After a flurry of moves to open the month of June, this week has mostly been the calm before the storm that is the impending influx of the 2018 draft class this weekend. With Everett set to kick their season off Friday and the AZL Mariners opening Monday, covering the Mariners minors is only just starting to ramp up! Let’s focus in on the top four affiliates before a good chunk of our attention inevitably turns to the shiny new toys by this time next week...
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 32-33 (2nd in Pacific Northern Division)
.251/.350/.396, 6th in PCL in runs
4.67 ERA, 1.44 WHIP, 3rd-fewest home runs allowed in PCL
Miller Chasing Down Broxton
Following a six-hit weekend during which he stole a base in three consecutive games, OF Ian Miller stands in second place in the PCL in stolen bases with 17, one behind Colorado Springs’ Keon Broxton. While his 97 wRC+ is a step down from his 83 game stint at Double-A last season, it’s a huge improvement over the mark of 57 he posted through 41 games last summer in his first go-round at the Triple-A level. His current 9.7% walk rate is a career-best, and his skills on the basepaths make him a valuable weapon off the bench at the big league level, but the “.347” in his .295/.374/.347 slash line is likely holding him back, but he should get a look by September at the latest regardless.
Whalen Finding Success Pitching to Contact
Mariners fans were buzzing over what appeared to be the turning of a corner for RHP Rob Whalen back in spring training when he racked up 16 strikeouts in 11.0 innings and allowed just two earned runs before getting blown up for nine runs (eight earned) on eight hits and three walks in his final tune-up before, presumably, making the opening day roster. It’s been a season of ups and downs for the 2012 12th rounder, but he’s finally found a little consistency over his last five starts, allowing no more than two earned runs and working no less than 5.0 innings in any outing. He’s been far from the dominant pitcher he flashed back in the spring, posting just 5.5 K/9 through 28.0 innings over that span, leading to the substantial gap between his ERA (2.57) and FIP (3.97) in the same timeframe. The key to his success through those five starts has been limiting the walks—he’s coughed up just 2.9 BB/9—and keeping the ball in the ballpark, as he’s yet to allow a home run in those outings. While the peripherals don’t particularly indicate Whalen is ready to be tested by the big leagues again, it’s nice to see him consistently giving his guys a chance to win ballgames.
Miranda Returns in Relief Role
After missing just under three weeks of action, LHP Aríel Miranda made his return Monday night for the Rainiers, tossing 2.0 innings of one hit, zero walk, three strikeout ball out of the bullpen. It being his first outing back, it appears it was more of a “rehab” outing than the beginning of a new role for Miranda, especially considering he’d been one of Tacoma’s top starting pitchers prior to injury.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 32-32 (T-1st in Texas League North Division)
.280/.363/.392, last in Texas League in home runs
4.40 ERA, 1.48 WHIP, 4th in Texas League in ERA
McKay Continuing to Dominate in Multi-Inning Role
RHP David McKay’s perfect 1.2 inning appearance Sunday afternoon, during which he recorded two strikeouts, was the 13th time this season (in as many tries mind you) that the mid-March free agent signing has given his club multiple innings and multiple strikeouts in an appearance. He continues to duke it out with fellow farmhands RHP Kyle Wilcox and RHP Sam Delaplane for the organization’s top strikeout rate at 14.1 K/9 through 30.2 innings. After opening the season by giving Modesto 7.2 innings of work, he joined Arkansas, where he has posted a 3.33 xFIP through 22.0 innings. Particularly with the value placed on relievers who are capable of working multiple innings, McKay’s skillset is quickly establishing hime as a legitimately exciting prospect who could move through the system quickly.
Bishop’s Bat as Hot as They Come
After opening the season by struggling mightily, OF Braden Bishop has been perhaps the hottest hitter in all of Double-A over the last two weeks. He picked up Texas League Player of the Week honors last week after slashing .516/.545/.903 with three homers, three doubles, eight RBI’s, and 12 runs scored and made a darn good case to double-down on that feat by slashing .438/.500/.625 the following week. He’s posted a 139 wRC+ since May 1, continuing a trend he’s demonstrated through his young career of making adjustments mid-season at the dish to produce results, silencing any doubters of his status as the organization’s #5 prospect.
Mendoza’s Bat Coming Around
Following a month of May during which Travs SS Yonathan Mendoza slashed .205/.280/.247, his season-long wRC+ stood at just 67 as a 24-year-old in his eighth season of professional baseball. The switch-hitting product of Venezuela has slashed .439/.478/.488 since the calendar turned to June, and now has his season line up to .284/.362/.331. Extra-base hits have been hard to come by, as 40 of his 48 hits on the season have been singles, leading to the pedestrian slugging percentage, but the minor league vet has hit just enough to stave off Nuts SS Donnie Walton. For now.
Povse Posts Third Straight Quality Start
Much like the man Atlanta packaged him with (Whalen), RHP Max Povse has had a wildly inconsistent season to date as an M’s affiliate player. After starting the season with Triple-A Tacoma, he’s found increased success since joining Arkansas. For the first time since being demoted, strikeouts evaded the tall right-hander his last time out as he recorded just one punchout over an otherwise impressive 8.0 shutout innings on Monday. He’s posted a quality start in four of his five Travs outings, and fell just one out shy of doing so in the fifth start. The M’s may decide they want him to spend the remainder of the season building confidence and refining his craft in Double-A, but based off performance alone, Povse may be deserving of another look in Tacoma sooner than later.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 28-37 (4th in California League North Division)
.253/.331/.375, 4th in Cal League in OBP
4.58 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, second-highest ERA and WHIP in Cal League
Lewis Back on Track
Top organizational prospect OF Kyle Lewis broke an 0-9 slide on Saturday, and has gone 5-12 since. The walk rate (4.0%) and strikeout rate (26.0%) continue to be a far cry from what you’d like to see, but the fact that the oft-injured center fielder is simply manning one of the more demanding defensive positions on a near-daily basis is a huge step in the right direction.
Dominican OF Luis Liberato was activated just three weeks ago, but has wasted no time getting started on a mission to top the career-high 14 home runs he hit last season. Through 20 games, the 22-year-old has already gone deep six times, and is running a career high average (.277), isolated power (.291), slugging (.590), wRC+ (126), a career-low strikeout rate (17.6%), and is currently riding a 10-game hitting streak. Repeating the High-A level, Liberato may be poised for a big season if he’s able to stay healthy going forward.
Brigman Heating Back Up
Travs SS Bryson Brigman followed up a month of April during which he batted north of .400 with a somewhat disappointing May. He’s turned things back up a notch here in June however, slashing .333/.429/.389 through 11 games. Brigman’s bat isn’t his calling card as a prospect, but it’s been a pleasant surprise so far this season, as he sits second in the Cal League in hitting at .329.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 37-28 (1st in Midwest League Western Division)
.240/.323/.369, 4th in Midwest League in runs scored
3.87 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 2nd in Midwest League in strikeouts
Ojeda Driving Ball All Over the Ballpark
Things weren’t looking all that promising for LumberKings OF Dimas Ojeda after posting a wRC+ of just 74 last season. After increasing his LD% by 10% and decreasing his GB% by 13%, he’s seen his wRC+ nearly double to 145 this year through his first 50 games. The community college product continues to have a bit of a strikeout problem (22.8%), but as long as he keeps hitting, that’s a number you can live with.
Moyers Making Most of Starting Opportunities
Bouncing between starting and relief roles his first two seasons as a pro, LHP Steven Moyers struggled to find his footing before coming into his own this year with Clinton. Through 18.1 innings, he’s allowed just two earned runs, good for a 0.98 ERA. His severe lack of strikeouts (6.4 K/9) has lead to a 4.23 xFIP this season, but his most impressive outing of the season came on Sunday when he was tabbed for a start and worked 6.0 scoreless, surrendering just three hits while striking out four.
Delaplane Continues Breakout
Relief ace RHP Sam Delaplane posted another scoreless multi-inning outing over the weekend, lowering his season long xFIP to 2.45 and boosting his strikeout rate to 13.8 K/9. The Mariners seem to be churning out mutli-inning strikeout relievers with great frequency at the lower levels of the minors, but Delaplane has shown more promise than any of them through his first 61.0 career innings.
The Texas League All-Stars we announced on Wednesday, and the Travelers will be contributing six players to North Division team. Congratulations are in order to RHP Nathan Bannister, OF Braden Bishop, INF Chris Mariscal, RHP Chase De Jong, and 1B Joey Curletta!
The Midwest League All-Star teams were announced, and the LumberKings are sending 1B Ryan Costello, OF Jack Larsen, RHP Ryne Inman, and RHP Collin Kober to the midsummer classic. Costello was also announced as one of eight participants in the MWL Home Run Derby on June 19th.
The M’s High-A affiliate is sending eight players to the Cal League All-Star Game, including top prospects OF Kyle Lewis and 1B Evan White; starting pitcher Darren McCaughan as well as relievers RHP Seth Elledge and RHP Wyatt Mills; and 2B Donnie Walton, SS Bryson Brigman, and OF Nick Zammarelli.
YOUR 2018 MODESTO NUTS CALIFORNIA LEAGUE ALL STARS ARE...— Modesto Nuts (@ModestoNuts) June 12, 2018
Click here --> https://t.co/1GyHq9riQO for the Cal League All Stars press release. #GoNuts@brysonbrigman @SethWElledge @KLew_5 @gwyattmills @DWalt05 @Ewhite_19 @Zamm94 @CalLeague1 @Mariners @LookoutLanding @MiLBMariners pic.twitter.com/XXG5W2gWxq
Filia to Boston
The Double-A Arkansas Travelers lost a significant piece of their offense on Tuesday when OF Eric Filia was sent to the Boston Red Sox as the PTBNL to complete a trade that netted the Mariners LHP Roenis Elías earlier this season.
White Rejoins Modesto
After a brief stint with the Triple-A Tacoma Rainiers, 1B Evan White was reassigned to Modesto on Tuesday.