A Bounty Of Relief Prospects


I personally believe that relief pitchers are one of the easiest things to replace on a baseball team. I also believe that even good relief pitchers are rather expendable. That doesn’t mean I don’t value them. I sincerely believe that people often undervalue what exactly relief pitchers do and accomplish.

I love reading about WPA (win probability added) and what value they bring to the team. It’s part of why when I did the daily box scores I included relief pitchers in the Top-3 players of the game. Because what they did was significant and it specifically translated into a successful outing and contributed positively towards the out come of the game.

While a lot of people talk about the young arms that are up and coming such as Taijuan Walker, James Paxton and to a lesser extent Jose Campos the Mariners also have a collection of high octane arms that are extremely close to contributing to the big league team.

Josh Lueke and Dan Cortes we know of and while they haven’t yet really pitched like we expected they still have solid velocity and coupled with their potential out pitches should they figure it out they could go nasty on the rest of the league real quick.

Then some of the other guys you may or may not heard of Stephen Pryor and Tyler ‘The Goon” Burgoon each from last years draft. Both have upper echelon velocity with out pitches that have shown the ability to close out games in the lower level. Pryor is the big name to remember as many people think that he’s the “closer of the future” for the Mariners organization.

Whether or not That may or may not be true. But, he is a dynamite picture already and could be ready to pitch in the back of the bullpen as early as September. Burgoon isn’t quiet on the fast track that Pryor is traveling, but already he’s on a few radars and he could be ready by late 2012 or spring 2013.

A third guy to remember is Chance Ruffin, son of former major league pitcher Bruce Ruffin, Jason Churchill has been saying that he is most likely the fourth piece of the Doug Fister trade and is very much in the Josh Lueke/Dan Cortes mold, though he doesn’t throw as hard. He has a good fastball velocity touching 96/97 (according to fangraphs) and sitting 93/94 with good movement and a major league out pitch in his slider. He also has a change-up, as Churchill mentions in reference to him being a potential starter, but it’s not used much and it’s a below average offering. I tend to believe that the Mariners will keep Ruffin the bullpen.

The last guy out there is 3rd round sandwich pick Carter Capps.  ESPN MLB Draft blog actually did a write up on him yesterday. Take a look


While he hasn’t faced Division I competition, Capps has been dominant at Mt. Olive. After redshirting his freshman year to make the conversion from catcher to pitcher, Capps went 10-0 in 2010 and 14-1 in 2011. Combined, Capps has a 1.75 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 118 innings with only 82 hits and 18 walks. At 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds, Capps is just as imposing on the mound as Armstrong. Capps can touch 96-97 mph, but he pitches effectively around 92 mph. Capps mixes a heavy two-seam fastball to his arm side with a four-seam fastball to his glove side.

He also differentiates his slider — anywhere from 76-82 mph depending if it’s a get-me-over pitch early in the count, or a harder version that he uses as an out pitch. Capps has a tendency to tip the slider by how he breaks his hand behind him out of the glove. This is something that can be easily remedied.

But what makes Capps so impressive, in addition to his pure stuff, is the way he commands the bottom part of the strike zone. Capps is so determined to keep the ball down that he actually comes close to dragging the shin of his back leg along the ground in order to create angle on every pitch.

Capps has put together a stellar summer, posting a 0.41 ERA with 24 strikeouts and only one walk in 22 innings. In the Cape Cod League all-star game at Fenway Park last Friday, he struck out the side in his inning of work, sitting 94-97 mph. Two of those strikeouts came on the slider.

Right now, Capps seems an obvious choice for a set-up role in the bullpen, but the development of a third pitch could create an opportunity for him to start.

ESPN – MLB Draft Insider, John Birtwell

Capps, is an interesting guy with a nagging question that’s associated with him: “do you put him in the rotation or do you put him through on the fast track through the bullpen? If he gets put into the bullpen and his career path is accelerated it’s possible that he could be in Seattle as soon as sometime 2012.

The downside of putting him in the bullpen is that scouts don’t like his delivery (it’s a bit violent), his pitches don’t play up in the rotation and he has a history of shoulder issues.

While I believe that relief guys can be easily obtained it’s nice to grow your own and not rely upon the market to acquire such pieces. Not to mention having guys that have potential to really control the situations and be top notch guys in tough situations.

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Tags: Carter Capps Dan Cortes Josh Lueke Stephen Pryor Tyler Burgoon

  • Uncle Al


    After everything that has taken place at the trade deadline, International signings, and the cutoff for signing draft picks on August 15th, are you going to update your “Top 100 to watch list”? Uncle Al

  • lonnie.mathis

    There is one other guy that is flying under the radar that folks should keep an eye on, and that is Jonathan Arias up in Clinton.

    Arias debuted with the Mariners system via the DSL as an 18 year old catcher in 2006. After three seasons of futility, Arias gave up catching exchanged positions and took the mound. Arias made his debut as a pitcher in 2009 with Pulaski.

    Arias flip-flopped between starting and relieving right up through the 2010 season, and in 2011 it was decided that he should concentrate on relieving, and the results have been very impressive. So far, working out of the bullpen in Clinton, Arias has appeared in 28 games working 43.2 innings. In those innings Arias has a 3.09 ERA with 69 strikeouts…


    That’s a K/9 of 14.2! H/9 is 7.2, BB/9 is 5.36

    Arias has also walked 26, but he is getting that under control. In his last 10 games Arias has worked 14.2 innings with an ERA of 0.61, walked 6, and struckout 26. Let that sink in for a moment.


  • lonnie.mathis

    Something that I should have tagged on to my response that I meant to but forgot is that any “excitement” about a young player needs to be tempered with a bit of pragmatism. While I love what Arias is doing at Clinton I do need to mention that the big reason that he is doing as well as he is is because of his pitch types. Right now he throws an ungodly amount of sliders/curves, and that is the Achilles Heel of the talent level that he goes up against. Arias needs to do more work on his fastball which tends to be a bit flat. He does touch 91-92 with it, but it isn’t what it should be.


  • Keith_12thMR

    already working on it

  • maqman

    I agree that relievers are not as hard to find as other skill sets. To the point that I would be okay with trading League before he starts costing us about $5MM next season. Jack knows the drill, sign anyone with possibilities to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training and see if they or any of our minor leaguers can show they deserve a shot. Idiots like the Steinbrenners can make multi-millionairs out of relievers, there’s no good reason we should. I’m also getting that Jack knows members of the rotation are valuable and is willing to give guys like Wilhelmsen a chance to show they can do it. He sure turned Fister and Vargas into valuable property.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @lonnie.mathis As you said last night “get out of my head” pragmatism is absolutely the word for it. Arias is also 23 ( i had thought he was older) in a league whose average age is 21.

    I’m not saying what he is doing isn’t impressive but his stuff isn’t much above average (if it’s even that). If he was doing this is say High Desert, or better yet Jackson. Then yes, he’d be in the top half of my watch list.

    You want to talk about more fringe relivers that are too old for their level but have put up interesting stats, my favorite is that of Matthew Bischoff. Too bad he’s 24.

  • Harrison_Crow

    @Uncle Al We are as Keith mentioned already working on it. We will update it as of 16th (the day after all the draftees are to sign!)