It’s been a busy week on the farm and looks to get busier as players drafted last week start signing their professional contracts and being assigned to levels. That’s good news for Modesto, who has now lost another top producer in OF Victor Labrada to High-A Everett. Labrada, signed out of Cuba, is a skosh older for a Low-A prospect at 21 and much more advanced having played professionally in Cuba for years, so his promotion was only a matter of time. A smaller-built fellow at just 5’9,” he won’t hit for power, but he can hit for average and then use his elite speed to take extra bases or swipe bags. He departs Modesto ranking first on the team and fourth in the league in stolen bases, with 22, and will bring that speed to the AquaSox, who don’t currently have any truly elite base-stealers.
In a corresponding move, OF Zach DeLoach has been assigned to Double-A Arkansas, who suddenly find themselves going from one of the prospect-weakest affiliates to one of the richest, with the recent additions of OF Julio Rodríguez, 3B Austin Shenton, C Carter Bins, RHP Matt Brash, and LHP Brandon Williamson along with DeLoach. With Julio at the Olympics (stay safe Julio), the Travs—a streaky offense at the best of times—will benefit from the steadying force of DeLoach’s bat in the lineup every day.
Arkansas Travelers (35-30) split series with NW Arkansas Naturals (KCR) (34-30)
This was billed as a marquee matchup by MiLB during their free weekend, with top prospects Julio Rodríguez and Bobby Witt Jr. squaring off, but the intrigue will last far beyond this weekend now that Arkansas has a stable of prospects at the level to rival the Royals’ prospect-packed crew. The Travs got blown out in Game 1 of this series although got an offensive lift from a rejuvenated-looking Jake Scheiner, who doubled, as well as homers from Dom Thompson-Williams and Jordan Cowan (Cowan also had three stolen bases in the game). Scheiner, shaking off a down June, also homered in Game 2’s 9-5 win for Arkansas; Julio also homered in that, and Carter Bins had his first Double-A home run.
Carter Bins mashes a 2-run HR. 1st Double-A HR for Carter. pic.twitter.com/SOq897vegV— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 15, 2021
Arkansas took Game 3 on a walkoff David Masters single scoring Carter Bins, who had walked and stolen a base, showing some good wheels for a catcher; Matt Brash was solid in his first Double-A outing, allowing just two runs over five innings while striking out seven. Brandon Williamson started strong in Game 4, striking out the side his first two innings in order, but ran into some trouble in one bad inning and even though the Travs tried mightily to come back, they fell 8-7. Austin Shenton in his first Double-A appearance had two hits in the loss, including a double. After rain postponed them on Saturday (and cost fans one final chance to see Julio before he departed for the Olympics), the Travs split a doubleheader with the Naturals on Sunday. Shenton, at the top of the lineup already, had three hits, two doubles, in the winning half of the doubleheader; Bobby Honeyman and DTW both homered.
Austin Shenton RBI double for his 3rd hit of the game. pic.twitter.com/dOAruyEx5z— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 19, 2021
And because I can’t mention a Julio bomb without including it:
Everett AquaSox (42-22) split series against Tri-City Dust Devils (LAA) (25-40)
The untouchable AquaSox started to look a little mortal over this split series with the worst teams in the NWL. With both Emerson Hancock and George Kirby missing starts this series, the series started with a bullpen day loss despite a heroic comeback attempt led by Austin Shenton in one of his final appearances as an AquaSox, with a three-hit day where he fell a single short of the cycle. Casey Sadler made a rehab appearance in this game as well, going one inning and striking out two. A second straight bullpen day saw the Sox get stomped 15-6 in Game 2; again, Shenton tried to drag the offense to a win with a double and a homer, but the deficit was just too great. A third bullpen day finally worked out for the Sox, and this time without even Shenton to provide offensive thump, as he was on his way to Arkansas; Cade Marlowe homered and Jack Larsen had a triple and a double in a 9-4 win. Everett fell just short in Game 4 as Tim Elliott got tagged for eight runs over six innings; Zach DeLoach helped power the offense to come all the way back, with two home runs and a double, but Everett lost, 9-8. They returned the favor in Game 5, with a Jack Larsen walk-off walk; recently-promoted 1B Dariel Gomez, who is so tall he makes Julio look normal-sized, had an RBI double in the win. The Sox also scraped a win in Game 6 even though starter Taylor Dollard gave up eight runs on 10 hits in five innings; the Sox picked up their starter by combining for 11 runs on 13 hits, with five homers (two from Joseph Rosa) and six doubles.
Modesto Nuts (36-30) swept by San Jose Giants (43-23)
So this is what it’s like to be a team in the Northwest League having to play the Everett AquaSox. San Jose is crushing the former Cal League with its roster that includes five of the Giants’ top 10 prospects, including 2020 first-rounder college catcher Patrick Bailey and super-prospect Marco Luciano, plus another five who are part of the Giants’ top 30, and a pitching staff that includes the 6’8” Carson Ragsdale, 2020 third-rounder Kyle Harrison and comp-rounder Nick Swiney (currently on the IL). The Giants won this series by a combined score of 56-17. Noelvi Marte had just five hits all series, four singles in first five games, and one mammoth, frustration-taking-out homer in the final game of the series.
The news from the pitching staff is actually better than you’d expect considering the run differential of this series. Adam Macko made his first appearance in about a month, pitching one scoreless inning with a strikeout. Connor Phillips, who’s also missed some time, also returned to the rotation, although things didn’t go as smoothly for him, giving up 5 runs over just 2.1 innings. Sam Carlson and Max Roberts were TJ warrior buddies, rehabbing together, and that strong bond carried over to each of them having good outings spoiled by bullpen collapses late in the game. Roberts pitched four innings of scoreless ball, but it was Carlson’s that stung, as he had his longest and best start ever as a professional, giving up just two runs (one earned, on a solo homer) over seven innings. However, the minors are all about focusing on process over product, so good for Carlson, and here’s hoping for many more starts like that in the future.
Outstanding start by Sam Carlson. Final line: 7IP, 4H, 2R, 1ER, BB, 4K, 96 pitches, 63 strikes. pic.twitter.com/cQpFuAwRZB— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) July 18, 2021
Upcoming matchups, July 20-26:
Modesto at Fresno (COL), Tues-Sat 6:50 PT, Sun 5:05 PT
Everett at Vancouver (in Hillsboro) (TOR), Tues-Sat 7:05 PT, Sun 1:05 PT
Arkansas vs. Wichita (MIN), Tues-Fri 5:10 PT, Sat 4:10, Sun 12:10