Mariners Prospect Watch: Three Up, Three Down

Our 11th weekly check-in of the 2015 season here at SeattleClubhouse recaps the ups and downs in Seattle's minor league system from the past seven days (6/29 - 7/5).

For the fifth consecutive season, SeattleClubhouse is checking in each Monday with a rundown of the best and worst performances in the minor leagues from the past week within the Seattle Mariners' organization. The goal with this weekly piece is to keep you up to date on your favorite M's prospects while also shining a little brighter light on some of the lesser known standouts in the system, spreading the coverage around and highlighting those that deserve it most.

While the roster in Seattle doesn't have a lot of soft spots, the talent in the system still is a very important part of the ability for the Mariners to sustain success. And there is still quite a bit to be learned on some of the better prospects in the organization. Hopefully Three Up, Three Down helps with that learning for our readers, covering players in their age-26 or younger season who have not exhausted their MLB rookie status.

THREE UP

Dan Altavilla - RHP, Bakersfield Blaze: 1-0, 1.29 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 7 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 0 BB, 8 SO, .200 oAVG
Altavilla, Seattle's 5th round pick in 2014 out of Mercyhurst, had a solid but not great debut in Everett last year, making 14 starts for the Short Season affiliate and striking out a hitter per inning but surrendering more than 10-hits-per-9 while allowing four or more runs in five of his 14 starts. Pushed up to High-A this year at age 22, the right-hander has responded well. This past week's start was the third time in 16 starts that he's gone at least seven innings while allowing one earned run or fewer.

Altavilla checked in at No. 31 on our Top-50 countdown before the season, and he's certainly built on that so far in 2015, getting his on-field performance more in line with the tools and ability he shows. He's allowed as many as four earned runs just once, has walked more than three just twice and five times has struck out seven or more in his 16 starts for the Blaze. The stocky right-hander is impressing and is certainly an arm worth keeping track of for the prospect crowd.

Steve Baron - C, Tacoma Rainiers: .364/.391/.636 (8-22), 3 2B, 1 HR, 8 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO, 1 SB
Baron -- who has often been pointed to as a weak spot in the Zduriencik/McNamara draft history as a supplemental 1st round pick by the Mariners back in 2009 -- was pushed up to Triple-A a few weeks ago and has responded by really hitting like a 1st rounder for the first time in his minor league career to date. The 24 year old backstop has reached base in all but three of his games with the Rainiers and this week he put up three games with two or more RBI, two games with two extra base hits and ended the week on a 5-game hitting streak that pushed his OPS up more than .150 points to .890, and his 2015 season OPS overall up to .748 -- about .070 higher than he's put up in any full season as a pro.

Baron's bat coming around, although still in a small sample, is a big positive. He's always been viewed as a plus defender and he's thrown out 44% of attempted base stealers in his minor league career (5 of 10 for Tacoma so far). The club brought him to instructs last fall and asked Baron to change his mentality, to be a hitter first, and that mentality appears to be sticking with him and allowing his abilities at the plate to come through more in 2015. He isn't banging on the door for a big league job just yet, but he is climbing the depth chart and offering some hope of a future as at least an MLB backup.

Jio Orozco - RHP, Peoria Mariners: 1-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.00 WHIP, 4 1/3 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 BB, 6 SO, .000 oAVG
Seattle's 14th round pick out of an Arizona high school this season, Orozco seems to be feeling right at home so far in the AZL. He's yet to allow a base runner in his two appearances, striking out six of the 13 hitters he's faced in his two outings. He's piggybacking on the M's top pick, Nick Neidert, for appearances right now, and those two have been a dominant pair thus far. Although Orozco is another without a huge frame at just 6-foot, the Mariners liked his arm quite a bit leading up to the draft.

Orozco has a bit of a tie to the organization as he played select ball for Minor League Field Coordinator Jack Howell's son while in high school. The right-hander has three solid pitches in his fastball, curve and change and has been clocked up to 94 with the fastball. Just 18 and definitely a long ways from being a surefire big leaguer, Orozco's status as a 14th round pick shouldn't fool you: he has a talented arm that saw him rank in BA's Top-200 before the draft and he will surely be worth monitoring as he climbs up the ladder.

THREE DOWN

Logan Bawcom - RHP, Tacoma Rainiers: 0-0, 12.60 ERA, 2.60 WHIP, 5 IP, 8 H, 8 R, 2 HR, 5 BB, 5 SO, .348 oAVG
Now one of the more veteran arms in the pen for Tacoma, Bawcom hasn't been the steadying force in the pen that the club was probably hoping for. This week he was tagged for seven runs while getting just five outs in his first outing in a 14-1 blowout loss and allowed five of the nine batters he faced to reach in his last outing of the week. Bawcom has been seeing fewer and fewer late inning opportunities for the Rainiers, with 38 2/3 of his 48 2/3 innings on the year coming before the 8th inning.

Bawcom has allowed three or more runs five times in his 25 outings and is allowing the most hits-per-nine since his debut in Rookie League at 10.0. And after his first Triple-A season in 2013 when he posted a 2.91 ERA, 1.23 WHIP and 8.9 SO/9, Bawcom has an ERA approaching 5, a WHIP nearing 1.6 and just 6.7 SO/9 in his 94 1/3 innings the last two seasons, and he's allowing a .283 opponent's average and an 8.2% extra base hit rate on the year. He still has a good fastball, but the secondary offerings and command haven't moved much since he was acquired by Seattle in that post-deadline deal back in 2012.

Joe DeCarlo - 3B, Clinton LumberKings: .043/.083/.087 (1-23), 1 2B, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 5 SO
DeCarlo is a prospect who I had high hopes for making big strides leading into the 2015 season -- his second in the Midwest League. But so far, the results haven't materialized for Seattle's 2nd round pick in the 2012 Draft. This past week was more of the same for the Pennsylvania prep product, with just one knock to his name in 24 trips to the plate, dropping his season's average down under the Mendoza Line to .193. DeCarlo has almost three times as many games with two or more strikeouts (23) than he has with two or more hits (8) and he's put together more than a 3-game hitting streak just twice on the year, with a high of six games. Joe also made four more errors at third this week and is up to 14 on the season.

The ability to be an impact guy on both sides of the ball is still there with DeCarlo, but the results for the 21 year old have not yet come. He has already set a new career best number in homers (7) and will soon do so with walks (36 now, personal high of 37 a season ago), but he's striking out at a 25.6% rate still and the hits just aren't dropping in. If this keeps up through the end of 2015, DeCarlo could find himself back in Clinton for a third time to open 2016.

Zack Littell - RHP, Clinton LumberKings: 0-2, 7.36 ERA, 2.59 WHIP, 7 1/3 IP, 15 H, 10 R, 4 BB, 2 SO, .429 oAVG
In Littell's 10 Midwest League starts, he's now been good in half of them and bad in half of them. Unfortunately, it took two bad outings this week to get him to that 50/50 split. The right-hander from North Carolina allowed 19 of the 40 batters he faced this week to reach, losing two decisions and seeing his strong strikeout-to-walk numbers take a big hit in the process. His ERA rose more than a half run from 3.12 to 3.73 and opponents' average ticked up from .254 to .284, too.

Picked in the 11th round out of high school in 2013, Littell is pitching at the Low-A level at age 19, which is impressive in itself, but the damage control -- particularly against left-handers, who have slashed .369/.400/.515 so far in 111 PA -- is clearly a problem. Littell can run his fastball into the mid-90s at times, comfortably working around 92, and has a curve and change to compliment his arsenal, but the overall package still needs some refining. But, hey, that's what the minor league are for.

. . . . . . . . .

That does it for this week's installment of the highlights and lowlights in on-field performances in Seattle's system. Check back in with us as each week as we incorporate "Three Up, Three Down" into our regular reports. And make sure to stick with SeattleClubhouse throughout the entire calendar year for reports from all of the Mariners' affiliates and prospects.

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.


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