The Mariners farm is both more exciting and more functional than it’s been in a long time, which means it’s worth paying attention to how the prospects are performing down at the lower levels of the organization. In addition to our stalwart State of the Farm weekly roundup that takes a longer view on the farm, we’ll have minor league roundups thrice a week or so to share some highlights, gifs, and notes in our Midshipmen’s Log (it’s a baby sailor, get it? **waits patiently for ‘ba dum tiss’ on the drums** yeah yeah).
The sun weighs heavy upon our ship. Even the rats have burrowed below deck as the California coastal heat burns through them. It is during these interminable days that I turn to the MiLB account to cool my mind if not my flesh. My dream of captain-hood will for the moment put aside as I huddle in my quarters to watch the stars of tomorrow battle for their place in the world, just as I battle to gain a place in the captain’s chair. Beads of sweat fall from my brow, staining my screen. I long for them to succeed where I have not.
West Virginia Power (14-6) defeat the Asheville Tourists (7-14), 4-3
There is no video feed of the Power game which, honestly, is bad. There is nothing more terrible than not getting to see a Logan Gilbert start in which Jarred Kelenic hits a homer and Dean Nevarez hits two dongs, including a game-winner. All we can do, then, is assume.
Logan Gilbert continued his torrid start to the season, striking out 8 in 5.2 innings. Unfortunately, he also gave up a season high 3 runs. He generated swinging strikes, I assume, by continuing his trend of working his fastball and secondaries up and down in the “vertical zone” that Jerry Dipoto alluded to during his most recent Wheelhouse episode. He cruised through the first five innings, only giving up one run. Until the sixth inning when, I assume, a cool, Appalachian wind blew his hair across his face, obstructing his view of the plate. He couldn’t wait for the breeze to die, I assume, and so threw blindly at the dish. He watched through shielded eyes as the Tourist players toured the bases during their inside-the-park home run (not having video of this is a crime), and cursed the wind, I assume, as humans have cursed the forces beyond their control since the dawn of reason. But he took comfort in knowing his 5.2 innings were now the most of his professional career and that he also was running out of gas as his pitch count exceeded 90 for the first time. Those facts, at least, brought him comfort. I assume.
Kelenic continued to earn every bit of his off-field swagger with a bomb, extending his hitting streak to 12 games. During which he’s hit .449 with two Left Turns and six doubles. But it was the recently called-up catcher Dean Nevarez who saved the day with a walk-off two run home run. I cannot even imagine how it must feel to achieve such immediate success after battling the odds for so long (seriously, go read Kate’s piece). It is a game that I’m sure he’ll remember for a long time, even if we will never know how it looked.
Edit: Out of the mist, a video has surfaced.
The Mariners walk-off didn't offer *quite* the cathartic release I was hoping for, so instead I'm going to watch this video of the West Virginia Power walking it off with an epic batflip courtesy of @DeanNevarez a few more times https://t.co/gbTQKjxwD7— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 27, 2019
This batflip has changed my life. Things will be different from now on. Better.
Modesto Nuts (11-11) can’t shake the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (13-9), 6-8
The Nuts began their game by putting Ian McKinney on the mound who is a, uh (checks notes) baseball player. The 24 year old was acquired, apparently, early this year after being released by the St. Louis Cardinals, where he’d been used primarily as a reliever. The Mariners have converted him into a starter which has yielded inconsistent results. Including this outing, wherein he coughed up six runs on ten hits in only three innings. The Nuts lost their early lead, which had been built off the bat of one of Modesto’s only hot-hitters, third-baseman Eugene Hedler. Hedler extended his hitting streak to 12 games with the dinger (I feel like I’ve typed that sentence before), which brought home Joe Rizzo. Rizzo reached base three times, but has still not managed to hit for power as a pro.
The Nuts bullpen held the Quakes to only one more run as Colin Kober, Penn Murphy, Jake Haberer, and Joey Gerber combined to strikeout 12 batters in their 6 innings. While Jack Larsen made the 9th more interesting with a two-run shot (his second on the year), they weren’t able to dig out of the early hole.
Arkansas Travelers (13-8) lose to the Amarillo Sod Poodles (10-12), 2-6
(Andy McKay was in attendance to honor Evan White, who was receiving the Minor League Gold Glove award as a first baseman. White did not play in this game. I have filed a protest. I await my MiLB dot com refund.)
Justin Dunn made the start, which was very exciting for me, a Justin Dunn Fan, and for Andy McKay, presumably also a Justin Dunn Fan. Since making his Arkansas debut, Dunn has racked up 21 Ks in only 14 innings to go along with a 2.18 FIP and a 3.07 xFIP. Which is almost as beautiful as his mohawk, which is yellow, like his hat.
This particular night in Little Rock, Dunn struggled with his command. He gave up 4 runs in four innings and allowed 3 BBs and 6 hits, with an inefficient 80 pitches and only 47 strikes. While he managed to set-down six Sod Poodles (??) using primarily his breaking ball, as seen here:
Dunn couldn’t get ahead consistently and tried to claw his way back into counts with hittable fastballs. He still made some excellent pitches, evidenced by the 6Ks, but that inconsistency cost him—something he’ll have to continue to refine if he wants to shake the “Future Bullpen Arm LOL” label that some outlets have placed on him.
From my vantage point it seemed like the umpire was also having a bit of trouble with his consistency.
On the hitting side, it was the long ball that kept the night from being scoreless. Jake Fraley continued to harness the Power of the Beard to hit his third dinger of the season—now one away from his career high. Fraley’s been solid at the plate, though not the world-beater he was at the beginning of Spring Training. His 24.1% K-rate is a career high and his 8.4% walk rate is the lowest since a 26 game stint in 2017. While he K’d twice this game, in both those at bats he battled before going down, seeing a combined 20 pitches. He’s still got a .160 ISO and his overall line looks fine, but hopefully he can bring that strikeout rate down and still keep the power.
Nick Zammarelli (known better, perhaps, as Nicky Three-Sticks) also destroyed a baseball, though he used only the one stick. Kyle Lewis and Dom Thompson-Williams both went hitless.
Also of note is the continued struggles of relief prospect and 2017 third-round-pick Wyatt Mills. Mills gave up two runs on three hits in his one inning of work and has now yielded 11 runs in 8 innings. There’s still plenty of time to turn it around, and Wyatt has shown flashes of the pitcher who ran an ERA under 2 last year in Modesto, but even the ground balls have disappeared. This makes me wonder if there is something mechanical going on, or if Mills is trying (and failing) to start pitching up in the strike zone. Something to watch.
Final Thoughts: Arkansas has, by a wide margin, the best and most relentless between-inning entertainment:
Tacoma Rainiers (8-14) dinger away the Sacramento River Cats (11-10), 5-0
It was a sort-of Bullpen Day in Tacoma with Tyler Cloyd getting the ball for his first start of 2019 since being selected from the Somerset Patriots. He was presumably on a pitch count and managed just 2.1 innings on 50 pitches. He gave up five hits and was helped out by some solid infield defense, which turned 4 DPs on the day. The rest of the bullpen Ryan Garton, Aaron Northcraft, Matt Tenuta, and Parker Markel kept the River Cats off the board. Of note was Parker Markel’s continued dominance, striking out the side in his one inning of work. He’s put up a ridiculous line of 10.2 innings, 25 Ks, 3 hits and 3 walks thus far. As Ben noted in the most recent State of the Farm, he’s 28 and hasn’t been in affiliated ball since 2016, but while his strikeout numbers aren’t sustainable, they are also nothing like previous seasons, and perhaps a skill-change may be the reason Jerry and co. decided to pick him up.
Braden Bishop continued to turn up the burner on Mallex Smith’s center field seat by hitting an opposite-field dinger in the first inning. The hit broke up an 0-8 and was his second of the year. Bishop also had a very subdued dispute with the home plate umpire over a fair ball that Bishop claimed bounced off of his foot first.
The next Dinger of Note was at the powerful hands of Joey Curletta.
Curletta has been striking out at a very troublesome 34.9% entering the night. The power has been there, with five homeruns through 20 games, but the swing-and-miss will have to be cleaned or the power won’t play. He also stole a base, matching his season total from last year and shattering my universe.
Austin Nola provided a three run shot of his own and that proved to be enough to take down Sacramento, and continued to be Very Silly by now slugging .776.
In Shed Long: Defense Watch, 2019 news, Shed makes a hard hit ball (the gif is slowed down) look routine. It is routine for a third baseman, but Long hasn’t been a third baseman very, uh, long so it’s great to see him move to his right and make a clean backhand with a strong, accurate throw.
If I were to suggest one game to view, it would be Reggie McClain’s AAA debut. It’s a bullpen day for Tacoma so they’ve called up McClain to fill some innings, but McClain may have a chance to impress. He’s another of this year’s Gas Camp participants and his velocity is now sitting in the mid-90s, which he’s been pairing with a hard slider to lay waste to his High-A opponents. This is a great chance to see how he’ll fare against superior competition.
Asheville at West Virginia, 11:05 am PT (RHP Clay Chandler)
Amarillo at Arkansas, 4:10 pm PT (LHP Ricardo Sanchez)
Sacramento at Tacoma, 6:05 pm PT (RHP Reggie McClain)
Cucamonga at Modesto, 7:05 pm PT (RHP Austin Hutchinson)