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State of the Farm: 6/13/19

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The stars are finally heating up (side-eyes Arkansas)

There’s been a decent amount of shuffling down on the farm over the last week as 2019 draftees are assigned to their respective teams. Short-Season Everett opens their season this Friday, and their roster is still coming together, but look for an AquaSox preview later on this week!

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: 31-34 (3rd in Pacific Northern Division)

Control Issues Dominating Sheffield’s Debut Season

The guy dubbed the organization’s top prospect by several outlets has looked like anything but in his first season as a member of the Mariners organization. While LHP Justus Sheffield has always struggled with control throughout his minor league career, the rate has ballooned this season to the tune of a 6.8 BB/9 walk rate, and his 40 walks is far and away the most in the system. It’s a little shocking that no intervention—at least not an effective one—has taken place yet this season given how drastically the issued cropped up. Outside of the walk issues, many of his peripherals actually look okay. He’s posted the highest GB% of his career at 54.7% and his lowest FB% at 24.2%.

Over his last two outings, he’s combined to log just 5.1 innings, surrendering 12 earned runs on eight hits and 10 walks.

Wright Strong in Pair of Starts

29-year-old RHP Mike Wight, who was optioned to Tacoma back on May 22 after an unsuccessful 11.0 inning stint with the Mariners has posted a pair of strong albeit abbreviated starts for the Rainiers recently. In each of his last two outings, he tossed 4.0 innings and surrendered just one run on two hits. The former 3rd-round pick hasn’t worked exclusively as a starter since 2017, but his most recent outings suggest perhaps the organization envisions a role for him as starting pitching depth going forward.

Cooke Staying Afloat

The jump from A-ball to Triple-A has been surprisingly smooth for 2017 8th-round pick OF Billy Cooke. He was summoned to provide depth to a depleted Tacoma club despite falling far short of the Mendoza Line in each of his first two professional seasons; a welcome surprise from the defensively skilled center fielder. Through 15 games, he’s posted a wRC+ of 95 while slashing .289/.377/.378 and swiping five bags. The results aren’t expected to last, but perhaps bode well for his fortunes when he inevitably returns to one of the A levels in the coming week(s).

(AA) Arkansas Travelers

Team Record: 41-21 (1st in Texas League North Division)

Middle-of-the-Order Bats on Fire

After slow starts for both 1B Evan White and OF Kyle Lewis, the duo has been a thorn in the side of Texas League pitchers lately. Since May 30, White has boosted his slash line from .239/.336/.327 to .290/.363/.463, wRC+ing 227 over that span. Over that same time frame, Lewis has tacked 40 points on to his slash line and posted a wRC+ of 173. White has recorded 2 RBI in four of his last five games, homering in four of those games. If either guy is able to stay hot throughout the summer, it would put them on trajectory to be ready for big league action right when the club’s expected 2021 window is opened.

Walton Has Huge Week

In a week where seemingly the entire Travelers roster was hitting, INF Donnie Walton was not to be outdone, going 11-for-22 with seven runs scored over his last five games. The 25-year-old middle infielder continues to see most of his time come at shortstop, although he’s also received run at second base. After playing 62 games at the level in 2018, he’s improved across the board this season although his batted ball data looks almost identical. His seven home runs through 56 games is already a career best and ties him for the most among all Mariners minor league middle infielders.

Sanchez Back on Track

After posting a sub-1.00 ERA in five starts during the month of April, LHP Ricardo Sanchez cratered back to earth in May, posting an 8.10 ERA in five outings. June is off to a much better start for the 22-year-old Venezuelan, combining for 17 punchouts through 11.2 innings of two-run ball. He’s continued to be a challenge for opposing hitters to lift the ball against, posting a FB% of 23.3% and inducing ground balls at a rate of 52.8%. With his walk rate as low as it’s even been (2.3 BB/9), he’s continued to find success by maintaining command of his arsenal rather than overpowering the opposition, although the boon in strikeouts over his last two outings is worth noting.

(A+) Modesto Nuts

Team Record: 29-36 (3rd in California League North Division)

Murfee Looking Every Bit Like an Ace

There’s been essentially no learning curve for RHP Penn Murfee as he’s continued to make the transition to a starting pitching role after working as a relief pitcher in 31 of the first 32 games of his professional career. Since moving into the rotation on May 26, he’s made four starts, totaling 19.2 IP and posting a line of 0.92 ERA, 0.71 WHIP, 10.1 K/9, 1.8 BB/9, 2.77 FIP. He’s now logged the exact same amount of Cal League innings (35.0) as 2018 1st-rounder Logan Gilbert—who has more than lived up to the hype mind you—and has bested him across the board; however it’s worth noting that nearly half of Murfee’s innings have come in shorter outings out of the bullpen. He is looking like a true late-round value and another example of an arm that the organization’s developmental program has turned into a legitimate pitching prospect.

Rizzo Flexing Muscles

One of the rare occurrences of a guy repeating a level without his development falling behind the curve a bit, INF Joe Rizzo has found great success here in his second full season with High-A Modesto. Still just 21 years old, he’s shown all the signs of a guy who put in work over the offseason, posting career highs in just about every offensive category. Perhaps most importantly, he’s finally shown the ability to hit for extra-bases this season, posting a .402 slugging percentage while posting a career-low strikeout rate of just 17.0%. He continues to try and find a home on the diamond, seeing action at first base in 11 games this season, put it’s hard to imagine him sticking at either corner infield position if he doesn’t start to develop into a home run threat. For now, the plate discipline and on-base skills should continue to buy him some time as he continues to develop more strength moving forward.

Scheiner Slugging Since Joining System

It’s been a little over a week since INF Jake Scheiner was acquired from the Phillies in exchange for Jay Bruce, and the 2017 4th-round selection out of the University of Houston has starting heating up. He’s recorded at least one hit in each of his last five games, going 7-for-21 with a double, a triple, and two home runs. Between Scheiner’s acquisition and the use of a 5th-round pick on college 3B Austin Shenton, the depth at the hot corner looks a heckuva lot better than it did just two weeks ago; although it’s wroth noting that Scheiner has played more outfield than third base so far with the Nuts.

Something worth keeping an eye on: it’s a small sample size, but he’s posted a noticeably higher fly ball rate through eight games with Modesto than he had at any previous stop in his career.

(A) West Virginia Power

Team Record: 32-33 (4th in South Atlantic League North Division)

Moyers Finding Consistency

Although he has little prospect pedigree, LHP Steven Moyers has been extremely impressive in consistently keeping his team in ballgames. His seven innings of shutout, walk-free ball on Wednesday gives him quality starts in six of his last seven outings and eight of his last 10. As a member of a Power rotation that’s made up of several guys who made huge strides this season, Moyers is no different, positing the best strikeout rate (8.8 K/9), walk rate (1.5 BB/9), and xFIP (3.36) of his career. The 25-year-old southpaw has been prone to the occasional blowup, allowing six or more earned runs three times this season, but he’s been mostly a steadying force so far in 2019.

J-Rod Makes Long-Awaited Return

Nearly two months to the day of his last game, OF Julio Rodriguez made his return to game action on Monday, going 1-for-2 with a double and a pair of walks. The 18-year-old has established himself as one of the most exciting prospects in the system and joins a depleted West Virginia lineup that could make it difficult for him to get much of a chance to put his offensive prowess on display.

Casetta-Stubbs Shows Upside

A local product and 11th-round pick out of Kings Way High School in Vancouver, Washington last June, RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs received an aggressive promotion to West Virginia this year after just 6.2 innings in the AZL last summer. His peripherals suggest he’s pitched better than his 6.75 ERA this season would indicate, but he was assigned to Short-Season Everett on Wednesday and should post a line much more representative of his abilities upon making the move to the Northwest League. He had quite the swan song for West Virginia on Tuesday, posting a line of 6.0 IP, 3 H, 0 ER, 1 BB, 7 S0.

Notes:

Rumbelow Released

Spin rate darling RHP Nick Rumbelow was released on Wednesday. The Mariners sent a pair of intriguing arms to the Yankees in November of 2017 hoping to capitalize on the potential he flashed at the upper levels of the Yankees system. It did not work.

Kelenic to IL

The fastest-rising prospect in the Mariners’ system OF Jarred Kelenic was shelved due to a wrist aggravation he suffered on a slide. The injury is not thought to be a serious one, and Kelenic even started the day following the injury before being pulled from the game. He’s eligible to come off the IL on Saturday.

McGovern Moves up to Modesto

2018 9th-round selection OF Keegan McGovern was promoted to High-A Modesto on Monday. He slashed .263/.349/.553 through 10 games with West Virginia prior to his promotion, which came on the heels of the Kelenic injury. It remains to be seen if he’ll stay in Modesto when Kelenic is activated, but the Nuts releasing OF Anthony Jimenez seems to bode well for McGovern.

Jimenez Granted Release

One of the more intriguing outfielders in the Mariners’ system prior to the concentrated effort to restock the farm system, Venezuelan OF Anthony Jimenez was granted his release on Monday. After posting a wRC+ north of 100 in each of his first four professional seasons, he failed to do so last season as he continued a career-long trend of battling injuries.

Ojeda Retires

23-year-old OF Dimas Ojeda, who the Mariners selected in the 17th round of the 2016 draft, has voluntarily retired from baseball. He posted a 110 wRC+ in 108 games for High-A Modesto last season, but had failed to appear in a game yet this season.