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Mariners affiliate mid-season catch-ups: the Arkansas Travelers

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A boatload of promotions have once again made the Travelers must-see-MiLB TV

Dominican Republic v Republic of Korea - Baseball - Olympics: Day 15 Photo by Koji Watanabe/Getty Images

You might have noticed that lately the Midshipmen’s Logs/States of the Farm have disappeared. Things have been a little busy lately and I’ve fallen behind, badly, on them, so what I’m offering you instead, dedicated prospect reader, is this series of mid-season catch-ups on each of the affiliates: who’s been promoted where and how everyone’s doing. With the draft in the rearview mirror and new players assigned to various affiliates, that’s created some movement up and down the line in the system, so a general overview of each affiliate seems in order. I’m going to skip over Triple-A Tacoma for the moment and start with Double-A Arkansas, where there’s been the most significant movement lately, then work my way down.

Double-A Arkansas Travelers

Current standings: Tied for second (of five) in Double-A Central (North)

When I started this last week, the Travs were still in fourth place despite a flood of promotions, owing to the imbalance in the two divisions. Every team except one in the North division is over .500, and every team except one in the South division is under that mark. However, a recent hot streak (spurred by playing the abysmal St. Louis affiliate) has pushed the Travs above the Royals affiliate and into a tied with Tulsa, the Dodgers affiliate.

Latest additions:

No team in the system has seen a greater influx of talent since the beginning of the season than the Travs. RHPs George Kirby and Emerson Hancock, both of whom have been pitching sporadically at High-A Everett, are the latest call-ups, joining rotation-mate LHP Brandon Williamson and RHP Levi Stoudt. While it’s exciting to have Seattle’s three best pitching prospects all together at the same level, it’s important to note that all three are having their workloads managed carefully, so just because they’ve made it to the high minors doesn’t mean they’re knocking on the door in Seattle for September call-ups. Williamson, who’s been there the longest and has the most professional innings logged, is the only one you could maybe hold out a shred of hope of seeing, but 2022 is a much more reasonable expectation for all three.

It seems a little unfair to talk about Kirby-Hancock-Williamson as the Big Three and not mention Matt Brash, who’s been very good since being acquired from San Diego in the Taylor Williams deal last season. Brash was promoted from Everett to Arkansas after Williamson but before Kirby and Hancock, and the only reason I don’t group him up there with those three is because I think he might be a high-leverage reliever at the next level. RHP Levi Stoudt has also been assigned to Arkansas, and although he’s been working on refining his command as he comes back from TJ surgery, his first start in Arkansas was sterling: seven innings of one-run ball with just two walks and six strikeouts. Reliever Dayeison Arias has also been promoted to Arkansas, along with fellow relievers Reid Morgan and David Ellingson.

On the position player side, the Travs got offensive (and defensive) boosts from the promotions of INF Kaden Polcovich and OF Zach DeLoach back in July, as well as CF Jack Larsen and SS Patrick Frick, promoted a week earlier. Julio Rodríguez was also promoted around that time, but hasn’t been with the team for the past several weeks as he’s been competing with the DR in the Olympics. Sadly, this influx meant parting ways with a few Mariners farmhands: OF Keegan McGovern, INF Connor Kopech, and OF Connor Lien.

Injuries:

RHP Collin Kober has been moved to the 60-day IL, indicating some kind of serious injury; unfortunate, as he’s been one of Arkansas’ best relievers out of the pen this year, with a 1.93 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 28 innings pitched.

Offensive Standouts:

No regulars in Arkansas’ lineup were hitting over .270 and the newbies have only been around for 50 plate appearances or fewer, and for a lot of them it’s been a rough transition to the upper minors. OF Zach DeLoach has one of the longer track records among the newbies and has been hitting better lately, trimming down his strikeouts, but he’s yet to unlock much power at the level. Julio Rodríguez has been up the longest, although he’s missed a lot of time while becoming an Olympic medalist, but while he’s been in Arkansas he’s looked very comfortable at the level, controlling the zone well and hitting for power even in Arkansas’ right-handed-power-suppressing park, although we would love to see some more balls in the air and less on the ground (60%!).

Pitching standouts:

Look past Brandon Williamson’s ERA of 4.5 and to his K/9 of over 11. BWilly is still learning how to pitch at this level, for sure, which is resulting in him getting hit harder and more often than he’d like (with an unfortunate 11% HR/FB) and issuing a hair more walks than he’d like (although not that many, comparatively), but the stuff is very real, a fastball he can blow by batters and that nasty swing-and-miss curveball, and the arrow on his appearances is trending up; in his second-to-last outing against a prospect-packed Royals team he struck out nine and allowed no runs over six innings, and in his last outing against a non-prospecty St. Louis team he went 5.2 innings and allowed just one run on three hits while striking out 11, which lowered his ERA by half a run. In each of those outings he only walked two, as well.

Matt Brash was promoted shortly after Williamson, so it’s a smaller sample size we’re looking at with him (25 innings vs. 40), but he’s been even more of a strikeout monster (K/9 of 12+), although with less stellar command than Williamson. To me, the 6’1” Brash has the stuff of a high-leverage reliever: a fastball that can touch 99 paired with a hard swing-and-miss slider with lots of tilt. His third pitch is a so-so changeup and his path to the majors will likely be a question of whether or not the team wants to continue developing that pitch while also working on improving his command, or just focus on the latter and speed up his arrival to the bigs, but this is stuff that will play at the big-league level.

Emerson Hancock, George Kirby, and Levi Stoudt have each only made one start at the level; of the three, Stoudt had the most impressive debut results-wise, going seven innings in his debut, striking out six and allowing just one run. Kirby had the most impressive debut stuff-wise, going four innings and striking out four, but flashing a fastball that hit 97-98. Hancock went just 4.2 innings, with a lower-octane fastball (92-95), but struck out six and didn’t allow a hit; he used his breaking pitches to great effect, showing probably the most advanced secondaries out of the three.

Also, a hearty thank you to Michael Caplan for these videos. The Arkansas camera has switched to a fixed angle from the press box that is impossible to glean much of use from, so we really appreciate these high-quality looks from a different angle.