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Midshipman’s Log, August 28th: Sir Ian McKinney dazzles, Nuts bathe in public, and Julio claps his hands

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Strong pitching and a dramatic walk-off victory featuring a familiar and delightful face.

SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game
He didn’t play today but we should talk about Justin Dunn anyway
Photo by Rob Tringali/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Some of the farm has been culled back and harvested before the approaching frost, namely, the AZL and DSL Mariners have been plucked from the wet, fragrant earth and you can read about some impressions here.

I like to stick minor league news-y things here. Is there news to stick? Yes!

The Travelers’ first playoff game will be on ROOT sports.

Hosted by Brad Adam and Jerry Dipoto! That’s interesting! Also a good chance to see either Logan Gilbert or Justin Dunn on, hopefully, professional cameras. Are you pumped? I’m pumped.

Not news exactly, but Jerry on the Wheelhouse with Himself said there will be 34-36 players on the big league club come September (9 to 11 new players!) and threw out some names: Kyle Lewis, Justin Dunn, perhaps Donnie Walton (well earned but a bit surprising).

The most interesting nugget to me was that Logan Gilbert would be considered for a call up if his innings weren’t so high. That would be from A ball to MLB in one season. He has been absolutely unstoppable all year and it is not crazy to think that he would be able to hold his own at the ML level. He isn’t walking anyone, his breaking stuff has been sharp, and he has enough weapons to get through the order a few times. I could be convinced that he would outpitch every starter right now not named Marco Gonzales.

In other non-news, the general baseball public’s love affair with Julio Rodriguez has crested past simmer and is now a bubbling boil lifting the pot lid and threatening to overflow onto your stove top if you don’t get it soon. Run! Run to the kitchen!

Other scouts would weigh in on their excitement as well. These aren’t based solely on his (unsustainable) results per se, but on the observations of the player himself. People who do not care about the M’s and have no investment in their prospects are excited about him. They don’t have to be, and they are. At some point we may reach saturation with the Good Julio News. I’m not as excited as I once was when it was fresh, but it’s great to have more eyes confirm what ours are seeing. A shared reality, if you will.

DSL Mariners = Done Season Longtime Mariners

AZL Mariners = Already Zzzzz-ing, Later! Mariners

Everett AquaSox — Nope!

West Virginia Power — Rained Out

For the second game in a row the West Virginia Power were rained out, only this was a double header that was suspended. The season is coming quickly to an end and there will be a lot of baseball packed into a tight space.

Modesto Nuts (61-73) make Stockton Ports (58-74) watch as they bathe in Gatorade, win 4-3

Link to full box score

This was a wild one—a walk-off nail biter that almost featured a no-hitter. There is a playoff spot still hanging, dangling, shimmering in the distance for Modesto and however little you care about minor league playoff games, the players care. So this game had actual stakes, which makes for fun, watchable baseball.

Clay Chandler received the start for Modesto and I admit to never having actually watched him pitch. Now I have! He’s been middling this year as a 25 year old who spent the majority of his time at West Virginia, but has now made eight starts for the Nuts and struggled with an xFIP over 5 but has limited walks.

The Nuts bats were not clicking but Chandler (could he be any more efficient?) matched Stockton’s scoreless streak inning by inning, finally finishing with 5 IP, allowing 4 hits, 1 run, 1 walk and racking up 5 Ks. He loaded the bases in both the 4th and the 5th, but worked out of the jams with some disgusting breaking stuff.

Let’s look at one during a bases-loaded at-bat.

Reportedly after this the batter is seeking help for his commitment issues.
MiLB

This slider was this sharp for most of the game. Watch it tail and dive—especially how late it breaks. The hitter saw fastball out of hand, was thinking grand slam hero-time. Instead, a swinging K.

The changeup was also a weapon.

I would have swung, Clay, don’t worry.
MiLB

While he didn’t get a swinging strike on this pitch, the amount of arm side run and sink on this changeup, when juxtaposed with his slider? Nasty. Much nastier than you would expect from a pitcher rocking a 7.18 K/9 in A+ ball. This might have been an “on” day for his stuff, but regardless he had trouble locating it in the strike zone, and hitters spit on plenty that were out of the zone so it’s understandable that despite the swinging strikes he has had trouble locating enough to put guys away. In this game, though, he received this reaction several times:

I hate this! And this also!
MiLB

On offense the Nuts were in danger of being on the wrong side fo history. They’d walked four times by the 6th inning, but still not a hit to their name. After a leadoff walk to start the 6th and down by a couple, they needed someone to step up and save a game and preserve a semblance of playoff hopes. Which hitter would it be? Who could possibly?

Julioooo siiiiingleeee throooough theeee riiiiight siiiideeeee oooooof theeee infieeeeeld
MiLB

If it isn’t Potential Top-10 Prospect in Baseball himself. Immediately after hitting this oppo-single Julio turned to the dugout and clapped for 6 full seconds while staring at them. I know because I took a gif of it. Six seconds of clapping is actually a long time to clap by yourself. Julio is the guy at your work who never seems to get worn down and is always trying to rally the office at 4 PM. He is trying to make everyone better. Special.

The Nuts tied the game at three with a Keegan McGovern home run, his ninth. Dayeison Arias added another inning to his Hi-A scoreless streak (5.1) and kept the game tied into the bottom of the ninth.

Joseph Rosa hit a double, and up came Julio in the bottom of the ninth, the winning run in scoring position. A big moment. Julio was patient, not letting the moment ruin his discipline. It paid off. After a wild pitch allowed Rosa to take third, the Stockton pitcher wanted no part of Julio with one down and a base free. Julio walked and then Joe Rizzo received the intentional free pass to get to 0-3 Jake Sheiner. After swinging at some pretty terrible waste-pitches Jake took a breaking ball on the outside corner the other way and it one-hopped the wall.

Notice, if you will, the horrified expression of the man in the hoodie. The look of betrayal.
MiLB

For a night, the Nuts went from being no-hit to winning with a bases loaded walk off hit. It was a special night in Modesto and despite their record, despite the late summer heat, these players still care. They’re taking extra bases, screaming from the dugout, while the bullpen is hanging on the fence, watching. The season isn’t over, and thanks to minor league playoff rules, this win kept them in the midst of a playoff push. Since the cowbell-enthusiasts in Visalia won the first half Cal League North and are on track to do the same in the second half, the second -place team in the division gets to go to the playoffs. That’s a race between the Nuts and the San Jose Giants, who are just one game ahead of Modesto with six games remaining.

Arkansas Travelers (78-54) go fishin’ for wins with the Corpus Christie Hooks (64-69), snag one, win 3-2

Link to full box score

Because this is a truncated Midshipman’s Log, we should go ahead and talk about Justin Dunn throwing a perfect 4 innings on Sunday with 8 Ks and throwing 36 of his 49 pitches for strikes. If you are hoping for a call-up it was actually heat and dehydration that led to the short start. There is not a ton to say that you have not already heard, but Justin Dunn absolutely wore out the competition with rhythm, location, sequencing, and the nastiest slider I’ve ever seen him throw.

Excuse me, waiter? Check please!
MiLB

This was backed up in a post-game interview with MiLB.com (you should read it, it’s good!) where Dunn discussed working on some mechanical changes in the bullpen that finally “clicked” this past week, leading to more swings and misses on his off speed and breaking stuff. If this is real, and if he can repeat and sustain the late-breaking stuff he showed in this game—he might have just elevated his ceiling. Too soon to say? Definitely. But we should all pay close attention if and when he’s in the MLB in September (the final goal Dunn set for himself this season).

OK, so in this Traveler’s game, somehow, Sir Ian McKinney nearly matched Dunn’s perfection. McKinney dominated over 5 innings, netting 10 strikeouts. Kate and Modesto Announcer Keaton Gilogly went over McKinney’s changes this year in great detail earlier, so I won’t belabor that (read it!) only to say that he now has a 2.72 ERA this year and has given up only 1 run in his first two AA starts. The rising four seam and tunneling he’s been working on this year have been paying off.

What was interesting in this game was that it reminded me a lot of watching Ljay Newsome. He works quick and hungrily, bearing down and throwing low 90s fastballs by guys at the top of the zone and getting awkward swings on off speed pitches that tunnel tightly with the fastball. Hitters were uncomfortable, off-balance, and McKinney was relentless. The pitching development in the low minors seems to be able to produce these kinds of changes—taking guys without overpowering stuff and letting them eat up the strike zone while working on creating tunnels with an elevated fastball. A good combination, allowing them to get Ks without needing the elite movement of, say, a Sheffield slider.

Relieving McKinney, elite slider haver Austin Adams laid waste in his one inning with two strikeouts. Frankly, Austin Adams is so impressive. I cannot wait for him and his Death Slider, Doom Bringer, Fish Hook, BoomerThang whatever we decided to name it, to fool MLB competition.

On offense it was a quiet day for the Travs bats as Kyle Lewis continues to concern me with 3 more Ks and an inability to hit elevated fastballs. He looks severely out of rhythm. In August he has a .610 OPS with 31 Ks to only 4 BBs. Hope he can start making contact again soon the playoffs approach!

The runs came from Mike Ahmed and Luis Liberato singles, with only Nicky Three Sticks hitting a ball for extra bases. The Corpus Christie pitchers weren’t no

is a guy who can’t get no love from me
MiLB

s, and they made it tough sledding.

Joey Gerber threw two scoreless innings and Wyatt Mills white-knuckled the save by giving up two runs before closing the door.

Last note: Evan White was pulled from the game. It appeared to be an ankle injury, though he finished his plate appearance (he lined out) so it didn’t seem too severe. Hopefully we’ll know more soon, and the fact that he was initially able to continue his PA and make solid contact is fairly encouraging. Then again, Mitch Haniger completed his plate appearance and played an inning of outfield with a ruptured testicle, so who knows! White has a somewhat troublesome history of racking up minor lower body injuries, which haven’t seemed to harm his athleticism but cannot be good for maintaining his rhythm at the plate.

The playoffs are close. So. Close.

Tacoma Rainiers (59-74) Prevent Forest Fires and Also the Fresno Grizzlies (59-75) from Winning this Game, 4-1

Link to full box score

I did not watch this game and will not pretend that I did. Here are some things I can tell you:

  • Sean Nolin pitched 7 scoreless innings and struck out 6. This is a fact that surprised me.
  • Zach Grotz, fresh off his demotion, took well to his new assignment and pitched a scoreless inning with a K.
  • Braden Bishop is feeling healthy and hit a double.
  • Eric Filia reminds us all that he is still a baseball player by collecting two hits, including his 9th double, raising his OPS to .827. I am honestly shocked at how quickly he has adapted to playing after such a long suspension. Good for him!
  • John Andreoli continues to rake, hitting three singles and raising his batting line to 291/.432/.504/.936 since the all-star break.
  • Jaycob Brugman has a .936 OPS good for a 124 wRC+ and 21 home runs on the year. Wild.

That’s it. That’s all I know.

Today’s games:

Some decent matchups today. If you are up early then watching Juan Then finally make a start in the first game fo a double header would be worth it. Ljay Newsome always gets my vote as he is entertaining, quick, and he’s rocking a an ERA barely above 2 right now. He is a dark horse candidate for a September candidate. You could watch Andrew Moore pitch in Tacoma if you wanted. If that was something you wanted to do.

West Virginia at Lexington (TV), 9:05 AM PT (RHP Juan Then)

West Virgina at Lexington (TV) Game 2 TBD

Arkansas at Corpus Christi (TV), 4:15 PM PT (RHP Ljay Newsome)

Everett at Spokane, 4:30 PM PT (RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs)

Modesto at Stockton (TV), 7:05 PM PT (TBD)

Tacoma at Fresno (TV), 7:05 PM PT (RHP Andrew Moore)