A few of the organization’s more exciting bats have heated up lately, while the starting pitching continues to be addressed via MLB vets and indy ballers and inked to minor league deals. I’ve said this each of the last two weeks, but this is officially the last State of the Farm before the MLB Trade Deadline on Tuesday, so we will most likely see some trades and some minor leaguers shuffling around to fill voids in the next few days.
(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers
Team Record: 51-52 (2nd in Pacific Northern Division)
.256/.352/.389, 4th-worst in PCL in slugging
4.53 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 4th in PCL in strikeouts
Erasmo Rehab Starts
Making his second rehab start with the Rainiers, RHP Erasmo Ramirez was brilliant Wednesday night, allowing just one hit over 3.0 otherwise perfect innings, striking out three and increasing his pitch count to 33. He’s posted a line of 5.0 IP, H, 0 ER, 0 BB, 6 SO in his two rehab appearances. He’ll look to build upon his workload next time out, but barring any setbacks, looks like he could provide value inserted into the Mariners’ rotation or as a swingman in the bullpen by mid-August.
Whalen Strong in Return to Tacoma
RHP Rob Whalen has now made two starts with the Rainiers after a pair of rough rehab outings with Everett in recovering from shoulder stiffness, and the results have been promising. After logging 69 pitches last week, he upped his pitch count to 82 on Saturday. He’s worked 9.0 innings since being activated, allowing three earned runs on eight hits and three walks while racking up 12 strikeouts. He’s scheduled to make his next start today against a middle-of-the-pack Round Rock lineup that just added Delino DeShields.
Higgins Making Most of Second Chance
Following a successful stint with the New Britain Bees of the independent Atlantic League where he was teammates with ex-Mariner Evan Scribner, RHP Tyler Higgins has been one of Tacoma’s most consistent relievers since joining the team back in early June. After posting some so-so numbers at the Double-A level of the Marlins’ farm system from 2015-2017, he’s had fairly similar advanced stats this year, although the strikeouts have taken off, as he’s posting 9.6 K/9 after not cracking even 8.0 K/9 during any of his Double-A seasons. The 6’3” right-hander has surrendered just two earned runs through 18.2 innings on the season and has issued just four walks.
(AA) Arkansas Travelers
Team Record: 52-50 (2nd in Texas League North Division)
.273/.357/.387, Last in Texas League in HR
4.49 ERA, 1.46 WHIP, 3rd-fewest walks in Texas League
Taylor on a Tear for Travs
After opening the season with High-A Modesto where he posted a 135 wRC+ through 35 games, UTIL Logan Taylor has found his stroke recently after initially struggling upon being promoted to Doublue-A Arkansas. He’s posted a 218 wRC+ since July 17, however his 6.6% walk rate with the Travelers is a career-low and is 8.0% lower than the 14.6% mark he ran at Modesto earlier this season. He’s been used as the Travs’ everyday third baseman after predominantly being deployed as a corner outfielder for Modesto.
Lewis Impressive in Double-A Debut
An unfortunate season-ending injury to OF Braden Bishop paved the way for OF Kyle Lewis to move on from High-A Modesto after spending 87 games there over this and last season. After going 2-3, 2 R, BB, RBI in his Travs debut, he’s gone 1-12 with four strikeouts over his last four games. It’ll be interesting to see how he adapts to the Double-A level after hitting slightly below average at High-A this year.
Chuck Taylor Slides Into Leadoff Spot
With the departure of Bishop, team leader in walks (non-Joey Curletta division) OF Chuck Taylor has moved into the leadoff spot for the Travs. He’s been hot this month, slashing .278/.400/.354 while walking more than he’s striking out, and is up to a 109 wRC+ on the season. He continues to struggling to hit for extra bases, although his LD% is up to a career-high 28.7% and his GB% is a career-low 36.8%.
(A+) Modesto Nuts
Team Record: 43-61 (4th in California League North Division)
.249/.320/.368, Last in Cal League in HR
4.56 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, fewest strikeouts in Cal League
Salter Sticking Around in Modesto
When 2018 20th-rounder RHP J.T. Salter was promoted from the AZL Mariners to the High-A Modesto Nuts last week, it appeared at first glance to be a fill-in stint for a depleted Nuts’ bullpen. One week and three appearances (4.0 innings) of no-hit ball later, it seems Salter might not be heading back down anytime soon. He’s now allowed just one hit through the first 12.0 innings of his professional career while striking out 14. After issuing nine walks through 8.0 innings with AZL Mariners, he’s surrendered just one free pass since joining the High-A club.
Branton Unphased By Quick Ascent
One of the last 2018 draftees to sign, INF Beau Branton has more than made up for lost time. Through 26 games as a pro, he’s running a slash line of .421/.509/.547 and has had multi-hit games in four of his five games since joining the Nuts. The 5’7” infielder split time between second, third, and shortstop with the AZL Mariners, but has exclusively played second base since joining Modesto and has showed off an impressive knack for putting bat to ball, as he’s running an 11:8 walk to strikeout ratio so far on the season.
White Picking Up Steam on Offense
It’s been a pretty steady season for 1B Evan White, as his wRC+ by month this season has been 114, 113, 117, and now 79 in July. Things had been pretty rough for the #2 organizational prospect through the first couple weeks of July, but he turned it on over the weekend and has gone 7-16, 2 2B, 5 R, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 4 SO since Saturday. Given his excellent defense at first base, if he can continue to post wRC+’s of ~115, he should sustain his status as a valuable prospect and appealing first base option going forward.
Zammarelli Hot During Current Streak
Following opening the month of July going 3-34 (.088), 1B/OF Nick Zammarelli is slashing .441/.500/.676 over his current nine-game-hitting-streak, including homers on back-to-back nights to open this week. He’s already up to a career best 9 HR and 49 RBI on the season and is now running a 122 wRC+ on the year; his third professional season since being selected in the 9th round out of Elon in 2016.
Santa Flashing Offensive Upside
After splitting much of his debut 2017 season between the AZL Mariners and High-A Modesto, 22-year-old INF Kevin Santa has spent all of 2018 with Modesto. He struggled at the plate through the first half of the season, slashing .246/.294/.310, but has picked it up quite a bit in 27 games since, slashing .302/.356/.385 through 96 at-bats. After running a 15:15 walk to strikeout ration last season, he’s seen that number dip to 12:27 here in his sophomore season, however is LD% is up to 20.6%, up drastically from 7.3% with the Nuts last season. The offensive improvements his second time around High-A are a nice sign, but he’ll need to take another step forward if he wants to avoid being buried on the depth chart by some suddenly quite-interesting middle infield options at the Double-A and High-A levels of the system.
(A) Clinton LumberKings
Team Record: 56-45 (T-2nd in Midwest League Western Division)
.240/.324/.372, 4th in Midwest League in walks
4.07 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 2nd in Midwest League in strikeouts
Chandler Strong Since Switching to Starting
Each of 6’3” RHP Clay Chandler’s last 10 appearance have come as a starter after he was used in relief in all but one of his first eight outings this season. Since making the full-time switch to starting, he’s logged 65.1 innings (~6.2 innings per start) and posted a 2.89 ERA and 3.80 FIP. He’s been able to sustain success despite a 6.3 K/9 strikeout rate due to an impressive walk rate of 1.2 BB/9. It’s always nice to see young arms who can work late into games, and particularly considering he’s transitioning from the ‘pen, the early success has been nice to see from the undrafted free agent signee.
Wilcox Demonstrating Improved Control
For just the third time this season (in 26 appearances), RHP Kyle Wilcox has worked back-to-back outings without issuing a walk after tossing 3.0 perfect, five-strikeout innings over the weekend. He’s up to 15.0 K/9 since rejoining Clinton in April, and has issued more than one walk in an outing just once in the last month. If he can keep the walks in check moving forward, he could get another chance at the High-A level.
Camacho Slugging for LumberKings
After tearing apart the AZL league in 2016, C Juan Camacho struggled with Everett last season, but has rebounded nicely in Clinton this year, where he’s posted a 121 wRC+ through 17 games. His .483 slugging percentage and 16.4 K% are both nice to see, but the fact that he’s yet to draw a walk through 61 plate appearances and has taken only 13 total through 139 career games raises some red flags.
(A-) Everett AquaSox
Team Record: 22-19 (1st in Northwest League North Division)
.239/.321/.365, 3rd-worst OPS in NWL
3.86 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 2nd in NWL in strikeouts
Plassmeyer Impressive in Pair of Outings
In a pair of starts Saturday and Thursday, LHP Michael Plassmeyer totaled 4.0 innings, 3 H, ER, 0 BB, 7 SO. The southpaw continues to be used in shortened starts—he’s yet to surpass 2.0 innings in a given start—on account of his collegiate workload, but he’s been dynamic enough to throw his name into the running to the be organization’s top left-handed pitching prospect. His 17.0 K/9 and sub-1.00 FIP provide plenty of reasons to be excited about the 4th-rounder, who pitched his college ball in the SEC at Missouri.
Honeyman Picking Up Where He Left Off
After having his strong start to his professional debut disrupted by a brief call-up to Modesto, INF Bobby Honeyman was assigned back to Everett last week, and has promptly recorded multi-hit games in five of seven games since returning. The left-handed hitting infielder is running a 138 wRC+ for the AquaSox through 24 games, and has been used primarily as the team’s third baseman.
Raleigh Breaks Hitless Streak
Following a 2-4 professional debut, C Cal Raleigh went 0-14 over his next four games before going 1-4 on Wednesday, while picking up a walk and scoring three runs. He’s off to a slow start, but was named the organization’s #14 prospect in MLB.com’s most recent rankings.
We learned that friend of the podcast RHP Lindsey Caughel was released on June 18th after a rough season at Triple-A. Caughel was one of the organization’s most dependable pitchers in the second half of the summer for Double-A Arkansas in 2017.
Cooke Sent to AZL Mariners
2017 8th-round-pick OF Billy Cooke, who notably made the jump from college to Clinton last season, as joined the AZL Mariners on what’s being called a “rehab assignment.” Cooke, who is an elite defender in center field, has slashed .159/.275/.208 through his 115-game professional career.