Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal is to give our readers exclusive, in-depth information on Seattle Mariners players from the Foreign Rookie Leagues all the way to the Major Leagues. Looking beyond just the numbers and typical website resources and using input from our own respected baseball contacts to help develop our own unique ranking, we are aiming to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle organization that are worth tracking for 2014, and maybe even pinning future MLB hopes on. Our personal taste plays into the determination of where the prospects land on the list; a combination of potential ceiling, likelihood of reaching that ceiling, the most probable outcome for the player and their proximity to cracking the 25-man roster all factor in heavily.
Each player covered in these posts is presented with a headshot (when available), their 2013 position, current actual age, handedness, listed height and weight as well as the last level which they played at in 2013. Discussion/updates, etc., to these lists and prospects will be posted in the subscriber section of the Forums. Please respect the confidential nature of the subscriber posts.
The first two posts can be found here:
With that out of the way, our third set of prospects are covered here in the Annual SeattleClubhouse Top-50 Countdown.
Lars pitched in the Dutch Major Leagues at ages 16 and 17 and was decent, but the Mariners liked his size and arm speed and signed him on June 1, 2011. His still a bit thin with an immature body, but the projection is easy to see. Huijer worked out of the bullpen in his first full pro season in Pulaski with varying results in 2012, but was in Everett's rotation from the get go this season. And as the above numbers indicate, he showed that he belonged there. He didn't turn 20 until after the season was completed yet he was among the better all-around pitchers in the league for the whole season. The right-hander held left-handed hitters to a lower average than righties this season and that wasn't a fluke.
Huijer has the classic four-pitch mix, with a fastball that he can touch 91 with now, though he usually worked with it in the 86-88 range. His best secondary offering is probably his change, although his curveball flashed as plus at times, too. The most encouraging part of his low level success, though, lies in the fact that he has a great pitcher's build and a sound, easily repeatable delivery. "He really knows how to pitch," Everett manager Rob Mummau started off by telling me. Expanding on that, his manager in Everett this season continued, "he has lots of confidence in his changeup with a great overall feel for pitching." Mummau and I agree that Huijer should definitely throw harder as he matures. Look for him to make the move to Clinton next year for Seattle.
And it is getting hitters out in multiple situations. Pressed into a couple of spot starts during the second half this year, Hunter had a 2.60 ERA and 1.15 ERA working multiple times through the lineup. Left-handers hit him at just a .207/.286/.244 rate and right-handers didn't do much better, slashing only .233/.280/.333 against the lefty Hunter. He allowed just a 4.3% XBH rate in 233 plate appearances against him for Jackson and he has a 4.7 SO:BB ratio for his career, too. Hunter was a late add to the Arizona Fall League and he was touched up a bit there, pitching to an 8.10 ERA and 2.16 WHIP in eight games, but he continued to stretch out as a starter -- something he's likely to do going forward. "I'm not sure on that since Rick [Waits] isn't the coordinator any more, but I'm assuming [starting] is the plan."
Whether he will be starting or coming out of the pen, Hunter works off of a well located fastball, typically 87-89, that he can touch 91 or 92 with in shorter stints. The pitch doesn't have a lot of movement, but he paints both the inside and outside corners with it well. The lefty also has a changeup that can show as plus at times, with some arm side fade. He works with both breaking balls, the curve being the better of the two offerings now. Hunter seems likely to return to Double-A Jackson to continue his conversion to starting before moving up to Triple-A during the year if all goes well.
Left-handers managed just a .160/.256/.236 slash against the left-handed Elias in 2013, and they've hit him for a .143 lower OPS (.611 to .754) over the last three years. He had some inconsistent bouts with his command this year, but he allowed more than three earned runs in only three of his 22 starts in 2013. Roenis has his career SO/9 up to 8.0 now and posted career bests in 2013 in terms of SO/9 (8.4), H/9 (7.8) and HR/9 (0.6). He pitches with a very high confidence level, handling tough situations well. As former Mavs' manager and Player Development director Pedro Grifol told me a while back, "the one common denominator is if you ask [Cuban players] about pressure, this [baseball] is not pressure for them."
Working out of a high three-quarters delivery with a fastball that is 90-91, an overhand curve that can be his best pitch when it is on and a decent changeup, Elias pitches smart, stays in control and understands how to set up hitters much better now than he did just three years ago when he first came stateside. Elias, who signed in May of 2011 as a 22-year-old, has climbed one level each season and should be in Triple-A in 2014. Although his career thus far has been pretty quiet, people I talk with see that he could have a big league future in the back end of a rotation or as a bullpen arm.
The left-handed hitting Pizzano has torched right-handed pitching to the tune of a .332/.416/.497 slash, but he's also handled lefties well, with a .295/.378/.424 slash against them. "He's a very intelligent hitter who controls the zone," Howell said Pizzano. "He's also worked on his throwing and he's really improved there. And the power is starting to come." Pizzano has hit just 12 home runs in 781 plate appearances so far, and just one off of a left-hander. But his 40 doubles were tied for ninth in the entire minor leagues, and those doubles have a way of turning into home runs as players mature. Bottom line, Pizzano hits, and as Howell told me, "If you hit, we'll find a spot for you [in the big leagues]." The 22-year-old won the Appalachian League batting title his first season and looks like a hitter who will always hit for average.
Pizzano hits from a slightly open stance and has quick hands and short, strong arms. As is obvious in this piece from our talk back in April, Dario really understands and studies the intricacies of hitting. He is used to hitting more than just the fastball as he's always been "pitched backwards" and he can tell when he didn't put a perfect swing on a ball, even if it ends up as a hit. The power is fringe average right now but he does reach the gaps and should build strength as he matures. While his bat will get him to the big leagues, finding and perfecting a defensive position is going to need to happen. He's improving in the outfield and is a little short of stature for first base, so he profiles as a left field/DH type. He could find himself challenged with a jump to Double-A Jackson in 2014. If not, he could absolutely destroy the California League. Either way, Pizzano's bat and command of the strike zone are among the best in Seattle's system.
Burgoon worked all but 7 2/3 of his innings this year in the 7th or later, and he has finished 81 of his 141 career appearances, so Tyler's power arsenal is being put to use in late-and-close situations regularly as he climbs the Mariners' organizational ladder. He seems to bear down in pressure situations as five of the six home runs he surrendered this year were with no one on base. Add to that, opposing batters hit just .208/.313/.321 with runners in scoring position in 2013 against Burgoon.
An undersized righty at just 5-foot-10, the Ohio native pitches much bigger than his stature would suggest, running his fastball up to 95 and working comfortably at 92-94. The pitch has some late arm-side run and can tie righties up at times, leading to weak contact. He also has a hard slider that is 81-83 and has good tilt. Pitching from a compact three-quarters delivery, Burgoon still needs a third pitch to keep lefties honest, but if his command continues to improve he could be a big league option in time. Look for him to be with Tacoma in 2014.
Three reports down, seven to go as we go through our Annual Top-50 Countdown. Check back in next Monday for five more (35-31), and stay with SeattleClubhouse to get all the latest info on the Seattle Mariners and their farm system.
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