clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Prospect Profile: Dario Pizzano

New, comments

While he won't make any top prospect lists, Dario Pizzano is an interesting piece who could sneak onto the major league roster in the near future.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Jerry Dipoto spent his first offseason re-structuring the big league club. In a departure from Jack Zduriencik's roster construction strategy, Dipoto emphasized defense and on-base ability. One-dimensional players like Mark Trumbo were deemed expendable and replaced with dynamic athletes with on-base skills and plate discipline. As part of this philosophy, Dipoto cultivated players who demonstrated a good eye at the plate.

Many minor leaguers were dispelled in this process as well. Dario Pizzano, however, retained his place in the organization after the makeover. Pizzano lacks standout tools, but the front office was intrigued by his bat and eye at the plate, and he was rewarded for a solid 2015 season in Double-A with a promotion to Tacoma..

Pizzano was taken in the 15th round back in 2012. As a junior at Columbia, he was named the Ivy League Player of the Year after hitting .360 with 31 walks and just 15 strikeouts. His good eye at the plate carried over to pro ball. In his first stop in Pulaski, he posted a .953 OPS with 26 walks and 35 strikeouts in 225 plate appearances. As he climbed the minor league ladder, he hit well at every stop, posting a slash line of .296/.383/.462 over his first four professional seasons.

Pizzano's skillset is quite simple. He makes contact and draws walks while seldomly striking out. To wit:

Year (level)

BB%

K%

2012 (R/A-)

14.3

17.7

2013 (A)

11.5

9.0

2014 (A+/AA)

13.9

11.0

2015 (AA)

7.8

8.2

Pizzano can control the strike zone, swing the bat, and he's hit at every level. So why is he not considered more of a top prospect, especially given Seattle's lack of blue chippers?

There are a few reasons. One is that he's never been young for his level. He's 25 years old and players generally don't make top prospect lists if they're not super young. As mentioned before, he hasn't displayed the kind of impact tools that get evaluators excited; his best skills are his plate discipline and ability to make contact, neither of which catches the eye of scouts seeking potential studs. Pizzano has only hit double digit home runs once (11 in 2014), has never reached double figures in steals, and isn't an asset defensively. He's not a very dynamic player and his ceiling in the majors is limited.

But there are still some factors that make him interesting. Maybe it's his Columbia education. Or his proven ability to adjust to every level he's reached. Perhaps it's his sharp eye, miraculously intact despite rising in a player development system that didn't value his strengths. Pizzano was a noted favorite of Fangraphs writer Carson Cistulli, who included Pizzano in his "fringe five" series just about every week in 2014.

When you look at Pizzano from afar, there doesn't seem to be much there. But he's had success hitting at every level the M's have put him at and has been the same player the entire way up. He's facing a real challenge in Tacoma so far, though where his strikeout rate has ballooned to 17.6% while his walk rate is a career-low 5.9%. Triple-A is often where fringe prospects like him get exposed; whether he is able to turn it around will say a lot about his potential to make an impact in the majors as well.

Pizzano has a lot of work to do. The fact that he only has two walks this season is disappointing. But should Pizzano adjust to Triple-A pitching and continue to do what he's done throughout his career, he could see the big leagues someday. While he'll never be a star, his skillset aligns well with what Dipoto values. Whether or not Pizzano ever becomes anything more than a fourth outfielder, his story will be a fun one to follow.