Javelinas, if you didn’t know, are an animal indigenous to Central America, Mexico, and parts of the American Southwest, and are better known as peccaries, or sometimes, skunk pigs. But I prefer “javelinas,” named for the sharp, pointed tusks that are their canine teeth and help them crush up seeds and cut roots. Along with fellow prospects from the Braves, Red Sox, Padres, and Blue Jays organizations, these Mariner prospects will be donning the Devil Pig Javelinas hat from October 10 - November 18 to compete against some of the top prospects in baseball:
Matthew Festa, RHP
Drafted in 2016, Festa has improved on his numbers from short-season Everett, putting up a K/9 of almost 13 over 66.2 innings this year with Modesto. His FIP is 3.10, impressive for the hitter-friendly Cal League, and his xFIP is even lower, 2.98. Teammate Art Warren and Festa have combined to lock down the back end of the Nuts’ bullpen this year, as Festa has been one of Modesto’s most reliable arms.
Art Warren, RHP
Warren was moved to the bullpen this year, where his fastball has ticked up to the mid-90s. As a former starter, he has the ability to give a team multiple innings, although he’s mostly been used in a setup role in Modesto this year. Warren has a three-pitch mix, with a low-80s slider and a mid-70s curveball.
Darin Gillies, RHP
After putting up sterling numbers at A+ Bakersfield last year, Gillies has seen his numbers dip a little since moving to Double-A Arkansas this year. His K/9 has fallen and his BB/9 has risen. A trip to the AFL will help the 24-year-old continue to refine his wipeout slider and hopefully get his strikeouts back up.
Max Povse, RHP
It’s a little surprising to see Povse assigned to this level, seeing as how he has some major-league time and the AFL is considered “graduate school” for prospects on the cusp of making MLB. But considering how much Povse has yo-yoed between levels and roles this year, an AFL stint can provide some stability he hasn’t had in his baseball career this year. I’m hoping this signals an end to the “Max Povse = Chris Devenski?” experiment.
Joe DeCarlo, C
Joe DeCarlo is maybe the most interesting prospect in the Mariners system from a positional standpoint. A decent third baseman, DeCarlo was converted to catcher this spring, a role he’s taken on with enthusiasm and determination. His offensive numbers have dipped slightly since converting to backstop, which can be expected for someone attempting to learn the most demanding position in baseball, but the falloff hasn’t been catastrophic (107 wRC+ vs. 128). He’ll continue to refine his skills behind the plate, catching some of the game’s top pitching prospects.
Braden Bishop, OF
Last year, the Mariners promoted Bishop aggressively, moving the then-22-year-old to A+ Bakersfield midseason after a strong showing at Clinton. Bishop struggled to adjust to the Cal League, finishing the year with just a 70 wRC+. After an off-season spent working on his swing, however, Bishop has rebounded in a big way, going on a tear at Modesto that saw him named to the Cal League All-Star Game, where he won MVP. The Mariners were again aggressive with the then-23-year-old, promoting him to Double-A Arkansas after the All-Star Break. This time, however, Bishop has responded by putting up even better numbers than he did in the Cal League, putting up a 146 wRC+ over 31 games for the Travelers while continuing to play excellent defense. He’s not a power hitter, but it’s arguable that Bishop is the toolsiest player in Seattle’s system, non-Kyle-Lewis-division. He could very easily put himself on the national radar—as Tyler O’Neill did last year—with a strong performance at the AFL.
Kyle Lewis, OF
Injuries have dimmed Lewis’ star, and he’s put up some fairly mortal-looking numbers at Modesto this year amid questions he’s not entirely healthy, but playing in the AFL will give Lewis a chance to make up for some of the time he’s lost to injury. After spending most of his pro career in the lower minors, being exposed to the game’s top pitching prospects will be immeasurably valuable for him. It’s important to manage expectations for Lewis’s performance in the AFL. Tyler O’Neill comparisons will probably be inevitable, but O’Neill made his AFL appearance after four solid, injury-free years of pro ball, and was coming off a career year that saw him win every hitting award in the world. It’s entirely possible the relatively inexperienced Lewis will struggle in the AFL, and it will be okay.
There’s some weirdness going on here. Eric Filia was on the first version of the roster I saw, where he was listed as an INF, then disappeared from the AFL website for a while, and now that I check back he’s there again, although still listed as an INF. (Filia is an outfielder.) Filia has toiled away in Modesto all year without getting to test himself against tougher competition (although it’s good he’s been able to be close to his newborn twins, who needed some supportive care after being born), and I’m anxious to see what he will be able to do at a higher level. Filia’s plate appearances are a joy to watch as he simply does not strike out—his BB% (12%) is four points higher than his K%. Expect Filia to make the most of his opportunity.
Fun note: Brewers legend and former Mariner Corey Hart will act as hitting coach. I hope it will be 2010 Corey Hart coaching them and not 2014 Corey Hart.