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State of the Farm: 6/8/18

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It was a back-loaded week for activity in the world of Mariners minor leagues

It was a fairly calm week down on the farm until 30 minutes before this was supposed to be posted, and all hell broke lose. Nevertheless, it made for an exciting start to Friday afternoon!

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 29-32 (3rd in Pacific Northern Division)

.250/.350/.397, 2nd-worst in PCL in hitting

4.67 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 7th in PCL strikeouts

Lawrence Spins Maddux

After allowing more than three earned runs for the first time all season last Wednesday, RHP Casey Lawrence bounced back by working a nine inning shutout on Tuesday, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out six.

It was a major outlier among the right-hander’s starts this season, as he hadn’t made it through even six innings at any other point this season. His ability to avoid walks—he’s surrendered just three free passes in 38.2 minor league innings—has allowed him to limit the opposition’s scoring whenever he toes the rubber.

Rumbelow Makes Organizational Debut

After recording just two ours in his lone spring training outing with the Mariners, RHP Nick Rumbelow was forced out of the game with what ended up being diagnosed as a nerve issue in his neck. It’s been a long road back, but two and a half months later, the Nick Vincent-eque righty finally made his 2018 debut on Wednesday for the Rainiers. He managed to post a clean inning, working around a walk and a hit without recording a strikeout. His path to a big league role got suddenly clearer Friday afternoon when relievers Dan Altavilla and Juan Nicasio hit the DL, theoretically clearing a spot for Rumbelow after a couple more PCL outings.

Law’s Hot Hitting Not Enough to Keep Him Up

Despite posting a 164 wRC+ through 10 games with Tacoma, INF Adam Law was demoted to Double-A Arkansas on Thursday, apparently due to a shortage of infielders on the Travelers roster. His .481 BABIP with the Rainiers suggests his numbers are a bit inflated right now, but he’s been a valuable contributer to the Tacoma offense for the last week+. Rainiers broadcaster Mike Curto suggested that he’ll be back up soon.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 30-29 (T-1st in Texas League North Division)

.279/.364/.394, 2nd in Texas League in AVG and OBP

4.45 ERA, 1.49 WHIP, 4th in Texas League in ERA

Bishop on a Tear

Travelers OF Braden Bishop opened the 2018 season struggling badly at the plate, slashing just .221/.313/.320 with a 70 wRC+ through his first 43 games. In 11 games since, he’s been as hard an out as you’ll find, slashing .500/.527/.827 with four homers and a 259 wRC+, turning around his season-long stat line in a hurry. His seven home runs through 54 games this year is just shy of the eight he’d hit over his previous 279 career games, and he’s managed to tap into that power without drastically increasing his strikeout rate, which currently sits at 17.2%. He continues to provide the Travs with plus defense in center field, and the addition of some power at the plate would make him a strong candidate for a late-season promotion to Tacoma.

Filia Not Long for This Level

Despite having recorded just 33 career at-bats at the Double-A level, OF Eric Filia is making it abundantly clear that he’s ready for the next challenge, as he’s recorded a hit in each of his eight games, and reached base at least three times in half of those games. His 211 wRC+ is being fueled largely by a .500 BABIP, but on the heels of his legendary AFL campaign, it’s been made clear that the 25-year-old’s approach at the plate is set to move quickly through the organization. With struggling veterans such as Andrew Aplin, Kirk Nieuwenhuis, and Jayson Werth clogging the outfield in Tacoma, don’t be shocked if the organization is fairly aggressive in promoting Filia.

Refined Approach Paying Dividends for Curletta

Every time it looks like 1B Joey Curletta might be cooling off at the dish, the 6’5” slugger starts a new hot streak. The organization’s runner-up to Dan Vogelbach in OPS at .939 has his wRC+ up to 150 on the season, and is posting career highs in BB% (18.1%), slugging (.510) and LD% (25.8%) while posting a career low GB% (33.3%) and his lowest K% (24.4%) since 2014. Contributing for half a season at the Double-A level is a long ways from performing at an all-star level in the big leagues, but I’ve officially made the decision that Curletta is the Dodgers peace offering to the Mariners fan base after fleecing the Mariners in the Zach Lee-Chris Taylor deal.

Povse Getting Ironed Out

It appears that after a whole lot of struggling, the Mariners #2 pitching prospect (for now) is figuring things out over his last few outings. Over his last five starts, RHP Max Povse has posted 13.5 K/9 and just 3.5 BB/9, a marked improvement over his season-long numbers. He’s continued to bare the brunt of some brutal batted ball luck, as he’s posting a .431 BABIP against over that time frame, something that’s plagued him ever since his first go-round with Tacoma last season. The key for Povse is going to be continuing to limit the free passes, which he’s done a fine job of over his last four outings, when he’s walked no more than two batters in any outing after surrendering 17 free passes in his three prior starts.

DeCarlo Unfazed By Challenges of Double-A

The organization’s top catching prospect has been quietly adding another impressive minor league season to his ledger in 2018, posting a 117 wRC+ through 35 games at the Travs’ primary backstop. Through his last 11 games, he’s slashed .362/.388/.681 while connecting for three long balls during that span. He’s been receiving time at his natural position of third base as of late, but his career best .273 average .485 slugging, and .212 isolated power all play a bit better from the catcher position, which he still figures to man primarily.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 26-34 (4th in California League North Division)

.253/.330/.376, fewest home runs in Cal League

4.46 ERA, 1.43 WHIP, second-most hits allowed Cal League

Liberato Making Up for Lost Time

22-year-old Nuts outfielder Luis Liberato had the start to his season postponed due to injury, but he’s come out of the gates hot for Modesto, whacking five homers through his first 14 games. Through an abbreviated sample of games this season, he’s failed to post walk numbers anywhere close to the improved marks he showed the last couple seasons, but he’s managed to slash .281/.305/.614 and post a 142 wRC+ nonetheless. Now in his sixth season in the Mariners’ organization, his start has faded slightly, but he’s still the system’s #17 prospect, and a continued power surge would only increase his stock.

Mills Back to Dominating

Following a five run blowup on May 10, 2017 third rounder RHP Wyatt Mills has been near perfect in 10.1 shutout innings, allowing six walks and four hits, good for a 3.12 FIP. The walks have been well above his career norm during that span, but he continues to limit the damage the opposition is doing with the bat. The increase in walks seems to have coincided with the team’s commitment to using the sidearmer in a multi-inning role, leading one to wonder if he might be best suited for a strict one-inning-per-outing role; at least for the time being.

Elledge Lights Out Out of Back of Bullpen

It’s been nearly a month and a half since RHP Seth Elledge has surrendered an earned run, as he’s tossed 15.2 innings of eight walk, two hit ball while registering 24 strikeouts. His 2.65 xFIP on the season has aided his case to be considered the organization’s top relief prospect, and he’s even surpassed Mills for the team lead in saves, however the two have split duties fairly equally.

McCaughan Riding Scoreless Streak

2017 12th rounder RHP Darren McCaughan has apparently been nominated to carry the torch as the top late round success story since the departure of Tommy Romero, and the Long Beach State alum has done so honorably, failing to allow an earned run through his last 26.2 innings pitched, lowering his season long line to a 1.82 ERA and 1.12 WHIP. Even when summoned for a spot start last week in Tacoma—leapfrogging the Double-A level—he continued his streak, tossing 6.1 scoreless against a talented Salt Lake City lineup consisting of top prospects and major league veterans. He’s not listed as a top 30 organizational prospect as things stand now, but he’s definitely making his case to join those ranks upon the next update.

(A) Clinton LumberKings

Team Record: 33-26 (2nd in Midwest League Western Division)

.237/.322/.368, 6th in Midwest League in runs scored

3.96 ERA, 1.37 WHIP, 2nd in Midwest League in strikeouts

Wells Stringing Together Useful Starts

Since being acquired by the Mariners in 2015 from the Blue Jays in exchange for Mark Lowe, LHP Nick Wells has struggled to find consistency in his starts, failing to get his FIP under 4.50 over the last two seasons. His last five starts has been perhaps his best run since joining the organization, logging 29.0 innings of 3.82 FIP ball. This is his third consecutive season with Clinton, but his most successful across the board.

Costello Continues Driving Runners Home

The organization’s top run producer with now 40 RBI, the 2017 31st rounder has absolutely raked since turning pro.

His 2018 wRC+ is up to 150 as he continues manning first base for Clinton, entrenching himself at a suddenly somewhat deep position in the Mariners farm system. He’s got his career walk rate up to 14.5% and strikes out just 20.4% of the time, which should help him move up the ladder fairly quickly, however he’d likely need an Evan White promotion from High-A to Double-A (and in effect, Joey Curletta promotion from Double-A to Triple-A) to open a spot for him to be tested against Cal League pitching.

Delaplane Yet Another Late Round Gem

LumberKings stud reliever RHP Sam Delaplane picked up another pair of punchouts Thursday night, boosting his strikeout rate to 14.2 K/9 on the season. The 23rd-round-pick from last June’s draft has been a strikeout machine through his first year in the organization, picking up 91 strikeouts through 59.0 innings of work. Following a four year collegiate career during which he topped out at 10.8 K/9, he credits LumberKings pitching coach Doug Mathis and backstops Nick Thurman and Ryan Scott, as well as placing an emphasis on developing a game plan he feels confident in for the massive uptick in strikeouts. He was snubbed from being selected for the Texas League All-Star Game despite being one the very most effective pitchers in the entire league.

Notes:

Batista Off to Hot Start in DSL

The DSL Mariners got their season under way last week, and 18-year-old C Freuddy Batista has been on fire. He’s recorded a minimum of two hits in each of his five games and is now slashing .545/.615/1.045 and a tooootally sustainable 300 wRC+ on the young season.

Vogelbach Up, Perkins DL’d, White Moved to Tacoma

The Mariners’ #2 prospect has leapfrogged Double-A Arkansas and is set to join Tacoma just under one year after being selected in the first round of 2017 draft. The move appears to be just temporary, as starting first baseman Dan Vogelbach and backup option Cam Perkins recently placed on the 7-Day disabled list.

Detwiler, Perez Signed

The Mariners signed a pair of MLB veteran starting pitchers this week in RHP Ross Detwiler and RHP Williams Perez. Once a promising rookie for the Washington Nationals, Detwiler had been pitching in independent ball over the last two seasons. Perez last appeared in the majors in 2016, when he posted 0.2 fWAR for the Atlanta Braves in 11 starts.

Herrmann, Vincent Rehabbing

Jen Mueller of ROOT Sports reported that RHP Nick Vincent and C Chris Herrmann are set to embark on rehab assignments this weekend.

Four LumberKings Named to All-Star Team

Minor league all-stars are often seemingly random, but Clinton will be represented by OF Jack Larsen, 1B Ryan Costello, RHP Ryne Inman, and RHP Collin Kober.

Morin Joins Big League Club

The Mariners have stripped Tacoma of their closer for the third time this season, tabbing RHP Mike Morin for fill-in duties with Juan Nicasio and Dan Altavilla simultaneously hitting the DL on Friday. He’s been serviceable for Tacoma, posting a 3.64 xFIP through 25.0 innings, but figures to be optioned back down when Vincent is ready to return.