The Seattle Mariners AZL team does not feature the same level of talent as it did last year, but it is hard to compete with a team that featured Alex Jackson and Luiz Gohara. While the top end talent isn’t there, there are still plenty of quality prospects taking the field for the AZL Mariners.
One returning player is Gareth Morgan, the 74th overall pick a year ago. Morgan still has many holes in his swing and may never hit for average, hitting just .215 this season, which is significantly better than his .148 from a year ago. He currently moves pretty well, but he does have a body that will likely slow down over time. His arm would be fringy if he were to play right field, so he is best suited to play left. The tool that will clearly carry him is the power. He has five home runs and nine doubles so far this season, along with a trio of triples, including one against the Rangers club that could have easily been scored a three base error instead. When he makes contact with the ball, it really jumps off the bat, he just struggles to put the bat on the ball. He is currently striking out better than 40% of the time he steps to the plate, while walking less than 4% of the time. If he improves his approach at the plate, he has the ceiling of 30+ HR power and a bat that would play very well in the middle of a lineup, but there is a lot of work to be done there.
Nick Neidert was on the mound the night I saw the team, and he looked very good for a second round pick with recent injury issues. His fastball worked from 86-90 MPH (87-90 in the video below) but he has worked as high as 96 before elbow tendinitis shut him down heading into the draft. He has a low ¾ arm slot that allows the ball to back up with armside run at his lower velocities, and naturally runs in across the plate to lefties when he cranks up the fastball due to his arm angle. If he gets back to the mid-90s on his fastball, it will play very well especially with the deception and movement.
His changeup was consistently 83 MPH, including the 8th pitch of the video, but he does not throw it very often. It is clearly his third favorite pitch, but currently looks like his second best. The arm speed needs to improve, but it is pretty good for an 18-year old pitcher who rarely needed it in the Georgia prep ranks.
He currently throws a curve, but it leaves a lot to be desired. Nearly half of the breaking balls thrown on the evening I saw him were in the dirt, including his warmup pitches. Given his arm angle, the shape of the pitch is far from ideal too. When he works down with it, the pitch lacks depth and seems to get driven into the dirt rather than break into it. When he works up in the zone with hit, the depth is there, but it becomes a very hittable pitch, especially since it is easy to recognize out of the hand. It would not be surprising to see the curve scratched in exchange for a slider in the offseason once the coaches get a real change to work with him. His arm slot and natural pitch movement make the slider a perfect fit for him and could quickly become an above average pitch.
Neidert does not have the size you like to see from a starter, just 6’1” and 185 lbs., and doesn’t really have a projectable body, but his motion is fluid and can be repeated, so he will keep a starter’s projection until he proves he can’t handle the workload. It is still early to accurately predict a final role for him, but a back-of-the-rotation starter is certainly possible or, if he can develop a quality breaking ball, he could be a solid late-inning reliever. He is someone to really keep an eye on come next Spring to see what pitch mix he brings to camp, and could battle for a spot on a full season roster.