It's been a fun week in the Mariners' farm system. Between top prospect Alex Jackson getting called up and immediately bashing two homers, the Bakersfield Blaze scoring almost 40 runs in a three-game series, and the Tacoma Rainiers beating the pants off of everybody, there is a lot to talk about. Let's get to it.
AAA Tacoma Rainiers (27-17, 1st in Pacific Coast League Pac. Northern Division)
It was a fantastic week for the Tacoma Rainiers, who won six straight before finally dropping a game last night to Round Rock. The Rainiers scored 43 runs over their last seven games and have bumped their lead in the division up to 6.5 games.
At the heart of the offensive surge were shortstop Luis Sardinas and outfielder Mike Baxter. Sardinas–who just recently joined Tacoma after struggling in limited time in Seattle–has slashed .429/.484/.464 while providing good defense at both third base and shortstop. Baxter, meanwhile, has hit .304/.407/.826 over the last week, including a three-game stretch where he hit four home runs, one of which was a walk-off, three-run blast. You can watch the walk-off below:
Boog Powell is another bat that has turned it up a notch recently. The center fielder is 8 for his last 18 with a home run and pushed his line for the year up to .281/.344/.377. Stefen Romero, the Little AAA-Masher That Could, continued to do his thing by posting a 201 wRC+ over the last week.
On the flip side, Tacoma's bullpen continues to be an iron wall. Justin De Fratus has 10 strikeouts over his last 7.1 IP and is starting to look far more dominating than the contact-heavy pitcher he was in April. Jonathan Aro has had a similar improvement, striking out 7 in his last 5.1 IP.
The roster as a whole has seen some changes in recent days. RHP Mayckol Guaipe and 3B Zach Shank are now with the team, Guaipe coming down from Seattle and Shank being bumped up from AA-Jackson. Everyday shortstop Chris Taylor is now up with the Mariners.
AA Jackson Generals (27-17, 1st in Southern League North Division)
Jackson picked up three games on second-place Montgomery over the last few days thanks in large part to the Biscuits going into a mini-slump while Jackson has smoothly won five of their last six games.
Center fielder Guillermo Heredia has started to look better at the plate after a bit of regression; the 25-year-old newcomer to the system had one stretch this past week where he went 10 for 14 with three walks. Catcher Steve Baron and outfielder Tyler O'Neill continue to be the other key cogs in the lineup, with Baron slashing .301/.395/.359 on the year and O'Neill continuing to have no regard for the lives of thrown baseballs.
LHP Ryan Yarbrough posted the biggest week for Jackson on the mound, allowing just one run on seven hits over 13.0 IP. In one start, he didn't record a single strikeout in six innings and in the next he tallied seven strikeouts in seven innings. Interpret that as you will. Edwin Diaz continues to look untouchable out of the bullpen, surrendering just three baserunners in seven innings since converting to a reliever. Emilio Pagan has been equally fantastic; the righty hasn't allowed a run since April 18th.
The Generals suffered a bit of roster movement, with 3B Zach Shank moving up to AAA-Tacoma while RHP Dylan Unsworth was placed on the disabled list.
And for all of you D.J. Peterson hopers, Peterson went 3 for 4 with a home run, a double, and 3 RBIs Monday night. You can watch the blast here:
A+ Bakersfield Blaze (19-24, 3rd in California League North Division)
The Blaze have played decent baseball over the last week, including a stretch that saw them win 5 of 6, with the biggest highlight coming in the form of a three-game sweep over the High Desert Mavericks in which they scored 39 runs.
3B Jay Baum has been killing it at the plate, going 16 for his last 45 and pushing his season line up to .297/.366/.430. INF Gianfranco Wawoe has been another consistent performer, going 10 for 26 over his last eight games. SS Drew Jackson has started to show patience at the plate again, drawing five walks over his last seven games in addition to blasting his first homer of the season this past week.
The pitching standouts for Bakersfield are few and far between, but RHPs Tyler Herb and Andrew Moore continue to perform. Moore struck out seven and allowed two earned runs over six innings a 17-2 victory over the Mavericks on May 19th while Herb rebounded from an ugly start by allowing just two unearned runs in six innings on May 21st. 23-year-old righty Isaac Sanchez continues to dazzle as well with 11.1 consecutive shutout innings.
A Clinton LumberKings (23-20, 2nd in Midwest League Western Division)
Clinton has slid hard after a red-hot start, piecing together just two wins over their last ten games while falling two back of first place in their division. The LumberKings lack any sort of offensive punch, with their biggest threat being light-hitting first baseman Dalton Kelly, who unfortunately has found himself in his first slump of the year.
The LumberKings received some help on that end with the addition of top prospect Alex Jackson, who joined the team on May 19th and proceeded to hit a home run that might not have landed yet:
During one of the LumberKings' broadcasts, they mentioned that Jackson said he added about ten pounds of muscle this offseason. Through his first four games with Clinton, Jackson's line sits at .167/.286/.500. No, we are not going to start drawing conclusions from 18 at-bats.
Another bat making noise for Clinton is the suddenly resurrected Conner Hale, who has gone 18 for 40 with three home runs over his last ten games. I was a big fan of Hale during his time at LSU, so it's been great seeing him look like the good version of himself again.
From a pitching perspective, the LumberKings have slipped up in recent days, but it still remains the general strength of the team. RHP Zach Littell has been stellar in his last two outings, surrendering just two runs while striking out 15 in 13.2 IP. RHP Art Warren turned in a strong start this past week as well, tossing seven shutout innings in a 5-3 win and pushing his ERA down to 1.12. Darin Gillies continues to be a rock out of the bullpen, as well.