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Pitchers Dazzle in Mariners Minors on Tuesday

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Andrew Moore, Nick Neidert, and Ljay Newsome all had terrific outings, and more news from the minors.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Houston Astros Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

The Mariners could really use some development from their top pitching prospects. The M’s are still without any super enticing starting prospects and the best of the bunch is still two stops away from making an impact with the big club. With a group of guys whose ceilings are as #3 starters, the M’s are definitely banking on a couple of them to beat their projections.

Yesterday should boost the team’s confidence in top prospects Andrew Moore and Nick Neidert. The two aces had brilliant outings for Arkansas and Modesto. Some other players shined too of course, and we’ll get to them. But it sure is encouraging to see these starters continue to thrive.

Tacoma Rainiers (2-3) beat El Paso Chihuahuas (Padres) 7-2

The Rainiers had a breakout performance offensively, plating seven for the first time this season. Tacoma poured it on all game. By the time El Paso tacked on two runs it seemed like an afterthought as the Rainiers cruised to their first easy win of the year in the home opener against the Chihuahuas.

Interestingly, fire appears to be a major theme for the Rainiers this year. Tyler O’Neill is on fire. Yesterday’s starter Christian Bergman was on fire. And the manager was actually literally on fire.

But let’s talk about O’Neill. The young outfielder continued his power-laced start to the season with a 2-for-5 performance. His two hits were a home run and a double. Unfortunately I can’t find any video of his dinger, but the Rainiers seem to think it went pretty far.

O’Neill is slashing .250/.250/.650. It hasn’t been a perfect start for him, but his BABIP is actually pretty low at .182, so there should be more to come.

Onto the bullets:

  • Christian Bergman was pretty darned awesome. He didn’t make it into the “pitching prospects ruled the day” narrative seeing as he’s a 28-year-old tweener. But he still went 5IP, 5H, 0R, 1BB, 7K. Bergman saw some action with the Rockies big league team in 2016 as a reliever, and he has some major league starting experience too. He’s a guy that could fill in for the M’s if there are any more injuries.
  • It’s been slow going for Dan Vogelbach and D.J. Peterson. They only have one extra-base hit between the two of them. With a veteran-heavy Tacoma roster, it’s up to them to keep this team interesting. But for now they aren’t impressing anyone.
  • Gordon Beckham hit a bomb in the game too. He’s been a good power source for Tacoma in the early going with a .210 ISO. He’s not really a power hitter, but he’s a candidate for a spot start in Seattle if the need arises.

Arkansas Travelers (2-4) lose to the San Antonio Missions (Padres) 6-3

So do you want the good news or the bad news? Let’s start with the good news — mostly because it makes sense chronologically.

Andrew Moore spun a gem. His line read 6IP, 2H 0R, BB, 5K. He has yet to allow a run this season through 12 innings. I’m not sure how much longer they can keep Moore down in Arkansas. He was a dark horse candidate to make the Mariners rotation out of spring training, and now he’s got nothing left to prove in Double-A.

At 22 years old he’d be a very young Triple-A starter, and I understand why the team doesn’t want to rush him. But if he continues throwing like this, I think he’s in Tacoma by June at the latest.

The bad news is that our favorite Brazilian reliever Thyago Vieira gave up six runs in one inning of relief. Four of those runs came on a single swing from shortstop Luis Urias, who has never hit more than six home runs in a single minor league season.

Since he’s a reliever, that one inning will be a shot of helium for Vieira’s ERA for a long time. Just keep that in mind when evaluating him in the future. He’s got undeniably electric stuff, he just needs to learn to hone it.

Onto the bullets:

  • Ian Miller continued his torrid start to the season with a 2-for-4 games. He’s hitting .348/.385/.478 this year with three stolen bases already. He’s also reached base in every game so far.
  • Brock Hebert hit a homer, which is cool. The utilityman has never hit more than three in a season.
  • Outside of Miller and third baseman Jay Baum, the rest of the team has gotten off to a slow start with the sticks. They’re going to have to get things going because Moore and Max Povse aren’t long for Arkansas and they’ll need to rely on something other than their pitching to carry them.

Modesto Nuts (3-3) beat Stockton Ports (A’s) 6-0

The Nuts played like heck on both sides of the ball yesterday. First the Nuts put up five runs in the first inning. Then team ace Nick Neidert mystified the Ports with 6IP, 1H, 0R, 0BB, 8K. It was a much improved outing for the 20-year-old after a lackluster — by his standards — game on Opening Day.

The rest of the staff didn’t disappoint. Matt Walker and Lucas Schiraldi combined for four strikeouts over three innings and didn’t allow a hit. The Ports collected a single hit against Nuts pitching.

The Nuts were held mostly silent on offense after the first inning explosion. Every hitter on the team recorded at least one hit in the game. Let’s check in on some individual performances:

  • It’s hard to choose particular players, since everyone had a good game. We’ll start with infielder Chris Mariscal. Mariscal has followed up a breakout 2016 campaign with a red-hot start to 2017. He went 2-for-4 again yesterday and is slashing .476/.538/.667. He’s done it while striking out nearly a quarter of the time, and he’s never hit for much power. Those are areas worth keeping an eye on.
  • Jordan Cowan is something else. He went 2-for-5 against the Ports. The Covington native is hitting .500/.579/.625, which is obviously unsustainable. But he was a 37th rounder and was never supposed to get to this point. We’ll see if he can keep defying expectations.
  • Eric Filia finally had a good game. He went 2-for-5 and raised his average to a sparkling .143. It’s been a sobering start for the reigning Northwest League MVP, but it’s early.

#GoNuts

Clinton LumberKings (2-4) beat Beloit Snappers (A’s) 5-3

He isn’t talked about nearly as much as Moore and Neidert, and maybe for good reason. But LumberKings ace Ljay Newsome was pretty impressive yesterday with 5IP, 4H, 1R, 0BB, 7K. I have yet to understand why he was the AquaSox #1 starter last year and why he’s the LumberKings top guy now. But he’s a pretty young dude at 20 years old and maybe the Mariners see something in him outside of the stats. His ERA still sits at 8.00 for the season.

The top half of the order led Clinton to a season-high five runs. The team’s offense has been slow getting out of the gates this year. After getting swept by Kane County, the LumberKings have taken the first two games against Beloit. Hopefully the bats continue to shine.

Onto the bullets:

  • Bryson Brigman had a huge game on offense, going 3-for-4 with a triple and 3 RBI. He’s slashing .400/.550/.533. He’s C’ing that Z like crazy with five walks and just one strikeout. Power has been the big question mark for him. The triple was his first extra base hit of the season after just seven last year in 265 at-bats.
  • Luis Rengifo was an unknown name for me until yesterday. He went 3-for-4 against Beloit. Apparently this is his first time playing above rookie ball after a .239/.325/.367 showing in the Arizona League last year. Not sure what that’s all about.

That’s all for now. Go M’s and affiliates!