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State of the Farm: 7/7/17

It feels like it’s finally that time of year to shift our attention from the big league club to the minor league guys...

Well...I’m writing this while I watch the M’s do their darndest to drop game one of the series against the last place Oakland A’s. This is typically around the time of the year that I start giving a majority of my attention to the minor league system. Because, ya know, these are gonna be the guys who take us to the world series next year.

That said, if you didn’t notice the new format, State of the Farm will exist henceforth in a more reader-friendly format, focusing on recent storylines at each level as opposed to just diving in to every players stat lines. If there’s anyone or anything you think was worth mentioning but isn’t somewhere below, please drop it in the comments section!

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 44-40

Sluggers regaining their strokes

  • The Rainiers have actually been a lot more interesting offensively than their parent club as of late. Tyler O’Neill has been setting the world on fire—or at least PCL pitching anyways—even prompting some to call for his promotion to the big leagues. Over his last 16 games, he’s slashed .328/.458/.776, including eight dingers over his last 13 games. Former 1st round pick D.J. Peterson has also apparently settled in at the plate as well. His .339/.385/.458 line over his last 15 games has kept alive the glowing ember that is his prospect status, although the abundance of singles and lack of extra base hits isn’t exactly ideal to see from a corner infielder who was drafted four years ago for his ability to drive the ball over the ballpark. Lastly, fan favorite Leonys Martin hasn’t skipped a beat this month after putting the finishing touches on a .327/.370/.545 June that just might leave Jerry & Co. feeling like their top outfielder on the major league roster by fWAR (Jarrod Dyson, 2.0) is expendable as we pull in to the All-Star break.

Lawrence throws a Maddux

  • If you’re not familiar with what a “Maddux” is—named after former Braves & Cubs great Greg Maddux—when a pitcher throws a complete game shutout while throwing less than 100 pitches. Lawrence, who’s worked exclusively out the bullpen in his six appearances with the Mariners this seasons, blanked the Albuquerque Isotopes over 9.0 IP with 8 hits, 0 BB, and 7 K’s back on Monday.

Povse makes his Triple-A debut (after his MLB debut)

  • RHP Max Povse—who is listed by as the M’s fifth-best prospect—made his first appearance of his career at the Triple-A level and tossed two innings of three strikeout ball without allowing a baserunner. Posve is apparently still being treated as a reliever, although I refuse to give up hope that he’s converted back to a starter before the season has run its course.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 38-46

Ian Miller: still a good baseball player

  • Friend of the blog OF Ian Miller has settled back into his spot atop the Texas League in batting average since we last checked in on him, and he’s currently tied for the league lead in stolen bases. While it’s semi-disappointing we haven’t gotten to see him tested with the Triple-A level yet, Tacoma has been using O’Neill, Martin, and Boog Powell for a majority of the season, and really should continue to do so until one of them—or an outfielder on the big league roster—is dealt.

Dylan Unsworth emerging as Travs ace

  • RHP Dylan Unsworth has registered a quality start in each of his last seven starts, and has gone at least 6.0 innings with no more than four earned runs in each of his last 10. That type of consistency is a welcome development who spent much of last season on the disabled list.

The three-headed bullpen monster

  • Going in to Thursday, the bullpen combination of RHP Darin Gillies, RHP Peter Tago, and LHP Zac Curtis have combined for 90.2 IP. Over those innings, the trio has logged 9.9 K/9, a 2.33 ERA, and a 1.15 WHIP. While the surface numbers are exciting for all three, Gillies 7.1 K/9 has a 5.05 xFIP, Tago has issued 5.5 BB/9 and is sporting a 3.75 xFIP, but Curtis has been juuust right, running a 3.56 xFIP thanks to 11.2 K/9 and the lowest walk rate of the bunch at just 2.5 BB/9. While by no means elite, Curtis’ performance this year has strengthened the Mariners’ case for being declared the “winners” of the Hanigura-Walker trade this past offseason.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 49-36

More hot hitting outfielders

  • I’ve made it down to the M’s High-A affiliate squad and still, the standout offensive players for this team are outfielders. It’s not wonder why Kate’s been running a series trying to identify teams who may be on the prowl for young, cost controlled outfielders, of which the Mariners seem to have an abundance. Outfielders Braden Bishop and Eric Filia have both been struggling lately, but are the clear cut leaders offensively for the Nuts this season. With wRC+’s of 126 and 125 respectively, the duo has been a steady presence in the middle of Modesto’s lineup.

The unsung hero

  • I’ve put off writing anything about IF Chris Mariscal as long as possible largely because he isn’t really considered a legitimate prospect, but the guy just keeps hitting and has finally forced my hand. He’s matched Bishop’s wRC+ of 126 on the season, and has particularly been tearing it up lately, slashing .412/.533/.500. The 5’10” 170lb Fresno State product had an impressive season with Clinton last year, and could be worth keeping an eye on in an organization with few second base prospects at the upper levels of the minors.

Nick Neidert’s ever-continuing development

  • has Neidert listed as the Mariners’ top pitching prospect—ahead of Andrew Moore mind you—and at just 20 years old, has been doing everything possible to justify the ranking. His 7.0 shutout innings last night were accompanied by six strikeouts and just one walk, and makes eight straight starts without allowing more than three earned runs. It’s easy to imagine the team intends to keep in down in Modesto for the remainder of the season, but Neidert has done everything within his power to justify a bump up to Double-A Arkansas.

(A) Clinton LumberKings

Team Record: 36-46

A catching prospect may just be emerging...

  • Venezuelan C Yojhan Quevedo is currently amidst his seventh season in the Mariners organization, but just his first above the Short Season-A level. He’s still walking practically never, which is a glaring area of concern, but he’s really not striking out that much either (13.7%), and is currently sporting a 110 wRC+. He’s a almost two years older than league average for the level, but with little in the way of catching prospects ahead of him, Quevedo could rise relatively quickly if the bat continues to play well for the breakout backstop.

Robert Dugger is a good starter now

  • After finishing last season as a starter, RHP Robert Dugger opened the season as a reliever for the LumberKings. His last seven appearances have been as a starter once again and this is what he’s done: 30.2 IP, 20 H, 7 BB (0.88 WHIP), 4 ER (1.17 ERA), 32 K (9.4 K/9). His continued effectiveness while transitioning from two and three inning appearances to consistently working five or six innings—as he’s done in his last five starts—has been a pleasant surprise. A former 18th round pick out of Texas Tech, it’s been nice to see Dugger burst on to the scene as an effective arm this last year plus, and I’ll be watching to see if he’s able to continue to build upon his ability to work effectively deeper into games as the season progresses.

Jack Anderson is a lights out reliever

  • The LumberKings have been churning out some interesting pitchers this season, and Anderson might be the most interesting of the bunch. Like Dugger, he was a late round pick (23rd), but the right-handed submarine pitcher hasn’t let that stop him from carving out a prominent role in the bullpen. He consistently works multiple innings in relief, and even in doing so, is still yet to allow a home run in his 66.0 professional innings. His 2.73 xFIP on the year suggests that his success is sustainable, but it’ll be interesting to see if hitters at higher levels of the minors are able to more easily adapt to his unique delivery.

(A-) Everett AquaSox

Team Record: 9-13

Evan White is recovering from his quad injury

  • The M’s top draft pick from this year, Evan White, has been battling a quad injury, and just recently made his first start in the field, manning first base. The bat has been a little slow to heat up, but he did belt his first professional home run earlier this week.

Hot hitting infielders

  • 3B Eugene Helder and 2B Joseph Rosa have been leading the charge for an Everett squad that finds themselves in the top half of the Northwest League in batting. Helder, 21, is a native of Aruba and spent the last two seasons with the M’s DSL affiliate. He’s already collected nine extra base hits in 20 games with the AquaSox this season on the way to his current OPS of .835. The switch-hitting Rosa has been even more impressive, slugging four homers and racking up 17 RBI in just 20 games on the way to his .329/.385/.622 slash line. With SS Chris Torres—who cracks the M’s top 30 prospects at #15— joining Everett last week, 2017 22nd round pick SS Johnny Adams has bumped over to third base, effectively moving Helder to an outfield position. Adams has been playing well, reaching base 23 times in 14 games, but unlike every other Mariners minor league affiliate, the AquaSox actually have a abundance of infielders who probably deserve to be starting as opposed to a glut of outfielders.

Torres’ continued effectiveness

  • Last week was the first I wrote about RHP Andres Torres, and here I am mentioning the Venezuelan hurler again. His most recent quality start leaves him 3-0 with a miniscule 2.01 ERA, but his lack of an ability to miss bats (6.9 K/9) and slightly elevated walk rate (2.8 BB/9), saddles him with an inflated xFIP of 5.35 through four starts, things should start to even out as he settles in stateside.

The newly drafted college arms are striking everybody out

  • RHP Wyatt Mills, RHP Seth Elledge, LHP Oliver Jaskie, and LHP JP Sears were drafted in the 3rd, 4th, 6th, and 11th rounds respectively, and are all running strikeout rates north of 14.7 K/9. Okay, that is over a suuuper small sample size, but still, 36 K’s in 18.0 IP by the group is impressive. They’ve all been working out of the bullpen to this point besides Jaskie, who’s started in two of his three appearances.

Other Notables

  • OF Kyle Lewis continues to work his way back presumably to Modesto. He last appeared in a game on Sunday, when he went 2-4 with a walk, a home run, and two runs scored.
  • RHP Shae Simmons, who is perhaps the last remaining hope of the Mariners getting something in exchange for a whole bunch of prospects in the Drew Smyly trade frenzy, made a surprise 1.0 inning appearance for the AZL Mariners after being out of the news basically since spring training. It went nicely for Simmons, who surrendered just one hit and struck out two. Barring any setbacks, Simmons could be back with the big league club shortly after the All-Star break.
  • 31st Round 1B/3B Ryan Costello has made his presence felt in a hurry to start his professional career. He’s running a line of .269/.417/.692 and walking as much as he’s striking out in 9 games.
  • 1B Ryan Garcia is my new favorite low-level prospect to follow because he just slashed .344/.481/.688 over his senior season at Division II Point Loma Nazarene and seems to embody the “control the zone” mantra. I’m going to continue to update you on how he’s doing until he fades away in to irrelevance. He’s at .303/.368/.455 with a dingers and 9 RBI’s through eight games.
  • 23rd round RHP Sam Delaplane was selected by the M’s out of Michigan, and has been mowing AZL batters down through his first three appearances. He’s got 11 strikeouts to just one walk through 6.0 IP, all in relief.