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Mariners minors season in review: West Virginia Power (A)

The pitching was on point all season, but the bats needed more...what’s that word? Oh.

Devin Sweet, probably throwing a changeup
West Virginia Power

Now that the Arkansas Travelers are out of the playoffs (SNIFF), the MiLB season has come to a close for the Mariners. That means it’s time to go through each affiliate and review their seasons. So far we’ve covered the Rookie levels (DSL and AZL) and the short-season Everett AquaSox (A-). Now it’s time to take a look at our first full-season club, the West Virginia Power.

Overall record: 69-70, 4th in South Atlantic League

Season in Review:

The Power promised to be one of the most exciting team in the system, with top prospects Logan Gilbert, Jarred Kelenic, and Julio Rodriguez all slated to start with Seattle’s newest affiliate. Gilbert quickly proved to be too advanced for the Sally League, with Kelenic right on his heels. Meanwhile, Julio missed almost two months with a broken wrist after being hit by a pitch, and then was promoted to Modesto for the last month or so of the season anyway. The Power also suffered by playing in a division with two teams, the Delmarva Shorebirds (BAL) and the Hickory Crawdads (TEX), who posted season-long winning percentages of .652 and .615, respectively.

Key promotions:

As noted above, no team in the system saw a greater loss of talent than the Power. It was also a one-sided affair for the Power, who tested the old adage that ‘tis better to give than receive, losing Kelenic, Gilbert, Rodriguez, catcher Jake Anchía, closer Dayeison Arias, and almost their entire starting rotation to promotions at various points in the season. 3B Austin Shenton arrived in mid-July and immediately provided a lift to the Power offense, knocking five home runs in his 32 games at the level while slashing .252/.328/.454. RHP Juan Then also was promoted at the tail end of the season, but more to get a taste of the level than anything.

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

RHP Juan Then (#16 MLB Pipeline, #16 Baseball America, #19 FanGraphs), 3B Austin Shenton (#30 MLB, #35 FG), RHP Elvis Alvarado (#25 FG), RHP Devin Sweet (#28 FG)

Top position player: 3B Bobby Honeyman

After a slow start to the season, Bobby Two Bags emerged with a vengeance in the second half of the season, finishing with a line of .319/.386/.389 in the second half after hitting just .156 in the first month of the season. Honeyman hit 20 doubles and continued to be almost impossible to strike out (12.8% K rate) while playing an excellent third base. He won’t show up on top prospect lists this winter but if he can add just a little more pop to his bat at Modesto next year, the profile becomes much more interesting. Honeyman finished his season third among all Mariners minor leaguers in hits, tied with Jarred Kelenic.

Honorable mention: Julio Rodriguez. Julio takes the title here on numbers alone—he slashed .297/.365/.492 with 10 homers in his tenure with the Power—but Honeyman had 200 more plate appearances and was with the team all year. Plus, there will be plenty of accolades to come for Julioooooooo.

Top pitcher: RHP Devin Sweet

He finished his season in Modesto, but Sweet—who started the year in the bullpen—anchored the Power’s rotation, throwing 108+ innings in West Virginia. An undrafted free agent who had made plans to go to grad school at Virginia Tech to study engineering before getting the call from Seattle, Sweet’s ascent was one of the biggest stories in the Mariners farm system this year. West Virginia pitching coach Alon Leichman is a changeup expert, and Sweet’s has become the best in the system under his tutelage, with excellent fade and late break. He also possesses a fastball that can get up to 94, although it sat more low-90s in West Virginia; with his excellent command and sturdy lower half, Sweet might be a candidate for Gas Camp this off-season.

Apparently the pitch was nicknamed “The Great Equalizer” in college, which is a pretty badass nickname for a pitch.

Honorable Mention: LHP Steven Moyers

Top bullpen arm: RHP Dayeison Arias

Arias ended his season with Modesto, called up at the same time as Julio Rodriguez, but not before logging 47.2 innings with the Power as their closer, collecting 13 saves. Arias has an electric arm and it shows in his strikeout totals, as he struck out 38% of batters he faced.

Honorable Mention: RHP Bryan Pall

Pop-up performer: RHP Devin Sweet

Sweet bounced around the system after being signed in 2018 and even once he got to West Virginia, having to earn his way into a starting role, but once he was there he settled in and became the Power’s ace. While he’s always been able to strike people out, a big difference for Sweet this year was his walk rate, which dropped to a miserly 5.2%.

Need to see more from:

Anyone who held a bat for West Virginia this season not named Rodriguez, Honeyman, or Shenton. Power batters ranked third from the bottom in every offensive category in the SAL, and without strong pitching performances all season long, the team’s record would have been much worse than it was.

Other performances of note:

Not a player, but pitching coach Alon Leichman should be commended for the work he did with the pitching staff this season. West Virginia’s staff ranked fifth in strikeouts and second in fewest walks allowed in a league loaded with some top-tier pitching talent—none of which belonged to West Virginia, save from the few weeks Logan Gilbert was part of the staff. Nonetheless, with players who won’t appear on any top prospect lists, the Power set a new single-season strikeout record as a franchise with 1270 strikeouts.