The transactions have slowed down a bit lately, thanks in large part to the Mariners rotation stabilizing a bit, lessening the constant need for fresh arms in the bullpen. Coupled with solid performances from rotation fill-ins Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio, there’s been less action atop the system.
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 31-22, second in Pacific Northern Division, Pacific Coast League
Team Hitting: .257/.335/.413, third-fewest runs scored in PCL
Team Pitching: 3.90 ERA, 7.6 K/9, 2.4 BB/9, best WHIP in PCL
The Rainiers have dropped 8 of their last 14 games, slipping from their top spot in the Pacific Northern Division. In what I consider to be an exciting development, some of the veteran depth previously being stashed in Tacoma has departed the organization, creating more opportunities for legitimate prospects at the upper levels of the minors.
- Utilityman Danny Muno, who has primarily played second base, was signed out of indy ball back on May 11th, and has absolutely raked since joining the organization. In 17 games with the Rainiers, he’s slashing .362/.439/.569. Muno, who is a switch-hitter, has hit righties much better than lefties throughout his minor league career, so he could be a potential option up the middle for the big league team should both Motter and recently added Tyler Smith struggle to hit righties. It’s worth noting that Muno received a 17 game stint with the Mets back in 2015, but struggled offensively and hasn’t seen the major leagues since.
- Speaking of utility players, former 28th round pick Zach Shank has been swinging a hot bat as of late. His .351/.385/.486 slash line over his last 10 games opens some eyes, but 10 of his 13 hits over that span were singles, and his season numbers aren’t really anything to write home about.
- 2013 first rounder D.J. Peterson has seemingly found his stroke lately, knocking in 10 runs in as many games recently, while posting a .308/.357/.459 line. Peterson has been splitting time between first and third base defensively.
- I almost don’t want to make any note of Tyler O’Neill because anything I have to say is only bad news. He’s actually been struggling even harder recently, and his season wRC+ now sits at 68, which is--please don’t throw up--identical to the mark Carlos Ruiz has posted to date for the big league club. He’s striking out more, walking less, and hitting a bunch more infield fly balls. The silver lining here: he’s more than four years younger than league average for the Triple-A level, and could theoretically take a step back to Double-A and still be ahead of schedule as far as reaching the big leagues, which may well happen with a couple guys in Arkansas slugging the crap out of the ball.
- RHP Ryne Harper was pointlessly called up to the Mariners (Jerry probably just wanted to burn one of his options) and was sent back to Tacoma without making an appearance. He’s done a good job of limiting the free passes lately, walking just two over his last ten appearances spanning 11.2 innings.
- Another right-handed reliever who had a brief callup this year, Jean Machi, is posing as an elite level closer down for the Rainiers. He’s allowed just one earned run this season, and while he’s not blowing anyone away, he’s not surrendering home runs and he’s not walking people, resulting in an xFIP of 3.36. He’d be a logical candidate to come back up should the Mariners burn through their bullpen any time soon.
- Gonzaga product Cody Martin was activated from the DL and started on Saturday, and produced satisfactory results. He allowed just two baserunners--one walk and one --over 3.2 innings and notched three strikeouts, being limited to just 59 pitchers in his season debut.
- Andrew Moore turned in his top pitching performance of the season, tossing eight innings of scoreless four hit, one walk baseball against a Salt Lake lineup that consisted of several fringe big leaguers. This start served as an obvious declaration that one of the organization’s top pitching prospects is ready for big league competition. With Christian Bergman and Sam Gaviglio pitching fairly well for the M’s, he may have to wait a little moore for his turn.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 24-30, last in North Division, Texas League
Team Hitting: .268/.339/.374, second-best OBP, worst SLG % in Texas League
Team Pitching: 4.53 ERA, 8.1 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, fourth best WHIP in Texas League
The Travs have gone 9-6 since we last checked in with them. The recent hot streak was helped along by a couple guys joining the club from Tacoma due to a logjam of position players at the Triple-A level.
- Recent podcast guest Ian Miller was injured last week, and has yet to reappear in a game. The recent injury would seemingly move him behind teammate Chuck Taylor for a promotion, if he wasn’t already.
- Contrary to popular belief, Mariners fans can have some nice things, and Chuck Taylor has definitely but one of those things this season. He’s showed no signs of slowing down at the plate, rattling of four straight three hit games last week during which he added his second and third homers of the season. He continues to run an amazingly high BABIP--it currently stands at .440--and is still running an OPS better than 1.000 (1.020). Here’s a low-ish quality video of him hitting a leadoff home run back on Thursday:
- INF Jeff Kobernus was added to Jerry’s collection of indy ball players brought into the organization, and he’s performed respectably through his first eight games. The former second round pick has posted a line up .321/.345/.429, but more notably, has swiped three bags in just eight games. Kobernus stole 53, 42, and 42 bases from 2011-2013. Despite being listed on the team’s site as an outfielder, he’s played second base exclusively for the Travs.
- C Tyler Marlette must not have heard that Mike Zunino is apparently a good Major League Baseball player yet, because he’s been playing like there’s a big league spot up for grabs. His last 10 game slash line is .317/.349/.838 thanks to five dingers over that span. His season wRC+ now sits at 115, and at just 24 years old, he probably represents the closest thing in the organization to a legit catching prospect.
- The relief combination of Darin Gillies, Peter Tago, and Zac Curtis has recorded 64 strikeouts in 59.0 innings while posting a 2.59 ERA, a 1.12 WHIP.
- Since the last State of the Farm update, we were all treated to this fun snippet:
Of note: Max Povse, who was being converted to a relief role in Class AA Arkansas, has been sidelined with a hamstring strain.— Ryan Divish (@RyanDivish) May 23, 2017
That is unwelcome news about the organization’s third best starting pitching prospect with a big league roster devoid of options for the rotation one can feel confident in expecting contributions from beyond 2018.
- RHP Thyago Vieira hasn’t recorded a strikeout since May 4th. Everybody panic. But seriously, he’s been okay, but command issues remain a concern. The walks aren’t going away.
- RHP Peter Tago had six strikeouts in two innings in his most recent outing and his xFIP now sits at 1.98. He’s pretty fun, everyone.
- RHP Justin DeFratus made back-to-back starts in which he lasted 6.1 and 7.0 innings, which probably wouldn’t even be noteworthy if he wasn’t used as a relief pitcher in all 191 of his major league appearances. DeFratus, you may remember, was with the M’s during the spring prior to last season. He had been working as a starter in independent ball prior to being brought back to the organization.
- LHP Jake Zokan, who I wrote something about back in January, has begun throwing off of a mound after he underwent surgery back in the offseason. Zokan, who was converted to a reliever last season, turned in a very impressive 2016 debut campaign out of the ‘pen. In 37.1 innings, he posted 10.4 K/9 to just 0.48 BB/9, a 0.75 WHIP, and an xFIP of 2.50.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 32-24, first in North Division, California League
Team Hitting: .268/.350/.398, second-highest OPS in California League
Team Pitching: 4.41 ERA, 8.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, second most hits allowed in California League
The Nuts have righted the ship over the last couple weeks, having matched the Travelers 9-6 record over their last 15 games. The arms have continued to struggle, but some hot hitting has helped them to a 3.5 game lead in the division.
- New week, same story for OF Braden Bishop. He’s still on pace to score in every game this season (50 runs in 50 games), and has continued his now standard hot hitting (.324 AVG) and patient approach at the plate (5 BB, 6 SO) over the past 10 games. His .316 average on the season *might* actually be semi-legit, considering his BABIP of .375 isn’t far off from his .368 clip in 2015 and .363 mark with Clinton last year.
- OF Eric Filia continues to walk much more frequently than he strikes out, and now has 66 walks to just 35 strikeouts in 121 career games. Just 13 of his 57 hits this year have gone for extra bases, resulting in an OBP (.387) that is flirting with topping his slugging percentage (.395). The bat has cooled recently, but the 24 year old should be given an opportunity to move through the system quickly as his bat heats back up.
- Recently converted catcher Joe DeCarlo has seen his wRC+ shoot up 17 points since we last checked in on him thanks to seven extra base hits over his last 10 games played. His K% is actually up a bit from his already-poor levels last season, currently sitting at 29.6%. Including his current wRC+ of 104, DeCarlo has never posted a wRC+ below 100 at any level of his minor league career.
- First baseman Joey Curletta, who was the return when the M’s dealt Pat Venditte to the Phillies back in September, collected six hits, four runs, and seven runs batted in over a four game series with Inland Empire. The 6’4”, 245lb slugger now has a season wRC+ of 117.
- 21 year old Pablo Lopez, coming off an impressive season at Clinton in 2016, has stumbled out of the gates in 2017, although he has had better luck as of late, turning in back-to-back quality starts in his last two outings. He lasted 6.0 innings in each start, and issued just one walk while striking out 13 between the two starts.
- Through his last 15.2 IP, 2016 7th round pick RHP Matthew Festa has allowed just two earned runs while striking out 21 (including four four-strikeout appearances), and running a WHIP of 0.64. His season xFIP now sits at just 2.78.
- 5’9” right-handed reliever Marvin Gorgas has been effectively wild to date in 2017, running a 0.93 ERA , 1.14 WHIP, and 10.7 K/9 through 19.1 IP. His 4.2 BB/9 is a marked increase from his 3.3 BB/9 last season. He’s recently been promoted to Modesto out of Clinton and it will be interesting to see how he performs in the hitter-friendly league.
- RHP Reggie McClain continues to produce impressive surface numbers--he’s leading the organization with seven wins, is second to only Andrew Moore in innings pitched, and has a 2.60 ERA and seven quality starts through his first 11 starts of the season--but I continue to wait for this house of cards to come tumbling down. I personally love the guy and hope he continues to succeed at each level, but he’s seen some significant negative regression in almost all of his rate stats from his debut 2016 to to 2017. His K/9 has dipped almost 3.0, dropping from an impressive 10.24 in 2016 to just 7.54 this season. His BB/9 have jumped from an elite 0.93 last year to a still impressive, but significantly worse 2.47. His 2.51 xFIP in 2016 has evolved into a 4.12 mark this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can manage to outpitch his peripherals throughout the remainder of the season.
- Mariners top pitching prospect RHP Nick Neidert has shown exciting development this season for an organization starved for legitimate pitching prospects. His average innings pitched per game has increased each of his three professional seasons, moving from 3.1 IP/G from 2015-2016, 4.2 from 16-17, and now sits at 5.0 IP/G to date this season. The organization has done a good job of easing the 20 year old into an increased workload, and it seems to be paying dividends. His K/9 has also increased each season, making the most significant jump from last season to this, increasing from 6.8 K/9 to 10.1 K/9 this season. Neidert, who was the Mariners top pick in 2015, has seen his ERA creep up each season, but his xFIP has actually decreased each season, and his currently at a career best mark of 3.47. His 61.2 IP on the year ties him with Dylan Unsworth for the third most innings pitched in the organization this year. With no reason to rush him through the organization at such a young age, Neidert should pitch the entirety of 2017 in Modesto.
- Over the course of the last three seasons, LHP Spencer Herrmann has posted the following splits in fairly even usage against left and right-handed hitters:
Those numbers haven’t prevented the organization from using him as a multi-inning reliever. He’s gone at least 2.0 innings out of the pen in 7 of his 16 appearances this season, and has enjoyed some of his best success against righties to date. He’s dropped his BB/9 from ~5.0/9 last season to just 2.9 in 2017. His peripherals suggest his 2.16 ERA through 16 appearances is a little misleading, but we’ve seen in recent seasons the benefits of having lefty relievers who can throw multiple innings for you, so Herrmann might be worth keeping an eye on.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 22-31, 7th in Western Division, Midwest League
Team Hitting: .251/.322/.379, second most stolen bases in Midwest League
Team Pitching: 4.36 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 3.1 BB/9, third most hits allowed in Midwest League
The LumberKings struggled to a 7-9 record through the last two-ish weeks. The offense failed to make much noise, but the pitching showed some impressive flashes. The LumberKings have been far and away the organization’s worst team to this point in the season, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise as, as it’s also missing any surefire top prospects.
- I am 100% on board the Anthony Jimenez hype train. His hot start hasn’t really stopped recently, it’s just kind of changed. After turning in several multi-hit games and swiping bags all over the place, Jimenez suddenly found his power stroke recently, and has connected for five of his career high seven home runs in the last 10 days. Over that span, he’s slashing .237/.326/.658 with four stolen bases to bring his season total to 19, trailing only Ian Miller in the organization. He’s been able to withstand a 7.0% spike in his K% to post a career best 150 wRC+. It’ll be interesting to see if he trends back towards hitting for average in the next couple of weeks.
- 2016 2nd round pick 3B Joe Rizzo is swinging a hot bat once again this season:
The continued maturation and development of Rizzo, who is still just 19 years old and 5’9”, could be a huge boon to the M’s farm system, as they currently lack many standout infield prospects, particularly on the left side of the infield. Rizzo has demonstrated a keen ability to draw walks, taking free passes in 16.5% of his at-bats this season. His wRC+ is up to 132 for Clinton, where he is more than two years younger than league average.
- Like his teammate and fellow countryman Jimenez, UTIL Luis Rengifo has been running mad this season. The switch-hitter checks in at third in the organization in stolen bases with 17. Check that. He stole his 18th (in addition to hitting a double, and his career best 3rd home run) while I was writing this. He’s been deployed defensively by Clinton in both corners of the outfield, as well as at shortstop, third, and second base this season. Rengifo is probably never going to be a double digit home run guy, so refining his approach at the plate and learning to consistently draw walks will maximize his offensive potential and base stealing ability. He recently snuck onto the Mariners Top 30 Prospects list according to MLB.com.
- OF Gareth Morgan has batted a whopping .086 over his last 10 games, while striking out 16 times. His wRC+ his amazingly somehow still at 96 even with a 40.0% K%. He’s inching closer and closer to being labeled as a “bust” almost every time he walks to the plate.
- OF Luis Liberato is seemingly figuring things out a bit at the plate. Interestingly, he’s managed to post a season slash line of .228/.305/.443, arriving at an OPS of .748 without really hitting for all that much power. His slugging percentage has been supported largely by his league and organization-leading seven triples. The 21 year old Dominican Republic product is still thought to have a high ceiling and plenty of time to figure it out despite his early career struggles with the bat.
- RHP Brandon Miller just continues to return value on his 2016 6th round investment. He’s allowed exactly two earned runs in each of his last four starts, going 5.0, 7.0, 6.0. and 5.0 innings over those games, totaling 24 strikeouts in those 23.0 innings. His K/9, BB/9, and HR/9 have all risen a bit this season, but so has his BABIP. His FIP and xFIP have been nearly identical to last year’s perfectly satisfactory marks, currently sitting at 3.59 and 3.57 respectively. Miller’s current trajectory could land him in the back end of a major league rotation within the next few years.
- RHP Ljay Newsome turned in a pair of starts his last two times out that essentially got him to the same place, but arrived there much differently. On May 27th, he was dominant, striking out nine in 5.1 innings while allowing three runs. His next time out, he went 5.0 innings, allowed three earned again, but recorded just one punchout. Two days after that start, Newsome was placed on the 7-Day Disabled List.
- RHP Ronald Dominguez, who was used as a starter almost exclusively after being promoted to Clinton in 2016, had been used as a reliever in all 10 appearances this season before this last week, when he made a pair of starts. In his first, he surrendered six runs on seven hits over four innings. In his second, he lasted just 3.2 innings, scattering five hits and walk, but limiting the damage to just one run. The organization seems torn regarding what exactly they want Dominguez to be, but with the apparent desire to find “a Devenski”, Dominguez’s usage this last season-plus seems to make him a quality candidate for such a role. He thrown a minimum of 3.0 innings in ten of his twelve relief appearances this season, and has racked up 27 strikeouts in 31.2 innings to go along with a 2.27 ERA, .158 OPP AVG, and 0.76 WHIP as a reliever.
- Pretty much everything you just read about Dominguez, you can apply to RHP Robert Dugger. Dugger was used as both a starter and reliever last season, and after 13 effective relief appearances this season, has been used as a starter in his last two. He’s had a little better fortunes in that role, combining for 6.2 innings of three hit, three walk shutout baseball. In 33.0 IP this season, he’s running a clip of 8.7 K/9, 2.7 BB/9, 2.73 ERA, 1.03 WHIP, .202 OPP AVG, and is sporting an xFIP of 3.39.
- Last but not least, we get to RHP Jack Anderson. Ethan gushed about this submarine pitcher a couple weeks ago, and all Anderson has done since then is rip off a bunch more scoreless outings. Anderson has his strikeout rate up to 9.4 K/9, and his walk rate now sits at 2.2 BB/9. He’s yet to allow a home run in professional baseball through his first 49.2 innings. His 2.56 FIP and 2.90 xFIP are both improvements over last season as well. Like many of his teammates, Anderson has demonstrated an ability to go multiple innings at a time in relief.
- Both Chris Heston and Mike Freeman were claimed off waivers by the Dodgers. The Heston move was a bit of a head scratcher, as he was DFA’d in order to make room for OF Andrew Aplin, who was also DFA’d on Friday.
- Ryne Harper got his long awaited and much deserved call to the big leagues, but was optioned back to Tacoma without making an appearance. I’ll continue to wait anxiously for his big league debut.
- INF Rayder Ascanio was promoted from the Clinton LumberKings to the Modesto Nuts, to cover for SS Donnie Walton, who’s on the DL.
- OF Jeff Kobernus was signed and assigned to the Arkansas Travelers.
- RHP Cody Martin was reinstated from the disabled list. Welcome back, Brave Little Toaster.
- INF Gianfranco Wawoe was promoted to Double-A Arkansas.
- INF Jay Baum, LHP Kody Kerski, and OF Chantz Mack were released.
- INF Tyler Smith was promoted to the Seattle Mariners and promptly hit a double in his debut. Go Beavs.
- RHP Dylan Unsworth won the Texas League Pitcher of the Week Award. Unsworth has had some up and down outings this season, so it’s great to see him gain some momentum towards earning his way back to Tacoma.