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State of the Farm: 5/24/18

It’s starting to feel like it’s time for some shuffling at the lower levels...

There’s been a lot of activity among the Mariners’ affiliates over the last week on account of a slew of injuries at the major league level. While three of the four affiliates currently in-season are hovering around .500, the squad with both of the organization’s top two prospects is five games under .500. Craziness!

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 24-23 (2nd in Pacific Northern Division)

.252/.354/.403, 5th-fewest hits in PCL

4.83 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 4th in PCL in strikeouts

Miranda Commanding the Zone

After surrendering nine free passes over 9.2 innings spanning two starts, LHP Aríel Miranda hasn’t issued a single walk over his last two starts, working 13.0 innings, allowing 14 hits and three earned runs while striking out 11. The hits are a bit higher than you’d like, but the fact that he seems to have identified and corrected something in his mechanics bodes well for his results going forward.

Bergman Posting Best Rate Stats to Date

The Mariners rewarded RHP Christian Bergman for his dynamic 7.0 inning/two-hit effort last week by demoting him back to the Rainiers, where he’s seen his strikeout and home run rates increased drastically this season. His 8.5 K/9 improves significantly on last year’s 6.6 K/9, and he’s allowed just one home run on the season. He impressed again on Monday, his first start back with Tacoma, posting 7.0 innings, 3 H, 2 ER, 0 BB, 8 SO.

Roenis Struggling in Starting Role

After posting 6.0 shutout innings at Reno back on May 7, LHP Roenis Elias has had a rough go of it his last three outings, posting a line of 13.1 IP, 13 ER, 19 H, 7 BB, 15 SO. With the emergence of Wade LeBlanc’s apparent ability to start and Miranda ironing things out in Tacoma, Elias may best serve the team in a bullpen role going forward if the team eventually pulls the plug on the struggling Marc Rzepczysnki.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 22-23 (4th in Texas League North Division)

.265/.358/.373, last in Texas League in home runs

4.56 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 3rd in Texas League in home runs allowed

Logan Taylor Staying Hot Following Promotion

3B/OF Logan Taylor earned a promotion to Arkansas after opening the season with High-A Modesto, where he posted a 133 wRC+. He’s been playing mostly third base for the Travs, and has continued to rake, posting a 180 wRC+ through his first seven games at the Double-A level. The .563 BABIP and 8:1 SO:BB ratio suggest hard times may be coming for the Texas A&M product, but the hot streak has no doubt been good for his confidence.

Chris Mariscal is Different

After a rough adjustment period to the AA level, INF Chris Mariscal appears to be transitioning back into the player he for the Nuts last season, as he’s matched the 129 wRC+ he posted there in addition to posting a remarkably similar slash line that’s .006/.008/.002 away from his 2017 Modesto line. Oh, and his ISO is within .004 as well. Where he’s seen a huge change, however, is in his strikeout rate, which stands at 29.1%, after he posted a mark of 19.6% with Modesto. Strangely, despite his strikeout rate jumping substantially, his walk rate has risen slightly, from 11.5% to 13.4% this season. Another big change, and the one that makes me wonder slightly if he may be selling out for power a bit, is that he’s pulling the ball 57.7% of the time, nearly 10% more often than ever before, and it’s coming mostly at the expense of his up-the-middle hits. Mariscal is still one of the Travs’ most effective hitters, however, and combines that with solid defense that plays anywhere on the infield.

Povse’s Struggles Continue

No, this wasn’t accidentally tucked into the wrong section. RHP Max Povse was demoted to Double-A Arkansas in hopes of establishing some consistency in his performance, and things got off to a...I guess fine start? You’d think a guy who was running 11.1 K/9 at Triple-A would dominate at the Double-A level, but that wasn’t necessarily the case for The Tall Wall, who allowed four earned on nine hits and a walk, however he did fan seven. Povse looked at times like he may be the true prize of the Alex Jackson trade of 2016, but his development has only crept backwards after stalling last season.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 20-26 (4th in California League North Division)

.255/.338/.370, 2nd-fewest strikeouts in Cal League

4.54 ERA, 1.47 WHIP, 2nd-fewest strikeouts in Cal League

Ljay Has Been Awesome (Except Once)

It’s not uncommon for minor league starting pitchers to often exit their outings before making it through six innings, particularly at the lower levels, but don’t tell that to RHP Ljay Newsome. He’s gone 6.0+ innings in each of his last four starts, and is currently riding a 21.2 inning scoreless streak over which he’s posted a 0.69 WHIP. His season-long 4.05 ERA drops to 3.17 if you omit his seven run blowup in his first start of the season. Fresh off of Cal League Pitcher of the Week honors, the former 26th-rounder could be in line for some late-season innings at the Double-A level.

Walton Carrying the Load on Offense

While the Nuts’ offense as a whole has been slumping lately, INF Donnie Walton has kept right on hitting and is now slashing .371/.480/.516 in the month of May. In addition to hitting for extra-base power, he’s also walking 12.4% of the time while striking out just a 15.7% rate. A promotion seems inevitable for Walton, as current Travelers shortstop Yonathan Mendoza is struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line.

Lewis Playing Consistently

For the first time since being activated, top prospect OF Kyle Lewis played on three consecutive days last weekend, and while he was 1-11 on the weekend, he bounced back with a 2-5 performance Tuesday, picking up a run batted in and a run scored. His Pull% is about 10% lower than any other stop in his career, indicating he’s still getting his timing back. He’s also being worked back into the outfield, starting in center field on an every-other-day basis for the time being.

McCaughan Gunning for ERA Title

Lost in the excitement of the M’s last two first rounders being assigned to Modesto has been an impressive breakout sesason from RHP Darren McCaughan, whom the Mariners selected in the 12th round out of Long Beach State last June. McCaughan currently sits third in the Cal League in ERA at 2.39 through 49.0 innings, and his 2.38 FIP and 3.27 xFIP says it’s mostly legit. A control pitcher, the righty is finding success in forcing opponents to keep hit the ball on the ground, something that’s happened 52.1% of the time they’ve put it in play. He’s also managed to open his professional career by going 61.0 innings without surrendering a home run.

(A) Clinton LumberKings

Team Record: 23-20 (3rd in Midwest League Western Division)

.245/.326/.375, 7th in Midwest League in slugging percentage

4.19 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 2nd in Midwest League in strikeouts

Romero Continuing to Establish Himself

Breakout prospect RHP Tommy Romero has continued to impress here in his second professional season. After twirling 7.0 innings of shutout, seven strikeout ball back on Friday, Romero fanned seven more over 5.0 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and two walks. He’s now officially surpassed his innings total from the AZL last summer, and has allowed more than two earned runs in just one of his nine starts. The next step in Romero’s development will be to see him work deeper into ballgames—he’s reached the 6.0 inning threshold just twice.

Delaplane Finding Success as Reliever

After a successful senior season as a starting pitcher at Eastern Michigan in 2017 that led to him being drafted, RHP Sam Delaplane has been excellent in a relief role since joining the Mariners’ system. Like Romero, he was a late round selection last June (23rd round) that produced immediately. His 1.72 xFIP through 18.0 innings this season has been fueled by a 15.0 K/9 strikeout rate, something of a surprise from a guy who comes at hitters with a 5’11” 175lb frame. His background as a starter has allowed the LumberKings to use him in multi-inning rules, including 2.0 inning outings three of his last four times out.

Wilcox Dominating Post-Demotion

After pretty rough results following a transition to starting in 2016, RHP Kyle Wilcox emerged as an elite strikeout reliever last season when he posted a 14.0 K/9 strikeout rate. That production earned him the opportunity to start this season with Modesto, but after a rocky 4.2 inning stint, he found himself back with Clinton, and he immediately got busy dominating opposing hitters. Through 15.2 combined innings this season, he’s racked up 29 strikeouts, but has been a bit prone to the big inning, surrendering nine of his 14 earned runs on the season over two appearances. He’s been able to keep the walks in check since joining the LumberKings, posting five walks over 11.0 innings after surrendering six in 4.2 innings with Modesto.