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State of the Farm: 7/5/18

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The shallowest of positions in the system are starting to look not so shallow anymore...

MiLB.com

There’s been production coming from places you might not expect it down on the farm this season, with loads of late-round picks and prospects from outside the top 30 in the organization showing an ability to change games, and there’s been some particularly impressive breakthroughs down in the lesser-known Arizona and Dominican Summer Leagues.

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 45-40 (2nd in Pacific Northern Division)

.258/.357/.398, 4th-fewest hits in PCL

4.45 ERA, 1.42 WHIP, 2nd in PCL in saves

Vogelbach Continues Tormenting PCL Pitching

Rainiers DH/1B Daniel Vogelbach turned in a nice performance over the weekend that included a four-walk game in which he also hit a home run; his second in as many days. He’s continued to split time between DH and first base duties, but continues to hit regardless of where he’s playing. He’s no longer qualified among PCL leaders in hitting categories, but his .437 OBP and .997 OPS would both place him within the top five in the league, and he leads the league in walks with 51 in 50 games. All of his peripherals—particularly his 23.0% walk rate and 15.8% strikeout rate—are as impressive as they’ve ever been, but he remains blocked at the major league level for the foreseeable future and likely won’t factor into the picture in the bigs in any significant way until September.

Freitas Slugging Since Demotion

Former-Mariners backup backstop C David Freitas has benefited from receiving consistent at-bats upon joining Tacoma a couple weeks back, as he’s recorded a hit in each of his nine games since then. He’s had multi-hit games in seven of his last eight, and has his slash line up to .390/.444/.488 through 41 at-bats.

Armstrong Finishes Dominant June

The Rainiers’ lone PCL all-star representative, RHP Shawn Armstrong, has been lights out over his last 10 appearances, allowing just one earned run and issuing just one walk while racking up 17 strikeouts over 11.0 innings. He’s posted an FIP of 0.95 and 13.9 K/9 over that span, thanks in large part due to the improved control we’ve seen of late. Unlike fellow Triple-A standout Ryan Cook, Armstrong isn’t already on the 40-man roster, but if the control is truly here to stay, the club may opt to add Armstrong to the roster and summon him for relief help should somebody—perhaps Alex Colomé perhas—need a get-right DL stint.

Aplin Finding Stroke in Tacoma

Despite reaching the Triple-A level for the first time back in 2014, OF Andrew Aplin has yet to make his big league debut, although he’s arguably as close as he’s ever been right now. After 15 unimpressive games with Double-A Arkansas over which the defensive standout posted a wRC+ of just 54, he was promoted to Tacoma when the Rainiers were in desperate need of outfield help, but Aplin has hit his way into an extended stay. Through 22 games, he’s running a 111 wRC+ and in consistently manning center field for Tacoma. The organization seems to be extremely high on his defense, but Braden Bishop, who is three years younger and bound to receive a promotion to Tacoma before too much longer, has a 70-grade ceiling on defense himself, is three years younger than Aplin, and figures to be the short-term future of the center field position for the Mariners.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 43-38 (1st in Texas League North Division)

.278/.361/.388, 2nd in Texas League in AVG

4.21 ERA, 1.41 WHIP, 3rd in Texas League in ERA

Curletta Stays Hot

Fresh off of drawing starting duties as the cleanup hitter in the Texas League All-Star Game, 1B Joey Curletta got right back to doing what got him there to start the second half of the Travs’ season, slugging homers in back-to-back games over the weekend. His 14 homers are good for fifth-most in the Texas League, and his .939 OPS tied him for third. Curletta’s has found success this season in elevating the ball more often—he’s posting a career-high LD% and career-low GB%— and is also walking more than ever before, something he’s done in 17.7% of his trips to the plate this season. The ability to be more patient at the dish without sacrificing the ability to drive the ball has combined to establish the 6’5” slugger as a legitimate prospect at what’s been an extremely shallow position in the M’s system prior to this season.

Curletta driving a home run to the opposite field, which the camera operator was apparently not expecting.
MiLB.com

Filia Struggling Since Return

It’s been a rough go offensively for OF Eric Filia since Boston returned him to the Mariners on June 16 after he mysteriously failed his physical with the team. Through 41 at-bats, he’s posted a 40 wRC+ and hasn’t registered a single extra-base hit, however he has run a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 12:1 since his return, although three of those walks have been intentional. The hope is that Filia’s experience your run-of-the-mill cold streak, but it’s hard not to wonder if perhaps he’s being limited by something—perhaps whatever the Sox saw in his physical.

Mendoza Finishes Scorching Hot June

After opening the season struggling so hard it looked like he may be in jeopardy of losing his job, INF Yonathan Mendoza turned his season around in a big way in June. Through the first two months of the season, Mendoza was slashing just .234/.327/.281 with a 70 wRC+, but things took a turn for the better when the calendar flipped to June, as Mendoza slashed .362/.419/.383 since, posting a 125 wRC+ over that span. Unfortunately for Mendoza, 29 of his 31 hits in June were singles (the other two were doubles), which has limited the damage done during his hit parade. Of his 64 hits on the season, 58 have been singles, and the other eight have been doubles, which is why his season-long wRC+ stands at just 93 despite a respectable average of .288 and OBP of .365.

Warren Continues Working His Way Back

Since returning from the disabled list on June 9, RHP Art Warren has continued having control issues that have plagued him all season long, as he’s posted 8.2 BB/9 on the year. Things are looking better recently however, as he’s issued just one walk over his last three outings while striking out four. He’s managed to limit the damage this year, posting a 1.88 ERA through 14.1 innings, but his 4.34 xFIP suggests there’s been a significant amount of luck baked into his results to date. It’s nice to see the strikeouts up this season—12.6 K/9 this year after posting 9.3 K/9 last season—but the ability to avoid walks is going to be his ticket to the next level.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 34-49 (4th in California League North Division)

.251/.326/.370, 2nd-fewest hits in Cal League

4.61 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 2nd-most runs allowed in Cal League

McClain Turns In Fourth Straight Quality Start

Since making his professional debut in 2016, RHP Reggie McClain has been one of the more dependable arms in the system, routinely providing roughly six innings of roughly three run ball. Well, that’s exactly what the Missou-alum has been doing over his last three starts, when he’s gone 7.0, 6.0, 7.0, and 6.1 innings, surrendering three, two, three, and three earned runs. His surface numbers have been almost exactly the same as last season, but his peripherals indicate a slight improvement this year from last. His ability to consistently work deep into games is something unique to the lower levels of the minors, and could be his ticket to the next level by next season.

Mills Continues Posting Zeros

Make it 13 of 14 games without allowing an earned run for RHP Wyatt Mills since his five run blowup back on May 10. Over that span, the system’s #10 prospect has posted a 0.98 ERA and 2.45 FIP over 18.1 innings, striking out 22 and walking just six. The organization seems satisfied with the results he’s delivered in a multi-inning role as he continues being groomed to contribute in a Peacock/McHugh/Devenski role in the future.

Nick Wells Bounceback

After making 57 starts at A-Level Clinton over the last 2+ seasons, LHP Nick Wells made high High-A debut last week, and it was to say it was a rough landing would be putting it lightly. He recorded just one out while surrendering eight earned runs on six hits and two walks, but bounced back nicely on Friday, tossing an impressive six innings of shutout ball, allowing just three hits while recording seven strikeouts. The adjustment is a huge sign for the former top Blue Jays prospect, who’d been on perhaps his best run as a Mariners farmhand leading up to his promotion. reeling of seven consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs. Wells, 22, was a third-rounder out of high school back in 2014, so he’s still got time on his side despite his lengthy minor league track record.

(A) Clinton LumberKings

Team Record: 48-34 (1st in Midwest League Western Division)

.244/.326/.377, 3rd in Midwest League in HR

3.98 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 7th in Midwest League in WHIP

Larsen Back in Action

Fresh off of an eight day stint on the disabled list, OF Jack Larsen wasted no time getting back into the swing of things, swatting homers in each of his first two games back while scoring five runs and driving in five. His .919 OPS is fourth-best among Mariners minor leaguers, and he’s now running a 157 wRC+ on the season. His bat is quickly establishing him as one of the top outfield prospects in the organization, and he’s a strong candidate to advance to Modesto if/when some upper-level shuffling occurs as we get deeper into the summer.

Costello Making Case for Organizational Player of the Year

Perhaps the only Mariners minor leaguer giving Curletta a run of his money as the top offensive performer this season has been 1B Ryan Costello. He’s tied with Curletta for the organizational lead in homers at 14 and is out-RBI’ing him 62-57 through 78 games. Through 122 career games, Costello now owns a line of .306/.399/.573, 22 HR, 100 RBI, 66 BB, 96 SO. The emergence or Costello and Curletta over the past year has been a shot in the arm for a previously glaring hole at first base in the system.

McGovern Finding Footing

After being selected in the ninth round of last month’s draft, OF Keegan McGovern was tasked with making the jump straight to A-Level Clinton, leapfrogging the AZL and Short Season-A, and he’s done an admirable job. He’s got a 149 wRC+ through12 games with the LumberKings, and has already slugged three homers and driven in eleven while manning left field for Clinton. His strong start is making him an early success story of the 2018 draft class.

McGovern going opposite-field for a home run last Friday

(A-) Everett AquaSox

Team Record: 11-8 (1st in Northwest League North Division)

.226/.312/.352, Tied for fewest strikeouts in NWL

3.72 ERA, 1.21 WHIP, 2nd in NWL in WHIP

Arias Racking Up Strikeouts

It seems like each affiliate has at least one standout multi-inning relief arm, and early on in Everett’s season, RHP Dayeison Arias is emerging as that guy for the Aqua Sox. Of the four relief appearances he’s made on the season, he has four times worked 1.2 or 2.0 innings and recorded 4+ strikeouts. His ridiculous 18.4 K/9 will certainly regress over the course of the season, but a 1.56 xFIP through his first few outings of professional ball in the States is a great step towards establishing himself as a notable prospect.

Nothing But Success for Honeyman to Open Professional Career

The Mariners used their 29th round pick last month on one of the hardest players in NCAA to strikeout in SS Bobby Honeyman, and while he’s striking out a higher rate than he did in college, he’s consistently found his way on base through his first 13 games of his professional career. The SUNY Stony Brook-product has recorded at least one hit in every game he’s recorded an at-bat, and is slashing .370/.412/.457 with four walks and five strikeouts to open his career while serving as the Aqua Sox primary third baseman.

Kopach Consistently Filling Box Score

While Honeyman has been manning third, 2B Connor Kopach has been the infielder to draw shortstop duties for Everett to this point. Like Honeyman, he’s a late round pick (25th round) whose been producing at the plate as he’s slashed .321/.400/.472 with 12 R, HR, 8 RBI, and 5 SB through 14 games. The Aqua Sox have had to move some infielders off their natural positions already, but it’s only serving to create more versatile infielders in the system.

AZL/DSL Notes:

  • Stanford product 2B Beau Branton is slashing .353/.421/.441 with five stolen bases through 10 games with hte AZL Mariners.
  • 19-year-old LHP Jorge Benitez has posted a 2.08 ERA through 17.1 innings with the AZL Mariners, but is running a 4.92 xFIP, largely due to surrendering nine free passes.
  • C Daniel Santos has been one of two impressive catchers for the DSL Mariners, as he’s running a 158 wRC+ through 21 games.
  • 18-year-old C Freuddy Batista is slashing .306/.400/.581 with three homers and 17 RBI through 18 games.
  • OF Julio Rodriguez, who is the organization’s #4 prospect, has been on a tear lately for the DSL Mariners, collecting 17 hits over his last eight games. He’s now running a 152 wRC+ and has swiped four bags in 27 games while taking his fair share of walks (14) as well.
  • Dominican RHP Juan Mercedes has used pinpoint control to limit opposing hitters to just four earned runs through 23.0 innings (1.57 ERA) for the DSL Mariners.
  • RHP Jesus Ozoria is running a 2.59 xFIP through 18.0 innings, and he’s posted a 0.50 ERA, .113 BAA, 0.50 WHIP, and 11.0 K/9.