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State of the Farm: 5/9/19

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It’s starting to feel like there’s an abnormal amount of movement going on down on the farm...

With the major league team currently mid-downward spiral, what better to give you your Mariners baseball-adjacent fix than Mariners minors Baseball?! Flipping the script from the beginning of the season, there’s been hot hitting up and down the organization over the last week, while sparkling pitching performances have become slightly less prevalent.

Click here for a sortable list of stat lines on all the system’s top 30 prospects, per MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline.

(AAA) Tacoma Rainiers

Team Record: 14-19 (4th in Pacific Northern Division)

.274/.347/.433, 2nd in PCL in stolen bases

6.22 ERA, 1.67 WHIP, 3rd-highest ERA and WHIP in PCL

Long Sparking Rainiers Offense

It took a little bit for him to get going, but INF Shed Long has been a key cog in the Tacoma lineup over the last week, raising his slash line to .277/.353/.487 with his 9-23 performance over the last seven days.

The 23-year-old offseason acquisition continues to get run at a variety of positions, playing nine games at second base, 15 at third, and six in left field.

Milone Spectacular in Shutout Follow-Up

On the heels of a rain-shortened shutout, LHP Tommy Milone surrendered just three hits over a 10-strikeout, 7.2 inning start. He’s now allowed just six hits and one walk over his last two starts, accumulating 15 strikeouts over 13.2 innings.

The longtime Oakland A is looking increasingly like a strong depth option at the big league level should the Mariners find themselves in need of another starter.

Crawford Showing Big-League Ready Bat

The choice to start 24-year-old SS J.P. Crawford down in Tacoma this season is looking more and more like a good choice on the part of the Mariners. He’s boasting a 123 wRC+ through 31 games and running a walk rate (13.8%) that’s inching closer to his strikeout rate (18.1%). The former elite prospect has recorded a hit in all but four games this season, and had a huge night on Monday, going 4-5 with a homer and six runs batted in.

The big league squad doesn’t appear to be in need of a new starting shortstop anytime soon, but it’s looking like Crawford isn’t far from being up to the task.

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 19-10 (1st in Texas League North Division)

.246/.339/.373, 3rd in Texas League in walks

3.18 ERA, 1.19 WHIP, Leading Texas League in ERA and WHIP

Dunn Posts Strong Outing

Pitching on six days’ rest, RHP Justin Dunn turned in an efficient performance last Thursday for the Travs. He lasted a season-high 7.0 innings in the start, and managed to avoid issuing a walk for this first time on the year. It was arguably the right-hander’s strongest outing since joining the organization.

Following his latest outing, he’s boasting career-bests in strikeout rate (11.7 K/9) and walk rate (2.8 BB/9) and is now running a slash of 3.20/2.70/3.34 through five starts. He’s looking noticeably better here in his second trip through Double-A, although it’s worth noting he made just 15 starts at the level last year. He doesn’t turn 24 until September, but it wouldn’t be a shock to see him receive a couple starts in Tacoma as an early birthday gift should he continue to churn out impressive starts.

Thompson-Williams Surging

Multi-hit games have become something of a regularity for OF Dom Thompson-Williams this season, and he added four more of them over the last week. Over his last five games, he’s gone 11-21 (.524), raising his average from .260 to .316. His hot hitting earned him a spot on MLB.com’s Prospect Pipeline Team of the Week.

The freshly-turned 24-year-old has actually made improvements upon taking the step from High-A last season to Double-A this year, increasing his walk rate from 8.3% to 11.4% while cutting his strikeout rate from 25.3% to 21.9%.

20-20 pace update: 25.9 home runs, 36.3 stolen bases

White Returns to Travelers Lineup

After a near two-week absence earlier this season, 1B Evan White missed a pair of games towards the beginning of the month before making his return last Thursday. Through his first three games back, he’s gone 6-13 with a double, a home run, three walks, and two strikeouts.

With Joey Curletta now out of his way, the path to Triple-A appears for now to be completely in White’s hands with only health and performance standing in his way. He’s only appeared in 14 games above High-A ball (unless you include his emergency callup to Tacoma for four games last season) and the club is in no hurry to move him along; however, his advanced defense and the adjustments he made last season to dominate offensively throughout the second half could make him not long for this level.

Altavilla Regaining Form

Things are starting to look up again for RHP Dan Altavilla, who was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma before eventually joining Arkansas in an attempt to rediscover the skills he flashed at times in the majors for parts of the last three seasons.

Diesel Dan has grown progressively more wild each season since debuting for the Mariners in 2016 after making a switch from starting to relieving that accelerated his movement through the system. After walking six through 5.0 innings between Seattle and Tacoma this season, he’s been lights out for Arkansas, striking out nine and walking just two through 6.0 one-hit innings. At 26 years old, I’d expect he’ll rejoin Tacoma in the near future, and should be one of the first to get the call when the club stats dealing relief arms to contending clubs prior to July’s trade deadline.

McClain Impressive in Debut

There was a quick pit-stop in Tacoma for a spot start for RHP Reggie McClain before making his long-awaited Double-A debut. His first outing for the Travelers came last Thursday, in which McClain hurled 2.0 spotless innings in relief, striking out four. He’s allowed just one earned run and struck out 22 over 18.0 innings between Modesto and Arkansas this season and remains on trajectory to move a step closer to the big leagues sooner than later.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 15-17 (2nd in California League North Division)

.238/.326/.368, 3rd in Cal League in hits and home runs

3.74 ERA, 1.29 WHIP, 2nd in Cal League in WHIP

Joe Rizzo Can HIT

After showing the humble beginning of a turnaround at the plate at the tail end of April, INF Joe Rizzo has broken into a full-fledged, boiling molten hot lava streak. In 16 games dating back to April 20, he’s slashing .431/.449/.554 with a 183 wRC+ and has done a majority of his damage lately.

Over the last week in particular, he’s running a .542/.560/.833 line with a 295 wRC+ thanks in no small part to finally breaking the seal on the extra-base hit. After recording just four extra-base hits (all doubles) through the first 24 games of his season, he doubled in four straight games last week and also homered in one of those games.

The former 50th overall pick has boosted his season-long slash line to .351/.423/.447 and is sitting atop the Cal League in hitting and is second to Austin Nola among Mariners minor leaguers. His .424 BABIP on the year suggests he’s been the beneficiary of a ton of batted ball luck, but the extra-base hits and decreased strikeout rate this season are major signs of progress for the recently-turned 21-year-old.

Larsen Figuring Out Cal League

It was a rough start to the season for undrafted OF Jack Larsen as he was slashing .190/.360/.316 through the first 21 games of the season. His year took a turn at game 22 however, and he’s been one of Modesto’s hottest hitters over the last eight games, a span during which he’s posted a line of .406/.486/.813 with four doubles, three homers, and a wRC+ of 260.

Since posting identical walk and strikeout rates of 23.2% through 34 games with the AZL Mariners back in 2017, Larsen’s seen his strikeouts climb slightly and his walk decrease a touch with the challenge of each new level until this year. While his strikeout rate has now eclipsed 30.0%, he’s got his walk rate back up to 19.0% on the season, which has allowed him to hold a position near the top of the organization’s OBP leaders. If he can continue to draw walks while occasionally driving the ball into the gaps and over the fence, he may just be able to overcome the strikeout issues that have plagued him to date.

Gilbert Promising in Nuts Debut

Just four starts into his West Virginia Power career, RHP Logan Gilbert was rewarded with a promotion to High-A Modesto, where he made his Cal League debut last Thursday. The final line on the start doesn’t knock your socks off, but Kate did a deep dive into Gilbert’s start (and all of his early-season success) that identified some real reason for optimism. From Kate’s piece:

In Gilbert’s first two innings, he allowed three runs on four hits, and walked more batters (two) than he struck out—anathema for a player who prides himself on commanding the zone and not handing out free passes. But Gilbert pushed past his struggles to finish strong: in his final 2.1 innings, he allowed just one hit and no runs, didn’t walk a batter, and struck out six.

The 2018 1st-round selection is slated to make his second start for the Nuts tonight and will enter the game with a 2.2 inning scoreless streak he’ll look to build on against a San Jose team that ranks second-to-last in the Cal League in nearly every offensive statistic.

Kober Rebounding in Modesto Bullpen

When they need an out, the Nuts have been turning to RHP Collin Kober recently, and he hasn’t disappointed. The sidearm slinger has struck out eight while allowing just one baserunner over the last week, spanning 3.2 innings.

He’s now allowed just one earned run over his last eight outings and is tied for sixth among relievers in the organization with 25 strikeouts on the season. Strangely, he’s seen his walk rate nearly double this season after posting rates of 2.0 BB/9 and 2.3 BB/9 across two levels last season, but that’s starting to stabilize for him as hasn’t issued a walk in any of his last three appearances.

(A) West Virginia Power

Team Record: 17-12 (3rd in South Atlantic League North Division)

.221/.317/.342, 2nd in South Atlantic League in walks

3.01 ERA, 1.14 WHIP, 4th in South Atlantic League in ERA and WHIP

Chandler Impressive Again

It’s rare for a pitcher to allow just two earned runs over 7.0 innings and see their ERA climb, but that was exactly the case for RHP Clay Chandler after his outing last Friday. The organization’s ERA King among qualified starters, Chandler entered Friday’s start boasting a 0.31 ERA over 29.0 innings.

His peripherals suggest that run-prevention is something of a facade as his 2.77 FIP and 3.74 xFIP, and 84.5% strand rate don’t exactly lineup with the ERA. That said, he’s done an excellent job of minimizing free passes, walking hitters at a rate of 1.3 BB/9, a career best. Currently, he’s in the midst of a 19.0 inning streak over which he’s running a 22:0 strikeout-to-walk ratio.

Arias Electric in Power ‘Pen

Since being tagged for three earned runs on five hits and two walks over a pair of outings in the middle of April, RHP Dayeison Arias has been close to untouchable for West Virginia over 8.0 innings spanning six outings since.

During that time frame, the San Cristobal, Dominican Republic native has allowed just three hits and two walks while compiling nine strikeouts, including four multi-strikeout outings. Dating back to last season, he’s posted more multi-strikeout performances (20) than one or zero-strikeout performances (12) while averaging just under 1.2 innings per appearance.

Like many of the high-upside relief options coming up through the minor league ranks, the organization has opted to groom Arias for a multi-inning role. The effectiveness he’s demonstrated over multiple innings has made him a great value to the bullpen of each team he’s been with and should ultimately fuel the 22-year-old’s progression through the system.

Inman Continues Compiling K’s

While Chandler has been the system’s top run-preventer, it’s his rotation-mate RHP Ryne Inman who leads the system in strikeout rate, posting 14.7 K/9 through 27.0 innings this season.

As he’s flashed the ability to retire the opposition on strikes in the past—he posted a 9.4 K/9 strikeout rate in 2018—his rates this season are a marked improvement, and his transformation hasn’t been limited to strikeout either. His 46.3% ground ball rate is also a career-high. While his 3.00/2.75/2.61 line is extremely impressive, his inability to work deep into ballgames—he’s averaging just under 4.2 innings per start—may force him into long relief or a role piggybacking off of an opener in the future.

Notes:

Wells Dealt to Washington for Adams

A broken wrist on his pitching arm didn’t stop the Washington Nationals from expressing interest in LHP Nick Wells, whom they acquired over the weekend, netting the Mariners RHP Austin Adams.

Adams, 28, has been a dominant strikeout pitcher at Triple-A each of the last three seasons, posting a strikeout rate of 14.7 K/9 over 116.1 innings. Obviously a guy with that kind of ability to rack up strikeouts who has failed to make an impact at the major league level has to have some major flaw in his game. For Adams, it’s been his control, which has given him issues throughout his career. Over those last three years, he’s posted 4.6 BB/9.

Adams has been added to the Mariners’ 40-man roster and optioned to Triple-A Tacoma.

Curletta Claimed by Boston

Somewhat mysteriously, it came to Mariner fans’ attention that 1B Joey Curletta was on waivers once it was announced that he’d been claimed by the Boston Red Sox. Curletta, 25, won the Texas League Player of the Year Award at Double-A last season and also received the Ken Griffey Jr. Minor League Hitter of the Year Award as the organization’s top offensive weapon.

Festa to IL

RHP Matt Festa was added to Triple-A Tacoma’s injured list. Festa has allowed 12 earned runs through 14.2 innings across Triple-A and MLB.

Court Signs MiLB Deal

The Mariners signed 30-year-old 1B Ryan Court to a minor league free agent deal. Court, an eight-year minor league veteran, posted a 106 wRC+ through 114 games with the Cubs’ Triple-A affiliate last season. He’s posted a wRC+ >100 at each stop of his minor league career.

Court has been assigned to Tacoma, where he homered in his first game with the team.

Cavanerio Released

The organization released RHP Jorgan Cavanerio, who was signed to a minor league contract during the offseason. He opened the season with Triple-A Tacoma before recently being optioned to Double-A, where his struggles continued.

Hoffman to IL

2018 5th-round pick RHP Nolan Hoffman was placed on the West Virginia Power IL.

Bautista Beginning Rehab Assignment in Modesto

RHP Gerson Bautista, who the Mariners acquired from the New York Mets in the deal that sent 2B Robinson Cano and RHP Edwin Diaz to New York, has been sent to High-A Modesto to start a rehab assignment. The flamethrowing reliver was removed from a spring training game with what went on to be diagnosed as a right pectoral strain.

Bautista had a rough go of things in his first outing back as he surrendered two earned runs on a walk, a hit, and two wild pitches.

Kaleiwahea inks Minors Deal

The Mariners have reportedly signed former Washington State University Cougar C Brennon Kaleiwahea. The Lacey, Washington native started out his collegiate career at WSU before transferring to Tennessee Technological University, where he was a one-man wrecking crew on Ohio Valley Conference opponents.

Kaleiwahea was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Cubs last season and posted an 87 wRC+ for the Short Season A Eugene Emeralds.