Eight more to go to get to No. 1... the next prospect moves up one spot from a year ago after a successful season in the upper minors in 2005. Jason A. Churchill examines No. 9 of the Top 20.
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||No. 9 – Bobby Livingston, LHP
| Ht/Wt: 6-3/200
| Bats/Throws: L/L
| Acquired: Selected by Seattle in 4th round of 2001 draft
| Signed By: Mariners' scout Kyle Van Hook
Livingston put up dominant numbers in the Texas League and was named the circuit's starter in the all-star game. After 18 starts and the league's top ERA, Livingston took his control game to Triple-A Tacoma where he was impressive enough in 10 outings.
The Texas native is a bulldog on the hill, even though his stuff is average with the exception of his changeup. Livingston has the killer instinct and when he has things going for him he is more than capable of putting the game away with quick innings, including the occasional strikeout streak. He holds runners well with a solid pickoff move and possesses a polished approach to the pitching game. He's an intelligent, confident pitcher who thinks on the mound and has a solid work ethic.
Livingston works from a controlled delivery with a limited effort level, which has been an area in which the club has focused on with the southpaw in order to induce more velocity out of his sturdy frame and solid arm actions. Livingston must stay aggressive with his fastball to help him set up his solid offspeed offerings.
At times he can fall in love with his changeup or curve, creating a predictable pitching pattern.
Tools: Scouting Profile
After sitting in the 81-84 range in '04, Livingston lit up the radar at a whopping 82-86 for the better part of last season, which isn't the kind of pace the club would like to see in his fastball. He does, however, get good movement on his assortment of fastballs that includes a cutter, a sinker and a true four-seamer.
Livingston needs to gain more confidence in his fastball, and further adjustments in his philosophical approach and mechanics still may result in a few extra mphs. There isn't any reason to think that he won't ultimately end up with an average fastball, sitting regularly in the 86-89 mph range.
Curve Ball: 50+
There were points in the 2005 season when Livingston's 1-7 curve ball was a plus pitch, including a gem the left-hander tossed at the Sacramento River Cats in which he fanned 14 batters in one of the more patient, disciplined lineups in minor league baseball. Concistency is a bit of an issue, which is why he still uses a slider on occasion. If he continues to make similar strides, Livingston could end up with a above average major league curve ball – or better.
As his bread and butter, overuse of the change was getting Livingston into trouble somewhat in 2004. Last season he used the pitch more intelligently and gained more confidence in his other offerings, allowing him to keep hitters from sitting on any one pitch. He can change speeds with the pitch as well, giving hitters yet another look. His change is a plus pitch.
"The action on the pitch itself is solid, not great," said an American League scout. "But it's deceptive because his arm speed is terrific and he really seems to know how to lead hitters into his change. And even when they are looking for it, he can find ways to make it work."
With Double-A San Antonio, Livingston went innings at a time without missing his spots. He'd step on the mound, get the sign, nod, rock, fire, and the ball would land in the glove right where the catcher set up. As the hitters are getting bigger, stronger, smarter and more patient with better potch recognition, Livingston must match the adjustments, which can get many pitchers to stray from their game plans and nibble at the corners. If he wishes to take the next step, he must remain focused on pitching to his gameplan and avoid falling behind in counts against the experienced bats in the PCL and beyond.
While Livingston's delivery is smooth and hitchless with solid arm action and fairly consistent release points on all of his pitches, additional velocity could be the difference in his road to the majors. He can rush it up to the plate at 90-92 anytime he wishes, but he tends to lose too much command in those instances. It's this predicament that needs the attention when his delivery is examined. If the Mariners can find a way to eliminate the quandary, he'll naturally add to the velocity on his fastball, making his plus changeup even that much better, and making it more difficult for hitters to react to his curve ball.
Most "soft-tossers" have to find ways to create their kind of contact, and Livingston is no different. Among the large group of moderately armed left-handers in the organization, the 23-year-old is most similar to Jamie Moyer. Moyer and Livingston both use their fastballs all over the plate, use the change a lot and mix in a solid curve ball to both lefties and righties. Livingston simply must maintain his development rate, and further explore improving his ground ball rates to take advantage of the strong M's infield defense. If he succeeds in each area, he has the potential be a 200-inning No. 3 or 4 starter in the big leagues.
2006 Projection: 170 IP, 172 H, 4.30 ERA, .265 BAA, 47 BB, 121 SO
MLB ETA: 2006 (Sept.)
MLB COMP: Jamie Moyer (SEA), Mike Maroth (DET)
InsideThePark.com's Top 20 Prospects are based on the player's long-term value to the Seattle Mariners organization.
All players that have not exceeded 130 at-bats or 50 innings pitched at the big-league level are eligible. Service time is not considered.
The Scouting Scale grades are based on a combination of the payers' current and potential future skills.