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Midshipmen’s Log: April 7, 2019 - Justus struggles, the Power flex their muscle, and the Nuts bats explode

Your tri-weekly minor league highlights roundup starts your week with some slugging at every level.

MLB: Seattle Mariners-Workout Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

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).

It was an exciting weekend at the big league level, and several of the affiliates got in on the action at the plate. The pitching... well, perhaps they should take a few fewer pointers from the big league club.

West Virginia Power (2-2) lose to the Greenville Drive (2-2), 6-5 (10 innings)

Link to full box score

The Power are likely between the most and second-most exciting affiliate this year, with Arkansas giving them the most challenge. That excitement is naturally tied most to their No. 2 (Jarred Kelenic) and No. 3 (Julio Rodriguez) hitters, as well as their No. 1 starter (Logan Gilbert), and the hitters did not disappoint last night. While Kelenic failed to add to his six walks in his first 20 PAs, he did smack his first XBH with a double in yesterday’s game.

Not to be outdone, JULIOOOOOO showed up in a major way, joining leadoff man Ryan Ramiz with three hits on the day. That included a clubbed double on this breaking ball, helping raise his OPS to a healthy 1.147 through the opening series.

Worth a mention as well is SS Joey Rosa, who came up clutch with a walk and a pair of singles and scored Julio to send the game to extras. He’s one of the better middle infielders in the system, so every level he shows the ability to hit at is a boon for the org.

Unfortunately, the pitching was not quite able to hold things together. 2017 6th-round draftee Oliver Jaskie got his first start of the season but his command betrayed him, yielding six walks in just 3.0+ innings. That dug the Power a four-run hole. The bullpen combined for 6.2 IP with just two more runs allowed, including two sharp shutout frames from sidearmer Nolan Hoffman, but the Drive won in extras with the help of the new extra inning rules.

Modesto Nuts (4-0) defeat Lancaster JetHawks (0-4), 10-9

Link to full box score

Our favorite shade of blush after this first weekend appears to be egg-colored, because the consensus shallow group of the M’s farm has started the season with a four-game sweep. In classic Lancaster Launchpad fashion, yesterday’s game was a shootout. This shootout, however, was more like if the person who won the duel neglected to ensure their opponent was actually dead and was summarily slain with a dozen slingshot shots to the midsection. Lancaster scored nine runs in the second inning, seemingly putting the game away early at 9-0. You may recall Nick Wells if you’re a returning Modesto fan, though you’d be forgiven for forgetting he was part of the return for Mark Lowe from the Blue Jays on the trade deadline in 2015. Unfortunately, the 23-year-old had a similar issue to Jaskie, allowing all nine runs himself, including walking in two with the bases loaded in a nightmarish start. To his credit, the strike zone was pocket-sized for both sides, as a total of 14 free passes were issued between the Nuts and the JetHawks.

The Nuts clawed back all the same. Cal Raleigh continues to respond with aplomb to the assignment to High-A, with a line drive RBI single and a pair of walks. Joe Rizzo had himself a day as well, with a pair of hits, including a bases-clearing go-ahead single in the 8th. Luis Liberato continued his torrid start, smashing his third dinger of the year, and he’d be joined by Ariel Sandoval in leaving The Hangar. Lancaster deservedly has the reputation as one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks in all of affiliated baseball, but today’s dingers were no-doubters anywhere.

Luis Liberato liberating a hanging slider from this plane of existence.

But the most satisfying big fly of the day had to belong to Gareth Morgan. Budweiser apparently agreed for a promotion where Lancaster selects an opposing player as their ‘Beer Batter’ each game. When the ‘Beer Batter’ strikes out, fans in attendance get discounted beer in the stadium for the next 20 minutes. It’s a common minor league promotion, but seemed either unsporting or ill-advised depending on your perspective to let Gareth and his 53.9% K-rate be the ‘Beer Batter’. After twice granting the Lancaster faithful a discount, he took a stand.

There’s a street in left field. It was endangered immensely.

The offense made the comeback happen, but the bullpen made it possible. The Nuts’ pen combined for 7.1 shutout innings, highlighted by two shutout frames by indy-league signee Jake Haberer, who opened plenty of eyes touching 99 in his second appearance of the year.

The battlefields of AA are littered with relief arms that throw 92-96 with 40-grade command, and Haberer’s control hasn’t been pinpoint so far, but the velo and movement earn him room for error, and he’s yet to make a major mistake. Not to be outshone, Joey Gerber slammed the door in the 9th with similar emphasis. He recorded a pair of K’s, using both his heater and slider.

Needless to say, the Nuts are looking like hot stuff.

Arkansas Travelers (3-1) lose to the Tulsa Drillers (1-3), 3-2

Link to full box score

The Mariners had lefties starting at every level of their organization today, but three of them struggled mightily. Fortunately, one of them was Wade LeBlanc, who looked good in his six innings of work. The other strong starter was Anthony Misiewicz, starting his season sharply against the prospect-laden Drillers. The Dodgers affiliate put up just one run and scattered a handful of baserunners through 5.1 IP against Misiewicz, but the bullpen let this tight one slip further than the offense could muster. After Matt Walker yielded a trio of BBs and a pair of runs in 1.0+ innings, Funky Winkerbean Jack Anderson worked 1.2 shutout IP with four Ks and a ton of missed bats. Most importantly, he avenged his recently traded brother in sidearms, Grant Anderson, who was sent to the Rangers in exchange for Connor Sadzeck. The offense could not do much more.

The only threat came in the 8th inning, as two runners reached on a walk and a thankfully-glancing Evan White HBP. An ill-fated double steal that got White caught at second left Kyle Lewis with just one runner to drive in on this dinger, and the 3-2 loss was sealed.

Line Drives+Dingers. Someone’s been watching Vogey.

Tacoma Rainiers (1-3) lose to the Sacramento River Cats (3-1), 10-3

Link to full box score

I suspect as we do this more often, you’ll be able to tell the outcome of the game by the number of gifs included as much as anything. Unfortunately, the less seen or said about this one the better. Justus Sheffield debuted and struggled with his command from go. He danced around disaster for four innings before being pulled at 4.2 IP, 4 ER, 5 BB, and just 1 K. Over-energized or whatever it may have been, Sheffield’s stuff had great break, but he couldn’t corral his heater. The game slipped further out of hand as the bullpen, save for an immaculate couple innings by Dan Altavilla, gave up hits all over the yard. Welcome to the PCL, we’ve got hits like you wouldn’t believe.

Speaking of hits, we’ll end on a brighter note, as Braden Bishop continues showing up against AAA arms. He notched three hits today, including his third double of the season in the losing effort. It may be tougher sledding than normal for Tacoma’s pitchers this year, as a few players will be moving all over the field to improve their utility.

Tomorrow’s Games:

Tacoma @ Sacramento, 12:05 PM PT (RHP Nabil Crismatt makes his system debut)

West Virginia @ Lexington, 4:05 PT (RHP Steve Moyers)

Arkansas @ Northwest Arkansas, 5:05 PM PT (RHP Darren McCaughan makes his AA debut)

Modesto @ Inland Empire, 10:05 PM PT (RHP Ray Kerr)