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State of the Farm: 4/17/18

Some hot bats are riding high BABIPs to open the 2018 MiLB season

Everett Herald

Happy Tuesday! The Mariners minor league affiliates had a rough week as almost all of them slid backward in the standings a bit. Nevertheless, it’s considered a positive week in my book as the organization’s #2 prospect, Evan White, made is 2018 debut! Hooray for exciting prospects actually playing in games!

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 5-6 (3rd in Pacific Northern Division)

.264/.376/.390, 1st in PCL in walks

5.10 ERA, 1.58 WHIP, 4th in PCL in strikeouts

The Rainiers are C-ing the Z

At first glance, you’d think that Tacoma was swinging some hot bats over the last week—fair considering they average 8.33 runs per game over six road contests—but the scoring output hasn’t been quite the fireworks show you might expect. The Rainiers are way out ahead of the pack in the PCL with 67 walks, with first baseman Matt Hague’s 14 walks in 48 plate appearances (29.2%) leading the way.

If you missed it last week, Tacoma was involved in a pretty wacky game against the Fresno Grizzlies in which they walked eleven times, including six consecutive free passes in an 11-run ninth inning that went as follows:

Andreoli’s Hot Start Continues

Right-handed outfielder John Andreoli has been the singular offensive standout for Tacoma, as he’s slashed .366/.422/.659 through the season’s first 10 games. His strikeout rate, which has crept north of 25% each of the last two seasons, currently sits at just 20% on the young season. His speed and athleticism have allowed him to consistently run high BABIP’s throughout his minor league career, but his current clip of .433 indicates we can expect his bat to cool some as the season progresses.

Whalen Contributes First Quality Start of the Season

After a strong spring at big league camp, Whalen gave Mariners fans something to be excited about for the first time since being brought into the organization. Friday night, he had a strong showing against a Fresno lineup made up of top prospects and big league veterans, as he allowed just two runs on seven hits and a walk, striking out six over six innings.

Povse Suffers Setback

After an inspiring first outing of the season a week ago, Povse struggled his second time out, laboring through three innings during which he surrendered six runs on five hits and four walks, and he also hit a batter. The season is very young, but his strikeout and walk rates are both currently at career-high levels, and continuing a trend from last season, he’s ran a crazy high BABIP-against. It’s going to be a season-long storyline to follow how the coaching staff makes adjustments with the tall right-hander in his second full year in the organization.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 5-6 (2nd in Texas League North Division)

.244/.361/.382, 1st in Texas League in walks

4.83 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 4th in Texas League in WHIP

Andrew Moore is a Strikeout Pitcher Now

After 11.2 innings of dominance reminiscent of a truly elite pitching prospect through his first two starts, Moore struggled on Sunday, allowing five runs through 4.2 innings, although he struck out nine, raising his strikeout rate to 14.3 K/9. Another positive sign: Moore’s allowed just one home run through 16.1 innings on the season after coughing up 2.14 HR/9 at the big league level last season.

Big First Baseman Curletta Making Big Strides at the Plate

Back in March of 2017, the Mariners sent switch pitcher Pat Venditte to the Phillies in exchange for Joey Curletta, a 6’4” 245lb first baseman. Curletta, who was actually a 6th-round-pick by the Dodgers out of high school back in 2012, posted a 110 wRC+ for High-A Modesto last season and is impressing through his first 10 games with Arkansas this season. He’s slashing .323/.523/.710 and while his 11.7% walk rate last season was a nice step forward from 2016, his 13 walks in 44 plate appearances—good for 29.5%—is a pleasant surprise in the early going this year. His team-leading three home runs coupled with the uptick in free passes has him slotted third in the prospect-heavy Texas League in OPS; however, he’ll likely need to cut down his 31.8% strikeout rate if he expects those results to stick.

Amaral Continues Down Comeback Trail

In 2017—just five years after being a 7th-round-pick by the Cincinnati Reds—Beau Amaral found himself washed out of minor league baseball and playing for the Lancaster Barnstormers of the independent Atlantic League, where he was teammates with former Mariners Steve Clevenger and Trayvon Robinson. Just last month, Amaral—whose father Rich played for the Mariners from 1991-1998—latched on with the Mariners’ organization and was assigned to Double-A Arkansas following Spring Training.

Through nine games, Amaral’s sporting a 142 wRC+ and leading the Travs in hitting; however, he’s yet to draw a walk and is riding a .478 BABIP.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 4-8 (4th in California League North Division)

.265/.342/.398, 2nd in Cal League in OPS

5.05 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, last in Cal League in home runs allowed

Everybody’s (Still) Hitting

The Nuts currently have four everyday players who are hitting .340+ in 1B Nick Zammarelli (.340), SS Donnie Walton (.341), OF Logan Taylor (.341) and 2B Bryson Brigman (.429). While Zammarelli (.533), Taylor (.448), and Brigman (.519) have had some serious BABIP help to date, the results that Walton are churning out appear to be mostly legit. The Oklahoma State product is currently running a BABIP of “just” .371—not outside the realm of repeatable for a fleet-footed lefty—and he’s drawing walks (14.6%) while keeping the strikeouts to a minimum (10.4%). Like teammate Logan Taylor, Walton also missed significant time with an injury last year, leading them to be reassigned to the Nuts despite being a little older for the level, and the two of them figure to be early candidates for call-ups to Double-A Arkansas.

Evan White is Here!

Shortly after last week’s State of the Farm went up, it was announced that Evan White was activated and starting for the Nuts that evening. He’s started every game since, and has singled in each of the last five games. While the extra base power hasn’t shown up yet, perhaps it is on the horizon:

Now just 15 games into his professional career, the continued health and development of the best defensive first baseman in all of minor league baseball will make for an exciting prospect to follow all summer long, as we saw a flash of over Spring Training:

White flashed his leather at first base during his time at big league camp this past spring.

McKay Impressing Out of Nuts’ Bullpen

2016 Kansas City Royals 14th-round-pick David McKay, who was released just a year and a half after being drafted, was signed by the Mariners just over a month ago, and has been impressive in a handful of appearances this season. After being used as a starter in 19 of 32 appearances from 2016-2017, he’s been deployed as a reliever each of the five times he’s pitched for an M’s affiliate, and has racked up nine punchouts in 4.2 innings for Modesto (and also worked a clean inning for Tacoma) without walking a batter. His history as a starter could make him useful in a multi-inning role, particularly in a Nuts bullpen consisting of several exciting prospects that figure to be used in a more “traditional” role.

(A) Clinton LumberKings

Team Record: 5-3 (T-2nd in Midwest League Western Division)

.230/.324/.385, 1st in Midwest League in home runs

2.91 ERA, 1.10 WHIP, 1st in Midwest League in WHIP

Sandoval Standing Out for LumberKings

Ariel Sandoval, who has cycled through the corner outfield spots as well as the DH slot, has belted four long balls already on the young season and is second in the Midwest League in total bases despite Clinton having four games postponed already. The slugger’s 1.444 OPS is tops in the league, and while he’s about nine months older than league average for the level, at just 22 years old, the Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic product has time to establish himself as a legitimate prospect in a thinned-out Mariners system.

More Like “Tommy Whoa-mero”

The dominance of 2017 15th-rounder Tommy Romero has been well documented on this site for a while now, but the kid just keeps impressing every time out. Most recently, he worked six innings of eight strikeout baseball while allowing just three baserunners. Were it not so early in the season, the right-handed likely could have gone another 1-2 (at least) considering he needed just 83 pitches to get through six frames. He’s been nearly two years younger than league average at each level he’s pitched at throughout his professional career, but that hasn’t stopped him from producing. He’s 6-2 with a 1.81 ERA and 0.88 WHIP through 54.2 career innings, and all of his peripherals appear to have taken a step forward upon being promoted for the 2018 season. In his most recent outing, he led the LumberKings to a 2-0 victory over a prospect-stacked Cedar Rapids team (including MLB’s overall #20 prospect Royce Lewis) that was the last remaining undefeated team in all of MiLB.

Other Notes:

Jimenez Still MIA

OF Anthony Jimenez, who enjoyed a breakout but injury-plagued season in 2017, got off to a hot start for Modesto before appearing to pull a hamstring back on April 7. He’s listed as on the 7-Day Disabled List currently, although he should be eligible to come back already.

McClain Rehabbing Biceps Tendinitis

RHP Reggie McClain, who logged 153.1 innings for Modesto last season, dealt with tendinitis in the bicep of his throwing arm in the offseason, and was kept in Arizona for some extended rehab.