Welcome back to another installment of the Midshipman’s Log, our series keeping you up-to-date with all the happenings in the Mariners minors. If you missed the first installment of the 2022 Midshipman’s Log, click here.
This week Modesto is playing the Stockton Ports, Oakland’s affiliate, in a set that runs Tuesday - Sunday. There’s no TV in Stockton, so we’ll be relying on video the players post themselves for our looks this week. The Ports were saved by being the worst team in Low-A West in 2021 only by the abysmal Visalia Rawhide (ARI), but they still finished well in the basement of the North division with a .359 winning percentage. This year, the Rawhide are significantly better; the Ports...might not be. Top position player prospects playing with the Ports this year include 2021 first-rounder Max Muncy (no not that Max Muncy), Oakland’s #6 prospect; 18-year-old Dominican outfielder Pedro Pineda (#12), getting an advanced assignment that reflects his mature understanding of the strike zone; OF Denzel Clarke, who intrigues with big raw tools. SS Robert Puason (#23), said like that song in Beauty and the Beast and the only thing I can think of when he’s up to bat, returns for a second year after a disappointing first year in the Cal League. Their pitching is the weak side of the team; it should have been headlined by #7 prospect Gunnar Hoglund, who was part of the return for Matt Chapman, but TJ surgery in late May of last year means he won’t join Stockton until later this season, if at all.
In the opening game of this series the weakness of Stockton’s pitching staff was on full display as the Nuts cruised to a 16-5 win. The big blows came from CF Jonatan Clase, who had three hits including his first Cal League homer and two stolen bases; SS Edwin Arroyo, who had a double and a triple; 1B Robert Perez, who crushed his first HR of the season; and UTL Brett Rodriguez, who recorded three hits including a HR of his own.
And this one is a little trickier to see but here’s Edwin Arroyo’s first Cal League triple, a stand-up triple. (via @-eddierey7 on Instagram) pic.twitter.com/joZZxES7Dw— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 13, 2022
But the Modesto pitching was dominant, as well; Yeury Tatíz struck out six batters in two innings of work in his season debut; Natanael Garabitos collected three more in his two innings of work; 6’6” Jordan Jackson, making his professional debut, struck out seven in his three innings; and Juan Burgos collected another five in his two innings, for a team total of 21 Ks that came just one short of the league record.
In Game 2 of this series Modesto fell behind early as the young bats struggled to cope against the advanced college arm of Mitch Myers, a 12th-round selection out of Pitt in 2021. Myers doesn’t touch 90 but the pitchability righty utterly flummoxed the young Modesto hitters, who could only muster a pair of singles against him (Edwin Arroyo and Jonatan Clase had those hits). However, once Myers gave way to the bullpen, the Nuts pounced, beating up Stockton’s bullpen for 10 total runs; Ben Ramirez (13th-rounder in 2021 out of USC) started the scoring with a three-run blast, and Milkar Perez, who has been quiet so far this year, led the charge with a bases-clearing double and an RBI single in the 9th. Stockton is now 0-5 on the season and will look to scrap back over the remaining four games of the series.
The AquaSox travel down to Hillsboro this week to take on the Hops, the Diamondbacks’ Hi-A affiliate, from Tuesday-Sunday. Fortunately, the Hops stadium is equipped with functioning cameras for MILB.TV, which means this is the first chance many have had to watch the AquaSox this season (if you haven’t yet subscribed to MiLB TV you can do it here; enter the name of your favorite MiLB TV team for $10 off). Most of the elite Diamondback prospects are either a level above or below Hillsboro—seeing #6 overall prospect Jordan Lawler when he makes it up to the NWL is a must—but the Hops do feature the organization's #4 prospect according to MLB Pipeline in Blake Watson and #9 in A.J Vukovich. Adrian Del Castillio (#17) is behind the dish for the Hops.
Game One: Everett drops first game of the season in walk-off loss
The 1972 Miami Dolphins can breathe a collective sigh of relief because it turns out the 2022 Everett Aqausox won’t be going undefeated.
The Aquasox took a 1-0 on a second-inning home run from Dariel Gomez, one of his three hits of the evening. Everett extended that lead to 3-0 with a double from 2020 4th round draft pick Tyler Keenan in the third inning.
The Hops answered by tying the game in the bottom of the fourth, partly thanks to a throwing error by Noelvi Marte on a routine grounder.
The good news is that I now have access to MILB TV, which seems kinda important now that I am covering the minor leagues. The bad news is that I will undoubtedly tweet so many Noelvi Marte plays over the next few months.— Kyle Gehler (@KyleGehler) April 13, 2022
I'm sorry I need to start on a bad note. pic.twitter.com/gaJcuTalPE
The good news is that despite that error and another one later in the game, it still looks like Noelvi feels more comfortable in the field.
Nice throw by Everett catcher Andy Thomas (2021 draftee out of Baylor), well-read by Noelvi Marte (apparently wearing a flak jacket under his uniform shirt tonight; it's cold in Hillsboro!) pic.twitter.com/S902kAMuI1— Lookout Landing (@LookoutLanding) April 13, 2022
Listen, it is chilly out here, and I would also wear a hoodie under my regular clothing 24/7 if given the opportunity. Solidarity Noelvi.
The Perry Hill magic is clearly working; it’s just still a work in progress. On a more positive note, Victor Labrada made an outstanding defensive play.
Great play by Victor Labrada. pic.twitter.com/Wu89VZf4ZU— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 13, 2022
Both bullpens held strong; Robert Winslow and Kyle Hill each had two consecutive scoreless frames.
Jarod Bayless hit Caleb Roberts to open the bottom of the 9th. Roberts then promptly stole second (he was out, imo)
Roberts was driven in by a Cam Coursey double over the head of Alberto Rodriguez to give the Hops their first win of the season.
Game two: AquaSox and the terrible, no good, very bad, bottom of the 7th inning
I mean, at least this game didn’t feel like a blowout. It was a pretty evenly matched game for a while. Tim Elliott and Fred Villarreal managed to limit the damage by allowing only one run each on five hits each over six combined innings. They were helped in part with some tremendous defense by Alberto Rodríguez.
Alberto Rodriguez makes the sliding catch. pic.twitter.com/ageKVia1wv— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 14, 2022
There’s still time to join the Berto Fan Club.
Villarreal racked up five strikeouts over his three innings of work. His slider looked outstanding.
Someone (Fred Villareal) has been watching Matt Brash. pic.twitter.com/lw9TaXK6rY— Kyle Gehler (@KyleGehler) April 14, 2022
Yeah, that’ll play.
The AquaSox evened things up in the top of the 7th on a ball up the middle by Noelvi Marte to extend his hitting streak to four games. He also stole third after his clutch hit.
Noelvi Marte giveth! :)
Noelvi Marte 2-out game tying RBI single in the 7th. pic.twitter.com/8JmR1e9d38— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 14, 2022
and Noelvi Marte taketh away. :(
Love the decision and instinct from Noelvi Marte here.— Kyle Gehler (@KyleGehler) April 14, 2022
The throw, not as much. pic.twitter.com/vbA2LqeIGl
Unfortunately, Marte still is prone to showing some of his defensive shortcomings on this uhhh, not great throw home that allowed two to score. That was preceded by three walks, including one to drive in a run, and a bloop single. The Hops tacked on an additional two runs to make it 8-2.
Game 1: Travelers spread the love, win game 4-3
The minor-leagues are full of beautiful quirks, from the strange team names and the lopsided scores that come from talent mismatches to the unusual field dimensions and shapes. So for a minor-league affiliate (the Springfield Cardinals) to be just four hours away and share both the name and the logo of their MLB team is just...lame. They aren’t even the first Springfield Cardinals! Illinois and Ohio each had their own Springfield Cardinals first.
In the series opener, the Travs were all able to get involved - every batter in the lineup recorded a hit. On the other side, the pitchers were able to limit the Cardinals to just three hits, which is good! But, they gave up seven walks, which is not good!
Tanner Kirwer got the scoring started for Arkansas, scoring Zach DeLoach on a long double that he unsuccessfully tried to stretch into a triple in the second inning to give the Travs a 1-0 lead.
In the third inning, Jake Scheiner clobbered the life out of this rawhide, smoking it for a 113 mph exit velocity.
Jake Scheiner 113mph exit velocity. pic.twitter.com/5pVVuKSRjq— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 11, 2022
Taylor Dollard, the Mariner’s 5th round pick from 2020 out of Cal Poly and owner of some of the best flow in the organization, got his first start of the season, looking strong. He surrendered two hits, two runs, and two walks, to go with three strikeouts in his 3.2 IP. However, he left early as he appears to have developed a blister.
Before he left, he showed some more life on his secondaries than he had previously. In particular, his slider appears have added a little life.
He was replaced by Braden Shipley, who rejoins the minor-leagues after a three-week stint in the Liga Mexicana de Beisbol in 2021. Shipley gave up three walks, but made an impressive defensive play to get out of a bind.
A throwing error on a double steal by Scheffler in the fifth put the Travelers down by 2. Meanwhile, in the bottom of the fifth inning, things got spicy.
It’s not exactly clear why this happened, but we can confirm that the 5’10” and 175lb Jose Caballero decided to get in the face of 6’1”, 235lb catcher Pedro Pages during his at-bat. The benches cleared, but, in honor of nearly all baseball fights that have come before them, nothing of consequence happened.
Benches clear after some words were exchanged. This will make the season series more interesting. pic.twitter.com/clxMICrqmT— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 12, 2022
The Travelers tied the game in the bottom of the sixth on a Riley Unfroe RBI single and a throwing error, while Devin Sweet came out with his life-claiming changeup to keep the Cardinals batters looking silly and preserve the tie game.
Finally, in the eighth, Kaden Polcovich got a chance to put the Travs ahead, and he took it. With Matt Scheffler having put himself on base with a solidly-stroked single, Polcovich yanked the eighth pitch of this at-bat into the corner, allowing a very-hyped Scheffler to score from first.
Kaden Polcovich 2-out RBI triple scoring Matt Scheffler! Travelers take a 4-3 lead in the 8th. pic.twitter.com/9wzHxWZjZg— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 12, 2022
David Ellingson bounced back from a tough last outing to secure the save.
Game 2: Springfield scores more runs than Arkansas, wins 6-3
This game, which started relatively exciting, ended up being a bit of a snoozer in the end, which is unfortunate, because while we can all agree drifting off to nap-world while listening to a baseball game is a treat, it’s much more enjoyable while listening to your team win.
Unfortunately, this was not meant to be, as Springfield told Arkansas it was their turn to hit the ball, and Arkansas politely acquiesced. After a second-inning Trent Tinglestad single to drive in a run and third-inning solo homers from Caballero and Joe Rizzo, the Travs decided that they had done enough hitting for the night. They brushed their teeth, changed into matching striped red and white pajamas with a Travelers logo on the chest pockets, donned a droopy nightcap, lit their candle on a little plate, wandering the corridors of their lonely and cavernous estate before promptly going to sleep (metaphorically, of course. Literally, they went hitless and only reached base twice more, on a pair of Unroe walks).
Well...how about some home run footage?
Game 3: George Kirby gets swagged tf out, dominates game, Travs win 8-0
Kirby’s season started on a relatively rough note for him in Double-A after losing the fight for a major-league rotation spot to Matt Brash. He had an outing that, for Kirby pitching in Double-A, classifies as a stinker.
Tonight, though, he was back to being the spectacular pitcher we saw last season and this spring. He had all of his pitches working, as he went 5 innings with 8 strikeouts and no walks, the ‘ole Kirby Special (there is no reason to call it this, this is his first career game with 6+ strikeouts and no walks). He showed all of the weapons that he showcased in his push for a major league roster spot this spring - his fastball was ripping with life, his changeup was fading into the netherworld, and his curveball was tight with about 10 feet of drop.
George Kirby had it all working tonight. Final line: 5IP, 2H, 0R, 0BB, 8K, 76 pitches, 48 strikes. Retired the last 12 batters. pic.twitter.com/oVBFHwKXGP— Mariners Minors (@MiLBMariners) April 14, 2022
Seriously, though, that changeup looks like a legitimate, plus out-pitch against lefties. Kirby ticking up his fastball to 99+, and developing his secondaries, while maintaining his control seemed like a top 1% outcome - if this changeup is the real deal? Kirby is going to do some damage.
Even better, he seems to be in a good mental state despite losing the roster battle.
“When everything is working and I’m throwing strikes, I kinda feel unstoppable, honestly,” Kirby told Joe Trezza of mlb.com. You love to hear that confidence from young pitchers, and I don’t think it’ll be long before we’re treated to this swagger at the major league level. This is the George Kirby that has evaluators across the game calling him a potential ace.
The offense stayed quiet for much of the game. Through the first seven innings, they didn’t manage any runs besides a fourth-inning bomb from Joe Rizzo, his third of the year (Hot Rizzo Summer incoming?) to score Zach DeLoach.
Then, the floodgates opened in the eighth. A pair of singles by Connor Hoover and Unroe and a Cade Marlowe walk loaded the bases. The next part of the story is best told, perhaps, through a screenshot.
The Travs scored on five consecutive batters, which is a beautiful sight to see, but perhaps even more fun is that they scored the first four of those runs in just five pitches. Pace-of-play initiatives and the pitch clock be damned - have the batters tried just hitting the ball more?
After Kirby called it quits, Ben Onyshko, Collin Kober and Michael Stryffeler combined for four scoreless innings to seal the shutout.
The Travs will continue this series with three more at home against these Cardinals.
We haven’t written up the Rainiers yet, who opened their season way back on April 5, where they narrowly eked out a win on Opening Night 4-2 (Penn Murfee got the save) against the Salt Lake Bees. Unfortunately, they then went on a losing streak, losing the second game of the series 5-9 in a relatively close contest before getting blown out badly in the third game of the series 14-1 in a game where they also lost Taylor Trammell to an apparent hamstring injury, making it a crummy game all around. They then got blown out again in the fourth game of the series 12-0 (they did eke out a win in the second game of the doubleheader, 1-0, with newly acquired pitcher Daniel Ponce DeLeon and Penn Murfee combining for seven scoreless). Darren McCaughan gave up just two runs against the Bees in the opening game of the series but didn’t do as well facing them a second time, getting touched up for seven runs in just over four innings, to give the Rainiers a record of 2-4.
This week the Rainiers are in Albuquerque playing the excellently-named Isotopes; they eked out a win in the first game of the series, 10-9, with Penn Murfee again nailing the save down. The Rainiers almost squeaked out another win in the second game of the series despite a big second inning from the Isotopes against starter Asher Wojciechowski where the Isotopes scored four, but more importantly, Roenis Elías made his season debut for the first time since having TJ surgery last spring, going two innings and allowing no runs on one hit with a strikeout.