[Editor’s Note: With the minor league season winding down, we’ll be giving a rundown of how each affiliate’s season went. We’ll take a look at a different affiliate each day, starting with the rookie ball teams and eventually working our way up to Triple-A Tacoma.]
Hello and welcome to the official end of the 2017 MiLB regular season. At this point, all that’s left is the playoffs, a magical land that only two Mariners affiliate are lucky enough to participate in this year. One of these teams–the AZL Mariners–just so happens to be the team we’re kicking things off with in this day-by-day, affiliate-by-affiliate rundown.
As most of you know, the Arizona League is a far less silly version of minor league baseball. There are no wild promotions, social media accounts, wild mascots, and so on. The games aren’t broadcast and deep information is typically hard to come by. It’s all very formal, so apologies if today’s rundown follows suit.
Overall Record: 31-24, 1st in Arizona League West standings
Playoff Result: Lost in Quarterfinals to AZL Rangers, 1-0
Leading the league in average player age may not get you much in terms of style points or prospect hype, but it will typically get you a season full of positive results in the lower levels of the minors. This was very much the case for the AZL Mariners, who finished the season with a .564 winning percentage and a first-half title under their belts.
They faced off against the AZL Rangers in the first round of the Arizona League playoffs, a one-game showdown that determined who moved on to the semifinals. Right-handed pitchers Ryan Weber (rehab) and Tommy Romero were stellar, combining for seven innings of one-hit baseball to kick things off. A Jack Larsen RBI triple, Ryan Costello RBI single, and a Geoandry Montilla solo home run all helped lift them out to a 3-0 lead in the meantime. Unfortunately, the fun would stop there. A plethora of ground ball singles in the 8th led to the AZL Rangers’ first three runs of the game. One inning later, the Rangers would tack on their fourth and final run and hang on in the bottom half of the inning, officially ending the AZL Mariners’ season.
Top Position Player Performances
Ryan Costello, INF
Costello, a 31st-round draft pick out of Central Connecticut State this past June, was a big part of the offense all season long. In 44 games (172 plate appearances) with the AZL Mariners, the third baseman slashed .331/.430/.634, good enough for a 175 wRC+. He finished with 13 doubles, 3 triples, 8 home runs, and a 13:14 walk-to-strikeout ratio (26:38). A couple more impressive numbers: a .464 wOBA and .303 ISO.
Jack Larsen, OF
Larsen came to the organization as an undrafted free agent out of UC San Diego. He wasted no time in making himself feel at home with the Mariners, putting up a 175 wRC+ and slashing .312/.472/.541 on the year. Larsen moved all over the outfield for the AZL Mariners, playing primarily in center field (195 of 243 total innings) and never committing an error. It’s difficult for UDFAs to earn spots in the organization moving forward, but I’ll be pretty surprised if we don’t see Larsen get some sort of look in 2018 at Clinton.
Connor Hoover, INF
Hoover was the third of the three primary offensive weapons in the AZL Mariners lineup. In 142 plate appearances, Hoover hit .267/.481/.405 with a 157 wRC+ and 23.2 walk percentage. The 21st-round pick out of North Georgia also showed off a reliable glove all over the infield, spending the majority of his time at second base. Fun Fact: Hoover was a finalist for the Tito Martinez Award this past year, given annually to the most valuable player in D-II baseball.
Kevin Santa – Not included because he only played in 19 games for the AZL Mariners. Made a big impact while he was there, however, slashing .394/.481/.545 in addition to stellar defense at shortstop
Caleb Eldridge – Came over from the Phillies in July and immediately slotted in as one of the better hitters in the lineup. Hit .298/.359/.481 with 8 doubles, 2 triples, and 4 home runs in 145 plate appearances.
Top Pitching Performances
Chris Castellanos, LHP
A 33rd-round pick out of Stanford, Castellanos excelled coming out of the bullpen for the AZL Mariners. In 21.1 innings, the lefty recorded 37 strikeouts while walking just one. Aside from a couple one-inning stint pitchers, Castellanos owned the best xFIP (1.48) and FIP (1.49) on the team. He eventually moved on to the Everett AquaSox, where he struck out 15 in 11.2 innings.
Sam Delaplane, RHP
Delaplane gave the AZL Mariners another strikeout-heavy pitcher in the bullpen. In 31 innings, he registered 47 punch-outs and finished with a 2.43 xFIP. The 23rd-round pick out of Eastern Michigan also made a brief appearance in Tacoma, striking out three over two innings on Monday.
Tommy Romero, RHP
Romero emerged as the workhorse of the staff, easily finishing with the team-high in innings pitched (43.1). More importantly, he provided effective innings, allowing just 10 earned runs (2.08 ERA) while striking out 51 (10.59 K/9). As I mentioned earlier, the Eastern Florida State product also showed up in the one-game playoff, striking out 9 and surrendering just one hit over six innings.