Hello! I feel like it’s been months since the last State of the Farm (it hasn’t been months). Life is strange, the draft is hectic, and time flies. We should be back to a regular, weekly rotation with SOTF from now on, thankfully, so let me officially welcome you all back to State of the Farm. This week, we’re looking at the primary headlines that emerged in the first half of the minor league season. From Eric Filia’s magical bat to a couple top prospects making position switches, a lot has happened. I’ll do my best to catch you all up.
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 37-34
Who’s on first (and second and third and shortstop and...)
- The Rainiers have experienced tremendous roster turnover over the course of the season, even going by the typically absurd Triple-A standards. Over the entirety of the 2016 season, Tacoma employed 38 different pitchers and 28 different position players. In just 71 games this season, they’ve used 38 different pitchers and 26 different position players. Unless you believe in miracles, the Rainiers will probably go far beyond their total from last year.
Top prospect Tyler O’Neill struggles
- Outfielder Tyler O’Neill, typically regarded as the second-best prospect in the system, hasn’t found much success in his first trip through Tacoma. There have been bright spots here and there, but at 68 games and 283 plate appearances, his slash line sits at .214/.293/.369, well below any output we’ve seen from him at any level in the past. The strikeout and walk rates haven’t strayed too far from the path, but O’Neill has struggled to square up and drive pitches as consistently as we’ve grown accustomed to. He’s still young and the tools are still there, but this hasn’t been a great year for him, especially with so many young outfielders emerging up in Seattle.
Reno takes over the division
- The Rainiers enjoyed a bit of a tug-of-war match for first place early on in the season, but the Reno Aces have recently started to run away with the division a bit. At 46-27, the Diamondbacks’ Triple-A club has a comfortable eight-game lead.
Boog Powell returns to form
- Powell was long considered to be a dead man walking in the organization after a subpar start to 2016, followed by a lengthy suspension. Kudos to him, however, for he has done enough to put himself back on the map in 2017, slashing .311/.431/.415 with 5 doubles, 2 home runs, and 7 stolen bases over 33 games. Perhaps the most surprising part of his numbers: he’s struck out just 13 times while registering 23 walks. The glove is good and the athleticism is good and he even managed to secure a 20-game stint with Seattle before being sent back down with a case of “holy crap the entire Mariners outfield is amazing there is no shame in being sent down”-itis.
Leonys Martin finds his swing
- After a solid couple of months of frustration, Leonys Martin has started hitting the ball again. In the month of June, everyone’s favorite Rainier hit .338/.370/.571 with 3 home runs, 7 doubles, and a triple. The outfield is so crowded that it’s hard to see him finding his way back to Seattle without multiple injuries occurring, but it’s just nice to see the wide-smiled, endlessly lovable Martin hitting again.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record (First Half): 32-38
Ian Miller and Chuck Taylor Save the World
- While most of the offense has resided in a state of perpetual funk over the course of the 2017 season, the bats of outfielders Ian Miller and Chuck Taylor have been relentless. Miller, long considered to be organizational depth with a ceiling of “hey let’s call him up to be a pinch runner”, has proven his surge at the plate in the second half of 2016 was no fluke. Through 59 games, the speedster has hit .332/.387/.448 with 4 home runs, 14 doubles, and 23 stolen bases. The newfound power appears to be legit and Miller is starting to look like he could be a fourth-outfielder type in the future.
- Taylor, meanwhile, popped up out of nowhere and became a star of the first half for the Travelers. In the month of May, the Rule-5 (minor-league portion) draft pick hit .417/.492/.519 with a home run, 8 doubles, and 4 stolen bases. He doesn’t appear to be doing anything different than he has in the past, and his numbers are starting to fall back to Earth, so don’t get too excited over the 23-year-old Taylor, but that stretch is one of the better month-long stretches I’ve seen from a Mariner prospect in awhile.
Thyago Vieira finds his comfort zone
- After starting out the season in a bit of a funk, top reliever prospect Vieira has bounced back nicely, striking out 12 while surrendering just 4 earned runs over 19 innings between May and June. It’s an encouraging sign from the 23-year-old who still, in a lot of ways, seems to be learning how to pitch.
Travelers stumble out of gates in first half, never recover
- The Travelers never really got going in the first half of the 2017 Texas League season. They hovered around the .500 mark for a brief time in the very early stages of the season before slipping far down the hole and finishing with a 32-38 record, good enough for last place in the division.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record (First Half): 39-31
MODESTO WINS THE FIRST-HALF CHAMPIONSHIP
- Led by clutch hitting and a reliable pitching staff, the Nuts managed to squeak out the California League North Division title, finishing 39-31 with a three-game lead. The title gives them an automatic bid to the California League playoffs, where they’ll square off against the winner of the second half.
Eric Filia: Wrecker of Baseballs
- The day may come where Eric Filia’s bat starts slowing down, but that time is not now. After a somewhat slow start to the season, the UCLA product has boosted his slash line for the year up to .317/.406/.426. In the month of May, he hit .376/.460/.523. In the month of June, he’s hit .367/.449/.483. Every day, I believe in him a little bit more. Oh, and he has struck out just 19 times this entire season.
Braden Bishop rides his new approach to a breakout season
- When the Mariners drafted Bishop out of Washington, it was a foregone conclusion that the defense was about MLB-ready and that his entire career path would come down to how well he hit. After a couple seasons of average (at best) offense, Bishop has broke out in Modesto, slashing .312/.412/.409 over 295 plate appearances. His newfound ability to get the ball in the air and drive it all over the ballpark has him looking the best he’s looked at the plate since his junior year of college. As an added bonus, his walk-rate has shot up to 12.5% this season. Bishop is never going to be an elite hitter or anything close, but being able to hold his own at the plate makes him a far, far safer bet to make the majors in some capacity in the future.
Nick Neidert has figured out how to strike people out
- Neidert, who entered the season as the Mariners’ best pitching prospect, has suddenly started racking up strikeouts in his first trip through the hitter-friendly California League. After posting K/9 marks of 5.86 and 6.82 in his first two full seasons, he’s racked up 82 strikeouts in 73.1 innings in Modesto this year (10.06 K/9). The secondary stuff is fantastic and if his fastball starts taking steps forward as he matures, he and Carlson would give the Mariners two very fun (and very young) pitching prospects.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record (First Half): 31-36
LumberKings slump to fifth-place finish
- Clinton struggled in most aspects of the game, and as a result were unable to string success together for any longer than a game or two. Without much thump in the lineup or shutdown guys in the rotation, the LumberKings stumbled to a 31-36 record in the first half, finishing in fifth place in their division.
Gareth Morgan starts looking like a baseball player
- After a few miserable seasons in rookie ball, Gareth Morgan burst onto the scene with the LumberKings in the first half of the 2017 season. Through 216 plate appearances, the 21-year-old hit .254/.343/.429 with 7 home runs, 10 doubles, and a triple. It is, by far, the best we’ve seen Morgan hit during his time in the Mariners organization. Most importantly, the walk and strikeout rates have improved significantly, suggesting the plate approach has improved. He still has a lot of work to do before he’s considered a legitimate prospect again, but it’s been fun.
Anthony Jimenez breaks out
- Jimenez, a speedy outfielder out of Venezuela, has enjoyed his best season of professional baseball in 2017. Making his full-season debut this year, the 5’11, 165-pound ball of energy has ran a 137 wRC+ and a career-high .188 ISO. One improvement you’d like to see out of Jimenez is a lowering of strikeout numbers, but outside of that, it’s been a promising start. The athleticism and defense is great, and if the bat starts taking steps forward, he could move up Mariners top prospect lists pretty quickly.
(A-) Everett AquaSox
Team Record: 3-5
Everyday Brayan Hernandez is here!
- Brayan Hernandez is one of the more exciting, young prospects in the system and the start of the AquaSox season brings with it his emergence. Aside from a couple appearances in Tacoma, we haven’t seen much from the 19-year-old outfielder, but now we get to see him play every single day. Rejoice! Through his first ten games, he’s hit .257/.278/.400 with a home run and a triple.
Greifer Andrade: Outfielder?
- Greifer Andrade, a notable middle infield prospect in the system, seems to be making the switch to the outfield; he’s officially listed as an outfielder on the AquaSox website and has started seven games in left field. The 20-year-old has primarily been considered a bat-first prospect, so this might be something to keep an eye on.
This isn’t everything that happened, obviously. Some mid-tier prospects played much better than expected. Some played much worse. If there’s a topic not brought up here that you’d love to discuss, drop it in the comments and I’m sure I (and several members of our lovely community) will be more than willing to get a conversation going.