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Season Preview: Everett AquaSox

It’s Opening Day (again)!

Kevin Clark / The Everett Herald

The Mariners’ Short Season-A affiliate looks to rebound in 2018 after finishing as the cellar-dwellers of the Northwest League’s North Division in 2017. Everett is armed with a plethora of toolsy infielders and high-ceiling outfielders that should make for a summer full of high-scoring ballgames.

Pitchers

Everett is set to open the season with a pitching staff made up of a mixture of 2017 (and prior) draftees, 2018 draftees, and international signees. An international arm to keep an eye on is Dominican right-hander Dayeison Arias, who logged 29.0 innings for the DSL Mariners last summer. Serving as the team’s primary closer, Arias was 8-9 in save chances, and struck out 36 while walking just nine. His 11.2 K/9 and 2.43 xFIP in his lone season of professional experience make him a strong candidate to get first crack at the closer’s role for the AquaSox. The coaching staff down in Arizona did an excellent job last year in taking a raw, high-upside relief arm in former outfielder Jamal Wade and turning him into a bona fide relief ace. After struggling to command his stuff throughout one year with the University of Maryland during which he walked 13 in 19.2 innings, Wade surrendered just four free passes over his next 19.2 innings, which came with the AZL Mariners. While he was used exclusively as a reliever last season, he went 2.0+ innings in five of his last eight appearances, so it’ll be interesting to see if the club attempts to stretch him out as a starter or just keep him as a multi-inning reliever. He has two plus pitches in a low to mid-90s fastball and a power curve.

The AquaSox are set to open the season with four pitchers that were selected in the 2018 draft in LHP Michael Plassmeyer (4th round), RHP Joey Gerber (8th), RHP Grant Anderson (21), and RHP Penn Murfee (33rd). Plassmeyer figures to be the club’s ace, but having just come off a career-high 14 starts at Missouri where he logged 91.0 innings, posting a 3.05 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 10.2 K/9, and just 1.7 BB/9, it seems unlikely the organization is anxious to drastically add to that workload. For reference, 2017 college draftee LHP Oliver Jaskie added just 30.0 innings over 13 innings last summer after logging 93.0 innings during his collegiate season. University of Illinois product Joey Gerber has been discussed as an arm who could move rather quickly—he’s even been discussed as a possibility to reach the majors as soon as this season in a Royals Brandon Finnegan-eque type role—thanks to having more strikeout upside than almost any other arm in this year’s draft. He racked up 14.1 K/9 over 28.2 innings for the Fighting Illini as a junior, as is a good candidate to be this year’s version of Seth Elledge. Anderson and Murfee were both late round selections who lack any one skill that really jumps off the page at you; however, it’s worth noting that Murfee played three seasons at Vanderbilt, primarily as an infielder, before finishing his career as a reliever for Santa Clara.

Catchers

It appears the AquaSox intend to roll with four catchers on their active roster to start the season in Jake Anchia, Troy Dixon, Geoandry Montilla, and Rainis Silva. Anchia should be the most interesting storyline to follow over the summer following his impressive season for the Sharks of Nova Southeastern University during which he slashed .340/.402/.713 with 22 home runs and 64 RBI in 51 games. He batted just .219 in the wood bat Cape Cod League in 2017, but popped five homers in 31 games, indicating that the power is very real. New Jersey-native and St. John’s alum Troy Dixon will look to improve upon the 62 wRC+ he posted with Everett through 28 games last season, while Montilla sets out to find success in his first full season stateside after slashing .314/.409/.483 with a 157 wRC+ over two seasons with the DSL Mariners. This will be Silva’s first full season in the Mariners’ organization after being acquired from Minnesota for future considerations back in March.

Infielders

First Base

There’s just one player listed as a first baseman on Everett’s roster, and that is Dominican slugger Onil Pena, who finished fourth in the Northwest League in home runs last season with 10. He showed he was more than just a home run threat however, as he slashed .270/.369/.465 en route to a 136 wRC+.

Second Base

Of the four second basemen listed on the opening day roster, Ryne Ogren (12th round), Connor Kopach (25th), and Cash Gladfelter (27th) were all selected on day three of the 2018 draft. 2017 21st-rounder Connor Hoover joins that group after a successful 2017 with the AZL Mariners that saw him post a .481 OBP thanks to getting on base via walk (43) more often than via hit (40) and nearly as much as he struck out (46). The toolsy left-handed-hitter was also 16-20 in stolen base attempts after never stealing more than six bases in a college season. Ogren emerged a an elite contact hitter and was consistently a tough at-bat during his time with Elon, where he slashed .328/.423/.456 with a 92:74 BB:SO ratio through his 167 game career. Kopach, the team’s oldest position player, should be one of the team’s top base-stealing threats after posting back-to-back 33-steal seasons after swiping 50 bags in a 67 game campaign in the Northwoods League in 2016. Gladfelter, listed as 6’4 200lb, swings it from the left side and despite being drafted as a second baseman, played both shortstop and first base during his time at Shippensburg. His versatility might make him a good candidate to spend some time at third base, where Everett currently has no players listed, however he could also spell Pena at first from time to time as well.

Shortstop

Standing at 5’8”, Matt Sanders is the shortest player on the AquaSox roster, but don’t let his height fool you. In addition to being an on-base machine during his senior season at Troy, the 10th-round-pick also slugged a respectable .538 and OPS’d over 1.000 while batting .378. His 26 stolen bases were a career-high, and pairs with Kopach to make a speedy infield that should make pitchers a little uneasy when either guy reaches base. After hitting just three home runs in 434 career college at-bats and failing to ever top a .270 batting average, Nick Rodriguez burst on to the scene in 2018 with 10 long balls in 249 at-bats while batting .337. The offensive breakout followed a draft-wide trend for the Mariners of selecting players who had a late breakout as the M’s made him their 22nd round selection last week. Like Rodriguez, Bobby Honeyman blossomed during the 2018 college season, slashing .336/.387/.479 after his previous career-high OPS was just barely over .700. Honeyman was also notably the second-hardest batter in all of Division I baseball to strike out, as he did so in just 2.9% of his plate appearances.

Outfielders

Two season after the exciting selection of top prospect Kyle Lewis and his subsequent assignment to Everett, the AquaSox are shaping up to once again have an exciting crop of outfielders for the 2018 season, headlined by 2018 2nd-round-pick Josh Stowers and Ronald Rosario, who is the only AquaSox player listed as one of the organization’s top 30 prospects by MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline; however, that’ll change following their next update. Stowers is an impressive athlete who brings a true five-tool skillset to the table. He just finished a First Team All-ACC season for Louisville in which he posted a line of .336/.477/.559, 9 HR, 60 RBI, 72 R, 36 SB, 17.9 BB%, 12.8 K%. Rosario, who hails from Sabana Grande de Palenque in the Dominican Republic, boasts a 70-grade throwing arm that’s identified as the best single skill in the Mariners’ minor leagues. He returns to Everett after posting a 143 wRC+ for the AquaSox in 40 games last season.

6’3” left-handed hitting outfielder Keegan McGovern is yet another late bloomer, having posted a .319/.431/.644 line with 18 home runs at Georgia last season after hitting a combined 11 in the three previous seasons. Four rounds after the Mariners selected McGovern in the 9th, they drafted fellow-outfielder Charlie McConnell in the 13th out of Northeastern, where he led the team in both hitting (.347) and stolen bases (37). 2017 32nd-rounder Ryan Garcia should figure into the outfield mix as well as he looks to rediscover the dominance he showed off at the D-II level for Point Loma Nazarene University from 2016-2017, when he slashed .358/.473/.657 and hit 27 homers in 93 games. He managed to drive in 44 runs in 51 games for the AZL Mariners last season, but faded after a hot start and finished with a wRC+ of 92.

It should be a fun season up in Everett, who open their season tonight at home against Hillsboro. A link to the season schedule can be found here. Mark your calendars for July 6 for a Sandlot Funko Pop! giveaway, Christmas in July on July 25th, and a Braden Bishop 4MOM giveaway on August 10.