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State of the Farm, 12/13/16

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The final part of the position-by-position breakdown: the relievers

Farmers Struggle With Lambing Season During The Coldest March For 50 Years Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images

We’ve reached the final portion of the position-by-position breakdown here at State of the Farm: the relief pitchers. One thing to note, this is likely the final State of the Farm for awhile, at least until we get closer to the start of the season. I’ll still be doing individual looks and some other minor league-related posts, but State of the Farm has always served as more of a broad overview of the minor league system. It’ll be back, though, don’t worry.

Anyway, let’s talk relief pitchers. Here’s a look at some of the more notable guys in the system:

Some notes on this chart:

  • I included the stats from their ‘Highest Level’ only. The stats are not a combination of their entire season across multiple levels. Some players, such as Burrows, spent their entire season at one level.
  • There are obviously more than eleven relief pitchers in the system. I went with the more intriguing guys, rather than chucking one-hundred names at you, most of which are fairly meh.

MLB-Ready

Dan Altavilla, Paul Fry

Altavilla’s first year working out of the bullpen was a riveting success, as the 24-year-old turned in 56.2 dominant innings in Double-A Jackson before receiving the call up to Seattle in late August. With the Mariners, Altavilla flashed a hard fastball and explosive slider, riding the two pitches to a 2.01 FIP and 3.23 xFIP over 12.1 innings. I don’t expect him to be as good as he was in this small, 2016 sample with Seattle, but Altavilla’s stuff is very much for real. He has the chance to take total ownership of a setup role with the Mariners in 2017.

Paul Fry, meanwhile, has the chance to make the ‘pen at some point next year, most likely in a LOOGY role. Fry works with a low-90s fastball that pairs well with his low-80s slider with significant break. He’s decent at limiting hard contact against right-handed batters, but his walk-rate drastically inflates against them (21 BB in 30.2 IP vs RHBs in 2016). Look for him to get a long look in Spring Training.

On the Horizon

Emilio Pagan, Thyago Vieira, Ryan Horstman

Pagan appeared to be fast-tracking himself to Seattle before sudden command issues hit him in Triple-A Tacoma in 2016. After never posting a BB/9 rate above 3.10 entering the year, he ran it up to 4.72 in Tacoma and managed a hideous 6.55 in his brief Arizona Fall League season (11.0 innings). The poor command didn’t just lead to walks, either, Pagan suddenly was prone to hard contact on a consistent basis. He still flashes potential with his fastball-slider combination, but the command issues are incredibly worrisome at the moment.

Thyago Vieira has become a bit of a breakout star in the Mariners organization after topping 100 mph in the Arizona Fall League. Vieira put up a 1.71 FIP, 11.91 K/9, and 1.69 BB/9 in his 5.1 innings in the AFL and has done well enough over the past year to nab a spot on the Mariners’ 40-man roster. He’ll likely start next year in Double-A Arkansas, where he could move quickly if the command holds.

Ryan Horstman was my dark horse to surge up to the Mariners last year. Things started out well enough, as the lefty posted a 1.96 FIP and 15.15 K/9 in High-A Bakersfield before receiving a promotion to Double-A. Once in Double-A, things fell apart. Horstman suffered from significant control issues (10.27 BB/9) and eventually injury issues. Injuries have always been an issue with Horstman, but the control issues represent a whole new world of problems for the lefty from St. John’s. Here’s hoping he gets things figured out in 2017.

Way off in the distance

Everyone Else

After those five, there isn’t a ton of immediate help on the way outside of very low-impact guys and filler. Joe Pistorese’s 2016 was limited due to suspension, but he flashed a hard fastball and impressive curveball during his short season in Class-A Clinton and High-A Bakersfield.

Thomas Burrows has the potential to move quickly through the Mariners’ system with a fastball that he commands well and can run up to the mid-90s and a nasty slider that will miss plenty of bats. Still, he is yet to throw a single pitch above Low-A ball and is still likely two years away in a best-case scenario.

Jacob Zokan’s conversion to the bullpen went well, leading to his most successful season to date, but injuries once again brought his year to a premature end.

Darin Gillies’ k-rate continues to climb as a pro, but I’ll be interested to see if he can continue to outperform his peripherals when he reaches Double-A. His LOB% in 2016 was pretty otherworldly.

Final Positional Breakdown