Prospect Positionals: Starting Pitching

Remember when starting pitching was the depth in the M's farm system? Nowadays, there is depth, but the quality at the top is lacking, partially due to injuries and partially due to empty drafts.

Starting Pitchers

1. Clint Nageotte, RHP

Nageotte and fellow right-hander Jesse Foppert give the Mariners their best in-house solutions on the mound. Foppert no longer qualifies as a prospect but is recovering at satisfactory rates from Tommy John surgery 18 months ago.

Nageotte's '05 season was spent in relief in Triple-A Tacoma, and while the bullpen may yet be where his future lies, the club has not given up on him as a starting pitcher.

Once a strikeout machine, Nageotte has learned to pitch, inducing low pitch innings and a bevy of ground balls.

It's conceivable that the 25-year-old could start the year on the 25-man roster, probably in a relief role. More than likely he'll begin the year in Tacoma's rotation, working his two-seamer, slider and developing change-up into a big-league arsenal.
2. Bobby Livingston, LHP

Livingston is the most polished of starters left in the system, mixing a better than average curve ball with a plus change and fastball that Jamie Moyer would be most proud.

The 23-year-old southpaw has plus command and when his breaking ball and change-up are at their best, he can be very frustrating to Triple-A bats.

Many scouts believe Livingston to be a No. 5 starter at best, citing his lack of velocity as one of the main factors, while others see an inconsistent curve ball and slider.

Most critical for Livingston's development is the improvement of his slider, which will help the Texas native neutralize left-handers.

The M's still believe that Livingston's fastball can reach the high 80s with consistency. As Livingston matures physically, watch for the velocity to rise a few miles per hour. As is, the heater sits in the 83-87 mph range.
3. Yorman Bazardo, RHP

Bazardo came over from the Florida Marlins in return for lefty reliever Ron Villone and brought with him a reputation for a 98-mph fastball.

In Double-A San Antonio, Bazardo sat 89-92 with an shaky slider and an average change-up, provoking bullpen projections for the 22-year-old's future.

At 6-feet-2 and 185 pounds, Bazardo reminds some of Ramon Martinez with his lanky frame and limber delivery.

The Venezuelan must regain the consistent velocity that had him sitting 91-95 in 2004, while bringing a plus change-up and better than average slider. Failure to regain most or all of his previous form may land the right-hander in the bullpen where he could project as a dominant setup man in the mold of Ugueth Urbina or Armando Benitez.
4. Justin Thomas, LHP

Thomas was the M's fourth-round pick in last June's draft and displayed the stuff to become a No. 3 starter.

The lefty reported to Everett and made most of his appearances in relief after reaching a career high in innings pitched during his junior season at Youngstown State.

Thomas, 21, is built well at 6-3 and 220 pounds and should provide the M's with a southpaw workhorse to look to in two or three years.

Sitting in the low 90s with his fastball, Thomas mixes in a solid array of off-speed stuff to keep hitters off balance and has an aggressive, bulldog style approach to pitching.
5. Ryan Feierabend, LHP

Feierabend is coming along at the exact pace the Mariners hoped he would when they made him their third rounder in the 2003 draft.

After putting up promising numbers in the complex league that same year, Feierabend followed up with a solid 2004, going 9-7 with a 3.63 ERA as one of the league's youngest pitchers at 18 years of age.

Again of the of the youngest hurlers in the circuit, Feierabend took on the warm-aired, small-park infested California League and finished second in the league in ERA (3.88), leaning on a stellar second half where the 19-year-old posted a 3.34 ERA in 13 starts to go with a K/9 ratio of 8.28.

The 6-4, 210-pound Ohio native used a much-improved breaking ball as his out pitch this past season, complimenting a solid change-up and a fastball that reached 90 mph.

Continued development of his off-speed stuff to go with the velocity boost could provide Feierabend with the stuff of a No. 3 or No. 4 starter.
6. Robert Rohrbaugh, LHP

Rohrbaugh was the most impressive of the M's 2005 pitching class, posting a respectable 3.84 ERA at short-season Everett.

The Clemson product fanned 71 and walked just 18 in his 14 games with the Northwest League, then was sent to Class A Wisconsin to aide in the Timber Rattlers quest for the Midwest League title.

Rohrbaugh uses a high 80's fastball to set up a better than average off-speed arsenal, led by a solid change-up and a curve ball that is inconsistent, but effective.

The eighth-round pick showed plus command, which was key to his first year in pro ball. Rohrbaugh must develop the curve ball further and polish the arm action on his change-up to project as anything other than a back-end starter.
7. Thomas Oldham, LHP

Oldham is the 2003 equivalent of Rohrbaugh, but minus a little bit of velocity. Oldham was the M's eighth rounder in '03, out of the University of Creighton.

The 23-year-old Oldham works with a fastball in the 86-90 range, a change-up that grades as a plus pitch most of the time and an improving curve ball.

With more consistency and steady command, Oldham still has No. 4 starter ability and has great work ethic in which to lean - a welcomed attribute in the Mariners farm system.

It remains to be seen where Oldham starts the 2006 season, but a return to Double-A San Antonio may do him some good, after a sluggish start robbed him of stellar numbers this past season.
8. Jason Snyder, RHP

Snyder impressed in first pro season two summers ago, flashing an 89-92 mph fastball and a curve ball with a lot of potential to become a plus pitch.

The Utah native came into 2005 needing to show a third pitch to allow him to get deeper into his starts.

Injuries all but destroyed Snyder's season, though he did manage to compile 114 innings in 27 games (17 starts) at Class A Wisconsin.

The 6-5, 195-pound right-hander displayed inconsistent stuff on his way to a 4.82 ERA and a 9-7 record.

Snyder's mechanics are solid, but there are times when his balance is off, which can force him to overcompensate with his arm, possibly causing injury. The 22-year-old must refine his delivery and command to maximize his stuff.

His fastball-curveball combo has No. 3 starter written all over it, but more consistency is needed, as is a more aggressive approach.
9.Paul Fagan, LHP

Fagan uses a fastball in the 87-90 mph range, but has touched 93 on occasion and shows good tailing action.

Fagan gets some sink to his fastball, which is largely responsible for his 1.91 G/F ratio.

The 6-5, 215-pound 20-year-old also offers a slurvy breaking ball that may need an adjustment in order to be more effective versus left-handed hitters.

Fagan is at least three years away from becoming a potential big-league call-up, but his stuff says he can get there. His injury history is a cause for concern.
10. Shawn Nottingham, LHP

Nottingham first opened eyes with his 8-3, 3.15 ERA campaign in short-season Everett in 2004 as a 19-year-old.

The 6-foot, 185-pound left-hander reminds some of fellow southpaw Travis Blackley, one of Nottingham's closest friends in the organization.

Nottingham possesses good command of his mid-to-upper 80s fastball, solid change and average curve ball. His slider was making strides when his '05 season was interrupted with a shoulder injury.

Like many of the system's left-handed starters, Nottingham must continue to improve his breaking ball to reach his potential as a No. 4 starter.
Others: Marwin Vega, RHP; Travis Blackley, LHP; Chia-an Huang, RHP; Ryan Rowland-Smith, LHP; Aaron Jensen, RHP; Mark Lowe, RHP; Anthony Varvaro, RHP; Steve Uhlmansiek, LHP.

Top SP Prospects in 1995:

1. Ron Villone, LHP
2. Mac Suzuki, RHP
1. Matt Wagner, RHP
3. Shawn Estes, LHP
4. Bob Wolcott, RHP
5. Ken Cloude, RHP

Top SP Prospect in 2000:

1. Ryan Anderson, LHP
2. Jeff Heaverlo, RHP
3. Rafael Soriano, RHP
4. Joel Pineiro, RHP
5. Cha Seung Baek, RHP

Next Up: Relief Pitchers and Catchers - Monday, December 5.

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