[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. We started with the AZL Mariners, followed by the DSL Mariners.]
It’s already day three of our affiliate-by-affiliate rundown, and today sees us officially leaving the rookie ball ranks and making it up to short-season Class-A ball, where, in the Mariners’ case, you’ll find the Everett AquaSox. Last year, the AquaSox were one of the more entertaining affiliates in the organization, filled to the brim with excellent pitching and hitting that carried them all the way to the Northwest League championship game. Duplicating that success in 2017 would be a tall order. Here’s how it went:
Overall Record: 36-40, 4th in North Division
Playoff Record: N/A
In terms of sheer luck, things could’ve gone better for the Everett AquaSox in 2017. Outfielders Johnny Slater and Billy Cooke–two draftees who were expected to be key contributors for Everett this summer–were immediately promoted. First round pick Evan White showed up and immediately got hurt. Top prospect Brayan Hernandez was traded away after 28 games. Several key arms–Wyatt Mills, JP Sears, and Seth Elledge, to name a few–were called up to Clinton in waves. The AquaSox didn’t start their season until June, but they still managed to use 32 different pitchers in total, which was the highest total I was capable of finding throughout their team history. Every facet of the team was a revolving door, and when you understand this, you understand why the team struggled to hit a hot streak throughout the season. It’s hard to string together positive performances when your whole team is either hurt, traded, or promoted to Clinton the moment they start shining. This isn’t a critique of the Mariners, mind you, it’s much more of a patting on the back of the AquaSox and letting them know you understand their pain.
They managed to put themselves in a position to make a playoff run in the second half, but late surges by the Spokane Indians and Vancouver Canadians buried them at the bottom of the division at season’s end.
Team Batting: .258/.325/.406
Team Pitching: 4.59 ERA, 8.8 K/9, 3.4 BB/9
Top Position Player Performances
Johnny Adams, INF
There weren’t many players in the Northwest League who had as surprising of a season as Adams. A 22nd-round pick out of Boston College this summer, Adams went from light-hitting college shortstop to middle-of-the-order force for the AquaSox. In 52 games with Everett (235 plate appearances), Adams hit .316/.381/.445 with 12 doubles, 5 home runs, and 4 stolen bases, easily outpacing his best college season by a significant margin. In a season with constant shuffling, he was a consistent, reliable presence in the lineup. In addition to the improved bat, Adams also flashed potential with the glove after shifting over to third base, an expected move given the above-average arm strength, limited-range profile he exited college with. He still has an endless amount of proving to do, but it was a fun summer for Adams, and he was easily one of the two or three most valuable players on the team.
Eugene Helder, INF
Another fun surprise! Helder went from playing in the Dominican Summer League in 2016 to being one of the Northwest League’s best kept secrets. Helder put his name on the map during a scorching July in which he hit .374/.434/.523 with 5 doubles, 4 triples, and a home run. The red-hot stretch was bookended by much more average months, but during that long period of time in July, Helder looked like the best hitter in the entire league.
Joseph Rosa, INF
There’s a quality argument to be made that Rosa was the team’s best overall hitter during the 2017 season. He was the leader in wRC+ (151), OPS (.905), slugging (.531), and on-base percentage (.374) amongst players with at least 100 plate appearances. There’s also the added fun fact that he doesn’t turn 21 until March. Oh, and his play inspired several fantastic headlines such as ‘Guns & Rosa’.
Ronald Rosario, OF
The 20-year-old Rosario enjoyed the best season of his young professional career, finishing with a 143 wRC+ and a shiny .294/.355/.516 batting line. After hitting just one home run from 2014-2016, Rosario belted six dingers for the AquaSox. Similar to Rosa, Rosario won’t be turning 21 until early next year (in this case February).
David Banuelos, C
Banuelos didn’t do a ton at the plate and that part of his game is still considered to be very much a work in progress, but the true intrigue of Banuelos is the fact that he finally gives the Mariners a stellar defensive catcher in their system. Banuelos carved out a name for himself as one of the better backstops in the country at Long Beach State, with ‘Don’t run on Banuelos’ becoming one of the more often used phrases during the Dirtbags’ playoff run (which ended with a loss in the Super Regionals to Cal State Fullerton). The defense was frequently on display in Everett and his body of work helped him land a spot on the All-Star team.
Top Pitching Performances
Andres Torres, RHP
The bar for starting pitching on the AquaSox was low, but Torres proved to be the most reliable option all year long. If his nam rings a bell, you might have heard it back in mid-July when he twirled six no-hit innings before handing the ball over to the bullpen. There were bumps and ugly outings along the way, sure, but results-wise, Torres had a fine year, registering a 3.65 ERA and 64 strikeouts in 74 innings.
Matt Clancy, LHP
One of the very few relievers who actually stuck around long enough for me to give serious consideration here. Clancy impressed in his second year in the organization, striking out 49 over just 32.2 innings. His 2.99 FIP was the second-best mark on the team (min: 15 IP).
Honorable Mentions, a.k.a. the short stints club:
Wyatt Mills – 3rd-round pick out of Gonzaga. Struck out 11 and surrendered just 3 hits in 7 innings before getting bumped up to Clinton.
JP Sears – 11th-round pick out of The Citadel. Struck out 22 in 10.2 innings and finished with a 1.16 xFIP.
Chris Castellanos – 33rd-rounder out of Stanford who popped up to Everett at the end of the year. Registered 15 strikeouts and walked just 4 in 11.2 innings. Finished with a 3.01 xFIP.
Other Notable Prospects
Chris Torres, SS
Torres made the jump to Everett this year and did okay, posting a 113 wRC+ with a decent glove to go along with it. The tools are clearly there, but he remains a fairly raw project.
Oliver Jaskie, LHP
Jaskie struggled over the summer, surrendering 23 earned runs in just 30.1 innings. Still, he recovered nicely down the stretch and I think he has the best chance of anyone in the Mariners’ 2017 class not named ‘Sam Carlson’ to move through the system as a starting pitcher.
Evan White, 1B
We didn’t get to see nearly as much of White as we wished, as injuries hampered him for much of the 2017 season. After a somewhat slow start, White briefly found his groove at the plate and finished his season with a line of .277/.345/.532 over 14 games. He’ll likely enter the 2018 season as the Mariners’ No. 3 or No. 4 prospect, depending on how you feel about Sam Carlson.