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Tyler O'Neill just keeps on hitting

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The 20-year-old outfielder is one of the primary reasons the Mariners' farm system is fun again

Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Amidst the devastation and disappointment that spread like wildfire throughout the Seattle Mariners' farm system in 2015, there were a few bright spots.

One of those bright spots was Tyler O'Neill, a 19-year-old outfielder from Canada who left for the Pan American games halfway through the 2015 season, won a gold medal, and returned to the Mariners a completely different hitter:

4/9/15 - 7/3/15

7/23/15 - 9/7/15

AVG

0.238

0.298

OBP

0.275

0.381

SLG

0.473

0.702

wRC+

96

177

ISO

0.234

0.404

K%

31.9

28.4

BB%

4.0

10.2

BABIP

0.288

0.330

For two months, O'Neill was a nightmare for the pitchers of the California League. Suddenly, the general perception of the kid shifted from a really raw, plus-power hitter who might be something one day to much more of a sure bet to eventually be a contributor at the major league level. O'Neill briefly discussed the changes he made in an interview with MiLB.com's Taylor Maun last year:

"I changed a little something with my stance, and it felt pretty good in BP," he said. "I just wanted to take it into the game and use it there, give it a go.

"I changed my back leg stance, kind of faced first base a little bit. It just made me feel like I was able to use my lower body a little more and have more power the other way."

Following a strong performance in the Arizona Fall League and O'Neill more than holding his own in Spring Training, he was promoted to Double-A Jackson, where he'd face the biggest talent jump in his career.

So far, so good.

Through 22 games and 94 plate appearances, O'Neill has dazzled at the plate. He has a hit in all but two games and he's reached base in every single one of them. He has six multi-hit games. Six of his hits have left the stadium, and none of them were cheap. It's all resulted in a line of .313/.383/.578 with a 173 wRC+, an absurd feat for a 20-year-old who looked overmatched in High-A ball this time last season.

Even more impressive, O'Neill seems to be getting better with each plate appearance. He still strikes out a ton, which isn't something I expect to change in the future (note: this isn't damning for a prospect like O'Neill), but his approach at the plate has been one of the bigger improvements he's made in 2016. O'Neill is currently running a walk-rate of 10.6%, the highest it's ever been in his professional career, and his k-rate (25.5%) hasn't been this low since he was in rookie ball back in 2013. Just from observing him a few times this season, he appears to be recognizing and laying off junk more consistently and grinding out longer at-bats than he has in the past. There appears to be less of a "see ball; hit ball" and more of a "wait for ball I can smash" approach going on, and it's been a lot of fun watching the development happen. This all, of course, is happening while O'Neill continues to possess large tree trunks for arms.

His performance has caught the attention of plenty:

Okay, it's mainly caught the attention of Brandon Liebhaber, but for a very good reason. There aren't any reasons for O'Neill to be bumped up to Tacoma for now, so I'm sure we'll see plenty more Liebhaber love for O'Neill in the future. What you need to know is that the Mariners have a 20-year-old in Double-A who has bazookas for arms and is doing this to Double-A pitchers:

Fun fact: that home run was off of Carson Fulmer, the 8th overall pick in the 2015 draft. Not bad, huh?

And now for some MiLB notes:

  • Ryan Horstman was promoted to Double-A Jackson after yawning his way through High-A Bakersfield. Horstman posted a 15.15 K/9 and a 1.90 FIP during his brief stint with the Blaze. A week or so ago I mentioned to someone that he could be a dark horse to shoot through the system and end up in Seattle come September. This is a major step in that process.
  • Kraig Sitton was bumped up to Triple-A Tacoma after dominating Double-A competition over a small sample size. Sitton is a big, hard-throwing lefty who spent six years with the Rockies' organization before coming over to the Mariners. Interestingly enough, his numbers were always fairly solid with the Rockies, but he was never moved above Double-A. Sitton also went to Oregon State. Go Beavs?
  • Justin Seager is back down with High-A Bakersfield Blaze, and it's probably for the best. Seager didn't figure to see much playing time at all with the Generals with D.J. Peterson holding down the fort at first base.
  • Kyle Wilcox threw six shutout innings while striking out six and allowing just two hits for Class-A Clinton on Sunday. It was the type of performance that really illustrated how good Wilcox can be when his command is working. I still think he ultimately ends up as a late-inning arm, but it could be something for him to build off of.
  • Boog Powell went 2 for 3 with a 2B, HR, BB, and 3 RBIs in Triple-A Tacoma's 3-1 win tonight. Powell was also picked off and later thrown out by a mile trying to steal second base. If anything, he'll be exciting!
  • Drew Jackson is at .301/.333/.407 on the year and it's starting to look like his 2015 year was definitely not a fluke. His numbers have regressed some, but that was expected. Good things are happening for the top prospects.
  • I typically find theme jerseys to be ugly, but charming. This all changed when the Tacoma Rainiers unveiled these beauties:

To ceilings. gobiz.