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Midshipman’s Log, August 21st: Julio keeps hitting, Kelenic doubles down, Haniger and Bishop are alive

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Good news about the Mariners’ prospect development chased with good news about Mariners’ prospect performance

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
Look at this American playing for his favorite team, the US of A.
Photo by Brace Hemmelgarn/Minnesota Twins/Getty Images

Hello! I return to the Midshipman’s Log to find the ship in good order, the course properly set. Let me just check what’s happened since—

Whoa! OK, so the Mariners are now being lauded by national analysts for their minor league development? A development system that focuses on forward-looking analytics, positive reinforcement, and care for individual players’ well being?

Huh. But that’s just one guy I’m sur—

Well that’s all fine and dandy but you can talk talk talk all you want about “process” and “caring” but when it actually comes time to play the game—

You know what? Fine.

(Warning: Personal thoughts. Feel free to skip to the games!)

There’s a part of my brain so hurt and damaged from the past two decades that I am terrified of these glowing reports about the farm system. Almost like I am being set up by an industry-wide conspiracy to make me believe in something that will only let me down. In some ways, I will be let down. Prospects bust—they have to, there aren’t enough roster spots, the talent gap is too wide, etc., etc. Most will fail; that’s the game.

It’s just strange to hear exclusively positive reports and associate them with the Seattle Mariners Baseball Team. It disrupts an easy and long-standing narrative: “The Mariners Cannot Develop Prospects” (that is probably a shirt, somewhere) and “#6 org” (definitely a shirt). Phrases that are stickier than alternatives simply because that particular heuristic is deeply implanted and frequently traveled.

Yet, all the talk about changing the direction of the farm system has been confirmed by results (at the minor league level), industry analysts, and quotes from players and coaches. There hasn’t been much of anything thus far to conclude that all the evidence pointing toward a successful new philosophical direction aren’t accurate. The proof will be at the major league level in a few years. But the development of that future is taking place right now. Watch with caution, but maybe it’s time to start unlearning the narrative of failure.

Speaking of non-failure!

Jake Fraley has been called up to The Show, crossing another player off the “add to 40-man list.” Justus Sheffield is also going to get another chance at the majors, according to Divish, starting on Friday.

In addition, UDFA RHPs Bernie Martinez was added to Modesto and Robert Winslow added to West Virginia.

OK, to the games!

DSL Mariners (33-35) let loose the cannons on DSL Giants (29-39), win 11-9

Link to full box score

The Mariners team showed up and decided to just not swing at all, which proved to be a sound strategy as they racked up 8 BBs and scored 11 runs with only 1 XBH (a three-run dinger by Julio De La Cruz, his 3rd). Noelvi Marte added a single and two walks without striking out. Something is definitely going on with Marte’s plate discipline in August. After running middling K/BB ratios throughout the year, in his last 16 games Marte has walked 9 times and K’d only 8 times. The ~11% BB and K rates are encouraging after running walk rates below 10% and K rates above 25% for much of the year. What’s going on? I don’t know. But it’s good. Elbis Afanador had a decent start, going 4.1 innings giving up only 2 runs. The baby M’s have now won seven games in a row and are coming dangerously close to .500.

AZL Mariners Did Not Play Baseball Today, Try Again Tomorrow

Everett AquaSox (31-33) aqua-sock the Spokane Indians (37-27), 3-2

Link to full box score

After his worst professional start last week, first round pick and One Of Our Hopes And One Of Our Dreams (OOOHAOOOD) George Kirby returned to dominance in this close game. Kirby went 3 innings and struck out as many hitters (4) as hits (4), all of which were singles, and was hitting 95 MPH. He also upheld his long-standing professional tradition of refusing to issue a walk. That’s 20 innings now without allowing runners to saunter, forcing them to sprint for their bases like try-hards. He joins Nick Lodolo (7th overall pick) as the only two first round pitching prospects to not allow a walk with at least ten innings.

Also this little tidbit:

You have to imagine Kirby and his 2.04 xFIP would handled WV if he had any innings available.

Brayan Perez, at just 18, pitched the other 6 innings with 7 Ks and no walks. After dominating in the DSL last year, the lefty has been performing well since being called up from the AZL early this year. He could be bound for an aggressive look in the Arizona Fall League.

The offense was a saucy Singles-Only mixer with RF Trent Tingelstad and DH Juan Camacho providing most of the excitement. The former hit a clutch two-run single and extended his hitting streak to four games, while the later had three singles and raised his OPS to the mid-3s. Yep. The mid-3s.

West Virginia Power are made to walk the plank and wait outside in the rain for the plank to find a spot to pee by the Charleston RiverDogs, lose 5-3

Link to full box score

With the early-season departure of Jarred Kelenic and the more recent departure of Julio Rodriguez, the Power are thinking of changing their name to simply “West Virginia.” It’s been tough sledding unless Austin Shenton or Bobby Honeyman can get into one. Shenton wound up going 1-2 but was hit in the helmet by a pitch and was removed from the game. Always a terrifying moment, but he was able to walk back to the dugout without assistance. Hoping for the best. Scary.

Honeyman did not collect a hit but did contribute, as he often does, on defense:

The barehand is nice, but it’s the adjustment on a funky hop and an accurate throw that’s really impressive. Catcher Dean Narvaez smacked a home run, his 7th, and now has an August OPS over .900.

The pitching was strong but not quite enough in this one. But 2018 draft pick Benjamin Onyshko and David Freitas trade return Sal Biasi combined for 7.1 innings of shutout ball, as Evan Johnson struggled in his .2 innings to lead off the game.

I haven’t watched much of Onyshko, fellow Stetson Hatter alongside first-rounder Logan Gilbert, since he was drafted, and so I sat down to fix that today. I won’t bore you with an in-depth report but I will say that Benjamin threw at least 65% breaking pitches.

yikes that sure was a swing

I can’t find much scouting on him but it looked like he threw both a curve and a slider; the above is definitely the curve. You can see the nasty bite. To righties he threw it backdoor and then would bear it down at their ankles. It was brutal when he located it. But he has trouble controlling it (two WPs) and sometimes the shape got slurvy and hung in the zone (hard for me to classify the pitches, though). His sharp curve/slurve repertoire reminded me of righty Sam Delaplane, though I don’t have any velo readings to compare FBs.

(Former Mariner alert: Josh Stowers hit a double and continues to be adequate for in full season A ball, still yet to showcase much power with a SLG just .003 points higher than his OBP.)

Modesto Nuts (57-70) roast San Jose Giants (56-70) over an open fire, win 7-1

Link to full box score

A couple of big names performing and a dominant performance from Austin Hutchinson (7 IP 1 ER 3 BBs 4 Ks) sealed the Giants fate. Facing off against rehabbing Johnny Cueto, the Nuts touched him up for four runs. Particularly impressive was 18 year old Julio Rodriguez, who I am not convinced ever does anything wrong, going 2-4 and hitting an RBI single off of Cueto. Julio didn’t mash any doubles or home runs, but he battled a major league pitcher and came away with a hit. The chopped single was impressive, but in the fifth this at bat was far more impressive:

Julio stays with this breaking ball away from him and with two strikes doesn’t try to pull it. Instead he stays back and makes solid contact for an opposite field line drive. It’s a sample of 1, but that doesn't look like the approach of an 18 year old overmatched against older competition. He looks comfortable. There’ll be an adjustment coming, I’m sure, but he hasn’t stopped hitting yet. He now has 7 hits in 4 A+ games and, this can’t be right, no strikeouts. Wow. None? Huh.

Braden Bishop on his rehab collected a hit and did not get hit by a pitch. He looks thin, but maybe he’s always looked that thin. He’s healthy—that’s what counts.

CF Ariel Sandoval hit two doubles off of Cueto and that’s great for him!

Arkansas Travelers (74-51) snared by Corpus Christi Hooks (62-64), 4-3

Link to full box score

The one joy we are supposed to have as Mariners fans mired in a losing season is seeing our minor-league teams beat the stuffing out of the A’s and Astros affiliates, foreshadowing the days when the tide has crested on our minor league talent, leaving the rest of the AL West gasping for air. Alas, that was not the case today, although it could have been. Hooks starter Brett Conine, drafted in 2018, is new to the AA level, and wobbled a bit, giving up five hits in six innings. At multiple times the Travs could have had him on the ropes, but instead struck out seven times and only scored two runs off Conine, going a measly 2-for-10 with RISP. Travs starter Ricardo Sanchez labored over four innings, throwing just 46 of his 76 pitches for strikes and issuing three walks. Kyle Lewis had a rough two-error game and was caught stealing, and the only extra base hits for the Travs were both off the bat of Jarred Kelenic, who hit two doubles and continues to adjust well to Double-A. So that’s the good news.

Tacoma Rainiers do not save, are rendered extinct by Salt Lake Bees, lose 6-3

Link to full box score

I really missed watching Mitch Haniger. Sure he’s a boring person who only likes baseball but who cares, he’s good at baseball. We’ve had to watch Tm Beckham play the outfield—it’s time for Mitch to come back.

Today he went 1-4 with a triple, a walk, and three strikeouts. I cringed every time he did anything because, I don’t know if you’ve heard, stop me if you have, I don’t want to say it, but he ruptured a testicle not too long ago. He really likes baseball, apparently, and I promise not to make crude jokes about it. I’ll limit comments to base, uh, baseorbs.

The triple was a great sign as he ruptured a ball over 400 feet to the deep part of the game(?)park. He was able to go down and get the orb, sprint full-speed around the sacks, and walk away without incident. Whew.

Darren McCaughen was tagged with the loss as his light-tossing command approach is getting lit up with this “baseball” as is Andrew Moore’s as is most everyone’s.

C Joseph Odom hit a double and in the 8 games he’s been in Tacoma he’s rocking a 1.307 OPS with a 6:6 K/BB. He is a glove first catcher. If he can hit, that would be swell.

The bullpen pitched three scoreless with 2 IP, 0 Hs, and4 Ks combined between Dan Altavilla and Gerson Bautista. Dan looks ready. On this latest scoreless rehab he’s at 4.1 IP with 7 Ks, 2 BBs, and only 1 hit. Hopefully he can stay healthy and finish out the year strong.

Today’s games:

Some interesting games again today as Juan Then is pitching for WV in his A ball debut. The 19 year old received an aggressive promotion and you’ll be able to watch it with an MiLB subscription. Justin Dunn will continue his quest to be completely rock-solid and add to his Texas League K crown, while his friend Justus Sheffield heads back to Seattle. Soon you shall be reunited, I’m sure. Julio Rodriguez (A+), Jarred Kelenic (AA) and rehabbing Mitch Haniger (AAA) are all worth the price of admission as well.

DSL Pirates 2 at DSL Mariners, 7:30 AM PT

West Virginia at Charleston (TV), 4:05 PM PT (RHP Juan Then)

Corpus Christi at Arkansas (TV) 5:10 PM PT (RHP Justin Dunn)

AZL Giants Orange at AZL Mariners, 6:00 PM PT

San Jose at Modesto (TV), 7:05 PM PT (LHP Steven Moyers)

Spokane at Everett, 7:05 PM PT (RHP Deivy Florido)

Salt Lake at Tacoma (TV), 7:05 PM PT (LHP Anthony Misiewicz)