SEATTLE -- Nick Neidert knows the Major Leagues are still a couple steps away, but the Mariners' MLBPipeline.com Pitching Prospect of the Year couldn't be blamed for dreaming a little as he stood in the team's dugout at Safeco Field on the team's final homestand and gazed out at the
SEATTLE -- Nick Neidert knows the Major Leagues are still a couple steps away, but the Mariners' MLBPipeline.com Pitching Prospect of the Year couldn't be blamed for dreaming a little as he stood in the team's dugout at Safeco Field on the team's final homestand and gazed out at the field and crowd gathering for that night's game.
"Absolutely," said the 20-year-old right-hander from Georgia. "You envision a couple years standing out there on that mound, surrounded by all the Seattle fans. That will be just one incredible moment."
Mariners' Prospects of the Year
Neidert, the Mariner's No. 2 prospect, was being honored that night by the Mariners as their Minor League Pitcher of the Year after a strong season at High-A Modesto and now he's been selected as the franchise's top pitching prospect by MLBPipeline.com as well.
First baseman Daniel Vogelbach, who earned Triple-A All-Star honors for Tacoma, was selected as the club's Hitting Prospect of the Year by the MLBPipeline.com staff. To receive consideration, players must have spent at least half the year in the Minors, appeared on the team's Top 30 Prospects list and played the entire year in the organization.
Neidert, the team's top pick in 2015 as a second-round selection out of Peachtree Ridge High in Suwanee, Ga., has begun moving up the ladder already. He went 11-6 with a 3.45 ERA at Modesto and Double-A Arkansas, where he was by far the youngest player on the team.
Neidert says he's gained 40 pounds since high school, up to a solid 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, and has begun filling out his resume as well. Not all the lessons are easy as he was nailed by a line drive in the right forearm in what turned out to be his final start for Jackson and finished the year on the sidelines.
"It was definitely scary," he said. "Right when it hit me, everything went numb. I thought I was going to look down and it was just going to be snapped in half. But it was just a deep bruise and everything is fine now."
What else did he learn at Double-A?
"If you make mistakes, they definitely hit it," he said. "But it was good to pick everyone's brain up there. I was like the little brother to everyone. They all gave me a bunch of knowledge I can take forward into next year."
Vogelbach is one who can tell him how tough the climb up the Minor League ladder can be as he has been a standout at Triple-A the past two years, but is still waiting to make his mark at the Major League level after being acquired in July 2016 from the Cubs.
The Mariners' No. 10 prospect put up a .290/.388/.455 line with 17 homers and 83 RBIs at Tacoma this year, then got limited opportunities as a September callup as manager Scott Servais stuck with veterans Yonder Alonso and Danny Valencia down the stretch.
But Vogelbach, 24, finished the year by coming off the bench and going 2-for-2 with a double in the season finale and will get a chance to compete again next Spring Training.
Servais feels the youngster put too much pressure on himself this past spring when the plan was for him to platoon with Valencia, but instead he was optioned back to Tacoma.
Both Alonso and Valencia are free agents. The club is expected to make a push to bring either Alonso or another veteran free agent in this winter, but Vogelbach remains in the picture.
"I've had a lot of good conversations with him and you can see him take steps forward," Servais said. "Now you've got to do it between the lines and he knows that. A lot of that is, you've got to have opportunity and take it and run with it, like some of our guys have this year.
"He did some good things in Triple-A and he has some things to work on. He'll do that this offseason and come into Spring Training next year ready to help our ballclub any way he can, versus thinking he has to come in and be 'The Guy.' That is part of maturing and I think he's come a long way in that area."
Greg Johns has covered the Mariners since 1997, and for MLB.com since 2011. Follow him on Twitter @GregJohnsMLB.