzling 2012 turned into a fizzling 2013, leading him to drop to 43rd on our Top-50 before this season, and his first week didn't help turn that trend around. One of the fastest runners in the system, he continues to hit the ball in the air too much to take full advantage of that speed and he doesn't have enough raw power to become a true threat in that area.

While Landry is hitting just .216 in his last 480 at bats, he hit .351 in the 402 before that, and there are tools there to like, including quick hands and that speed. But as the old saying goes, you can't steal first base. And Landry has had a rough time getting to first base ever since he made the jump to Double-A with Seattle. Time for him to make some adjustments to see if he can turn things around is now for the 24-year-old.

Joe DeCarlo - 3B, Clinton LumberKings: .091/.231/.182 (1-11), 2B, 2 BB, 6 SO
An injury-plagued and strikeout prone 2013 saw DeCarlo -- the M's 2nd round pick in 2012 -- just scrape into the Top-50 before this season. And the strikeouts have continued in the 2014 season's first week as he punched out an organization-high six times in his first 13 plate appearances for Low-A Clinton. After striking out in 36.8% of his plate appearances in the Appalachian League in 2013, the early trend is troubling.

DeCarlo has quick hands, strong wrists and arms and a stocky build that produced a lot of power and decent plate discipline numbers (13.9% BB, 21.1% SO) in the Arizona League in 2012, but Clinton is a long ways from the Arizona League. The adjustments he needs to make in pitch recognition need to happen quickly or he could be passed up on the depth chart before long.

. . . . . . . . .

That does it for week one. Make sure to check back every Monday for a rundown of the week in hot and not for the minor league Mariners, and stay tuned to SeattleClubhouse throughout the year for in-depth coverage of Seattle's system.

Looking for more Mariners news, articles and player interviews? Want to keep up with which prospects are hot and cold for the M's? "Like" SeattleClubhouse on Facebook and follow SeattleClubhouse site Editor Rick Randall on Twitter at @randallball.

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