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 post-season Top-35. Things have changed since that report, even in the Top-5, so this report will be 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 have finished 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 again 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 35 through 31:
Trade, LAD 7/30/12 (3rd rd, '10)
He wasn't drafted by Seattle and he has enjoyed most of his success as a pro in another organization, but Landry managed to bounce back from a rough 2013 back in Double-A Jackson in 2014. After coming in in the Top-20 on the 2012 list then dropping down to 43rd a year ago, the speedy left-handed hitting outfielder is climbing back up the Top-50 list now. The Dodger's 3rd round pick back in 2010 out of LSU, Landry had a nearly 400 point drop in his OPS from 2012 to 2013, moving from the California League to the Southern League, and after gathering just nine hits in the first 17 games of 2014, it looked like it was about time to write Leon off. But he hit .337 (61-181) over his next 50 games, collecting 18 multi-hit games (including a stretch of five straight starts) in the process to raise his season numbers to .285/.324/.374 heading towards the July 4th holiday weekend breathing new life back into his baseball career. His second half numbers (.287/.314/.417) were among the best on the Generals club, and while Landry just barely finished with an OPS over .700 overall in his second season in Double-A as a 24-year-old, the skills are still there to let you envision him making that next step.
"Above everything else, he's a good defensive outfielder," Gwynn said of Landry, and having that defensive ability to be able to handle the position at the next level isn't a common trait, so that props Leon up a bit. In 2012 in Jackson, with breaking out future big leaguers James Jones and Abraham Almonte on the roster along with a few others who saw time in center, the roster crunch held Landry to only 13 games at the position. Landry saw the bulk of his time in left, and many thought at the time that the position switch had something to do with his struggles. "He's trying to do too much," one AL scout told me during that season, pointing to Landry's 2012 success with extra base hits and the added pressure of having that offense expected of him as a corner outfielder. Landry saw 64 of his 108 games defensively in center this past season, and he responded while there, hitting .310/.343/.444 in 277 plate appearances while playing the position. To top it off, Landry stole 25 bases (in 35 attempts), giving him three years of 25 or more in his five seasons as a pro.
Those steals speak to Landry's plus-plus speed, which -- paired with his linedrive, gap-to-gap approach -- lead to a lot of extra base hits. He has below average power, almost completely to his pull side only, but has great hands and a quick stroke. Landry's real weakness at the plate currently is that he is overly aggressive, as he owns just a 5.4% walk rate for his career and had just a 4.2% walk rate last season. He puts the bat on the ball a ton (13.0% K rate career, 10.7% in 2014), but too often puts pitcher's pitches in play for easy outs. He's a good bunter and uses that weapon fairly regularly, but added plate discipline would do wonders for his game. Landry figures to be near the top of the list for an outfield spot in Tacoma in 2015, and if he can take even another small step at the plate, he figures to be on the radar for big league time soon because of his value on the bases and in the field.
MiLB FA, 8/3/12
High-A High Desert
A catcher and third baseman in high school, Anderson signed with Seattle as an undrafted free agent in August of 2012 after pitching for one season as a starter at Long Beach State and has moved quickly through the system so far, capping off his run with a stint in the AFL to close out 2014. While Anderson has started 46 of his 59 games for Seattle affiliates to date, he looks and pitches like a relief arm, and in Arizona against some of the top prospects in the game this fall, that is the role he pitched in, making nine relief appearances -- although without hardly any success -- for Surprise. In his seven games out of the bullpen for High Desert after being moved back down from Double-A in August, Anderson struck out 18 and walked only three in 18 1/3 innings. The strikeouts were there in the AFL, too (13 in 13 1/3), but the now 23-year-old right-hander allowed eight extra base hits to the 66 batters he faced and gave up multiple runs in five of his nine outings.
As a starter, Anderson really was touched up in High Desert, unable to limit damage and seemingly pitching afraid to challenge hitters at times, he walked 16 in 32 1/3 there and was frankly lucky to get a promotion to Jackson (out of need more than merit). He was doing a good job of getting ground balls for the Mavs, but as we've seen in the past, that doesn't always translate to more outs thanks to the hard infields. Matt had three very rough outings that skewed his overall numbers in Double-A, too, but Anderson did turn in nine starts of five or more innings and three or less earned runs allowed there, going seven or more in three of those. While he doesn't have a huge power arm and has decent enough secondary offerings to work as a starter, his home likely lies in the pen for the Mariners going forward.
Anderson pitched at mainly 90-92 with his fastball in the AFL, but he's touched 94 in shorter stints in the past. His big 12-6 curve is his best pitch overall, though, and among the best in Seattle's system when it is sharp. That is also his most utilized of his secondary offerings. He throws the curve at about 79-81 usually and that is the pitch that Matt goes with for strikeouts. Anderson also has the other usual pitches employed by a four-pitch starter, as he throws a changeup at 82-85 and a slider around the same speed. The 254 innings that he's tallied the past two seasons lets the club know that he can handle the rigors of starting, and his lack of a power arsenal make you think that starting is a good route, but he profiles to me best as a swing man type. That may not seem like a sexy Top-50 type, but it actually gives Anderson more opportunities for a role. He's likely to return to Jackson to open 2015, but he could see Triple-A in pretty short order if all goes well.
2nd rd, '10
High-A High Desert
Littlewood entered the system as Seattle's second pick in the 2010 draft (after Taijuan Walker) as a prep shortstop who looked like a good bet to move over to third base as he matured. He also entered our initial Top-50 as the No. 12 prospect, since falling to 30th and then 47th before climbing back up here this season. But a funny thing happened on the way to the hot corner; the M's got a crazy idea based on some of the skills that Marcus showed that he could handle being a catcher, so in 2012, Littlewood made the rare switch from shortstop to catcher. As crazy as that move may sound, the defensive side of things have gone just great, but his bat has yet to progress the way that the club had predicted, and 2014 was yet another season in which Littlewood did not leave Low-A ball until very late in the season. But after a long drought followed a hot start, Littlewood turned it on late and picked up six extra base hits -- including three of his eight home runs -- over his final 13 games at Clinton and did get that call to the Cal League. There he'd add four more extra base hits in nine games while continuing to do solid work behind the plate. He's dropped on the organization's depth chart, for sure, but Littlewood still has a lot to offer in a prospect.
The hot start saw Littlewood pick up 10 multi-hit games and 10 extra base hits through the season's first 20 games, but he hit just .202 (26-for-129) in May and June. But even when he was struggling to hit during that stretch of 35 games, he still drew 20 walks and only struck out at a 17.6% rate. And he was hitting the ball hard. "His approach was great throughout," said LumberKings announcer Cheyne Reiter. "He worked counts, got his pitch, hit the ball hard. He just got base hits taken away from him more than any player I've seen in my first two years of broadcasting. Squared the ball up more times than not, just couldn't buy a base hit." While the hitting struggles were certainly frustrating, Marcus continued to advance defensively. As I mentioned briefly above, the defensive abilities that the switch-hitting catcher offers are the surprising part of the package, as Littlewood looks very comfortable behind the plate, where he threw out just under 39% of would-be base stealers this past season and where he receives with soft but steady hands and improving footwork and a very strong, accurate arm and quick release. But his career slash of just .230/.341/.376 is not what the club forecast for him as a high draftee. 2014 was a slight overall improvement on 2013, and Littlewood continues to show excellent patience (14.3% career walk rate) and improving contact rates, but he's tallied just a 7.1% extra base hit rate above Short Season ball and has yet to reach double digit homers in any single season.
While the production at the plate hasn't consistently shown up for Marcus, he's showing in-game signs of becoming a more well rounded hitter at the plate, holding a very strong walk rate, reducing his strikeout rate and becoming a much more effective hitter from the right side, thanks to a shortened swing path, without sacrificing power. And although the vast improvements made from the right side (.317/.468/.667 in 2014) have been paired with falling production from the left side (.230/.299/.332) the last two seasons, some of that can be attributed to bad luck Reiter talked about above as he had just a .272 BABIP from the left side this year -- well below his .301 career mark. He figures to start the season getting the number one catcher work share in Bakersfield, and the friendly hitting environment of the Cal League could be just what Littlewood needs to take that next step. He's definitely behind a few other catchers in the organization right now, but Marcus remains a prospect with a lot of tools and a lot of upside.
Int FA, 12/12
As a young, fresh to the U.S. in 2014 player who played just 51 games in Arizona, Ascanio is one of the names that I didn't know much about from the M's system in prepping my Top-50. But I just couldn't leave him off of this list as I went through my talks with contacts. Everyone had similarly glowing things to say about the Venezuelan native signed in December of 2012. The numbers he put up in the AZL weren't overly impressive; .248/.360/.310 with a high strikeout rate, not much success on the basepaths and very little power. And paired with his slight build, it looks on the surface like Ascanio could just blend into the pack of young Latin players. But many say that he definitely stands out. Baseball America gave him the nod as the "Best Defensive Infielder" in the system last month, and that was echoed by everyone in Player Development. "Great arm, great range and really great instincts above all," said Howell. And Gwynn added, "We have a few good looking Latin kids up the middle, but Ascanio is a special defender."
Again, Ascanio didn't light up the AZL at the plate, but the average age for hitters in that league was 19.5 and he was just freshly 18 when the season started. His strikeout rate was a relatively high 26.1%, but he also walked at a rate nearly 5% above the league average at 14.2%, good for 10th in the league among hitters with 100 or more plate appearances. And while the bat will -- as with all prospects -- be a strong determining factor in his ultimate ceiling, much of the switch-hitter's value now comes from his speed and defense. And not to sell him short there, as byy all accounts, there is enough raw ability visibly present with Rayder as a hitter that the club is very confident that he will hit.
Ascanio is very slightly built, but he has quick hands from both sides of the plate. He hits from a bit of a crouch from both sides and isn't afraid to work deep counts, hit the ball the other way and try to use his current best asset, speed, to his advantage. The defensive tools are all plus, as are his instincts. And while a lot of "style over substance" happens with many young talented defenders, it sounds as though Ascanio is very sound in his defensive approach. Seattle eliminated one of their Rookie teams when they ended their affiliation with Pulaski in the Appalachian League following the season, so that certainly crunches rosters for the other six stateside affiliates. With that in mind, it is possible that Ascanio spends at least part of the 2015 season in Arizona again as he gets himself more accustomed to the game and the demands of being a pro ball player.
5th rd, '14
Short Season Everett
Seattle's 5th round pick this past year after a sparkling Junior season in Division II that saw him throw a no-hitter, post a 9-1 record, 1.23 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 129 strikeouts with only 25 walks in 80 1/3 innings and take home a small storage shed's worth of awards, including the inaugural Brett Tomko Award given to Division II's Most Outstanding Pitcher, Altavilla went to Everett and impressed everyone there, too. An undersized right-hander at just 5-foot-11, Altavilla is one of those classically overlooked baseball profiles. But in his first pro season, only five Northwest League arms threw for more innings and had both a better strikeout rate and a better walk rate than the 21-year-old from Mercyhurst College posted, and none of the 21 pitchers with 60 or more innings had better rates there and a higher ground ball percentage (50.8%) than did Altavilla.
Altavilla still wasn't the top performing arm on the AquaSox roster, and he isn't the highest rated player from the club in this Top-50 (teaser!), but he definitely looked the part of legitimate prospect in his debut season. "Facing more discerning hitters who didn't chase as much, he had a penchant for walks and high pitch counts when he was getting stretched out early in the season," Everett announcer Pat Dillon told me. "Then the light came on," he said. Indeed, his overall season numbers weren't great, but after having the club be very careful with his workload early on, Dan went six innings in six of his final seven starts, winning five of those outings while putting up a 3.07 ERA, holding opposing batters to a .238 average and trimming his walks-per-nine a much more palatable 2.9 in that stretch; more in line with that 2.8 number from his last, magical season in college. Through it all, even when he didn't have his best command, Altavilla was always in control. "He has excellent makeup," Dillon concluded.
While he is short by regular pitcher standards, Altavilla is strong physically and pitches with a big arm, sporting a fastball that works 91-93 and touched 95 regularly this past season, with McNamara saying at the time of his selection in the draft that the club saw the righty up to 97 with the pitch in the Cape Cod League. "He is a strong guy -- like a bull," McNamara told MLB.com back in June, adding. "He's put together." Altavilla's fastball showed good sinking action, too -- obviously a factor in his ground ball rate. His slider has late movement but is probably just an average pitch now. He also throws a changeup with a little fade, but that pitch was very inconsistent for Dan, especially early in the year. Because of his build, most want to peg Altavilla as a bullpen arm, but the M's won't be in any hurry to move him there if he continues to see success as a starter. Look for him to be in Clinton's rotation to open 2015.
That will do it for the fourth of our 10 weekly looks at five prospects making up this year's Top-50. Check back next Monday and every Monday as we give you reports on five more Mariners' prospects to watch.
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