The M's top pitching prospect makes his appearance at No. 5. This right-hander comes in at the fifth spot for the second consecutive season.
Last winter we asked if the real Clint Nageotte would please stand up. A year later, putting Nageotte under the microscope means changing the lens and swapping worksheets with the physics major sitting next to you.
Clint Nageotte ,v2006, is very different then the 2004 version that was coming off of a stellar campaign in San Antonio, where he led the league in strikeouts and was the quintessential power pitcher – lots of strikeouts, lots of fly balls and a lot of pitches.
The 25-year-old sat out nearly half of the 2005 season with a strained right forearm and when he finally returned to the mound, it was in a a relief role, highly unfamiliar to the Ohio native.
But rather than sulk, Nageotte took his positive attitude, a newfound approach, and reported to Triple-A Tacoma in the best condition of career, making the most of a potentially broken summer.
Despite a couple of short battles with his control that resulted in a mediocre walk rate, the right-hander allowed just 21 hits in 34 innings (.176 BAA), thanks to better and more frequent use of his sinker and a better understanding of how to attack experienced bats.
Nageotte is no longer looking for the punch out. Instead, he's looking for any sort of out. One, in particular, has become Nageotte's forte.
Using the two-seam fastball almost exclusively, Nageotte piled up an impressive groundball-flyball ratio of 2.82 in the Pacific Coast League, and repeated the feat in the Arizona Fall League. The only difference with his experience in the AFL was that he returned his comfortable role as a starting pitcher.
Nageotte enters 2006 with one more chance to pitch his way into the future of the Seattle Mariners. Whether it's in the bullpen or the starting rotation, he has the pitches to get the job done and is 100% healthy for the first time in three seasons.
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||No. 5 – Clint Nageotte, RHP
| Ht/Wt: 6-3/220
| Bats/Throws: R/R
| Acquired: Selected in fifth round of 1999 draft
| Signed By: Mariners' scout Ken Madeja
Nageotte has regained most of the confidence he lost when his stuff slipped up due to lower back problems late in 2004. Pitching more intelligently than ever before, the three-time strikeout champion has learned how to pitch over the past 12 months, rather than the rock-and-fire, grind-it-out-for-strike-three-or-bust approach he had in his first turn with Tacoma.
Nageotte is very coachable, enjoys instruction and has rebuilt his work ethic and refocused his energy toward being the best he can be in whatever role the club gives him. He still has a plus slider and is developing somewhat of a bulldog-style attack on the mound.
There is still questions about whether Nageotte has the arsenal to stick in the rotation, as he's still seen as a two-pitch pitcher. He has experienced problems getting through the sixth inning as a starter, partially due to below average command and partially from the lack of a third offering.
Injuries have affected his velocity and therefore the effectiveness of his offspeed pitches. Nageotte must find a higher level of consistency before the next level comes calling.
Tools: Scouting Profile
Three seasons ago Nageotte was firing four-seam fastballs consistently at 92-95 mph. Since his reinvention, he's settled his two-seamer into the 89-92 range. Nageotte's sporadically used four-seam fastball touches 93 and 94.
The loss in velocity can be evenly attributed to the change in philosophy as well as the elbow, forearm and lower back problems that troubled Nageotte over the last three years. With better command, his fastball grade can reach the 60-65 range due to the plus movement and boring, sinking action that induces a high rate of ground balls and easy outs.
"I absolutely love what he's done," said a rival AL West scout. "You have to like a guy who can go from being a power pitcher to someone who can think his way through innings. I'd still like to see him regain some of that velocity, though. If he did, he'd be scary."
Nageotte's best pitch is his slider and though it has lost some zip, it's still an out pitch for him. The Mariners would still like to see him mix things up a bit more, which is something he began doing much more effectively last summer. The more he is able to set up the slider, the more outs he can get with it, particularly in tough situations with runners aboard.
Nageotte sits in the 82-85 range with the pitch, which is more of a curve ball velocity, but the sharp 11-5 break can be devastating to right-handed hitters.
"He really needs to work on getting that pitch back," said the scout. "He's pretty ordinary without it. Sometimes pitchers lose a pitch for awhile. It's still a decent slider but when it was at its best, it was one of the nastiest I have ever seen at this level – or any level, really."
Nageotte has been trying to improve his changeup since being drafted in '99 and has yet to develop a useful version. He will throw it on occasion just to give the hitter something else to think about, but he's had trouble finding the right feel and consistent arm action.
Any significant progress with his changeup could instantly give Nageotte the pure stuff to compete in the middle of a big-league rotation. But he has a long ways to go get to that point.
Nageotte's control and command, or lack thereof, is the biggest obstacle between a big-league roster spot and miring in the minor leagues. He made quality strides a year ago with his fastball, but because he's throwing a different array of pitches than he's accustomed to, he's still working on arm slots and pitch grips, specifically for his changeup and two-seamer. Currently he possesses below average command that at times has been downright poor. But he's on the upswing in this area and has the work habits and desire to improve dramaticlly.
As he settles into his role, whichever capacity in which that may ultimately be, and finally figures out which pitches he wants to throw and in what manner in which he would like to throw them, his mechanics will likely follow suit and settle in, also.
Nageotte still employs a power pitcher's delivery with red-flag actions in his leg kick and foot-plant motions that may have contributed to his lack of control and even some of the injury problems he has had to the lower half of his throwing arm.
Nageotte has an outside chance to win a bullpen spot with the M's this spring, but if the club prefers him to jump back into the starting rotation, he'll land in Tacoma to begin his seventh pro season.
He has more question marks than anyone in the Top 10 ranked below him, but many of the shortcomings are easily correctable flaws and the right-hander still has a bigger upside than any other pitcher in the system.
If everything goes right, Nageotte can still become a No. 2 starter in the majors. More than likely, he'll battle his way to the setup role, or fill a No. 3 or No. 4 role in the M's rotation. He has competition from fellow right-hander Jesse Foppert and southpaw Bobby Livingston
as the top minor league option for the club heading into 2006.
2006 Projection: 145 IP, 135 H, 3.65 ERA, .240 BAA, 48 BB, 130 SO
MLB ETA: 2006
MLB COMP: Jason Marquis (STL), Jake Westbrook (CLE)
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.