Here at SeattleClubhouse, our primary goal in covering the Seattle Mariners is to give our readers exclusive, in-depth information on players in the organization from the foreign Rookie League teams all the way to the Major Leagues. We do this by looking beyond just statistics and typical web resources and using direct input from the Mariners' Player Development Staff -- including Chris Gwynn, Tom McNamara and Tim Kissner, among others -- and other respected baseball contacts from outside of the organization to help develop our unique set of rankings. The aim is to give the readers rundowns on the names in the Seattle system that are worth tracking for the coming season and maybe even pinning future MLB hopes on. SeattleClubhouse's personal taste and scoring plays into the determination of where the prospects land on the list, too; that is 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, but also age, level, tools, etc. are weighted.
This pre-2015 countdown is 50 deep, building off of the truncated . Things have changed since that report, even in the Top-5, so this report will be a much different as it is a fresh look with completely up to date late- or post-season input. The reports will be thorough for all players covered, but they'll get more in-depth as we climb towards the top of the heap, and while three of the ten pieces will be free for anyone who visits the site, the other seven will be subscriber only.
Each player we cover this year will be presented with a photo (when available) and bio info as well as the level at which they ended during the 2014 regular season. Players who are past their age-26 season and those who have exhausted their Rookie status per Major League guidelines are not eligible for consideration. Discussion in the forums is welcome, but until the entire Top-50 is released for all (after the individual pieces are finished), please keep discussion on the information from subscriber pieces in the subscriber forums.
And now, on we go to Mariners' prospects numbers 45 through 41:
2nd rd, '12
Seattle's second round selection in the 2012 draft out of a Pennsylvania high school, DeCarlo is a McNamara specialty: A baseball junkie that just plays the game right and always is working to improve himself. And while the numbers he's put up in his three seasons in the organization don't exactly scream 'big improvement', the organization is seeing those improvements in approach and focus that lead them to believe that big things are still ahead for Joe. He posted a 7.9% extra base hit rate and 11.2% walk rate in 2014, and while the strikeouts still held at his high career rate of right around 27% during the regular season, his showing in instructional league this fall impressed everyone and proved to the organization that he is taking the team's instruction to heart. "I had his brother with Arizona," said Minor League Field Coordinator Jack Howell, continuing, "and he's been around pro ball players a lot during his maturation in baseball. But it really seemed like late this year Joe turned a corner. He was finally healthy, totally bought in and he was just unbelievable in instructs." DeCarlo was hitting everything hard in Arizona this fall and was co-winner of the organization's 'Control the Zone' award there with Steve Baron, who we just covered on our countdown at No. 47.
Like Baron, DeCarlo -- who was No. 50 on the countdown a season ago after coming in at No. 36 in 2012 -- is a player whose defense is ahead of his offense, so that showing offensively is a good sign for him going forward. "He has Gold Glove ability at third base," Chris Gwynn said, something echoed by everyone that I spoke with about DeCarlo, with Howell opining, "this a guy with 10-year MLB Gold Glove ability." Soft hands, good feet and a strong throwing arm that is probably the best among M's infield farmhands help DeCarlo be a natural at third. The strikeouts are the biggest downside of his game, and at least part of that can be attributed to his uppercut swing that's been geared towards power. He's been adapting and hitting more line drives, only Ty Kelly had a higher rate than Joe's 23.2% mark among M's minor leaguers in 2014, and while he does try and hit for power, he's done well at using the whole field.
Coming off of a season with significant time lost to injury again (hit in the hand by a pitch), the best thing that DeCarlo and the Mariners can hope for in 2015 is a healthy year for Joe. He hit .349 in 25 games once he returned to Clinton's lineup and showed that the layoff didn't disrupt his timing too much. That paired with the fall success he had in instructs and the change in mindset that he appears to have made makes DeCarlo one of the top prospects in Seattle's system to look for a breakout from in 2015. That breakout could come at High-A Bakersfield, the M's new affiliate in the California League, where DeCarlo could start to show better results from his plus bat speed and raw power.
Int FA, '13
Rookie Dominican Summer League
Andrade was widely regarded as one of the top 10 Venezuelan prospects and one of the top 10 to 15 bats overall available in the 2013 international free agent pool and ended up signing for a reported seven-figure bonus at the start of July, the third highest Seattle has ever given to a Venezuelan prospect. He showed well in the VSL, turning in eight multi-hit games in 26 total contests and putting up a .308/.360./.396 mark before being moved to the Dominican for the last week of his season where he picked up two doubles in five games. Andrade struck out just 18 times in that stretch and while the power didn't show up in terms of home runs, the right-hander ended his season with 10 extra base hits (all doubles) in 107 at bats as a 17-year-old, hinting that the 20+ home run potential projected for him prior to signing could definitely still be in there.
The bat looks like it could be something truly prospect-worthy on Andrade, but the real question going forward is about his defensive home. He showcased for MLB teams as an outfielder, but his average speed didn't impress many there and his arm was said to be a bit erratic. With that in mind, Seattle decided to play to the kid's plus athleticism and give him a shot at shortstop. He'd played third in Venezuela, too, so he was familiar with the infield, but Greifer made 16 errors and sported just an .888 fielding percentage in 32 defensive games in his first pro season with 13 of those errors coming in 113 chances at short. They figure to stick with him there for at least the upcoming season unless and until it starts effecting him at the plate or until he fills his frame out to the point that the position doesn't make sense for him physically, but odds are he ends up sliding over to third base.
Wherever he winds up for his defensive home, Andrade's bat is going to drive him. He has quick hands and a short swing that generates easy gap power now, and scouts think that he has swing to become a power threat down the road if he develops well. Andrade, who will be just 18 when 2015 starts, figures to hang out in the Dominican for at least part of the upcoming season as he continues to refine his approach and learn defensively, but 2016 could be the big season for him as that's when he'll likely come stateside and get to test his abilities against more talented arms regularly. Until then, keep Greifer in mind for long-term prospects that could turn into something big for Seattle.
6th rd, '13
Short Season Everett
Overmatched early with an aggressive assignment to Low-A Clinton, Simpson got to make an appearance on the minor league leaderboards as he struck out 151 times and finished 15th in the minor leagues in strikeout rate, whiffing in 33.6% of his plate appearances. It wasn't a good season overall for Simpson, Seattle's sixth round pick in 2013, but he put it together enough with Everett after a much needed demotion to end up tied for third in the Northwest League in home runs despite having ongoing contact issues all year. Corey hit .222/.299/.386 in 53 games in Everett. Not great, for sure, but a major improvement in numbers and process from what was happening to him in the Midwest League. Sometimes rough starts can snowball on players, and the fact that Simpson was able to pull himself out of it a bit at the end of the year is a very good thing.
Simpson is still just 21, and the high school catcher turned outfielder has tools that have everyone in the organization high on him. "He's got real plus power," said Gwynn, "but he's still got a lot to learn. The breaking ball just got him this year, but he's got some time to figure it out." Defensively, that shift to the outfield is still a work in progress, as his routes aren't always the smoothest, but Simpson has shown decent range and a strong throwing arm -- he's picked up nine outfield assists in 100 games -- working in both corners, and while he isn't a plus defender out there now, he figures to be able to develop into an adequate defender for a corner given his arm strength, even as he puts more muscle onto his frame.
Simpson probably already ranks among the hitters with the most raw power in Seattle's system, and we've seen how rare right-handed power is in baseball these days, so Corey is certainly a prospect to keep tabs on. If he can learn, buy into and refine his plan at the plate, learn to read and recognize the breaking ball better and put a more consistent approach together in the coming seasons then Simpson has a shot to be among the better outfield prospects in the organization. A repeat assignment to Clinton to open 2015 is likely in the cards for Simpson, and his late season rebound in Everett should have him much better prepared for that challenge this time.
Int FA, '13
Born in Japan but signed out of Brazil, where his family moved when he was just 2-years-old, Missaki looks to be quite a find for the Mariners. Signed by the M's following his showing for Brazil as the youngest player who participated in the WBC, Missaki got a 13 inning taste of pro ball in Arizona in 2013 before throwing in fall instructs and then heading to the Appalachian League for Seattle in 2014. There he didn't allow a run in his first 19 innings for Pulaski, twirling 8 2/3 of shutout ball and allowing just three baserunners in his second outing of the year on his way to a very impressive season. He struck out more batters than innings thrown and he held both left-handers and right-handers to sub-.600 OPS marks.
Missaki missed about three weeks with a forearm injury and wasn't as sharp after he returned, but he still allowed two earned runs or less in eight of his 11 starts on the season overall for Pulaski. And speaking to his control, he was able to work into the sixth in seven of those starts. His 2.76 ERA ranked sixth and his 1.05 WHIP fifth among league pitchers with 50 of more innings and his 62 strikeouts was also good for fifth. Missaki struck out 29.9% of the right-handed hitters he faced in 2014 after striking out 29.5% of them the season before in the AZL. His strikeout to walk ratio also got better with runners on base, jumping from about 3.5:1 to around 5:1.
The eighth youngest player in the league last season, the righty works with a fastball that took a few ticks forward this season and was pretty consistently 89-91 early in the year. Missaki also has a cutter, a slow curve and a changeup. The change is Daniel's second best pitch, and the cutter is a little soft (typically 84-85), but all four pitches are working for him at the lower levels right now. While there is some effort in his delivery, Missaki has great balance and consistency in his mechanics with all of his pitches, working from a three-quarters arm slot, and there is a possibility that more velocity comes as he grows. Missaki should get a shot at at least Everett in 2015, and the club could push him up to Clinton for a full-season taste, too. Both spots are pitcher friendly leagues, so it is likely that Missaki will continue to build on his early success as a pro.
7th rd, '13
Few players took as big a step forward in 2014 as did the lefty Olson, jumping from college to Double-A in under a year. Seattle's 7th round pick in 2013, Olson was up-and-down in his debut with Short Season Everett in 2013, allowing one or zero runs in 10 of his outings but three times giving up six or more while shifting between starting and the pen. 2014 actually started out similarly for him in High Desert, but when a roster crunch forced him up to Double-A at the start of May, Tyler took off. He had a rough debut (4, 10, 6, 6, 2, 1) but followed that up by working at least five for 11 straight outings, posting a 3.66 ERA and better than a five-to-one strikeout to walk ratio in that time. Olson would finish with the 14th best ERA among Southern League pitchers who made at least 17 starts, and his overall marks of 27 starts, 12 wins and 127 strikeouts led M's minor leaguers.
Whenever Olson has struggled, it has usually been due to command issues, and he seemed to really clean that up in Jackson, but the M's think that he can get even better in that regard. "There's more control in there," was Tom McNamara's take on what Olson is and what he can become. Chris Gwynn had a lot of positives to share on him, too, saying, "the biggest reason for Tyler's success this year was that he just works smart. Good command, good curve, and he worked smart and worked to his strengths all year." And a big part of that working smart was working down, as Olson ran a very strong 44.8% ground ball rate, good for the fourth best mark among Mariners' minor league starters.
Signed as a fifth year senior out of Gonzaga (where he was named West Coast Conference Pitcher of the Year in 2013) for a reported $10,000, the Washington native's best pitch -- his out pitch -- is his big 12-6 curve, but he also works with a fastball that has picked up some velocity since Olson became a pro, and it is regularly in the 88-90 range, touching a tick higher at times, and a changeup with good depth. After his successful year, I was actually a little surprised to not see Olson make the trip to the Arizona Fall League, but perhaps the club wanted to keep his innings capped. I wouldn't be surprised to see Olson back in Jackson to start the 2015 season, but he has a real shot to make it to Tacoma before the year is out if he can stick to his recipe for success of working down in the zone and commanding his pitches.
That ends the breakdown of our second set of five prospects in this year's Top-50. Check back next Monday and every Monday as we give you reports on five more Mariners' prospects to watch each week.
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