The LumberKings are still the only M’s affiliate turning in a winning performance as a collective unit, but there’s exciting prospects up and down the system, and more on the way!
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 16-17 (3rd in Pacific Northern Division)
.259/.365/.389, 1st in PCL in walks
4.82 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 4th-fewest home runs allowed in PCL
Andreoli Showing Off Speed On Basepaths
OF John Andreoli, who has collected 15 total bases in eight games since returning from the DL, has also swiped three bags over his last two games, bringing him to 5-5 on stolen base attempts on the season. While his walk rate remains a bit lower than is typical for him (by about 3.0%), he’s slugging like he hasn’t ever before. His mark of .519—in addition to a .393 BABIP—is propelling a career-best 146 wRC+.
Miller Doing What He Does Best
OF Ian Miller has seemingly secured a starting role in the Rainiers’ outfield, and his career-high .327 batting average is only part of the reason why. In addition to playing his typically spectacular defense, he’s leading all Mariners affiliates in stolen bases, and is tied for third in the PCL with eight. With the recent departure of Ichiro (as an active player anyways), the path to the big leagues has gotten a little clearer for Miller, and he appears to be jostling with Andreoli for position as the next man up should the need for another outfielder on the active roster arise.
Armstrong Dominating Triple-A Opposition
The trials of the PCL are proving no match for Armstrong, who has appeared in 39 Major League games over the past three seasons. The right hander has posted 11.8 K/9 through 13.0 innings, and has allowed just four hits and eight walks over that span, good for .093 BAA and 0.92 WHIP. The elevated walk total has caused him to run a 4.85 xFIP, but he’s issued just two free passes and no hits over his last five outings, perhaps indicating he’s finding his command on the mound.
Gillies Inching Closer to Bigs
2016 breakout reliever Darrin Gillies got the call to Tacoma last week, and has turned in three consecutive 2.0 inning outings. After a rocky first two appearances over which he surrendered two runs on two hits and three walks, he fanned three over two shutout innings last night, allowing two hits and a walk. His 5.6 BB/9 is more than double the mark of his 2016 campaign, so he’ll need to cut down on the free passes in order to maximize his effectiveness at the upper levels of the minors.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 14-16 (3rd in Texas League North Division)
.258/.360/.360, 2nd-fewest strikeouts in Texas League
4.76 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 2nd-fewest strikeouts in Texas League
Taylor Rediscovering His Stroke
Former Diamondbacks farmhand OF Chuck Taylor has been swinging a hot bat as of late, slashing .350/.413/.375 over his last 10 games. While the slugging doesn’t quite match the .412 mark he posted in the Venezuelan Winter League over the offseason, the .413 OBP parallels his .401 mark he put up through 59 game for the Cardenales de Lara nicely. His 12.8% strikeout rate is a career-low, but he’s going to need to start putting some balls in the gaps if he wants to keep climbing the ladder in a system that’s currently fairly top-heavy with outfielders.
Moore Continues to Impress
Oregon State University product RHP Andrew Moore is faring well in his Double-A reunion tour, as he’s showed off the best strikeout stuff he’s ever had. He’s currently running 10.8 K/9 for the Travelers, and doing a fine job of limiting walks (2.1 BB/9) and home runs (0.8 HR/9). The organization clearly has plans to take it slow with advancing him through the system this time around, but after six impressive starts at Double-A, he may just get bumped to Tacoma sooner than later, especially if Max Povse continues to prove ineffective for the Rainiers.
Festa Proving Strikeout Stuff For Real
After seeing his K/9 jump by more than four full strikeouts from 8.7 in 2016 to 12.8 2017, RHP Matt Festa has doubled-down on the feat (in an incredibly small sample size), increasing that mark to 16.0 K/9 through 9.0 innings for Arkansas. He’s had absolutely dreadful batted ball luck, as he’s running a .450 BABIP against, and has still managed to be effective, thanks to the ridiculous strikeout numbers. He seems to be suffering from the same misfortune as fellow reliever Art Warren in that they’re being under-utilized in order to preserve their traditional bullpen roles, having appeared in just seven (of a possible 30) games each.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 15-18 (4th in California League North Division)
.273/.354/.395, leading Cal League in strikeouts
4.74 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, fewest strikeouts in Cal League
Another Day, Another Multi-Hit Game for Brigman
Nuts shortstop Bryson Brigman has been picking up multi-hit games like they’re going out of style, and Wednesday night was no exception. After a 4-5 night Wednesday, he’s now slashing .389/.462/.540 on the season, and he’s leading the league in hitting by a wide margin. While Fangraphs grades his hit tool with a future value of 60, he’s never done anything like this before, this being the first time in now his third professional season that he’s wRC+’d 100 or better. His BABIP currently sits at .464, but even if he manages to lose a full 100 points off his average, it’ll still be a career-best.
Donnie Walton is Bored (Probably)
Following a good-not-great injury-shortened stint with Modesto last season, Donne Walton is setting the league on fire in 2018, trailing only his infield counterpart in hitting at .354. He’s raised his average 63 points through his last 10 games, over which he’s slashed .486/.583/.649. Save for just one inning last season, he’s played only second and short throughout his professional career, so that’s likely where he’ll need a spot cleared in Arkansas to get the call to the next level. Beyond IF Chris Mariscal, there’s nobody up in Arkansas that can’t be displaced or bumped to another position to make room for Walton’s bat on the Travs roster.
RHP Reggie McClain has returned to action following some biceps tendinitis that kept him in extended spring training, and it’s been smooth sailing through his first three starts. Following back-to-back quality starts, he fell just short last time out, fanning eight over 5.1 innings of four run ball. The Missouri product was a workhorse last season, logging 27 starts and recording 153.1 innings, showing durability and an ability to go deep into games beyond his years of professional experience would indicate. Based off his extended stay in Modesto last season, he could easily move up the ladder quickly if he continues to string together quality starts.
Evan White Hasn’t Cooled Down
The M’s top infield prospect has shown no signs of quitting on offense. He’s seen his average climb 76 points from .205 to .281 in just over two weeks and is now running an even 100 wRC+ on the season. His isolated power is about one-third of what it was last season, and his strikeouts are up ~8%, but those things should correct themselves as he continues getting reps in over the course of the summer.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 17-12 (1st in Midwest League Western Division)
.255/.337/.407, 3rd in Midwest League in slugging
4.20 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 5th in Midwest League in strikeouts
Ojeda’s Streak Still Alive
Community college standout turned Mariners draft pick OF Dimas Ojeda has now collected two or more hits in seven straight games and in 10 of 12 games. He’s picked up 10 extra-base hits over that nice little streak, and his season-long BABIP is now up to .462 while his wRC+ is up to 179. Ojeda struggled with Clinton last season following success in the AZL and NWL, but the second go-round seems to be headed in a much more positive direction. The 6’1” 195lb left-handed hitter could establish himself as a top organizational prospect if he’s able to produce season-long for the LumberKings.
Costello is the System’s Newest First Base Prospect
After a gig as the AZL Mariners’ near-full time third baseman following being drafted in the 31st round last June, Ryan Costello has found a new home as Clinton’s everyday first baseman. He’s had a hot stick lately in particular, and is now slashing .323/.434/.559 on the season. His advanced statistics are eerily similar to last season’s production, and if he continues at this rate, he won’t be one of the system’s best-kept-secrets for much longer.
I Still Can’t Believe This Guy Went Undrafted
Sandwiched between Ojeda and Costello as the #5 hitter in the Midwest League is OF Jack Larsen, who’s rode a recent hot streak to a season-long line of .320/.421/.598. Larsen turned 23 in January, making him older for the level, but if he continues to dominate like this he should see time in Modesto for an age-appropriate test soon. He’s tied for second among Mariners affiliate players with five home runs, and checks in at third in OPS behind only his aforementioned teammates.
But Hot On Their Heels...
The M’s used their 22nd-round-pick in 2017 on shortstop Johnny Adams out of Boston College. Like seemingly everybody on the LumberKings’ roster, he had a nice run of success in his first professional season last year, and following suit, he’s doing it again in 2018. After struggling offensively for most of his four years in the ACC, Adams has been the beneficiary of great BABIP luck—he BABIP’d .372 last year and currently has a .400 BABIP this year—to date in his professional career. There’s a bit of an infield logjam up at Modesto even if Donnie Walton does get promoted, so it’ll likely benefit his Adams’ development most to continue receiving everyday at-bats in Clinton.
Lewis Expected Back Any Day Now
We received word last week via Ryan Divish of The Seattle Times that top prospect OF Kyle Lewis was “nearing a return to full game clearance” and would likely report to Modesto as early as this week. When he’s ready, it would stand to reason that there will be a ripple effect on other affiliates. My best guess as of now is that either Logan Taylor moves up to Arkansas at the expense of one of the 27-year-olds (Beau Amaral, Andrew Aplin, Seth Mejias-Brean, or Zach Shank) or 2014 74th overall pick Gareth Morgan and his * whispers * 55.6% strikeout rate are sent back down to Clinton to hopefully iron out some kinks in his offense.
Zokan Nearing A Return to the Mound
I recently reached out to LHP Jake Zokan regarding his impending return to game action, and he got back to me saying he is “very close”. According to the man himself, he’s got a few live bullpens to throw before reporting to extended spring training for game action and then expects to be shipped out to Double-A Arkansas. This is great news for the 27-year-old southpaw who was enjoying a breakout 2016 season, his first as a full-time reliever, before being forced to go under the knife with Tommy John.
We’ve Got Another Healy Now
The M’s inked RHP Tucker Healy to a minor league deal this week and assigned him to Tacoma. The reliever from Ithaca College has struggled since reaching Triple-A in the Athletics’ system in 2014, but he’s produced elite strikeout numbers nearly his entire career, posting marks as high as 15.1 K/9 at any level he’s accumulated noteworthy innings. A’s Director of Player Development Keith Lieppman said regarding Healy, “He’s got a real heavy sinker; guys don’t square him up very often. His slider has been a big addition to his repertoire. He’s been a setup guy, a closer.” Former-Triple-A Manager Steven Scarsone noted, “What I really enjoyed about Tucker was his evolution into an end-of-the-game guy with stuff that doesn’t necessarily play out as a closer - his fastball is 91-92 mph. He did a great job for us last year, when an outsider would say he doesn’t have that much. That showed he had matured into a guy who competes, and I think there is a lot more he can accomplish.”