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).
After two straight on-brand losses from the Mariners have brought the club all the way back to .500, the farm is becoming increasingly a refuge for baseball enjoyment of a different sort. Unfortunately, rainouts and off-days played a bit of havoc this week, so while this is typically a pure recap of the previous night’s action, we’ll be trying to cover a few most recent matchups for varying squads.
[May 6] West Virginia Power (17-12) clipped by the Greensboro Grasshoppers (20-10), 6-3
The Power have a pathway to victory and it’s paved by run prevention. The newest affiliate in the system has scored 8+ runs just twice this season, and with early season ace Logan Gilbert up in Modesto their rotation has thinned. Veteran Steven Moyers got touched up in this one, as the 25-year-old yielded a flurry of hits despite seven strikeouts and no walks in 6.2 IP to the Pirates new Sally League affiliate. The offense has been severely limited outside of Jarred Kelenic, who merely walked and went 0-for-3. Recent arrival Dean Nevarez has added a jolt, while Onil Peña clubbed a homer in this one, but runs have been in short supply. Come back soon, Juliooo.
[May 5] Arkansas Travelers (19-10) get swamped by the Amarillo Sod Poodles (13-17), 8-5
Know what’s cute? The idea of a Sod Poodle. Know what’s not? The idea of a soaking wet, smelly dog. That’s what the Travelers were left with this week, as they traveled to Amarillo for a Texas League hoedown only to be rained out thrice. After splitting games one and two on the 4th and 5th, game three was rained out on Monday, as was the subsequent doubleheader yesterday. Oh well, they’ll get them somewhere around the bend, right?
Tuesday night's doubleheader in Amarillo has been canceled due to the potential for severe storms throughout the rest of the day. The games will not be made up.— Arkansas Travelers (@ARTravs) May 7, 2019
After an off day on Wednesday, the Travs return home to Dickey-Stephens Park on Thursday night to host Tulsa. pic.twitter.com/ksUn3uF8tR
Well beans. For the players, a rare three consecutive off days likely isn’t a travesty, but it’s a shame to see the hot play of a few offensive prospects interrupted.
In Sunday’s game, the Travs were put in an early hole with an absolutely miserable outing by Darren McCaughan. McCaughan’s game is working in the zone consistently and getting mediocre contact or advantageous counts that lead to strikeouts, as our Nick Stillman profiled recently. When the other team is aggressive and making strong contact, however, you get a start like this, with four homers allowed in just 3.2 IP. Baseballs were flying out of the park for both sides Sunday, but it was a discouraging outing for an early bright spot in the farm.
The offense did their damndest to make it a ballgame, putting some longballs of their own on the board. Now nearly two weeks removed from his minor hamstring injury, Evan White has started putting a charge in the ball. He hit his first AA homer here, and is red-hot at the plate right now.
Evan White with his first HR of the year for Arkansas: pic.twitter.com/w9Yq73Ie6V— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 5, 2019
While Kyle Lewis had the day off, Dom Thompson-Williams merely got a restful day of DHing, and that was more than enough to record a dinger of his own, utilizing the short left field line in Amarillo.
Dom "Gon Give It To Ya" Thompson-Williams with his second HR in two days. He came into today's game slugging .500 with a wRC+ of 143. pic.twitter.com/VZ7WplAKLJ— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 5, 2019
2B Jordan Cowan added a trio of hits to keep his hot start going. Cowan reached AA way back in 2015 but is still just freshly 24 years old despite injuries waylaying his development, and his plate discipline certainly has impressed early on. He can still play all over the infield but whether he can squeeze a bit more power out of his bat may be key to his fate moving forward.
Modesto Nuts (15-17) cracked by the San Jose Giants (12-20), 4-2
Looking at the box score for this one it might seem like a miracle it ended up as high-scoring as it was. Three hits and an error for the Giants. Five hits and an error for the Nuts. But free passes will kill you, and Nuts starter Ian McKinney signed away his own doom in this one with two walks and three HBPs, as well as an error that unfortunately started the inning by Johnny Adams.
That was enough to bring in all four runs, and the Nuts could not counter. Still, Joe Rizzo was able to extend his 11-game hitting streak, highlighting his curious profile as he’s off to the best offensive production of his career following a lot of offseason work. Drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 draft, Rizzo was saddled with hefty expectations immediately. Boasting nearly the antipodal profile of recently released former teammate and fellow 2nd round pick Gareth Morgan, Rizzo has been the subject of skepticism here and among scouts for his contact-over-power profile paired with a frame that doesn’t scream plus defense at 3B.
A month after his 21st birthday, Rizzo is making a big impact in his second go around in ye olde Cal League. His swing is compact, giving him good plate coverage that has helped him boast both a 25% line drive rate and hit the ball the opposite way just as often (40.9%) as he pulls it (39.8%). He led off last night’s game with just such a single.
It remains a difficult profile to ride to the bigs - his ISO of just .096 is a glaring question mark in his .351/.423/.447 line with a 150 wRC+, but being a shift-proof lefty who can possibly play multiple infield positions passably is something to aspire to, and it’s more than we’ve had to squint at Rizzo for before.
Briefly of note, the Nuts bullpen gave their team every chance to come back, as Penn Murfee (1.0), Sam Delaplane (2.0), and Kyle Wilcox (1.0) combined for 4.0 shutout innings with just one hit, one walk, and seven strikeouts between them.
Tacoma Rainiers (14-19) outpaced by Reno Aces (14-18), 4-3
Since joining the Rainiers, Mallex Smith has looked dramatically more comfortable. He’s also been far more aggressive on pitches in the zone, which hopefully has helped him get back into a lasting groove. Last night he went 3-for-5, with the full Mallex diet of... an infield single, a line drive single that he was thrown out trying to stretch to a double, and another line drive single where he successfully stole second afterwards - his fourth since being demoted. The night before he made a few solid plays in the field, including this minimalist dive.
Mallex Smith has made a couple of tough catches in Tacoma's spacious outfield tonight. Not bad for a guy playing his third game there. pic.twitter.com/zkXQBKbIXM— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) May 7, 2019
For a guy who couldn’t hold the ball in his glove a couple weeks ago it’s progress.
J.P. Crawford continued his 31-game on-base streak last night, which does indeed mean he’s reached base in every game he’s played so far this season. Crawford hasn’t obliterated expectations in Tacoma, but he’s been an above-average hitter, looking like a slightly better version of the guy who hit well in his first brush at AAA two years ago. With the help of Tim Beckham’s torrid start, the Mariners have had no cause to rush Crawford, and will be rewarding themselves with an extra year of his service time by keeping him in Tacoma. With that in mind, he’s looked ready for big-league reps, and hopefully the second half of the season will see him showcased heavily just north on I-5.
Now you might look at that box score and note something called Ryan Court hit a homer for the Mariners. That may surprise you, but do not be alarmed. After losing Joey Curletta on waivers to the Red Sox, the Mariners signed Court from the indy ball Sugar Land Skeeters.
Has Ryan Court played every infield position consistently throughout his career? Yes!
Has he been a relatively decent hitter at every level? Yes!
Has that gotten him a big league opportunity? No!
Is that kinda weird? Yes!
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 vs Greensboro: 4:05 pm PT (RHP Josias De Los Santos - facing top prospect RHP Sean Hjelle)
Modesto vs San Jose, 4:05 pm PT (RHP Austin Hutchison)
Tacoma vs Reno, 6:05 pm PT (LHP Jonathon Niese)