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Midshipmen’s Log, 6/14/21: Noelvi Marte shines, Connor Lien makes game-ending catch, Bobby Honeyman hits first AA homer

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More blowout losses than we like to see in a week, honestly

Dan Rogers

Not a great week on the farm, but a bad week on the farm beats no week on the farm every time, as we found out last year.

Modesto Nuts (21-15) drop series to Fresno Grizzlies (COL) (24-12)

After being handed a series loss and summarily kicked out of first place by the San Jose Giants, the Nuts looked to get back on track against OF Zac Veen (#1 prospect in Rockies system), C Drew Romo (#10), and a quartet of ranked infield prospects in Julio Carreras (#14), Ezequiel Tovar (#19), Eddy Diaz (#20), and Mateo Gil (#23). Unfortunately, it did not go well for the Nuts.

Game one: Modesto’s woes continue, lose 1-9

Last week, Josias De Los Santos had his worst start of the year, going just 3.2 innings and surrendering four runs, all earned, on five hits with six walks and just two strikeouts; this time he made it 4.1 innings against a less star-powered Grizzlies team, but with similar damage—four runs but only three earned thanks to seven walks. He did tick his strikeouts back up to five but it’s a troubling trend for the young righty. The normally-stalwart Luis Curvelo also got tagged out of the bullpen, giving up four runs (two earned) of his own. Meanwhile, Modesto’s offense could only manage one paltry run in garbage time, one a ninth-inning RBI single from 2020 UDFA signing Justin Lavey.

Game two: Modesto ekes out a win, 5-4

RHP Connor Phillips didn’t make it as deep in the game as he did last time (just 4.0 innings compared to 5.2) but he did give up fewer runs (two instead of three) while walking fewer batters (four instead of five) and striking out one more (eight instead of seven). Phillips, who the Mariners drafted out of a junior college in 2020, is more polished than the usual prep arm, but still has a longer way to go in refining his command than an older, more seasoned college pitcher, and that shows in these outings, where he had a HBP, was called for a balk, and threw just 51 of his 90 pitches for strikes. But, generally speaking, the most important indicator by which to measure a pitching prospect’s success is strikeouts, and Phillips has those in spades. Hitting 98 doesn’t hurt, either.

Jorge Benitez, Matt Willrodt, and Travis Ray Kuhn held things down out of Modesto’s bullpen, while the offense, after scoring just two runs over the previous eight innings (a Noelvi Marte HR, a Cesar Izturis Jr. RBI double), stacked up three runs in the ninth to surge ahead for the first win of the series.

Game three: Modesto gets boatraced in the first, lose 12-1

Again with the weird echoes from last week, when the Nuts also suffered a crushing loss in this game of the series. This is normally Adam Macko’s start day but he wasn’t able to make his start for reasons unknown (worrying, as Macko was uncharacteristically off in his last start, striking out just three and giving up a career-high six runs in 3.1 innings), so instead Robert Winslow, recently returned from doing yeoman’s work in Tacoma, made the start and...uh...things did not go well. Fresno had nine runs in the first inning and the game was pretty much over by that point. Leon Hunter Jr., recently returned from Arkansas, did the hero’s longman work, going almost four innings in relief and giving up no runs on three hits with no walks and three strikeouts (send that man back up!), and diminutive lefty Brayan Perez pitched in another three scoreless innings with three strikeouts, maybe making up for the Macko-lack of this game. The offense scored a grand total of one (1) run, again in garbage time in the ninth on a wild pitch.

Game four: Nuts roar back, win 13-3

The thing about Adam Macko starts is they’re followed by Taylor Dollard starts, which is usually a very unpleasant 1-2 punch for opponents. Dollard, thankfully, was able to make his start today, and turned in a very Taylor Dollard-like performance of 5.0 innings with three runs surrendered (two earned), one walk and seven strikeouts. Usually Dollard pitches against 2020 fifth-rounders; this time he bested Arizona’s 2020 third-rounder, Sam Weatherly (#16), who had a very sad time against Modesto’s offense, lasting just 1.2 innings while giving up six runs, all earned, and striking out just three. The damage was minimal in the first outside of a Noelvi Marte RBI triple and a Robert Peréz Jr. RBI single, but in the second, after Fresno had tied the game up in their half-inning, Weatherly’s command fell apart, as he issued a HBP followed by three straight walks with a Trent Tinglestad two-RBI double adding additional damage and knocking Weatherly out of the game. The Nuts added another few runs on homers by Robert Peréz and Noelvi Marte plus an Alberto Rodríguez triple, but the Nuts bullpen (Juan Mercedes, Luis Curvelo, and Travis Ray Kuhn) combined for four shutout innings, making this one an easy win anyway.

Game five: Bullpen blows Sam Carlson’s solid start, Nuts lose 3-7

As he did in his last outing, Sam Carlson went six innings and gave up two runs or fewer, struck out five again, and cut his walks down from six to just four—still room for improvement there, but improvement nonetheless, and his strike-throwing percentage improved from his last outing as well, with 60 of his 98 pitches thrown for strikes (last time, 48 to 94). So, gold star for SCarl.

Kelvin Nuñez undid all Carlson’s work, though, giving up five runs—although all the damage was done in his second inning of work, indicating that maybe the pitcher, recently returned from the IL, could use a softer landing. That barrage came in the eighth inning, but Modesto’s scoring stopped in the sixth, with RBI singles from Robert Pérez Jr. and Trent Tingelstad accounting for 23 of the day’s offense; the other run came on a Brett Rodríguez double way back in the second inning, scoring César Izturis Jr. Noelvi Marte also had a double in the loss.

Game six: Modesto’s slide continues in 3-5 loss

Another tough one for starter Damon Casetta-Stubbs, who once again had trouble with the big inning, giving up four in the third on a Zac Veen (Rockies #1 prospect) two-RBI triple; Veen would then score on a two-run home run by Ezequiel Tovar (Rockies #19 prospect). If DCS can just learn to avoid the big inning he’ll be golden, because other than that, he only gave up one other run in 6.2 innings (on a balk, scoring Veen). The Nuts didn’t get a run off Grizzlies starter Breiling Eusebio (who, at 24, is quite old for the level) until the sixth inning, when Cade Marlowe homered. They scored two more runs, one each off of Eusebio’s two replacements, on a Dariel Gomez homer and a Brett Rodríguez RBI double, but it was too little, too late.

Everett AquaSox (21-13) win rain-shortened series against Eugene Emeralds (SFG) (20-15) in battle for first place

Both the AquaSox and Rainiers are facing off against Giants affiliates this week, with Modesto having just finished up against theirs with the league-leading San Jose Giants. This contest went a little more smoothly for Everett against their Bay Area foes, although admittedly there is a little less starpower in this group, especially with OF Hunter Bishop (#4) on the IL and 2020 first-rounder C Patrick Bailey (#6) off to a slow start in his pro career. First-rounder Will Wilson is here, though, who as staffer Tim loves to remind people was traded by the Angels to shed Zack Cozart’s salary, and he is pesky, although not as pesky as he’d be in an Angels uniform.

Game one: Sox dull shine of Emeralds, 8-6

Often when I write these the same pitchers go in the same slots; I know that turn three in Arkansas is Ian McKinney’s and turn four is Penn Murfee’s, while in Modesto there is a fearsome stack of Macko-Phillips-Carlson for opponents to contend with. But Everett is always changing, and today’s game featured not Matt Brash, but Juan Then, giving up three runs over five innings with four walks and four strikeouts. Personally I am ready for the Juan Then power-closer conversion, but I respect those who are in different places with that. The offense, enjoying the return of Julio Rodríguez, who doubled, to the lineup, did just enough to outlast Eugene, led by a three-hit day from Austin Shenton and a two-run blast from Carter Bins. DeLoach, Larsen, Shenton, Bins, and Julio all had doubles.

Game two: Frogs cut Gems, 9-4

Today was Matt Brash day, and he went 4.2 innings and gave up two runs while striking out seven, as Everett continues to eschew the idea of the traditional starter. The offense helped the bullpen, who gave up two total runs over the rest of the game, make that number stand up, scoring in every inning but two; they were led by yet another three-hit day from Shenton and a four-hit day from Julio, who doubled and homered (#tripleshy).

Game three: So nice, let’s do it twice, Everett again wins, 9-4

The bullpen supported a so-so outing from Levi Stoudt (5.2 IP, 3 ER, 5 BB 5 K) while the offense again got to work on the Emeralds pitching staff, scoring eight runs in the first four innings to cement the outcome of this one early. Austin Shenton and Carter Bins each had two-hit days with doubles, and Cody Grosse homered.

Game four: Sox drop first game of series, 3-4

Rats. A winnable game got through Everett’s hands despite a solid start from Emerson Hancock, who went 3.2 innings and surrendered one run on three hits (1 K, 3 BB, 41 of 67 pitches for strikes, not his best day, honestly). Recently returned Team Canada teammates Ben Onyshko and Brendan McGuigan got the bulk of this one, and while Onyshko was fine in his 2.1 innings, the normally staunch McGuigan was maybe still shaking off a little fatigue, surrendering three runs in just over an inning. Meanwhile, Everett’s offense only managed two hits, and only one single off starter and Giants 2017 third-rounder Seth Corry (although he did walk four and hit three batters—Julio once and Shenton twice. Be cool, man.).

Game five: Sox win again, 6-1

Relax, those of you who were worried about George Kirby’s health; he made his scheduled start today and was very Kirby-like, going five innings and allowing one run on four hits with three strikeouts and no walks, of course. The bullpen (Adam Kolek, Kyle Hill, and Jarod Bayless) combined for four shutout, no-hit innings with just one walk and three Ks. Meanwhile the offense gave Kirby all the run support he needed and then some, starting in the second inning when Zach DeLoach doubled and Jack Larsen drove him home; Larsen then stole second on Patrick Bailey, a fine defensive catcher who had just thrown out fellow catcher Carter Bins trying to steal earlier in the innings. That gamble paid off when Larsen moved to third on a Patrick Frick single and then was driven home by Jake Anchía. Kaden Polcovich doubled the run total of the inning with a double. That would be all the offense the Frogs would need, but they added two more insurance runs just in case, one on an Austin Shenton solo shot in the seventh.

Game six: Rain wins :(

If you are here in the Great PNW you know we are currently experiencing an especially heavy onslaught of Juneuary. Boooooo. I wanted to see* BWilly pitch! *hear about

Arkansas Travelers (16-19) drop series to Springfield Cardinals (STL) (12-23)

The Travelers struggles continue, although they probably could have had a couple more wins in this series save for a bullpen meltdown or two—and should have, because Springfield isn’t that good of a club.

Game one: Travs drop game late, 6-8

Travs starter Alejandro Requena was not as sharp as he’s been (4.2 IP, 6 ER) but the offense actually kept them in this game before Jack Anderson let it slip away in the eighth by allowing the go-ahead and the go-go ahead runs to score. Brian O’Keefe hit two homers in the loss because he wants out of Arkansas so badly, why won’t anyone listen to him?

Game two: Unintentional bullpen day sinks Travs, 7-8

I want to reiterate I DID NOT MEAN to curse Adam Hill by mistakenly tweeting the wrong first name for the Detroit center fielder who had to leave the game after banging into the wall BUT I am willing to take responsibility for my actions and would like A.Hill to know the proper healing shrine is being erected for him after he had to leave this game with an apparent injury, setting up a surprise bullpen day, the worst kind of day. Lost in this second loss is the fact that the Travs dropped 13 total runs on a once-vaunted Cardinals pitching staff but unfortunately came out short; Brian O’Keefe homered yet again in the loss because the homering will continue until the promotion comes.

Game three: Ian McKinney leads Travs to victory, 4-1

Ian McKinney was acquired by the Mariners after St. Louis cut him loose from this self-same Cardinals team; today McKinney, reigning California League Pitcher of the Year and Texas League Pitcher of the Month took his revenge, going seven shutout innings while striking out 11 batters. Does Cardinal taste the same as crow, I wonder? Connor Kopach and Keegan McGovern both had homers to provide all the offense Arkansas needed, although Josh Morgan had a three-hit day, for kicks, and Connor Lien ended the game on this fantastic catch:

Game four: Arkansas keeps stacking up runs, win 7-5

Penn Murfee improved on his outing last week, once again giving up three runs but this time in six innings of work (all on HRs, one to prodigious power-slugger Nolan Gorman) with seven strikeouts. Meanwhile, the offense turned in another solid performance despite getting just one run off starter and one-time Mariner Tyler Pike; they scored all their runs off the bullpen in innings 5-7, led by another solid day from Josh Morgan, who had two home runs including a grand slam and probably wishes the Travs played the Cardinals all the time.

Game five: Travs lose big, 2-9

Another tough one for starter Devin Sweet as he continues to acclimate to the level; Sweet only lasted 3.1 innings and surrendered seven runs on eight hits with five homers. Now before you get all bent out of shape about that, remember that Springfield’s park is one of the most homer-happy in the league, and also, Nolan Gorman. The Travs offense picked a bad night to take off, mustering up just two runs on eight hits and not hitting any homers of their own.

Game six: Late-inning comeback not enough, Travs lose 4-6

Tyler Herb wasn’t able to repeat his strong outing from last week although he did a good job limiting damage to just four runs considering the Cardinals got nine hits off him in just five innings. The Travs batters hurried to take advantage of Homers Hammons Field in the series finale, with Jake Scheiner, Bobby Honeyman (his first at AA), and Joe Rizzo all lining up at the dinger buffet for one last serving before leaving town.

Prospect performer of the week: Noelvi Marte

Noelvi Marte’s MVP-winning DSL season in 2019, when he slashed .309/.371/.511 in his first taste of pro ball, already made him a hot name in prospect circles; so far this season, he’s actually improved on those lofty numbers, with a current slashline of .324/.423/.576. That fifty-plus point boost in slugging comes from Marte filling out physically and adding lean muscle all over. However, Marte isn’t just a slugger; he’s smart and patient in the box, willing to take what the pitcher gives him, including a free base. The K% is a tad high at just under 24%, although some of that is to be expected with some of the big swings Marte is taking at the ball. Marte does have improvement to make with his fielding, as errors continue to plague him, and while he’s stolen five bases he’s also been caught four times, so that’s another area to improve before he gets promoted to Everett, but cry not, those of you fearful you’ll have missed the J-Rod Show in Everett: the Noelvi Marte show is also a ton of fun.

Name to know this week: 1B/3B Bobby Honeyman (AA)

Power isn’t really Honeyman’s game, which is tough considering he’s a corner infielder, but he’s a solid defensive third baseman and there are [scans horizon] not many of those in the Mariners system? So he’s worth paying attention to, especially as he’s been assigned to Double-A after having been effectively skipped past the High-A level. Honeyman’s strength is his ability to make contact and his extreme plate discipline; he leads the system in BB/K and is only striking out 16% of the time in his first exposure to Double-A. If he can just boost the power a wee bit and turn some of those singles into doubles and send some of those doubles over the wall, then baby we’ve got a third baseman stew going. So here’s to the first Double-A homer down and some more to come. It wasn’t a cheapie either, despite Springfield’s mini-golf park:

Also, Julio, Giver of Nicknames, has nicknamed him “Honey Boy,” and I just thought you should know that.

Upcoming matchups, June 15-20:

AA: Arkansas @ Tulsa (LAD), Tue-Fri 5:10 PT, Sat 3:30 PT, Sat 4:05 PT, Sun 12:10 PT

A+: Everett @ Vancouver (TOR, in Hillsboro), Tue-Sat 7:05 PT, Sun 1: 05

A: Modesto vs. San Jose (SF), Tue-Fri 7:05 PT, Sat 6:05 PT, Sun 2:05 PT