This week on State of the Farm, we're taking a look at how some of the 2015 draft class–the final class produced in the Jack Z era–is doing this year. I'll be focusing on both higher-round draft picks and lower-round guys who've stood out so far. Let's get to it:
Nick Neidert – RHP – 2nd Round
Background: The Mariners used their first selection in the draft on Peachtree Ridge High's Nick Neidert, a righty who had first-round potential before an arm injury caused him to dip into the second round.
How They're Doing: Neidert made his full-season debut this year, joining the Class-A Clinton LumberKings in late May. He's performed well in the Midwest League–where he's nearly three years below the league average for age–posting a 3.71 FIP and 5.90 K/BB ratio over 74 innings. His ceiling still sits at a mid-rotation arm, but his ability to perform at such a high level at such a young age is promising.
Andrew Moore – RHP – 2nd Round
Background: It was considered a reach when the Mariners used the 72nd overall pick on Oregon State's Andrew Moore. Scouts agreed that he was talented and likely had a future in professional baseball, but the consensus seemed to be that he would never be anything more than a back of the rotation pitcher, and those aren't the kind of guys you try to grab with a top-100 pick.
How They're Doing: Credit to Moore, who has done everything in his power to make analysts and evaluators look silly. The righty started out the year in Bakersfield, tore California League hitters to pieces for nine starts, then bumped up to Double-A Jackson where he's been just as good. In 92.1 innings with the Generals, he's ran a 3.22 FIP and 5.14 K/BB ratio. Moore doesn't have any plus offerings (although I've grown to love his changeup quite a bit), but his command and ability to make hitters uncomfortable in the box has him soaring through the system. I expect him to be in the rotation at some point next season.
Braden Bishop – OF – 3rd Round
Background: Bishop looked close to MLB-ready from a defensive standpoint when the Mariners used a 3rd round selection on the Washington outfielder. The biggest question with Bishop would always be his bat. In his final year with the Huskies, Bishop flashed enough shiny new pop to convince the Mariners to use a high pick on him.
How They're Doing: Bishop started the year down in Clinton, where he slashed .290/.363/.331 in 284 plate appearances before receiving a promotion to Bakersfield. He's struggled with the Blaze, posting a 61 wRC+ in 128 plate appearances. He still plays a wonderful centerfield, but the bat has a long way to go before he gets anywhere near Seattle. Bishop has already done wonderful things with his career, however, founding the 4Mom Charity last year. If there's a player in this class you want to root extra hard for, pick this dude.
Drew Jackson – SS – 5th Round
Background: Jackson was a glove-first shortstop with impressive athleticism who finally managed a solid offensive campaign in his final season at Stanford. The Mariners gambled on Jackson's bat being legitimate and took him in the 5th round.
How They're Doing: After wrecking the Northwest League in 2015, Jackson skipped a level and went straight to Bakersfield to start the year. The bat has taken a step back with the Blaze; he's slashed .258/.329/.347 with an 88 wRC+ in 535 plate appearances this year. He'll need to be a bit more consistent at short, but the ability at the position is as apparent as ever. Next year will be a big year for Jackson, especially if they want him to repeat High-A ball.
Kyle Wilcox – RHP – 6th Round
Background: Wilcox was a small-school pitcher with big potential locked away behind command and mechanic issues.
How They're Doing: Command issues have continued to plague Wilcox in his first full season of professional ball. He still flashes intriguing potential as a late-inning reliever with Clinton, but he's been unable to find the strike zone, posting an 8.11 BB/9 this year. The good news is that he's posted a 2.99 FIP over the last two months. If he can ever learn how to throw strikes, a bright future could be on the horizon.
Darin Gillies – RHP – 10th Round
Background: Gillies was a senior out of Arizona State who had a boom in strikeouts over his final season.
How They're Doing: Gillies' numbers have been better in his professional career than they ever were at ASU. He cruised through Clinton in the early stages of the season before getting bumped up to Bakersfield, where he's posted an 11.44 K/9 mark and a 3.01 FIP. I'm very interested to see how he'll do in Jackson next year.
Jio Orozco – RHP – 14th Round
Background: Orozco was a prep guy out of Arizona with three advanced pitches.
How They're Doing: Orozco has been a strikeout-machine with the AZL Mariners this year, fanning 51 in 40.2 innings. He's been hit hard at times and his FIP currently sits at 3.72, but the potential is still very much there.
Joe Pistorese – LHP – 17th Round
Background: Pistorese put together an impressive career at Wazzu. I remember reading an interview from someone in the front office about Pistorese and they said something along the lines of "he just knew how to get everyone out" regarding a start a scout saw.
How They're Doing: Pistorese returned from suspension in late-June and has been great ever since. In 12 appearances and 18.1 IP with Clinton, the lefty posted a 1.29 FIP while running an 11.50 K/BB ratio. He quickly hopped up to Bakersfield, where he's struck out 10 in 7.0 IP while running a 2.73 FIP.
Ljay Newsome – RHP – 26th Round
Background: Newsome hadn't officially declared for a college when the Mariners drafted him out of Chopticon High School with their 26th round pick. The velo on his fastball had pushed up to the low-90s at times and paired well with his changeup.
How They're Doing: Newsome has won the Northwest Pitcher of the Week award twice this year, an impressive accomplishment for a 19-year-old in the Northwest League, which is typically full of 21/22 year old players fresh out of college ball. His K/BB ratio sits at a strong mark of 6.57 over 48.0 IP. Aside from one or two starts, he's been arguably the most consistent starter in the AquaSox rotation this year.
Dalton Kelly – 1B – 38th Round
Background: Kelly was a soft-hitting first baseman out of UCSB. He was known for having a great glove, but unless the bat improved his stay in the system likely wouldn't be long.
How They're Doing: Kelly's bat improved. For the first couple months of the season he was the pulse of the LumberKings' lineup, even managing to nab an All-Star bid. Currently he sits at .288/.380/.419 with a 137 wRC+. He still doesn't project incredibly well as a major league first baseman, but his performance has been one of the bigger surprises in the class.
Some more notes from the class:
- The Mariners selected several intriguing prep arms that haven't seen the field much in 2016 and therefore I'm not at liberty to give much of an opinion on. This includes Dylan Thompson (4th round) and Cody Mobley (8th).
- 1B Ryan Uhl (7th) has been dealing with injury issues this year. Uhl is a big first baseman with some serious pop, but has been limited to just a few rehab at-bats with the AZL Mariners.
- 36th-round pick Matt Walker has also been a late-round-pick-turned-useful-piece for the Mariners, running a 2.11 FIP in 53.0 IP in Clinton this year. Walker was the 1,085th player taken in the draft last year. My goodness, the draft is long.