M's 2005 Top 50 Prospects: No. 5

We've broken into the top five as InsidethePark.com reveals it's Top 50 M's prospects for 2005. The fifth best prospect is a 24-year-old that was a multi-sport star in a midwestern state.



During the 2003 season, the M's had a right-hander put up some gaudy numbers in the minor leagues. He led his league in strikeouts and was opening some eyes with a dominating fastball-slider combination.

In July of that season, the strikeout king pitched the best game in the entire organization when he went the distance while allowing one hit and striking out a career-best 14.

For his efforts in '03, the power pitcher was named InsideThePark.com's No. 1 prospect in the Seattle Mariners organization and was well on his way to stardom.

No, I'm not referring to King Felix. I'm talking about Clint Nageotte, the M's 5th rounder in 1999 better known for possessing the top slider in minor league baseball and winning three consecutive league strikeout titles heading into 2004.

Nageotte failed to repeat his stellar 2003 season in the Texas League (11 wins, 157 K's, 3.10 ERA) and struggled with his control from the outset last year. Never the control specialist, Nageotte fell to new depths last summer as he walked 62 batters in less than 130 innings.

But it wasn't just a loss of command that failed Nageotte, it was a major drop in velocity that can be blamed for much of the right-hander's lack of effectiveness.

The book on Nageotte was that he brought a fastball in the 90-94 MPH range, a wicked slider, and a change that he was working on, slowly but surely.

What he showed in 2004 was a fastball that struggled to reach 90 or 91, a slider that he had less command of than in years past, and a change-up that was virtually never thrown due to lack of confidence in the pitch.

In order for Nageotte to regain his prominence on the mound, he must refine his delivery and regain his velocity so he feels more comfortable with the four-seam fastball and won't feel the need to pick at the corners.

If the Clint Nageotte of 2003 shows up again, the M's have a big-time weapon to slide into the rotation or the bullpen. The real Clint Nageotte can pitch in the big leagues.

Will the real Clint Nageotte please stand up?



Welcome to Adobe GoLive 6
InsideThePark Prospect No. 5
Clint Nageotte RHP
Opening Day Age: 24
Height/Weight: 6-3/215
Bats/Throws: R/R
Acquired: M's 5th round draft pick in 1999

Year

Team

G

GS

W-L

IP

Hits

BB

K

Sv

ERA

WHIP

2004

Tacoma

14

14

6-6

81.0

78

35

63

0

4.46

1.40

2004

Seattle

12

5

1-6

36.2

48

27

24

0

7.36

2.05




Strengths:
Nageotte is built to be an eight-inning starting pitcher and doesn't seem to tire much after reaching the 100-pitch mark. His endurance, coupled with his potential top-drawer stuff, could provide the basic ingredients to being a top-notch pitcher for many years.

"Nageotte has the physical stature of a two-inning closer or a durable starter," said an American League scout. "His stuff backs up both spots, when he is right.

Weaknesses:
Nageotte's mechanics need some work, primarily to tuneup his command and give him more consistent velocity. He tends to overthrow his slider, which levels its effectiveness and limits his options when he gets to two strikes. A serviceable change-up is needed to compliment his two better pitches.

"Without questioning his effort level, I think he probably could do a better job at thinking out on the mound," said the scout. "He seems to overcompensate as he tries not to overanalyze the situation."



Tools: Scout's Profiling Scale

Fastball: 65
When all is right, Nageotte touches 93 and 94 with regularity and has decent command of both his four-seam fastball and his two-seam cutter. In the minors he got away with an average fastball but after being called up, his loss of velocity gave him one less weapon.

"Clint just needs to get healthy and I think his back bothered him more than he said. He was in the big leagues, he wasn't going to say he was hurt."

Slider: 75
Nageotte's slider is almost dominating enough to throw three or four times per at-bat, and record consistent outs in doing so. Thrown at different speeds, it's most effective after a painted fastball or two. The slider is the biggest reason Nageotte won three strikeout titles in a row from 2001-2003.

"That slider is pretty good," said a National League scout. "Let me try that again - it's darned good. There are major league hitters that wouldn't touch that if located well enough."

Change Up: 30
Nageotte seems unwilling to throw the change-up enough to establish a velocity change in the hitter's mind. Even just an average change would raise the level of effectiveness of everything else he throws up to the plate.

"If he learned to throw a decent change, he'd be scary good," said the AL scout. "He has the stuff to be effective but the change is the equalizer these days."

Command: 40
Nageotte has never been a control specialist but the command issues he displayed last season were a step below the average control he had through 2003. He must stay away from deep counts and find ways to get the hitters to swing at his pitch.

Delivery: 45
Although there aren't any fatal flaws in Nageotte's delivery, the club believes he can make some adjustments in order to help him regain some command and velocity and get back to being the pitcher he was before his struggles last season.

"We need to cleanup his delivery a little more, said Rice. "It's a tweak here or a tweak there."



Future:
Many scouts continue to claim that Nageotte's future is in the relief role, but until all avenues as a starter are attempted, Nageotte will remain a candidate for the starting rotation, wherever he pitches. Expect the 24-year-old to start the season in Triple-A Tacoma with a chance to return to Seattle with a strong first half. Nageotte has the out pitches to develop into a No. 2 or No. 3 starter in the majors, or perhaps a quality power reliever.

"Oh, he can be a starter," said the American League scout. "But he will need a third pitch to be a frontline type. If he moves to the bullpen he could concentrate on the two pitches he already has and could become pretty good in that role if he fixes his control problems."



MLB Clone: Wade Miller, Matt Clement

MLB ETA: 2005





Jason A. Churchill can be reached via e-mail at JasonAChurchill@InsidethePark.com



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