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Minor League Coverage 2009, Week 3:

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It's time to take our minds off this trainwreck of a game, and what better way to do that than by indulging ourselves with a little bit of a minor league recap? After all, seeing our #1 ranked (by Baseball America) prospect Greg Halman reach whole new pinnacles of hilarious badness by striking out in 42% of his plate appearances is much, much better than watching us lose to Anaheim in a series we've already won... uh. At least we have Denny Almonte.

Week three saw some decent pitching performances, and all of our position players decided to save the entirety of their offensive output for Friday.

Standard disclaimer: I'm not a minor league expert, nor do I claim to be. If you know more about this sort of thing than I do (not hard) please feel more than welcome to contribute.

Phillipe Aumont, RHP (A+ High Desert): Another three relief appearances this week, going three innings and allowing no runs. This time, though, he was on, recording strikeouts on five out of the eleven batters he faced, allowing one hit and walking one. The Aumont to the bullpen experiment has been pretty successful so far, which is a little bit annoying but hardly a surprise. New fun quotes for you via Baseball America (article is subscribers-only, but has a lot about our A+ pitching)...

"[Aumont has] had more fun in the bullpen than he did starting last year (for Wisconsin). He's more aggressive out there—he's very cocky—and yesterday (April 20) he broke two bats and was pitching in."

-Jaime Navarro, High Desert pitching coach

...which isn't a very encouraging sign if you were hoping for a return to the rotation. Still, it's good to see Aumont performing well, even if his bullpen stint looks increasingly likely to be permanent. At least our first round relievers look like good first round relievers.

Jeff Clement, C/1B?/DH? (AAA Tacoma): For all the crap Clement's gotten about his weak start, he's currently putting up a ~.750 OPS in Tacoma after a couple of weeks of hitting .200. Much of that is being driven by his on-base ability, which hasn't deserted him even when his actual hitting prowess was lost in the wilderness. With a 4-4, 2B, HR day on Friday, Clement briefly flirted with an .800 OPS, but fell back down to earth a little on Saturday, going 1-5. Remember, he's supposed to be in AAA to work on the defensive aspects of catching, not to hit, so I wouldn't give up hope on him just yet. He's still probably the best bat we can throw out in the catcher spot in the organisation, and it wouldn't be a huge shock to see him move up to give the team another patient left-handed bat to go along with Russ Branyan.

Michael Saunders, (DL - ?): I have no idea, and I'm starting to worry about him. We could really do with Saunders reappearing at some point.

Greg Halman, CF (AA West Tennessee): Last week, Greg Halman had 24 plate appearances. Last week, Greg Halman had two walks. Last week, Greg Halman contrived to strike out ten times. Last week, Greg Halman got four hits, of which three(!) left the yard. At this point it almost feels like he's closing his eyes and swinging as hard as he can at everything. The power is nice, but sweet Jesus Christ he's got to learn how to recognise pitches or his prospect status is going to completely fall off a cliff, which is a shame after what he did last year (and at the same level). He's a great candidate for a demotion at this point, but High Desert probably wouldn't be a great environment for him. .156/.203/.422 with strikeouts in 42% of all plate appearances is not what you want from your #1 ranked prospect. A 2-HR game on Friday might have indicated some sort of comeback, but he dispelled that idea rather rapidly on Saturday with an 0-3, 3K game. Whoops.

Josh Fields, RHP (AA West Tennessee): Fields is looking more and more like a candidate to join the bullpen at some point this summer. He had three outings last week, and struck out seven of ten batters, allowing a walk and nothing else. In three innings, the ball was put in play against him twice. That's a hell of a week, and the sort of line a near-ML ready closer should be expected to put up in AA. Fields is currently running a 2.45 tRA, which is hellishly impressive considering he walked four in his first appearance of the year. I'm still not happy we drafted him, but if he keeps this up we'll have yet another potential relief ace on our hands.

J.C. (Juan) Ramirez, RHP (A+ High Desert): Two starts this week from Juan Ramirez, totally 9.7 IP. Last week I wrote that I'd like to see something more than just keeping runs off the board from him, and he promptly obliged with ten strikeouts and three walks. Of course, he allowed six runs, so he won't be too happy about it. He's currently posting a 4.31 tRA while in High Desert, which is extremely impressive considering the hostile environment, but that's mainly on the strength of a very impressive fastball - his secondary pitches are still works in progress. Oh, and I have news regarding his name change (from the same BA article linked above):

In case you're wondering why Ramirez here is referred to as J.C. and not the more familiar Juan or Juan Carlos, it's because of a desire on the part of the young Nicaraguan to feel more enmeshed in American culture. He finished the Mariners' English language program last offseason and, according to Navarro, he wishes to have a name that sounds more familiar to American ears.

So that's that all cleared up then.

Adam Moore, C (AA West Tennessee): Adam Moore might be the most boring legitimate prospect in the world. As aside from a three-hit day on the 21st, he basically had the same week as the last one. He might want to consider hitting for more power if he wants to strengthen his case for a promotion to Tacoma, because slugging .386 isn't going to cut it, no matter how good he was last season.

Michael Pineda, RHP (A+ High Desert): Outstanding week from Pineda, who, like Ramirez, made two starts. He tallied 14 strikeouts with no walks over the course of 14.3 innings, which is a hell of a stretch any way you look at it. Unfortunately his luck with avoiding hits ran out, and he allowed his first home run of the season as well, resulting in four earned runs in that span. He's still performing better than his Americanised teammate, however, with a 3.36 tRA.

Julio Morban, OF (??): ?

Mario Martinez, 3B (A Clinton): Hits! Martinez managed a reasonable week, recording his first homer of the year along with four singles and a pair of walks against only three strikeouts. That that actually makes me happy gives you some idea of just how awful he's been at the plate thus far this season. Currently he's at a .167/.280/.238 line which :(.

Dennis Raben, 1B/OF (DL - season at risk): I've heard nothing about Raben's knee for a while. Time to get even more worried!

Jharmidy DeJesus, 3B (SS Everett?): Everett still haven't started their season.

Michael Cleto, RHP (?): Stiiiiill tied up in visa complications.

Denny Almonte, OF (A Clinton): Well that's nice to see. Almonte's been beating the crap out of the ball again this week, with three multihit games, including a couple of doubles and a homer. He's still striking out a bit too much for my tastes at 25%, but considering that that's an 11% drop from last year, I'll deal with it - especially from a guy who's currently posting a .430 wOBA. Is he actually turning into a real baseball player? Only time will tell, but it's looking much better than at any point thus far in his career.

Mike Carp, 1B (AAA Tacoma): Mike Carp cooled off a little last week, and that's a testament as to how freaking good he has been as he had six hits with two going over the fence. At this point, Carp can't do much more than hope he keeps this up for a decent chunk of the season, but if he does he's going to force himself into the organisation's first base plans fairly quickly. A .451 wOBA in a pitchers' park does wonderful things to your prospectdom.

Gabriel Noriega, SS (SS Everett): Nothing from Everett yet.

Aaron Pribanic, RHP (A Clinton): Pribanic had just the one start this week, and was lucky to get out of it with just one run after allowing eight baserunners in just five innings. On the plus side, he did strike out six (but allowed three walks in the process). One thing that his pitching line won't tell you, though, is that he's been exceptional at inducing ground balls this year, running an otherworldly 67.4% rate. This has helped him limit extra-base hits, and his tRA is sitting pretty at 3.91. Don't be too impressed, though - Pribanic is a college pitcher facing pretty weak competition, so he'll need to show more than just good numbers at single-A ball to be anything more than mildly promising.

Brett Lorin, RHP (A Clinton): Could Lorin follow up his ten-strikeout masterpiece last week with a similar performance his next time out? In a word, no. Five innings of one-run ball is decent enough, but quadrupling your walk total on the year (not as bad as it sounds, since he now has four) is not. And he only had three Ks, so that wasn't too impressive either. Hopefully he looks a little better next week.

Chris Shelton, 1B/DH/3B (AAA Tacoma): Shelton cut down on the strikeouts this week, and has mounted a mini-rally with three straight two hit games to close it out. Now he just needs to start slugging better than a 14 year old girl.