Low-level, high-ceiling prospects like Jackson, Gohara, 2015 draftees participating in Arizona
By Mike Rosenbaum
After years of graduating top prospects to the Major Leagues, the Seattle Mariners' farm system has become thin on upper-level talent.
The Mariners' lower levels, however, are stacked with high-ceiling prospects, many of whom are currently participating in the club's instructional league in Peoria, Ariz. It may take these players several years to reach the Majors, but their upsides could make it worth the wait.
The collection of talent in camp this year includes No. 1 prospect (No. 46 overall) Alex Jackson -- the No. 6 overall pick in the 2014 Draft -- and No. 2 prospect Luiz Gohara, Seattle's top-ranked pitching prospect. Both players are looking to get back on track after inconsistent Minor League campaigns.
Jackson spent a portion of his highly anticipated full-season debut on the disabled list, missing time with shoulder and hand injuries. When he was healthy, the 19-year-old outfielder batted a combined .207/.318/.365 in 76 games between Class A Clinton and Class A Short-Season Everett. Jackson fared considerably better at the latter stop, posting an .832 OPS with eight home runs -- six of which he hit in August -- in 48 games.
Gohara, 19, made a pair of spot starts for Clinton, but he spent most of his season at Everett, where he pitched to a 5.54 ERA and a 1.84 WHIP over 53 2/3 innings (14 starts). The 6-foot-3, 210-pound left-hander allowed 67 hits and 32 walks in that span, but he also yielded just four home runs -- a product of his strong ground-ball tendencies -- and struck out 62 batters.
Neidert on the rise
After signing free agent Nelson Cruz during the offseason, the Mariners were forced to sit through 59 selections in the 2015 Draft before finally making a pick in the second round. It was just the third time in franchise history the club did not make a selection in the first round. When their turn finally came, Seattle was happy to find prep right-hander Nick Neidert still on the board.
"He was the guy we wanted," Mariners scouting director Tom McNamara told MLB.com following the Draft. "It was a long wait and we were very happy he fell to 60. We've been watching him the last two to three years."
The Mariners' No. 11 prospect had an excellent professional debut in the Rookie-level Arizona League, posting a 1.53 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 35 1/3 innings (11 starts). The 18-year-old righty allowed just three earned runs over his final 22 frames, while opposing hitters batted a paltry .198/.252/.262 slash line against him on the season.
At 6-foot-1, 185 pounds, Neidert showed an impressive fastball in high school, sitting at 93-94 mph and reaching 96, but his stock took a hit late in the spring due to a bout of elbow tendinitis. While the injury didn't impact the right-hander's debut, his velocity was down during his time in Arizona. That being said, Neidert did show the ability to throw strikes and consistently work down in the zone with his pitches.
McNamara also likes Neidert's makeup and sees considerable upside in his secondary offerings.
"We think his slider has a lot of potential and he also features a changeup," he said. "He's pitched in big spots in Georgia and knows what it takes. He's very battled tested for a high school kid."
Bishop more than just a defender
2015 third-rounder Braden Bishop, Seattle's No. 13 prospect, also shined in his first taste of professional baseball, finishing second in the Northwest League with a .320 average, to go along with 70 hits and 13 stolen bases in 56 games for Everett. The 22-year-old's showing at the plate was encouraging, especially given his reputation as a standout athlete who can stick in center.
"He can fly, and it's hard to find center fielders who can run and really go get the ball," said McNamara about the University of Washington product. "And we think he's got the makeup and work ethic to improve with the bat. We think there's a lot of room to grow."
Bishop was an All-Pac-12 selection this past spring as junior after batting .295 with four home runs, 14 doubles, 38 runs scored and 15 steals in 49 games for the Huskies.
Mike Rosenbaum is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.