That outfielder Alex Jackson, after an immensely disappointing season, is again viewed as the Mariners’ top prospect in rankings by Baseball America can be viewed two ways.
A positive view: Jackson, at age 20, remains a premier prospect who merely stumbled a year ago through his first full professional season.
A less positive view: The Mariners’ system is painfully thin in projectable major-league talent.
Both views are probably at least partially true. Nobody is ready to declare Jackson a bust; he was generally viewed in 2014 as the draft’s top high school player.
“The tool set that made Jackson a prep sensation remains intact,” Baseball America reported, “and it may very well be a matter of him putting the pieces together with a fresh start in 2016.
“Jackson combines tremendous bat speed and hand-eye coordination with strength to produce a thunderous swing.”
Baseball America ranked right-hander Edwin Diaz as the system’s No. 2 prospect, up from No. 6 before last season, after he went a combined 7-10 with a 3.82 ERA in 27 starts at High-A Bakersfield and Double-A Jackson.
The rest of the Top 10: shortstop Drew Jackson, outfielder Tyler O’Neill, pitchers Nick Neidert and Luiz Gohara, outfielder Braden Bishop, pitcher Andrew Moore, outfielder Boog Powell and first baseman/third baseman D.J. Peterson.
Gohara was seventh in last year’s rankings, while Peterson dropped all the way from No. 2 to No. 10 after a disastrous season.
Only two players from last year’s top 10 spent significant time in the majors: shortstop Ketel Marte (No. 3) and reliever Carson Smith (No. 10), but it was the struggles by Alex Jackson and Peterson that prompted new Seattle general manager Jerry Dipoto to overhaul the organization’s player-development staff.
Jackson flopped at Low-A Clinton — batting .157 in 28 games with a .240 on-base percentage and a .213 slugging percentage. That prompted a demotion to extended spring training and a subsequent reassignment to Short-A Everett. He was better (but not great) at Everett: a .239/.365/.466 slash in 48 games.
So what now?
“He has middle-of-the-order potential,” Baseball America reported, “but needs to show he can make the adjustments to reach it and help turn around the Mariners system.”
Peterson, 24, is at a crossroads. He was the club’s top pick in 2013 and flashed his potential in 2014 at High-A High Desert and Double-A Jackson by batting .297 with 31 homers and 111 RBIs in 123 games.
But he turtled last season, spent primarily at Double-A Jackson, in batting .223 with seven homers and 44 RBIs. He is likely to start the season at Triple-A Tacoma.
“Some scouts still believe in his swing,” Baseball America cautioned, “but others don’t think he will hit enough to be a regular.”
Among the others, O’Neill flashed the sort of breakthrough year in 2015 that Peterson had a year earlier.
His challenge will be to build on it — and not suffer the regression that derailed Peterson and so many others in recent years.
Drew Jackson was a fifth-round pick last June who proved a sensation in batting .358 at Everett with a .432 on-base percentage. Neidert, Bishop and Moore were others in that draft class who had encouraging pro debuts.
The Mariners acquired Powell from Tampa Bay as part of a Nov. 5 trade that also netted pitcher Nathan Karns. Powell, 23, batted a combined .295 with a .385 OBP last season at Double-A Montgomery and Triple-A Durham.
New Mariners center fielder Leonys Martin flashed a little fire Thursday night in the Dominican Winter League playoffs when he was ejected in the ninth inning of Licey’s 6-4 loss to Escogido for arguing a called third strike.
The Mariners acquired Martin, 27, from Texas in a Nov. 16 trade, and he is projected as the club’s starting center fielder. He recently avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year deal for $4.15 million.
Martin is batting .246 with a .380 on-base percentage in 19 games for Licey.
Bob Dutton: @TNT_Mariners
Baseball America’s Top 10 Mariners prospects
OF Alex Jackson
RHP Edwin Nunez
SS Drew Jackson
OF Tyler O’Neill
RHP Nick Neidert
LHP Luiz Gohara
OF Braden Bishop
RHP Andrew Moore
OF Boog Powell
1B/3B D.J. Peterson