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Mariners Minors Notes 4/4/19: Introducing the Midshipmen’s Log with a recap of MiLB Opening Day

[old-time radio voice] Introducing a new multi-weekly installment recapping the latest exploits of our Mighty Midshipmen

Seattle Mariners Photo Day
such a nice young fellow
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

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. Following the minors closely can be an overwhelming task for one person, though. Even if you are able to navigate the byzantine web of MiLB tv or the First Pitch app, there’s still the daunting task of tracking four or five different games a night, in addition to the big league club. Who has time for that?

Us. We do. Well, we might not, but we promised stepped-up minors coverage this year, and stepped-up minors coverage you shall have, starting with what we’re calling “The Midshipmen’s Log” (because a midshipman is a baby sailor, get it? Look we can’t all be McCovey Chronicles and have “They Might Be Giants” just right there for us, okay). The Log will be a recap of how each of the farm teams performed, with individual performances highlighted along with (we hope) some fun highlights that tie the whole room together. We’re going to aim to do this three times a week initially, and if the response is positive we’ll look at upping it from there. You can let us know what you’d like to see in the comments as we evolve along through this project. State of the Farm isn’t going anywhere; it will continue to be a weekly-ish overview that tracks some of the big-picture developments in the system, but the Log will offer a more granular look.

This week we’re kicking this new series off with MiLB Opening Day. The Mariners’ four teams went 3-1, with Tacoma the lone loser in extra innings. It was a nice day for the farm-arms, who collected 51 total strikeouts, with 29 of those strikeouts belonging to the starters.

West Virginia Power (1-0) defeat Greenville Drive (0-1), 1-0

Link to full box score

It took 10 innings, but the Power notched their first Opening Day victory since 2015. Logan Gilbert pitched four innings, sitting 95-97 on his fastball, and surrendered no runs and just two hits while striking out five. David Ellingson followed with two strong innings of no-run, three-strikeout ball, Dayieson Arias contributed a scoreless inning and a strikeout, and Devin Sweet held down the fort for the final three innings, striking out three and allowing just one hit. Sweet was a mid-season signing last year who only pitched 16 innings between the AZL and Everett, but his slider completely stymied the Drive batters.

On the offensive side, the Power batters struggled against talented righty Alex Scherff, who also sat around 95 and higher and looked a lot more impressive than the 40 FV FanGraphs has on him, although he is on his second tour of the level. The best hitter on the day was (surprise) Julio Rodriguez, who was one of the only Power batters who could solve Scherff, lining a single into center, and later snuck a double down the line off his replacement Hunter Haworth (the Drive only used two pitchers in this game, each for five innings). However, it should be noted that Jarred Kelenic walked twice and flexed some impressive plate discipline, in addition to nabbing a run-saving catch that could have put the game out of reach for the Power. The most clutch hitter on the day was catcher Jake Anchía, who hit the game-winning single in the tenth (after missing a home run early in the at-bat by inches), and also threw out a runner trying to nab second early on. “Don’t run on Anchía” is a phrase I predict to get a lot of mileage out of.

Modesto Nuts (1-0) defeat Lancaster JetHawks (0-1), 7-4

Link to full box score

After struggling some in his promotion to Advanced-A ball last year, Ljay Newsome came out with a statement game, going five innings and striking out nine batters. (He also gave up two solo home runs, but in Lancaster, a famously homer-happy ballpark, that’s almost to be expected.) The bullpen held it down, giving up one run over the next four innings, and Ben Thoen favorite and noted short king Sam Delaplane pitched two innings of scoreless ball to secure the win. The pitching staff combined to strike out 15 batters, which, mercy.

Every Modesto batter except one had a hit, and OF Anthony Jimenez, making a hopefully-healthy return to the Cal League, had three. Catcher Cal Raleigh was aggressively promoted to Modesto from a short stint in Everett last season, and he immediately made his presence known to the Cal League:

I love how he starts kind of slow out of the box, like “oooh I got that,” and then starts busting up the first base line, like “but did I really?” before hitting a slightly more relaxed trot when he hits the bag (he did, it should be noted, have a very quick trip around the bases. Savor that, Cal!). Raleigh wound up with two hits in his Advanced-A debut. Hooooo boy is it going to be fun to watch Cal Raleigh punish baseballs in the California League this summer.

Arkansas Travelers (1-0) defeat Tulsa Drillers (0-1), 6-4 (10 innings)

Link to full box score

The Travelers had a task ahead of them in facing a Tulsa team that’s loaded with some pretty good Dodgers prospects, including John Trupin favorite “Gingergaard,” aka Dustin May. The Travs could not get anything going against May over five innings, during which he struck out nine batters. Justin Dunn, making his system debut for Seattle, matched May inning-for-inning, though, outside of a shaky first where he seemed to be fighting his fastball command. After giving up three hits but just one run in his first inning, Dunn settled down and went to work on a Drillers lineup that includes Gavin Lux, DJ Peters, and Keibert Ruiz as their 1-2-3 hitters. He finished with five innings, seven strikeouts, and only gave up the one run. In relief, Jack Anderson, Art Warren, and Parker Markel all pitched one inning and each collected two strikeouts; the Travs pitching staff had a gaudy 14 on the day.

Offensively, the top half of the Travs lineup did their jobs, with the 1-5 hitters all collecting at least one hit, and three of the five (Jake Fraley, Evan White, and Chris Mariscal) with two apiece. Fraley had a triple, and Kyle Lewis and staff fave Nicky Three Sticks (also known as Nicholas Zammarelli III) both doubled.

Tacoma Rainiers (0-1) lose to the Sacramento River Cats (1-0), 4-5 (10 innings)

Link to full box score

The lone blemish on today’s otherwise perfect day, the Rainiers squandered an excellent start from Erik Swanson, who went five innings and gave up six hits but somehow took no damage, most likely because he struck out eight and walked none. Unfortunately, the bullpen couldn’t hold on, although a crucial missed catch by Eric Young Jr. that allowed the tying runs and sent the game to extras wasn’t really Nick Rumbelow’s fault. (The walk and two hits allowed were, though.) It’s telling—and indicative of how thin the club is at the major-league level for bullpen help—that the bullpen only notched two strikeouts over five innings of work. On the offensive side, Braden Bishop doubled in his first-ever Triple-A at-bat and had two hits on the day; Shed Long had two hits, including a double; David Freitas singled and doubled; and Large Lad Joey Curletta recorded a hit. Also, the only reason the game went to extras is because Tito Polo made this superb catch:

Tomorrow’s Games:

West Virginia @ Greenville, 4:05 PT (RHP Clay Chandler)

Arkansas @ Tulsa, 5:05 PT (LHP Ricardo Sanchez makes his system debut)

Modesto @ Lancaster, 6:35 PT (LHP Ian McKinney also makes his system debut)

Tacoma @ Sacramento, 7:05 PT (Tommy Milone vs. Tyler Beede)