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Midshipmen’s Log, 6/21/21: Penn Murfee goes the distance, Alberto Rodríguez rakes, Keegan McGovern walks it off

A good week on the farm as some promotions start to emerge

Chicago White Sox v Seattle Mariners
I am Dracula
Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images

The MLB draft is just a few short weeks away, and in preparation for that, promotions are starting to trickle through the system: OF Cade Marlowe was promoted from Modesto to Everett, LHP Ian McKinney was promoted to Tacoma from Arkansas, LHP Brandon Williamson was promoted from Everett to Arkansas, and RHP Taylor Dollard was promoted from Modesto to Everett. We’ll cover all of those promotions in-depth this week in the State of the Farm, but for now, on to what you came here for: the nitty-gritty of the lower minors.

Modesto Nuts (23-19) drop series to San Jose Giants (SF) (28-14)

Oh how mighty Modesto has fallen. After getting off to a scorching-hot start in May, Modesto’s offensive production has dried up in June, and the once-vaunted pitching staff has struggled, as well. Promotions draining Modesto’s top performers won’t help the team going forward, although as soon as players are ready to be moved up from extended spring/AZL play (think Jonatan Clase, Milkar Perez, etc.), they’ll come to Modesto first.

Game one: Seventh-inning rally not enough, Modesto loses 5-6

After starting the season strong, this is Josias De Los Santos’s third poor start in a row; over his last three outings he’s given up 13 runs over a combined 13.1 innings. This is typical for a young pitcher at this level—they start out strong and then get knocked around a little as the league adjusts to them—but there’s a troubling trend here with declining strikeouts and rising walks, as in this start De Los Santos walked more (4) than he struck out (2). Much of that can be attributed to San Jose’s lineup, which features star prospect Marco Luciano (#1) along with fellow top-10 prospects Luis Matos, Alexander Canario, and Luis Toribio; Brett Auerbach, an unranked prospect signed as an UDFA in 2020, has also been dealing damage out of the leadoff spot. On the bright side, the bullpen was able to contain the damage, with Luis Curvelo again looking strong in two scoreless innings of relief, and the offense gamely tried to come back despite not having one of their top hitters in Noelvi Marte, who usually gets an off-day on Sundays or Tuesdays. Cade Marlowe put the Nuts on the board in the second on a double, and then again in the seventh with an RBI single as the Nuts took advantage of some wildness from some of San Jose’s young hard-throwers but poor-commanders, but this was a game where Modesto was outplayed on both sides of the ball, something that would become an unfortunate theme for this series.

Game two: Bullpen can’t hold the lead, Nuts again lose 5-6

Again, battle of the 2020 fifth-round picks! RHP Connor Phillips had his longest start as a pro, lasting seven innings and giving up just three runs on four hits. Once again Phillips had to battle his command some, issuing five walks, although he managed to keep his pitch count reasonable at just under 100 to get through seven while throwing about 60% strikes, although he only struck out three. The bullpen couldn’t hold that lead, though, with Brayan Perez throwing a two-base error of a wild pitch to tie the game and the normally-steady Nolan Hoffman allowing the winning run. Marlowe homered and tripled in the losing effort, and Alberto Rodríguez accounted for three of Modesto’s five runs on a three-run blast off Giants 2020 fifth-rounder Ryan Murphy.

Game three: Bullpen day goes badly, Nuts lose 3-9

I am now Officially Worried about Adam Macko, who missed his second consecutive start after lasting just 3.1 innings in his start before. There hasn’t been any official transaction listed, but watching the Slovakian lefty shove was one of the highlights of my minor league-watching week, and I’ll be really sad if he’s down for a while. Last week, fill-in Robert Winslow gave up nine runs in the first inning, so instead Modesto started Matt Willrodt, who has been lights-out out of Modesto’s pen; unfortunately, Willrodt struggled a little outside of his normal role, giving up two runs on four hits in his first two innings of work. Winslow, despite the clever plan, also gave up two runs in one inning, and Juan Mercedes gave up five, although he wasn’t helped out by a costly throwing error by Noelvi Marte (one of two he made in this game; he has 15 already on the season, yipes). However the bullpen pitched, though, the offense probably couldn’t have made this close; the top three hitters in the lineup went 0-12, and the Nuts didn’t even score until the seventh thanks to Alberto Rodríguez again coming in clutch with a double, the Nuts’ first extra-base hit of the day; he’d eventually score on an RBI GIDP, my least favorite combination of acronyms. The Nuts got their other two runs in garbage time off some bases-loaded walks. Womp womp.

Game four: Nuts win in ninth inning rally, 2-1

Pitcher’s duel! What would turn out to be Taylor Dollard’s final start as a Modesto Nut went extremely well: 7 IP, 6 H, 1 ER, 3 BB and 8 Ks. The offense did just enough, with a pair of RBI singles in the ninth giving the Nuts all the offense they needed for the day; Travis Ray Kuhn struck out the side in the bottom of the ninth to lock things down.

Game five: Yuck. Nuts lose, 4-13

After mostly holding down the Giants’ powerful offense, Sam Carlson got into a little trouble with two singles to open the fifth, and then made one bad pitch that cost him a three run home run; his line was further dirtied in the sixth when he gave up a leadoff double which, with two outs, scored on a fielding error by the normally nails Cesar Izturis Jr. A throwing error cost SCarl another unearned run, but he really pitched better than his line for the day, with seven strikeouts and no walks. The three-run homer would have been enough to sink Modesto, who scored two runs in the first and then no other runs until the sixth. Trent Tingelstad had the lone extra-base hit on the day, with a double.

Game six: Nuts finish series strong, win 8-0

The biggest issue so far this season for RHP Damon Casetta-Stubbs has been getting stung by the big inning. But [tapping head guy meme] can’t get stung by the big inning if you only give up one hit over six innings with a career-best eleven strikeouts. DCS still has to refine his control—he only gave up one walk today, yay! but hit three batters, whoops—and prove he can replicate these results consistently before it’s promotion time, but it’s a solid outing nonetheless. Meanwhile, the Nuts gave the pitching staff all they’d need for the day in the first few innings, including Amador Arias’ (a minor-league Rule 5 pick this year) first homerun.

Everett AquaSox (24-16) split series with Vancouver Canadians (TOR) (24-18)

Everett might have seen the last of the J-Rod show, but there’s still plenty of offense to be had here.

Game one: Frogs on top, 16-9

The Frogs got off to a strong series start thanks to Brandon Williamson, who keeps mowing batters down; he had 8 strikeouts in just 5.1 innings today, and gave up just one run on three hits. The thing that held BWilly from going deeper in this game was his pitch count; he was at 98 when he was lifted, although 65 of those were thrown for strikes; still, three walks is a tad too many over five-and-change. The curveball is a double-plus weapon and a huge reason he racks up those massive, system-leading K totals, but as Williamson moves up in the system he can’t just overpower batters with his big fastball and putaway curve; he’ll need to continue to refine his offerings against more advanced batters. Williamson got all the run support he would need in a second-inning run explosion where Everett scored seven runs, first on homers from Carter Bins and Patrick Frick (with two aboard), as well as an RBI single from Zach DeLoach, and RBI triple from Julio Rodríguez (his second triple of the season, because Julio will never, ever forgive that 45 on his speed grade), followed by a Shenton sac fly. Igor Januario handed back six of those runs in the sixth without completing an inning, but by that point the Everett offense had already scored five additional runs (the highlight was a Jack Larsen RBI triple but the other runs scored on the Sox taking advantage of some sloppy play by the Canadians), and then they scored another four, just in case. For safety.

Game two: Ninth-inning rally comes up just short, Sox lose 3-4

Juan Then gave up four runs, walked two and struck out five over six innings of work; a respectable start, but the AquaSox were stymied by Toronto’s 2020 second-rounder CJ Van Eyk (fun fact: CJ stands for Cornelius Johannes; I’d go by CJ, too), who gave up just one run in the first on an RBI groundout and then nothing else over five innings while striking out seven. The Sox tried to rally once Van Eyk was out of the game, scraping a couple of runs across in the late innings, but although there was traffic on the bases they never got that big hit to catapult them forward in the game. Credit to David Ellingson and Evan Johnson in the bullpen, who kept the Canadians from doing further damage and gave their team a chance to get back into it.

Game three: AquaSox can’t overcome early deficit, lose 5-9

Tough day for Matt Brash, who was shaky out of the gates and also was let down by some sloppy play behind him; he was tagged with six runs, although only three of them earned thanks to two walks to lead off the game. A passed ball by Carter Bins, a fielding error by Zach DeLoach, and a throwing error by Jake Anchía, playing out of position at first place (WHAT is the DEAL with the Mariners playing their catchers out of position this season) contributed to the misery, but Brash also got hit around, including a two-run home run from the eight-hole hitter. Ouch. The Sox tried to rally, with Anchía, DeLoach, a newly-healthy Tyler Keenan, and Joseph Rosa contributing doubles (Rosa also had a triple), but it just wasn’t enough, especially with the lineup missing Julio’s bat as he jetted off to Olympic qualifiers in Mexico. Don’t worry, AquaSox! Cade Marlowe is on his way!

Game four: Frogs win big, 9-2

Levi Stoudt allowed just one run over six innings while striking out six, but the Sox bats were quiet until the middle innings, when Everett scraped a couple of runs off Vancouver’s poor play, and then followed that up in the fifth with a trio of RBI singles in a four-run inning. A Tyler Keenan three-run home run put the game out of reach.

Game five: Frogs win big but bigger, 12-4

Emerson Hancock struck out eight in five innings and only surrendered one earned run (three total); Dayeison Arias struck out five over the final two innings of the game to secure the win, but this one was over pretty early after Everett scored five runs in the first two innings. Kaden Polcovich drew three walks out of the leadoff spot, Zach DeLoach had a four-hit day, and recent addition Cade Marlowe had two hits (and three RBI) of his own.

Game six: Oh, Canada: Sox lose 1-7

Kind of a rough start for George Kirby, who issued a rare walk in 4.2 innings and struck out only three batters while allowing six runs, four earned, all on nine hits. That’s so many hits! Modesto had some traffic on the bases but couldn’t do anything with them, scoring the one run of this game on a Connor Hoover solo shot.

Arkansas Travelers (21-20) almost sweep Tulsa Drillers (LAD) (22-19)

The last time the Travs faced the Drillers, they almost got swept; this time, the Travs returned the favor. This series win sent the Travs to their off day with a record just over .500, just like the parent club.

Game one: Travs walk it off in extras, 3-2

Offense was thin on the ground in this contest. Travs starter Alejandro Requena gave up two runs over six innings, one on a solo homer, and that was it; he also struck out eight. Reid Morgan, Matt Stryfeller, and Nick Duron held a powerful Drillers lineup scoreless, Duron over two innings, including striking out the side in the 10th (Stryffeler also struck out the side). While Tulsa got both their runs early, the Travs didn’t scratch a run across until the fourth on a Jake “Rake” Scheiner HR, and then took advantage of some wildness from the Tulsa bullpen to sneak across the tying run. Keegan McGovern sent the fans home happy with the walkoff single scoring the courtesy runner.

Game two: Travs surge ahead in 8th, win 8-5

Arkansas did all their run-scoring in two innings: the third and the eighth. The Travs, who began the third inning with four consecutive hits followed by two consecutive walks off 2018 second-rounder Michael Grove, could have had a bigger inning, but an untimely double play kept the tally at four. Adam Hill, back and healthy thank goodness, was solid over four innings, surrendering just one run; the bullpen leaked out another four before the Travs bats were able to catch up, first on a game-tying homer from Joe Rizzo; the big blow came off a bases-clearing double from Josh Morgan. Jake Haberer and Darin Gillies pitched two clean innings to make the three runs hold up.

Game three: Steven Moyers earns first Double-A win, Travs win 5-3

Usually this is Ian McKinney’s start, but with him headed to Tacoma, Steven Moyers got the nod. Moyers, who played just nine games at the High-A level in 2019, was solid in McKinney’s place, giving up no runs over 5.2 innings while striking out four and walking none. Tulsa threatened at times, getting to relievers Kolek and Kober for three runs to draw within one, but Matt Stryffeler slammed the door, striking out the side in the ninth. Meanwhile, the offense did just enough, stacking three runs in the third inning on a three-run Connor Lien homer, and then adding two more, small-ball-style, in the later innings, with a Joe Rizzo sac fly in the fifth and a Jake Scheiner single in the seventh. Scheiner and Josh Morgan each had two hits, and Bobby Honeyman had a double.

Game four: Penn Murfee collects first career CGSO, Travs win 2-0

Penn Murfee has steadily improved over this last three outings, capping it off with this gem: a three-hitter complete game shutout against a very good Drillers lineup. He walked three and hit a couple of batters, but also struck out eleven. Joe Rizzo accounted for both the Travs’ runs, one on a bases-loaded walk and one on an RBI double. David Masters also had two hits.

Game five: Arkansas falls just short, lose 5-7

Devin Sweet bounced back from a tough inning last week, going 6.2 innings and giving up just two runs (one earned) while striking out nine. The Travs were in good shape to win this one, having built a 5-0 lead led by homers from Conner Kopach and Bobby Honeyman. Unfortunately, the bullpen let this one slip away, with the normally stalwart Nick Duron giving up the lead in the ninth.

Game six: Travs hang on in the ninth, win 3-2

Tyler Herb had to leave his start eight pitches in with an apparent injury, but the bullpen did hero’s work on the day; they had a no-hitter going into the ninth, when Tulsa scored two runs to make the game close, but Darin Gillies held on for his seventh save of the season. The Travs got all the offense they’d need on a pair of homers: a solo shot from David Masters and a two-run affair from Conner Kopach, who apparently enjoyed his home run yesterday so much he decided to do it again.

Names to know this week:

C/2B/3B Josh Morgan (AA)

Signed as a minor-league free agent this off-season, Morgan had previously struggled at the Double-A level with Texas but seems to be putting it together with Arkansas, with a career-best .153 ISO. He’s also continuing to show the excellent plate discipline that’s been a hallmark of his career, walking almost as much as he strikes out. He’s also getting reps all over the infield including behind the plate, showcasing a valuable versatility.

OF Alberto Rodríguez (A)

The return in the Taijuan Walker trade, this A-Rod is mostly notable for being the childhood best friend of Mariners superprospect Noelvi Marte. But Alberto had himself quite a series against the Giants, going 5-for-14 with two singles, two doubles, and a home run. He even moved up in the batting order to bat right behind Marte, forming a 1-2 punch from Cotuí and creating lifelong memories for the two best friends.

Upcoming matchups, June 15-20:

AA: Arkansas @ NW Arkansas Naturals (KCR), Tue-Fri 5:05 PT, Sat 4:05 PT, Sun 12:05 PT

A+: Everett @ Tri-Cities (LAA), Tue-Sat 7:05 PT, Sun 6:05

A: Modesto @ Lake Elsinore (SDP), Tue 5:35 PT, Weds 6:35 PT, Thurs-Fri 7:05 PT, Sat 6:35 PT, Sun 4:05 PT