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Selected by the Seattle Mariners in the 28th round of the 2016 MLB Draft out of the University of Arizona, right-handed pitching prospect Nathan Bannister spent his first professional summer on the disabled list, and made his professional debut in 2017 during a full season split between the High-A Modesto Nuts and the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers. Over 27 games (26 starts) spanning 143.1 innings, Bannister finished 9-7 with a 4.33 ERA, and allowed 153 hits and 21 walks with 117 strikeouts and a .269 opponents’ batting average. That earned him a Pitcher of the Week nod in the California League in late June, and two exceptional starts down the stretch during the Cal League playoffs in September.

Known as ‘Big Game Banni’ by teammates who marvel at his ability to get outs and win games in key situations this early in his career, the righty has an advanced command profile and could eventually project to be a back-end rotation arm thanks to advanced pitchability with some guile and a relatively deep arsenal. Below, you’ll find our full Nathan Bannister scouting report, including game video, tool grades, velocity notes, projection analysis, and more thoughts on the Seattle Mariners pitching prospect.

Nathan Bannister, Seattle Mariners — 2017 Scouting Report

Dates observed in 2017: July 31; September 12

Fastball (45)
Subtle, but very late glove-side cut when extended. Arm-side run will come to the other side, especially when pitch gets away inside off plate to RHH; overall, modest sink at times with some feel for drawing ground balls. Advanced command and control to both sides of the plate. Will challenge hitters; not afraid to come inside — even off the plate — with the fastball, especially to RHH. Fastball shows up in big moments, but must be pinpoint to survive in upper minors. Ultimately below average because of velocity and relative inability to miss bats, but plays up significantly with command and attack profile. In a way similar to Thomas Eshelman and Brandon Gold, what Nathan Bannister lacks in velocity he makes up in command; remains to be seen whether that’ll get him over the hump. Velocity: 86-89, T 90.

Changeup (45)
Average pitch life, but very good feel to the bottom third of the zone. Lacks late arm-side run or tumble, but good arm speed and velo differential to deceive hitters and draw weak contact. Ultimately below average without significant sink or late life, but — like the fastball — can play up with good command. Unafraid to challenge hitters; will draw consistent ground ball contact. Can throw it in any count, especially to LHH. Velocity: 79-80, T 81.

Slider (45)
Loose, some slurve action at times with 10-to-4 break. Command to both sides of the plate; could stand to be slightly tighter, but good depth and advanced feel. Effective against RHH and LHH with ability to back-foot on glove-side. Not a wipeout pitch, but as with rest of arsenal, slider plays up thanks to command/control feel with bulldog mentality to throw it in any count and against anybody. Velocity: 80-81, T 82.

Curveball (45)
Big and slow, could be tighter but breaks late with consistent 12-to-6 action. Considerable velo differential to draw hitters off balance. Feel for most counts vs. RHH; not a true wipeout pitch, but keeps hitters off balance and will draw weak contact. Sets up FB and SL well; makes both look harder and tighter by comparison and can back up curve and other off-speed pitches against each other with success. Velocity: 69-73, T 74.

Control/Command (70/60)
Double-plus control; plus command with feel to both sides of the plate. Natural ability to keep the ball down; rarely misses in upper half of the zone and survives on weak contact and changing speeds in the lower third. Command profile remains consistent with runners on base. Arguably best trait is his ability to challenge hitters, and command profile plays into that; won’t back down from anyone and likes to pitch to contact down in the zone. At its simplest, you could almost just set him up low middle and let him change speeds at the knees with success.

Turns himself slightly closed off to the plate at balance point; lands in line to plate but with 45-degree closed foot strike. Closed off to plate as he breaks hands into arm swing; rotates out all the way through release, falling hard to first base side. Three-quarters release with moderate spine tilt. Long arm swing in the back; shows ball early, especially to LHH. Consistent mechanics through windup and stretch, even working deep into games; won’t leak out much and leave arm lagging behind. Relatively low-maintenance, repeatable delivery. Arm angle is consistent through windup and stretch, even with long arm swing; consistent release point with moderate downward plane.

Works extremely quickly, even with runners on base; keeps pressure on hitters by getting back on rubber immediately and pushing pace. Strike-thrower nearly to the extreme, loves to challenge hitters. Changes speeds well with advanced feel for his full arsenal, but lack of velocity and above-average pitch life leaves him leaning on plus command to survive; little margin of error. Some plane on pitches thanks to height. Nails with runners on base; seems to come alive in tight and tough situations. Known as ‘Big Game Banni’ to his teammates; gamer; very competitive. Good physical size and stature; not much room left to grow into his body, but enough physicality to remain in the rotation long-term. Strong trunk and lower half with good stamina and solid build, though not overly athletic. Makeup off the charts; shows up in big moments. Possibility to out-pitch his projection with gamer mentality.

Nathan Bannister Scouting Report — Seattle Mariners — 2017 Game Video

Nathan Bannister Scouting Report — Notes & Analysis

Nathan Bannister doesn’t have above-average stuff, and all smart analysis and good common sense should point the righty to a long relief role considering his lack of velocity and pitch life, but there’s something about his competitiveness and ‘Big Game Banni’ persona that might push past what’s sensible over the next few years. The Seattle Mariners prospect very rarely hurts himself with free passes, works very well — even seems to thrive — with runners on base, and squeezes every last drop out little margin of error in commanding his full arsenal. Bannister will forever be hittable and he must prove in a large sample size in the upper minors that he has the ability to keep better hitters off-balance with weak contact, but the righty is very developed considering his relative lack of pro experience. He could prove to be a relative late-round draft steal for the Seattle Mariners if things go right the next few years. He reminds me a ton of Phillies pitching prospect Thomas Eshelman, though with not quite as good a command profile or as nuanced and tight an arsenal — but Bannister sure isn’t far off. The righty doesn’t have the stuff to be a frontline starter, but there’s a solid chance Nathan Bannister proves himself to be a back-end workhorse as the legend of ‘Big Game Banni’ continues to grow.

Nathan Bannister Scouting Report — Future Projection

After missing his debut pro season with an injury, the Seattle Mariners were aggressive in sending Nathan Bannister right to High-A Modesto in 2017. More than that, they had him pitch 23 innings over four games at Triple-A Tacoma this summer, too — not a full-time gig, but far more than a single spot start in an emergency role. It’s minor, but those level jumps suggest to me the Mariners may internally be high on Bannister’s development, and could sooner rather than later see him as a contributor to the back end of a big league rotation or in middle/long relief. So, let’s go out on a limb here; it may be a small chance, but if things to right with his command profile and pitchability, Nathan Bannister could make his big league debut in 2018 after splitting the season between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Tacoma. He must prove his arsenal and gamer mentality will work in the upper minors, of course, but there’s something here that can’t get measured.

Long term, Bannister’s ceiling will come as a #4/5 back-end rotation arm, and he’s got the grittiness and willingness to challenge hitters that he could hit that ceiling, even if for only a few years. More realistically he’ll settle in as a swingman/spot starter type with some long relief work in his future, aided by his ability to throw strikes and his feel for pitching with runners on base. He’s not technically a ‘prospect,’ per se, but Nathan Bannister is certainly a pitcher to track next summer and see whether he’s got the foundation and feel to exceed expectations with the Seattle Mariners before too long.

Overall Future Potential (Future Value): Back-end rotation ceiling with advanced command profile and pitchability; long relief floor with deep arsenal (45)

MLB ETA: 2018


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Bobby DeMuro

Bobby DeMuro is the founder of Baseball Census, the author of We Is Blaze, (obviously) a fan of minor league baseball, and an unlikely expert on the animated classic TV show King Of The Hill. For more on Bobby and the personal, human side of this site, follow him on Twitter and Facebook: @BobbyDeMuro.

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