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).
On a much-needed off-day for the big leaguers, the minors had a feast of tantalizing moments. We’ve been tooting this horn for a while, but after the Mariners’ dismal four-game losing streak, it bears reminding: this is a year to fall in love with the simple pleasures of farm life. For a big-picture overview, be sure to check out the weekly State of the Farm posts. For now, relax under the boughs of this apple tree and take in some of these highlights (note: video quality of highlights not guaranteed).
West Virginia Power (17-8) shutout by the Lakewood BlueClaws (9-18), 10-0
Little and less went well for the Power yesterday. With Logan Gilbert sent up to the Nuts, West Virginia called for a spot start from 19-year-old RHP Josias De Los Santos. It did not go well. De Los Santos was followed by Ben Onyshko and Devin Sweet, each of whom fared poorly. Only Dayeison Arias worked a clean few innings. The brightest note is that Jarred Kelenic extended his hitting streak to 18 games on a fog-aided double. The other bright note is the Power still took the series win. The less bright note is immediately after the game they had take an eight-hour bus ride back down to Greensboro, NC, where they’ll start their next series against the Grasshoppers today at 4 PT. The glamor of the minor leagues!
Arkansas Travelers (17-9) slobber-knock the Frisco RoughRiders (17-10), 13-2
Hot dog this was a clobbering. Is there a prospect you like in Arkansas this year? No matter who is the apple of your eye, they had a good game yesterday. Evan White had his best offensive game of the year, going 3-for-5 with a double and a walk, as well as some defense showing off healthy hamstrings.
If you wanted to know why Evan White won the Gold Glove, when I went to save this as "Evan White stretch" I had to number it "Evan White stretch 4" pic.twitter.com/eZl5oujoDF— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2019
Kyle Lewis didn’t get a ton to hit, but worked a couple great PAs en route to a 1-for-4 day with a pair of walks. Dom Thompson-Williams got the barrel through on a few pitches, including this rally-starting double.
Dom Thompson-Williams with another extra-base hit to the waterfall (to the waterfall), to the wall (to the wall) pic.twitter.com/bnFHd2X8z4— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2019
Jake Fraley unearthed a few cans of whoop-ass and brought them to the party, going 4-for-5 with a pair of dingers, including this absolute bomb.
Followed again by Evan White smoking an RBI double of his own down the left field line, followed AGAIN by Jake Fraley with his second HR of the NIGHT to give the Travs a 3-6-9-run inning (damn it's fine) pic.twitter.com/TDvIf5tqlG— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2019
1B/DH Nick Zammarelli and 3B Logan Taylor also had great nights, including the latter clubbing a grand slam off hard-throwing lefty James Jones (yes, that James Jones).
As exciting as anything on the offensive side, Justin Dunn was dynamite once again on the hill. While Justus Sheffield has struggled and Erik Swanson has had mixed results, Dunn has joined fellow Travelers staffer Ricardo Sanchez in extremely encouraging work since his acquisition. Tonight it was 7.0 IP, 2R, 6K, 0BB, 93 pitches, 63 strikes, and a lot of badddd swings like this:
Justin Dunn is having a great night for the Travs. He's through six innings and has six Ks, but most impressively, hasn't walked anyone. Much better command than his last outing. Only Juremi Profar is finding success against him. Everyone else is...well. pic.twitter.com/GXja4Yt6xR— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2019
If Dunn continues handling lefties like that, there will be few obstacles for him en route to the bigs. Also of note, Mariners ‘Gas Camp’ graduate Reggie McClain made his AA debut at last, after three years in High-A and a brief detour to Tacoma last week. Now working in the mid-90s consistently, McClain had a great first showing in Arkansas, working both his heater...
...and his breaking ball.
Meanwhile, there's more than one debut tonight, as Reggie McClain makes his first appearance at Double-A and it's a good one: 4 Ks in two innings, two outs on the ground, and just 25 pitches (15 strikes). Ga head Reggie pic.twitter.com/uER4BU6Hi8— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 3, 2019
McClain is still old for the level, so it’d be good to see him dominate again, but considering the lack of steady bullpen help in Seattle right now it’s easy to envision him arriving sooner rather than later if he sticks.
There was one bad note in this otherwise pleasant symphony: Jake Fraley, after he had a monster game including two homers, four hits overall, and some fine running catches in the outfield, had to exit the game in the ninth after being struck by this wayward pitch at 93 mph:
It looks like this might have caught Fraley on the back of the right knee; wherever it was, it was painful, as he collapsed into a heap and then remained sitting with his arms clamped tightly under his thighs for several moments. Fraley limped down to first base, but then elected to come out of the game after some persuasive conversation with the Travs’ medical staff. It was the ninth inning of a blowout game, so hopefully this was just precautionary, but we’ll keep an eye on the situation.
Modesto Nuts (14-14) clip the Lancaster JetHawks (14-14), 7-6
On the heels of their first shutout of the year, the Nuts now how their first walk-off win of the year. But with 14 runners left on base and several opportunities to have cracked this one open, it’s clear the Nuts offense isn’t yet firing on all cylinders. The offense is inconsistent at best, although there are encouraging signs from Joe Rizzo, who cashed in all the singles he’s been hitting lately for a nice Thomas Jefferson and added another base hit on top of that. Aruba native Eugene Helder continues to flourish beneath California skies—and under the tutelage of Modesto coach Jose Umbria, whom Helder considers a mentor—and collected another three hits tonight and a walk. This offense is one Jarred Kelenic away from really doing consistent damage, and I’m sure the fine folks in Modesto are checking their mailboxes every day for a package from West Virginia.
Modesto did recently receive a gift from the Power in the form of 2018 first-round draft choice Logan Gilbert, who made his first Cal League start last night. After clearing the first inning with little hard contact (an infield single, a fly out, a pop out, and a groundout, as well as an uncharacteristic walk, Gilbert really labored in the second. He gave up back-to-back doubles, one on the ground and one hit hard over the center fielder’s head scoring the first run of the game, and then threw a wild pitch on his first batter (it was ruled a passed ball because it made contact with the catcher’s glove, but Gilbert missed his spot badly and essentially threw it through his catcher—who, it should be noted, was not roommate and security blanket Cal Raleigh, but Joe Thurman) to advance the runner to third. After being ahead in the count on his next two batters, Gilbert would throw each of them three straight balls to push the count full, walking one and getting this soft groundout on the other (kudos to Gilbert who, even as he struggled, made an athletic play on a slow chopper and looked to the lead runners before taking the easy out).
At this point, Gilbert was around 40 pitches, most of them high-stress. He would get another groundout, again scoring a run, then go to yet another full count before hanging a curve for a solid base hit scoring yet another run. After a visit from pitching coach Rob Marcello, with whom Gilbert worked at Marcello’s facility after he was drafted by the Mariners before Marcello was even part of the Mariners organization, Gilbert came back to strike out his next batter on three pitches, and even showed a brief moment of emotion:
Whatever Marcello said, it made an impression. The command wasn’t perfect, but Gilbert started off the third with a strikeout looking, then proceeded to thief Ramon Marcelino’s soul away for another strikeout:
A soft flyout later, Gilbert had cleared his first 1-2-3 California League inning. He almost had another one in the fourth, opening with two strikeouts before making a location mistake and surrendering another hard-hit double:
But Gilbert quickly recovered to steal away another soul and close out the inning:
It’s a mark of just how good Logan Gilbert is that a 7-K debut is considered “not his best.” While it was great to see Gilbert steal away batters’ souls, it was even more encouraging to see him battle back against some early adversity. Gilbert wasn’t especially tested in the South Atlantic League, so seeing his ability to buckle down and fight through even when he doesn’t have his best command further enriches the profile of a prospect Mariners fans have good reason to be excited about.
The other big lift to the Nuts’ pitching staff is temporary but nonetheless welcome, as rehabbing big leaguer Sam Tuivailala made his first appearance since tearing his Achilles last season in a rundown. Tui has been a relentless supporter of his teammates during his rehab, so hopefully some of the big-leaguers will return the favor over the three weeks he’s stationed in Modesto. (Tui is a California native who grew up about an hour and a half away from Modesto in San Mateo, and it looks like he’ll be doing all of his rehabbing with the Nuts rather than jumping around to Little Rock and Tacoma.) Tuivailala worked a clean 1-2-3 inning in his first time throwing in a game since last August. The fastball showed good movement, bearing in on lefties, and Tui was able to hit the catcher’s target consistently. His inning was over very quickly; it could have been extended with a dumb infield hit off this check swing, but shortstop Johnny Adams swooped in to prop up his new teammate:
Tacoma Rainiers (11-17) buzz off the Salt Lake Bees (9-17), 4-0
The Rainiers might have the worst ERA in the PCL, but they didn’t pitch like it today. Tyler Cloyd, in a return performance for the Rainiers, was very good over 3.2 innings in which he struck out three before being relieved by Robinson Leyer, David McKay, and Parker Markel, who all pitched in to hold the Bees off the board. Meanwhile, the Rainiers faced a rehabbing Nick Tropeano, who struck out seven in just four innings but surrendered two runs, one on a wild pitch and one on this double to Ian Miller:
Miller now has ten doubles on the season; he had 16 all of last season.
Shed Long would later go long and stopped to admire his handiwork, as one does when one makes a beautiful thing:
Ga head Shed. Ga head Reggie. Ga head us, every one.
How low/can Clay Chandler’s ERA go/before he earns a promo/to Modesto (currently: .031)
Ricardo Sánchez is another pitcher who’s pushing for a promotion; he’s been especially adept at getting ground ball outs, which seems like it would be a useful skill in the launching pad of the PCL.
West Virginia at Greensboro: 4:00 pm PT (RHP Clay Chandler)
Arkansas at Frisco, 5:05 pm PT (LHP Ricardo Sánchez)
Tacoma vs Albuquerque, 7:05 pm PT (LHP Jonathon Niese)
Modesto vs Stockton, 7:10 pm PT (RHP Austin Hutchison)