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' staff -- including Jeff Kingston, Andy McKay, Tim Allison, Tom McNamara, Jack Howell, Tim Kissner and others -- and other respected baseball contacts from outside of the organization to help develop our unique set of rankings. In doing this, we take a deeper look than most other publications, getting background information about potential nagging injuries or personal issues, etc., that could have led to a change in player performance. SeattleClubhouse's personal taste and scoring plays into the determination of where the prospects ultimately land on the list, too; that scoring system is a combination of potential ceiling, perceived 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. 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.
We do updates on a smaller scale throughout the year, but just as with every pre-season list, this pre-2016 countdown is 50 deep. The landscape of the organization has definitely changed since our last report, even in the Top-5, so this extended breakdown will be much different than what has been seen from us as it is a true fresh look at the organization as it now exists, with completely up to date late- or post-season input. The reports will be thorough for all players covered, but they'll get more so as we climb towards the top of the heap. And while four of the ten pieces -- including this one and last week's first report -- will be free for anyone who visits the site, the other six will be subscriber only.
As you will see during this countdown and as was detailed in our Top-50 Preview, many of the higher-ceiling prospects in the Mariners’ system are on the younger side, residing in the lower levels of the minor leagues. So while the system isn’t as bereft of talent as the common narrative seems to be, there aren’t many MLB-ready prospects knocking on the door, and that is primarily what leads to this Mariners' farm system generally being considered a bottom-third system in baseball.
Each player we cover this year will be presented with a photo (when available) and bio info with age at the time of publishing as well as the level at which they ended during the 2015 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.
And now for prospects number 45 through 41:
45. Yojhan Quevedo – C, 6’1”, 212, SS, 11/6/93, B/R
Signed in January of 2011 as a 17 year old, Quevedo spent his first three seasons playing for the organization's now defunct Venezuelan Summer League team before coming stateside to the AZL for the 2014 season. There he didn't do anything with the bat that jumps out at you (.281/.314/.395), but he did cut down 17 of 35 would-be base stealers, showing off a cannon arm, quick release and very good throwing accuracy. In 2015 with Everett, Quevedo threw out 52% of those attempting to steal against him (27 of 52) and hit an even less impressive .238/.299/.323 overall, but with a bulked up frame (up nearly 30 good pounds from a few seasons ago), he hit seemingly everything hard during the early part of the Northwest League season when I was in attendance, even squaring up the loud outs he made. His .271 BABIP was well below the NWL average of .310 and, continuing a trend that has been with him through Venezuela and Arizona, he only struck out in 12.3% of his plate appearances while posting a solid 7.5% walk rate for the Frogs.
Quevedo, "seemed to wear down offensively toward the end of the season but was a productive middle of the order guy for the club in the first half," as one Everett staffer pointed out. Indeed, the switch-hitter was hitting .300/.361/.414 and had checked in with eight multi-hit games through his first 18 with Everett, but he scuffled as the season wore on while catching nearly 90 more innings than he ever had in his pro career. Still, while the bat tailed off, "he may have been the best defensive catcher in the Northwest League," that same staff member concluded. The left-handed side has proven to be the weaker side for Quevedo as a hitter, and it is possible that he ends up giving up switch-hitting at some point down the road, but if that is the case, it would be more because he has hit so well from right-handed rather than him being bad as a left-handed hitter. Unlike many foreign signees who are encouraged to switch-hit by their Buscones simply to try and elevate their value on the international market, Quevedo has a good swing and solid approach from both sides that shows promise.
While the 2015 and career stats don't seem like much to this point, the 21 year old has shown some promise with the bat in stretches, and with his defense, raw strength, physicality bat speed and established plate discipline numbers, Quevedo figures to be a good bet to continue to grow at the plate and get chances to prove himself and advance -- especially under this new front office with their stated commitment to having their players exercise that better plate discipline. He's likely to open 2016 in Clinton, where his defense should keep him in the lineup regularly, hopefully allowing him to become more comfortable and get into more of a groove at the plate.
TOP TRAIT(S): Throwing arm, bat speed, plate discipline
44. Stephen Landazuri – RHP, 6’0”, 195, AAA, 1/6/92, R/R
Landazuri, Seattle's 22nd round pick in 2010, owns a 5.26 MiLB ERA to date, but he has shown enough promise in his arm that I had him ranked 36th a season ago on our Top-50. He falls down this year because he still hasn't found a way to consistently turn in the results that I and others feel he is capable of. After opening 2015 with an NRI to big league spring training, he kicked off the regular season with four very strong starts for Jackson in Double-A and threw a six-inning gem in his Triple-A debut just a few weeks later, giving hope that perhaps he'd turned the corner. But the right-hander got hit around to the tune of a 9.48 ERA and 2.27 WHIP while walking more guys (21) than he struck out (20) over his next 10 starts with Tacoma and earning himself a ticket back down to Jackson. There he was good in five of his nine starts to close out the year, but his final combined season line still read 6.18 ERA and1.67 WHIP with career worst marks in BB/9 (4.3) and SO/9 (5.8).
While Landazuri did clear one hurdle by tying his career best with 26 starts, there were only six quality starts to count out of those 26, and he gave up five runs or more in 10 starts. As Jackson's Brandon Liebhaber said to me, "When he's on, he is very good." The problem in 2015 -- and really throughout his career so far -- is that Landazuri isn't "on" often enough. Stephen has never been thought of as a top prospect, but he pitched in the Arizona Fall League for the M's after 2014 (getting hit around there, too), and clearly the organization thought enough of him that the assignment there -- and his promotion to Triple-A early in 2015 -- were moves that they saw as warranted, despite his results never screaming that he was one on a big rise. "His stuff may not wow scouts, but he throws his entire arsenal for strikes and is adept at sequencing pitches," said Jackson's Brandon Liebhaber.
That shouldn't lead you to believe that Landazuri is a soft-tosser. He can touch 94 at times with the fastball and attempts to work down in the zone, getting consistent arm-side run and sink on the offering, doing his best to miss the sweet spot on bats in the process. He also features a full complement of secondary offerings, with a changeup (thrown around 86-88) that has some good depth being his best. Stephen also has a slider (86-88) and a 12-6 curve (77-79). As Brandon states, Landazuri mixes his pitches well, but as he climbed to Triple-A this season, he did have a much harder time getting swinging strikes than in the past. He figures to return to Triple-A to open 2016 with an eye towards finding some softer contact earlier in counts or staying out of the middle of the plate while cutting his walks back down.
TOP TRAIT(S): Repertoire, pitchability
43. Matt Clancy – LHP, 5’11”, 180, SS, 4/1/94 B/L
Clancy was Seattle's 13th round pick in last June's Draft out of St. John's, after a three-year career with them where he went 4-6 with one save and a 4.21 ERA in 83 1/3 innings of work, striking out 69 during his time on the mound. He tied for the 10th most strikeouts by pitchers who worked strictly in relief in the Northwest League in his debut season for the M's, punching out 35 while walking just 10 in his 30 1/3 innings. His 1.19 ERA on the year was the best by any pitcher in Seattle's system who threw for a stateside affiliate this year and his 10.4 SO/9 mark was only bested by one left-handed relief arm in the organization with at least as many innings as him (Paul Fry). The left-handed pitcher held right-handed hitters to a .169/.245/.265 slash, striking out 31.9% of hitters from the right side that he faced while working exclusively in the late innings for the AquaSox. He also went his entire 22 appearances without allowing an extra base hit to a left-handed hitter, and despite consciously working up in the zone with his fastball regularly, he only surrendered one homer all year, and that one homer came to lead off his fourth inning of work in an extra inning game in which he was pitching great until the long ball -- the only time he went more than three innings all season.
Clancy's five saves were second on the Everett roster, but he finished a team high 19 games in his 22 appearances, good for third most in the Northwest League. He was the recipient of the "C the Z" Award for Everett in July, and really pitched better after that for the club. Despite his small stature and not exactly having the most electric arm in the system, Clancy has a lot of fans in the front office, ranking high on all of the lists that I was given from inside the org. And as you can see from his batted ball breakdown, the results were impressive in more than just his traditional counting stats.
Clancy works quickly and strictly from the stretch, using somewhat stiff looking but consistent mechanics, a standard three-quarters release and a good three-pitch mix led by his fastball for the AquaSox. He works comfortable in the low-90s with the fastball but still showed a willingness to intentionall elevate it in key spots quite a bit, getting a number of his punch outs with the pitch up out of the zone. He backs up the fastball with a slider and a changeup, commanding both pitches well and keeping them down. The 21 year old will get into full season ball in 2016, at least in Clinton but possibly even up at Bakersfield if he continues to impress in spring. Left-handed middle inning relievers that don't have electric stuff are pretty blase as far as prospects go, but they still have value, and Clancy looks like a pretty good bet to be able to deliver on his profile, even if it isn't the most exciting profile in the system.
TOP TRAIT(S): Command, confidence, three-pitch mix
42. Tyler Pike – LHP, 6’0”, 180, A+, 1/26/94, L/L
Pike's fourth appearance on the Top-50 sees him checking in at his lowest ranking here at 42. He peaked at No. 5 overall back in 2014 after debuting at number 31 in 2013, then fell back down to 27 a year ago. The promise he showed early and the praise he got while pitching in the Midwest League in that first full season have been harder to come by recently, but the ability is still there for Tyler. And he showed it in some bright flashes during his starts in 2015 with Bakersfield. The left-hander allowed three earned runs or less in 18 of his 25 starts for the Blaze, ending his year by winning four times in his final six starts and walking just 7.7% of the 142 batters he faced over that time, pitching seven shutout innings and walking just one in his final start of the year. In all he cut his walks-per-nine in the Cal League from 6.8 in 2014 to a still-not-great 4.6 in 2015, but encouragingly maintained his 8.4 SO/9 number while doing so. He'll turn 22 in January and still hasn't figured out Double-A -- with a 7.35 ERA, 1.90 WHIP and more walks than strikeouts there in 16 starts the past two seasons -- but the M's 3rd round selection in 2012 still has some tools to work with.
"Tyler still has one of the nastiest curveballs I've ever seen in A-ball," said Bakersfield announcer Dan Bresbis, adding, "When he's aggressive in the zone, he can set down 10 batters in a row and strike out half of them. But, as has been the problem in the past, there are times where he just loses the zone." As Dan states, and as the numbers above allude to, it has been his loss of aggression in the zone that has usually led to the struggles for Pike. He doesn't necessarily have bad command, but he seems to lack the willingness to work in and around the zone aggressively with any consistency, even though he's never really been a pitcher to get hit too hard. He has allowed just 350 hits in his 405 pro innings, which figures out to a .236 BA and 7.8 H/9 over his 1,770 batters faced. An encouraging sign from last year was that Pike held opposing hitters to a .629 OPS with runners on base while allowing a .922 OPS with the bases empty. In 2014, those numbers were almost reversed, as hitters hit .307/.427/.500 with runners on, OPS'ing just .778 with no one on base. That seems like a pitcher who has gained some confidence and shown the ability to buckle down in tough situations. Something that we haven't discussed in the past as an issue that was exacerbated a bit in 2015 is with Pike fielding his position; he made seven errors in 2015, bringing his career total to 17 in just 103 chances, and he has never posted a fielding percentage better than .875. I've been told that he has a bit of a pedestrian/slow regular move to first, so he tries the ol' "step off/snap throw" from time-to-time, and that cost him with some erratic ones in Bakersfield.
Pike's slow curveball can be very good at times, but it isn't a consistent enough pitch for him currently to feature it as more than a third offering. His fastball can touch 93, but he usually works comfortable at 88-90 with it, avoiding the middle of the plate as much as he can (usually away) even though the pitch has some good life on it. The lefty's changeup is his best secondary offering, and he works fastball-changeup most often in games, mixing in the curve. Back in 2013 I had an AL East scout tell me that Pike was, "the Tom Glavine of the Midwest League," because of the way his pitching pattern resembled the Hall of Fame lefty's, but also because that scout felt he was very good. The past few seasons it seems that Pike has been trying to pitch more like that image of Glavine instead of understanding his opponent and his situation and pitching to his own strengths. He figures to get another shot at Double-A in 2016, and if he can change course a bit and start to attack hitters -- especially right-handed hitters -- again, there is reason to be optimistic that Pike could turn the corner and start working back towards his ceiling as a durable back-of-the-rotation prospect for Seattle.
TOP TRAIT(S): Frame, changeup, command, armspeed
41. Steven Baron – C, 6’0”, 205, MLB, 12/7/90, R/R
Baron, Seattle's second 1st round pick (33rd overall) in the 2009 draft, finally advanced to Triple-A and ultimately the big leagues for the club in 2015, his seventh season in the system. He went hitless in his 11 trips to the plate in September as a big leaguer, but his 53 games with Tacoma before being added to the Mariners' roster resulted in the best OPS -- .708 -- of his minor league career at any level. Having always been viewed as that rare high school catching prospect who was advanced defensively, the organization has worked with Baron (who was No. 47 on our list a year ago) to focus on his offense over the past few seasons, and it looks like it could be starting to pay off. His 30 walks (9.2%) for the 2015 season were a nice increase (5.6% coming into 2015) and Baron also set new career bests in AVG (.265) and OBP (.334). This came after he went to Instructs following 2014 and focused as he never had before on offense as the club worked to coerce some offensive production and confidence out of him, and that just may have been the kick start that the now 26 year old needed.
Baron slugged .361 on the year, coming up just one short of tying his career high mark in doubles (18). That doesn't sound like a high number, and truthfully it isn't in the grand scheme -- especially considering the offensive environment of the PCL, where most of those plate appearances came. But having any value on offense from a catcher in the M's system would be huge for them, so anything the right-handed hitter can add with his bat clearly helps. And the organization is noticing. "I think he's figured some things out," Jack Howell told me prior to the 2015 season. As for ways that Baron could take the next step at the plate, he does have a tendency to cut himself off on his follow-through, limiting his fringy power a bit more because of it. And while he has cut his strikeout down to a combined 18.6% at all levels over the past two years, there is still room for improvement there, too. Lastly, if Baron can pull the ball a bit more regularly than it would be easier for his modest power to show up, too. Below is a look at his spray chart from 2015.
Baron enters 2016 as one of five catchers on the 40-man roster, and none of them looks like world beaters at the plate currently, although it doesn't seem to be likely that Steven will be among the 25 who head north from Peoria with the big league club. But he has good defensive skills, as a receiver and a thrower -- where his arm, quickness of release and accuracy are all plus -- and if the bat continues to progress and get to some of the natural gap power that exists in his frame then there is reason to believe that he could push for PAs at the big league level by late in the year or should any injuries pop up. Until that happens, he'll be working in Triple-A (likely in a tough job share with Mike Zunino) to improve his game.
TOP TRAIT(S): Defensive instincts, defensive quickness, arm
That puts a wrap on our second set of five of the top prospects in the SeattleClubhouse Annual Top-50 Prospect Countdown for the Seattle Mariners. Check back next Monday as we cover numbers 40 through 36 in the system on our way to the top.
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.