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.
The Post-season Abbreviated Top-35 can be found here, and the previous reports from this year's Top-50 can be accessed via the following links:
And now, on we go to Mariners' prospects numbers 40 through 36:
36th rd, '10
For Snow, the 2014 season got off on a sour note; a 50-game suspension resulting from a second positive test for a drug of abuse, announced in mid-September of 2013, meant that he would start the year on the sidelines serving his punishment per the guidelines of the Minor League Drug Prevention and Treatment Program. When he finally got back on the field for game action in June (back down in Double-A), it didn't take long for Snow to show that he still had skills that made him a viable prospect. He's come in at No. 27, No. 34 and No. 31 the last three seasons of this countdown, and after four appearances for Jackson -- in which he allowed just 18 baserunners and seven earned runs while striking out 14 -- Snow was moved back up to Triple-A Tacoma. After 12 appearances (six of those starts) with the Rainiers, Snow's ERA sat at 1.56 and he'd struck out 42 in 40 1/3 innings. But he faded down the stretch, allowing 20 earned runs and all eight of his PCL home runs allowed this season in 19 2/3 innings over his last four starts. The late season struggles and suspension aside, however, it is very clear that Snow -- who was the 1,092nd player picked in the 2010 draft -- has big league talent.
While the regular season may have run Snow down a bit after that late start, he pitched as a starter for Bravos de Margarita in Venezuela this fall and seemingly recaptured his form as only five pitchers both threw more innings and posted a better ERA than Forrest's 2.05 mark. An extreme fly ball pitcher (35.8% ground ball rate for his minor league career and just 29.8% in 2014), Snow has been touched up for 42 long balls in 409 1/3 innings since the start of 2011 overall and 25 in 192 innings in Triple-A, but he's also managed to strike out more than a hitter an inning (196 strikeouts) in his career at the minor's highest level. And while his overall ERA in the PCL is 5.34, Snow has put up a 3.93 mark out of the bullpen -- his eventual likely home -- in his time in the league.
While everything that Snow does works off the fastball, he mixes his pitches well and has done a remarkable job developing his offspeed stuff over the years to limit lefties. He's held left-handers to a lower OPS (.718 to .758) and struck them out at a higher rate (22.4% to 20.5%) for his career to date. They had just a .649 OPS against him this season, and Snow managed to hold them to a 4.2% XBH rate, too, showing that most of the contact that does come against him from lefties is weak contact. The fastball mainly sits in the 91-93 range for Snow, but he can bump the mid-90s pretty regularly in shorter outings. Forrest also throws a curve, a cutter -- that sits in the mid-80s -- and a changeup. That repertoire is why the Mariners continue to work Snow as a starter, and his explosive, dominant stretches out of the bullpen are why they keep using him in relief. I ultimately think that is where his home is, but wouldn't be surprised to see Forrest once again part of Tacoma's rotation in 2015.
Trade, LAD 7/30/12 (17th rd, '10)
Bawcom, drafted by the Dodgers and acquired by the Mariners in the Brandon League trade, had a down year in 2014 for Tacoma and actually was recently removed from Seattle's 40-man roster, but the 26-year-old Texan still has enough goods and history of performance to warrant a spot once again on our countdown. While he first cracked the list at No. 24 in 2012 and ranked 19th a year ago, a disappearing strikeout rate and new apparent susceptibility to the long ball have dropped Logan down the list considerably. The Mariners took the risk of exposing him via DFA and, thankfully, he cleared and was re-signed. The lack of strikeouts was a big issue for the right-hander this season, but following a DL stint for a ribcage strain, Bawcom struck out 18 in 21 1/3 innings (7.6 SO/9) and walked only nine (3.8 BB/9) over his final 15 appearances, hopefully signaling that he either figured something out mechanically there or that there was something missing that can be attributed to the injury.
Even with the down year, however, Bawcom remains one of the better relief arms in Seattle's upper minor leagues. He surrendered six home runs in 2014, as many as he'd allowed combined in the previous two years covering 128 innings, and that was while carrying the exact same ground ball rate (35.2%) in 2014 as he had in 2013. Another outlier that I see is that Bawcom again had a number of longer outings for the Rainiers this season. Seattle likes to stretch their young bullpen arms out and have them get multiple looks at a lineup. Bawcom had 12 outings where he threw 25 or more pitches and posted a 5.66 ERA (13 ER in 20 2/3 innings) in those games while he put up a 4.32 ERA in his 28 games throwing less than 25 pitches. The PCL league ERA was 4.64 to give context to those numbers. But even taking his full season into consideration, Bawcom still has a 3.20 ERA in 212 career minor league games and a 3.74 mark in his three years and 91 outings in the PCL.
On the hill, Bawcom -- who has only been pitching for about six years, converting from being a heavy-hitting infielder in high school and junior college -- has a below-average changeup in his back pocket, but he works primarily with a fastball/slider mix. His fastball works comfortably at 92-94 and can touch 96 at times, but it is fairly straight. The slider is his out pitch, showing hard, late bite and working around 85 mph. While the command wasn't there early in 2014 and has been a problem in the past for Logan, he generally does a good job of keeping both pitches down in the zone. That profile doesn't scream high-leverage innings, but a number of people who I've spoken with think he looks like a legitimate big league option. Bawcom doesn't appear to be in line for a MLB bullpen job to open 2015, but a return to Tacoma as an integral part of their pen is likely in store, and with injuries always just a pitch away, it is reasonable to expect to see Bawcom in the big leagues at some point in the next year or two, either with Seattle or with another team.
15th rd, '12
While his 2014 numbers may not lead you to believe it, Pizzano is a pure hitter. He's a guy that will almost never have any problem hitting for average as he doesn't chase bad pitches and has an approach and swing that help him put the bat on the ball with great consistency. Now, while I say 'almost never', 2014 was that exception. Pizzano hit just .244, but a lot of that was due to some almost inexplicable bad luck. His .253 BABIP was the ninth lowest mark among the 500-plus minor leaguers who saw 450 or more plate appearances in 2014. "He's a guy with great plate discipline, a great understanding of the strike zone and a good plan and good bat speed to go along with it," said Gwynn, adding succinctly, "he's a hitter." And while 'hitter' may be Pizzano's only true position as he doesn't have all the tools you'd like from a corner outfielder, he's still a bat that could potentially climb to the big leagues in time.
After an impressive season in 2013 for Clinton, Pizzano was only in hitter-friendly High Desert for a little over a month, collecting 12 multi-hit games and slashing .275/.377/.486 with 21 extra base hits, 23 walks and just 16 strikeouts before earning his promotion to Double-A Jackson. And that is where the struggles started. Pizzano got just six hits in 13 games in May, was hitting .171/.300/.341 at the break then just totaled 11 knocks in the month of June before finally turning things around in July. Dario picked up 11 multi-hit games over the season's final 45 games and raised his OPS from .598 to .746 in that time by hitting .286/.386/.474 over his final 184 plate appearances. "He's a very intelligent hitter," the Mariners' Jack Howell has told me a couple of times on Pizzano. "He goes up there with a plan and basically knows what everyone is going to throw him," he said, concluding with, "he loves hitting, and he really studies it."
After checking in at No. 37 on this countdown a season ago, Pizzano's lack of climb here can be attributed to that bad luck that he encountered. Pizzano -- who has completely reworked his throwing mechanics and worked tirelessly on his quickness and reads to become better in the outfield -- is likely to open 2014 back in Double-A Jackson, but the Ivy League product isn't far from pushing his way into the Triple-A mix, and that means that the big leagues are right around the corner, too. He may never be a top prospect because of his lack of a natural, standout defensive position, but Dario is a player who can hit, and everyone knows what they say about hitters.
Int FA, '12
Rookie AZL M's
2014 was Liberato's first year stateside, and as with Pizzano the stats don't jump off the page at you, but he's obviously made quite an impression on the M's staff in a short time. Signed for a rather low reported bonus of $140k in 2013, the left-handed hitting teenager spent just one season in his native Dominican with the Mariners before being moved to the Arizona Rookie League. He was hitting a solid .282/.375/.369 through 27 games before ending the year in an extended slump that dropped his overall numbers considerably, but what Liberato showed was enough that every person I spoke with had him rated higher than I have him here. "Liberato can really play," Gwynn told me. "He's a pure center fielder, an above-average runner, good arm." Tim Kissner's first big signing upon joining the organization as the new Director of International Scouting, the report from Baseball America's profile of Liberato spoke of him as having, "a mature hitting approach from the left side and advanced instincts for his age." It sounds like Kissner and the Mariners may have gotten themselves a steal.
While Liberato hasn't shown much extra base power as of yet, he is very young and the club thinks that some gap game power will come to be more frequent as he matures. Luis has also shown a lot of patience at the plate so far, working deep counts and showing that he's not afraid to work with two strikes. He posted one of the higher walk rates in the AZL last season at 13.8%, and while his 22.4% strikeout rate was higher than you'd like to see, it certainly isn't alarmingly high. His 21.5% strikeout rate in the DSL from 2013 seems high, but taking age into consideration, it isn't out of the question that Liberato coule see a marked increase in contact rate going forward.
There is currently a lot of hand movement leading up to Liberato's swing, and working to tone that down should certainly help the contact rate, but getting the kid comfortable and acclimated to playing baseball as a sole focus is obviously the main point for now. He just turned 19 and Seattle just recently did away one of their rookie affiliates (Pulaski), so seeing Luis return to the AZL in 2015 isn't out of the question, with him potentially seeing Everett later in the year. Wherever he opens 2015, he's definitely a ways away from any big league future. But a plus defender in center with a patient approach and gap power in a yet-to-mature body is a prospect to watch for any team.
22nd rd, '10
Despite being in the system for five seasons and pitching acceptably at each level that he' thrown at, this represents Landazuri's first appearance on our annual Top-50 list. Drafted out of high school in the later rounds in 2010, the California-born righty made 19 starts at Double-A in 2014 before earning himself a nod as one of the M's Arizona Fall League prospects, and while the results were up and down in the regular season and in the AFL, there is no question that Stephen is an arm on the rise for this organization. Being drafted in the 22nd round, you'd think that Landazuri is a pitcher succeeding more on pitchability than stuff, but he actually has plenty of stuff. He allowed two earned runs or less in 12 of his 19 starts for Jackson this season, held both left-handed and right-handed hitters to an OPS under .700 and allowed the fewest H/9 of his pro career in 2014. But he also allowed home runs more frequently than ever before and walked batters at a higher clip than he ever had in the past.
Landazuri was identified and signed out of a California high school by the same scout who got the club Taijuan Walker (among quite a few others) from the area. The only player to enter pro ball out of his school to date, he wasn't highly recruited for some reason, so his success to date has been somewhat of a surprise, but he no longer sneaks up on opponents. As I said above, he pitched both out of the pen and as a starter without much success in the AFL -- giving up a run in every single outing and allowing three or more in five of his eight appearances all while being touched up for 11 extra base hits in just 22 innings -- but he also struck out 19.
A 6-foot right-hander that is a quick worker, Landazuri has a lot of immediate traits that would lead you to believe that he's a deception-only guy. But as I stated above, he has plenty of stuff. His fastball works consistently in the low-90s but can touch 93-94 at times. He repeats his delivery very well and works down in the zone, getting consistent arm-side run and sink. Stephen also throws a slower 12-6 curve (77-79) and a changeup (86-88) that has some good depth. He's been working in a slider (86-88) more over the past year, a pitch that he also was focusing on using in the AFL. He isn't afraid to throw any of those pitches in any count and has shown to be very good at sequencing. Having already completed a full season of Double-A, Landazuri is likely on the short list for a look at the Rainiers' rotation to open 2015.
That will do it for our third weekly look at 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.
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.