Good morning and happy (almost) weekend to all of you! The good news is that it’s a beautiful day outside and the Mariners are tied for the second wild card! The bad news is that in the two or three weeks since the last SOTF, Farmer Jerry sold dozens of crops and we’re looking at a long, long winter down here on the farm.
Joining me today is the wonderful Ben Thoen, who will be giving a rundown of all that is happening on the farm at Class-A Clinton and below. I’ll be handling your Modesto, Arkansas, and Tacoma reports. Let’s get to it.
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 58-60 (3rd in Pacific Northern Division)
Whatever title hopes existed for the Rainiers entering August were quickly dashed, as Tacoma slumped out to a 3-6 start for the month (3-7 over their last 10 games). With Reno and Fresno both sitting 16+ games above .500, the Rainiers will need a miracle if they want to capture their second straight division title.
Max Povse is having an odd 2017
Povse entered the year as one of the three best pitching prospects in the system, but a sudden shift to the bullpen has sent his season into a bit of a tailspin. In 13.1 innings with the Rainiers, Povse has surrendered 14 runs on 20 hits and 5 walks. He’s still getting his strikeouts and the walks are being kept in check, but man, what an odd couple of months for him.
Shae Simmons’ rehab is going well
Simmons struck out two in a scoreless inning for the Rainiers on Thursday. He’s recorded scoreless outings in all three appearances with Tacoma (3.0 IP) and could be joining Seattle’s bullpen fairly soon.
Dan Altavilla can’t stop and most certainly won’t stop striking out (and walking) hitters
Altavilla, the flame-throwing, teeth-showing, giant-leg-towing relief pitcher hasn’t surrendered a run in a Tacoma uniform since July 6th. He has 27 strikeouts in 18.1 innings. That’s pretty fun and good and might make you forget about the fact that he’s walked 12 batters in those same 18.1 innings (but probably not). Over his last 8.2 innings (7 appearances), he’s issued 9 walks. Not great, Bob.
Shawn O’Rally returns to the Pacific Northwest
Utility man Shawn O’Malley was recently activated and optioned to Tacoma, where he has hit .258/.324/.290 through his first 31 plate appearances.
Motter Pops for all
The nice thing about Taylor Motter popping on down to Triple-A is that, apparently, scouting reports don’t exist in the minor leagues. “But Ethan,” you counter, “I’m sure they have something resembling a scouting report out there!”
False, because if Triple-A scouting reports existed and I was in charge of creating them and one day I found out I’d be playing Taylor Motter: Bringer of Motter Pops, I’d send my assistant Hank down to the printer room to fetch a single copy of white paper. I’m sure I’d have Hank stop and grab me a coffee on the way down, as well, because I have been up all night preparing these godforsaken scouting reports and we all know you can’t sleep when there are PCL Championships to be won and Shawn O’Malleys to be stopped. Anyway, once Hank returns with the clean sheet of white paper and the red sharpie I requested off-screen, I would write, in giant letters:
The pitcher would read it and nod at my genius and strike Taylor Motter out with ease. Championships would be won. Statues would be built. Boundaries would be broken. It would be all be so, so easy.
I repeat: Triple-A scouting reports don’t exist:
Anywho, Taylor Motter is hitting well in Triple-A. Put whatever stock you’d like into this. I’d still like to see him start hitting pitches on the outer half more effectively, but as long as scouting reports fail to exist, he may not receive that opportunity.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 20-27 (3rd in North Division)
More August woes
It’s really just been an unfortunate season for the Travelers. With an already thin roster depleted by promotions, the team continues to lack any notable strength outside of Braden Bishop and bits and pieces of the pitching staff. The struggles have carried into August, as the team has posted a 3-6 record thus far.
De Jong goes eight innings in 2017 Double-A debut
Chase De Jong, fresh off a demotion from Triple-A Tacoma, took the mound for Arkansas on Thursday and twirled a strong outing, surrendering just two runs over eight innings.
Bishop’s biggest positive trend has continued in Arkansas
While plenty of noise has been made about Bishop hitting the ball harder this year, the primary positive, for me at least, has been the step forward he’s taken in his walk percentage. After running low marks his first two years of pro ball, he bumped his percentage up to 10.9% in Modesto this season and it currently sits at 11.5% in Arkansas. Barring a sudden increase in power that doesn’t seem likely, Bishop’s ability to stick at the MLB level in a larger capacity will come down to him being able to string together productive plate appearances. The glove is so very clearly MLB quality and the speed is phenomenal, the questions have just always come down to the bat. Him upping his on-base capabilities is an encouraging step forward in that department.
I haven’t heard much from Peter Tago’s camp lately! Let’s go check in on...
I did not see that one coming.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 23-24 (1st(?) in North Division)
Cool! Apparently a 23-24 record grabs you a first place spot in the North Division of the California League. What a wonderful world we’re living in. The Nuts have gone 4-5 in the month of August, propelling them out in front (three-way tie, actually) in this heated and oh-so-competitive division race.
Submarining Jack Anderson hardly slowed by promotion
Since joining the Nuts a few weeks ago, Jack Anderson has performed well, striking out 10 in 9.1 innings and surrendering just 2 runs. He has walked five during that time, but I expect his BB/9 rate to settle back down in the 2-to-3 range as the sample size grows.
Joe DeCarlo is heating up
DeCarlo’s offensive numbers have been improving as the season goes on, and so far August has failed to break the chain. For the month, he’s hitting .300/.382/.367 with 2 doubles and 4 walks.
Dugger’s (kinda sorta) streak is broken
For the first time all season, RHP Robert Dugger surrendered more than two earned runs in an appearance, getting touched for six runs on nine hits in 4.2 innings on August 6th. The righty had made it through 25 games (12 starts) without implosion.
Kyle Lewis is starting to play like Kyle Lewis again
He’s alive! Lewis has now pieced together a few impressive weeks of baseball, slashing .364/.400/.727 in the month of July and now .320/.414/.520 in the month of August. He is hitting again, and there’s nothing in this system that’s anywhere near as fun as watching a locked-in Kyle Lewis hit baseballs.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 18-28 (7th in Western Division)
Gareth Morgan is figuring it out
- After being selected as the 74th overall pick in 2014, OF Gareth Morgan stumbled out of the blocks, failing to post a wRC+ of even 90 in any of his first three professional seasons. His 2017 started a little rough as well, but he managed to improve his OPS each month from April-July, posting OPS’s of .689, .705, .826, and .903, and he’s currently running a wRC+ of 120 on the season. The most significant and obvious development this season is his new and improved ability to draw walks. He’s got a career high BB% of 12.6%, and has trimmed his K% by almost five percentage points compared to last year’s mark (37.9%). You can expect his .389 BABIP to regress some, but the fact that he’s setting career highs across the board should ticket him for the Advanced-A level by the start of next season.
Three headed reliever monster
- The Mariners used their 3rd, 4th, and 11th round draft picks back in June on college pitchers Wyatt Mills, Seth Elledge, and JP Sears. All three have pitched exclusively out of the bullpen to this point in their minor league careers. They’ve each been promoted already this season, as well, moving from Everett to Clinton after a combined 18 games. Here’s what they’ve done to date:
If these guys can continue to miss bats at that elite level as they ascend the minor league system, it wouldn’t be a total shocker seeing one—or more than one—of them contributing at the big league level in the future.
Rizzo’s defensive struggles
- Joe Rizzo has manned the hot corner in each of his 80 appearances this year, and has committed 21 errors in those 80 games. There were some question marks surrounding his defensive capabilities when he was drafted as the 50th overall pick last year, with MLB.com even stating he’s “likely to move down the defensive spectrum”. That said, he’s more than two years younger than the league average in A-ball at just 19 years and should continue to develop his defensive skills.
(A-) Everett AquaSox
Team Record: 8-7 (T-2nd in NW League North Division)
An interesting pitching prospect in the making
- 21 year old RHP Andres Torres made headlines last month by tossing six no-hit shutout innings. He followed that up with another 11 scoreless innings, bringing his total to 17 shutout innings over three starts. The 6’3” Venezuelan’s 3.44 ERA is almost a full point and a half lower than his 4.80 xFIP, but he continues to limit the walks and home runs while regaining some of the strikeout potential he showed in 2015.
Rakin’ Ronald Rosario
- I’m fairly certain I’ve never heard anybody talk about Ronald Rosario, but I wouldn’t expect that to be the case for long. He’s ping ponged a bit this season between the AquaSox and the Mariners’ Rookie Ball affiliates, but don’t expect to see him take a step down the organizational ladder any time soon. In 22 games for Everett, the left-handed right fielder is slashing .389/.443/.764 and his 219 wRC+ is both ridiculous and obviously unsustainable. Rosario, 20, is listed at 6’2, 165 pounds, so I would expect him to add a little more pop as he fills out his frame, and he’s making some steps towards doing just that already this season. After notching just one home run through his first 134 games as a professional, he’s clobbered seven of them in just 35 games this season.
McAfee makes his debut
- About a month and a half ago, the Tampa Bay Rays released RHP Brian McAfee almost exactly one year after drafting him. Last week, the Mariners snatched up the Bothell, Washington native and Tuesday, he made his organizational debut, tossing 3.1 innings of five hit, one run baseball. Typically, this wouldn’t even be noteworthy, but between being released by the Rays and signed by the Mariners, McAfee logged 43.0 impressive innings for the independent league Lincoln Saltdogs. Let’s hope he can replicate the recent success of fellow Saldog-turned-Mariners farmhand Lindsey Caughel (5-2, 1.77 ERA in his last 10 games).
(Rookie) AZL Mariners
Team Record: 5-4 (T-2nd in AZL West Division)
- 1,205 players were drafted in the 2017 MLB Draft. Former UC San Diego OF Jack Larsen was not one of them, but he’s doing his best to prove that he should have been. Through 17 games, the left-handed center fielder is slashing .364/.478/.600, and is walking almost as much as he’s striking out (12 to 15). This piece from UC San Diego’s Official Athletics Site left me scratching my head a bit as to why Larsen went undrafted:
Larsen was one of three Tritons to play in all 63 games in 2017, and one of just two to start each contest, with 60 in right field and three in center. He appeared in the leadoff spot of head coach Eric Newman's order for the first time in his college days on April 14, and made the permanent move on April 27, beginning the last 24 games in a row there. Larsen hit .362 (83-229) with 71 runs, 23 doubles, 15 home runs, 66 RBI, 153 total bases, 56 walks, a .668 slugging percentage and .497 on-base percentage, all career bests. He fielded all 155 defensive chances cleanly, leading the team for a second year in a row with his seven outfield assists.
The M’s plucked stout lefty Chris Castellanos out of Stanford in the 33rd round of this years draft. All he’s done since then is strike out a cool 15.6 batters per nine innings over his 21.1-inning sample. Castellanos’ success—combined with a depleted Rainiers bullpen—earned him a brief callup to Triple-A, where he was promptly knocked around for three hits on four runs, although he did strike out two. Castellanos was a starter in college, but it appears the organization plans to use him as a multi-inning reliever for the time being.
DeAires Moses running mad
DeAires Moses is apparently a player in the Mariners organization, and has been since he was drafted out of Volunteer State Community College in the 19th round in 2016. Moses is listed at just 5’9” and 170lb, and as you may have guessed, has a speedster’s skillset. He’s racked up 16 stolen bases and 4 triples in 33 games for the AZL Mariners this season.