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 30 through 26:
Rule 5 draft, 12/14
Double-A Corpus Christi (Astros)
Rollins was a bit of an off-the-radar selection by the M's in the Rule 5 Draft last month, but as a player who the club selected twice in the draft in the past (2009 and 2010), their scouts had obviously had him on their radar for a while. When I checked in with Tom McNamara, it was evident that he was excited to have been able to add the lefty to the fold, and he thought enough of him to suggest to me that David should land in the Top-20. Through his first four years in the minor leagues, Rollins has worked much more as a starter, starting 64 times in his 88 appearances, but he's clearly being looked at for a relief spot with Seattle. "Our thought is this is a good arm," Jack Zduriencik said when he talked with reporters after the team's selection of Rollins. "When you look at the chances of a guy sticking in the Rule 5, your odds of sticking are better as a pitcher. And a left-hander, it even increases the odds a little bit."
Once traded as part of the package for his new teammate and fellow new Mariner J.A. Happ, Rollins was actually drafted four times, eventually signing as Toronto's 24th round pick out of the 2011 draft. The lefty has held left-handed hitters to a lower OPS in each of his four seasons of pro ball and owns a lifetime 26.0% strikeout rate against same-handed hitters. While he struggled in the second half last year for the Astros' Double-A club (allowing 54 base runners and six home runs in 16 games), he was his most dominant against left-handed hitters this season, striking out 32 of the 86 lefties he faced. Rollins also threw in Puerto Rico this Winter, racking up 13 more strikeouts in 13 innings for Cangrejeros de Santurce there.
Zduriencik and McNamara both mentioned that Rollins' fastball can touch the mid-90s in shorter stints, and the numbers seem to reflect that more potent fastball as in his 15 appearances in relief in 2014, Rollins struck out 36 in 31 1/3 innings. They also mentioned that he locates the pitch well, and his career 2.8 BB/9 seems to agree with that. Rollins supplements his fastball with a traditional starter's four-pitch mix, but his solid slider is his best secondary offering and that figures to be the usual offering to compliment his fastball in this relief role. With Joe Beimel no longer with the club, Rollins has a real shot to stick on Seattle's roster as the second lefty behind Charlie Furbush if he has a strong spring.
Int FA, 10/06
Taking a rather unusual path to prospect status, 2014 marked Guaipe's eighth year in the organization. It was not only his first above A ball, but it was also his best season as a pro overall. He struck out a batter an inning, walked a career best nine and had a 0.96 WHIP -- good for third in the Southern League among pitchers with 50 or more innings -- and his 2.89 ERA was bested by a 2.76 FIP, good for sixth best among those same qualified pitchers. His 1.45 BB/9 was the fifth best mark in the league and his strikeout percentage was top-15, too. It was Guaipe's first season working exclusively in relief, and it is safe to say that the results will assure that starting is a thing of the past for the right-hander. He started 35 of the first 95 games he pitched in as a pro, but with 72 straight relief appearances under his belt now and 103 strikeouts in 102 1/3 innings in those appearances, Mayckol has finally found a role that he can flourish in, and his minor league managers have shown a lot of trust in him, too, as he's finished games in 50 of those relief outings.
Right-handers hit under .200 (.197) against Guaipe this season and managed just a .510 OPS and 5.3% XBH rate. Perhaps most impressively, though, Guaipe walked just four of the 151 right-handers that he faced this year. After a first half that saw him earn a Southern League All-Star nod thanks in part to a sub-2.00 ERA, Guaipe allowed 12 runs over his final 18 appearances for Jackson, but he still tied for second in the M's system in saves with 12 and that 1.4 BB/9 number was tied for the best mark in the organization among pitchers who made 25 or more appearances, too. Guaipe got into 20 games in the Venezuelan Winter League, working hard on his secondary pitches, and he continued to build on his 2014 success, allowing 20 base runners in his 20 2/3 innings of work for Caribes de Anzoategui.
"He has an out pitch with that slider, and his fastball is really solid around 91 to 94," Gwynn told me. Wrapping up his report, Gwynn stated, "He's a little bit like [Yoervis] Medina, though not quite as physical." I've never bought the '175' listed in the weight column on him, but Medina is definitely a bigger body. Indeed, Guaipe actually pitches similarly to Medina, pounding his fastball down in the zone to try and get outs early and using the slider for strikeouts. Where he differs from Medina is that he actually has a very solid changeup. The pitch has good fade and sink and there were times that he got in to a bit of a zone with sequencing the pitch that made him nearly unhittable. The 24-year-old tends to slow things down quite a bit with runners on, but as the numbers reflect, he also pitches with quite a bit more command than Medina. After pitching for seven seasons in the low minors before finally reaching Double-A in 2014, Guaipe figures to hold down a prominent spot for Tacoma in their bullpen in 2015, just a short drive from Safeco Field as a member of the 40-man roster should he be needed.
Int FA, 6/11
High-A High Desert
Huijer is a rare prospect signed out of the Dutch Major League's, where he played as a 16-year-old prior to agreeing to a contract with the Mariners. He'd been in MLB's European Academy since the age of 14 so he's been getting top training for quite some time even though his background doesn't mirror stateside prospects. But even players with a good pedigree and good coaching can have bad performances, and 2014 was certainly a down season for the young righty. Huijer's walk rate climbed, his strikeout rate fell and he had a lot of trouble working ahead and keeping hitters off base in 2014, leading to some big innings against him and some ugly stats on the back of his baseball card. But perhaps the biggest contributor to the 20-year-old's struggles this past season came from the fact the he hit a professional baseball-high 26 batters in just 124 innings.
Because he works inside a lot with his fastball, Huijer is going to hit some batters -- he had plunked 28 in 157 innings coming into the 2014 season, so his high number this past year represented a less than 5% climb in his hit batter rate. And while his overall performance in the Cal League wasn't great (38 earned runs and 96 baserunners in 52 1/3 innings over 12 starts), his hit batter rate did fall down around 15% pitching there. Learning to pitch inside without coming too far inside -- commanding that inner half -- is a big key for him going forward, but a return to better commanding the zone is, too. So a down season yet he moves up the list here, from 40th a year ago to No. 28 now? What gives? The biggest thing for me is that Huijer added weight to his great frame and added some velocity to his fastball.
That fastball regularly touches 90 now, and he has a solid changeup and a decent breaking ball. Although his strikeout rate fell from 7.7/9 with Everett to 5.5/9 in 2014 (that exact same number in both Low-A and High-A), adding that velocity while maintaining movement (thanks to his arm slot) and a good changeup should enable Huijer to regain some of his prior success in 2015. While he was in Everett, Huijer's manager Rob Mummau told me that the righty, "has lots of confidence in his changeup with a great overall feel for pitching." That feel for pitching, his build, and his youth -- he was one of the five or so youngest pitchers in the Cal League last year -- mean that Huijer's prospect status remains on the rise. He's likely to get a return assignment to High-A (to new affiliate Bakersfield) to open 2015, and if he can get some of his command back, enabling him to work ahead more often, he could see Double-A before the end of the year.
3rd rd, '12
Pike threw the exact same number of innings and collected the exact same number of strikeouts across two levels in 2014 as he did pitching in Low-A in 2013, a year that culminated in a Top-5 rating from me on the 2014 list, jumping up from 31st the prior year. But basically everything else trended in the wrong direction for the young lefty in the 2014 season. Pike allowed one earned run in each of his first four starts for the Mavs but couldn't make it past the 5th in any of those, walking 12 in the 18 1/3 innings those outings covered. But then it really came unraveled, as he had four starts in a seven start stretch allowing five or more earned runs in High Desert and only made it more than five twice. By the time the M's mercilessly moved him away from the hitter-friendly environment, Pike had walked 30 and allowed nine home runs in the 39 2/3 innings that made up his final nine starts.
Pike didn't allow a run in two of his first three starts for Jackson, but the other results more closely resembled High Desert than anything the lefty had accomplished prior to last season. Six outings with five or more runs allowed in a nine start stretch there and more walks than strikeouts in his 13 game sample. After having a scout compare him to a young Tom Glavine to me just a year ago, another scout I talked with from the same AL East team this year said of Pike, "He was a mess. 86-90 without any consistency, little command, and a bad, slow curveball." Still, Generals' voice Chris Harris spoke about Pike's ability shining through at times. "Tyler probably made the jump to Double-A too soon, but you could still see the raw ability. He had great stretches, but let some innings and outings snowball on him a bit." Through it all, however, Pike kept a great attitude. "The great thing with Tyler is that he is very coach-able and applies everything he is taught," Harris said. "He understands where he is at as a pitcher and the things that he needs to work on. That really bodes well for him in the future."
First and foremost, what Pike needs to work on is regaining the command that he showed in previous seasons. His fastball isn't elite and his secondary offerings don't feature a huge out pitch, so dictating what hitters can do at the plate against him by working ahead, working smart, and getting hitters to hit his pitch will determine whether or not Pike can regain the previous form he's shown. Some of that will come from regaining his mechanical consistency, too. I heard a few times during the season that Pike was out of sorts with his mechanics, and the results speak to that as well. Bottom line for him is that he is still very young, talented and left-handed. Getting back with Jackson in 2015 and showing that he can iron out these issues and show once again that he has No. 3 Starter potential in him could lead to Pike shooting back up this list next year.
30th rd, '11
Prior to the 2014 season, Pries had been mentioned by me in various stories covering countless Mariners' minor leaguers exactly twice. It isn't that he wasn't talented or didn't perform well, but as a 30th round draft pick that doesn't flash plus stuff, had spent significant time out with injuries and hadn't exactly dominated, Pries looked like 'just a guy', as the industry lingo often goes. But after a healthy 2013 surviving in High Desert, Pries again stayed healthy all year in 2014, and -- thanks to a few unfortunate health issues with the pitching staffs in both Tacoma and Seattle -- the 24-year-old managed to jump quickly to the minor league's highest level, leading the organization in innings, ranking second in Wins and strikeouts and earning himself honors as the Co-Minor League Pitcher of the Year for the M's.
Pries turned in two brilliant, 6-inning starts for Jackson, allowing just four total baserunners in the process, then got the call to Tacoma after the Iwakuma/Walker/Paxton health issues affected those levels. He went six one-hit innings in his Triple-A debut and allowed one or zero earned runs in 12 of his 24 starts for the Rainiers. The right-handed Pries held left-handed hitters to a .206/290/.329 slash and finished his second straight season of being a full-time starter in a very hitter friendly league with just 14 home runs allowed. He had a 3.69 ERA for Tacoma as a starter and had 15 quality starts (6+ IP, 3 ER or less) in 24 tries. He also continued to be good at getting ground ball outs, posting a 45.7% ground ball ratio that was basically right in line with his career numbers.
Pries works 89-92 with his fastball, getting excellent sink and run on the pitch. He also has a changeup with good sink and a cutter/slider that he uses to both left- and right-handed hitters. Combined with command, good mechanics, and ground ball tendencies, that is enough stuff for him to be an effective back-end arm at the big league level. He'll be 25 later this month and has had injury issues in the past, but he seems to be a smart pitcher that is seeing a lot of improvement from the professional atmosphere. That said, he's not yet on the 40-man, and I'd suspect that Pries is slated for the front of Tacoma's rotation unless and until he is needed at the big league level.
That will do it for the fifth 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.
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.