If you haven't heard by now, every single Mariners affiliate made the playoffs this season. The AZL Mariners and DSL Mariners have already finished their playoff runs (congrats to the AZL Mariners on their championship!), but everyone else will get the ball rolling on Wednesday. Here's all you need to know below:
Tacoma Rainiers (AAA)
Final Record: 81-62 (best mark since 2001), Pacific Northern Division Champs
Tacoma managed to hold off the Reno Aces down the stretch and ended the year with a 5.5-game cushion in the Pacific Northern Division. Now, the Rainiers head to El Paso for a best-of-five series with the Chihuahuas (73-70). The series will start Wednesday and run through Sunday, if necessary. Games three through five will be played in Tacoma.
The Rainiers' roster features a few players worth keeping an eye on, including 1B Dan Vogelbach, LHP Paul Fry, and OF Eric Filia (but more on that later). Vogelbach is expected to play a large role for the Mariners in 2017 and Fry could be in the mix, as well. Norichika Aoki is also one to watch, but for entirely different reasons. And now, some notes on the Rainiers:
- RHP Mayckol Guaipe is alive! The righty returned in late August for a few rehab appearances before joining Tacoma late last week. In his two outings with the Rainiers, he's surrendered one run and two hits in 1.2 IP.
- RHP Forrest Snow is back up with the Rainiers for the second time in a month. Going by FIP, Snow had the most successful stretch of his career during his time in Jackson this season, posting a 1.51 FIP over 38.0 IP. Snow is closing in on 28-years-old and has never had much success in Tacoma, but I'll never stop rooting for him to get just one appearance with the Mariners so 'Let it Snow' can be a thing.
- RHP Al Alburquerque had a rough start to his Rainiers career, posting a 4.96 FIP in his first 5.2 IP. Whatever, it's a small sample size and the Mariners have the guy with the funny name.
Jackson Generals (AA)
Final Record: 84-55, 1st Half North Division Champs
Jackson finished with the best overall record in the Southern League, led by Pitcher of the Year Ryan Yarbrough and Southern League MVP Tyler O'Neill. Unfortunately for Jackson, they've been gutted more than any other team in the system; Southern League stars such as 1B D.J. Peterson, RHP Edwin Diaz, RHP Dan Altavilla, OF Guillermo Heredia, 3B Zach Shank, and C Marcus Littlewood have all received promotions of some kind. The roster is still talented, though, and they're worth your attention. RHPs Andrew Moore and Paul Blackburn could compete for a spot in the rotation next year. OF Tyler O'Neill is the most exciting player in the system. Ian Miller plays at the speed of a small private jet.
The Generals will face off against the Montgomery Biscuits starting Wednesday. They'll play games one and two in Jackson before finishing off the rest of the series in Montgomery. Best of luck to the Generals.
Bakersfield Blaze (A+)
Final Record: 76-64, Second Half North Division Champs
If you need one specific affiliate to root extra hard for in the playoffs and are totally on the fence, make it the Blaze. Not only do they score runs at a rapid pace and have Zack Littell, the most pleasant surprise of the pitching prospects, but with each win they breathe at least one more game's worth of life into the existence of professional baseball in Bakersfield. The Blaze will play a best-of-three series with the San Jose Giants, running Wednesday through Friday. They'll play the opening game in San Jose before returning to Sam Lynn Ballpark for the final two.
If you do happen to tune in, a few prospects worth keeping an eye on are the previously-mentioned Littell, LHP Joe Pistorese, SS Drew Jackson, and OF Braden Bishop.
The Blaze played their final regular season game last night. Justin Seager ended up pitching (and taking the loss) in a 12-inning, 11-10 loss to Stockton.
Clinton LumberKings (A)
Final Record: 86-54, Second Half Western Division Champs
The LumberKings put together an astounding .671 winning percentage in the second half, easily capturing the division title and a spot in the playoffs. They'll play a best-of-three against the Peoria Chiefs, with the first game in Clinton and the last two in Peoria.
The roster is full of interesting young prospects, including top prospects OF Alex Jackson, LHP Luiz Gohara, RHP Nick Neidert, and OF Luis Liberato.
Everett AquaSox (A-)
Final Record: 45-31, Second Half North Division Champs
The AquaSox didn't miss a beat when they lost star outfielder Kyle Lewis to a season-ending knee injury, putting up a .711 winning percentage in the second half and easily capturing the division crown (it helped that the second-place team finished 15-23). They'll play a best-of-three series against the Spokane Indians starting on Wednesday, with Game One being in Everett and the rest in Spokane.
Since the AquaSox are a Low-A club, they are filled to the brim with young prospects, some of whom are pretty dang neat. INF Nick Zammarelli was a perpetual threat at the plate, finishing the year with a 141 wRC+ and .402 wOBA. RHP Brandon Miller was phenomenal down the stretch, putting up a 3.06 FIP from July on. LHP Thomas Burrows should be the first player on the team to make it to Seattle, the reliever has rode a filthy fastball-slider combo to a 2.88 FIP and 13.50 K/9.
Unfortunately for the AquaSox, they'll be without star outfielder and Northwest League MVP Eric Filia (168 wRC+, .447 wOBA) for at least a game, with Filia being promoted to nearby Tacoma. No, he is not being rushed through the system. This isn't permanent. Relax. (read update below!)
AZL Mariners (R)
Final Record: 15-13, CHAMPIOOOOOOOOOOOOONS
The AZL Mariners captured the league championship last week, sweeping the AZL Angels in a best-of-three championship series. INF Greifer Andrade led the way with a .944 OPS and 161 wRC+ in 91 plate appearances. 2nd-round pick Joe Rizzo posted a 112 wRC+ over 169 plate appearances in his professional debut. OF Brayan Hernandez, a top international prospect a couple years ago, was also incredibly impressive in his stateside debut.
Congrats to the little Mariners. May you all be big Mariners one day.
DSL Mariners (R)
Final Record: 48-23, South Division Champions
The DSL Mariners' season ended last week when they fell to the DSL RedSox1 in the playoffs. RHP Andres Torres was phenomenal all year, posting a 2.88 FIP over 78.1 innings. The offense was led by 20-year-old Geoandry Montilla, who slashed .297/.410/.451 over 175 at-bats.
Best of luck to everyone in the playoffs. Go make some noise. If you lose to a fellow AL West-affiliate you are all fired.