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Mariners minors season in review: Everett AquaSox (A-)

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How ‘bout them Frogs?

Shari Sommerfeld/Everett AquaSox

Now that the regular MiLB season is over, and only the Arkansas Travelers remain to sustain the playoff hopes for a Mariners-adjacent team in 2019, it’s time to go through each affiliate and take a look at how their seasons shook out. We began with the Rookie levels (DSL and AZL) when their seasons ended the other week, and now we begin to work our way up through the system. Next up is the Mariners’ short-season affiliate located just up the road from T-Mobile Park, the Everett AquaSox.

Overall record: 37-39, 3rd in the Northwest League North

Season in Review:

This was not an easy year for the Frogs. Since the Mariners went so college pitching-heavy in the draft, Everett didn’t get the usual infusion of top draft talent; second-rounder Isaiah Campbell didn’t pitch at all after a heavy workload at Arkansas leading into the College World Series (although he did spend time with the team for bonding purposes), and first-rounder George Kirby and second-rounder Brandon Williamson pitched on strict innings limits. The Frogs saw their best offensive player in 3B Austin Shenton snatched away to a mid-season promotion, and also went through a managerial change midway through the season when 25-year-old former prospect Louis Boyd, who had been the infield coach at Modesto, was installed as Everett’s manager. Still, the AquaSox managed to finish strong, going 17-13 over the final month of the season.

Key promotions:

The AquaSox acted as the farm team for the rest of the affiliates, sending out players to be warm bodies for other teams while waiting for re-enforcements to arrive. In particular, Everett saw a revolving door of pitchers brought up from the AZL or sent down from West Virginia, many of whom did not stay long. As far as departures that stung, losing slugger Austin Shenton in mid-July was a blow to the already limited Everett offense. As far as additions that helped the AquaSox, getting LHP Brayan Pérez in late July from the AZL Mariners boosted Everett’s pitching staff considerably; Pérez finished second only to first-rounder George Kirby in ERA among starters who pitched more than 20 innings.

MLB Top-100/Mariners Top-30 prospects at the level:

[Homer eating donuts in hell dot gif, but with pitchers]

RHP George Kirby (#6 on MLB Pipeline, #9 at FanGraphs, #7 at Baseball America), RHP Isaiah Campbell (#11 MLB, #18 FG), RHP Juan Then (#16 MLB, #16 BA, #20 FG), LHP Brandon Williamson (#17 MLB, #24 FG, #18 BA), LHP Brayan Pérez (#18 MLB, #23 BA), 3B Austin Shenton (#30 MLB, #36 FG), C Carter Bins (#25 FG)

Top position player: 3B Austin Shenton

Despite departing in mid-July, 3B Austin Shenton remains atop the offensive leaderboard; in his 79 PAs for Everett the 2019 fifth-rounder slashed .367/.446/.595. The local kid done good was the best prospect with a bat in his hands this year in Everett thanks to the aforementioned pitching emphasis in the draft, but he looked up to the task.

Honorable Mention: OF Cade Marlowe, SS Patrick Frick, C Carter Bins

Top pitcher: RHP George Kirby

There are two ways to look at this - bulk performance or excellence in what was asked. Kirby threw just 23.0 IP in his nine outings per team efforts to limit his post-school workload and focus his appearances. You couldn’t ask for much more than striking out 28.1% and walking, yes, zero players, 0%, or any other way you’d like to say zilch. It’s not too surprising that an advanced college arm carved up the Northwest League, but he did it all the same.

Honorable Mentions: LHP Brayan Perez, LHP Brandon Williamson, RHP Juan Then

Top bullpen arm: RHP Tim Elliott

Another 2019 draftee who was as advertised. Elliott actually started 11 of his 14 games in Everett, but roles in the low minors are not usually so consequential. The 4th round pick is expected to have a bullpen role in the future. Generating a healthy mix of strikeouts and ground balls was a great first impression.

Honorable Mention: RHP Ivan Fortunato

Pop-up performer: LHP Brandon Williamson

There wasn’t a perfect fit for this category, with so many players with potential on condensed usage schedules. Williamson perhaps got short shrift from us here as an injury-hampered lefty without eye-popping college numbers. Most evaluators viewed the Mariners’ next pick - RHP Isaiah Campbell - as the more tantalizing prospect, but Williamson was outstanding in his 15 innings. The 6’6 lefty has workhorse size and velocity, and showed signs of being a gem merely in need of polish from savvy player development. We’ll learn much more in his first full season in 2020.

Need to see more from:

CF Miguel Perez is a plus defensive outfielder with plus-plus speed who struggled in his first taste of the NWL, running a disastrously high K%. It might have been an overly-aggressive assignment for the 18-year-old, but after a long incubation period in the DSL, it was a disappointing first stateside season.

Anyone who watched the College World Series knows what Isaiah Campbell is capable of on the mound, but like Logan Gilbert before him, Mariners fans will need to be patient to see the big righty in action. Campbell will likely tread a similar path to Gilbert and spend some extra time in mini-camps this fall/winter; we won’t get an extended look at him until Spring Training of this year, and even at that will be on backfields through grainy cell phone cameras. While repeating Gilbert’s 90th-percentile outcome of a rapid ascension through three different levels is likely too much to expect of the second-rounder, Campbell should nonetheless be a quick mover next season.

Other performances of note:

Two other 2019 draftees beyond Shenton ended the season hitting over .300, though; SS Patrick Frick hit .302 with an on-base percentage of .431 thanks to strong plate-discipline skills, and OF Cade Marlowe finished out the year with a promising slash line of .301/.372/.438. Marlowe’s numbers were somewhat depressed after a slow start but he gained steam down the stretch and ended with an OPS of .840 in August. Catcher Carter Bins and 1B Robert Pérez shared the team lead for home runs, with 7 each. OF Trent Tingelstad walked as much as he struck out, though his power numbers didn’t wow. Young arms RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs and LHP Jorge Benitez had so-so stat lines but had their workloads expanded for the first time in their young careers.